Firewarrior Painting Guide

January 20, 2009 ·

January 20, 2009

Welcome to the Warhammer 40K Tau Firewarrior painting guide, penned by yours truly (Adam Smith).

Tau Firewarriors are the backbone of any Tau army. Unfortuately, Firewarriors are some of the toughest models to paint well.

They're moulded badly in places, have lots of detail and some tough sections to get the paint brush into.So to make life easy for you and to make your Tau Firewarriors look awesome, I've put together this Tau Firewarrior painting guide which should help you build a big Tau army in no time. Best of all, it'll look good too!

When painting my Tau Firewarriors, I used the following Games Workshop paints: Liche Purple, Scab Red, Red Gore, Blood Red, Fortress Grey, Codex Grey, Skull White, Chaos Black, Dwarf Bronze, Chesnut Ink, Shining Gold, Scorched Brown and Bleached Bone.

I've also been using paints from Privateer Press called P3 paints, which include: Thornwood Green and Khador Red Highlight (aka: frickin' intense orange).

I use Thornwood Green as the military green basecoat, Scorched Brown for the brown bits and Khador Red Highlight for the orange stripes.

For a highlight I simply add some Games Workshop Bleached Bone to Thornwood Green or Scorched Brown for a naturally warm highlight colour. You'd be amazed how many colours you can simply add Bleached Bone to in order to get a great looking highlight, including Chaos Black! The red and golden paints I use for the sensors, symbol bits and then there's some clever use of a 'Skull White Wash' over a Tau symbol painted Chaos Black, but I'll come to that as I take you through the Tau Firewarrior painting guide.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 1: Flock

Before you start on your Tau Firewarriors, you need to do the messy bit first, which is the base. Obviously, your Firewarrior will be glued together and the base flocked, ready for painting.
I use the traditional PVA glue, applied with an old paintbrush, then I sprinkle on some sand and small stones, then dip the base in the sand for maximum coverage. Just be sure to leave the flocked base to dry for 24 hours before you start slapping on the paint. It's gonna get wet and the last thing you want is wet painted flock flaking off the base and sticking to your Firewarrior's face.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 2: Paint the Base

So, once the flock is dry, it's time for some Codex Grey. Using a drybrush, or an old manky brush, just paint it straight on to the flock.

Where the paint can't completely cover it and get into all the cracks, water down the Codex Grey on your pallet until it's reasonably thick and watery, then just slap it on and force it in there (preferably with a manky brush).

Don't worry about getting Codex Grey on your Tau Firewarrior, he's not painted yet anyway.

Once that's dry, give the flock a quick drybrush with Fortress Grey. Still not light enough? Give the bigger stones another quick drybrush with more Fortress Grey.

That should do the job. With the messy bit done, it's on to the Tau Firewarrior himself.
Note: If you get paint on the flock while painting the Tau Firewarriors, just touch it up with a quick bit of Codex Grey.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 3: Paint the Base Colours

I start my Tau Firewarriors by painting the whole thing in the basic colours. You'll notice that I haven't bothered to spray it black or white to start.

This is because Privateer Press Paints are designed so that they can be painted straight on to the plastic or pewter. They usually take one thick coat, followed by a watered down coat for consistency.

Having painted the entire Firewarrior in P3 Thornwood Green, providing the basic colour and the basecoat for the paints to follow, I want for it to dry, then begin applying Scorched Brown to the undersuit, which includes the trousers, sleeves, neck and gloves.

Mistakes are often made along the way, so I tidy these up with a little more Thornwood Green. I also make sure that all of the armour straps that go around the arms and legs are painted in Thornwood Green again. It's easy to miss these and paint over them in Scorched Brown.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 4: Highlighting

Privateer Press Paints are quite dark and you only get the basic colours. So, it's time to add some Games Workshop Bleached Bone to your mix of Privateer Press Thornwood Green and create your own highlights.

If you're painting just a few models, mixing some highlight colours on the spot isn't a problem. But if you're painting an entire Tau army, it's worth mixing up a whole pot or two of your highlight to keep the entire force looking consistent.

I added 1/3 of GW Bleached Bone to a pot of 2/3 P3 Thornwood Green to create my 'Thornwood Green Highlight'

I added 1/3 of GW Bleached Bone to a pot of 2/3 GW Scorched Brown to create my Scorched Brown Highlight.

When applying the highlights, I paint along the edges of the model where the light naturally falls. This keeps the model looking quite realistic. The only downside is that often the casual observer can't see my paintwork because the highlights often look too natural. But this is my preference.

To make sure my lines are consistent and the paint flows on nicely, I often water down the paint on the pallet. I find this helps me to increase my accuracy with the brush and stops paint clogged bristles from sticking to the model during the brush stroke which can lead to mistakes, loss of control and uneven lines.

Once your Tau Firewarrior has his green and brown highlights it's on to the orange stripes...

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 5: Orange Stripes

Now for the tricky part. I use a Privateer Press Paint called Khador Red Highlight for my orange stripes. It's designed to be a highlight for Khador Red Base, but it's so damn bright, I'd never use it for that -it's perfect for a vibrant orange instead.

As you can see from the Tau Firewarrior pic the orange stripe go across the side of the head, either side of the gun and at the top and bottom of the shoulder pad.

The stripes are very simple to paint and keep consistent so long as you remember to start them near focal points of detail on the model. This will help guide your brush strokes while keeping the orange stripes in the right place and at equal distance.

Of course, I wobble or make mistakes sometimes, but these are easily fixed with a thin line of Thornwood Green to tidy up the orange lines. To make the stripes of orange more vibrant, I usually apply a couple of extra watered down coats.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 6: Sensors and shiny bits

These are pretty quick and easy, they just need a little more shading.

The red sensors need to first be painted in Games Workshop Liche Purple. I then make the area progressively lighter towards the edges with Games Workshop Scab Red, Games Workshop Red Gore and finally Privateer Press Khador Red Base for the final red highlight.

You can use Games Workshop Blood Red if you have no Privateer Press Khador Red Base.

Sometimes the layers don't blend together very well, in which case you can merge the colours with a little watered down Scab Red or Red Gore. But maybe you're not as fussy as I am.

As for the gold pod in the end of the Tau Firewarrior's gun, start by painting the whole area in Games Workshop Dwarf Bronze. Once that's dry, apply a Games Workshop Chesnut Ink/Wash. And once that's dry, paint the raised areas of the golden pod with Games Workshop Shining Gold.

You're almost done. Last of all is the Tau symbol and there's a clever way of painting it to make it easier.

Tau Firewarrior Painting Step 7: The Tau Symbol

This looks tough, but there's a quick way around it. Simply paint the Tau symbol in Games Workshop Chaos Black. Once that's dry you apply a Skull White Wash.

Skull White Wash is made by watering down some Games Workshop Skull White paint on your pallet until its reasonably watery. Then paint a little bit (I said a little bit, because it's VERY watery) in the gaps of the Tau symbol and into the gaps around it.

Once the Tau symbol is dry you can carefully paint the black parts covered by Skull White wash Chaos Black again. Don't worry if you make a mess in places. Simply apply a little more Skull White Wash in those areas until it looks good.

Finally, tidy up any mistakes, looks for bits you may have missed and then give the edges of the base a coat of Chaos Black to cover up all the spodged grey paint from the basecoating at the start of the Tau Firewarriors Painting tutorial.

To see how I paint the rest of my Tau army, check out


JaredLOdom said...
May 24, 2009 at 8:36 AM  

Very Nice,

found this while trying if there was a Canon reason behind the different Tau Paint Schemes (Which I have yet to find).

I personally don't field Tau (Tyranids & Space Marines, purely because I inherited a bunch) but they are my second favorite army next to Tyranids and would love to field them some time.

This is a very good Painting Guide, The tips on how to get into the tight spaces were even good for me for doing my Space Marines.

I wanted to suggest/ask something however. My father (who I inherited my mini's from) taught me to flock and paint the base last BECAUSE it's the messy part, plus when using actual sand, pebbles, twigs, etc. tiny bits will cling to the actual model (after you've painted it of course) giving it a gritty feeling like the model is actually out in the elements and doesn't have crisp and perfect armour and colour. just thought I'd share this theory, and ask if you had any particular reason behind doing the bases first.

Adam Hunter said...
May 24, 2009 at 8:39 AM  

Hi Jared,

I do it first, because it's the messy part. lol. Then I can tidy up the miniature itself a bit more quickly.

Glad you mentioned that you've been using my method to paint your space marines. Go checkout my Space Wolves blog (see my links list on the right column) to see how I've done it for my Space Marines.

All the best

The 25mm Warrior said...
June 26, 2009 at 12:09 PM  


I'm a huge fan of speed painting. I was going to do a Tau army about a couple of years ago and after painting six of em I gave up because the paint scheme I was using took way too long.

This makes me want to give em another shot :)

Court said...
August 4, 2009 at 8:22 PM  

I've been looking for a quick way to do the shoulder pad icons, thanks a lot!

drekamschu said...
August 15, 2009 at 4:59 AM  

very cool!
please make a battle suit tutorial soon!

Caleb said...
December 1, 2009 at 5:35 AM  

Hey.. are you based in the U.K? If so do you know anyway of getting the Privateer Press paints in the U.K? I'd rather not pay a fortune getting them shipped from the U.S.

Many Thanks!

Adam said...
December 1, 2009 at 5:36 AM  

I got mine from Wargamesworkshop

Caleb said...
December 1, 2009 at 9:42 AM  

Ok thanks.. just ordered some from Wayland Games anyway

Eric F. said...
January 10, 2010 at 3:28 PM  


This article is great! I am glad I stumbled across your blog. It is really going to help me get my army prepped and ready for war.

Do you have these articles archived, by chance? TXT, PDF, DOC or whatever would be awesome. Otherwise, I will just cut and paste.

Either way, you rock.

- Eric

Adam said...
January 10, 2010 at 11:18 PM  

Thanks Eric. Just cut n' paste my friend.

You may want to checkout my space wolves blog as well. I'll be returning to the Tau army again shortly.

Captain Yukka said...
January 13, 2010 at 3:41 AM  

Hey Adam,

Just wanted to say thanks for sticking this up, I've tried a couple of the techniques you've shown and the success I've seen has prompted me to move away from just slapping the base colours on my firewarriors and then dipping the hell out of them.

Thanks again,

Ed said...
December 24, 2011 at 9:17 AM  

Just though to say to the first commenter, the reason for different colour schemes is the different septs have different terrains, and therefore camo.

Anonymous said...
January 10, 2012 at 5:08 AM  

i am only 12 and i need painting tips to make my army look eye-catching. do you have any?

Anonymous said...
April 1, 2013 at 3:42 AM  

I'd get a base colour of xv-88 and use a layer of light tau orce if you have the tau army

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