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Don’t Get In A Lather Over Washing

So, lets talk about using the ‘wash’ method when painting your miniatures. Its a method I’ve used for years and is a great way to add depth and detail to your figures for what is really minimal effort.

Firstly, what is washing? Its simply applying a thinned coloured paint product, the consistency of ink, to your figure and allowing gravity to let the liquid run in to the crevices and folds on the figures sculpt, so that when it is dry it gives creates the appearance of depth and shadow on that figure. This can be added at any point during your painting but always remember less is more, its easier to add a little more wash to an area than it is to correct it if you flood the area with wash medium.

Detail on these primed figures accentuated by a brown wash

Secondly, what do I wash with? Paints are made up of colour pigment held together by some kind of medium, simply adding water to your paint will not produce a wash, to get to the consistency required you will add so much water that the paint pigments and medium separate and the paint breaks up. Instead, for washing use a propriety washing or shade product or an ink. Just beware that some inks can be very powerful and high in pigment so may need thinning using a medium before application. The washes are available in different colours but I’m pretty sure the dark or black, strong or brown and soft or sepia washes are the ones I use the most. Brown/Strong wash is a great starting point if your new to the method and you can experiment from there.

Thirdly, so how do I do it? If you’ve not done this before then maybe the best thing is to paint up a test figure, a skeleton with lots of bone showing is great or something with lots of flesh to play about with. Apply your base coat colours and allow it to dry, if it is not dry before you wash then you’ll flush away the paint you’ve just put on. Take a little of the wash on your brush, maybe the soft or medium and gently apply it to the area and watch as it runs in to the recesses. You’ll see its great for items with lots of folds and hollows like pouches on a belt or your skeletons ribs. Don’t flood the area, just a little at a time and if you want to build up the shadow then let the wash dry before adding anymore. Its important to avoid pooling or the wash, otherwise it will create nasty coffee staining, so if it does pool either wick it away with your brush or dab the corner of some paper towel to soak up the excess. You will see that washing works really well on textured areas but isn’t so good on large flat areas. Remember you can always use a little acrylic medium to thin your wash for more control and to avoid it to be too heavy looking on the miniature. Have a play around and see what you can achieve, learning by experimentation is the best way to learn. it will take a flat base coloured miniature and lift it to the next level.

Finally, where do I go from here? So now you know the basics you can practice and play about with it, watch tutorials and develop your own method and style of working. I often use washing to ‘detail sketch’ a miniature before I paint it, so if it looks complicated I will prime the miniature in white/off white then wash in dark or black and it gives a good guide then of where to paint. Or after you’ve done some washing on your painted mini go back and use the shadow created by the wash to help you add some lighter painted highlights. If you are looking to speedily knock out some figures then why not use a coloured primer and then wash over that.

This clay golem was painted using an ink wash, it took longer to make the base and paint the eyes than to paint his body

I hope you find some of this helpful and as always don’t forget to check out the range of painting products available for sale here. Feel free to visit our Facebook page and share your painted miniatures, I’d love to see them. Take care and happy gaming.