How to… Paint Tomb Kings – max results for minimum effort

In honor of the new, and rather delish Tomb Kings release last weekend, I wanted to post up a ‘how to’ article on painting up your undead forces in double quick time in readiness for battle.

As you may have seen in the current issue of White Dwarf, they give you some ideas for different techniques for painting your skeleton warriors. They look great, but are rather in-depth, probably too much so for those of you, like me, who are not only a full time computer masher during the day, but also a full time dad and part time rock star. My point being, you don’t have too much free time to paint.

Part the first:

Once your skellywags have been assembled (arguably the most time consuming part of this) you’re going to want to spray undercoat the little buggers. I’ve used Duplicolor Sandable Primer, matt white, which costs about $6 from any auto store, and is far superior to the expensive shite that Games Workshop tout as spray paint. I leave them overnight to dry, although they are dry to the touch in a few minutes, but I’m usually doing something else, yay for multitasking.

You should be looking at a nice, white skellie, yes? Good, then we can move onto…

Part the second:

Get a pot of Devlan Mud*, insert your wash brush, or other larger brush, then liberally slap it on all over the mini. I tend to do a second coat on things like the face and ribs, as they have the most detail. Try not to pool it if possible. Set aside to dry. I have been working on a unit of horse archers, as you can see. The GW washes dry, so by the time I have washed one, moved on to the second, the first is already dry.  You’ll already start to see things taking shape, thus:

Some of you out there may choose to stop at this stage, which is fine, but they still need to pop a little bit, IMO. This leads us nicely into…

Part the third:

This is where your little creepers will come to (un)life.  Get your brush that you use for drybrushing, open your Bleached Bone paint and drybrush them. This will give that extra dimension to them (whoah! 3-D!). It’ll pick out the ribs and facial features a little more, plus give them a little more ‘dry’ and sun bleached feel. You could even add another drybrush step here with Skull White, which I did, as I do it on just the face and ribs, very lightly:

The bone parts are done! Simple, eh?

Part the fourth – details:

You’ll still need to paint your quivers, bows and other bits after this, but again I keep it simple. For the bows I use a Mechrite red base, washed with Devlan Mud. The quivers with Hawk Turquoise washed with Devlan Mud (this is to give the overall feel of wear and dirt over a couple of centuries). The quiver flap and straps are base coated in Chaos Black, and a quick line highlight of Greatcoat Grey (PP3) and then Codex Grey . DONE! You can add details like hieroglyphs and what not, but the aim of this is to be quick, right?

Part the fifth – finishing touches:

Base ‘em! I use a pumice filler for the bases, as it looks like that dry, parched desert ground. Once it’s applied then dried, it’s basecoated with Snakebite Leather, then drybrushed with Bleached Bone, then a little bit of Skull White. Add a couple of tufts of desert flock and you should have a nice looking painted unit, ready to deal some serious arrow violence on your enemy:


Following this should get you your mass troops done in next to no time, allowing you to spend a bit more time on your character figures.

Let me know how you get on – good luck!

*I just bought a new pot of Devlan Mud the other day, as my other pot had run out. To my dismay, I find that it’s a slightly different shade, and almost looks like it’s got either Ogryn Flesh or Gryphonne Sepia in it. Bollocks!

63 thoughts on “How to… Paint Tomb Kings – max results for minimum effort”

  1. Hot damn, those are some nice looking skeletons! Thanks for sharing your approach to painting them. Also thanks for suggesting the Duplicolor primer too, I’ll have to try it out.

  2. No problemo mate! I found the Duplicolor to be a lot more hard waring than other brands.

  3. Hey!
    Great post, I read it with much interest as I am soon beginning a tomb kings army!
    I was wondering if you could develop a bit more about “premice filler”? How do you use it? You said “once it is dried” i assume you put some glue as in sand basing and let it dry? Or it envolves water? It really looks great!
    Congratsand keep the good york up 🙂

  4. Thanks! glad you liked it.

    Pumice filler is a textured filler you can buy from most hobby stores. It is basically a paste that has fine sand in it. You spread it on the miniatures base with a brush (which you can then clean in water) then all you do it was for it to dry, then you can paint it! easy!

    Hope this helped!

  5. Great “how to do article” thank you so much for sharing your techniques. I found it inspirational and very helpful, I plan to use your techniques with my Tomb Kings Army. I assume you used the same painting techniques for the rest of your army?

    I’m curious to see what techniques you used to paint those Tomb Kings Ushabti with Great Bows are coming along? I noticed you used black primer on them…

  6. Indeed I did sir! As they will have metallics and bone colors, I prefer, on larger models, to work from a black primer, as it’s not just going to be a wash/drybrush affair like the footsloogers. I’m currently painting up Prince Apophas for the Khemri Forum painting challenge, then it’ll be on to the Ushabti 🙂

    Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and flattered that you will be using the techniques!

  7. Thanks for the link Thomas! Indeed all my TK stuff will be on it’s own page when it’s done. Stay tuned!

    Ushabti will be coming shortly bwahahahaha!

  8. Paul,

    Quick question for you, when you put together your core troops did you glue on the shield then prime the models or did you glue the shields on after you painted the model and the shield? I ask because I was told by the guy at GW to glue on the shield prior to priming…


  9. Hiya Thomas,

    Are you referring to the Tomb Guard? I actually do stick them on prior to painting, but that’s just me. I was never a fan of leaving bits of, painting them, then assembling them, especially something as fiddly as a skeleton mini. I have been better recently and I am starting to paint parts separately. Common sense would suggest leaving stuff like shield arms off prior to painting so you can get into all the awkward parts. I dunno, maybe i’m a sucker for punishment lol! to each their own I suppose. I can see pro’s and con’s for both ways. Do whatever you feel is the right way, young padewan!

  10. Actually, I was referring to the regular skeleton warriors… I think I’ll go ahead and just glue the shields on prior to priming. LOL I have a feeling it’s going to be tough painting the little guys with the shields on but we shall see. 🙂

  11. So finally I’ve put all my skeletons together, minus the Tomb Guard which I’m working on today. With that said, I have two questions that you or someone else might be able to help me out with, the first being do you know the paints and techniques used on the Alan and Michael Perry’s Tomb Guard? I really would like to paint up my Tomb King army with those colors and techniques. Second question, how are those Ushabti with Great Bows coming along?

  12. Refresh my memory with the Perry Twin’s stuff…? lol!

    I actually haven’t done any more with them yet, I got sidetracked by Space Marine on Xbox… lol! I will start them though, I promise!

  13. Not a problem, if you look in the Warhammer Tomb Kings book where they have all the painted up models you’ll see what I’m talking about… I really like the colors used myself, I just don’t know how to go about creating/duplicating the look…

    lol not a problem, sometimes Xbox gets in the way of things…

  14. High, I love your tutorial but I have a few questions mate.

    Q1) Can you send me a link what exact primer you used:Duplicolor Sandable Primer? (However I would guess my Chaos Black Primer would have the same effect.)

    Q2) Can you please tell me how you did the base?

    Q3) I don’t understand which parts to paint on the last step?

    -P.S Amazing tutorial really helped!! :3

  15. Hi Arthur,

    glad you like the tutorial! and thanks!


    If you live in the UK, I always used Halfords matt black car primer. You have to remember that Chaos Black from GW I believe is just Chaos Black, and not formulated to be a primer (unless they’ve changed it). I remember the good old days when GW actually made spray primers, and they were really good!

    2) The base is this stuff called ‘White Pumice’, here is a link for it:
    You could probably achieve the same thing with filler and fine sand. Paint it on the base and let it dry, then just paint it whatever color you want!

    Hope this helps!

  16. I’d prefer to just get typical GW spray primers, so do you think I’d be better off with Skull White or Chaos Black Primer?

  17. When I’ve finished painting my skellywags I could send you some pictures if you want?

  18. Blades are easy, basecoat of Bolt Gun Metal (or Chainmail, your choice!) then wash with Devlan Mud, then touch up again with your base color. You could always do a wash of Gryphonne Sepia too, if you want to add a slightly rusted look, which applys to any metal really, not just the blade. Shields were a basecoat of Hawk Turqouise, with Skull White added to do the highlights. Gold bits were 1/1 mix of Shining Gold, Scorched Brown for the base color, followed by Shining Gold (leaving the darker color in the nooks) then wash with Devlan Mud.

    Of course this will all soon become somewhat worthless information, as GW have just revamped the paint line and I think they are dropping the names or something… argh!

  19. Yeah, I just bought a Regiment of Skeleton Horse Archers but I need to assemble them @ Games Workshop as I have no glue, but obviously I need them primed white so Im just hoping they’ll prime them @ my nearest GW as I don’t want to spend £10.00 on a Skull White Primer. xD

  20. But don’t worry I’ve recently stocked up on old paint and have all the paints you’ve mentioned except Gryphonne Sepia but I’m sure Devlan Mud will do fine. :3

  21. For my base I’m just going to do water down Bubonic Brown and then a quick dry brush of Bleached bone and then when it comes to it I’ll decide what color I’m doing around the edge of the base. I’m not particularly a good painter but judging on the tutorial and your help Tomb Kings won’t be that difficult to paint! My last army was a 2,000pts Necron army so it seems I can’t get my hand off the undead!
    Thank for all you help expect pics of my Tomb Kings within…about a 3 weeks or something as I’ll have plenty of time to paint over the Easter holidays but I’m not making promises. xD

  22. Thats why you need to go to Halfords and pick up some matt white car primer. It’s half the price and way better!

  23. Well, best of luck to you Arthur! don’t forget, when it becomes a chore, put the brushes down and go do something else, then come back to the painting later! I look forward to hearing about your progress! 🙂

  24. I just assemble the whole thing. None of this seperate horse/rider painting nonsense! The skeletons are a little tricky to sit on the horses, so I recommend test fitting them first to see where their bony butts sit better. I’m suprised they don’t have some kind of saddle…

  25. Also, I have notice it give you about 10 horse and only 8 riders? Why does Games Workshop do that can’t they just not give me them and take £4.00 off or something? And if you’re gonna do that atleast give me enough riders?

    Do you know why they do that?

  26. They do? that doesn’t sound right??? I had equal number of horses and riders in my sets. Maybe there was a sprue missing?

  27. Is it safe to assume Tomb Kings are quite easy to paint because I’ve seen lots of people’s on forums and I haven’t seen any that a particularly bad because it’s just a prime a wash and a drybrush? :3

  28. Apart from the fact that they, in my opinion, embody the feel of ‘fantasy’ (who did’nt like the scene in the old Harryhausen movie Clash of the Titans with the skeletons emerging to fight Perseus?), they are indeed quick to paint and get on the table. For a little bit of effort, you can have a fully painted army ready to bring the pain.

  29. Wow, dude are you a writer every comment it pretty funny and so grammatically correct. xD

  30. I don’t know man, I think I might stay with just Skull White and then a Devlan Mud I like the dirtiewd look!. But I’ll follow all the other tips man. ;D

  31. Thats pretty much what I do anyway, the bleached bone drybrush is only a light ‘dusting’ to pick out some details. Thats the beauty of skellies, you can cut a butt-load of corners and still have them look pretty bad ass.

  32. I have done one Tomb King with Bleach Bone Drybrush but I think’ll just leave it with the Devlan Mud and then I think it need something else it’s only a drybrush away.

  33. Great looking skeleton bow cavalry, I like the paint job. I see you added the quiver to the standard bearer’s skeletal horse, but I could not see from the pictures if you added the bow? If so how / where did you add it?

  34. Hmmm, you got me! lol! Looks like I forgot to add that…. DOH! I’ll just say he dropped it to pick up the standard and prevent it from falling into enemy hands… yes, that’s it…. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: