“Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.”
Warhammer 40k is notorious for it’s grimdark setting, devoid of hope. Have you ever wondered how to paint grimdark miniatures? If so, you’re in the right place. There are plenty of amazing painters who really evoke that feeling of hopelessness and despair through their miniatures, through gloomy colour palettes, blood, dirt and some truly horrifying conversions.
I’m personally always on the lookout for great new Warhammer painters on Instagram. It’s a great place to find miniature painters showing off their best work. We wanted to showcase some of the Warhammer painters I’ve seen who truly channel the grimdark world of the 41st Millennium.
You may be aware of Frankie, AKA Nerd Princess thanks to her popular Warhammer themed cosplay. That’s not the reason she’s made this list however. A quick glance at her instagram page and you’ll also spot a good number of photos of her incredibly dark and tarnished style of miniature painting.
Christof Keil – @k03rnl
Christof Keil has an impressive collection of grimdark miniatures. A hallmark of his style is that his models always have very believable textures all-over, as well as a relatively muted palette. Christof also has a YouTube channel where he breaks down some of the techniques behind his models.
ingrimmson is an artist whose miniatures often ride the line between ‘grimdark’ and ‘horror’. There’s a real atmospheric and often eerie vibe to a lot of their models. While we’ve selected some of their models which fit in with the Warhammer 40k universe, his Instagram feed is well worth exploring for some of his oversized creations.
Zatcaskagoon Miniatures – @grimdark_compendium
Zatcaskagoon is the name behind the Grimdark Compendium, a website full of tutorials and masterclasses, ran with some other incredible artists, some of which are also featured in this list. Both Zatcaskagoon Miniatures and the Grimdark Compendium are definitely worth checking out.
Grimdark Tales not only aims for a really dark style with their miniatures, but also has a Youtube Channel with some behind-the-scenes and battle reports. You’ll find a little bit of everything on their pages, including some dark Age of Sigmar models to accompany the large collection of 40k.
We asked Grimdark Tales about their advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what they had to say.
There is no one right way to paint! You can learn formal technique as a baseline, but creatively speaking painting is like writing music; forget what you’ve learned as you create your art, let it inform your subconscious but don’t let it be a ruleset to define your choices, experiment and find what flows on the model and from your hand!Grimdark Tales
Yianni – @grim40k
As with many of the painters on this list, grim40k’s miniatures feature a lot of kitbashing and conversions. As well as seeing the stunningly dark painted models you’ll also find plenty of WIP shots, showing the creativity going on behind the scenes. While the painting style is notably dark and moody, some strong splashes of colour add some believability to the world.
We asked Yianni about his advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what he had to say.
I’d say for anyone struggling and not happy with their results, if you want to improve you need to make routine time to practice. Put time aside every day or every week and stick it over the long term. Challenge yourself and learn to enjoy the process, getting better will naturally come over time.Yianni
Laurence Senter – @baharroth_the_cry_of_old_paint
Laurence Senter has a very explorational and experimental style, which leads to most of his projects becoming small contained dioramas of his vision of the world of 40k. Amongst all of the cables and details on his models, you’ll see some really stylised palettes and worn down textures.
We asked Laurence about his advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what he had to say.
The more models and art you look at, and the more techniques you try to paint the better your eye will become, unfortunately, this means you’ll be able to see problems with your own work far beyond what anyone else can. When I’m painting I try to look a the model in soft focus every now and then, to see the overall impression rather than the single aspect I’m painting.Laurence Senter
Click here to read more about what Laurence Senter had to say
I’m evangelical about painting with oil paints, I’ve barely scratched the surface with them but it suits my style and the way I think, I wish I’d been braver and tried them earlier, I find acrylics have such a tiny margin of error on them, even with wet blending, whereas oils you can easily clean off and start again. Oil washes are amazing, but the real joy for me is blending colours, with my Marine, it meant I could get the armour colour I wanted super quickly, and then could spend the time working on the fun bits, weird birds and skulls and flags.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll never be completely happy with it, deadlines are a great help for me – my gaming group has a fairly strict rule about only using fully painted armies and that really helps to power you on to the end – that and competitions, having a point past which you can’t do any more is awesome.
The more models and art you look at, and the more techniques you try to paint the better your eye will become, unfortunately, this means you’ll be able to see problems with your own work far beyond what anyone else can. When I’m painting I try to look a the model in soft focus every now and then, to see the overall impression rather than the single aspect I’m painting.
Don’t paint everything – leave some light and shade, shadows make your models look more real, and avoid the uncanny valley – what I think of as the GW box art – where every part of the model is in focus at once, and your eyes don’t work like that, they prefer to focus on one point at a time, it can make models look flat and cartoony. In building grimdark minuatures my main concept is more is more, but for painting less is more. Just to be really helpful!
Timothée Ozouf – @haticlesae_antrum
There’s a certain creativity that can be seen throughout all of Timothée Ozouf’s work. Almost every model is a unique creation or interesting twist, which pairs brilliantly with the darker vibe of his painting.
We asked Timothée about his advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what he had to say.
I always start a new project with a story, it doesn’t need to be long or elaborate but it really helps me to get into the atmosphere I want to explore. Not only for the conversion but also for the paint job, the weathering or the iconography.Timothée Ozouf
Chris Beckhusen – @symptomatic_chaos
Chris Beckhusen has a great way of combining gloomy cold colours with vibrant oranges, which creates a really interesting style to most of their miniatures. I’m personally a big fan of the very stylised Necrons, with no eyes and a dim green tone.
We asked Chris about his advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what he had to say.
Try new techniques. Mix n match familiar techniques. Don’t get pigeonholed by convention. And most importantly have fun and do what makes you happy.Chris Beckhusen
Sven Pacher – @dasindiz
Sven Pacher has a solid collection of Space marines on his page, all painted up in a grim, grey style. His models aren’t just limited to Space Marines though, and there are plenty of models from other armies, as well as some Age of Sigmar models in a similarly gritty style. What we love most about Sven Pacher’s style however has to be the touches of blood, which just sell the fact that these fighters are truly stuck into combat.
We asked Sven about his advice for people trying to paint in a grimdark style. Here’s what he had to say.
To achieve the Grimdark look you don’t have to buy special products or learn special techniques (my grey Space Marines for example are all painted with normal acrylic paints from GW).
For me the Grimdark look works best when you have some contrast points, like glowing effects, onto the miniature. Some brighter areas to focus.
And at least a simple advice. Start painting with a little bit brighter color. All the washing and weathering will darken down your Miniatures a lot.Sven Pacher
Did you enjoy this article? You could always tip the author with a coffee (or something stronger). If you want to try out some of these styles on some new models then check out Element Games. They have great deals on a wide range of Warhammer and accessories. Finally, make sure you’re following us on Instagram to stay up to date and get involved in our community!