Wargaming Tradecraft: Washing, Painting Light Colours and Layering Paint


Washing, Painting Light Colours and Layering Paint

"Nobody wants to paint yellow."
"Fine, I'll paint yellow."
"OK, you get Skull Bearers and White Scars."
"Wait... white too??"
- Ryan, manager of Warhammer store #88 and I.

He and the manager of another store were competing to see who could fill the Adeptus Astartes poster full of marines first. We, Canada, won.

The question gets asked often enough that I decided to use the opportunity to write a tutorial on painting White and Yellow including the techniques involved in the process.

Bonus, is my first video tutorial. You really should keep reading...


Since I'm painting an entire marine white, I'm going to start simple and use a wash to do the heavy lifting. After priming him, I use a black wash and coat him liberally. The thing to note when washing is to simply cover everything. There are exceptions, but typically just:
  1. Get a bunch of wash on your brush.
  2. Paint every part of the miniature.
  3. Coat evenly and ensure there are no large pools.
Below you can see a comparison of what the wash looks like wet and dry and how it naturally creates shadows.

Thinning Paint for Layering

A big problem with light colours is that they often get streaky or don't blend well when you use them. To avoid that, you want to thin them out so the layers naturally blend.

  1. Dip your brush in some paint.
  2. Dip the paint on the brush in to some water.

    This is very important - Don't dip the brush into the water, just the dot of paint on the tip of the brush. If you get the brush in the water, it'll absorb too much and turn in to a wash, which is too thin.
  3. Mix the paint and water together using your brush.

The paint on your brush is now the consistency that I prefer to use when painting. (It's too scientific to say "Use 2 parts paint, 1 part water," or whatever. This is my tactile method.)

Highlighting and Blending

Paint flows nice and evenly in this state.

By applying multiple layers it builds up and gets brighter and cleaner. Using thin paints is also a way to blend colours.

If you haven't watched the video above, I strongly recommend it. It'll show the exact technique I'm talking about.

Washed and Finished

Left: Washed, Right: Highlighted

Painting Yellow

To start off, I want to apply a quick base coat. So, I take a darker yellow, mix in some water (being less careful than my steps above) and apply it to the whole mini. Even yellow can make details pop out when used as a wash.

The picture I was working from was a dirtier yellow, so I decided to do the shade wash with a camo colour instead of brown.
Left to Right: Base wash, yellow highlight, camo wash (wet), camo wash (dry).
Stop whenever you want. If you're going for tabletop quality, or you're just starting out, put as much work in as you're comfortable with. If you like the above yellow with the camo wash, call it quits.


But if you want to highlight it, use the steps I detailed for mixing in water. In this case I went with the original yellow base as a highlight first, followed by bleached bone and completed with a mix of yellow and white. In a few spots, I even finished off with a little white to pop the contrast some more.

The amount of contrast is up to you.

If you leave out the bleached bone step and go from yellow right to the yellow-white blend, the contrast will get stronger and you'll complete your minis quicker.

To reduce the contrast, use colours that look similar (Stop at Bleached Bone.) or blend your paints. (Blend the yellow into the bleached bone, the bleached bone into the yellow-white blend, etc.) It'll take longer and more patience. Your choice.
Left to Right: Yellow highlight, bleached bone highlight, yellow-white mixed highlight.

Painting Symbols

To paint the skull on the shoulder pad, I use a similar technique as I've covered before on my Mountain King project.
  1. Block out the major points of the shape.
  2. Connect the dots.
  3. Begin filling in.
  4. Highlight.

Work Complete


  1. Delighted to find this, cheers. Twas linked from Creative Twilight.

  2. Delighted to find this, cheers. Twas linked from Creative Twilight.


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