Making your gray world colorful

I don't think of myself as a paint snob, however once I find a line of paints I tend to stick with them.  Of course that meant that when I first started in the miniature wargaming hobby (back in 2001) (I don't count the brief times I painted up some minis back in high school, nor when the starter wife and I painted up a few once I had started playing board games again (including my RoboRally models) (for one, all of these were done with Testors' enamel paints that you could find at WalMart etc)) I used Citadel paints.

I ran into issues with them drying out however, and eventually I switched over to Vallejo paints.  When I did this I just decided to stay with the one line (and actually went out of my way to get the entire Game Color series at the time).  One of the nice features was that they all matched the old Citadel paints I had been using.

Since then the line has expanded, and Citadel has changed all their paints (and names) to copyright them (which I don't have a problem with).  Since then there is only one Citadel paint I still buy (Khorne Red - I like the high pigment base colors, but this is the only red one that works for me (sorry, the Vallejo Game Color Extra Opaque Heavy Red just doesn't give the coverage I want from a red base paint)).  I have picked up a few Army Painter paints (I have used their dark shade as a dip for all my elf models) now and then, especially because you can buy the exact same color in a spray can as in a dropper bottle.  (Vallejo now has their Game Air air-brush paints that allow the same thing with an airbrush).

Now, I have to be honest (well, I don't actually HAVE to, but I prefer to be honest, as you have so much less to remember) I have little to no artistic talent.  Talent is different from skill - skill can be learned, but talent is just something you have.  I have never studied art beyond the arts & crafts class in 8th grade, and I honestly don't research painting or techniques much.  I've learned a bit in the past 16 years, and improved my skills to a moderately advanced level, but my favorite aspect is still modelling, not painting.  I'm not a paint geek, and I don't get all excited about paint.

Until now.

I don't know what it was when I saw the add on Facebook, but the new line of paints from TurboDork just grabbed my eye and the next thing I knew I ordered their "everything we make" bundle. (This is only 16 paints, but they just intrigued me).

What intrigued me was their ColorShift paints.  As described on their web site:

Colorshift paints are made with tiny glass-like flakes that work like millions of small prisms within the paint. Depending on how the flakes are made, different colors are refracted or reflected in the light. In laymen terms this means that colorshift paint changes color depending on what light you are viewing it under, and what angle you are holding it to that light. I am facing a new army (my Trident Realms of R'yleh) which features a HUGE Cthulhu model as the centerpiece, and am feeling a bit intimidated about painting it.  The idea of being able to use these ColorShift paints on it to get some cool effects just grabbed me.

One thing concerns me is they all are intended as gloss paints (when I do everything flat), but for scales (and shells for other models) a bit of a shine can't hurt.  I am thinking (hoping) to try Afterburner for the belly/front and Radium for the back/scales (and Blue Raspberry for the tentacles on everything).  Maybe Ground is Lava for the shells on the hard guards and ogres.


These came in very quickly (I ordered them on Monday and they arrived Thursday!)  When I took these out of the shipping box, I was a little concerned at first - two of the bottles (Shell Shocked and Blue Raspberry) looked like they had no pigment in them, no matter how much I shook the bottles.  I squirted a little onto a large black plastic base I wasn't using, and it was just a whitish blob.  I was thinking I would have to contact the company as I had some defective paints.

A bit later, I noticed a tiny bit of color at the edge of the spot of paint.  I took a brush and spread it out, and WHAM - it was blue!  WTF!?!  On the web site, if you look under how to use you get the following instructions (emphasis mine):

How to use:
Shake: Shake well before and during use.
Prime: For the most vibrant results, prime with a gloss black undercoat.
Airbrush: Use a .5mm nozzle and needle. Thin Turbo Dork paint 2:1 with airbrush medium or water. Apply 3-5 thin coats, or until you get the look you want.
Paint Brush: Lightly thin and paint in even, single direction strokes. Allow each coat to fully dry before applying the next. Do not allow to pool.
Washes and Finishing: Gloss washes work best on Turbo Dork paints. Finish with a matte or satin varnish to tone down the gloss quality. These two colors ONLY work on black undercoat!  It is pretty cool - it reminds me of some of the old paint - color books I had seen for kids where you only use water, and it automatically colors in based on the water.

So I headed down to the basement and grabbed a couple of sprues of Mantic elves (why elves?  because I have so many of them (more than any other extra models) and they are so simple to assemble - add a spear arm and they are done).  This was about trying the paints, not modelling.  I actually glued these to Mantic bases, then primed all of them flat black (I do not have any gloss black primer).

I used white paint to add a number to each base so I could track the colors, then applied a thin coat of each color to a model.  This was straight,out of the bottle (I know Bill, I can hear you in my head, "thin your paints!").  These are actually pretty thin as they come already (They seem almost thin enough to airbrush straight from the bottle, though it says to them them 2-1 for airbrushing).

I used a brush for this first test because it is faster and easier to do than getting out the airbrush, and so much simple to switch paints and clean after each color.  For each color, I did four thin coats each.  You can see them below.

3D Glasses
Blue Raspberry
Dark Net
Ground is Lava
Shell Shock
Blue Steel
Cool Ranch
Da Ba Dee
Ill Gotten Gold
People Eater
See Food
Spicy Meatball
A few notes from these.  First, especially for the color shift paints - it is CRITICAL that you do not get any paint pooling.  The two 'clear' shades (Blue Raspberry and Shell Shock) will dry a milky white color if they are too thick.  I was finding that even though I was attempting a very light coat, it was way too easy to get some of this down into the recesses of the miniature.  Now I take full responsibility for this (the instructions say to avoid this after all).  While I've seen some articles and videos on super thin coats (where it takes 10-20 coats to actually get the color they want), I have never been able to do this technique.  I have a difficult time when I can't see the results of what I'm painting, and with glazing it is about building up, where each individual coat is nearly indistinguishable.

Second, the color shift was not as readily apparent as I hoped for / wanted.  If I got it at just the perfect angle I could get the shift and see more than the base color, but I wanted it to be more prominent.

For them to come out, it did require three or four coats.

The metal paints however went on very well and looked fantastic.  Very deep and vibrant colors.  I was hoping most of the color shift ones would be a little less metallic (they won't really work for skin, for example).

Now I'm not one to blame my lack of skill on the tools.  So I decided to do a second set of models (these were Reaper Bones, and having received three of my pledges for their kickstarters (the fourth won't come out until next year) I have a big box of them, which are a great way to test paints.

Now I am a novice when it comes to airbrushing.  I've seen videos of people doing all sorts of details with an airbrush, and all I ever do is end up overspraying and getting paint where I don't want it.  Using it to apply a basecoat is fine.

The instructions on the web site say to use a .5mm nozzle and needle - however all I have are a .2 and .3 - so I went with the larger.  It says to thin the paint 2-1, but on a Facebook discussion I saw them say that for smaller nozzles to thin it a bit more, so I thinned it 1-1.

I tried for of the color shift paints, doing four or five coats with the airbrush (I could only find 4 of two of the models)

3D Glasses - 1 to 5 coats.
Blue Raspberry - 1 to 4 coats
Floor is Lava - 1 to 5 coats
Shell Shock - 1 to 4 coats
I also took the final version of each of these four and played around with an LED light in my light box to try to get the color change to show.  The picture on the left is with the side light, the one on the right without.

3D Glasses
Blue Raspberry
Floor is Lava
Shell Shocked
The Blue Raspberry is the most pronounced color shift.  Some, like the 3D glasses, were barely noticeable (and definitely not the vivid red/green that it shows on the web site graphics.

While I had the airbrush out, I also did a few larger figures to see how they might work.  I wanted to see some of the colors on larger areas of texture, as well as large flat areas.

For th troll, I painted the scales and back with 3D Glasses, then the arms and legs with Ground is Lava.

On the shark-man, I first did the entire model in 3D Glasses, then on the front end sprayed with Floor is Lava.  The pictures don't show the colors all that well - it is much redder than the first appears.

For the metal bull, I first did Blue Raspberry on it, then did Shell Shocked ONLY from the front.  This actually gave me a very nice contrast - though that may be due to the texture not the paints.

For the final one, I started with Floor is Lava all over, then did some shell shocked from the front.  For this one the pictures actually seemed to show the difference better than what I was noticing.

So there you have it - some very cool metalic paints (and even the color shift ones have a metalic finish).  The "metalic" lines are some very nice colors, though I'm not getting the "color-shift" paints to reflect like I was hoping they would  (though it is interesting to note that for ALL of the color shift paints - what you get when you apply the paint over black is NOT what the paint looks like in the bottle!).

Overall, some nice paints with some very beautiful metalic colors.  The color-shift ones may require quite a bit of skill (more than I have) to get the results you want out of them however.

Because it is all fun and games . . .