Ask the Corps: Space Marine Highlighting

When it comes to the Space Marines, a lot of people get excited at the thought of starting an army of them. But when faced with the prospect of actually painting these round armored super-humans, many don't even know where to start!

Christian writes:

Highlighting Space Marines

What’s the standard for this? Thin lines? Drybrushing? Varying shades? I’ve tried a lot of idea’s but they just don’t seem right.

A very open question on technique and aesthetics if I've ever seen one. So let's hear it, how do you highlight your Space Marines?


  1. Line highlighting and source highlighting for me, depends on what part of the model.

  2. I have a DA army and I prefer using extreme highlights as DA green is a very dark color.

  3. When I first started out I used drybrushing extensively on my Space Marines. From the metallic spots to basecoats to highlights.

    As I progressed I started using line highlighting along the edges of armor plates. I still use this for certain paint jobs as it really is a great style to work in! The effects can be fantastic.

    With a bit more practice I started using source highlighting as Ron mentioned, that is, highlighting as light would naturally (if the model were actual size!). Mixing this with line highlights gives a really great look and stylized feel.

    Layering is another great way to get a solid look. Using successively lighter shades leaving the recesses darker and a little bit of each layer showing through. You can see a little bit of this with my Desert Support Marine WIP

  4. I haven't seen many marines painted without lining. This is because it simulates the reflection of glossy clean and crisp armor.

    I agree that hard lining is the standard on these but I like source lighting myself. Breaks out of the box really as well as high contrast schemes with bright highlights and black shadows.

  5. I play DA, and prefer to do a quick hightlighting by painting the whole mini DA green (which is actually very close to black) then doing some thin lines with Snot Green/Goblin Green/Scorpion Green on the edges of raised parts in order to create the illusion of highlighting. Works great for the two foot approach
    (the paint I am highlighting with has everything to do with the ambient lighting.

  6. I like to do a mix between line highlighting and layering. Once I get a basecoat on I'll make a mix of my base color and highlight color and water it down a little more than I usually do. I apply this where I would usually put a line highlight but I make the line thicker. Then I put a thin line of my highlight color on the edges.

    It's quick and makes a little bit more of a gradient than straight line highlighting.

  7. layering and blending, keeping a light source in mind. just like any other model.

  8. You can also work backwards. I've had good results with this technique. Paint the model in the brightest colour you want your highlights, then take your next step down colour and thin it so its wash consistency, wash the model. Do the same thing working down to your deepest colour. This works really well with cloth and armor. You will need to do some clean up afterwards but works fine. I use Ceramcoat and Ammericana craft paint for as I don't have to mix (just find any shade I want) and the binders and pigment are thick enough to allow me to stretch the paint. Anyway, hope this helps.


  9. Yeah, I do a DA Army and i usually go for snot green around edges but then Goblin green on the highest parts.