Shades are an essential part of every painter’s toolbox, and we’d say with some confidence that even the ‘Eavy Metal team get through Agrax Earthshade at a prodigious rate. While liberal application is a very valid way to use shades, in the hands of a skilled painter, there are all sorts of things you can do with these paints – and Tyler has some top tips to share with you:
Tyler: You may have noticed over several of my painting guides that I enjoy using washes on my models in a rather unconventional way. Washes are typically used to shade a base colour, such as Agrax Earthshade over a Khorne Red base coat, or Nuln Oil over Leadbelcher. While I certainly do that as well, depending on the colour scheme, I also use the shade as my primary colour, essentially knocking out two steps with one stone. This generally only works on lighter colour schemes, but it can be a real time saver.
What am I talking about? Well, for example, on my Witch Aelf I recently painted, her skin, hair, and base were all painted with shades. By priming the model with Corax White, I can use the pigment of the shade to tint the white primer to the colour I want.
It also still pools more in the recesses, shading it at the same time. After this step, all I really need to do are the highlights. It’s a great technique for painting entire armies since it’ll cut your painting time down significantly. You can also do a combination of glazes and shades, like on the yellow armour and green skin of the Ironjawz or the red cloth of the Skaven Deathrunner. I even used Nuln Oil over a Mechanicus Standard Grey base coat on the robes of the Moonclan Grot to get the black I wanted.
My Skeleton Warriors are painted this way, with a wash of Seraphim Sepia over white primer to get the bone colour in the raised areas and the darker colour in the recesses. While this is a “hack” of sorts for painting, there are a few things you need to learn along the way to make sure you get the most out of it.
Shades pool. It’s what they are formulated to do, and it’s certainly a feature of them that you still want them to do. However, it can present issues when you encounter larger, flatter surfaces. Since we won’t be doing a solid coat of Layer Paint over the wash, you really want to ensure that everything looks as smooth as possible. To achieve the effect you’re after, you need to avoid a giant pool of the wash colour in a spot it’s not supposed to be. This happens even more frequently when you use larger quantities of the shade, which is what you’ll probably be doing with this technique. The solution is easy, though, and just requires a little more attention. You simply need to watch the way the shade pools on the model and take care of it before it dries. You can either push the shade around with your brush so that the pooling moves into a recess like it should, or use a fresh, clean brush to remove the excess pooling. The capillary action will suck the shade right up onto the bristles.
Since this is the main colour, you also want to make sure you get all of the areas the shade is supposed to go in the first coat. Once a wash is dry, if you missed a spot, which can happen in hard to reach areas or just an area that was overlooked, fixing it can be tricky. If you paint some additional wash into the missed area, the spot where the old wash and the new wash meet will have a tidemark or a visible line where one layer of wash ended and the other began. Also, the area where they overlap will be darker, since the wash will be more built-up there. There are a few ways we can fix this. If the area where the two layers overlap is in a recess, you can hide the line with a shadow, by pooling a bit more of the wash into it. If it’s not in a recess, you can try and work your highlights so that they cover it up a bit. The best way to avoid this. though, is just to be a bit more vigilant when you are first painting the shade on.
The last major issue with painting with shades involves fixing mistakes. We all do it. You’ve finished one colour and have moved on to the next colour on the model and your brush slips. All of a sudden you have some red going right across the model’s arm where it’s not supposed to be. Normally, if you’re painting with layer and base paints, you can just pop open that paint and touch it up. With shades, though, you can’t really do that. Generally what I try and do is create the colour by mixing the wash with white or a light grey. For instance, on my Nighthaunt models, the ghostly effect is created with a wash of Nihilakh Oxide over Corax White. There have been numerous times where I’ve gotten some black or metal onto the ghostly parts later on. To fix this I took Ulthuan Grey, which is a pretty close match for Corax White, and mixed it with the Nihilakh Oxide until I got a colour that was close to what was on the model. Alternatively, you can find a colour from the layer or base range which is a pretty close match and just use that. Though again, the best course of action is to just try and be a little more careful about avoiding mistakes.
While painting with shades takes a little more attention and patience to get right, it’s definitely a quick way to paint, and can give you some pretty stunning results. With a little practice, though, all of this will become second nature and you’ll be churning through models in no time. Now, back to my 30 Skeleton Warriors I’m currently working on…
Thanks, Tyler! If you’re looking to get a set of Citadel Shades, the Citadel Shade Paint Set is a great place to start.
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