Marked for Destruction

For the followers of Gorkamorka, being brutal (or kunnin’) is all good, but any self-respecting boss, wants their enemy to know who krumped ‘em (or stabbed them in the knees). For this reason, many tribes and clans wear bright, often ostentatious colours to battle, be they painted on armour plates, dyed into clothing or smeared on as warpaint. But why stop there? Although the idea of strict ‘uniform’ may be an amusing one to the forces of destruction, shared colours across the army certainly help tie models and units together on the tabletop.

When approaching Destruction armies, I always try to mix up the placings of these colours and add areas of glyphs and markings to further individualise models, so in this article we will explore some of the markings and how I have used them across my armies.

Goregruntas dolled up and ready to smash!

I like to think that each of these tell something of Gorkamorka’s nature. These aren’t mindless scribbles and scratches and each conveys a message of sorts. Perhaps these have cultural or religious significance to them…or perhaps they just look really really cool!


An absolutely iconic patterning with a long affiliation with the greenskins. Orks, orcs, orruks, goblins, grots, gretchin; whichever universe they hail from, you’re sure to find checks in all depictions of them. The exact history of this link is uncertain, but some theorise it links to football hooliganism, with early GW drawing heavily on cultural references. Others point to a piece of 40k lore which suggests it is a reference to the Luna Wolves space marines, who inflicted such severe damage upon the ork race during the crusades that their chapter colours are somehow imprinted in the ork psyche.

Whatever the origin, to me, checks demonstrate a degree of organisation within the unruly mobs. Checks work well as both an edging and as completely covering panels of armour/clothing. Another consideration is whether to go classically black and white or whether to go black/secondary coloured squares on a field of your primary colour.

Examples of black/white checks used on a weapon and alternate colours used on a grot hood.


often associated with the Speed Freeks of 40k and the Ironjawz Ironsunz, flames are a symbol of pure destruction, spreading at blistering speed and consuming all. Flames work well on big panels of armour where they take centre stage but also as an edging to banners, hoods and armour.

An Ardboy with a flame-edged banner


Another classic destruction pattern. ‘Teef’ like in appearance, these work perfectly as an edge pattern to armour panels, hoods or banners.

A grot with a dag-edged hood

Specific Icons

Amongst the multitude clans, tribes and warbands of destruction, many use specific symbols represent their rabbles or even Gorkamorka themselves. Where the spiderfang use symbology associated with the spider god, moonclan grots use the leering bad moon, ogors the great maw, and more generally, all number of skulls, weaponry and body parts (ew) are used as icons.

These can work really well as tattoos and on banners.

A stylish bad moon loincloth

Tips and tricks

Placement: This is an incredibly important aspect to consider. Too many areas of pattern and your model looks over busy, none at all and you can end up with a fairly bland overall armour look. Each model will have areas that are great focal points for iconography and patterns. On Ironjawz, I like to use kneepads, wrist guards, shoulderpads and the broad body of weapons. For grots, the edges of the hoods and robes etc. Spend some time with your models identifying which areas will give you the maximum impact.

A range of designs have been used across this megaboss

Highlighting: How do you highlight patterns? I find there are 2 schools of thoughts. One way is it treat the pattern as its own entity and highlight all the edges around it – this draws attention to it but to me seems a little unnatural. The second, and method I subscribe to, is to treat the pattern as part of the surface it is on and highlight only the highest edges and edges of the material; in other words, follow the normal rules!    

Weathering: One thing you can do to improve the look of your icons or patterns is to add wreathing and wear and tear. One of the simplest, and most effect ways to do this, is by adding scratches. I really like the simple method set out by the Warhammer TV team, is to paint on a line of rhinox hide, with a lower line of your highlight colour. I have also tried the sponging method, again using Rhinox Hide and then a centre of Leadbelcher over metal. The purpose of weathering is two-fold: to bed the pattern into your surface and also to draw the eye away from any mistakes and inaccuracies. Checks a bit wonky? Scratch them up! Flames not so neat? Dab some dirt on the offending edges.

An Ork Skarboy with weathered patterns using both techniques

Transfers: The above tips can also be used in conjunction with transfers. Although these are less common in AOS boxed set these days, there are still plenty of sources you can draw upon. My top suggestions are the ‘Ork boyz’ 40k transfer sheet and the blood bowl transfer sheets for both orcs and goblins.

40K Ork Transfer sheet

Thanks for reading! What are your favourite symbols and icons and how do you go about adding them to your models?

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