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Controversial Contrast Paints

The new Citadel Contrast Paints have been causing a stir. They have been compared to the next best thing in the hobby, while a few disregard them as a fad which will fade away, or that you can make your own easily. Some have said they are for beginners only, while others have stated they are too complex for those starting in the hobby. So what is the truth? As with any story, there are grains in truth in all the comments.

It all starts with a white undercoat.

The paints are a combination of paint pigment and wash over a white undercoat. The idea of using washes isn't new, Frank Chadwick of GDW fame used a similar technique with a small amount of PVA glue back in the 1980s. What Games Workshop has done is made it more accessible.  I've tried making washes before but with mixed results, as the paint can be too runny or not pigmented enough. Now I can just buy it in a pot, straight off the shelf - at a price.

North Star Oathmark Dwarves.

I can see it being useful for beginners if you have large areas of armies to coat, such as Space Marines. The paint has the right consistency, viscous enough so it won't easily run and can be controlled. This is where the skill comes in, this is an 'area effect' paint, not for fine details. You can do small areas but it is not that hard to accidentally paint over an area you've previously coated. As it is a wash, darker colours will cover lighter ones and a second coat of the same colour will darken the original one.

North Star IHMN Cultists with Blood Angel Red Contrast.

The effect you get is basically the base colour followed by the first highlight - from which you can highlight further. Like with all new tools, practice is required. If you make a mistake, it is easy enough to go back, put on a little white and recover the area once it is dried. The contrast paints mix well with each other, creating new combinations, and can be diluted by a glaze medium. I suspect they won't work well on flat areas, but do on the curves of the average model.

Gripping Beast Viking and a Conquest Norman conversion.

I like them, I like the speed it brings to my painting and it has made me enjoy painting again. There are limits, namely in the choice of colours, nor will it do anything but a base coat for camouflage (no, they aren't Tartan paints!). These are however ideal for ancient/dark age models and perhaps Napoleonics (I'm still experimenting there!). I'm not convinced on World War 2, yet.

Metal Warlord British Rifleman test figure.

I would not exclusively use Contrast and I'll be experimenting with other methods to see if I can recreate contrast like effects with existing paints. My overall opinion? They are an expensive but useful tool. In future blogs, I will be exploring just how far you can push these paints and look at alternatives.



4 thoughts on “Controversial Contrast Paints”

  • Don Mac Intyre
    Don Mac Intyre July 3, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    I bought one last night at the local game shop. Just to give it a go.
    We shall see!

  • David J Schaffner
    David J Schaffner July 8, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    This technique can, and has already been available from Army Painter by using their colored Tones.

  • Steve Burt

    The end result is very similar to what you get from flat base + ink.

  • Mike Adams

    I have to comment here, as I don't think these paints are being fully understood and appreciated. I was cautious about their impact until I tried them, now I am a convert. Firstly, it would be wrong to dismiss them as nothing new or to think you can make your own, that's just naive. Games Workshop deserve credit for developing this range as part of their continuous improvement policy. They are basically a base coat plus wash in one pot, however that doesn't really do them justice, because painting a base coat normally requires two careful coats, with Contrast Paints the paint goes on so easily it is a joy. You just touch the surface with the brush and instantly get the results of two careful coats plus a wash. I call that magic, it almost feels dishonest to use them! Let's also be clear they need to be used alongside other paints, they are not a complete replacement, e.g. there are no metallics, but for example I don't plan on using pure washes any more, why would you? Another thing to say is that they would not normally be used over a pure white undercoat, GW recommends an off-white undercoat, either very light grey or very light 'bone' colour, depending on whether you want a cool tone or a warm tone. Overall, their impact is significant and my project planning and workflow has now changed as a result. And they are *not* just for beginners, unless you count someone like myself who's been painting miniatures for 40 years as a beginner!

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