Star Wars Armada: Painting the TIE Fighters

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How to paint your tiny TIE Fighters for Star wars Armada. This is purely the method I came up with and isn’t any kind of definitive guide as there are probably lots of different ways you could go about it, they yield better or faster results and I certainly encourage experimentation. That said, this particular approach worked well for me and seemed about the right balance between speed and simplicity, whilst still delivering a pretty good tabletop standard.

For this you will need:

  • Light grey primer (I used Vallejo, but any will do)
  • Flat black, GW Mechanicus Standard Grey, GW Celestra Grey
  • A black wash
  • GW Mephiston Red or Vallejo Escorpena Green (depending how you like your blasters)
  • Protective gloss varnish (I used Klear)
  • Final matt varnish (I used Anti-Shine by Army Painter)

To make the fighters easier to handle, I clipped the ends from several cotton buds (Q-Tips for my continental cousins) and popped the little chaps onto the top.

Step One: After giving them a light coat of grey primer and leaving to cure, I painted the following in the Mechanicus Grey: the inner blank surface of the wings, the inside panels of the wings outer surface, the circular cockpit frame on the front and the inside of the rear engine. The idea behind this is to create contrast, so when the black wash settles you will get two different tones in the grey as the cockpit frame is normally a darker colour with the glass itself black.

The second step is to give the fighter an all-over black wash taking care not to let it pool anywhere too much. Leave to dry.

Step Three: Re-fill the darker wing sections in pure black to neaten up.

Step Four: Use the Celestra Grey to re-highlight and neaten the wing edges. If you are feeling confident in your brush skills I find only giving the upper half of the wing edges a block highlight leaves the lower half in shadow creating a more visually interesting appearance. The Celestra Grey can then be applied as an edge highlight only to the lower edges to sharpen up the finish.You can also pick out a few extra detail with the Celestra like the leading edge of the struts and top of cockpit to create a bit more contrast and pop.

Optional bit: Up to now all of the above stages have required only a few simple brush strokes and nothing too challenging. all can be rattled off quite quickly and will still look great. I found doing around six at a time was about the right number; two bases effectively. If however you really want to make them stand out and you’ve a steady hand, you can also paint the frame onto the inside of the TIE wings. This is not sculpted onto the model unfortunately, but with some patience a simple thin line of Celestra Grey will look just as effective from tabletop distance. Again I emphasise this is very much an optional step and they will still look amazing even with the inside of the wings plain black.

The little touches: All that remains to finish them off is paint the blasters under the cockpit either red or green depending on your preference. The blaster bolts for TIE Fighters are traditionally green in the movies, but I’ve seen the guns illuminated in red also. I ended up trying both just for variety. once the guns were done I gave the fighters a coat of gloss varnish to protect them from handling as they are gaming pieces and a final matt finish for looks. Give them a good 12 – 24 hours at this stage to let the acrylics fully cure and bind before popping them off their Q-Tip holders and tidying up the base stalk in black. They can then be mounted onto the flight stalks.

Final thoughts.

Not all TIE fighters are made equal. I’ve noticed plenty of subtle variations in the colours for the fighters in the movies, some darker blue grey, other almost a pale ghost grey. These aren’t scale model and will look good however you do them, the key here really is settling on a nice grey base and letting the black wash do most of the work for you. The rest is jus degrees of contrast. If you would like the cockpit windows to pop a little more, being the TIE Fighters primary iconic detail simply omit the mid grey stage and just black wash the whole ship over the grey primer. You don’t even need to do all the ships the same way and can use different shades or contrast to signify different squadrons, or even unique named pilots such as “Howl Runner”. I’m already playing around with a few ideas to paint a few Interceptors as Royal Guard or Imperial ‘Aces’ just for fun.

The other tweak I made was to also spray the clear plastic flight bases black. Personally I think this really lifts the overall finish and now wonder if it’s something I’ll also carry over to the rest of the fleet and possibly X-Wing as well.

Anyway, hopefully you found this little guide helpful. I admit I only painted the fighters because I’m a little obsessive about such things anyway, but I’m pleasantly surprised how easily they can be done and how nicely they turned out considering. Now I jsut need to come up with an equally simple method for the Rebel ships as well. I think that may prove to be more of a challenge

Until then, stay on target!


By |2018-03-10T09:45:30+00:00May 29th, 2015|Categories: Star Wars, Tutorial|Tags: , , |3 Comments


  1. Josh Drake April 4, 2016 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this guide, your TIES look the best of the guides I’ve seen and I’ll try your method. Do you think using Army Painter’s White Primer instead of light grey would significantly change the results?

    Have you painted any of the rebel squadrons from Armada? I would love your thoughts on those, as well as the unique rogues and villains ships.

    • Carl Woodrow April 4, 2016 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Josh. I think the White primer will be fine but you may want to apply two washes of black to avoid it looking too bleached out.
      I’ve not done the Rebel ships yet but they are on the list along with the Rogues and Villains so they will get an article too when I figure out a good efficient method 🙂
      Fear not; I’ll be sure to share.

  2. It’s a trap! – Studio Dropship January 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    […] Painting TIE Fighters […]

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