The Lazy Mini Painter – Dips and Washes

Well, this sessions we’re going to be looking at dips and washes.  Dipping models is seen as a massive cheat by many painters.  Its not.  Its just another technique, at least for the Lazy Mini Painter!  Oddly enough, the same people who complain about dipping a model are often the same ones who happily wash a whole model in Agrax Earthshade and then spray on varnish, which does pretty much the same thing.

Lets start by looking at washes.  Washes are really nothing more than a particular tone of paint, heavily watered down.  When you apply it to a part of the model, it darkens it slightly, adds a slight amount of the wash colour to the tone, and pools in the recesses.  Unsurprisingly, you tend to use darker colours!  Lighter colours pooling the recesses can look a little odd!

Now, you can use enormous numbers of washes.  You can use dark blue washes over blue, yellow over yellow, green over green and so on.  Its a fantastic technique that adds a great virtual illusion of depth.  Incidentally, I always recommend mixing some Lahmia medium into the wash.  It tends to flow much much better, and leaves you with a cleaner effect, rather than the slight blobbing straight washes can leave.

However, we’re looking at doing this the Lazy Mini Painter way.  You don’t always need to use lots of washes.  A single wash of a brown or black leaves the whole model with appropriately coloured shadows shading the recesses.  It can work from top to bottom!  The best I’ve found for this are the Army Painter Soft Tone Quickshade, Strong Tone, Dark Tone, the old Devlan Mud from GW, and the current Agrax Earthshade.  My favourite is probably the AP Strong Tone.  Dark Tone is fantastic for metals where you want a darker contrast, though the GW Agrax Earthshade Gloss is probably the best for golds.

Now, if you want to use washes as your main technique for giving you miniatures a feeling of depth, its useful to have painted slightly lighter colours on as the base coat than you actually need.  A complete wash will darken the overall model, not just the recesses, so if you aren’t then going to highlight back up, you need to have started lighter than you actually want it to end up!

Dips are fundamentally the same technique as using a single quickshade across the models.  However, dips are basically a varnish – they combine a final all over wash with a varnish to do 2 stages of the painting process in one.  Despite the name, many painters like myself, tend to apply the dip with a brush.

One useful note – applying the dip gives you a fantastic surface to apply decals, though you will probably want to pop a little dip or varnish over the top of the decal afterwards.

Is this approach going to win you a Golden Demon?  No.  Will it let you get great tabletop quality armies out on the field asap?  Oh yeah, baby!

I tend to compromise – I use these sorts of techniques for troops, and will sometimes break them down.  If I’ve been doing separate heads and weapons with priming and painting, well, I might use 3 different dips!  Soft tone is great for flesh, heads, and light colours, dark tone for gun metal weapons, and strong tone is the general go to for everything else.

I’ll often use a wash rather than a dip, then apply a more matt varnish by a spray, if it matches the gritty feel of an army.  Cadian Infantry can look a bit odd in a shiny gloss.   My Eldar are shiny glory, and I field them lots, so I prefer a more resilient gloss finish for those.

So if we’re putting all our techniques together, we’ve primed up an army and done a load of the base coating in the process.  At some point we should finish off the base coats, and then we might have done a little optimised edge highlighting. We’ve now dipped our models, shading and varnishing in one process.


One thing that the dips are fantastic for is for painting marble terrain.  Spray statues or building a plain white primer, making sure you get good coverage – maybe spray it twice.  Apply a load of Strong Tone dip by a brush, and you can a fantastic white rock/marble type look with absolutely minimum effort.  It is a brilliant time saver for big chunks of terrain.  The angel on the fortress of redemption, the marine statue, the lord of the rings walls and statues, they all look absolutely brilliant with very minimum effort.  After they are dry, applying some PVA in lines and flocking it to look like creeping vines is a great bonus extra.



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