The Lazy Mini Painter – Highlighting

Well, the current style of painting is massively into edge highlights.  Its a terrific technique that really makes hard surfaces pop … and takes absolutely ages.  Heck, at the peak of the art of edge highlighting, you do multiple thickness of edge highlights moving to brighter and brighter edges as they narrow down.  If you want amazing looking models, wow.  If you have limited time and want models to see the tabletop, how the heck can you get this to work.

Highlights do draw the eye, and make a model pop.  Generally, though, its seen as an all or nothing technique.  You do edge highlights?  You highlight every damn edge on the model.  In many ways we’ve forgotten one of the meanings of highlight – to draw attention just to the important or pretty bits.

However …. we want good looking models for the tabletop, right?  Why highlight all of a model.  Instead, we should cherry pick a few spots where we want the eye to be drawn, where there is other details or natural model complexity.  Pick spot easily visible as if looking down at the model at 45˚ angle – shoulder pads, heads, upper chest, backpack top, maybe the gun.  You can reduce your edge highlighting time by a massive amount, still have figures that pop on the battlefield, and look like they’ve been done in a modern style.  Yeah, the legs won’t look anywhere near as good in an eye level display cabinet.  If you put them in a cabinet, put them on a lower shelf.  They will look cracking on the battlefield.

Take standard Cadians, for example.  Highlight the helmet, shoulder pads and gun case with a lighter green, and it’ll look modern and pop.  The foot guards?  Man, overkill.  The chest plate?  Much of that will be covered up anyway when the lasguns go on.  In terms of making a difference to the overall effect, you end up putting in huge amounts of time for minimal gain.

Space Marines can be similar.  Backpacks, helmet, weapon case, maybe shoulder pads depending on insignia.  All the other plates?  minimal difference for loads of effort.

You get much better at edge highlights as you go on – I always suggest edge highlighting, then washing, as it unifies the tone a little more, and makes any slight wobbles on the edges less apparent.  It lets you do them faster and less precise.  Again, thats not necessarily a good thing on a single beautiful model you’ve been painting for weeks.  On your tenth tactical squad of marines?  unless you are superhuman, you’ll be painting quick and make a few slips.

Honestly, for a very large army, you can get away with skipping edge highlights entirely.  For a modern looking army on the field, though, cherry picking your edges, and doing a single colour, not multiples, can actually makes the technique look more effective, matches up with other, more time consuming forces on the table, and is a good compromise on smaller elite forces.  Huzzah!  We can knock these out all day!  Armies are possible … the Lazy Mini Painter way!

3 Replies to “The Lazy Mini Painter – Highlighting”

  1. The selective edge highlighting works well enough when you combine it with shading. I do what you’ve said, I’ll highlight only where it makes sense (every edge looks absurd to me), but the rest doesn’t look bad either because I’ve shaded those other areas. That’s how I approach my rank and file dudes for speed.

    1. Oh, yeah, totally agree. It does’t have to be loads of layers, even a single wash will do, but you really need some feeling of depth beyond the edge highlight even as a bare minimum. I’d definitely rather skip the edge highlight entirely than go without any layering or washes.

      A few edges though, and a cheeky agrax wash is golden for getting troops looking good and finished though 🙂

      1. Agreed. Depth does so much more than highlighting does, at least in terms of either or.

        Yep, wash + a few highlights = done for basic stuff.

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