How To: Painting Starry Nebulae on Your Models

In the wake of my recent posts about my Heldrake here on Spikey Bits and on a popular Warhammer forum I’ve been asked if I have a tutorial for painting nebulae like I did on some of my recent Chaos Space Marine projects.

Pictures like the one at below and at this NASA link have inspired me since I was a kid. Science fiction fills that dream many of us have of going to the stars one day. In Warhammer 40,000 humans and alien species routinely travel amongst them.

The theme for my Chaos Space Marine renegade legion for more than a decade has been the darkness of deep space, but I’d never really given it the kind of decorative flourish that I wanted to until the new daemon engines were recently released.

With the size of the Heldrake, Maulerfiend and Forgefiend models I wanted to do something special and I came up with the hand painted nebula idea shown here recently on Spikey Bits blog in my aforementioned Release The Heldrake! article.

I had so many nice unsolicited comments on the Heldrake both online and at my local Games Workshop Battle Bunker store that I decided to repeat the theme on my Forgefiend and Maulerfiend too as shown below.
 

I then realized that this scheme might also work on some special smaller models like the new Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer. Painting the star field decoration one more time would also afford me the opportunity to take photos of each step and fulfill the request for a tutorial as well.

The first step after assembling and priming the model to be painted is to determine which colors to use. The recently expanded Citadel paint rack now provides a huge variety of shades and hues of different colors. Mixing paints or searching multiple paint manufacturers is far less necessary now if you own the Citadel paint set. About a year ago I had to mix a highlight purple for finishing my Necrons, however, for this project everything I needed was in my Citadel paint set.

There are many great photos out there of countless nebulae and many different colors and cloud structures are well documented and awe inspiring. Check out some of the wallpapers at the Hubble site if you want to be amazed. To keep my hobby project focused and manageable I decided to use purple, blue and black. Not only do the colors go well together, but they make for a great blended fading effect from dark to light.

The colors shown in the photo below are those I used for my nebula effect. There are five shades of purple, two blue colors and a bright white. Black paint was also used.

I started by painting the darkest purple, Naggaroth Night, in an irregular shape on the tabard of the new GW Chaos Space Marine sorcerer. I deliberately left some black space around it to frame it.

Next I painted some irregular shapes of Xereus Purple within the Naggaroth Night. In the photo below I’ve also begun to add a small thinned down bit of Genestealer Purple as well.

This next step now has more Genestealer Purple. I’ve deliberately blended some small areas up to a higher brightness than others. I also used the Xereus Purple to blend some of the brighter areas down so that there are subtle areas where the purple fades in and out from dark to light.

The brighter areas get even brighter when you bring them up more using Slaanesh Grey. A touch of thinned down Lucius Lilac will also make them even brighter.

Next I began to add some thin Kantor Blue around the outside of the Naggaroth Purple.

I used Macragge Blue to blend the Kantor Blue up into the purple.

Now I used the White Scars White to add tiny pinpoint dots of varying sizes in a random distribution throughout the blue and purple cloud.

I also used thinned white paint to brighten small areas of the purple even further. I added enough “stars” to be aesthetically pleasing, but not too crowded. I used the mid tones of purple and blue to create more subtle variations in the cloud.

When highlighting the black of the tabard I was careful not to let it interfere with or overshadow the design already painted on it. A little subtle highlighting on the outer edges was enough.

Of course, there’s a lot more painting to do after that! Here’s a photo of the finished model below. Note that I painted the large robe black so as not to compete visually with the design on the tabard in front of it. This provides a plain backdrop to showcase the the hand painted design.
Having a distinctive design, badge or pattern to set off the centerpiece models and most important characters in an army can give it that special accent that makes the whole collection look cohesive, unique and appealing when the models are viewed together on display and on the game table.
Chaos Space Marines were some of my earliest purchases at Games Workshop more than two decades ago and I’m always adding to the collection especially when cool new models are released for it. A few years ago I added a Vindicator Linebreaker Squadron to the army and Games Workshop featured it on their website hobby blog. You can check it out here at this link, I painted a single Chaos Star across the three siege shields of the tanks unifying them visually. Until next time, whatever colors and decorations you use, keep painting those models!

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