🎨 Paints

Updated at 2022-04-21 13:35

You can usually mix paints with matching solvent. Solvent is the thing that evaporates and makes the paint dry, like water or oil.

Additives and pigments can still react unfavorably so always do a test batch first.

When you mix paints you change color, opacity and consistency all at once. For example, mixing white to red creates much more opaque pink than the usually translucent red. It can sometimes be quite hard to predict the result.

Paints with less different pigments mix better. If mixed paints have a lot of different pigments, the color will converge towards a dull grey.

Miniature paints rarely list what pigments they contain.

Mixing two paints creates natural harmonies that you can use.

It's a good practice to record your approximate paint mixing ratios.

  • When discussing a X to Y ratios...
  • 1:10 or 1-to-10 means "1 part of X in 10 parts of total X+Y."
  • 1+9 means "1 part of X to 9 parts of Y."
  • Both of there translate to 10% of X.
  • X:Y is easier to work with when you have a container filled with Y to begin with
  • X+Y is easier if you are adding stuff to a blank slate.
  • I personally prefer X+Y

How to Mix Highlights and Shades

Level 0 - Noob

Add black to darken a color. Adding the darkest dark to a color will darken it, right?

Add white to lighten a color. Adding the lightest light to a color will lighten it, right?

Why is this wrong? Mixing paints can be tricky because both how different pigments react and how we perceive the resulting color.

  • Simply mixing white to lighten a color can cause the color to become pastel and chalky; you want a brighter color, not just lighter.
  • Simply mixing black to darken a color can cause the color to become dull and dirty; you need a deeper color, not just darker.
If you mix yellow with black, you get olive green, not darker yellow.

If you mix red with white, you get pink, not lighter red.

The key is to increase or decrease the perceived luminance.

Level 1 - Easy

To lighten a color, add pale yellow, pale blue or pale orange. Yellow works the best in many cases where you just want to increase luminance without desaturating your color. Cool colors are better lightened with pale blue. Browns and reds are a bit special and benefit from pale orange.

universal highlight mixers:
+ pale yellow e.g. Vallejo/AK Interactive Ice Yellow
+ pale blue e.g. Vallejo or AK Interactive Sky Blue
+ pale orange e.g. Vallejo or AK Interactive Sunny Skin Tone

To darken a color, avoid black. Black paints are the most pigmented and will easily dull any color. You should either use the complementary color or a darker color in the same color family.

Ways to darken yellow:
1. add deep orange or brown (similar)
2. add deep red (similar)
3. add deep violet (complementary)
4. add deep blue (could work as blue is an universal shade color)
5. add black (but will turn yellow more green)

Level 2 - Pro

A short list how to mix more lively highlights and shades. The final result still depends on the pigments used so your mileage may vary.

basedarken with...lighten with...
black-grey mixed with mid-brown
whitegrey mixed with mid-brown-
bluedeep bluelighter blue
greendeep green or deep redyellow, grey or white
reddeep green or dark red-brownorange or yellow
yellowyellow-based brown, orange or redwhite
yellow browndeep yellow brownwhite
red browndeep red brownyellow brown
neutral browndark greylight grey
some problem examples:

+ add yellow and it turns orange
+ add white and it turns pink
+ add both and you get salmon

yellow brown:
+ add grey and you get green brown (because of the black pigment in grey)


  • How to Paint Citadel Miniatures, David Cross and Rick Priestley