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Finding my perfect recipe for purple Space Marines is something that I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to do for some time. It all started some years back before I dropped out of the hobby for a decade or so – I had a box full of Astartes parts and had decided that the best colour to paint them was purple. Why? Because purple is the best colour, so it follows that purple power armour is the best power armour!
Purple Space Marines!
My earliest attempts at painting grape-flavoured Astartes were somewhat unsuccessful. I put this mostly down to a much more limited technical knowledge than the one I have now. While YouTube did exist it wasn’t quite the same feast of hobby material, and my painting knowledge was limited to what I could do at the time with a brush. To give a little context I once went crazy and bought a starter set of Vallejo paints. I was worried it might be a waste of money but I still wanted try out something exotic!
I still have my first colour test from back then. I’m not sure exactly what paints were involved but I think that VGC Hexed Lichen ended up being the dominant purple.
These early attempts at the perfect purple were mostly fuelled by four things: a love of Dark Angels (and a handful of bits), a love of purple, a distinct lack of painting ability, and a distinct lack of money. Being a teenager in a poorly-paid job meant my funding was limited. Buying every shade of purple paint that I could find wasn’t really the option it is now I’m older, nor did I properly understand that Citadel didn’t make the only purples!
I made do with what I had though, and found what inspiration I could online. My first big find was the From The Warp blog, which gave me a purple goal that looked relatively achievable. Looking back I still think the results are pretty solid, but I’ve come to look for a different style.
These were some of the last models I toyed with before accidentally leaving the hobby for about a decade.
A return to purple Space Marines
Like many of us I found myself unable to work during lockdown, and my love of 40k came creeping back. I’d already found myself lurking on 40k websites again and decided that it was time to make my triumphant return. Unfortunately I was unable to get at my old stash of hobby gear and models so I ended up spending a small fortune on new equipment. It should go without saying that I opted for things that would enable me to paint more purple marines. Badly, of course!
After only a couple of models however I realised that I needed to do a little homework. My results were better, but still rather less than spectacular.
Thus while I spent my money buying more paint and OOP models on eBay (gotta love being able to afford some of things I couldn’t have at 11!) I spent my time reading and watching tutorials. I never quite found the perfect purple but I did gain a huge amount of technical knowledge that I’d never picked up while younger. Things as simple as zenithal priming were revelations to me, and everything brought me that little bit closer to being able to realise my (still rather vague) goal.
A slightly better understanding of colour theory left me trying to work out if I wanted to work towards a red- or blue-purple, though I’m still not entirely sure of the answer. Purples heavy on the blue tended to look a little washed out and pastel in the highlights, whereas those on the redder side often went too pink for my liking. Images like the ones below left me wanting something that progressed from a deeper blue shadow to a slightly redder highlight, with just a tiny bit of shine. Or at least, that’s what I think I want – for some reason I often still find it difficult to know what kind of purple I’m looking at!
Stealing ideas Gaining inspiration!
I decided that the best thing to do was save everything I came across that looked slightly interesting, then annoy the artists responsible with rather selfish requests for recipes! I managed to lose most of my stash when I upgraded to a phone without SD card slot – I have the card, I’m just not sure where! However with every purple Space Marine that catches my eye I find myself questioning my rules. I’ve seen brilliant models highlight to pink or pastel violet.
Perhaps the quality of the finish is as important as the underlying colour theory, and it’s skill with a brush I’m lacking?
In the end I went so far as to actually create mockups using Photopea (a free Photoshop alternative). Luther from The Mighty Brush paints some rather visually-pleasing Astartes, and his Raptors in particular are fantastic (as are his guides, coincidentally). I’m a fan of his overall slightly-gritty style, and thought I would see what they looked like in purple. The colours aren’t quite perfect, but I like the direction that it’s going!
Perhaps I just have to wait, hoping for him to release an Emperor’s Children guide so that I can adapt it to my needs?
Where does this leave me now?
Well, mostly confused! I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to achieve because what I want seems to change every time I think about it or see an example of it! I have a vague grip on my Chapter’s lore and backstory and ideas for a couple of characters, but little in the way of colour recipes. Sometimes I do try out a new combination of paints, but it’s normally a very lazy “can I throw this over a preshade?” test which I already know isn’t the way forward.
With every model I paint however I do seem to get a little bit closer to finding what I want, even if I end up moving further away from knowing what that is!
For now I think I’ll just carry on waiting for divine inspiration, slowly adding to my collection of purple pigments whenever the opportunity arises. If however you happen to have any thoughts, or know something worth looking at, I would be very grateful for the direction – I need some purple power armour featured in the excuses for failure blog!
pawl has been an on/off hobbyist since the late nineties but still possesses significantly more enthusiasm for the hobby as a whole than skill with a brush, and so is always on the hunt for fast, easy and lazy techniques that give good results. Despite this he sometimes still attempts to paint Space Marine helmet lenses, and occasionally even manages to stay within the lines!