Contrast and Compare

If you are interested in miniature wargaming (and really, would you be reading this if you weren't?(ok, I think there is one person who does read this that ISN'T interested in gaming (Hi Becky!), but being related to me kind of means she doesn't count (and no, she isn't my mother (Mom didn't really quite get the whole internet thing))) then you have probably heard about the new Contrast paints just released from Games Workshop under their Citadel Color brand.

So full disclosure time.  When I started with miniature games, like so many others, it was with GW.  I've always preferred fantasy over sci-fi, so it was Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  However after several years, I started getting a bit bothered by their business model and the way they treated their customers and retailers.  So I switch games, and switched paints.  I decided that I would voice my displeasure by spending my money elsewhere.  And then GW blew up the world.

In the last year or so, GW has a new CEO and had really started to change the direction of the company.  They seem to be back involved and have started to pay more attention to the player base, and may even have softened up things with their retailers.  But I'm not really interested in going back.

I have bought very little GW product in the past five years - a box of plague monks (they even had round bases - I felt dirty but I needed them for my ratkin demo army).  I picked up their shipwreck terrain model for use as terrain (though it is still sitting in my basement unpainted).  And I do keep buying their "Khorne Red" base paint simply because I haven't found any other paint/brand that gives good red base coverage (all the rest of my paints are Valejo, but their Heavy Red just doesn't cut it.

However I felt like I wanted to voice my opinion on these new paints, so I went out and bought a few to give them a try.

I also bought a Corax White base, as that is what they recommend using.  I did NOT buy the Corax White primer - I wasn't going to spend 3x the amount on a white primer when I'm very happy with the Painter's Touch paint+primer that I've been using for quite a while.

So I assembled a bunch of Mantic orcs I had sitting around and primed them all white.

Let me back up a little bit again.  Having some of the hype coming out before these were released, the pictures there reminded me of some of what I had done using inks back when I painted my Walking Dead kickstarter.  (Of course now that I link back to that post I realized I DID NOT use inks there).  But what I had found was that inks, washed and transparent paints over white undercoat would give  you some instant highlights and shading and they stained the higher surfaces and pooled slightly in the recesses.  So to compare these paints, I also did a second model in an alternate (and cheaper) medium.

Yes, cheaper.  Each pot of paint was $7.80 - which is about twice what a normal bottle of paint runs.  Individual bottles are about $6, but Valejo also has some sets of base colors that are about $3 a bottle.  (A build your own bundle from GW is 10 pots for $57.50, while a Valejo Introductory set is base price $52 for 16 bottles of paint (of course you can get everything cheaper if you look) ).

So I did a miniature in each of the six contrast paints, and a second in an ink or transparent paint (because I only have a couple of colors of ink, and I wasn't going to buy more just for this, though now I may :-) ).

First up is a base deep brown.

Both of these were painted the same way, a full heavy coat.  While the colors are not a perfect match, the effects are very, very similar.  Had I chosen a slightly different shade of the contrast paint, then they may have been almost identical.

Before you scroll down, can you tell which model was painted with the Citadel Contrast and which just had ink?

<this space intentionally left blank>

<so is this>

<or is it really blank if it has this message saying it is blank?>

<ok, this is getting too existential already.  If I want that, I'll go see Toy Story 4 (don't think too hard about those movies boys and girls - that is a rabbit hole you may not want to go down)>

<enough of this, show the damn picture already!!!>

The model on the left was painted with the Contrast paint - Gore-Grunta Fur.  The one on the right was brown ink.

So I tried it again

and no, I'm not going to make you scroll way down.  Besides, I'm a creature of habit - the contrast paints are the figure on the left in all the pictures.  Still, while a shade or two lighter, the green ink does the same thing - and may even have MORE contrast than the paint.

The next two are nearly the same.

I almost want to switch the pictures just to mess with you.  But I didn't.  However the model on the right isn't ink - it is Createx airbrush color Brite Blue.  This is a transparent blue paint that I ordered off Amazon several years ago after getting my airbrush - as some paint to try starting out with.  It is diluted 1-1 with water - because unlike the newer airbrush paints put out for gamers/models that are ready to spray right out of the bottle, these aren't.   The Tallasar Blue is a little richer in color is all.

Of course they don't put the name of the color where you can see it with the logo on the label.
The other colors weren't as good.  The red, for instance, worked, but it ended up looking pink.  Which is an issue with the createx paint, not the citadel contrast Blood Angels Red.

Yellow is a notoriously hard color to paint, especially over a black base.  The contrast paint (Iyanden Yellow) did a really nice job, the createx was just ok.  If you look closely you can see where it should have shaded the model in the crevices, but they end up just as bright as the rest of it.

Ok, so the yellow didn't work well - however the orange was even worse.

Yep, that is a big fat NO for the transparent paint.

All of the contrast paints went on well with no issues.  Unfortunately you have to buy them in the horrible citadel pots - these are notorious for drying out.  I find it hard to get the lids to say open, and if you flip it so the wedge keeps it open then it doesn't want to shut.

I did a kickstarter a while back for Huge Games paint transfer system - which is basically a bunch of empty dropper bottles and steel agitator balls.  However their funnel is set up to allow the air to escape out a vent in the side instead of bubbling through.  I expect that these should be very easy to transfer since they are so thin.

One drawback is that since the contrast paints are semi-transparent, they do not cover up colors underneath them (this is by design) (the inks have the exact same problem).  So you cannot fix mistakes by simply painting over them.  So if you want to correct something you have over painted (because you want it to be a different base color) you have to first repaint it white, then apply the contrast paint (or use a 'normal' paint to do it, but this loses the color shading of the contrast paints.

If you are painting something like space marines, which are all one color anyway, then this is great.  However if you are painting anything that has skin, clothes, hair AND armor

So aside from the orcs, I though I'd try these a bit on some 'real' models.  These (unlike the orc models) are have a large area of a single base color.

First is a fire elemental for my Forces of Nature warband.  I think maybe I should have done him with the yellow instead (since realistic fire is actually lighter at the bottom and darker at the tips).  Even though I went ahead and painted the base (since I had already poured the brown out for my goblins) I still might spray him and start over.

I have three salamander unblooded grunts in the warband.  For my nature army these are red (with off-white bellies) - not sure if I still want to do the stomach that way or not.  LOTS of straps left to go (but it is a Mantic model after all - and where GW has skulls everywhere, Mantic has straps)

The Gladewalker Druid for the same warband is basically a tree with a stick.  He does have a bit of a toga - this I had to repaint white to do the red when I realized that it wasn't just a loincloth.  I want the weapon to be stone, and more straps.

For the elves warband they have a forest shambler - another tree.  The leaves/moss on it are green, and the bracket fungus uses the orange.  This one will need some other brown shades for the vines and the arm wrapped around the rock.

I am thinking about trying one more pot - Snakebite Leather - as I use the normal (Valejo) version of this for straps - and it ALWAYS requires a wash to make it come out right.

Checking out a video on the GW site, you can apply the darker contrast paints over lighter ones - though I'm not sure what covers what.  I'm also not sure how well mixing them would work.

They might save some time - however I don't tend to use multi-color washes, usually using either Valejo  Dark Grey or Secret Weapon Soft Body Black over the entire miniature (especially when doing demo armies).

Finally these colors end up a bit brighter than what I've been doing since I tend to start with a black basecoat.  Any tiny bit missed tends to easily show up with white as well. 

One advantage over using inks is 34 contrast paint colors available on the initial release, while there are not a lot (8) colors of ink.  For beginning painters these may help give them some nice effects they otherwise might struggle with - though even after all my years of doing this, I still enjoy watching everything *POP* on the model when you add the wash over the plain base coat.

Now if Valejo were to come out with their version of these then I most likely would pick at least some of them up - I still am not wanting to give the big juggernaut my money.

Because it is all fun and games . . .


  1. Great post and great comparisons. The GW paints are very pricey. A few Contrasts paints for larger areas as a base layer might work for me in speeding me up but...I will probably stick to base painting then using Army Painter Dark Tone wash over top. Cheers

  2. I've painted more than my fair share of Manti corcs and never really noticed the strap thing. Now i can't stop seeing them.


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