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To Wash or Not to Wash - The Question

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Right then. I've been on a YouTube binge for the past few weeks watching various videos by a wargames painter and her videos have made me question the way I paint my precious Imperial Guard for 40k (here's the link to her channel). Sacrilege, right? Not so. After seeing one of her camouflage videos (and then watching all of her other videos on the topic), a thought dawned on me: should I be washing these guys after I'm done stippling on their colours?


A little backstory should be given before I throw pictures at you. I've always liked the German Flecktarn camouflage pattern and decided to use it on my Imperial Guard troopers. Luckily, there was an article about stippling on the internet that I had found and the pattern clicked. So many years ago... Anyway, at the time, I figured you wouldn't be able to see if there had been wash used or not so none was ever used. After having watched these videos, it's time to figure out if this needs to be readdressed.


My first reaction is to scream "No!" at you until you go away as I have many guardsmen already painted up in Flecktarn. My more sane reaction is to agree to this washing as the models could use some shading in places; eg, around their cargo pockets, between equipment, where the tunic closes on itself, and around some of the tunic piping. Here are the pictures for reference. These are old pictures as they still feature the paper towel background I was told not to use.








The question, after whether they should be washed, is what colour wash should be used? Spectre Miniatures has a gorgeous tutorial on how to paint Multicam (which everyone should check out) and they use Athonian Camoshade - an olive green wash by Citadel. A brown shade was the first thing to come to mind but Flecktarn features more green than brown shades of colour. Perhaps a black wash would work better - thinned, of course?


So, yeah. I'm leaning towards giving them a wash but don't know what colour to choose. Maybe a thinned all-over wash and then a recess and pin wash? Any help would be appreciated. Also, I apologize for the bad lighting. It would be neat if you could see the Lieutenant's cigar in his left hand.

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Brown washes are pretty darn versatile. I vote wash, but, pick where to wash, what color wash, and how-thinned carefully. 


Washing is a good way to get general shading of nooks and crannies done fast. It is very easy to over-wash, which for some paint jobs, isn't necessarily bad. It just isn't ideal for nitpicky detail either. 


If you wash a green base with brown, you'll end up with a kinda olived green, with brown shadows. That could be pretty good. If you want to stay green, you need to use a dark green wash. 


Stippling and being covered by the wash? Depends on the stipples and the wash. I actually like doing some stippling-like splotches for dirt on occasion, and using a somewhat thin wash on top of it. The effect can smooth and dull the stipples, but not remove it. Washes rarely cover something entirely, if they are on a flatish surface. Sometimes, if I have fudged a joint between two colors in a crease, I will cover it with the wash-shadow for a color. Only works when the colors are somewhat similar, and I need a heavy bunch of wash. 


Place the washes where you want them. You can take them and simply use them as very very thin paints too. And if you mess up on putting them in the folds for shading, you haven't messed up the figure overall. 


I am pro-wash, but not pro-all-over-wash. Pick what color goes where, and how shaded you want it first. You can always re-stipple if you find the effect too dull afterward. 

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@Cyradis Follow up question.  You talk about picking what color goes where (which makes a lot of sense of course) but is there a general rule as to what wash colors work well with basic base coat colors?  I know brown washes (hello Agrax Earthshade) get used a lot as washes since, well brown, looks like shadow anyway, but didn't know if there were certain "rules" for things like blues, reds, greens, yellows, etc.  Obviously its dangerous to lump things like "blue" or "red" into one category since there's so much variation even within the one color, but didn't know if there were general rules or not.


Obviously washes have some pretty good uses, especially for those of us that paint wargame armies and thus, have lots of minis to paint, but not being certain much of the time as to which colors I should be using for the wash is probably the biggest thing holding me back from using them more.  (That, and I'm still trying to get good at blending and shading/highlighting anyway for those figures that I do want to stand out from the crowd a bit.)

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A bottle of wash is sorta like a bottle of paint. You can "slop and glop", pin wash (line the wash exactly where you want it), thin paints with washes, thin washes with water, etc. etc.


However, your paint jobs are great. Don't bother with washing your completed miniatures. For future painting, you can always "slop and glop" wash over zenithal primer or undercoat, because it takes little work. Maybe consider washes for your next army, or special units. 


fyi, Military Green wash and Mid-Brown washes will be in the Army Painter Quickshade Ink (wash in eye droppers) in June 2017. If you want individual bottles, also consider Secret Weapon Miniatures. Not sure which green or brown would work best, but you can always write to Mr. Justin of SWM, send him a link to this thread, and ask his opinion. Also, The Miniatures Page and Lead Adventurers have forums for military figures. Good luck!

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I don't paint armies, so I am not sure exactly what effect you are going for. Typically, I go with brown base, dark brown wash. Green base, dark green wash. And so on for other colors. When I think of army colors, I think of beige and olive greens. So I would likely do brown and dull green base coats with dark brown washes to start out. 


Where it gets trickier is in yellows (which I find challenging) because you may want more of a brown shadow, or maybe an orange shadow. 


Reds you could argue for darker reds, maroons, browns, or even blacks. 


You can always test color combos on a piece of paper or aluminum foil before hitting the figure. It will give you a general idea of how colors react with each other. 


If you want to get super fancy, there are techniques with using blue or green washes on red bases, or purples with yellows, but those are typically glazed instead of washed - similar, but without the intent of filling nooks and crannies. Washes are for nooks and crannies mostly. 

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Asking people here if you should do a wash is sort of a loaded question. Some are going to say "yes" before you finish the question because they have it so ingrained in their brains that the answer could never possibly be "no."


Others will not be happy until every model in your collection is lined with black, has ten shades of your darkest color, and has the very tiny toppest tips of every surface of the mini brought up to a spot of white.


But looking at your pictures, my common sense tells me, emphatically, no, do NOT wash these guys. At least not the two I see attached here. They already have deep, dark shadows and lines. A wash would either be too much or simply be wasted, since it's likely you could not see it. These guys might need a little highlighting. But more shading? No. You have that covered.


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