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Monday, 25 November 2013


I was on the Spartan Games Community last week and someone was talking about being nervous on washing white. I posted about how I'd successfully washed The Destroying Angel, but it got me thinking about washes and how many people are beholden to ready-made washes from the likes of GW. Now some of these are, of course, very good, but people tend not to mess with them, using them as is or not at all.

Now if you were to use neat GW wash on a white model, it would definately be too strong. Here are four white primed Guardian escorts to show the effects of the wash - neat, diluted half, one-third and one-quarter strength;

So clearly at 100% the wash is staining the primer quite heavily, 50% reduces this effect and 33.3% removes it almost entirely. Going to a 1 in 4 dilution reduces the contrast considerably, however. The other thing I'm not keen about GW washes is they can get quite "gritty" and inconsistent

Here's the same thing done with Vallejo black ink;

The Vallejo ink has a much more even tone than the GW wash, and dilutes with better contrast (difference between the stained inlays and the flat areas which should remain as they were). Even the 25% dilution is useable here, especially if you were going to be using it on a ligth surface (like white or light grey). 

Now some time ago I read about Paynes Grey, which is much better for using on light colours, and tends to not have the "muddying" effect black washes can have. Artists use it a lot, and I bought a tube of soft body acrylic Paynes Grey some time ago - it costs about £5 for 2 US fluid Oz (~59ml);

A tube of this will probably last for many years - I've used hardly any of mine in almost 2 years. So to test how dilute you need this, we need a few bits and pieces - some white-primed Pilgrims, and a paletteto start with....

Now to stop the gloss effect you sometimes get with washes (like the GW ones), you need some of this stuff;

You probably won't ever use all of this! -250ml costs around £7 in the UK. You need some diluent, in this case water, and also something to break up the surface tension - you could use a solvent like IPA (though I wouldn't necessarily recommend that as use to much and you can lift you paint), a detergent (regular liquid soap, though this can foam) or PVA glue, which I'm using here (available anywhere for very little - I'm just using the stuff I use around the house anyway.

These 3 mixed in equal proportions give us our dliuent - very hard to see in this photo but the mixing tray does contain these mixed together.

Of course you can't just use the Paynes Grey straight from the tube, and if you try diluting it too quickly you'll end up with lumps, so the first thing to do is mix it 1:1:1 with Matt medium and PVA;

This gloopy mix can then be used with the diluent to make a series of dilutions, which I then used to wash a white-primed Pilgrim;

So you can see the most useful shades here are below 1:36, beyond that the effect is really too subtle. So, another set of dilutions giving a bit more insight into the 5-20 range;

So this produces some similar results to the 1-3 dilution of Vallejo in terms of the density of pigment and the staining of the flat surfaces. I'd say the useable range here was 10-20.

Now Paynes' Grey works really well for a wide range of colours, but some it doesn't work so well on, because it does haev a blue-grey cast. No problem, enter Transparent Burnt Umber;

This works well on browns, but mixed 1:1 with Paynes grey;

This gives almost equivalence to a "standard" wash like the GW or Vallejo washes above. The one on the end is a 1:40 dilution - you can see having the two colours together provide good contrast even at high dilutions.

So hopefully this will inspire you to try this yourself - spending just over £15 on these items will provide everything you ever need for your washes indefinately, and allows you to tailor your washes to what you need. Hopefully that will keep you popping the detail on your models for many a year to come!

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