Hardest 40k army to paint


Painting minis is fun, but, let’s face it, some models are harder to paint than others. 

The Warhammer 40k universe has some of the most sought-after Warhammer models. Each section has its charm that makes a painting project worth spending time on. Yet, it can be daunting to get into since many Warhammer 40,000 models, especially the armies, have intricately detailed parts that make painting a chore. 

If you love the challenge that comes with painting exquisitely detailed armies, then this guide on the hardest 40k army to paint is for you. 

What makes an army difficult to paint?

Several factors can make an army difficult to paint. Some of them include:

  • Too many models

High volume is one factor that makes painting an army difficult since painting takes longer. You will have to paint many identical models same color scheme. It can make the project feel repetitive and a chore. 

Before choosing an army, make sure it is something you can finish painting without losing the fun of it. Else, the task becomes harder.

  • Difficult details

Some miniatures have simple flat surfaces that make painting straightforward and effortless. However, some come with intricate details on parts like weapons, clothes, and shields. Make sure you have the skills to paint detailed works so that you don’t dump them halfway through the project. 

  • Hard to reach crevices

Most models, especially ones with shields or large Warhammer minis with something mounted on it, have hard-to-reach areas that can be difficult to paint. Experienced painters will find their way around this problem easily, but beginners won’t. 

An easy solution is to get an army with a  raised surface. This way, details are not cornered by other pieces of the model. 

  • Weird colours\color scheme

A paint scheme determines how the model will look. However, it can be challenging trying to get the perfect colors to match weird color schemes of armies you’ve never painted before.  

  • Hard colors to paint

No color is easy to paint, especially when blending them. However, most painters will find it difficult to paint 40k armies with human faces since they may not get it to a certain level of realism. 

For beginners, blending human skin tones can be the most challenging part of the painting project. 

  • Boring paint scheme – all figures look the same

Armies come in large counts. It means you have to paint the same models over and over again. 

As mentioned earlier, this process is repetitive. So, you won’t really enjoy the process since all figures look the same. 

The result is a less motivated painting approach that may lead to long hours of work. 

  • Time-consuming

Since armies often come in large counts, the process won’t be as simple as painting one Warhammer figure in a few hours. 

Some painters take months to years to complete a whole army, making the process quite time tasking. 

An army you don’t like can be a pain in the ass to paint

Generally speaking, you don’t want to get an army you don’t like. 

Painting a model that does not catch your attention can take a long time to complete, and the results won’t always come out as expected. Instead, find something you like the look of and start to work around that model. 

An army that doesn’t suits your skills

To paint an army, you are going to need the skills, especially one with finely detailed parts. Most mini-painters don’t consider this fact and choose armies outside their skill levels. Doing so will leave you frustrated, and you may dump the project for something else.  

To paint a difficult 40K army, you want to use every piece of painting technique and skill you have to get an aesthetic appearance on your WH40K army. So, make sure you pick complex armies within your skill level

The standard you’re going for can make the paint job hard

Being a Warhammer 40K fan means you probably know everything about painting basic Ork, Necrons, guards, knights, and marines. However, the difference between these models and some of the hardest 40K armies is that people paint hard models for the challenge, want to know their limits, or go wild on their skills with armies. 

The hardest 40K armies have advanced painting standards that can make even a challenge feel frustrating, especially when the model does not have a cartoonish look but a more realistic appeal.

So, depending on the armies and their painting standards, painting may not be as fun as you imagined. 

The most difficult and hard Warhammer 40k armies to paint

1. Imperial Guard

Also called the Astra Militarum, the Imperial Guard is one of the hardest 40k armies anyone can try painting. 

These models have a military-like design, especially the infantry units. Hence, the large details on the tanks, artillery, body, and weapon make them a tough nut to crack for even the most experienced painter. 

On the other hand, there’s a lot to paint. Imperial guards are large, so you might spend time trying to paint them. However, I really love painting Imperial knights because each one is unique and has its own look going on. 

2. Death Guard

Death Guard is a faction of the Chaos Space Marine models. They are quite the beauty when painted, but the fact that you have to create almost rotting bodies for the death guard makes the project difficult. 

Most experienced painters can’t even deal with painting a whole army’s worth of tentacles and intestines. So even if they are quite the catchy model, avoid them as much as possible. 

However, this army ranks as one of my favorites because it allows for more exploration of color schemes than most of the clean-painted armies. 

Plus, they have the bonus of – if you really botch one, you can cover it with really thick Nuln oil, and it looks great!

3. Adeptus Mechanicus

Adeptus Mechanicus is one of those cyber-advanced Warhammer warriors who wield the most intricately detailed technological weapons. These details make them really hard to paint. 

However, the consolation for most people considering this model is they have a low army count. So, you won’t have to spend long hours painting large armies. 

4. Thousand sons

Like the death guard, the Thousand Sons army is a legion of the Chaos Space Marines but with telepathic psychic abilities. As powerful psychic units, they are one of the few Warhammer 40K armies designed with multiple style options. 

It means you won’t be bored out painting armies that look alike and with the same color scheme. 

Yet, their mystic abilities mean this army has so much baroque detail that makes them look somewhat over the top. But, that’s the allure of this model.  

The good news is that all you have to do is paint each detail as best as you can and do some very basic highlighting and they come out looking very good.

5. Chaos Space Marines

Warhammer fans who like creature models more than humanoid ones will especially love painting Chaos Space Marines, as this hard Warhammer 40K army features several beasts, including daemons, fiends, and dragons.

However, the downside of painting a Chaos Space Marine is that they have a lot of embellishments, from ammo pouches to grenades, holsters, and purity seals. 

Most painters paint the model without most of these details to make the project easy, especially since they are generally optional. But you may need to tackle a few, like the holsters and purity seals you can’t do without. 

6. Harlequins

Harlequins are the single most desirable Warhammer 40K army of all time. However, they can be rather stressful and frustrating to paint since their armies have several poseable forms and hard-to-reach parts that make getting realistic results a hassle. 

With Harlequins, you need the painting skills to pull it off. However, one thing I really find interesting about these models is that they have no defined scheme. 

They’re just a blank, smooth canvas. So, you can go ahead to try whatever freehand patterns you want to do.

7. Tyrannids (due to the number of figures)

If there’s any monster army I really want to have in my collection, they are Tyrannies. I love Tyrannids because color-wise, they are easy to paint. You only need two to three colors to paint the armor plating, claw, and skin color. 

However, most people will find this model quite a scary project due to its sheer numbers.

Tyrannies are large armies and will take a long time to paint. Just when you think you are about done, they have another set of limbs or another set of claws, and the painting process takes longer.

What can you do with an army that you gave up on

It’s no news that many painters end up dumping their armies after spending so much time, hours, and weeks painting them due to their frustrating numbers, boring color schemes difficult details, and time-consuming process. Fortunately, I have some tricks I try when I feel frustrated painting my armies. 

  • Ignore some details

You already started painting the model, so rather than set it aside, paint only the most essential details and ignore those intricate details that make the process time-tasking. When I tried this shortcut, I felt somewhat satisfied with the results since I could draw attention to the key areas of my armies without making my trick too obvious. 

  • Simplify the color scheme

You will always have that one model with a weird color scheme and hard-to-match paint. A little trick I try is to pick a paint scheme that I like while making sure they blend with the theme of my armies.

  • Sell\gift them

If after painting the army, you don’t feel satisfied with the finish, I’d recommend selling them or gifting them out. You never know how much your gift may influence people to join the hobby. 


Painting a Warhammer 40K model is no easy task. In fact, it can be daunting and difficult to kick off, especially with some of the hardest Warhammer 40k armies.

However, as with how entry-level painters start, it takes patience, practice, and love for the hobby to work your pace to painting the most intricate details on your Warhammer 40K armies. 

So, whether you are looking for a challenge or simply want to up your painting skills, these 7 hardest Warhammer 40K armies listed here, though difficult to paint, are exciting and will fuel your love for the hobby.