As a tabletop painter, I'm always looking for effective ways to easily paint my miniatures to get them onto the table. Even if you're a new painter, you've probably heard of washes to quickly and easily make the details "pop" on your miniatures. However, most tabletop miniature painters don't really get too far beyond brown washes or black paint thinned with water. While brown washes may be fine with monsters, brown washes often appear dirty, making heroes (and elves) look less than pristine. A homemade black wash made from paint or ink often has a "harsh" or "inorganic" look, which doesn't work well with most fantasy miniatures. I've been using Secret Weapon wash's Soft Body Black, and find it essential for miniatures painting. I find it to be a great general-use wash, and an inexpensive introduction to the Secret Weapon line of washes.
Most new painters will "glop and slop" brown wash. After applying a basecoat, the painter simply applies the brown wash to the entire model. However, you can also use washes as a "pre-ink" and as a "controlled wash". In pre-inking, you apply the wash right after priming the miniature in white. (I like to zenithal prime my minatures: prime the miniature completely in black, then partially spray grey primer then a white highlight spray at a 45 degree angle or overhead. This also takes little effort and I highly recommend trying it.) Again, the details will "pop", and the wash will settle in the areas you want shaded. Then, as you paint in thin layers, these pre-shaded areas will show through the paint, reducing the amount of work you have to do to shade a miniature. Likewise, since wash colors least the raised areas, these areas will still be white so will assist you with highlights. Pre-inking is a very easy step, since you can "slop and glop" the entire miniature quickly.
Blacklining is a technique in which you add a thin layer of black between two colored areas after painting to make them contrast better. Sometimes, blacklining intuitively serves as a shadow, but other times, it simply emphasizes the paint colors. Since you blackline after painting the miniature, painting in blackline risks applying paint where you do not want it, resulting in tedious repainting over your mistakes. However, washes are much easier to apply. Since most colored areas join at a recess or other place where a wash will settle, the wash will automagically settle where you want to blackline the miniature. Applying the wash more like paint is sometimes called a "controlled wash".
You buy a premade wash for the same reason you buy premixed paint: to save time. A premixed wash saves the need to experiment with water, paint, and other mediums to create your own wash. (Secret Weapon washes are based on and used with permission from Les Burley's wash recipe of 1:1 water and matte medium, with inks.) Also, if you've made your own washes, you may have experienced rings: by using a too much water or washing too large of an area, the paint dries on the edges, leaving a ring -- that needs to be fixed with another paint session.
I'm still experimenting with the other Secret Weapon wash colors. My next most frequently used colors are their brown washes: Sewer Water, Baby Poop, and Dark Sepia. I'm not sure which to best recommend, although I'm leaning towards Sewer Water. Algae is a very good wash for goblin and orc skin, and Parchment works for skeleton, mummies, and other undead. Concrete is great for gargoyles and rocky things. I've used Dried Blood for blood splatter effects. Other painters, including display-level painters, have reviewed Secret Weapon washes and I encourage you to look them up for their perspective. The Secret Weapons site has examples of their washes applied on primer. On BoardGameGeek, I've also started a thread of additional examples of Secret Weapon washes applied to fantasy miniatures: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1129305/how-select-wash-secr-
Happy -- and faster -- painting!
Subscribe to our newsletter for periodic updates and valuable coupons.