Wargaming Tradecraft: Crackle Medium does the work for you


Crackle Medium does the work for you

Something you can purchase is a "crackle medium" and it does basically what the name says - it's a medium that crackles your paints for you. Lots of uses for something like this and in this tutorial, I've used it on the blade of my Malefic Warlock. Instead of weapons, you could absolutely use it on vehicles and other armour plates, trees, walls, roads even the skin of large creatures - sky's really the limit.

Most hobby stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby will carry it and it's pretty cheap. From what I've seen, every brand works roughly the same. This is a short post, because really, it's simple stuff.

First things first, you'll need a base colour, so paint the undercoat. This is the colour that will be in the cracks showing through the top-coat.

Wanting a bright red, I gesso'd over the black primer first to allow the red to be really strong. While only small cracks will show through, you could add a little detail at this point. Don't waste time doing a lot since most will be covered, but you could do a quick wash or highlight to add some natural detail to the undercoat. (Especially if the surface is rougher.)
First, paint on the cracking medium. You can see in the top - left photo that it really doesn't make things look different. Because the medium is somewhat thick, I had to lay the model on its side to dry - otherwise the medium was going to pool into a blob at the tip of the dagger.

This brand recommended leaving at least an hour for the medium to dry... I ended up leaving it overnight because I was tired. Read the directions with whatever brand you get. Thicker / thinner coats usually affects the size of the crackles.

Once it's time, paint your top coat on. It recommended not using watery paint and I've run into problems before using washes over crackle medium.

The paint starts to constrict very quickly, but I'd still leave a while for it to completely dry. You're left with a nice crackle pattern. You'll notice there's a little texture to this pattern, with the patches raised above the cracks some.

Once you're done, you can either leave it alone or use the cracks as a guide for more painting.

I ended up using some pigments to add brown and orange tints to the black, giving the dagger a bit of a rock/magma look. Do whatever you want.

  • On a sword, you could paint white into the cracks and make it look like energy crackling along the blade.
  • On skin, the edges of the patches could be painted to appear diseased and pealing.
  • Wood and stone could be weathered.
  • You could paint the base and top coat the same and with a wash / dry-brush use the texture it makes to just have a cracked surface.


  1. I suppose I could take a few more example photos.. lava fields, wood, etc. When you say they don't work well, do you mean how poorly they paint on? Like white glue dries really smooth and is a poor painting base. Oil-based paints might adhere to smooth textures better than acrylic (water based) but nothing beats a primed surface. (And as you mention, oil based paints are a pain to clean up.)

    When you're working on something that can't be spray primed, pick up some gesso. It's a primer that comes in white, black or clear and is painted on instead of sprayed. You'll find it at stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby or art stores.

  2. LOVE IT! such a great idea: consider it "borrowed". keep up the great work and tutorials!

  3. Do you think it would work to airbrush over the medium, or would that be too thin a layer? Thanks, awesome post.

    1. It would be worth a try, and might look cool.. maybe with a thinner layer of the medium. My only concern would be to wonder how it would react with whatever mediums you use to thin your paints for the airbrush. I use alcohol in mine and I'm not sure how well it would react.


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