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How (and why) to use Contrast Paints

By Shane Smith

There’s a lot to love about Contrast Paints. Especially since expanding the paint line, contrast paints offer a wide variety of options and solutions. You can use contrast paints to get your miniatures battle-ready quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality, and we’ll go over how! 

How do they work?

To understand how contrast paints work, it’s important to know how the traditional style of painting miniatures works. Typically, when you aren’t using contrasts, you’ll prime your miniature, then paint it with your ‘base’ paints, and then brighten (or darken) it up with shade paints that make the model really come to life. Contrast paints turn these two steps into a single step, offering a base paint and a shade in a single go. Naturally, this will cut down the time it takes to paint a miniature significantly, leaving you with half the work! With the right paints and the right application, sometimes using Contrast Paints feels like cheating. Models can come out looking beautiful even though it doesn’t feel like you invested a crazy amount of time into them. If you aren’t a pro painter, this is a great feeling. 

Using Contrast Paints

There’s a few different ways to use contrast paints, but the most common and easiest way involves first priming the model white. It’s important to do this–normally, you might prime a model black if you’re painting it the traditional way. If you do this and apply contrast paint, the model will typically be extremely dark and you’ll have to use a ton of layers just to make the paint really noticeable. So, just use white spray primer. 

Beyond this, you’ll see a lot of differing opinions online when it comes to actually applying contrast paint to your primed model. Some folks will say to use a single layer of Contrast, while others may say to apply several thinned down layers. Truthfully, it depends entirely on the Contrast Paint you’re using. 

Some are already very thin, more like a traditional wash, while others are thicker and may be better off thinning down before globbing it onto your miniature. You won’t know for sure until you open up that bottle of paint and put it on your brush. Typically, it should be obvious right away though–if the paint is very much like a thin liquid, you won’t need to bother thinning it down, and you can use it more like a wash. 

Something like the Contrast Gulliman Flesh is a good example of this. Gulliman Flesh is very thin and can be applied very liberally without bothering with multiple layers. On the other end of the spectrum, the Black Templar Contrast is very thick and probably should be thinned down a bit before being applied to the model. 

Ultimately, it’s important to test out your Contrasts before using it, but the same goes for any other paint. You will use it the same way you use a base paint, just typically with less layers needed even for the thicker Contrast paints. Once you’re done–you don’t need to shade, since the Contrast has done that for you! 


Another Method?

So, earlier we mentioned that using white spray primer is the way to go for Contrast Paint, and that you should steer clear of black spray primer. Well, there is an exception to that rule. 

A method endearingly referred to as the ‘Slap Chop’ involves using black spray primer with Contrast paints to make your models look extra nice in a very short period of time. This takes an extra step or two and isn’t the ‘normal’ way of using Contrast paints, but we strongly recommend you give it a try! 

First, you’ll prime your miniature black. Then, instead of going straight at the model with your Contrast paints, you’ll use a dry brush and a gray base paint (not contrast), covering the entire model with this. Then, once you’re done with this step, use a white base paint with your dry brush to go over the uppermost parts of the model–the parts that stick out and are most apparent when looking down at it. Don’t bother dry-brushing under their arms or near their feet, as this will create kind of a highlight without much effort. 

Only once you’ve done this should you start using the Contrast paints as you normally would. It’s technically an extra step or two, but the results can be dramatic when applied, resulting in gorgeous models that really have no right looking as good as they do!

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