Adding Depth: Washes

Series 2: Adding Depth – Washes

Hello my HCO readers! Sorry for the hiatus, I moved and it took a while to get things packed, moved, unpacked… you get the point. I’m back in the saddle. Things are rolling along at the painting table. I have some new information for you. What is the license plate border I saw? Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on. On to Washes.

Now that we have a foundation of miniature painting in my prior blogs (read them 1: here, 2:here, and 3: here), I wanted to go into a new realm. I see people ask on forums or in person, what do I do for shades? Do I need shades? My skills aren’t that great, so how do I do effective shading without spending four hours per miniature? Well. That’s a good question.

My usual answer is “Washes.”  When you add washes to a miniature, it doesn’t mean to literally soap and water (for the new folks out there, though you should wash your miniature prior to painting). Washing is a term given to very thin paint spread thinly over a previous layer to tint the overall color.

 The consistency of a wash is very important. It needs to be free-flowing and very light on pigment.  The water in my area has too much viscosity just to add water into my paints, though I do add water, I usually need to add 1 part paint, 1 part mixing medium (Matte Medium), and 1 part water.  This will give your paint the translucency that you need.


Washes add depth to the armor


I have this Devil dog in here. He’s my earliest work  I liked the look of the wash on these models because it made them look gritty and dirty. War is seldom clean. However it was then that I realized there’s a whole depth to a miniature that I haven’t delved into yet. This devil dog is just base coated and washed. If you click on the pic, you go to a larger picture. You can see (better) on the knee armor that it’s just a wash, but makes the knee armor look dented and shadowed. An early attempt, but good none the less. Any “shadows” you see on this model is just a wash.


Wash on the yellow tabard adds depth


These two Warders are sleepin’ on the job. Not like they have much work to do on the table.  Nothing really puts them through their paces.  🙂  I digress. See the Tartan on these Warders. Okay it’s not tartan yet, but it’s the sash going down his chest.  On the left one (blue/white), I haven’t done the wash yet. The right one does have the wash. You can see now that the wash adds a layer of depth that was previously not there. This little bit can go great distances into just giving your models a depth that it’s never had. It doesn’t take much to start adding some serious depth to your model. The monochromatic way will leave you swiftly. It’ll become too rudimentary to just base coat a miniature. That’s what happened to me at least.


Proper application:

This is key. When washing a miniature, start at the highest points and sweep your wash into the low points. That is the way of things. If you don’t, it just tends to make the model look weird with blobs that will pool on in the wrong places (“shadows” on top of something). Because there’s water in your paint, it’ll tend to retain some of that viscosity and pull together. Sweep towards the low points. Any excess pooling can be blotted quickly with a paper towel or another brush.

Shading and washing. Same thing, right? Not necessarily. Shading can be blended or washed. What you’re doing is adding dark colors to a model to implicate shadows. This can be done by either tactic.


Heavy wash applied to the bottom half of shield for shading. Washes added to seams for detail.

This shield I did a base coat. I washed it down the shield taking care to pool it a little in the stitching. The bulk of the wash got concentrated towards the bottom of the shield. I went back and touched up the mid tone (KEY point) after the wash had dried, and painted the top of the hide squares just below the stitching with the base coat. I took care not to paint too much of the wash below. It will ruin the effect of the curved shield. Less is more when you’re drawing out detail. I went back and took some Menoth White (P3 Paints) and picked out the tops of the hide pieces just to make them stand out a bit. This is a WIP but it’s about 80% done.



I hope this sheds some light on washes. They are useful tools. They’re most applicable when working on a tiny area where shading would be ludicrous like a rope on a miniature or chain mail. It auto-accentuates your detail by settling into the recesses of the miniature’s detail. They can be used for virtually anything else. Be creative. That’s the name of the game.



Thoughts, questions, comments. Leave them below. I’ll answer them by comment or future posts.

Thanks for tuning in.

-Baron Von Chaos.


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One Comment;

  1. Johnd352 said:

    I loved your post.Much thanks again. caecbdbcfeek

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