State of the Hunt, Week 26/2019: First Contrast Paint impressions

Something of an interlude for today, since I got the unplanned opportunity last week to get some hands-on experience with the new Contrast Paints and would like to share a couple of observations, as well as some photos of my two test models.

Be advised, however, that this post won’t be an in-depth review — if you are that way inclined, let me point you towards this excellent article over at Tale of Painters for an actual, thorough all-corners review. This is basically just me fooling around with a new toy πŸ˜‰

I was, of course, interested Already seeing some intriguing stuff online and getting some encouraging pointers from fellow hobbyist-recently-turned-TeeVee-superstar Jeff Vader. So when the opportunity to test the paints arose at the local Warhammer store (now again crewed by a very decent store manager, I must add), I got straight to work.


Anyway, all the Space Marines were already taken, so I ended up with a female Stormcast Sequitor (one of my favourite easy to build models, though, so all was well) and a Poxwalker. Both of the models were already glued together and undercoated when I started working on them. Here’s what I came up with during my time in the store:

The Sequitor took me about 45 – 60 minutes of fairly neat painting (and of getting to grips with the new paints in the first place). Quite a bit of the time was also spent trying to wedge my brush into all the nooks and crannies behind the shield, as the model had already been glued together beforehand.

The Poxwalker, by contrast, was a crazy and fun 15-minute-romp of just letting rip with some of the pinks, purples and yellows.

Before we jump into the fray, let me just say up front that the freeflow, (water-)painterly way of painting these models was quite a wonderful change of pace! As was the freedom of simply painting something for the heck of it, with absolutely no danger of messing up whatsoever. So if nothing else, you should maybe give those paints a go at your local store, if only for the process to act as a wonderful little palate cleanser.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the two models and my experiences when painting them:

The Sequitor came undercoated with Grey Seer, the slightly greyer, colder undercoat from the recent release. I decided to go with a the main approach of black armour, red robes, as seen in N1SB’s Contrast Paint experiments here, because I really liked the look of the combination (plus it’s also a pretty fair approximation of a classic Sisters of Battle painting scheme, which was an added bonus).

Only a single coat of paint was applied on all parts of the model (except for the base, where I got a little more adventurous — more on that in a second). This should tell you how the new Contrast Paints really allow you to cover a lot of ground in a very short amount of time. In hindsight, I think I should have been a little more generous with the black, as the shading effect didn’t turn out quite as prominent as I would have liked. Even so, the Black Templar Black (for the armour) and Flesh Tearer Red (for the robes) were definitely the standout paints here, although the Fyreslayer Flesh skin tone came in at a close second (it’s really uncanny how the Contrast flesh tones actually allow you to paint a finished face in one painting step).

As for my initial observations:

  • I didn’t encounter any cases of splotchiness with the new paints, although I have to say the Sequitor was basically the perfect model to use these on, given the amount of surface texture, folds in the fabric etc. Everything dried fairly quickly and to a nice, matte finish.
  • not using metallic paints on the areas that are supposed to be metal was a very weird feeling, and I felt the need to break out the silver and gold on the Sequitor, in particular when it came to painting the weapon and shield.
  • Due to the fact that, as you have probably already heard elsewhere, Contrast Paints basically work like a heavy wash or a wood stain, you don’t simply get to paint over mistakes you have made, but may have to correct them by painting over any stray marks with Grey Seer or Wraithbone from the pot. Even though I only went back to correct one or two mistakes, I found this to be the least entertaining part of the whole exercise, especially since going back to the somewhat chalky undercoats after working with the free flowing Contrast Paints was such a stark, erm, contrast.
  • As I was warned by the store manager – and as I have discovered myself – models painted with Contrast Paints really, really need to be varnished, as it’s quite easy for the paint to get rubbed off. This happened to me once or twice during the painting process, although only on very small, sharp areas (such as the sharpest folds in the Sequitor’s robes).

So after spending about an hour neatly painting the Stormcast Sequitor, I simply wanted to have some quick fun and experiment a bit, and the Poxwalker model seemed like the perfect piece for that. Like I said, the painting process was just a wild 15 minute ride. The Poxwalker was undercoated with “Wraithbone”, the warmer of the two new undercoats, and it makes for a wonderfully vibrant overall look on the finished model. The “Darkoath Flesh” skin tone basically did about 70% of the work, and afterwards it was mainly a matter of painting on some pinks and purples while the skin tone was still wet:

If it’s Nurglite grossness you are going after, the Contrast Paints are just perfect, making for a very organic look. The augmetic arm was basecoated with Gryph Hound Orange, and then I slathered on one of the darker browns.

I think it would be really easy to knock out a rather massive hore of Poxwalkers in an afternoon with a recipe like this, which seems like a very interesting proposition.


But wait, I didn’t stop there, but rather took the models along to my painting session with my good friend Annie. I wanted to try and combine the base work done with the contrast paints with some of my usual techniques. So here are the models, once again, when I packed up at the Warhammer store:

And here’s how they look now:

For the Sequitor, I resisted to urge to break out the metal paints after all, and decided to keep her entirely “NMM”, for lack of a better word. I merely added some highlights here and there, especially where the red hadn’t “auto-shaded” quite as much as I had hoped:

Just to illustrate how easy it is to cover lots of ground with the new paints, however: The act of adding some highlights and finishing the paintjob took just as long, if not longer, than the entire stage of painting her with Contrast Paints (and getting her basically game-ready) beforehand!

One thing I only got to experiment with a bit was to use various browns and greens for a more natural, mossy look for the base. I only really tried a bit of this, but I think the use of Contrast Paints for painting really interesting looking bases definitely warrants some further experimentation!

The finished base was given a light drybrush of Screaming Skull and (of course) a tidied up black base rim πŸ˜‰

In hindsight, I am not 100% sold on the look of the Iyanden Yellow: When it works, it really works, but it ended up looking slightly anaemic in several spots. But Nazdreg Yellow, seen here on a model painted by Annie, seems to be an interesting, slightly more golden-brownish alternative:

As for the Poxwalker, I ended up being a bit more adventurous, in an attempt to bring him closer to the rest of my collection. So I added just a dash of metallic paint, some thinned-down Blood for the Blood God, and repainted some small areas where the Contrast Paints looked a bit too water-colour-y to me, such as the boils, the loincloth and the leather belt andΒ  pouches:

This guy could actually join the rest of my Nurglite models without a hitch — if anything, he only looks a bit more vibrant and infectious than my other models. Here’s a comparison picture with my “classic” Poxwalker scheme:

So yeah, this was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed the freeform, exploratory spirit of the whole session!

One thing that cannot be stressed enough – and this is relevant for my future treatment of Contrast Paints as a possible tool – is that the usefulness of the new paints really hinges on the colour of the undercoat: These really work best (or at all) when used over a very light undercoat. So if, like me, you favour black, grey or brown, you’ll find it harder to include them into your standard recipes. At the same time, it cannot be overstated how novel and original playing around with them feels, so they may just warrant a slight reshuffling of recipes and approaches. While I don’t think I’ll be abandoning “classic” paints (or dark undercoats, for that matter), the Contrast Paints are a ton of fun to play around with, and certainly a very promising new tool for painters. There are also armies that I think will be a blast to paint with these (I am looking at you, Tyranids, Eldar and Poxwalker hordes).

Two final observations before I wrap this up:

One, when seen at gaming distance, models that have been painted with nothing but Contrast Paints look completely painted — and pretty well painted, at that. If you look at them up close, especially when it’s an entire squad, Blood Bowl team or what have you, the paintjob still looks good, but maybe a bit basic. So an extra bit of highlighting here and there is where the models really go from good to great — you should keep this in mind!

Two, and this seems a slighly weird observation: If I didn’t know any better, I would say the new paints where designed to photograph well. Case in point, the picture towards the start of this post, after I had finished applying the Contrast Paints (but nothing else) actually make the models look just a wee bit cooler than they actually looked in real life at that point. Which, again, goes to show that you should probably still plan for an extra round of highlights and final tweaks.


Anyway, that’s all I can offer for now. I can safely say that this experience has been a blast, and that it’ll be very interesting to test the new paints further. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find it helpful to get some firsthand observations from somebody who definitely isn’t a Golden Demon painter πŸ˜‰ In any case, I would, of course, love to hear your thoughts — or learn what you think of the new paints!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

36 Responses to “State of the Hunt, Week 26/2019: First Contrast Paint impressions”

  1. LarsonicMiniatures Says:

    Thank you for sharing this expirience with us. I’m very interested in this new range of paints and have already some plans. Sadly the ordered colours can’t be shipped out at the moment and I have to wait to start my experimentation phase. So far, I’ve heard that a lot of these colours are very different in opacity and their finish.

    Speaking of varnish, please allow me one question: How do you varnish your models? I’ve tried out some different products and some really ruined the paintjob (imo), which is frustrating and hard to fix. As always, a great article and a pleasure to read!

    • Cheers, mate! I will say that while the actual paintin experience was fairly different from my usual approach, the finish on the models turned out pretty normal (=matte) for me. As for the opacity, most of the paints actually behaved pretty much as I thought they might, i.e. rather good coverage with the light undercoat still showing through, because that is kind of “their thing”. With one notable exception, though: The “Aethermantic Blue” I used for the turqoise parts was very light on pigments and behaved far more like a traditional wash would, so that was an area I had to touch up later.

      As for the varnish question, I usually work with Vallejo Gloss Varnish and apply it with a brush — when I even varnish my models at all, that is. I often don’t, and have only begun to be more thorough about this on models that I think will see lots of handling (i.e. my HeroQuest set) or on metal models; I varnish those on principle, because they are just so prone to paint chipping. I have also recently made my first experience with (Army Painter) spray gloss, and am carefully optimistic — although frosting still remains a huge fear of mine…

      On a mostly unrelated note, let me just say that I am definitely planning to get back to you with a more detailed e-mail, it’s just that I haven’t had the time recently — please be patient for a little longer πŸ˜‰

      • LarsonicMiniatures Says:

        Thank you very much for your reply. No worries mate, I’am a very patient person and good things just need the time it takes, eh? πŸ˜‰

        Back to the varnish. I used the Army Painter Matte Varnish Spray. Once. I applied it on my recently finished Eliminator and the model received a very ‘fuzzy’ surface, with some smaller white sprinkles. Shame on me, for not using a test model. But that was very frustrating. I was able to fix some parts by applying other varnishes with a brush and paint over the sprinkles again. I will try out the AK Matte varnish (with a brush) next. Usually I don’t varnish my models and I think I just prefer fixing some smaller spots if necessary.

  2. It’s always really useful to get another experienced painter’s thoughts on these things and to see what others are doing with them and how well it’s working. I’ve only had the chance to use them briefly myself but much of what you’re saying chimes closely with my own experiences. I think even for those like ourselves who predominantly enjoy the painting side of the hobby they do a lot of the legwork in getting the early stages of the model done so we can get our teeth into the interesting latter stages and special effects. Like you I only use dark undercoats so if I want to make a lot of use of these that’s going to be a steep learning curve for me. However my biggest concern is that so many people are saying that varnishing the models is an absolute must – I haven’t varnished a model in over a decade, with the occasional exception for metal models (and even then rarely – fixing up the occasional chip seems a small price to pay for maintaining a nicer paint job).
    Great work on both of those models by the way – I can definitely see this helping me get my own poxwalker horde ready at last!

    • Cheers, mate! I actually think the best way for people who usually rely on dark undercoats to make the best possible use of these is to start using them on a dedicated sub-project that just allows for everything to be undercoated with a ligth colour — that Poxwalker horde sounds like just the ticket πŸ˜‰

      As for the varnishing issue, I definitely see where you are coming from, although my first recent experiments with spray varnish have turned out pretty well, so maybe that’s not even such an issue after all. I’d say that, even if the varnishing project takes some extra time, you’d still be left with a net saving when it comes to painting time — plus the Contrast Paints take care of a lot of what actually sucks about painting (the initial “legwork” stages).

  3. Interesting stuff mate! I’d echo my esteemed hombre Wudugast – interested, but slightly put off by the need to varnish…

    • Cheers, Alex! Like I said in my reply to Wudugast, I think it’s mostly about finding an effective way of varnishing the models, and then you should still be saving lots of time.

  4. Thanks for the heads up regarding varnish.

  5. Thank you for posting this, it’s super useful. I had a go in my local GW too on a poxwalker. Found it went on super easy and was wondering if I would ever endure the base coat phase again afterwards. I’m currently painting metal models on a grey undercoat so clearly am up for at least one more time in the old fashion. Trying to find a varnish for them as chipping is certainly going to happen (esp as they are BB). Might try to tackle the hordes of plastic nurgle sprues next with these. Reminds me of Augustus using the airbrush to get the boring bits out of the way so he can spend the time on the fun bits like highlighting and details. So no doubt i’ll me painting as fast as him in no time…

    • Cheers, mate! Yeah, these almost feel like airbrushing for people who don’t like to airbrush, at least when it comes to the time saving angle πŸ˜‰

      What I’d like to try is to use them over a metallic undercoat, since I am seeing some pretty interesting experiments of that sort on some of the forums.

  6. Thanks for the article, a great, practical look at how contrast paints can be used, and I think your point about going back over with regular paints is well made. I found the same on an as-yet uncompleted model. The Shysh Purple benefited greatly from regular highlighting once the initial contrast coat had dried.

    • Cheers, Dave! Yeah, the cool thing is that you can basically do as little or as much extra work on the models as you want — and someone who’s a really, really good painter will still be able to produce standout work, even in a post-Contrast Paints painting scene, whereas the rest of us may just find it easier to paint bright horde armies now! πŸ˜‰

  7. Thanks for posting this! I think that the Sigmarine turned out really well even before you went back and added highlights. The skin paint in particular looks quite good, and certainly would be faster than my standard dark flesh/light flesh/wash, which ends up at pretty much the same place.

    I have been wondering how to incorporate the new paints myself, but I will admit that I am put off by the idea of spending so much money to buy more paint… so working in a few here and there (like the darkoath flesh) seems more reasonable.

    As for varnishing, I have been using Testors spray for years, so no big change there for me.

    • Thanks, Lasgunpacker! The cost issue is definitely a valid point, especially if you want to get into using these on a larger scale. I think a good middle-ground solution would be to just pick up a few of the paints that should be really versatile and effective (such as the skin tones, some browns, maybe the black). The skin tones, in particular, seem like a very solid investment, especially since it’s usually no problem to just undercoat the head separately.

  8. patrickwr Says:

    Super helpful article! Just what I was looking for as far as an overview of the contrast paints and (more importantly) how I’d need to adjust my own painting style to make the best use of them.

    My challenge — and I’m sure it’s shared by others — is that I have massive armies that already have a well defined paint scheme created using more traditional methods. I’m not sure if there’s room (or a desire on my part) to explore a radically new paint scheme using contrast paints. The best opportunity I can think of is to try out contrast paints on one-off models, like monsters and war machines, where I can play around and achieve a unique finish.

    Anyway, thanks for the write-up!

    • Hmm, I see where you are coming from patrickwr, and I think it ultimately boils down to one question: Is it more important to maintain the same look across an entire army, or to actually get the entire damn collection painted at last?

      Again, I think a middle ground could be to look for smaller projects (a Killteam, a Blood Bowl team, a single squad — stuff like that) to use as a testbed for the new paints, then reshuffle your painting recipes as needed (or, indeed, not at all).

  9. Dexter Says:

    Those contrast paints are pushing me toward ending my embargo on GW paints. I’ve been meaning to pick up some GW washes for a while now, and since my paychecks are nice and healthy with my new job, I might go in one day and pick up a big fat haul of GW washes and contrast paints. I really love the way that the Poxwalker turned out, and from what I’ve seen the contrast paints work best on organic surfaces where you can be a little messy with them and let them flow into each other and layer on top of each other. I’ve seen some good results with them over metallic undercoats, but I think I’ll stick to my Scale75 metallics for now. This is a great write-up though, I’m interested to see how these find their way into your painting style.

    • Cheers, Dexter! I definitely agree about the paints seeming very promising for organic shapes and surfaces: Poxwalkers, Tyranids, treemen — that’s the kind of stuff these should really excel at. And I think they might be an absolute killer tool for basing, although most people so far have been telling me those expensive paints would be wasted on bases — I beg to differ, however πŸ˜‰

      • Dexter Says:

        I think they’d be fantastic on bases. I plan on picking some of these up soon and playing with them.

  10. Inquisitor Mikhailovich Says:

    Out of curiosity, you say that the contrast paints work better over light basecoats than dark ones. Any idea how they’d behave over metallic basecoats, like Leadbelcher?

    • Not yet, but that is something I would very much like to try in the future. The store manager set that it lends the overall model a slightly metallic sheen, which could be interesting for various effects. And there’s a very promising Black Templar model I just saw earlier over at The Bolter & Chainsword that has been painted with Black Templar Black over a silver undercoat.

      • Inquisitor Mikhailovich Says:

        Interesting. I’ll have to keep an eye on that for my upcoming Imperial Guard.

  11. oliver kemp Says:

    Wow! I was wondering how the new contrast colors work. Like always everything looks great. The pace in which you bust out these models is amazing!!

  12. Interesting write-up, especially as somebody who probably has a few poxwalkers in their hobby future. Not too keen on the need for varnish though, it must be said. Anyway, thanks for living up to the name and doing your scientific duty with a few experiments!

  13. May need to pop into my local gw this weekend and see if I can have a free demo on a poxwalker…

  14. Nice work. My current bunch of minis to trim mold lines from during meetings at work are a few sprues of E2B poxwalkers with a view to doing pretty much what you have right here. I’ll be referncing this post once they’re ready to go, too!

    • Cheers! Poxwalkers are just about perfect for Contrast Paints, I think — you should be having lots of quick fun with them!

      • Started my first half-dozen Poxwalkers this afternoon – and I’ve had this post open the entire time as my reference point! πŸ™‚

  15. […] my Contrast Paint Experiment series after seeing and being inspired to get started on them by what Krautscientist did with his GW sample models, not to mention seeing painters like Wudugast and Ann pound them out for month after month – […]

  16. […] was lucky enough to get to test them when they were still brand new at my local Warhammer store. I painted two models using the new paints and found the experience delightfully […]

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