Bloody damn chalky highlights ! How to solve it ?
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Thread: Bloody damn chalky highlights ! How to solve it ?

  1. #1

    Question Bloody damn chalky highlights ! How to solve it ?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm fairly new to miniature painting, well technically speaking as I started painting Warhammer models more than 10 years ago, but never kept painting more than during a month because I was discouraged by the results. At first it was because of the lack of information about how to paint and dilute the paint (I was taking it straight from the pot which was pretty ugly when applied as you can guess), then the years passed and I tried back with some informations found on the Internet, but I got discarouged once again by the difficulty to do smooth blends.

    In 2016, I've reached my 4th or 5th attempt in 10 years to get back on the desk and master my paiting skills to win some Slayer Sword ! XD

    I have some OK results, but that's still far away from what I want, especially considering the highlights, where the colors get really chalky.

    I've watched a thousand videos, I've been looking for the reasons on different threads, but haven't found the solution : some say it's because the paint isn't diluted enough, others say it's too diluted, some say you need medium but some say you don't...

    I know highliting a color with white paint can easily lead you to a chalky result, but that also happens to me with yellow on green for my Orc flesh.

    Today I have painted this purple cloak from a Chaos Sorceler : shadows went fine, added some blue to get it darker and a little of black on the last one for the deepest part. But then came the higlight and happened the same horrible thing as on my Orc flesh the day before : chalky result on the first highlight. I did a purple glaze to smooth it a bit.

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    On the first picture you can see my whole work on the mini's cloak, on the second one there are just the shadows and 1 higlight on the right, just so you can compare.

    Here is my painting technique and gear :
    - I use GW paints I bought 10 y. ago and a few one I bought like 4/5 y. ago. I had to put some glass cleaner to liquefy them as they were dry.
    - I mix my paint on a wet palette with water only, don't have medium and never tested it ;
    - I use a 0-8404 Raphaël brush in good ondition ;
    - For the basecoat I go for a 50/50 mix paint/water ;
    - For shades and highlights, I dilute my paint pretty hard between 1:5 and 1:10 (paint:water), wipe my brush on a paper napkin to get rid of all the excess until no more water comes out, and if a tiny drop appears when I put my brush on the mini I get back on the paper ;
    - Hence I do several extra-thin layers ;
    - I try to mix the paint in order to make a smooth color transition, not a big leap ;
    - I try to push-pull my paint as much as I can when I aplly it.

    I think here is all I could tell you about my way.

    What do you guys think is the source of the problem ? Except from the fact I'm not enough experienced ^^
    Maybe my paint is higlited too fast ? (too big leap)
    Is my paint too diluted ?
    Should I try medium ?
    Any other ideas ?

    Thanks to the ones who will take time to read all this and I try to give me an answer !


    PS : I'm french, so sorry if my writing isn't perfect, and answer in french if you are too

  2. #2


    The macrophotography emphasizes the dramatic chalky effect a bit too much compared to a real view, but at least you get my point.
    There are 4 different shades of highlighting there though, not only one.
    Last edited by petrucci51; 07-10-2016 at 04:43 PM.

  3. #3


    you maybe over thinning or not waiting for the last layer to dry enough before you put a new one on
    "Remember, you can't spell paint without a little pain."

    Instagram: almost_zab
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  4. #4


    Hi Zab, thanks for the answer. Overthin paint was my first clue but on other threads I found, most people say whatever the way you dilute, it's always a good thing... Though thats not logical considering on high dilution, pigments concentration is pretty low, and hence they are scattered. So why would it be different on the palette and on the mini, right ?
    I'll give it a try ASAP and post the results that I hope to be better.

    Anyone else feel free to share their experience or give their opinion

  5. #5


    Paint too thin imo, causing pooling & water stain.
    1. 'Painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part of life's journey.' W. Churchill
    Thank you for asking but I don't do commissions.

  6. #6


    I've dealt with that kind of problem in the past too. I think it has more to do with the type of pigments used in certain specific paints. Some don't handle thinning very well at all without a proper binder. You can minimize the chalkiness it if you use a medium to thin instead of just water. I don't often use straight water to thin my paints, and will use a mix of water/glaze medium instead. I'd recommend giving that a shot.

    There was a great article on Brushthralls about additives that would be worth a read. It's pretty short, and gives a good technical overview:

  7. #7


    In my opinion too I agree with both paint too thin can be a culprit as well as using flow improver to thin your paints. Go on reapers website there is an article called the art of thinning paint. It will give you the recipes you need from 2 top artists :Ann foerester and her recipes and also gives you :Jennifer Haley and her recipes to thin paint for all types of applications from base coats to shading to highlights!!!

  8. #8


    Thanks everyone for your time and advices. I'll try with a less diluted paint tonight as it seems to be the whole problem there (layers shouldn't be as diluted as glazes considering the color/pigment used), later on I think I will get some medium too and see if that enhances things up.

    Will keep you informed of the results

  9. #9


    Another quick thought...

    I keep the spare metal I remove from the bases of minis to use as agitators in the thicker/more splotchy paints I own. It helps their consistency to have something in there when you shake them.

  10. #10


    Hi again everyone,

    Back from the battlefield with my brush, and here are the results of my little experiments :

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    Method :
    #1 : paint was diluted on a 1:4 / 1:5 ratio, standard milk consistency I'd say.
    #2 : paint was extremely diluted, more than 1:10, and maybe 1:20 in the end as I was adding 2 to 3 parts of water everytime I added more white. The final highlight is actually brighter (whiter) than on #1.
    #Between is just #2 but I started my first layer with the 3rd highlight color just to see how it reacts on the base color.
    For both #1 and #2 I did 4 different highlights.

    #1 transitions aren't smooth enough, its really several layers that need glazes to be blended. I could consider to do this but I'd prefer to use a color once in a smooth way than having to come back to the previous color and thin it down for a glaze.
    #2 is actually smooth without being too chalky (compared to what I did on the mini at least), though I didnt use the same color as on #1 as I started back from the base coor and added white. So the first 2 highlights mix might be too close to the base color compared to what I did on #1... it's not scientifically perfect ^^
    #Between : edges are obviously not smooth because of the big leap of color, but at least the layer is not too chalky.

    So if I diluted my paint pretty hard on #2, but the result is actually better than on the mini so what happened ?
    Well I actually tried to take even more water off of the brush on the paper towel in order to get no dots everytime I end my brush stroke, which lead to stains. It requires a lot of patience but it seems to be the way I have to follow, and that doesnt bother me as long as I get the result I'm looking for.

    Next step is to try this on the mini, maybe with less water though beacuse the amount I added was really ridiculous XD but I wanted to test it.
    Key is now to get used to the technique and be patient.

    What do you guys think ?

    I'll try to paint the mini tomorrow night and will come back to show the results


    PS : Here is a picture of the mini from a more far view so you can see that at some ditance, it doesnt look that bad ^^
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    Last edited by petrucci51; 07-11-2016 at 05:02 PM.

  11. #11


    I think even with the bigger steps No 1 looks better. As for colors you chose one of the worst. Painting purple without going too pastely/chalky is a pain.

    Imho going to 1:10 or 1:20 is madness. Takes too long to do without any really noticable difference to a relative thin/thick 1:4 or 1:5 + bit different brush use.

    As for using this technique: if you like it, then yeah, use it, but I'd look at using a thicker mix (1:4 or 5) and the feathering to smooth out the edges (I paint like this most of the time if I want something better + few glazes here and there as needed but mostly for giving extra color).
    Or take a look at the PaintingBuddha videos. The method used there also uses thicker paint (base is diluted to about 1:4, with the paint on the tip almost unthinned). On the tutorials the result looks quite good and it's fast.
    Forgot, that it works again.

  12. #12


    Thanks for your opinion,

    The colors are better on #1 I agree, #2 went too white but it was more to experiment the behaviour of a really diluted and bright paint. Same thing for the extreme 1:20 dilution, it was just to see if over-dilution was the problem, I'll try 1:10 max.

    I did see Painting Buddha's videos, especially the "Layer and glazing" series, but I guess the guy has more experience and has a better technique, so it works better when he does it. I did try to blend an harsh edge with glazing but is not that easy, maybe my glaze was too thin or the color jump was too big...
    I also watched his feathering technique, like on the video "Korghos Khul - Part 1 : Sick skin with Ben Komets" where I have to say the result is indeed pretty sick. I also watched other feathering technique videos but it's still too advanced for me right now I think, having to switch on a clean brush or wash it quickly and do the blend is tricky also my paint tends to dry too fast but I guess I didnt do it the proper way.
    Last edited by petrucci51; 07-12-2016 at 06:46 AM.

  13. #13


    i didnt knew over thinning existed. i regularly use veeeeeery diluted paint.

    what might be the issue is here, is that you accidentally put your fingers on the miniature after basecoating it which leave a layer of fat on the surface. because of that, thinned out paint will behave like this.

  14. #14


    I realized a few years ago touching the mini wasn't a good idea indeed, but now I avoid that

  15. #15


    I don't think you can really over thin the paint on the brush (only problem is that it can separate). I think it looks like you have too much paint on the brush. Another thing you can do that helps a bit is to break the surface tension with a medium that enhances flow (as suggested). I don't use any mediums any more but I've tried it and it helps, I've heard it especially helps if you have "hard" water where you're at. From this point I would just do some very thin glazes over the surface with a medium shade and then continue working until I'm satisfied.

    Some of the best painters I know at times use so thinned paint that a new layer is not visible.

  16. #16


    Hi all,

    Found some energy to paint the rest of the cloak tonight but the result is still not extra. I thined my paint between 1:5 and 1:10. Tried to aplly the paint evenly but I think I need some more practice. I did 2 overall glaze layers after my final highlight, and a few more on the color transition aeras to blend it a bit. It did its job but the Slayer Sword is still too far away... ^^
    I think the result is a bit better than on my first post though.

    I must keep on practicing and find the right path !

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  17. #17


    You can also try with a new and fresh pot of paint, instead of using that 10 years relic. Maybe it's the binder in it that does not work enough nowadays... or maybe it's the window cleanser that you used to revive the paint that keeps fooling your process.

    I also got some chalkiness problems, and adding glazing medium helped me a lot, if you do not want to add medium you can also try to dilute your paint with distilled water instead of the tap water one and check out if it helps on the results.
    WIP thread. / Cmon Gallery / Instagram

  18. #18


    Hi Maenas,

    Thanks for your advice. I agree with you, I wonder if these old pots wouldn't be the main problem...

    I have bought some medium yesterday and tried it (with water). Well I didnt try it on such large aereas but yet I had the feeling that the mix was more... homogeneous. Though I diluted a bit less too so...

  19. #19


    Listen to Avelorn. You have too much paint on the brush when you apply it to the mini. Also, you aren't letting the layer dry completely before adding a new layer. This shows up on light colors the easiest. It looks chalky because you are breaking the paint as it dries, thus leaving a mottled and patchy appearance. So, unload the brush. When you think it is dry enough, unload again on a paper towel. If you truly want to glaze in thin layers, you should see a freshly applied line of paint air dry in less than 2 seconds. As you gain in experience, you will learn the proper brushwork and develop an instinct that allows you to apply thicker painter. For now, though, you need super thin layers. And this has more to do with how much paint you unload onto the paper towel (or your thumb) than how much water you use to dilute.

    Typically speaking, highlights are thicker and less diluted than shadows.

    You may be using a shit white. For best results, use a white from VMC. I use VMC Ivory. I swear by it.

    Read and re-read what I have just shared with you. Make sure you truly practice it. You will find yourself not unloading enough, or not allowing your paint to dry between layers. This will always explain why your painting doesn't look like the pros. That it...simple really but we'll all find reasons and ways to muck it up.
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