Star Wars Rebellion: Painting the Rebels

If you are interested in a “how to paint guide” for the Imperials in Rebellion, check out this link here.

There might be less Rebel miniatures than Imperial ones in your box of Star Wars: Rebellion, but if you want to do a good job painting them, you’ll probably invest more hours on the good guys. The reason being is the Rebels aren’t as uniform as the Imperials (Imps are mostly boring grey). The Rebels have more variation in their colour scheme, and if you want to be thematic, then the Rebels have to look a little beat up too. Damage, grime, wear and tear are the hallmarks for Rebel stuff.

The original trilogy had George Lucas’ innovative vision of “used technology.” Let’s not forget that no one had ever done that before in a sci-fi setting. The Rebels are kings of “used tech” and why I think they look the coolest but also take longer to paint.

If you’re about to sit down and paint your set, I suggest starting out painting the Imperials. You can read how I did mine over here. Part of painting is the psychological battle of keeping your queue moving, and if you take a long time painting the Rebels, you might loose heart getting to the Imperials.

My advice is to get the Imperials done first, then display your sea of fascist Storm Troopers and cheap TIE Fighters beside your painting area as motivation to get the Rebels done!

Iโ€™m switching over to Vallejo paints, and use some GW paints that I have from the past. If you donโ€™t have the paints I describe, you can find similar colours by using colour matching painting sites. I like to use this one:

One proton torpedo should solve this problem.

All the figures I painted were cleaned with needle files and an exacto knife. Some were primed white, some were primed black. I use P3 primer. Pretty much everyone Iโ€™ve talked to considers it the best on the market. I highly recommend it, especially for very small or ultra detailed miniatures like those found in Rebellion.

Remember, when priming, always use many thin coats vs. a few thick ones. Don’t be lazy! I always aim for 5+ coats at the minimum. Spray at a good distance from the model and give it time to dry between coats.

This primer is very thin, so your first coat might look like nothing was sprayed on the model. Don’t over spray! Give each coat time to dry. Patience is the key.


Who doesn’t love Y-Wings? Those rugged ships looked so cool and blew up real nice in Star Wars! There are more Y-Wings in the box than X-Wings, as they were the original workhorse of the Rebel Fleet, before the Rebels tv show silly retcon that is.

Nuln Oil Wash

To start, these guys were primed in White and washed with Nuln Oil, followed by blotchy washes of Umber Shade in spots.

Some “blotchy” Umber Shade thrown on

This was followed by a thinned Black Ink wash in a few spots to denote the most grimy areas. In some places I used Brown Ink instead of Umber Shade, and outlined the edges of engine spokes in Brown Ink to give them more definition.

The Engine areas were painted Black.

More grime added, see the cockpit for example

Next the model was drybrushed Bleached Bone followed by White.

If after a Bleached Bone drybrush, there were big lines of Brown Ink around the engine spokes, I painted over those areas with Bleached Bone or even Khaki (as I had it in the palette). After that, I would I drybrush in White.

Remember, you are working up to a colour, so deal with the darkest colours first, then apply layers “up to” white.

Any copper paint can be used for the metal tubing. I used Vallejo Copper.

After the White drybrush, I painted thinned white on the cockpit and the sensor node nacelle or front part of the wings. You can see in the photo above, those parts of the model are whiter.

Batch painting is always a good idea!

If something is too white, then apply a thin wash of Umber shade. At times I did this to tone down the body area.

The blue cockpit, as well as the blue lines behind the yellow was painted in a Shadow Grey base, and highlighted with Space Wolves Grey over it.

The yellow stripes were in Bronze Fleshtone. For the Green Y-Wings I used Intermediate Green. I don’t have notes on the blue or red I used for the Blue and Red Squadron Y-Wings.

Battle damage was then painted over the model.

For battle damage on white parts, I used either thinned black or Black Ink and dappled it in dots. Then I took Nuln Oil and painted “streaks” away from those dots, or connecting lines between them. That will either give a “filler” between the dots, connecting them into one battle damage area, or give the illusion of a damage streak away from the dots, to appear as laser scoring or micro meteor impacts.

If you need to repaint an area white, use Bleached Bone first. You can leave the Bleached Bone to give a weathered effect on the hull, or cover it over with more white as you see fit.

A little bit of Brown Ink and was used to outline parts of the ship, like the engine spokes or where the front guns or wings meet the ship. Also, ink can be used to outline a panel on the ship, or the turret gun over the cockpit.

Gold Squadron standing by

A little bit of white and brown over the squad colours help give the Y-Wings some life and character. You can also put a touch of colour on the R2 units for extra detail.

In the end, I painted 5 Gold Squadron, 2 Red Squadron, 1 Blue Squadron, 2 Grey Squadron and 2 Green Squadron Y-Wings.

When finished, it is mandatory to fly the little ships around making pew pew sounds as they chase your painted TIE fighters – just make sure no one is watching first!


Cut the chatter! Stay in formation boys…

One of the coolest, if not the coolest looking ship to ever hit the big screen was the X-Wing. You get 8 of them in the box, so make their paint jobs count!

The only thing I do not like about this model is the cockpit. Just like their FFG Armada cousins, the cockpits on these X-Wings suck. They do not look anything like the ships are supposed to. While FFG improved upon the TIE Fighters in this box vs the Armada ones, they did not upgrade their X-Wings and, that is a real shame.

I painted my X-Wings very similar to the Y-Wings. I primed them in White, then washed them in Nuln Oil. Have I told you how much I love Nuln Oil?

After the Nuln Oil wash, you can apply some Brown Ink, or Umber Shade in areas as you see fit. Then I drybrushed the model White. 

Some areas would be painted in thinned White to tone down the browns, or bring up areas of the model to a brighter colour.

The red lines were done in Evil Sunz Red. It’s a vibrant red colour which helps the model pop.

Brown Ink, thinned with water, was used on the rear and engines for grime. A heavier brown can be applied in places for a more dirty look.

The inside of the engine tube was painted with purple. No one will ever see the “engine glow” but it’s cool that’s there. If someone decides to pick up the model and squint at it they will be in for a pleasant surprise. A black ring was painted at the very end to cap the engine.

The yellow panels were done in Bronze Fleshtone. The grey in the cockpit was the same as the Y-Wings, a Shadow Grey base, and highlighted with Space Wolves Grey over it.

The green was the same as the Y-Wings, Intermediate Green.

All the little astromechs were given a little dab of coloured paint and a dot for an eye. This gives each ship a unique character and story.

Battle damage was painted the same as the Y-Wings. Just remember that you are “working up to” white and if you make a mistake, you can paint over it.

I found it helped to outline the yellow panels of the X-Wings with Brown Ink. This frames the colour and make it pop off the model. The same thing can be done at the nose of the X-Wing.

The grey panels, red and other colours don’t need to be framed in this way, but it definitely helps the Yellow out.

In the end, I painted 1 Gold Squadron, 1 Blue Squadron, 1 Green Squadron and 5 Red Squadron X-Wings. I’m very pleased with how they turned out and how much personality each little ship has.

Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?

Corellian Corvettes

These ships were primed in white and washed in Nuln Oil,

Nuln Oil over White

followed by applying blotchy Umber Shade in spots.

Umber Shade after Nuln Oil.

Another wash of thinned Black Ink was painted in only a few spots, those being the most grimy areas of the ship.

Black Ink applied.

Now in that photo above, I got a little too carried away with the black. It was a pain to deal with bringing it back up to white. Don’t over do it.

To reduce the grime and bring the colour back “up to” white, I would drybrush with White and then paint thinned white in spots.

As you can see, this meathod can be used on all of your “white” Rebel space ships.  Painting over areas with thinned white paint helps you catch the areas the drybrush did not do a good job at getting.

Remember, this is just the base colour, and the detailing will really give the ship some life. Look at how different the Corvette and the Y-Wing look in that photo compared to their final results, yet also notice how important a good base is.

Tantive V on the left!

The red used was Evil Sunz Red. The cockpit was painted in Bronze Fleshtone and outlined with Brown Ink.

The Blue was given a base coat of Imperial Blue highlighted with a light drybrush of Imperial Blue + White in a 1:1 mix.

Bronze Fleshtone base coated engines on the 3 left ones. The most right CR-90 has had it’s engines washed over in Orange Ink.

The engines were painted circles in Bronze Fleshtone, then washed over in Orange ink.

Finally, a thinned highlight in middle of engines was painted using Bronze Fleshtone + White in a 1:1 mix.

A final light wash in Yellow was applied to the engines to soften them up and unify them. Painting the engines is key as those eleven glowing engines are very iconic to the look of the ship.

Each ship was given an individual paint scheme, two in blue, two in red with one being painted as the Tantive V. Each ship has it’s own unique character and evokes a story, which is what the Rebels are about.

Rebel Transports

Sadly I do not have any notes as to how I painted these ships. All I remember is that they took a very long time. Part of the reason I didn’t take notes is because I was mixing lots of different paints to get the effects and colours I wanted.

The basic principles of painting apply. Take a base colour, use a darker ink it to get into the cracks, and finally highlight with a lighter paint to bring the edges out.

I do remember that the rust “leak” effects were painted using inks. Use a thinned ink for a more subtle stain or just a normal ink streak for a more pronounced stain. You can use multiple thinned inks to work up to a more pronounced effect. I mixed both brown and black inks.

The engines were also painted in blue with a light blue highlight to give the models some detail. Each Rebel Transport looks fairly unique, yet because I used earth tones and grey, they do not clash with the rest of the Rebel Fleet.

Mon Calamari Cruisers

These ships were primed in black, however, painting them in white would have been much better, so I suggest you prime them white. The black tended to make the browns I used a little drab. White would have made the browns much more vibrant.

To pick up the colour, I base coated the ships in Bleached Bone.

All of the ships were painted in different colours but had the same idea behind them. Start with a brown (either a light or a dark brown). Add some details for the hull, like a “camo pattern.”

Wash the model in a brown wash to get the dark colour into the recesses of the model. Pick out the pattern again.

Highlight the model by drybrushing in a lighter brown (either a new light brown, or the base coat colour mixed with white, or both). 

Apply further highlights as needed. Remember you can paint over mistakes, and to keep picking out any pattern you paint after each stage.

You can always do a quick wash of Umber Shade to tone down extreme highlights and then go back and pick those highlights out with a watered down highlight layer of paint if need be.

I also picked out the engines in Blue. It gives a touch of detail to the model.

The cargo bay doors were also painted in a light blue. As each Mon Calamari ship is supposed to be unique, I suggest painting your ships in slightly different colours, it also gives the Rebel fleet a little more character.

Shield Generators

The Shield Generators were given a base coat of Nuetral Grey. They were washed in Nuln Oil, with some parts washed in Brown Ink.

Then, they were highlighted with a Nuetral Grey and Deck Tan mix in a 1:1 ratio.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can apply a little frock to their bases. I felt leaving them black was fine.

Ion Cannons

I don’t have good notes on how I did these guys but they are relatively easy to do.

I themed each for a different planet. One was for a snowy planet, or Hoth, one was for a more arid planet and the last one was for a greener, more lush planet.

They were all primed in white. I used flock, small stones and sand to make the rock bases upon which the cannons sit more individual.

For the white Ion Cannon, I used Nuln Oil in the cracks of the gun and painted thinned white over any parts of the paint not in the crack. I used thinned Ice Blue and painted it into the edges of the “rock face” to make it look like ice.

For the arid planet Ion cannon, I used a metal rust colour and drybrushed over parts of the gun to give it a bronze effect.

The metal for all of them was painted in a dark metal paint, like Boltgun Metal, and highlighted with a light drybrush of Chainmail paint.

Snow Speeders

These guys were primed in black, but half way through painting them I realized that white would have been better.

They were given a base coat of Deck Tan.

Then they were given a heavy wash of Nuln Oil. After that they were drybrushed with Deck Tan + Silver Grey in a 1:1 mix. A final highlight was given by lightly drybrushing in Silver Grey.

The windows were painted with Imperial Blue, then highlighted in Ice Blue + White in a 1:1 mix ratio. The highlight paint was thinned and applied in a few layers. This helps give the illusion of a reflection in the window.

Some parts of the models were given a rust effect. This was achieved by dappling thinned Brown ink in an area and then spreading a light coat of Brown Ink between the dappled dots.

Streaks were painted on the model to show wear and tear. They were done in thinned black ink. I would first test the paint on a piece of white paper to make sure the paint wasn’t too dark or thick. If it was to my satisfaction, only then would I paint the speeder.

Rebel Troopers

I painted the Rebel Troopers many different ways, some being primed white and some primed black. Below I will describe the what paint scheme gave me the best results.

I found that having these figures primed black was much better. It meant that areas with different connecting colours, like the head to the body, or the hands to the sleeves,  would naturally have a black dividing line if you missed a spot while painting. I suggest you prime them black!

When researching what Rebel Troopers looked like, I saw some that had khaki coloured pants and some had grey pants.  The guys in Star Wars aboard the Tantive had grey pants, so most of the Rebel Troopers were painted that way.

The shirt was given a base coat in Shadow Grey, and then a thinned Space Wolf Grey highlight was painted on. Finally a thinned highlight of Space Wolf Grey + White was painted.

Bleached Bone base coated pants on the RIGHT, and then what they look like after a Brown Ink wash is given on the left.

The beige pants were given a bleached bone base coat, followed by a thinned Brown Ink Wash. A highlight of Bleached Bone was applied followed by a final highlight of Bleached Bone + White in a 1:1 mix ratio.

Below are some progress shots I took while painting a beige pants Rebel.

The grey pants were given a  base coat of Neutral Grey, then a wash of Black Shade followed by a final drybrush highlight of Neutral Grey + White in a 1:1 mix. Some parts of the highlight were painted, and if something got too light, it was darkened with a wash of Black Shade again.

Below are some progress shots I took while painting grey pant Rebels.

Base coat grey on the left, ink washed on the right
Some highlights were added to the pants
final highlights on the shirt and pants

The face & flesh were painted first with White, then given a base coat of Pale Flesh. That was followed by a wash of Flesh Wash, then a highlight of Elf Skintone followed by a final highlight of Pale Flesh.

The highlights were painted using thinned paint.

The Vests were painted Black, then lightly given a drybrush highlight using Neutral Grey + White in a 1:1 mix.

One tricky part can be the helmet. I free handed the black part outline first, then filled it in. If I made a mistake with the outline, I just corrected it with white. Some parts of the helmet were given a little bit of a dark wash, like where the antenna meets the helmet.

I painted these guys in the summer and it was very humid outside. When I went to spray varnish them I ran into a major problem. I encountered something called “frosting.” Instead of applying a thin protective coat to my models, a layer of what looked like frost covered them!

I panicked and thought my entire batch was ruined.  Below you can see what a frosted mini looked like (the guy on the left). Can you imagine how horrified I was?

I found out that soaking them in Olive Oil for a few hours will help remove the frosting. It kind of worked, but I also lightly washed each figure with an old toothbrush for good measure.

Needless to say, this was a complete and unnecessary step! It was such a waste of time!

I was told that if you absolutely need to varnish spray your miniatures on a humid day, sprinkle some kitty litter in the back of your spray area (within ~4 inches of the model), and this will reduce the moisture in the air.

In the end these guys turned out pretty well.

I hope you enjoyed this article, it took a lot of time and effort to produce! If one person out there ends up painting their set because if it, I’ll be happy. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

I have to say, playing with a fully painted set really gets you into the game. I find Rebellion to be quite fun and worth painting because of it.

May The Force Be With You!

30 thoughts on “Star Wars Rebellion: Painting the Rebels”

  1. Oh, it is on! Nice, finally! Thank you so much for this, R2EQ! (I still think you lost the 2-weeks bet, though ;P)

    1. Lol, i was hoping you wouldn’t call me out on it! The article took much longer to put together than I thought.

      Will you let me off the hook? I will do it if I have too (I honour my lost bets) but I will try my best to get out of doing so! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Hehe, you are a man of honour. Ok under one condition you’re off the hook: Although the guide is already great, I still might have a few detailed questions as soon as I get to a specific mini – I would pose those questions in hope of answers ๐Ÿ˜‰
        I have one already: Although you cannot remeber exactly, could you recommend an appropriate color to get that yellowish/green hue on one of the rebel transports? Thanks!

        Best, Rob

        1. Haha, ok deal. I’m happy to help either way, so you’re letting me off the hook rather nicely! ๐Ÿ™‚

          If I had to guess by looking at the model, the white parts have a Bleached Bone base while the green parts look to have a Khaki or Dead Flesh base.

          After applying a base coat, you can darken it with an ink wash, like a thinned Nuln Oil or Umber Shade. Then highlight by using the base colour mixed with white. This is a simple way of approaching any colour.

          If you have any more questions feel free to ask and I’ll do my best at answering.

          1. Ah well I’m a nice guy, can’t help it ๐Ÿ˜›

            Okay, thanks for the colors! The procedure makes sense of course, I will try that out. The rebels clearly seem to be more demanding to paint ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  2. Look amazing! I’m doing my first miniature painting of the imperials currently and will be on these guys next. I have to say, as a first time painter, the cannon bases look anything but ‘relatively easy’!

    1. Thanks Joe! What makes the Ion Cannons stand out is the flock and stones used on the bases and that *is* easy to do.

      All you need is some white “carpenter glue.” Spread it around the base (I use a straightened paper clip when spreading white glue around models) and sprinkle on said material. The flock/sand/stones will stick rather nicely and voila, you instantly have an interesting model.

  3. These pictures are amazing and have inspired me to dust off my painting shoes for the first time in ~15 years. My eyes (and back and knees and teeth and…) aren’t what they used to be and the models are pretty small, but I have magnifying lights and such so just need to get back into the routine.

    I’ve already done the undercoat and basecoat of about 90% of the figures, but only then (poor planning on my part) decided to use flight stands for the minis capable of transport and leave the others as-is to make it easier to pick out what needs transport and what doesn’t (and makes everything look even better when it’s set up and ready to play).

    My question is this: having bought Litko flight stands of appropriate sizes, I’m wondering at which stage of the process to glue the “peg toppers” to the underside of the ships. I’m not talking about the base disc and peg (these will be glued and stored seperately from the figures), I’m talking about the tiny donut that is glued to the underside of the mini so it can sit snugly on top of the flight stand. I definitely don’t want to assemble everything permanently as I need to break them down for storage purposes.

    Should I glue the rings now, when everything is on its basecoat? Or wait until I’ve finished the entire model (except for varnish)? The rings are clear which would argue for the latter, but as they sit under the mini I guess it’s not the end of the world if they end up hit with the drybrush…

    I would value any advice you have to give, maestro!

  4. Hey Muzza,

    I think you know the answer to your question and just need someone to tell you that the more difficult approach is the correct one ๐Ÿ™‚

    Definately glue the Litko plastic toppers last, after the model is completely painted. Since the toppers are clear, you don’t want any paint on them.

    You spent the extra money to pimp your models on clear flight stands. My advice is to keep as much of that plastic as clear as possible. It’ll be worth it in the end I think.

    I’m glad to hear this article inspired you to pick up some brushes and get painting again. After posting stuff like this, I aways wonder if it will reach people out there and I’m happy to hear it has! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

  5. Thanks for the reply and sage advice! fwiw, I didn’t see either method as easier or harder, my only interest was in doing it the RIGHT way. If anything, I’m relieved to hear that I won’t have to try and drybrush without getting stray paint on the pegs, so this is great news all-round.

    As for ‘reach’, there’s no question at all how valuable this series of articles has been! I live in the UK so you could even argue your reach is ‘global’. And after an epic hiatus, I’ve been reminded these past few days just how therapeutic and relaxing the act of painting minis can be, so thank you for the inspiration, it’s paying dividends already (even if my finished work doesn’t look half as good as yours, it’s doing wonders for my headspace… ;p)

  6. I too have painted all my miniatures including the expansion stuff. Feels great! Canโ€™t wait to play a game this weekend.

  7. Iโ€™m reading and following tips from this article now. I never got around painting my Rebellion. I havenโ€™t painted anything since childhood. Today we put the first coat on the imperial troops. Thanks so much from Johan and Andreas in Sweden.

  8. Just popping into say that I’m in the middle of painting up my set – your articles on it are a definite inspiration! Thanks!

  9. The task took me about 7 months total, though I worked on a few other things through out the period as well. There are simply a lot of minis to paint here… but it is very pleasing to see them all in painted the end, and during a game.

  10. Hello, thank you so much for your awsome tutorial! I will follow it step by step. But I will primed my rebel soldier white. Because I will use some contrast paint ( this think doesnt exist back to your time ๐Ÿ˜). Thank again from a french canadian ( thats why my english suck!)

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