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Posted by Terarin

There’s something to be said about being able to put a fully painted army on the table. If you’re a metal addict like me then you probably have piles of unpainted miniatures lying around. There’s probably a drawer, or a shelf, or a box under the bed that contains numerous armies and other projects that cry out to be painted. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you also don’t have the time to paint, to model, to just complete all of your projects. Sure, you could do it if painting was all you did, but we have lives and that tends to keep us from getting too much done in short order.

The BrushThralls have already written two articles on the subject of speed painting. The first was basics including better use of brushes, paints, and colors. The second article hit upon washes and using primer colors as base coats. This third installment will cover speed painting using metallic paints. Not just how to paint metals quickly, but how to use metallic paints to paint models quickly and achieve a better than tabletop standard to boot.


Let’s assume this is true: Models painted heavily with metallic paints go faster and take less effort to look good than models painted with conventional color. The theory is that painting models predominately with metal colors will allow for fast completion of the models, because metals don’t take a long time to apply and they don’t take a lot to look good.

The concept behind this technique is to paint a model with a lot of metallic paint, wash the model, pick out some details, finish the base, and be done. Bam! Just like that.

There are a lot of ways to create effects with metallic paints that take very little time. The easiest trick, and essential for speedy completion, is washes. Washes, in this case, are thinned out paints and inks that are liberally applied over the surface of the model. Washes will accomplish two things: first, they will flow into recesses and give quick definition between lines on the model, and second, they will change the color tone of the base color.

There are different ways to create washes. The easiest is to simply dilute paint with water, but it can grow more complex based on desired effect. This article will touch on using a few basic wash mixes, and is easiest to define them here:

Metal Wash

This is going to be a complex mixture that is the staple of making metals look good quickly. Typically I mix it on the fly, but I did take the time to figure out about what quantities of the ingredients go into the solution. I recommend mixing up a batch in a small storage container, or even an empty (and clean) paint bottle.

  •      9mL VGC or VMC Glaze Medium
  •     1mL GW Blue Ink
  •     1mL GW Brown Ink
  •     1 drop VGC Beasty Brown

Ink Wash

Typically you can wash surfaces with ink by simply diluting the ink with water. For this article, we want to cut the mixture with Future Floor Finish in addition to water. The Future Floor Finish breaks the surface tension of the water and ink and allows for the mixture to easily flow into recesses without pooling on large surfaces. Mix in a small storage container so that it can be used repeatedly.

  •   8mL Future Floor Finish
  •    8mL water (tap, room temperature is fine)
  •    1mL GW Black Ink


Paint Wash

For the purpose of this article, all paint washes will be done with Golden Acrylic brand Fluid Acrylic paints, or GAFA. GAFA has a good pigment density and thins well with water, without having the paint easily breakdown. These will be straight out of the bottle and diluted with pure tap water. Quantity used is based on quantity required.

Now that the wash mixtures are established, it’s time for an example.


Speed Painting 3 :: Example #1

The Bane Knight

The easiest way to explain the process is to simply show how it works. We’ll start with a fully assembled and primed Bane Knight. If you look closely at the Bane Knight model you can see that there is a lot of area on the model covered with armor. This is the number one requirement for heavy use of metals. Models with lots of cloth, like a Temple Flameguard, will benefit from the following techniques, but the advantage is not so pronounced. Basically, the more parts of a model that can be painted in metal the better, and that is where the time savings will be felt.

The color palette for this Bane Knight, not counting its base, is:

  • VGC Brassy Brass
  • VGC Skull White
  •  VGC Dark Green
  • VGC Livery Green
  • VMC Khaki
  • GW Chainmail
  • GW Chaos Black
  • Reaper Pro-Paint Armor Grey
  • GAFA Pthalo Green
  • Metal Wash
  • Ink Wash

The first step in the process is to use a large brush to apply the Brassy Brass. This is the main color of the model, and will be accented with Chainmail. If desired the two could be swapped and all further steps in this process are applicable. Now, here’s a secret. You don’t have to be really careful to paint within the lines on this step. In fact, you’ll slow yourself down a lot if you try to get every line clean on the first pass. Have fun, apply that Brassy Brass all over where you need it. The important thing is to not let the paint be thick. The paint needs to be thin enough to get good coverage without clumping. You should be able to apply it smoothly, like you’re drawing with a fuzzy pencil, and not be pushing the paint around.


Next is the Chainmail. This layer has to be a little more controlled. It’s ok if you get it onto the black areas, but you want to be careful not to get it on the Brass areas. If you do go outside the line, go back over the mistakes with Brassy Brass.


The final step in the base coat of paint is to apply Chaos Black to the ethereal skirt and spear shaft. Also apply Khaki to the skull. Both of these colors have to be applied carefully, in order to not mess up the Brass or Chainmail already down. Going with a smaller brush is preferable. I use a Winsor & Newton Series 7 size 1. If you get Black or Khaki onto your metals, make sure to go back over the areas and clean them up. I also took the time to apply some VMC Burnt Umber to the plank bases. Total time so far: 20 minutes.


Now the fun begins. Grab that Metal Wash solution. Use a large, wet brush and slop that wash mixture onto the model. Make sure it gets everywhere. No surface untouched, no crevice clean. Wipe the brush off, then gently dab at pools of the wash mix to pull them off, and redirect pooling wash into the crevices. Some pooling is acceptable, but you don’t want a dark mess left behind. Total time so far: 21 minutes.


At this point the metals are done. In fact, the model could be done and you’d have a solid tabletop quality miniature. That’s good, but the quality can be improved without too much more effort.

First off, detail the skull. The skull, at this point, should be a darker version of the base khaki with a lot of the detail accentuated by the wash. Playing off of that, pick out raised areas generously with another layer of Khaki. Next highlight up with a 50/50 mix of Khaki and Skull White, and then add final highlights with pure Skull White. The final highlights should include the eyebrows, the bridge of the nose, and the teeth.

The second thing to do at this point is to drybrush - yes, drybrush - Reaper Armor Grey over the skirt. Don’t be shy about it, but don’t be sloppy. You only want the raised areas to be grey.


The next step is another wash. Simply take the Ink Wash mixture and apply it over the entire skirt. The reason for this is to tone down the starkness of the grey highlight, and smoothes out the finish of the grey. I also used a little bit of the Ink Wash to reinforce any lines between armor plates that the initial Metal Wash may have missed.

While the Ink Wash is drying I broke out the GAFA Pthalo Green, and diluted with tap water, added some slight color washes to small areas of the metal. This is done strictly to change the color in certain areas and make the surfaces look more interesting. Areas that are good for this can be around rivets, in between armor plates, and along edges of large metal areas. Really, this is mostly areas that might see corrosion.


Note that in the photos above I also took the time to finish the base, and, if you were wondering where that VGC Dark Green and Livery Green went, they make up the eyes.

Total working time: ~35 minutes, although, admittedly this does not account for drying time, but drying time is an excellent time to move onto the next model!

For comparison, here is another model from the unit:

Now, are you ready for another example?


Speed Painting 3 :: Example #2

The Sword Knight

The Cygnar Sword Knights are another good example of troops that look good with lots of metallic metals. There are a few challenges with cloth and leather, but they’re easy to overcome.

The color palette for this Sword Knight, not counting its base, is:

  • VGC Brassy Brass
  • VGC Skull White
  • VGC Scurf Green
  • VGC Jade Green
  • GW Scorched Brown
  • GW Bestial Brown
  • GW Mithril Silver
  • GW Chainmail
  • Metal Wash

The first step is naturally to apply the base colors for the Sword Knight. Its armor is done in Chainmail, and the accent pieces, to include the Cygnus, are Brassy Brass. The belt was painted with Scorched Brown and the loin cloth, shield, and top knot with Scurf Green. The base was also covered with Bestial Brown. Total working time: approximately 20 minutes.


Wash with the Metal Wash solution. Be careful not to let it pool on surfaces like the loin cloth, the flat parts of the shield, or the belt. It’s acceptable for the wash to add the darker tone, but it’s not desirable to have black pools on these surfaces. If you get pools, and you can’t pull them off in time with a clean brush, be prepared to repaint parts of the colored surfaces.

Once dry, simply pick out a few highlights in the metal, and detail out the colored surfaces. The loin cloth and shield in this case were highlighted up using Jade Green and Skull White, and the leather for the belt was highlighted using Bestial Brown. The base was also finished. As a note, the Brassy Brass color can be highlighted using a 70/30 mix of Brassy Brass and Mithril Silver to brighten up edges.

Total working time for this Sword Knight was about 45 minutes, and that includes adding in the ceremonial sword after the fact. If you want to speed up the time a little, file off the mounting nub on the Knights’ belt and leave the extra sword off. It’s not fluffy, but it’s a time saver.

There are lots of models that can benefit by using washes. Even if you paint something like a warjack, with large expanses of colored plates, all the metal parts can be done very quickly by applying these tricks. Full units can be masterfully cranked out fast and efficiently using this simple trick. It’s not an award winner, but odds are good that you’ll have one of the best looking armies on any table.