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4. What are shading, washing, drybrushing, highlighting and glazing? (Miniatures Painting)


This article is from the Miniatures Painting FAQ, by Brenda Klein tierna@agora.rdrop.com with numerous contributions by others.

4. What are shading, washing, drybrushing, highlighting and glazing? (Miniatures Painting)

These are techniques to give a little realism to your miniatures.

% Shading and highlighting give the illusion that there is light
shining upon the figure. Shading details the folds and shadows and
highlighting picks out the brighter, better lit areas. Washing,
glazing, outlining and blending are all methods of shading.
(See below.)

% Drybrushing is a highlighting method, as is simply accentuating the
high spots with a bit of paint a bit lighter than the base.
(See section 4.B.)

% Glazing is done with inks, as can be washing and outlining.
(See section 4.D.)

% Outlining is simply picking out the line between two seperate parts
of the miniature (i.e. sleeve and arm) and painting or inking in a
fine line of either black or a darkened shade of the base in order to
bring out the division between the two sections.

% Blending is rather difficult and takes much practice. To blend one
changes the tone of the paint as it crosses the surface of any
non-detailed section, as Mecha armour or unscaled hide. Darker shades
are laid into any depressions and carefully thinned and blended into
the surrounding areas using a damp brush. (This is NOT a technique
for beginners. The author still has trouble getting her blending
to look good, and finds nothing wrong with not shading miniatures
at all. Again, try it and see if you want to practice the technique
or not. Another personal-choice situation.)
Some excellent advice from Coyt D Watters: "If you're using
acrylics, you can pick up several TONING MEDIUMs, which alter the
brightness of the paint without the headache of black. I've started
using a drop of white, a drop of black, and a drop of toning and
mixing all four with equal parts of the color I'm using, so I get
light - color - toned color - dark
My first attempt was on one of the mages in Partha's Forgotten Realms
set, and the cloak looks better than anything I've done, and I haven't
drybrushed or washed it yet."]
And a tip from Christian Widmer (widmer@avalon.unizh.ch): "Use a
slower on acrylic colours. This slows them from drying but they
do still not cover if they didn't before. Warning, oil colours tend
to lose their colours and go brown-grey when I try this."
Nick Fogelson (fogelson@ursula.uoregon.edu) shares his methods, which
are far better than anything the author could provide (used without
permission): "The way I always do blending is to put a smudge of the
two end colors in a strip, separated about 1.5 inches. I then use a
slightly moist brush to mix them together into a spectrum. The colors
near the original smudge will be closer to that color, the colors in
the middle should be fairly even mixes of the two. You then have a
nearly infinite palette of color to use. You can do a nice blend
with only 5 or so shades that looks really good unless you magnify
it. Alternatively: Say you want to go up red to yellow. Paint the
entire area yellow. Put a block of watery red on the top. Slowly
draw a moist brush down the area, drawing the red pigment with it. If
you're patient, this method will bring the best results (but if you're
not, you'll get a big mess)."
Kenneth Creta~ (kcreta@sedona.intel.com) also has two good techniques:
"This idea was suggested by Tom Harris and I added a little of my own
touches. Let's say you want to fade from green to black. Just paint
the whole darn thing green. At the point where you want it to fade,
wash with a black ink. When dry, wash again but a little farther down
and so on until the bottom is black. The first ink is not a smooth
transition so when the washes are done, go back and dry-brush green
over the first ink line and this will smooth it out. The washes may
be diluted to the desired consistency."
"Start by painting a band at the bottom in dark green. While it's
still wet, add some white and paint the slightly lighter green band
above it. Use a second brush and paint along the line between. If the
paint is still wet, they should blend together pretty good. I use a
slightly damp brush. If you get enough bands, it's looks like a
gradual color change. The hardest part is the blending between the
Here's another banding method from Roxanne Reid-Bennett
(reid@sfcpmo.enet.dec.com): "I have a Water Elemental that was done
in this style (Rafm). The typical way of handling this is to "blend"
two colors together (which I have a LOT of trouble with). What I did
was to paint the base (bottom 1/2") dark blue (RP Paladin) then used
graduated shades of blue (about 5 different) up towards the top of the
figure where I used a light blue (Sky) for the upper torso of the
elemental. After the bands were in place I went back and used mixed
intermediates on the band overlap areas. I kept this up until the
graduated shading looked right. Some of the intermediates I watered
down some so they wouldn't go on very thick. I really wish I could
"blend" like the books and FAQ say - by mixing the two wet paints in
the middle - but so far haven't succeeded.
"For finishing work I used a slightly darker blue for wash on the
torso to bring out the muscles. I used white on the tips of the water
waves and washed in blue. Just for final effect I washed the whole
figure in Pearl White (RP). Gives the figure a nice wet look - even
with a flat seal cover.
"So the hard way is to literally to paint stripes on the figure in
shades close enough to each other that our (human) eyes can't see the
distinct lines."
And here's a rather advanced shading/blending/tinting method from
John Colasante (johnc@colossus.cs.rpi.edu), used without permission:
"Lets say you want to paint an orange tunic on a figure. Mix the
base color and plop a pile on your pallete. Next to it, plop down
a dark tint and a light tint. For orange, lets say dark brown and
yellowish-white. It doesn't matter what kind of pigment you use,
water base or oil base. Now, tint the base color with the dark
tint and paint the entire tunic, or even drybrush the tunic if
painting over a dark primer. When dry, paint the basecoat over the
dark tint, BUT NOT ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGES. Also, leave tinted
dark shade in the folds. Next, tint light and highlight the center
and highspots. Note: this is similar to drybrush except you are
painting color here, not actually drybrushing, so you get a certain
effect which it different than pure drybrush. In fact, it often looks
nice when there is a clear demarcation between the tinted shades on
certain surfaces, almost like color contours. Use more than three tint
levels for certain effects.
It sounds tedious but if you use the palette it's "very" fast and the
results often look much better than the purely drybrushed highlights,
especially for larger, flat areas where drybrushing might miss."


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