White Scars and how to paint white

white Scar space marine closeup

Ever since I painted that Deathwing squad of mine, I've received a ton of questions on how the bone color was painted and then how to make that into white. Since I don't know how to take that process and turn it into "white," I figured I'd go over white on it's own.

White is like black... wait, what?
I mean, it's at the far end of the spectrum and it, like it's cousin at the other end of the spectrum, tends to give people lots of problems when it comes to painting.

White Scar terminator and Veteran sergeant

There are lots of ways to paint white, this one is mine
I've done a few "white" models before and this is what I've settled on as my approach. It's fairly quick and painless as well which makes it my favorite. My previous method was a bit more time consuming since I started with a grey and worked up to white. Now I start with white and add the shadows in selectively.

Since the focus of this post is the white armour, that's all I'm really going to cover here. I built this guy specifically for this post since I wanted to see if I could get something that captured the feel of the army instead of using a normal space marine model. Truth be told, I needed an excuse to try and sculpt a fur pelt and a super cool mustache. It didn't matter what color I had to paint him as long as I could add those to the model.

Priming and basecoating
In this case, since I knew I was going for white armour, I used a white primer. I kept the coverage light, only applying a very thin coat to the model at first.

Over my white primer, I worked a couple of thin coats of GW Skull White over the armour until I had a nice, smooth finish.

I think it took two coats in the end. Really, it came down to filling in the few spots I didn't get with the primer. You can see the difference on the model above between the areas that have been touched up and the still primed portions. It's not much, but the Skull White fills in the primer and you should end up with a nice, smooth coverage on your armour.

Adding the shadows to the armour
Here's where it can get tricky for some folks. Since we're starting at one end of the spectrum, we can only go darker from here. Some folks start with a light grey in order to avoid this problem as it allows them to work "up" to white. Since we know we are staring with white and working backwards, we just need to be careful.

Here we have the route I chose to go. I decided a wash over the armour would create the shadows and if I kept my application limited to the recessed areas only as best I could, I wouldn't have too much clean up work to do in the next step.

So what do you use to create the shadows?
I kept away from using GW Badab Black as my wash because it's black and is transparent. As a matter of personal taste, I don't like the way it looks over a white basecoat.

I wanted something a bit lighter (in terms of value) and cooler in color. At first I thought I might try making a wash from thinned paint... something like GW Foundation Adeptus Battlegrey. I scrapped that idea because of the opacity and I didn't want to have to duplicate it over and over in the event I was painting an army.

I ended up using a wash from Secret Weapon minis. When these first came out, I gave them a less than glowing review and while they worked, I wasn't the biggest fan of them. They did find a place in my toolbox for creating slightly stronger washes (for things like grime and spills) due to their richer colors.

Thinking back to the effect I got with them, I pulled out the Soft Body Black wash to give it go. I did NOT shake the bottle up either. It was a technique I was trying out before and I thought I might give it another go. The review explains the reasoning more in depth.

The beauty of using this particular brand and color of wash (in this instance) is that I got the exact effect I was looking for. I wanted a slightly cool grey (and not thinned black) look to the shadows. I wanted it to be a wash in order to blend into the basecolor cleanly and not look like thinned paint (which tends to exaggerate subtle surface texture) resting in the recessed areas.

As it worked out, it came out perfectly. I got the darker grey shadows that blended into the white like I wanted. Like I said before, it's a matter of personal taste when it comes to the final effect. Using something else like a GW wash or thinned paint might do the same thing, but I wanted a certain look here.

The other added bonus was that this process took only one pass and I did not have to do anything else to the wash (other than not shake the bottle). I didn't thin it and I didn't have to make multiple passe to build up the color. This translates into time if you're working on an army and not just one model.

White Scars shading white armour

After the wash dried completely, it was simply matter of cleaning up the armour plates where I was a little messy in my application.

And that's it for the white armour. Prime white, basecoat white (thinned multiple passes, wash for shadows and then clean up any mistakes.

The rest of the details bring the model to life
Just like any other model, it's the details that bring it to life. In this case, it's the red accents, the fur and all the other little things that make the white armour stand out. The pics below show the model prior to any weathering being done.

The fur and red areas or the White Scar parts
The fur is sculpted in place with greenstuff. I'll need to do another post one day to cover the process. It's not the best, but it gets the job done.

The red areas started out as GW Foundation Mechrite Red and were given a pass with GW Red Gore and GW Baal Red wash to darken them down before adding a slight highlight across the toe and top of the shoulderpad trim.

The Chapter icon on the left shoulderpad is covered up with fur for the most part. What can be seen was freehanded in place with GW Foundation Mechrite Red and Foundation Iyandan Darksun. The tactical squad arrow on the other side was outlined with thinned black paint and filled in once I had the correct shape.

white scar space marine

The weathering to bring him to life
I used powders to darken the exhaust vents on his backpack and dirty-up his boots. The battle damage was done partly with paint (since it's a light colored armour) and partly with pencil after that. The reason I had to use paint when it came to adding battle damage can be found here. The base comes from Secret Weapon as well and I kept it dark to make the model pop.

In a few places, I went in with a warm colored powder to simulate some rust and dirt that has collected in the joints over time. That and it provided some contrast against the cool shadows of the armour. In order to push the deepest recessed areas, I went back in with thinned black paint and made them the most dark of all. Places like the underside of the shoulderpads, around his waist and the bottom of his leg armour near his heels.

I seem to struggle with urban basing sometimes and can't quite get it right. In this case, I started with a light grey basecoat, washed it with thinned GW Foundation Charadon Granite and then did some light drybrushing with the light grey and GW Rotting Flesh to pull out the surface texture of the ground.

All in all, I like the way he came out. I think a little more work on my white and I could refine the process even more. Right now though, it's fairly quick and easy and those are the big things for me with a color like this.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Priming my models, how I physically do it
How to do pencil battle damage over light colored armour

A few more unposted/WIP model shots

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. This is a great article, I find white very time consuming to paint!

    Your paint work is excellent, it almost makes me want to build and paint some White Scars (almost, as I think I would probably give myself a headache trying to achieve something I'd be happy with).

  2. It looks lovely. How much time would you say it took you from prime to finish?

  3. Would you use the same method on a vehicle or walker? In other words - would it successfully scale-up?


  4. Wow, I've always wanted some White Scars, but never been able to paint white. You make it so simple, I'm going to give it a try now

    Love the conversion btw. Never thought to use Space Wolves parts for them before

  5. This is a great article - and I'm glad that the Soft Body Black wound up being more useful for you.

    Rather than not shaking the bottle you could always dilute the wash a bit more after it's on your palette, of course.

    This finished model is fantastic and, as usual, I'm amazed by how easy you can make the process.

  6. THANKS RON, really timely and useful article, Im about to redo my Tau and my mian color is white, so the advice is spot on.

  7. Awesome job on the tutorial Ron. I was actually just scanning the web for a good way to do white and here you go reading my mind. Where did you get e mini?

  8. I've never been a fan of GW's Skull White. It always feels too translucent, I always end up having to do more coat work than I'd like. I feel like I'm losing detail.
    P3s white has so much pigment in it, that one thin coat seems to do the work of two thicker GW coats.

  9. Thanks guys, glad you like how he turned out.

    Skarvald the Troll-faced: Hard to say, I take lots of breaks and do other things while paint is drying. That and I sculpted to fur on his shoulders so i had to wait for that. Maybe a half hour or so for the white. Priming, the basecoat, wash and then clean up goes fairly quick.

    Depending on the additional details is where you start to add your time to the model.

    Isiah: I'd say yes for sure. The time would scale up as well, but I'd have no trouble using this on a dread or Land raider and would be comfortable knowing it would come out alright.

    Khorneguy: That was more by accident. I just happen to have those extra wolf parts lying around.

    misterjustin: I know I didn't give them the best review initially, but this is hands down how I'm going with white from this point on.

    40kNoobie: The mini is a standard space marine. I just made a few adjustments.The Space Wolf head was the biggest thing I think.

    Longscope: You could certainly use another white, that's definitely a possibility.

  10. Khorneguy:
    White Scars can use many of the SW goodies but a few others too;
    a] Grey Knight Halberds for power spears/glaives as seen in the WS boxed set.
    b] The Chaos Marauder heads are neat feral heads. This is a common SW tip, but applies to WS too ;)
    c] The 'moving' banners from the Fantasy range of Chaos and Orcs & Goblins, typically from the cavalry range.

    All this is easier to get from eBay bits sellers, such as Hoard o Bits.


    Nice White tutorial Ron.

    Have you done a GS tutorial, specifically on moustaches, beards & mohawks?

  11. Thanks guys!

    MArshal Wilhelm: I have not done a tutorial on those, but can certainly put one together for you.

  12. I have been painting my RoS minis. For the Houseguard Halberdiers, I have decided to base coat them white, and used the technique that the painter of GW's White Scars used - two coats of white spray, which is actually very close to how Ron ended up doing it. Then some varnish painted onto the white bits as the finish. This fights the graininess that is part of the problem of white paints. The surface is smoother and less gritty, therefore shinier and whiter looking.

    I decided to line the crevices and shadowed areas. Fist I tried Vallejo's Negro Black ink. Just as Ron described, black lining can be too black and harsh. So the next Halberdier I did I used the SW Soft body black. Excellent!

    It doesn't leave the stark shadowing, which can look a little odd, especially on the lined areas in the 'sunlight' or top of the model.

    In fact, I'd say the SBB is _the_ right wash to use for lining things for a shadow effect, especially white. It provides a nice delineation between the cloth and white areas too.


    Thanks Ron :D

  13. Wow, now THAT is one hell of an endorsement. Thank you very much!

    And, Ron, thanks again for the tutorial. I'm glad you had a chance to change your mind about the Secret Weapon Washes.

  14. Marshal: Glad to hear it worked out well for you!

    misterjustin: I give praise where it's due. The soft body black wash works perfect for me here. I think it's worth letting folks know what works and when.

  15. I just want to agree with Longscope about p3 paint.
    It is both more opaque than GW's and is also more white.

    Going over the Skull White undercoat with the Morrow White and am left thinking 'wow, this is nice paint'

    I can't speak for the rest of the range, but the white is certainly very good.

  16. Im a little late, but i will be using this as a basis for my pre heresy world eaters! thanks for the great tutorial.


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