How to paint a mini with washes

Painting a mini with washes* is almost as simple as it sounds, but there are a few hard and fast rules, as well as a smattering of tried and tested methodologies, we’re going to discuss them in this article.

99% of this mini was painted with washes

99% of this mini was painted with washes

First of all what is a wash? Quite simply, its paint thinned down to the nth degree with a matt medium and flow improver. In my humble opinion Citadel makes the best washes, but your experience may vary and if you know of a supplier that rivals in range and quality please let me know!

So, what’s a glaze then? A glaze is very similar, except that where a wash is super thinned down paint designed to pool in recesses, a glaze is super thinned down paint designed to leave more of an even coat, to taint the one beneath it. It doesn’t achieve this perfectly of course, but it does a noticeably different job of it than your typical wash. Again, Citadel make good glazes.

Why would I want to paint a mini with washes and glazes? Because it’s a much, much, faster way of getting good tabletop quality miniatures. Also the process naturally creates a shadow, a mid-range, and a highlight all as part of a single coat.

Ready to begin then? So in simple terms, painting with washes is the same as painting base coats with regular paints, except you use a wash instead of paints. Lol. Mind blown? Ha, here’s some tips to make it work properly though.

How to get strong colours

Prime white. Most of the time you will be washing over a white base, this is because of science! White allows you to get the most colour out of your washes. Darker bases will reduce the brightness of your washes and glazes, and sometimes (like when painting black) this is what you want, but generally no.

As a consequence of this, painting with washes tends to leave your miniatures looking more pastel in their colours. Personally I like this aesthetic for its realism, but you can make the colours more vivid by adding another layer of wash once the first has dried.

How to avoid tide marks

For large flat areas (like cloaks) wash it with a layer of tap water first. Don’t create a lake, or pooling – just wet the surface. This will stop the wash from drying out too quickly and creating those nasty tide marks. You’ll be amazed that when you wash over a wet surface, the wash flies off your brush and evenly fills the area you’re trying to paint.

How to get a greater range of colours and tones

Feel free to layer up your wash painting. Let the first coat dry and then hit it with a second coat of the same or a different wash. Sepia wash followed by Brown wash for example is lovely. Make sure that you always allows the first layer to completely dry before you apply the second layer.

How to paint dark colours

Get a medium grey and paint that over your white primer first. Then wash. Simples. I use this if I want to create a more ‘true’ black.

So, those are the basic rules. Here’s some specific recipes that I regularly use:

How to paint black, differently

Start with a white base then wash the area in Drakenhoff Nightshade first, once that’s dried wash over it in Nuln Oil. This gives the black a nice dark blue tint to it, and it looks a lot nicer for things like clothing than the above technique. The trousers on the mini at the image at the top of the page were done like this.

How to paint radioactive green (I use this for goblin skin)

White base, then apply a healthy layer of Lamenters Yellow glaze. Follow this up with a healthier layer of Waywatcher Green glaze. Then wash lightly with Agrax Earthshade.

Kings of War Biggit

Here’s one of my biggits, nice and easy scheme as per all my KoW models.

How to paint red

White base, layer of Bloodletter glaze, and then a thin layer of Carroburg Crimson wash.

How to paint Caucasian skin

White base, then Reikland Fleshshade wash. Couldn’t be simpler. See the mini at the top of the page for an example of what this looks like.

Anything else?

This is just the tip of the iceberg I’m sure, so experiment. If you find any good methods or combinations please feel free to share them below the line, or on the Facebook page!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful. Jimmi, out!


*Not 100% with washes, there’s also a primer, glazes, a mid grey base, and regular metallics involved. Shh.

3 thoughts on “How to paint a mini with washes

  1. Pingback: Hobby Newbies – Basic Tools to Start Preparing and Painting Miniatures | Jimmi Waz 'Ere

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