Wargaming Tradecraft: Painting Metallics

Painting Metallics

There are a lot of different ways to paint metal and I'm pretty sure that you're going to be introduced to some new methods in this series. I'll also highlight methods to easily paint metals as well as explain ways to replicate realistic metallic effects. This post will act as an introduction and an index that will eventually link to each of the articles once they're written.

For further reading, Meg Maples and Massive Voodoo have some great info on metals.


Types of Metallic Painting

Expanding beyond the terms you're used to (TMM and NMM) there are a few other ways to paint metals. Today I present you with some new terms I've coined, including a brief description and example of each before getting in to more depth.


"True" is the term given to using shiny metallic paints that actually shimmer like metal does. It also means that as you move the model around or look at it from different angles, the highlights change. This is by far the easiest way to paint metal.

You can also create your own metallic paints by mixing any colour with what's called Iridescent Medium. Silver paint works too, but can lighten the paint mixed in, like mixing with white.

In this article, I'll discuss some tips on making shiny metal look better.


This is a simulated look using colour to fake a metal appearance. As an example, using greys for silver, blues for steel, orange for bronze and yellows for gold. You might also hear it referred to as a "European" method of painting due to its wider contrast and softer blending.

Honestly, NMM isn't much more difficult than painting any other part of your model - Shade, highlight.. you're already familiar with it. It just needs more "steps" of colour to look good. Take a look to see some step-by-step examples and tips on what colours to use.


"Real" is a term I've dubbed in regards to painting Metallic Metals using paint that actually contains metal. Hobby stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby usually carry it as well as chemicals to speed up the aging process.


This means you can paint something with Iron and have it rust or use Copper that patinas green. Even if you don't want to age it, there's value in having a finish that actually looks like Pewter, Brass or Gold.

Pretty wild, huh?


Sometimes, a single style doesn't create the best looking effect for me. If you take a few of the above methods to paint Metallic Metals and combine them, it can make some nice aesthetic mixtures and forced highlights.

For example, on my Elemental King I painted his collar and metal plates a cool blue-grey Non-MM steel first but then used iron Real-MM to create layers and sheets of rust. (You can see the example of this above on Real-MM.) On my Harlequin Wraithlord, I used a little bit of Non-MM to highlight some of the True-MM gold and red in order to force a visible highlight not dependent on the strength or angle of actual light reflecting off the paint.

I'll show you some examples and offer some tips on ways you could use this.


I say "Composition" because I'm not talking about how to paint metal so much as how to balance painting techniques across a miniature. Specifically, using multiple metallic painting styles to create contrast.

See, when I began painting Non-MM, I found that despite its pleasing tones, metal can end up looking flat and dull. You're painting with the same colours used on the rest of your model so everything blends together. Since I'm a big fan of using contrast to make a model "pop" to the eyes, when I'm painting with Non-MM, I'll usually throw splashes of True-MM on smaller details like bolts, rivets, buckles, scratches, etc.


Special Techniques

Aside from ways to use paints to create metals, there may be specific effects that you'd like to replicate. These will take more skill than the above methods, but with a payout worth it.


There are methods used to protect metals which also reduce their reflectiveness. What it boils down to is a mix of a Non-MM base followed by True-MM or Real-MM on some edges and scratches.



In this tutorial, I'll look at ways to make your metal objects look more like they should, instead of generically slapping your metallics on blades and armour. Light sources and shadows play a factor in how best to portray the fact that your miniatures are actually in their own environment.


Chrome can be painted a couple ways - the first is to use actual chrome spray paint or silver as a base, then add your own touches to make it work on a miniature scale. The second is to simulate it by paying attention to the shape of what you're painting and simulating horizon, sky and ground.

Painting Traditionally Coloured Metals as Metallics

While writing this series, I had a thought about Non-Metallic Metals vs True-Metallic Metals and how we assume everything we see in artwork is defaulted to TMM. When we paint NMM, we're assuming we're applying some sort of unimagined style to the miniature that the original artist didn't consider. What if we're wrong?

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