March 2– Back from vacation, the shop is open!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Speed Painting Necrons

Necrons are some of the easiest and fastest units to paint (even easier than skeletons in my opinion), and in this tutorial I'll share my process for getting through them quickly.


To start, attach the models to a painting stick. (I use paint stirring sticks; they are free at most hardware stores; when you're picking up paint for your battlefield terrain, grab a few extra stir sticks.) The sticks are wide enough to accommodate a model's base and stand securely. Use puffy double-sided tape and attach four or five models to each stick, spaced out so you can easily get at all sides of the model with your brush.

This will allow you to prime them in a single batch, and then paint them as a single group. For the purposes of this tutorial, I've attached one figure to a 1 1/4-inch dowel for photographs, and left the rest on their paint sticks.

The Paints

I use a variety of GW, Formula P3, Army Painter, and Vallejo paints, but you can substitute for equivalent colors from whatever range you prefer:

Pig Iron (P3)

Brown Ink (Liquitex Burnt Umber Transparent Ink)

Matt Black (Army Painter)

Quick Silver (P3)

Molten Bronze (P3)

Castellan Green (GW)

Wurm Green (P3)

Fang Grey (GW)

Nuln Oil (GW)

Iosian Green (P3)

Scorpion Green (Vallejo)

White (Vallejo)

Screaming Skull (GW)

The first step is to prime the models with black spray primer. Once the primer has fully dried, you can move on to the next stage.



Painting the Metal Skeletons

Brush an even coat of Pig Iron over the entire figure and the blade on the weapon– not a full basecoat, but a drybrushing technique with just a touch of water (sometimes called wetbrushing). The water ensures that the paint applies smothly over all the surfaces, but the drybrushing technique keeps it from getting into all the recesses. If some of the recesses get paint in them, don't worry, the next step will take care of that.



Mix a wash of Brown Ink, and add just a touch of black to deepen the tone. Brush this over the entire model, making sure all the recesses are filled. If it pools on any of the surface areas, wipe it away with your finger or a paper towel. This step is messy, and will result in the model looking like dirty metal.



Once the wash has completely dried, drybrush more Pig Iron on the figure. Use a proper drybrush to keep the paint out of the recesses. Just brush enough as necessary to recapture the steel color, but still leave a hint of the brown shading in the deeper areas of the model.


Finish up the skeleton with edge highlighting of Quick Silver. Highlight the edges of each arm and leg segment, the cheekbones and forehead, the collar, shoulder blades and spine, and the edge of the weapon blade.



Painting the Weapon

To paint the metal of the weapon, mix up a bronze color using Molten Bronze, Pig Iron, and a touch of black. Basecoat the entire weapon except for its blade and hoses. Apply this color to any other areas of the model that you want to be bronze. On my Necron Warriors, that's just the chest icon, but you might paint the shoulder plates or the forehead to distinguish your different units.



Here's a shot of the bronze color on the legs of a Tomb Spyder, where you can see the difference between the steel and bronze tones a little better. A color like GW Warplock Bronze might be a good alternative (requiring no mixing), but I don't have any of it, and can't verify its opacity. (Some "gold" colors are notoriously translucent, as is GW Runefang Steel, which is why I'm using the P3 metallic colors for everything.)

You could also use the Molten Bronze "straight" if you want a more golden accent color for your figures. I'm maintaining a mostly muted color scheme for my Necrons. Part of the art of speed painting is keeping things fairly simple without a lot of color diversity.



Once the bronze is finished, highlight it with a very light drybrushing of straight Pig Iron. Paint the hose attachment rings with Pig Iron, and highlight them with a touch of Quick Silver. If you go too heavy with the drybrushing and the bronze starts to look too similar to the rest of the figure, you can wash it with Brown Ink to recapture the "brown" tone of the bronze.


Paint the ribbed hose and the tubes under the Necron's rib cage with Fang Grey and then wash them with Nuln Oil. Basecoat the smooth tube with Castellan Green, then mix and apply a mid-tone of equal parts Castellan and Wurm Green. Finally, apply a highlight line with straight Wurm Green.


The last step is to paint the energy coils on the weapon. Basecoat the coils with a 50/50 mix of Iosian Geen and Scorpion Green. Then, brush over the coils with straight Scorpion Green, just to catch the ridges. Finally, brush a single line of white across the ridges. This is probably the most tedious step because you need to take care not to get any paint on the bronze parts of the weapon. If you do, just touch it up with more of your bronze mix.



Use a fine brush and add a spot of Scorpion Green onto each of the eyes. If the green gets sloppy, use a little black to fill in around the green spot, and then Quick Silver to touch up the metal around the eye socket. That takes care of the figure!


Painting the Bases


My bases all have sprue rubble, ballast and skulls to recreate a "Terminator Wasteland" aesthetic. The larger bases like this Tomb Spyder's base also have some wrecked warrior bodies as well. All of the effort went into modeling the base, and I keep the painting quick and easy:

First, blacken the base around the Necron's feet (or wreckage) to cover up any silver overbrushing. Then, drybrush the ground with successively brighter layers with a mix of black and Screaming Skull.



Brush a little more Screaming Skull onto any skulls on the base.


Then, wash the skulls with thinned brown ink. Make sure the eye sockets and nasal cavities get filled in with the wash.


Once the wash dries, give the skulls a final drybrushing of Screaming Skull.


One final touch I added on the Tomb Spyder's base was a handful of Scarabs to keep him company.


Finish the bases by painting the rims with Castallan Green or any neutral earth tone. I use green because it helps accentuate the green bits on the figure, and helps create a transition whenever my grey wasteland bases are standing on a more grassy battlefield.


Adding the Green Rods

You could stick the green rods right on the model if you like, but I prefer to paint lightning crackles along the tubes. In order to paint the slick plastic, I spray it (while still on the sprue) with Testor's Dull Cote. The Dull Cote acts like a "clear primer" that can be painted over while maintaining the translucency of the plastic.



Clip the rods off the sprue and trim off the little burr where they were attached. This may seem counter-intuitive, but attach the rods with its burr facing up. If it's on the bottom or side, it will be magnified and visible through the clear cylinder, and the burr will seem to wrap all the way around.


Besides looking cool, the reason I paint lightning on the tubes is to conceal that pesky burr by painting the lightning right over it. First, paint the lightning bolts with Scorpion Green.


Then, use a fine brush to paint a white highlight line over the green lightning.


And that's it! A batch of sharp-looking Necron Warriors knocked out in a few hours.



I also painted my second Tomb Scorpion while working on these guys, so I'll have some much needed Psyker resistance.




Aside from a few stray Warriors and Destroyers, and a second Monolith that I may or may not paint, that takes care of the backlog for my Necrons. Going forward with the army, I'll be able to focus on all the cool new vehicles and units.

'Til next time!


  1. Thanks a lot for the tutorial!
    I will no doubt use some of the techniques you described here in the future.

  2. Thanks ofr another great tutorial

  3. The original metal necrons pulled me into 40k, during 3rd edition. (I was all fantasy until then) There were two rules sets released as chapter approved in white dwarf, the first of which had the models costing a bunch so you could field an army with very few models. The rule you were paying for was their ability to stand back up, after being killed, on a roll of 50/50. That rule set was short lived, but the second one was cool too.
    When I was active on eBay a few years back I picked up more of those original units for cheap when I would find them. I have a bunch of those original units and will someday be revisiting this blog post to get them painted!


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