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🎨 Paints
Washes

Updated at 2021-02-04 16:12

Washes are pre-thinned translucent paints that are designed to flow into the holes and recesses of a model. You can create your own washes from paints and inks by diluting them but actual wash product lines use engineered mediums to make them.

You can imitate the properties of a wash by adding varnish, floor wax or glue to the mixture, most notably PVA glue, but it can be tedious to get just right.
Washes are also called shades in some brand lineups like Citadel.

Compared to inks, washes are less runny and less pigmented. Washes use special mediums to increase their surface tension which causes them to pool more, preferably into all the crevices.

Washing is applying a wash paint so it will seep to the crevices of a model, making the details to pop and creating more contrast.

You can wash a whole model, a specific section or only specific recesses.

  • A dip wash is dunking your whole model into a can of wash (e.g. Army Painter has dip wash cans). Leaves quite a patchy finish that requires retouching but can be worthwhile while speed painting.
  • A full wash works with textured sections like fur or hair. Works less well with flat surfaces like armor plates and such.
  • A recess wash is similar to black lining and always works for creating contrast between two painted sections.

Shake your washes properly before use. When you turn the wash bottle upside down, the bottom should be clear and not have any pigment. Shake well until this mixes with the rest of the medium.

Retouch the model after the wash has dried. Use thinned version of the previous color. Don't leave spotty stains all over your model.

You can apply a layer of gloss varnish to make wash slide to recesses better. Spray can varnish is a quick way to do this. A nice trick if you are painting a lot of miniatures with full wash at some point. This reduces how much wash stays on the raised areas, thus reduces how much you need to do cleanup.

You usually wash warm colors with warm washes and cool with cool. But, of course, you can get artsy. And

A brown wash is universal wash for all the warm colors; e.g. gold metallics.

A blue wash is universal wash for all the cool colors; e.g. silver metallics.

A black wash is neutral enough so it can be used anywhere, but dulls colors a bit e.g. both gold and silver metallics.

Washing with a single color can bring the whole model color scheme together regardless of the underlying colors. But it can also get messy.

You can thin washes like any other acrylic paint. But if you thin washes too much with water, they start to feel like very runny paint.

You can use washes for glazing. They are pre-thinned so they can work well for glazing straight out of the bottle, but slight thinning might be in order for the stronger colors.

Using washes to emphasize shadows is only one form of shading but there are other methods to do shading such as:

  • Shade Layering and Glazing: if you didn't start with the darkest colors, you can apply your shades afterwards by layering or glazing. More control but slower.
  • Lining: applying paint to recesses but you need to be more accurate. Also called panel lining, black lining, lining-in or dark lining.
  • Oil Lining: the same as lining but you use oil paints thinned with spirits. A layer of gloss varnish is recommended as can reactivate underlying acrylic paints.
  • Pen Lining: the same as lining but you use dark marker pens. Kinda cheating but can work wonders in speed painting.