Paint it black
Painting stuff black is quite difficult as like white more often than not it isn't the colour you imagine it to be but a whole range of shades. To be honest that makes it the same as every other colour but somehow in our heads black is just black. To complicate matters black also comes in both shiny and matt more than say green. Baddies always have shiny black leather or armour or black sweeping robes...or both
and sometimes the goodies
This adds to the challenge of painting black but for me there is just one simple piece of guidance i keep in mind. Shiny black has few gradations, when painting its best to keep it dark with bright highlights. When its matt you treat it as any other colour with a range of gradations. In the pictures above, Vaders shiny leather and the Nights watch armour follow this high contrast principle, whereas the nights watch and vaders cloaks are full black only in the occluded areas but shades of grey elsewhere.
Here are the test subjects, some 40k Ravenguard Primaris space marines already undercoated black. Done then!
Actually these are primed then i give them a coat of VMC black in case i have to touch up later and the black being different...
Step one is to highlight the top edges. Marines are cool for this as the curves are perfect for nice round highlights on the shoulder pads, helmet etc and vertical stripe highlight on the legs. VMA Dark sea grey is great for this as its just light enough on the black for accurate spraying. it needs to be quite tightly controlled otherwise you can lose the black
Next up is medium sea grey in almost the same ares but slightly less than dark sea grey. These 40k guys are always slightly over the top and this is more highlighty than reality but suits the context.
Finally a bit of a white final highlight just to make sure everyone is clear this is a highlight!!!
At this point it looks frankly ridiculous especially as my mobile phone camera struggles to get the exposure right and decided bright grey was what i was after...
Edge highlighting is also great for adding contrast. Better painters than me who are charging serious money would probably use 3 shades of light grey here but at my price point I don't have the time so very light grey it is! Eagles also painted in with a nice white again to get as much contrast as possible
To add a bit of visual interest the shoulder pad edges had to be red, firstly VMC burnt red then highlighted vermillion (next pic). Also to add a bit of warmth the leather was made brown with the usual VMC german camo dark brown, flat brown, orange brown combo. I'm guessing that technically Raven guard would go for black but I liked the warm contrast.
Faces were done in the usual way (flat brown, cork brown, flat flesh) and bolters which I usually leave black and edge highlight white with other marines were given a coat of darkened gun metal colour and then edge with VMA aluminium.
Finally a coat of Satin varnish which emphasises the shine effect and we're done. The most difficult part is making sure you keep faith with the contrast. If you start to shade the black on this type of mini where its got some shine you lose the final effect. If you compare the finished item to the early steps its easier to keep believing even though it looks odd early doors.