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: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
- Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
- Nameplates: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver on the letters only
- Base rim: Dryad Bark
- Tufts: Mix of Army Painter highland and mountain tufts
Trajann Valoris has two additional elements on his base:
- Demon skull horns: Steel Legion Drab > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone drybrush
- Stone platforms: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Grey Seer drybrush
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 of drybrushing as well. Gems are a big deal for Custodes, so I’m going to attempt a more realistic and detailed approach on those.
- 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: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Coelia Greenshade > Temple Guard Blue drybrush on the high points along the flats, plus the edges > Fenrisian Grey drybrush on same areas > dot of Fenrisian Grey on the tip and the power nodules
- Dread Host pteruges: Celestra Grey > Drakenhof Nightshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar > dots of Stormhost Silver on the studs
- Gloves, weapon grips, and other leather: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red > Squig Orange
- Plumes, tassels, cords: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Wild Rider Red
- Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
- Armor joints and leg/boot tubes: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey
- Parchment: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar > Eshin Grey for the writing
- Cartridges: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion
- Trajann’s unique elements:
- Cloak exterior, and his robe: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet drybrush > touch-up the gold portion
- Cloak interior: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush
- Lion pelt: Dot black in for the eyes, nose, and claws; for the rest, it’s Zandri Dust > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone
- Feathers: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > a few dots of White Scar
The Codex’s guideline for robes (they generally match the shield company’s color, so black or black/white for Dread Host) doesn’t match the lone Dread Host mini pictured in the Codex, whose robe is red outside/white inside. I went with black because it seemed like the better approach for emphasizing that this is a Dread Host force.
I repainted, and then re-glazed, and then repainted (etc.), the first batch of Sentinel Blades several times, including multiple botched passes at freehanding a “crackling lightning” effect, before realizing that I just don’t have the skill and brush control to pull this off. It was becoming a bottleneck and making me not want to finish the first squad, so I went back to basics.
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.
- Assemble: Build all of them at once, then spray them all (rather than having parallel tracks for assembly, priming, basing, and painting on multiple units).
- Primer and base coat: Spray the whole mini with Retributor Armour, which also only needs 15 minutes to cure (rather than curing overnight).
- 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.
- Base rims: Paint as usual. (I normally do this last, to mark finishing the mini, but with the nameplates in the mix I want some wash in the crevices where the plate meets the rim, so the rims need to be done now.)
- Paint the nameplate: Just my usual steps, but extra careful around where the terrain meets the top edge of the plate.
- Gold touch-ups: I inevitably get a bit of Stirland Mud on what should be gold, so just fix it up with Retributor Armour. Check for little nooks and crannies that didn’t get hit (or hit hard enough) with the spray, and touch those up as well.
- Shade the gold: Wash all the gold areas in Reikland Fleshshade. Doing this now lets me get into all the hard-to-reach crevices without worrying about messing anything up.
- Paint everything except gold and gems: Approach this whole process like I do with terrain: with the care of highlighting. I’m not bodging on paint and fixing it in a touch-up step; I’m carefully painting details surrounded by areas that are at a different stage of completion. The goal is to avoid needing touch-ups (or at least needing as many as I usually do).
- For Custodian Guards, my order is: black, bronze, silver, blades, eyes, pteruges, tassels/plumes, gloves.
- Finish the gold: Highlights, plus any gold touch-ups prompted by the previous step.
- Paint the gems: Base coat, shade, highlight, as per usual — but “think like terrain.” These can be simple details; a gem the size of a grain of salt doesn’t need shading, and may not even need a highlight. A bigger gem deserves the full treatment. Keep the flow fast and loose.
- Seal: No weathering or decals for these lads, so just my usual Vallejo matte white sealant.
- Tufts: As per usual; apply with white glue.
- Glue the flight base pegs in place: I did this before sealing, without thinking about it, but this really should be the final step. If I’d sealed the bases first, I could have slathered on my sealant with reckless abandon without needing to carefully avoid the clear pegs.
When I started out, my plan was to batch-paint every step across the entire army. I wound up doing that for priming/base-coating (the gold), bases, and nameplates, but thereafter I switched to working squad by squad — my usual approach. It might technically be more efficient to batch the whole army, but I need the dopamine hit of finishing minis to give me momentum for the next batch. (And I’m not entirely convinced messing with 26 figures at once, all cluttering up my desk on improvised hand-grips, is more efficient…)
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 — glazed with the aid of 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.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
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 :)
For sure — once I finish some. ;-) Currently my Custodes army is nine grey plastic guys.
Finished minis will all land on my Custodes page: https://www.martinralya.com/my-warhammer-40k-adeptus-custodes-army/
Awesome! Thank you very much :)