How To Paint – Without Paint or Brushes?



What’s up hobby maniac’s, today we’re painting; without using paint. Whaaaaaaaaa? Don’t worry, all will be revealed after the break.


It took me 8 hours to do the trim on the knight titan with a brush, it took forever. Kelsey Haley, the greatest 40k player in the history of ever, came down and was like, “hey man, check this out, I use sharpies now.” And I was like, “wait what?”


He showed me, he pulled out a helldrake and started doing a helldrake with a sharpie marker and it looked REALLY good. Turns out, sharpie turns out a line of Metallic permanent marker. For 6 bucks this is all the paint you need for a whole hobby career. You can hit it with a glaze or a wash to bring it back in. It’s a HUGE time saver. On regular space marines, It’s a BIT too close for comfort in my opinion.

Step 1: Turn off the TV, the Radio, all of it. You really should be focusing; It took me 12 minutes per color; so focusing should only be a problem if you have serious ADHD and you’re out of sugar, or some other medication, to keep you calm.

Step 1.1: Bronze Base Coat.


Hobby Zen: move the model NOT the marker. If you start moving the marker you’re more apt to mess up.

Step 2: Gold: It’s the lighter of the two brassy looking color. Now, we’re going to go about half way down to make that transition.


Step 3: Silver, there’s two methods, the first is you just line it up, pretty basic. The SECOND method is you take the flat area AROUND the point (aka the side of the tip) and rub the edge. It’s easy as pie.


You can stop Here. You don’t need to do wash. Should take about 45 minutes to do the whole thing. I however, wanted to wash it with a bit of glaze. I mixed some wash and glaze to create some additional blending.

Step 4: Mix 2 parts Water, 1 part Future Floor Wax and some wash. The wax makes the paint more of a glaze and gives us a bit more time to work with the paint before it sets.

Step 4a: Just go over what you did carefully with the wash/glaze mix.

Fact: Pinky fingers aren’t just for sticking up when you drink tea, also great for providing some support when you brush.

Step 5: touch-ups, now we just go over it with our paint, and you’ll notice in the video it’s a bit thin but that’s okay, we can just do two coats. I’d rather do two coats than just one and lose my transition.


Pro-Tip, I made a couple chips and highlighted with dark colors to give it some false depth.


I have to note that I didn’t do most of the airbrushing; it’s on loan form my good friend lucas who gave me permission to touch up his trim. You can see the finish product looks good and I think it’s officially a done project.


As usual, if you want the the full 101 watch the video. Special thanks to Barely Tabletop Quality (BTTQ) for letting me paint the trim on their Knight Atrapos!

  • Koschei


    • Hawt Dawg

      According to the guy, only GW cheats.

      Especially with their plastic bases.

    • Kevin Harron

      If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. 😛

    • StinkHorse

      Professional artists pronounce that “Efficiency”.

    • Shatterclaw

      I know right?

  • Joe

    Another closely related trick I use is to use a rapidograph to do fine detail black lining or other things like dotting pupils. It works really great where there is a seam in armor.

    • V10_Rob

      Ah, technical pens. Had to Google ‘Rapidograph’, it’s not a brand I’ve seen in my area. Staedtler and Sakura are what I’ve used (most art shops stock these types of items).

      • OldHat

        These are my pen of choice. Prismacolor can do no wrong. The 005 is just great for purity seals.

  • OldHat

    Not enough control for my tastes. I just use Vallejo Liquid Gold and brushes, which is only slightly more difficult, but gives significantly more control.

  • Fortnight

    If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. Fantastic tip! I will be trying this out.

  • Vepr

    Nice. One of things that makes you go “So obvious, why didn’t I think of that?”

    Thanks for the tip.

  • Randy Randalman

    Ick. That really didn’t save much time, and just looks like Sharpie instead of paint. And that airbrushing looks like a complete hack job. When you can tell it’s obviously airbrushed, that’s not a good thing.

    • OldHat

      To be fair, the painter does claim “Barely Tabletop Quality” as their tagline (and name). Soooooo… at least it isn’t claiming “PRO PAINTED!!!1!!” or anything.

    • Grafton Is Dust

      Yeah, and twelve minutes of utmost concentration per colour seems more awkward than just putting it on with a hairy stick…

  • Andrew

    I’ve always wondered about trying this. My question is will the sharpie run when you apply varnish?

    • Ben_S

      I used black Sharpies for numbering a Blood Bowl team and had a little trouble on one or two, but I think I hadn’t left it long enough before varnishing. Leave it longer and it seems ok. (Not sure whether the metallics are the same though.)

  • Alienerd the unbannable

    I’m going to dump a personal tip regarding sharpies/ permanent markers here (no-one asked me, I am aware… but meh… you didn’t have to read this), since we are on that topic. When I am building a model and I want to see if a glue seam, mold line or any other detail is flat, I will quickly run a black sharpie over it. Gives a clear enough indication as to whether you need to do any more touchups or not.

    • DJ860

      Nice, thank you!

  • Richard Mitchell

    Okay that is cool.

  • Divergent_Reality

    Time to try silver sharpie Necrons.

    • ZeeLobby

      Haha, sounds just as tedious as painting. Airbrush dude!

      • Divergent_Reality

        I don’t doubt that it would be tedious, I want to try it. If it looks good enough and cleanup is as easy as putting a cap on a pen I might use it.

        • ZeeLobby

          I mean they might be great for highlighting, but I imagine a rattle can would still be faster for base coating. As a highlighter it could be great though.

  • Me

    Thanks for the excellent write up.

    • Me

      I do wish the site would stop locking up on me though.

  • rtheom

    Cool idea, and I’m all for it if it means we get more “colorized” armies on the field, but the end result is about the same as airbrush for me; I just don’t like it. There’s something about the lack of texture to the paint that just bugs me. Even with the thinnest layers and finest detail work, you still get natural strokes in paint that light plays off of. You just don’t get that with airbrush and it doesn’t look like it with Sharpie either.

  • Zak Whittington

    I used this technique for the edging of my Grey Knights with the Silver Sharpie and it works fantastic. I dont know if I would use it for coverage similar to how he did but edging it works great.

  • LostAlone

    I think the real thing here is that a Sharpie has a hard point that doesn’t splay out as you put pressure on it. That seems the big deal here. And if your experience with brushes is the ones sold by hobby companies it’s easy to think that brushes are all crappy and horrible. But if you shop for five minutes you can get the same kind of tip contour as well as hard silicone brushes that will give you the same exact effect of a solid point to work with. You just need to find the right tools.

    • OldHat

      Or just use really, really good brushes like W&N S7 or Raphael 8404, etc. Kolinsky Sable with a fat well and sharp tip can do wonders.

  • Paul Jan

    Liquitex has a line of paint markers. I’m trying out their silver on a knight, so far so good.