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Why do people always wash in black or brown?

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Just curious, but nearly every tutorial i watch has people doing their final washes in a brown or black variant. Is there any reason to not use a wash of the same shade as the general area your washing? Like if you have a large red cloak, washing that area with a thin dark red wash instead of black/brown? Washing purple pants with a dark thin purple wash?


Or are targeted washes just too difficult to manage/control?


edit: Doh! on the 'doe'

Edited by JGF
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A dark wash of the same colour can certainly work. Where it doesn't work is on metals (which need a black or brown wash usually) bones (which usually need a darker was than just a darker shade of "bone") and for strong contrast. Secret Weapon Washes come in several colours, for example, and using Les Wash Recipe you can mix up a wash of any colour (just use paint with the base mic rather than artist's inks).


"Dip" techniques where the whole mini is washed at once as the first and only shading step use black or brown because that works OK with most colours, whereas an all-over wash of blue might work for uniforms but won't work on faces, for example.

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The reason they're doing this is to add as much contrast as possible and using black or a very dark brown is an easy way to do it. Unless your base is really bright washing in a darker hue really won't stand out that much--but do what you like the look of. There's not really a "wrong" way to paint if it's for fun.

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There are lots of ways to use washes. Black and brown dip washes are the most common, but others swear by colors such as paynes grey:



Washing a specific area with a shading color is common (my minis typically have dozens of these type of washes), and they are often done in successive thin layers. This technique is often referred to as "glazing"


An "all over" wash is a very basic shading technique but far more advanced applications exist. Work by forum member antimatter games might be particularly useful to you in this regard. He uses a wash technique called "underpainting" where the model is initially shaded in black and white then glazed (washed) with colors rather than painted with traditional basecoats. He has done a number of tutorials on the subject over the years, including a few here that you cand find using the search function.



Edited by vulture
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You are definitely correct! There are certainly cases when you want to wash in different colors, especially when you do more with the wash than "slop" it all over the figure (eg. glazes).


Black often makes harsh unnatural colors (although works well to pre-ink white primer), and brown can make the miniature look dirty, especially on faces:



fyi, Army Painter released a QuickShade Ink (really washes) set at a good price. Watch for those OLGS holiday sales!


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This is one of those areas that's really best left to individual style and taste, as well as desired result. For some, black and brown washes are simply what the artist is comfortable with. For others, going with a darker shade of something works better.

Personally, I use brown and black quite a bit, but also use greens, blues, and purples for certain things. For red, I find brown works better.

The best advice I can give to any painter is to try different techniques, and see what works best for you. It may be something very different that what most others do, but the only person whose opinion matters, in the end, is you.

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Black washes are actually pretty situational. On a lot of colors it doesn't sit that well - ends up looking dirty. Not a big deal if you're just looking for some quick shading, but definitely not something you'd want to rely on on a display mini, for instance. Brown is more forgiving, but again not universal.

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There are lots of ways to use washes. Black and brown dip washes are the most common, but others swear by colors such as paynes grey:


I do. I absolutely swear by Payne's Grey (unless I'm washing a flesh [Ogryn Flesh] or brown [Devlan Mud]).

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I use several different colors of washes that I've mixed and stored in little jars over the years. I'm a pretty good painter, but I'm certainly not competition-level, so this advice may or may not be useful for you.

My typical regime goes with me priming in a medium grey. I know people like to prime in black or white but I'm going to put an opaque basecoat over it anyways so I don't really care, and grey makes it easy to see details and find mold lines I missed prior to priming. After any last clean-up with files and a hobby knife, I basecoat with undiluted paint, just kind of spread it on there until opaque, using a couple coats where necessary (my dark brown paint is notoriously thin out of the bottle) and get the colors where I want them.

After that I usually do washes in a few steps, basically until I get bored of waiting for them to dry. I thin my washes with a 1:1 of water and retardant (Jo Sonja's Retarder and Antiquing Medium), and a thick wash will take 3-4 days to dry, which really kills the mood. I tend to have several minis going at a time just so I have something to do while waiting. Anyways I've mixed up a dark red, dark blue, dark green, dark brown, medium brown, dark grey, and black washes, and I keep little sealed plastic containers of them so I don't have to keep remixing them. Pulling out a dark red wash for a big red cape is much more palatable when you don't have to spend the time to mix the colors just right.

So basically I wash color over color wherever possible. I use medium brown on light flesh or anything off-white. Dark brown on dark flesh, tanned leather, etc. When nothing else is just right, I go with black or dark brown.


If I'm really lazy (it happens more often than I'd like to admit), I'll just slop on a black wash over an entire mini. If you put lots of retardant in, it won't leave much residue but it can definitely make a yellow or orange covered area look wrong, if your wash has more water in it, it will leave more residue, and it looks more natural, but also shades significantly more and leaves things looking gritty. Fine for me because I like the gritty look for my minis, but it may not work for you.

After those washes are applied, I tend to do a few layers of successively lighter highlights with drybrushing and freehand work to finish the mini off. I haven't really figured out how to do the really intricate freehand that you see better painters than I use to put fancy patterns or emblems on cloaks and armors, so how those are shaded is beyond me. I assume wet blending that's just beyond my ability at present.

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Walnut brown is my favourite wash colour, but it depends on the situation. Using the same wash colour over different regions can help to tie the colours together, but I wouldn't use brown on everything. I usually do a black wash on metals, and a flesh wash on skin for example.

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