The following details a method, if not a particular style, for painting Games Workshop’s Tau Empire forces.

The first covers the ‘Classic’ desert scheme GW devised in the original codex. This version is lighter and uses less dark line work for definition. Also I have refrained from digital photo steps for now, as my camera simply lacks the ability to offer enough definition between stages. The following graphics suggest the optimum places to highlight as your confidence grows in doing close in details.

Things to remember :
-Keep a clean mixing slate
-Rinse your brushes every so often as the paint tends to build up on the brush
-Do not apply your paint heavily, let it dry and come back to it another time. This yields smoother results than piled on paint.
-Sometimes a larger brush is better, as more hairs are stiffening the fine tip when you are trying to be careful.
– Lastly, practice practice practice. I was terrible when I began, I even started with poster paints on some Fantasy orcs! We all learn, and usually best from our friends in painting groups. You can talk all kinds of nonsense whilst completing a force on a rainy day… that and copious drinks (age dependent there).

Classic Tau

Paints Used :
White Spray Undercoat
Vermin Brown
Vomit Brown
Scorched Earth Brown
Beastial Brown
Bronzed Flesh
Bleached Bone
Chaos Black
Codex Grey

Brushes Used :
Size 2 (Slim Tank Brush GW), Size 00 and 0 (Fine Detail and Detail Brushes GW)

The Steps :

I begin with a White basecoat, drying time, then apply a Vermin Brown undercoat to all the armor areas using the larger brush(2).

Then ever so slightly watered down Vomit Brown for a couple of layers on armored areas using the Detail brush(0).

Using the 00 Fine Detail Brush, I then highlight with Bronzed Flesh/Vomit Brown (50:50) mix. Sharp edge highlights are done with Bronzed flesh and Bleached Bone mix. All recesses I carefully readdress with watered down Vermin Brown, to cover up any mistakes when applying the highlights and Vomit Brown.

Often I leave the combat fatigues until later, so as I can go about armoured areas and clean up the edges with a crisp dark finish.

In saying that, the combat fatigues are undercoated with Chaos Black & Scorched Brown mix (50:50), then highlighted broadly with Scorched Brown, then sharply with Beastial Brown. All using the Detail Brush (0)

Black details are completed with Chaos Black directly, then Chaos Black and Codex Grey highlight mix (80:20). This is very subtle and only visible in person as often my digital camera blends the subtle hues.

The following image shows the edge highlights, smooth Vomit Brown and the combat fatigues simple highlighting:

Personal Touches:

My style of Classic Tau have pouches which are undercoated with Dark Angels Green/Catachan Green mix (50/50), highlighted with Catachan Green then a Cammo Green edging.

All the markings are painted twice, with watered down Skull White. Makes for a smoother finish. Keep them simple at first then build up your confidence over a whole fire team and then go to town on your Shas’Ui.


Urban Tau

Paints Used :
Citadel Black Spray Undercoat
Vallejo Model Colour :
German Cam. Beige 103
Stone Grey 104
German Cam. Med. Brown 145
Dark Grey 994
Basalt Grey 162
Black 169
Citadel Codex Grey
Citadel Blazing Orange
Citadel Liche Purple
Citadel Tentacle Pink

Brushes Used :
Size 2 (Slim Tank Brush GW), Size 00 and 0 (Fine Detail and Detail Brushes GW)

The Steps :









This is a very dull tone scheme, so expect the colours to blend to a subtle point. While I cannot assure you of an exact match the following describes how I go about applying the colours.

Firstly I was tired of mixing shades to make a good urban scheme. So shopping around I found a ‘family’ of complimentary colours in the Vallejo range.

I do the combat fatigues first, armor second;

After a black spray undercoat, I clean the models then set down a layer of German Cam. Brown. Then I mix 50:50 of that with German Cam. Beige. This is the next step, with broad application over the folds etc. This is followed by German Cam. Beige only as a highlight, then sharply highlighted with Stone Grey.

[Advanced step:] I then I mix Black/German Cam Brown & Beige in a 33/33/33 style mix. This is slightly watered down then carefully brushed into recesses as a shadow colour.

The armor is very straight forward. Dark Grey basecoat, Basalt grey and Dark Grey 50:50 mix, then Basalt grey edge highlights. For characters I then do very fine edge highlighting with Citadel Codex Grey.

[Advanced Step] I often wash a very watered down Vallejo Black, then do the Basalt Grey edge highlights. This often leaves no reason to complete with Codex Grey. However, the wash can darken drastically if you misjudge the amount of water. I usually mix 6 drops to one of Black.

The details; I use Citadel Blazing orange of marking, applied in two coats. One slightly watered down, the second only watered down for better consistency. This double application causes no paint build up and really makes the orange Pop! off the grey.

I also do a very watered down stroke of black through all the creases in the armor plates to define them more. Take your time and the results are much sharper.

I use Citadel Liche Purple and Tentacle Pink for the gems and lenses. Complete these with your own ‘gem’ painting technique.