Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ramblings about paint.

On Wednesday @SlyFlourish asked the following question - "What is the best paint for miniature washing and drybrushing vs feathering and layering?"

As paint had been a subject I had been planning to tackle anyway, and being too long for Twitter, I decided to stop procrastinating. Be forewarned, this may be a little long.

T'Raukzul was painted over the span of two months at the beginning of 2013 with a combination of all the techniques and materials listed at the end of this post.

What type of paint to use on miniatures is often a very divisive subject. I have seen threads on minis forums that reminded me very much of D&D edition wars threads. What this means is that there is no one right answer. It is purely a matter of opinion and what works best with your particular style of painting. That being said, I feel that new people in the hobby can benefit from knowing what works for others.

Following is a list of many of the paints people use on minis. I am sure there are others, but these are the ones I am familiar with. (In no particular order)

Ral Partha
Army Painter
Craft Paint
Artists Acrylics
Poly S

Testors Enamel ($1.69 for 1/4 oz) - When I started painting minis in 1979 this is the paint I used, with the little white brush they still sell today. I had been building model kits since before I was seven. This was the only kind of paint I knew about, and I already had some.
These are solvent based paints, they smell horrible and cleaning up after using them is a lot of work. I personally do not recommend that you go out and buy them for painting your miniatures. If you are on a budget and already have some can you use them? Yes. You can even achieve tabletop quality (look ok when seen from above at a distance of about three feet). Will you win a Golden Demon or Crystal Brush using them? Nothing is impossible, but not very likely.
Shading and highlighting will be best achieved by deliberate brush strokes rather than washing or drybrushing.

Armory (No longer made 2oz) - This is the next paint I used. I discovered it when we finally got a game store in our town. This was a water based paint with fine pigment and nice flow characteristics. Much better than enamels. This is the paint I learned washing and drybrushing with. The metallics tended to run when coating with brush on sealer, so I stuck with Testors for those.

Poly S ($3.79 1/2 oz) - Another water based acrylic. This is what Bill was using when we met. It is a favorite among train guys, but I never see it mentioned with regards to minis. I never used them but I would think they would be fairly similar to the Armory paint, except I know the metallics don't run.

Citadel ($3.70 12ml) - Water based acrylic. When finding Poly S and Armory became difficult I ordered Bill the full set of Citadel paints. The old formula in the hex pots with screw on lids. They covered well, and had inks that made doing washes easy, and they were ok for drybrushing, though I had moved on to painting deliberate highlights by this point. There are a number of people who say that the new formula sucks. I have not used it, this may be true, or just anti GW sentiment. You can use these for any modern techniques including air brushing, layering and wet blending. Additives such as flow aid and drying retarder may allow for better results than just thinning with water. If you are a talented painter (I am not) you can paint award winning pieces with these, though it might require more work than some other brands.

Vallejo ($3.29 17ml) - Has four lines that I know of. Game Color, Model Color, Model Air and Liquid Gold. The first two, Game and Model, I believe to be similar other than the actual colors. The Game line has brighter colors while the Model line has colors for stuff like tanks and planes. They have a lot of fine pigment and are highly recommended by mini painters of all skill levels. They can be air brushed but need thinning to do so. Model Air is designed for the air brush, though I have heard that many painters still thin it. Just not as much as the other two. I would not recommend Model Air for dry brushing, as you will most likely cover way more of the model than you want. It is a good candidate for layering or glazes because it is thin.
The Liquid Gold is slightly different. It is alcohol based and you will want to use a dedicated brush for it, as I am told it will rust if exposed to water. I have not tried it yet myself, but it is very highly recommend for brush on metallics.
Lots of commission and competition painters use these lines.

Minitaire ($3.33 1oz [30ml]) - This is a new line designed for air brushing, which it does well without thinning. It seems to separate if you thin it with water, but if you add a little glazing medium (or Future Magic Wash) it is good for washes, glazing and layering. I don't recommend using it for a base coat applied by brush. I have given up all hope of drybrushing with it. It can be done, if you wait for the paint to start drying on your palette, but once it starts to dry it does so really fast.

Craft Paint ($1.50 2 oz) - This is the one that creates the nerd rage on minis forums. There is a vocal group that insists that you not use these. If you are on a budget they are quite acceptable. You can air brush, wash, drybrush, layer and whatnot with them. Future Magic Wash is your friend here. Use it and you can do anything with craft paint. Sure, you have to learn how much to mix for the effect you are after, but there is a learning curve for all paints. Can you paint prize winning minis with nothing but craft paints? I think so. I have no proof (yet) as most who use them are afraid to divulge this fact for fear of starting a flame war.

Artists Acrylics - Another less expensive option. Good if you like to mix your own colors. Now this is something I didn't know when I bought a pack. They come in Soft Body and Hard Body. If you intend to use them as your primary paint, get the Soft Body. You will need a mixing medium of some kind to thin them and it will take more patience. If you already have some, and are on a budget, use them. Not the best choice for layering or glazing as the pigment is not as fine. You will get a pixelated effect if you thin them much.

Now, for what I personally use.

Airbrushing - I use mainly Minitaire. Sometimes I will add a little craft paint to make a lighter color for zenithal highlighting. There is this one particular creamy off white that I find works great to lighten most colors.

Base coats - For brush on base coating I mainly use craft paint. I have it in lots of colors, and it is easy to mix custom colors. P3 is nice too, but I only have the ones from the Cryx base set.

Washes - Craft paint thinned with magic wash. Though I am experimenting with oil washes. These are nice because you can take a quetip and mineral spirits to clean up the raised areas and avoid that dirty look you get from washing with acrylics.

Glazes - Minitaire is good for this if you thin it with glaze medium. The difference between a wash and a glaze is that with a glaze you want it evenly across an entire surface, rather than collecting in the recesses. When applied over an area that has been washed and dry brushed it will smooth the transitions between the colors.

The cloak was airbrushed then layering was used for the highlights and shadows. A glaze was then applied to bring the colors together. Notice the orange looks gloppy. That is the result of trying to use Minitaire with a paintbrush.

Layering - Shading and highlighting by applying many very thin layers of color to smaller and smaller areas to make a smooth transition from dark to light. I am just starting to do this. For table top it was way too much work, but I am now interested in doing display and maybe competition pieces. Minitaire is good for this if you thin with a medium, not pure water. Craft paint thinned with magic wash also works well. I use whichever has the color I need.

Drybrushing - This is where the Hard Body Artists Acrylics I accidentally bought really shine. Just tap the brush to the paint, smear around on the palette a little, and go for it. It will not run into low areas, and wastes far less paint.

Wet blending - I will let you know if I ever try this.

Dry pigments - These work well for smooth shading, and for creating rusty, muddy and dusty effects. I have some from Secret Weapon. I also have some pastels that can be ground into powder. The pastels are much cheaper with a wider range of colors. They behave pretty similar.

Primer - If you can go outside and spray Krylon or Rustolem are good choices. Don't waste money on $14 a can hobby primer. The weather here does not often allow for spraying, so I don't. Instead I use Gesso. You brush it on and it shrinks down tight on the model preserving detail. I recently picked up Vallejo Surface Primer to use through the airbrush. If you are painting large numbers of minis this is far better than hand brushing the Gesso.

Sealer - Liquitex matte or gloss varnish. It can be applied with a paintbrush or airbrush. Much more economical than the oft recommended Testors Dull Coat.

Tamyia has some wonderful paints for special effects. Pick up their Smoke (washes on armor and engine soot) and Clear Red (gore).

This mini was painted several years ago entirely with craft paint and magic wash.

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