Wargaming Tradecraft: Tinting, Layering and Thinning while Painting and Blending


Tinting, Layering and Thinning while Painting and Blending

I started painting the rest of my Champions, the core of my army, and as I was taking photos realized this the perfect opportunity to talk about one of the key techniques of how I paint my miniatures.

Basically, I nearly always dilute my paint so that it won't completely cover what's below. Think of it like painting with washes, except the paint is still too thick to be considered a wash.

Because painting with diluted paints is like using a wash, it also means you get the side effect of blending with the colours below.

Worth noting, this doesn't replace other techniques like blending. It's just another technique to add to your arsonal. Mixing paints on a pallette or using fluid-retarders so you can mix on the surface of a mini are still important.

Layering and Tinting Theory

A Light on the Horizon, Dave Garbe
Still don't get it?

Look left - If I just dip my paintbrush in paint, then to a surface, I get a big red dot and nothing underneath is visible.

But, if I thin my paint first, then I'm just adding colour to what's already there. Tinting what's below.

By layering tints, colours get stronger, they shift and so on.

You can layer paint over and over again, use different colours, make things lighter, darker, brighter, etc.

As things are layered with tints, the image below gets a little less clear. Everything starts to blend together AND gets a uniform colour.

Another example, below, shows how tinting can be used on a larger scale.

Lonely Room, Dave Garbe

As a practical example, here's a photo from my Lanyssa Sylvanas project.

I decided that I'd painted her skin way too blue / turquoise and wanted it to appear more green. Rather than repaint all her skin, I thinned a green paint and applied a few layers, shifting the colour.

You'll notice that the shading and highlighting is roughly the same, because it's not a repaint.

Thinning Paints

I really need to start making videos, because pictures won't really do... instead I'll try to describe it.

I always dilute my paints as I work, even when I'm painting undercoats and highlights. I do this because paint is often thick and mixing a little thinner in helps it flow. How much thinner I use depends on how strong I want the paint to be. I thin as I paint, rather than just add a bunch of thinner to my paint pots, so that I can vary how dilute paint is as I use it.

  • I keep a small paint cap filled with a thinner next to me as I paint.
    1. Dip the tip of my brush in paint.
    2. Dip the paint on the tip of my brush in thinner.
    3. Wipe the tip of my brush on my pallette to mix the thinner into the paint and get a point on the tip of my brush instead of a blob of paint.
    4. Paint gently.
    5. Repeat.
  • Find your own pattern. Dip the brush in thinner first, use a wet palette, thin your paint pots to a consistent level, etc.
  • There are a bunch of thinners to choose from.
    • I prefer clear Liquitex Slo-Dri but water can work too.
      • Most hobby or art stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby will carry professional thinners.
    • Unlike real thinners, paint thinned with water will:
      • Lose some of its colour.
      • Quickly turn in to a wash.
      • Not adhere to surfaces as well. (Since it quickly gets wash-like.)
The problems / benefits of washes

If the colours are right, a wash will have the same effect without you having to worry about any thinners. BUT, you are limited by how many colours are(n't) available as washes. Only problem with washes is they're so thin they're only really good for covering large areas or cracks and crevices. You can't really paint with them as you can with thinned paints.

If you're not looking to get all fancy, throw a wash over your mini as a last (or near last) step and see how it looks. Trust me, even just to add some shadow.

Practical Examples - Hordeblood Champions #2 - 5 WIP

In addition to the Champion UA Skaldi and the Champion Hero, I've already completed one of the normal Champions. I've decided to do something I haven't done in a while and paint the rest of the unit together rather than one at a time. (And glad I am, their flesh tones proved a pain to replicate.)

In this first batch of photos, the left ones show the rougher undercoat I like to paint first in order to add a little texture and natural look.
The photos on the right are after ONE (thin) layer of tinting with a bright orange. Notice that all the detail is still visible. Everything looks cleaner. The colours are uniform. Everything quickly pulls together.

In prep for the next set of photos, I've highlighted everything with yellow to brighten up from the orange, visible on the left. I didn't thin the yellow much as I wanted it to stand out.

The photos on the right are also with paint that wasn't thinned much. I decided there was too much brown shadow and used another orange to pull the raised skin into the shadows.

In this batch of photos, I'm just comparing the previous photos to a red wash. As you can see, a wash works just as well, but is pretty indiscriminatory and just covers everything rather than letting you paint.

In the next batch, I've shown the last 4 steps

  • Light highlight after the red wash
    • Cover all the raised areas - knuckles, veins, tops of muscles, etc.
  • Orange, thinned moderately.
    • Pulling away from the strong red and making orange the tone again.
    • Blending the light highlights into orange.
  • Black wash painted only in crevices where I want it darker.
    • Crevices look too brown / red. Need some darkening up.
  • Light highlight, barely thinned. Just to clean up after the black wash.
    • Things like wrinkles in knuckles are hard to shadow without getting any paint on the raised areas. So after the black wash, these tight places need to be highlighted again.
      Yeah, I know I could have painted the black on earlier.. buuut my painting method isn't that fluid.

And for pictures sake, this was pre-painting:

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