23 January, 2017

Weathering Miniatures with Glazes

Reading Matt Varnish's recent post on running a Black Power Napoleonics game reminded my how much I missed painting my Napoleonic, actually War of 1812 because I'm a proud Canadian, miniatures. Since I had recently volunteered to write for this blog I was eager for something to talk about and with my mind on Napoleonics I remembered a technique I had used the last time I painted my British Line Infantry.


Glazing for Easy Detail

I came up with the technique of using glazes to weather my miniatures because I wanted to show my infantry with dusty pants from a long march but with a planned 300 miniatures in the British forces alone I didn't want to take too much time painting each miniature.

Victrix Napoleonic British Line Infantry

Here you can see the finished product with what is meant to look like a light tan dusting. I wanted the dust to fade seamlessly into the rest of the pants and like I said, I wanted it to be quick.

Glazing allowed me to apply transparent colour in a controllable fashion to slowly build up the effect I was after.

Glaze Medium

The most important part of this technique is the glaze medium. There are hobby-specific mediums available but I just use Liquitex Liquid Matte Medium. The cost per volume is good and I like that the viscosity is like paint, which is important to glazes.

I like to decant my medium into an empty Vallejo dropped bottle to have it on hand in an easy-to-dispense format. PRO TIP: Keeping your water or thinning mixture, I use Liquitex Flow Aid and water at a 1:10 ratio, in a dropper bottle makes it easier to consistently thin paints and lets you keep the same dirty brush washing water for months without tainting your colours.

Why Not Water?

Some people may be asking why not thin the paint with water. It is cheaper and all painters already use it to thin their paints. There are a couple of reasons, one obvious and the other not.

First, thinning with water reduces the viscosity of the paint and to reach the level of transparency I need for the effect the paint would run over the surface like a wash. I needed something to reduce the opacity without changing the viscosity of the paint.

Second, there is an often ignored or little known rule of acrylic paint which says to never add more water than paint when thinning. The reasons for this aren't obvious which is why so many people ignore the rule. Acrylic paint uses acrylic polymer as a binder. If the amount of polymer is diluted past a critical point the paint will not form a stable film upon drying. The most visible symptoms are a chalky finish and paint which is easily rubbed off.

There are many top level painters who ignore this advice and consequently their miniatures have a consistent chalky look, especially in their highlights. When you see a well painted miniature in person with perfect blending look at the highlight. If they seem strangely chalky this is why.

How Much Medium?

My rule of thumb for making glazes is to literally paint a little of the glaze on my thumbnail to test the transparency. With these miniatures I left the mix more opaque than I would if I were glazing a competition or showcase miniature because again, 300 miniatures per side and did I mention I was planning on painting both sides? Yeah.

At the time that I painted these miniatures I would mix my medium, thinner and paint together. Now I like to mix my thinner and medium in one spot to the consistency I want, mix my paint to my normal painting consistency and combine the two in a different spot. This lets me bump the opacity up or down as needed and fits in with my current default blending technique.

Brush Technique

The most important part of glazing in this way is the consistency and opacity of the glaze. That said there are different ways to apply paint to a miniature and the correct technique here will make sure the glaze behaves how you like.

When painted it is important to control the amount of material in the brush. I like a full brush with a large body. I paint everything with a #1 Scharff brush. Everything, even eyes you ask?

Once I've loaded my brush I immediately unload it onto a piece of paper towel to make sure I have the right amount of paint and I won't flood the model the second the brush touches it. How much to unload comes from experience, making a practice stroke on your thumbnail is a good way to test.

The goal is to apply a smooth, even coat over the surface, much like if you were painting a normal opaque layer of paint. Don't flood the area or let the paint pool. In a perfect world always brush from dry to wet but in this case at the very least pull the paint from the edge where you want your transition to where you want the colour to be strongest. When you pull the brush off the miniature you always leave a little extra paint which will help create a slight gradient if you leave it in the right place, or ruin it if you don't.

That's it. Let the paint dry, yes, all the way, and add another coat if you need to strengthen the effect. I think I put on 3-4 coats painting 4 figures at a time so that the paint had time to dry on my first miniature while I painted the rest. A handy hair dryer is helpful for speeding the process if required.

Not Just Pants

This glazing technique can be used in a number of ways. You can add saturation or interest by glazing on strong colours. A glaze of the flesh colour will help sink tattoos down into the skin so they don't look painted on. My favorite, because I hate shaving, is to give everyone stubble.

Who has time to shave while fighting fascists?

Leave a comment if you found this technique helpful. After you subscribe to this blog go ahead and subscribe to my main blog as well. You can also see what I'm painting up on Twitter or Instagram.

Finally I leave you with the ultimate TL;DR which has the added bonus of being extremely embarrassing:


  1. Wow excellent stuff !! BTW, to answer "Who has time to shave while fighting fascists?" the answer is British Officers :) They had 'servants' basically, nicknamed Batmans (not Bruce Wayne, but the cricket term) to do mundane chores for them so they could shave and oil the mustaches... even when facing Fascists!

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  3. You have performed a great job on this article. It’s very precise and highly qualitative. You have even managed to make it readable and easy to read. You have some real writing talent. Thank you so much. dungeons and dragons miniatures


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