Saturday, February 11, 2012

[The Rogue Trader] Leveling up at Painting part 2 – Get 'em wet

If you are going to get serious about painting you will need more colors than those available in the P3 or GW paint ranges.  Sure, those are great for table top units.  What we are looking for is a truly stellar mini for a competition, display, or just to have a character that makes your opponent go ‘wow, did you paint that yourself?’   to which you can reply ‘yeah bitches and now it gonna wreck your face.’  To get those extra colors we need to blend so we need a palette.  Unlike oil paints, acrylic paints dry fast so that means a wet palette.

Wet palettes come in a variety of flavors.  You can drop a bit of cash on them, but you don’t need to.  The minimum you’ll want is a plate (probably not the family china), some paper kitchen towel, and some parchment paper (the stuff you can buy rolls of in the grocery store).  Get the towel wet, put it on the plate and put the parchment paper on top.  Now add some more water, you didn’t add enough the first time.  Yeah, it’s making you paint runny, that’s kind of the point.  All we are aiming for is a method for keeping our paints wet.  This is particularly important with blending so you don’t always have to reblend paint to try and get the same exact color mix.

A few places sell ready-made wet palettes.  The P3 palette is no use at all.  Far too small, avoid it.  You can pick up larger ones at your local craft store that cost less money and come with free paper.  Give the paper to your kids/nephews to draw on and go get some parchment paper.  The stuff that comes free is far to absorbent even after it is treated.  Buying a palette has a few advantages over just using a plate.  Firstly, you can put a lid on it and move it from one place to another.  Useful if you paint with friends and at home.  Secondly, it’s a little harder to spill the paint and water and easier to control what you are doing.  Lastly, if you leave the lid on for a while you can grow some nice molds in the damp, warm environment.  

So we have our palette next to us and we are ready to go with a nicely primed mini.  As mentioned, the water soaking through the paper will thin your paints some.  You want them that way for control.  When you start working on your first color you want the paint thin enough that it will take 4 or 5 coats (assuming we are going for the best results/biggest time investment) to reach the proper color.  This ensures a thin, even coat that doesn’t obscure any detail.  When you are painting watch for any paint that starts to pool in recessed areas and drag these out with your brush.   When paint dries the pigments are pulled to the edges of the wet area.  By painting in thin, even layers you are stopping this happening.

One quick aside about your painting.  Your fingers are greasy.  I’m not talking cheeto dust grease here, just what is naturally on your fingers.  If you hold the mini this is going to put small amounts of grease on it that will give the paint a harder time adhering.  There are quite a few solutions to this.  The two I use most commonly are to put a pin in the miniature's feet and then push that into a cork.  Or, if you are keeping the tab that most minis come with you can hold that with some needle nose pliers and then user a few rubber bands to hold it closed.

Once your base colors are on you can move to blending.  As we are on a wet palette you’ll still have a nice patch of your base color that you can add highlight and shade colors to for mixing.  By extending this out in two directions you can have a your highlights and shadows all controlled, and staying wet so you can keep working with them.  Something like the level of blending on the mini pictured above would not be possible without a wet palette.  

What colors you'll select we'll talk about later.  Hopefully this has got you started on why you may want a wet palette and how it can be used.



  1. you do realise you can mix colours to get any shade you want?

    1. Of course. That's kind of the point in this. :)

  2. I've never used a wet palette but I've heard about them a fair bit. Over at the Midwest Monster Lab blog there is a great article about making one - at least, I think it's great, but your learned experience might be able to tell us if there is anything more to know!!??

    I'm finding that my painting techniques are moving more towards what you might expect with a wet palette (using very watery paints for blending AND for opacity control)...

    Would you recommend wet palette for tabletop standard though? Is it worth the hassle (if there is indeed a hassle??)


    1. Good link. I ended up picking a cheap one up from a hobby store, but theirs looks like it would work great as well. As for tabletop use, depends on how long you spend on each one. It slows you down, but gives you great results so could maybe be reserved for your character models. Of course skirmish games like Infinity and Warmachine need a lot less painted so maybe for those it would be worth doing them all.

      Personally, I'm airbrushing units and wet blending non-gaming models and the occasional character.

  3. I've got a tupperware container for my wet palette, paper and parchment in the lid and then I can put the container on top to keep it moist when I'm not painting :)

  4. So true about pinning your minis.
    There was a year or two there all of my minis had paint that was rubbed off the foot.
    Now I scavange wine corks,the foil is awesome for detailing with as well

  5. I will have to look into that. thanks for the tip!