How to Paint Power Swords and Weapons

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How do you paint power swords and weapons? In this article, Damon Rooney shares his talent and tips on how to paint these iconic gothic weapons for Warhammer 40k and your other favorite miniatures games.

Read on to learn tips and insights into painting power weapons with that mystical glow. Whether you want to recreate the blue lightning effect, or the eerie green of an Eldar blade, this power weapon tutorial will add a new dimension to your painted miniatures.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - close up lighting power sword weapon blade
Can you feel the buzz? Some say you can “hear” the sound in a picture. I think this is one of those times.

Damon Rooney’s Top Tips for Painting Power Swords and Weapons

  1. Go for a high-contrast color scheme
  2. Use washes or glazes to build up colors and blend your underlying pattern and textures
  3. Create depth with different shades of the same color
  4. Enhance the brightest highlights with white paint
  5. Pay attention to the details, but don’t get bogged down
Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - adeptus custode forgeworld dreadnought with blue power weapon
High contrast, color vibrancy, and the sculpt itself come together to create a work of art that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Introduction

Hello mini painters! Due to popular demand, I have decided to create a tutorial for how I paint power weapons for Warhammer 40k models, in particular for my Adeptus Custode army! Are you looking to paint those nemesis force weapons? Read on!

It’s a process that I very much enjoy and I hope that this helps you all create vivid, crackling weapons that pop with vibrancy!

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For those looking for a easy-to-learn way to paint power weapons with that buzzing energy field, you’re in for a treat. The following the same process I use to paint power swords for many of my models. Painting techniques may vary depending on the model, but the core process is always the same.


How to Paint Power Swords: An Easy Step-by Step Guide

Materials Needed

First, adapt this to your needs for whatever power weapons or swords, e.g., Nemesis force halberd, sword, spear, whatever. I am going to list the ingredients I use for my specific recipe, but I am sure you may want to experiment with different colors. The principles laid out here should apply, but are dependent on a few things. I will break that down momentarily. 

With the ingredients out of the way, I want to make the principle of this scheme clear. You need a vivid, pigment rich paint for your color. Due to their transparency, inks and Citadel-type contrast paints will not work. This is a lesson that I learned through a lot of trial and error. 

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - blue lightning power sword painting miniature
Power swords and gold armor go together like peas in a pod.

I really enjoy the effect of the Bright Jade. I have done this method with Scale 75 Antares Red and Sunset Purple, and while it looks good (due to them being pigment rich), they don’t have the vibrancy that the Bright Jade has. 

By all means, play around with this if you don’t want the exact color scheme I am doing. We learn by experimenting!

As for the model I’m painting for this tutorial, I’m using a spare Venatari Custodes Lance (a really cool spear weapon with a blade). You can find this bladed weapon in this Adeptus Custodes box set.


Step 1 – Prime and Base

Prime the blade black. Actually for most Warhammer 40k swords, I recommend starting with black. We need to do this because we will be basing the blade a dark gray/black color! 

I prefer Scale 75 Black Primer through my airbrush as it is very matte and provides excellent coverage. However, because I’m out of airbrush thinner, I used Army Painter Black Spray I had lying around. Here are other great primers that work well for painting miniatures. 

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - primed weapon spear blade black color
The model is primed for paint!

After you’ve primed your model’s surface, we can move on to painting the first base coat color.

To create the base coat color I want to start with, I mix the black and gray paint with contrast medium.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - black paint mixture for painting miniature sword
The base coat colors… keep it dark.

The ratio for this mixture includes, 4 drops of Citadel Contrast Medium, 4 drops Tenebrous Gray, and 2 drops of Pro Acryl Transparent Black. You could substitute any black paint here, but the Pro Acryl black is just visually appealing to me.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - mixing black color on wet palette
As shown in the photo of the black paint on my wet palette, you can see the desired consistency. 

To apply this base color, we simply run the brush all over the blade. The great thing about this mixture is that it covers very well; so if you are repainting weapons and don’t want them primed black, this will do the trick in one or two passes!

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - base coat dark black gray on weapon blade
With the base coat applied, the fun begins!

After you’ve coated your model with the base color, give it about 5 or 10 minutes to dry, depending on how thick you applied it.


Step 2 – Painting the Power Sword Lightning

Now, this is where the fun begins! Remember where I said you want vivid, pigment rich paints? This is why….As you see in the image below, I’ve prepped my wet palette like with the colors that will make up the glowing parts of the blade.

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My color palette for the lightning power effect.

From left to right, we have mixtures in the following ratios:

  • 4:1 Glaze Medium and Bright Jade
  • Bright Jade
  • 3:1 Bold Titanium White and Bright Jade
  • 1:1 Bold Titanium White and Bright Jade
  • 4:1 Glaze Medium and Bold Titanium White Paint

Light Blue Sketching for Lightning Pattern

Now we sketch in our lightning patterns. This will take a little practice for those of you who haven’t done this before. But with some time and patience, you’ll pick up how this works quickly.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - sketching lightning pattern on blade of sword
Sketching the first layer of colors. Create gradients between the hues with the brightest color starting at the power node/source.

To make sure the light blue isn’t too overwhelming, I do this sketch in two layers. I want enough coverage with the blue hue to avoid having the black undercoat from showing through too much.

As you’ll see later on, we need some of this black to remain visible. 

Don’t even bother thinning the paint (weird I know).

To start blending the different blue hues, you can use wet blending within the lightning pattern. You’ll see how the colors of Bright Jade and white come together with smooth transitions. Here, I make the energy source pretty white here to emphasize the power nodes at the bottom of the blade.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - power weapon blade with lightning glow effect
Here is the lighting effect painted with the second coat of paint colors.

Step 3 – Glaze the Midtone Color Over the Entire Blade

Now, we need to take our Jade Glaze and run it all over the blade. Wick off some of the extra paint from your brush, but not too much. This color is almost going to act like a wash

The goal here is that we want to tint the black in our respective energy color.

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You can see the glaze is still wet on the blade.

If the blade is not tinted enough, do a second pass with your glaze. Make sure you let each layer of your glaze dry before adding another coat. In my experience, one pass with the glaze is enough.

What’s cool about this technique is that you don’t need masking tape or any fancy edge highlighting to make this work. Once the sword has been tinted, we now start adding some magic.


Step 4 – Highlight the Lightning Effect

Load up your sharpest brush with the white glaze from your wet palette. Wick almost all the glaze off the bristles. This gives you more control of the paint.  

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - after glazing color for the midtone to blend the entire effect together
After the glaze color dries, you can see how it blends all the other colors together.

Now, very carefully, trace white lightning bolts inside the original lightning shapes we sketched.


Step 5 – Push the Glow

As a final step, approach each painted side separately and keep building up the white color where the energy source appears to come from.

Once you have used the majority of the white on your brush (that you loaded in step #4), gently feather “bursts” of lightning where it meets the blade edge to give a crackling effect. This extra bit of edge highlight glow will help sell the glowing effect on the model.

It’s very important that your paint is very thinned down here. White can be very bold, and we don’t want that in our initial pass. We want a nice blend.

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - use pure white to make the object source lighting stand out
Using pure white and bit of subtle glazing here and there, you can make the glow effect really pop. Be strategic with the white paint, placing it only in select places to show the brightest (or hottest) spots on the blade or weapon.

Add a bit more glaze of the Bright Jade on the surrounding materials to help sell the object source lighting (OSL). You can see a bit of this on the top of the hilt, some seeping into the recesses.

And really, that’s it! What do you think?

Power swords - how to paint power swords - painting power weapons warhammer - army wide painted models with power weapons and complete picture
You can easily do all the weapons in an army collection using the method shown in this painting tutorial.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Power Swords, Blades, and Other Energy Weapons

What are power swords?

Power swords are a signature weapon of Warhammer 40k Space Marines. They are a one- or two-handed melee weapon that emits a blade of energy when activated. The blade is deadly to both organic and inorganic matter, and can cut through armor and flesh with ease.

Why are power weapons so popular in the Warhammer universe?

Power weapons are freaking cool, and they are popular because they are incredibly deadly in tabletop gameplay (and the fluff). The blades of energy produced by these weapons can slice through just about anything, including other energy weapons.

They are also great for taking down heavily armored opponents like tanks and walkers. In addition to their raw power, they are also very stylish and look really badass. We shouldn’t really be surprised that power weapons are popular in the Warhammer universe!

What are the different types of power swords in the Warhammer universe?

There are three main types of power swords: power swords, force swords, and lightning claws.

An elite few Warhammer Space Marines carry power swords, as they are the most exotic type of sword. Power swords emit a blade of energy that is deadly to both living and non-living things upon activation. The blade’s strength makes it ideal for cutting through armor and flesh.

Force swords are weapons that emit a blade of energy when activated. The blade is deadly and does a ton of damage and often come with other benefits (depending on your ruleset edition or fluff). In addition to their offensive capabilities, force swords can also be used to deflect enemy attacks.

What is the difference between a power sword and a force sword?

The main difference between power swords and force swords is that power swords are one-handed and force swords are two-handed. In addition, force swords can also be used to deflect enemy attacks.

What is the difference between a power sword and a lightning claw?

The main difference between power swords and lightning claws is that power swords are one-handed weapons. Lightning claws have blades that extend from each finger (essentially), and are often seen in one or both hands. Lightning claws also have potentially greater offensive power. Both kinds of weapons are cool aesthetically (and you can paint them similarly), and are incredibly deadly in close quarter combat in Warhammer tabletop gameplay.


Conclusion

So, there you have it! My simple guide on how to paint power swords and weapons for your miniatures. This tutorial shows the steps involved in creating a vibrant, glowing blade with realistic-looking lightning patterns.

If you follow these steps carefully, you’ll be able to create stunning power swords that will really stand out on the tabletop. Have fun experimenting with different colors and effects to create unique blades that represent your army’s style and theme.

Thanks for reading! Happy painting! Do you have a question or feedback? Leave a comment below. 😀


About the Author: Damon Rooney

Damon Rooney

Damon is a father, soldier and martial artist who hails from Craftsbury, Vermont. He is an instructor at the Vermont Army National Guard and also serves as a reconnaissance section leader. Damon is an avid miniature painter and tabletop wargamer, including Warhammer 40k and role-playing games.

As a working father, he appreciates any support you can give him in the form of donations for materials that will help him continue his hobbies. His Venmo account information is below, so please consider donating to help this amazing individual!

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