Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to Paint Power Swords - Step by Step

Hello again everyone! In this post I'll be going over how to paint nice blue power swords that you see on many Space Marine / Grey Knight models. I will go over each step individually as well as provide pictures to make it a little easier to understand.

I will be using strictly Citadel paints here, and the specific ones are as follows:

Ceramite White
Teclis Blue
Caledor Sky
Macragge Blue

For this tutorial it is important to note that all these paints must be thinned considerably in order to get smooth blends and transitions between each step. While I will be keeping this as simple as possible so that with a little practice you can recreate this quiet quickly to use in your army - you still need to allow for proper drying time between steps and keep your paints nice and thin in order for it to work. Once you get the hang of this technique however, you should be able to mass produce it onto your gaming miniatures in as little as 20 - 30 minutes from start to finish to add a little extra touch and make everyone at your local game store jealous, hah!

To start off we need to get a nice even coat of Teclis Blue over the entire sword. Remember to keep your paints nice and thin (I recommend having them be around the consistency of milk for the base coat.) Keep patient as this step is the most time consuming, and will most likely take 3-4 good coats to get it nice and even. Remember to wait at least a few minutes in between coats or you can easily ruin your finish. As you may notice I am using a black base coat for this particular model, but this technique can be effectively used over any primer of your choice.

Once you get a nice smooth coat of Teclis Blue we can move onto the first shade. This is done by mixing Teclis Blue and Caledor Sky in a ratio of about 50:50. Remember to keep this nice and thin, around the consistency of milk or possibly a little thinner. All of the shade / highlight steps will need to be this consistency unless otherwise stated in the tutorial. Be sure to remove any excess paint off the brush with a paper towel (or your thumb like me, haha.)

As a side note - If you are not familiar with a power sword, we are attempting to have alternating edges of the blade be highlighted / shaded to create a "light effect" on the sword. If the top left hand side of the blade is highlighted, then the top right hand side must be shaded - having the darkest part of the blade next to the lightest creates this effect. If this sounds confusing at all feel free to look up a picture of a power sword online and it will become apparent quiet quickly I'm sure, sorry for any confusion.

Begin by painting the shade coat from the middle of the blade out towards the end (we are going down the length of the blade, not across the width!) This first step may not add a whole lot of shading to the blade, but the more layers we do the smoother the transition will be in the end. You should still be able to see a very slight transition appearing (specifically looking at the bottom right hand side of the blade in my pictures - where the Teclis blue is meeting up with our first shade.)

Now that we have the first shade smoothly on the model we will move onto our next shade, that is straight Caledor Sky. You will use the same technique used in applying the previous mix, but be sure to leave some of the last coat showing! You are just moving slightly down the blade to create a darker effect towards the edges.

We are now starting to see some nice transition of color, and only after 2 coats! Once the previous step has completely dried, we can start on our next shade - that is a 50:50 mix of Caledor Sky and Macragge Blue. Once again we are using the same technique as before on the 2 previous shades, being sure to leave a little bit of the previous step showing as we move further out towards the far ends of the blade.

Now the shadows are really starting to become apparent - this should be the case as we now only have 1 more shade step to go. We are going to paint just Macragge Blue close to the very far ends of the blade to create a nice deep contrast. Once again use the same technique as the previous shade steps, and leave a gap between this and the previous shade.

Now you should definitely notice some nice deep contrast between the edges of the blade, and we haven't even started to highlight yet! We will begin doing just that now by adding a very slight amount of Ceramite White to our base coat, Teclis Blue. I don't have an exact ratio for this, but it should be somewhere around 10:1 Teclis to Ceramite. You want to be sure to only add a slight bit of white at a time as it can become "chalky" on the model if you add to much while trying to build up a transition, especially as Ceramite White is quiet thick pigment wise.

I find that putting down a but of Teclis Blue onto a palette next to your first highlight color can help you gauge how bright you need your first highlight to be. You're aiming for something only slightly brighter than the base coat.

We are going to be using the same technique as we did for shading the sword, but now obviously going down to the opposite ends of the blade.

It is important to note that you may want your highlight colors to be slightly thinner than your shade colors. You don't want them "watery" or wash like as that will ruin the effect - just be sure to wipe off excess paint onto an absorbent surface like a paper towel.

Hopefully you can see that the transition is very slight but still noticeable between the base coast and our first highlight - this is exactly how you want it, not chalky but still brighter. Once this step has dried you can now move onto the next highlight which is, as you might have guessed, the previous mix from our first highlight only now you're adding slightly more white to the mix. Possibly around 10:2 - 10:3 but I don't have an exact measurement. I suggest using the same "eye ball it" technique that I suggested before by using a palette that has your previous mix on it to gauge your color.

Once again use the same technique to paint this highlight on, using the same technique as on the first highlight.

Your highlights should now start becoming much more apparent. We are now going to add a final highlight in 2 steps to really make a sharp contrast and have the sword "pop" that much more. You will begin be using straight Ceramite White thinned A LOT - this should definitely be "wash like" or extremely watery. You are going to want to then wipe off the majority of the paint in your brush onto a paper towel. This will allow us to get a very slight amount of paint onto the blade that will appear as a "film" over the blue. This will be applied close to the very ends of the blade, leaving a slight bit of the previous highlight behind as we have been doing thus far.

Once this step has dried you will then use some more Ceramite White - thinned down to around the consistency of milk this time - to apply to the very ends of our blade. This will be just like the Macragge Blue of our shadows - and gives us an extremely good contrast.

Woohoo! We now have a pretty darn good looking power sword if you ask me! There is nothing wrong at all with leaving the blade at this stage - and I would encourage many of you to do so. There is, however, one more step you can do to really make the blade stand out. This involves edging the blade with Ceramite White.

As a warning, this step is extremely difficult to do for anyone with shaky hands, as any slip up will pretty much ruin all of the beautiful blends you just worked so hard to achieve. But, if you're feeling up to the task it is well worth the effort!

To do this step we will thin down Ceramite White to around the consistency of milk again. This will give us the amount of flow we will need to do this effect.

To edge the outside of the blade, you only need to run your brush along the outside rim at around a 40 to 45 degree angle in order to build up a slight lip of white around the outside. This part is not so bad to do - and it alone can add a nice finishing touch to the model.

Sadly, there is no easy way to paint the thin line down the center of the blade. This requires good flow in your paint, and extremely steady brush control. I suggest if you are picking this up for the first time to practice on a couple of extra swords before attempting this on a "finished" sword.

As a final tip - I try to hold the blade vertically and run my brush down the middle while keeping my hands as steady as possible. I suggest creating a "bipod" with your elbows resting on your knees and allow your hands to rest on each other to limit the amount of movement in your arms while holding the model and brush.

I don't mean to discourage anyone from doing this last effect on that blade as it is really worth it in the end, and I believe it is important to push yourself while painting to achieve the best results possible. After all, if you don't try, you can't learn.

Well, after that big wall of text, here is the final product in all its glory! I've added a black binder behind the model to allow you to see the ending effect more clearly.

Thank you so much for reading through this tutorial! I hope it has been informational to some of you and helps out in some way or another. Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions about any stage of the process - or anything else related to painting for that matter. *I'm currently working on my new Facebook page and studio to do commission work for anyone who is interested! I'd appreciate anyone who would like to go and like my page and to continue checking out this blog as I'll be updating it once I have my new studio setup! (updated 1/8/2015) -

Thanks again!


  1. If anyone is reading this, I really like this tutorial, however I play Ultramarines and so the blue sword does not really pop on the model. So, what kind of a colour palette could I use (alongside this tutorial) to create a purple, green or red power weapon?

    1. Hello Peter! I'm glad you liked the tutorial! It definitely makes it worth doing these knowing that people get some good use and information out of them. I understand where you are coming from in regards to needing a different color to go with Ultramarines to make the sword stand out more. If you are using Citadel/GW colors I would recommend using the following colors as a guideline for a purple, red, or green sword respectively: for purple start with Xereus Purple, shading down to Naggaroth Night, and highlighting with Genestealer Purple up to White as in the tutorial. For a red sword start with Evil Sunz Scarlet, shading down to Mephiston Red (possibly with a VERY small amount of black in it if the color is too bright), and highlighting with Troll Slayer Orange up to either Yriel Yellow or Flash Gitz Yellow. You have to go up to a yellow with a red sword as adding in white will sadly just make your red power sword look pink. However, the transition from red to yellow can definitely still look striking! For green start with Warpstone Glow shading down to Caliban Green and highlighting with Moot Green up to White as in the tutorial. I hope this gives you enough information to start on some cool power swords, and thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Let me know if there is anything in particular you'd like me to do in a tutorial next!

    2. Thank you very much for the prompt and detailed reply. This is perfect. I wasn't really sure about how to go about doing a different coloured power sword while keeping this method, so this is a big help. I have decided to use a purple power sword, because it still ties in with the model however is vibrant enough to get some attention. It is also very inspirational to see that there are people painting like you using just a brush and Citadel paints. Most tutorials I see everywhere are using the Vallejo paints and/or an airbrush, neither of which I have access to. Thanks again.

    3. Hello again Peter! Not a problem at all. I always enjoy helping other painters with trying out new techniques and colors! I definitely know what you mean about tutorials usually using paints or tools that many hobbyists don't have access to. That is why with many of the tutorials I will be doing on this site I try to keep them basic in regards to the paints and tools needed while still trying to teach more advanced painting techniques! Thanks again for your post!