Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Adeptus Custodes Dread Host color guide and painting steps

There are relatively few Adeptus Custodes units, and from what I’ve seen they all use pretty much the same colors (adapted per one’s shield company) — kind of like Deathskulls Orks. So I have a feeling one main color guide will cover most of my army.


As ever, I’m using a recipe from White Dwarf 161 (Nov. 2016) for the terrain, and washes/shades are in italics.

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Agrax Earthshade > Golgfag Brown drybrush
  • Rocks: TBD, but reddish rocks might be a fun change; my instinct says darker than usual
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Tufts: TBD, as I want to see how a base turns out first; I already have three varieties that might work


These recipes cover the basics for Dread Host Custodians, and in general they come straight from Citadel (with a few tweaks). I default to Citadel’s Parade Ready steps (base/shade/layer/layer), but with these guys I’m mixing in a bit more drybrushing than usual as well. Gems are a big deal for Custodes, so I’m going to attempt a more realistic and detailed approach on those — and ditto with all their fancy blades, for which I’m trying Lahmian Medium for the first time.

  • Armor: Retributor Armour spray as both primer and base coat > Reikland Fleshshade > Auric Armour Gold > Stormhost Silver
  • Dread Host black:
    • Left pauldron: Abaddon Black
    • Robes: Abaddon Black > drybrush Eshin Grey > very lightly drybrush Dawnstone (follow option two in this excellent Artis Opus tutorial)
    • Weapons: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey > Dawnstone
  • Dread Host gems: Stegadon Scale Green > Coelia Greenshade > Sotek Green in a crescent from 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock > Temple Guard Blue in a smaller crescent over the Sotek Green area > dot of White Scar at 11 o’clock
  • Dread Host eyes: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Temple Guard Blue
  • Blades: Stegadon Scale Green > Sotek Green + Lahmian Medium > Ulthuan Grey + Lahmian Medium > Fenrisian Grey + Lahmian Medium > Ulthuan Grey edges > dot of White Scar on the tip (follow this Warhammer TV video, but focus the lighter colors towards the tip/outer edges rather than in two areas)
  • Dread Host leather bits: Celestra Grey > Drakenhof Nightshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar
  • Plumes, tassels, cords: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Wild Rider Red
  • Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
  • Parchment: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar > Eshin Grey for the writing

I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to follow the Codex’s guideline for robes (they generally match the shield company’s color, so black or black/white for Dread Host) or the lone Dread Host mini pictured in the Codex, whose robe is red outside/white inside.

Painting steps

For the early steps, I’m painting my Custodes like I paint terrain, rather than figures — and there’s no touch-up step. That plus doing primer and base coat as one, with no overnight cure time, should make them significantly quicker to paint than my other models.

  1. Assemble: I’m planning to build lots/all of them at once, then spray them all (rather than having parallel tracks for assembly, priming, basing, and painting on multiple units).
  2. Primer and base coat: Spray the whole mini with Retributor Armour, which also only needs 15 minutes to cure (rather than curing overnight).
  3. Shade: Wash the whole mini in Reikland Fleshshade.
  4. Base: As per usual, but apply the texture paint carefully around the feet so that the model is clearly standing atop, not mired in, the terrain.
  5. Base coat non-gold details: Everything that shouldn’t be gold gets a base coat, but approached with the care of highlighting — IE, I’m not bodging on paint and fixing it in a touch-up step. Like when I paint terrain, I’m carefully painting details surrounded by areas that are at a different stage of completion.
  6. Wash non-gold details: Ditto, but for shading. As with terrain, small, precise washes are the order of the day.
  7. Highlights: Now I’m back to my usual process and order, as the whole mini has been base-coated and shaded. Just highlight everything.
  8. Seal: No weathering or decals for these lads, so just my usual Vallejo matte white sealant.
  9. Tufts: As per usual; apply with white glue.

I always like to use a new minis project to build on existing skills and knowledge (e.g., painting these Custodians like I learned to paint terrain) as well as learn new ones, balancing the latter with not overwhelming myself and risking burnout. For my Custodes, realistic gem shading and more detailed fancy blades — with Lahmian Medium, which is new to me — are my stretches. I’m also hoping that a whole army painted without a dedicated step for touch-ups will help me paint more precisely across the board.

As I get into actual painting, I’ll update this guide so that it remains current.

3 replies on “Adeptus Custodes Dread Host color guide and painting steps”

Hi! Thank you so much for this detailed guide! Is there any chance you could post a link to an image of the finished product? I want to follow this guide but I’m having a hard time visualizing the model :)

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