Blending - How to, really
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Thread: Blending - How to, really

  1. #1

    Default Blending - How to, really

    I keep seeing these models with amazingly smooth blends, and I can\'t do it, no matter how hard I try. I know you need thin paint, but then what?

    Let\'s take a simple cylinder, like a space marine\'s lower leg greave.

    Are you blending while the paint is still wet on his leg? Are you mixing the paints on a pallette, and slowly, gradually applying color? How many steps or shades do you go thru? If the paint is \"this as milk\" as everyone says, how do you keep it from running into all the cracks and getting everywhere?

    If you could post pictures, I\'d appreciate it


    Russ Jennings

  2. #2


    Well... first and foremost you need to decide on a lightsource.
    In the example you gave, a Space Marine\'s greave, the light would most likely be coming from above, as the greave is just above the boot armor on a Marine, so the highlights would be concentrated near the top of the armor (just below the kneepad).
    I have a LOT of experience with Marines, and I\'ve found it looks the nicest to use sharp highlights along the high areas, especially in armor joints like at the top of the greaves. But, I\'ll also usually apply a single highlight along the bottom of the greave also, to help exaggerate the joint between the boot and the greave armor plates (the top of the greave will in turn receive more highlighting, usually two or three additional layers of paint).
    I don\'t know if you can track one down, but the now out-of-print \" \'Eavy Metal Warhammer 40,000 Painting Guide \" has a nifty little diagram for where the highlighting should fall on a Space Marine when the lightsource is overhead.
    If you\'re interested in seeing it, and can\'t track it down, I could draw one up and scan it in, possibly as part of a tutorial or something (since undoubtedly GW would have a fit if I reproduced theirs directly).
    Anyways, I hope that helps.


  3. #3


    It\'s not the highlights and such that I have trouble with. All the color theory, lightsource theory, etc, I know. My question is

    How do you get SMOOTH blending between two different colors?

    Take his greave, for example.

    Do you put medium blue all across the greave, and while that\'s still wet, paint some light blue on the top, blending the edges? Same thing at the bottom, but with a dark color?

    Are you making a blend on your pallette, and just painting straight from the pallette onto the mini?

    What about something smaller, like the armor on the High Elves, with the plates. How are those done, without the white paint running down into the cracks while you blend?

    It\'s not theory I have trouble with, or style, it\'s technique. I\'m a photographer, I know how light plays on a surface.

    Speaking of photography, what you\'re saying is \"To make portraits look better, have the background blurry to keep them less distracting\" When what I need to know is HOW to blur out the background. I need someone to tell me what to set on the camera (answer : larger aperture) to make the background blurry.

    Don\'t mean to rant.


  4. #4
    Superfreak!!! Dragonsreach's Avatar
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    Apr 2002
    Bolton, Lancs, UK (A Geordie in Exile)
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    You are asking for help with blending, you\'ve not mentioned the colour scheme that you are using or planning on using, So I\'m referring to what I\'ve been doing lately.
    I\'m not going to pretend to be an expert but here\'s my suggestions: (BTW all Gamesworkshop paints. I mix my paints on the pallette and yes describing the consistancy as like milk is right. )

    On my Spacemarine 14067 I primed black, then mixed Chaos black with Dark Angels green and basecoated the entire armour sections. Next stage is to mix DAGreen into the mix and lightly cover 3/4 of the armour sections with this, then just keep adding DA Green into the mix, thinning with water and painting smaller areas, until you get to just DAGreen. Then add Snot Green to the mix as highlight stages, until you think it\'s enough.

    For the Farseer 14064 There\'s two types of red paintwork done. One type has a basecoat of Red Gore over the black primer on the raised sections of the cloak. Then a Shadow wash of Scab Red/Scorched brown/Chaos Black (Ratio 3:1:0.5) highly thinned with water was painted over the edges and into the shadows. To highlight I mixed Ruby Red into Red Gore and thinned down then painted smaller sections of the raised areas, mixing in more ruby until it was just Ruby Red I was Painting. Once the reds were dry I gave a generous wash of Windsor & Newtons Deep Red ink, allowed to dry then a second wash of the ink again. Once dry re-highlight the Ruby red.

    For the inner cloak on the front of the figure it was a case of thin coats of Ruby Red, then an ultra thin coat of Red Gore as a shadow wash. Allowed to dry then re-highlighted with Ruby Red gradually adding what used to be Blood Angels Orange to the mix. A final wash of Deep Red Ink then a re-highlight with Red /Orange mix and that was it.

    The Dark Angel was given a coat of Gloss varnish over the armour, but the Farseer was Painted with Humbrol\'s Mattecoat.

    I\'ve found that washing over the colours you are trying to blend, with an Ink will only work up to certain levels of highlighting, especially with Blue\'s. which is why I\'ve been painting so far then re-highlighting after ink washes.

    Hope this is some help.

  5. #5

    Default layers

    If I read pagan\'s post right, he is wondering how many times you mix a new shade for a good highlight. I have been wondering this as well. I realize that it varies, and the more you use, the better it looks if applied correctly. Every article I have read on the subject says \"put on the base coat, then build from the base coat up to X color, adding a little more of Y color each time\". But for the sake of refrence, what is a general guidline for how many times you add a little more and apply a layer. For instance, the aforementioned greave. I paint it the base color, how many more layers would most of you generally apply before you reach the final highlight? Everyone is different I am sure, and different colors take differing amounts, but there must be a common amount in there somewhere. especially for colors other than black and white.

  6. #6
    Con EL Pueblo


    Yeah, I\'ve had plenty of trouble when blending, and would really appreciate some help... My main problems are:

    1. With thinned down paint, it always runs down into cracks and over areas it shouldn\'t have been. When I remove some of the paint from the brush, there\'s too litlle to cover the (typical darker) base colour. Grrr!

    2. Surface tension. \'Nuff said. Just won\'t go away...

    Anyway, I\'ll be watching this thread with great interest, hoping that there will be more great advice!

    \"Vernon! That light! ...The Jeffersons\' dog is back!\"

  7. #7

    Default Ok, let\'s start anew

    First, El Pueblo, try mixing some rubbing alcohol in with your water, that will get rid of surface tension and give you better flow.

    Let\'s say black and white. I can use my imagination to get to any other color (blue, etc) Again, it\'s not color or style or anything, it\'s the technique. I want to know HOW are you actually putting the brush on the miniature? How many different levels? How do you keep super thin paint from running everywhere?

    I\'d *LOVE* to see the \'Eavy Metal team release a painting video. I\'d pay $50 US for it, easily. Something that showed, step by step, how they painted those fantastic miniatures.

    Hopefully, this thread will lead to some great revelations for use newbies.



  8. #8


    I\'d stay away from the rubbing alcohol... not only does it smell bad, but it can be used to strip paint from models, so it could do the same on the model as you\'re painting (I don\'t know for sure, but with acryllics... it might ruin your paintjob. I\'d imagine it would be ok if you\'re using enamels though).
    As for myself, I stay away from wet blending unless I\'m painting something that has very gentle curves like an orb, or bare flesh (ie a barbarian).
    Look for pics of my Reaper Brom the Barbarian (coming when I get my digital camera all figured out) for some examples of wet-blending.
    Layering is generally easier, and a faster method. Mix the paint on your palette, and apply, starting with your darkest color, building up to the lightest.

    Hope that helps some

  9. #9


    no no no! pagan

    compared to some masters here i am a scrub.

    so i listen to what THEY say. and most say layer!

    thin tints to build up transition.
    you sound like you are loading to much \'MILK\" onto your brush. blot your brush a little before putting it onto the model. too much and it will flood. to little and it wont come off your brush.
    thats where try and try and keep trying comes into it.

  10. #10


    One way of achiving smoothness is to use a layer of your basecoat to tie everything together.. This may make your highlight a bit darker, but it will be smooth!!

  11. #11


    I think one of the things that might be an issue here is there is more than one way to do blending. So I\'ll go over both.
    Wet on wet- I use this primarily for large flatish surfaces like shields. My thinning agent is a 4 to 1 mix of water to Future floor wax. I\'ll put three drops of thinning agent on my pallette and then add the paint using a old O brush. The first brush load will just discolor the water but you can still see the pallet through the paint. The second brush load will make it about the correct consitancy. Now mix your second color the same way. The next step takes three brushes. I wet all three brushes with Folk art blending gel. (It\'s really KY jelly but but the art community doesn\'t need to be told that) I pool the light color at the top and the dark color at the bottom leaving a narrow band in between. The third brush is used to draw paint from the dark into the light side. The farther you draw the dark paint into the lighter the thinner it will get. So this is a series of brush strokes using a 5+O brush to accomplish the mixing. You can also use the brush to swirl the paint in circular motions at the junction. Both work but the first gives more control. Once again I only use this for large flat surfaces.
    Smaller surfaces and folded cloth get multiple layer blending.
    Paint the whole part with the lighter color. Now put on layers of the darker color till you get it to the right shade. In order to get this whole thing to work the darker paint is really thin The darker the color the thinner the paint. If you\'re blending black into light grey the black will just discolor the thinning agent. ie like one O brush load into 3 drops agent just enough to discolor and keep it transparent. But if you\'re doing vanilla into white you\'ll need more color, like two brush fulls. When applying I dab in on with a 10 O brush. I don\'t brush it. It gives more control. If it\'s going on and just discoloring the under layer you\'re doing it right. If You can no longer see the under layer the mix is too thick. If it\'s running all over the place it\'s too thin. If you\'re not sure practice on the pallet before putting it on the piece.

  12. #12


    I know what problems you\'ve been having since I\'ve been through them also. I was told at first to wet blend everything, but since, I rarely wet blend anything. I use the layered blending tech. Halon just gave a nice decription of and like he said, the hardest part is finding the right consistancy of the paint. I don\'t know any other way to decribe it other than you just have to try different consistancies until you find the one that works.

  13. #13
    Death Jester

    Default Blending

    Ah, the age old subject of \"perfect\" blending! I can help you here....

    The way to blend is to \"feather\" the line between the paints so that there is no sharp contrast between colors - done correctly, you can even blend black into white!

    The main problems are two-fold: Firstly, acrylic paints dry too quickly and second, it is very difficult to describe in words! The best way is to see someone else do it, and then copy them!

    In order to blend correctly you need to use the correct type of paint. Personally, I NEVER use Games Workshop paints because they dry FAR too fast - colors like white can go \"crumble dry\" before you even get the brush on to the figure you are painting! At the minute the best acrylic paints are Vallejo Acrylics. They are made with no alcohol in the medium and do not dry as quickly. Enamels are also quite fast drying, I prefer acrylics for the base coat. Oil paints are ESSENTIAL if you want to get a completely smooth finish!!!!

    The best way to blend is to decide on the overall color - then pick a slightly lighter color and apply the base coat. For the next part you will need a bottle of \"flow enhancer\" - this is a specialist art product that can be mixed with acrylic paints and makes them stay \"workable\" for about 12-15 minutes. \"Flow enhancer\" is not expensive, I get mine from a local art supply store - a 75ml jar will cost you a whopping $5.00 or so, easy enough to get hold of! Most \"big\" paint companies make it, Daler-Rowney, Windsor and Newton, Cryla, etc. (I have used all 3 mentioned above, they are the same). It is best not to rely too heavily on water as it only dilutes the overall color and doesn\'t really extend the drying/blending time. (Be sure you buy the correct flow enhancer though - there are acrylic flow enhancers, enamel flow enhancers, etc.)

    After the base color is applied, leave it for a couple of hours to harden. Then decide on a darker version of your base color - whether you simply use a darker shade or mix your own is up to you. Once you are satisfied with the dark shade, mix in some flow enhancer. Personally, I use about 1.5 parts flow enhancer to 1 part paint (you will just have to use trial and error to determine how much you want to use - different paints have different pigmentations). Then \"wash\" the figure and let the dark color get into all the recesses etc. (you know the rest). Now get a cotton bud or simply tissue paper and CAREFULLY lift off some of the \"wash\" from the upper surfaces ONLY. This will allow some of the base color to show through on the raised areas. If you accidentally lift some out of the recesses simply put some more back in! Be aware though, you only have about 12 minutes maximum before the paint/flow enhancer mixture starts to harden, so for large or complex figures, paint one area at a time. The end result will be a figure that is overall darker than the base coat, with the recesses darkest of all.

    After the wash is COMPLETELY dry (leave it overnight - flow enhancer takes 12 hours or so to harden) you will see that the raised areas are darker than the original base coat, and the recesses will be very pronounced. Now it is time to highlight!

    Take some of the base color and start to apply it to the raised surfaces ONLY. As the paint drys very quickly, you will need to work FAST and do one section at a time (e.g., start with one lower leg front, then do the lower leg back or sides, then move to the next area). In order to blend you have to feather the line between the colors. That is, put your highlight color on one small area, then use a clean damp brush to soften the line between the two colors. Some people use two brushes for this, I have been doing it for so long I prefer to use just one brush. I quickly give the brush I am using a swirl in a pot of clean water and dab off the excess water on a bunch of wadded tissue. The end result is that my brush is damp and contains a small trace of the highlight color, which I feel helps with the blend. If you do it quickly enough (i.e., BEFORE the paint starts to harden!) then you will see the sharp line between the two colors dissappear! If you find that the paints are drying too quickly, add a LITTLE flow enhancer, not too much or you will end up with a wash again!

    It goes without saying that the closer the two colors are in the first place the easier it is to blend. For example, dark red with medium red highlights is far easier than blending green into yellow!

    At first you may not notice much of a difference, especially if your highlight is very subtle (e.g., dark and medium red are very similar). When the highlight is COMPLETELY dry, feel free to add a lighter layer if you wish, and so on until you end up with the desired effect. I cannot tell you how far to go, you will have to decide for yourselves. I try to use between 4 and 7 shades in total, I know some people who say they use over 130 shades! I do not believe them however, because you have to remember that each layer adds to the amount you are covering the figure with - after 130 shades (even if they are all washes!) I don\'t think there would be very much detail left....

    If you want it to look expert you will have to spend time and patience on this - it can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours for EACH shade, depending on the size of the figure, the level of detail you are going for and your own ability! I mentioned oil paints earlier - oils are far easier to use because their drying time is a couple of days, not a couple of seconds!! They are fully workable for around 2-3 hours so there should be no problem blending, even for the least experienced or slowest painter! Fast drying oils take about 3 days to dry, medium oils take about 8 days and slow drying oils take 11+ days to dry completely, unfortunately each shade can be different, so read the label! On the bad side, oils are VERY expensive! I live in England and a small tube costs about £5.50 (about $10.00) and can go up to £45.00 (approx. $90.00) for 1 tube!!! When I say a \"small\" tube, the smallest oil tubes my local art store sells are about 4x bigger than an enamel or acrylic \"tub\" and the paint itself is about 100x more concentrated, so it will last you for about 6+ years, even if you paint all the time (like me)! To thin oils you need a bottle of linseed oil, about the same price as flow enhancer mentioned earlier. You can get linseed oil quite cheaply from a grocery store, but it is not \"pure\". It is best to pay the extra and get refined linseed oil from an art store. You will also need a new set of brushes - keep the ones you use for oils and acrylics well apart! Acrylics can be cleaned in water, oils need to be cleaned in turpentine substitute. (It is best to wash the brushes with warm soapy water afterwards to get the turps off! This makes them last a lot longer and keep their points!)

    Although oils are expensive, you do not need every color - in fact I have only 24 oils compared with over 300 acrylics! Oils are extremely easy to blend, and every oil shade will blend with every other!

    Needless to say, blending with oils is stupidly easy and it also produces the best results, but remember you will need to wait for two weeks for the paint to dry before each successive layer so it is not for the impatient! (Also watch those fingerprints!!!)

    Well, I hope this is of use, if you need any more clarification just give me a shout!

    Death Jester

  14. #14


    Thank you, Death Jester, for your reply. That was extremely helpful. I think tomorrow I might pick up some Vallejo paints and some flow enhancer, and give that stuff a try.

    Thanks again


  15. #15
    Death Jester

    Default Blending

    Glad to be of assistance!

    Vallejo acrylics really are a blessing for those of us who still use acrylics - some of my colleagues use only enamels and oils! Vallejo make their paint quite thick (which is good, because it covers well), so you may need to thin it a little to get a good \"flow\". I use an eye-dropper to put a small spot of flow enhancer down on a pallette and then carefully mix it in with a brush. Just a little though, too much and you will have mud! You CAN use water if you want, but water tends to dilute the paint, rather than thin it.

    Although the products I mentioned earlier certainly make life easier, they are not magical and will not paint the miniature for you!!! At the end of the day the only real way to get perfect blending is to practice again and again! I have been painting for 17 years, believe me, it takes patience!

    It is probably best to start on old or cheap figures - I use plastic Games Workshop figures to test new techniques on - they are not all that expensive for a box of 10 figures or so, and Games Workshop make their plastic figures with a fair degree of detail, so plenty of blending and highlighting can be done! Start with one and by the time you have the fourth or fifth one finished you will notice a difference, both in the painted quality and also your \"feel\" for the technique!

    All the best,
    Death Jester

  16. #16


    thanks, i have now got blind with reading all that, but thanks:P

  17. #17


    The key is PRACTICE!

    Feathering is easiest.

    Paint a patch or line of highlight where you need it, then smooth out the edge with a clean, damp brush.

    Imagine drawing a chalk line on a blackboard, then gently smearing and fading one edge by carefully rubbing a finger over it.

    Same idea. Except you\'re using a brush. And paint. On a miniature. So it\'s much more difficult and takes practice.:)

  18. #18


    yeah, you can read all you want, but it\'s not until you sit down and practice that you\'ll llearn how to do it.

    I usually layer up my colours, but if I\'m painting a larger a rea such as a cloak, I first paint the whole thing in the basecolour, then use wetblending to shade it, and also for the first highlight, but after that, as the highligths get \"narrower\" I just thin down the paint and layer it up.

    And yes, you can use your GW paints to wetblend, feather, layer, whatever you want to do. All I (and a couple of other really good painters I know) use is GW paint and water.

  19. #19


    What\'s with the threadomancy here? ???

  20. #20


    Whoops, didn\'t realize it was that old. Stupid flu... I think I\'ll have to punish it (the flu) with some whisky or something :twisted:

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