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  • WAMP Review: Quick Shade by The Army Painter

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    I have to be honest: the first time I was introduced to The Army Painterís Quick Shade I was not impressed. It was used by an amateur painter at my local hobby store on some of his gaming minis and all I could see were shining puddles of brown covering his skinks. From that point on I ignored the Army Painter products until I saw Exilesjjbís Imperial Guard Squad Using Army Painter tutorial, which highlighted the strengths of this product and made me eager to try it. After using it on a number of minis I have to say that my first impression was wrong and this is a product that offers a lot of possibilities.
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    Quick Shade can most easily be described as a varnish that comes in three different tones: soft, strong, and dark. Itís made to be applied over base coated miniatures to create a shading effect. It should be applied when the figure is upside down. This allows the Quick Shade to flow into the recesses of the mini while itís drying right side up, resulting in a shaded tones that grow darker where the product pools.

    The directions on the can suggest two ways of applying the product: dipping or painting. Previously, I only applied it using a paint brush, but decided to experiment with both application techniques for the sake of this article. My first step was to draft a couple of volunteers and apply a quick base coat. Beaky (left) and Mr. Blue (right) were kind enough to volunteer for this assignment.


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    Beaky got the dip treatment. I gave the Quick Shade a vigorous shake, popped off the lid; I would suggest investing a few cents in a paint can key- much easier to use than a flat screwdriver; and submerged him. The directions state that you should only need to shake the figure no more than 4 times to get rid of all the excess; I shook him about 20 times and still had to use a tissue to remove some of the thick excess.

    The process of painting Mr. Blue only took a couple of minutes. I used an older sable brush I didnít care about. Be sure you use a good sized brush because you want to apply the Quick Shade with the fewest number of strokes as possible as you hold him upside down- this is a very important detail. Also, watch your brush load because you only want a thin coat over the whole mini. Too much will cause the excess to pool into all the recesses it can find, which will leave you with thick, ugly blobs of the stuff. The biggest concern with painting is you have to make certain you completely cover the mini. Any spots that you miss will stand out in stark contrast against the shaded paint.


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    As you can see, the simply base coated marines now sport a paint job better than what you would normally see out on the battlefield. At first glance there doesnít seem to be much difference between the two figures, but if you look closely you can see that the painted application of Quick Shade has less pooling, which means less wasted product. I didnít photograph this, but Beaky had a large streak of excess that drained down the side of his wine cork onto the paper I wisely placed under him, for the sake of my painting desk, while he dried. Quick Shadeís not exactly cheap, so less wasted excess means more applications available from the can, which translates into more beautifully shaded minis for your money.

    This product isnít water soluble, so youíre going to need some paint thinner or mineral spirits for cleanup. However, I am happy to report that removing Quick Shade from a mini is as easy as giving him a Simple Green bath. This product is advertised as being a shader and varnish in one, because it dries into a good, protective coating, but it dries with a glossy finish. A good spray with matte varnish will add extra protection with the added benefit of removing the glossy look.


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    While Quick Shade on its own will give you a good quality paint job, you can paint over it to enhance your work. I painted all of the highlights for this Imperial Guard Sergeant over the Quick Shade which brought it into the range of high table top quality. Painting over it will take some experimentation in the areas of paint dilution and painting technique because your brush strokes can easily smear over its smooth surface. Always do your base coats before applying Quick Shade, because trying to apply a base coat after can take a lot of work.

    The Breakdown:
    Product: 8.5 / 10
    * Very distinctive and easily recognisable packaging with clear, easy to follow directions
    * It has an odour, but thankfully it is not overpowering or unpleasant
    * The can is easy to hold in your hand and shake. Itís also easy to close, but be certain you get the lid on tight!

    Application: 8.5 / 10
    * Quick Shade is easy to work with as it has good flow, but it can quickly build up to excess if youíre not careful
    * It will take practice and patience to learn how to paint over
    * Special supplies required for cleanup

    Value: 8 / 10
    * Itís pricey for the size of the can
    * Provides good quality miniatures in only a little longer than it takes to base coat them
    * Application by paintbrush uses considerably less product than dipping, which translates into a better value

    Overall: 8.5 / 10
    + 0.2 The transformation from a simple base coat to the results that this product achieve are truly impressive. When used correctly anyone can take the quality of their table top miniatures to a whole new level with Quick Shade. You will also save a lot of time compared to shading the traditional way.

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    Comments 6 Comments
    1. pae's Avatar
      pae -
      So how does it compare to a can of Minwax, which costs about 1/8th the price?
    1. Darklord's Avatar
      Darklord -
      Good review. Army Painter did let me know the following:

      Please note though, that our Anti-Shine Matt Varnish is acrylic and is designed so you can have an acrylic surface to highlight on after dipping. Painting directly unto Quickshade is quite difficult, but giving it a matt acrylic surface is like painting on top of a freshly primed miniature.
      All the products are designed to complement each other
    1. NeatPete's Avatar
      NeatPete -
      Looks like a big tin of Devlan Mud.

      There's a guy around my town that paints minis for the locals and he dips them. They look really good for the price he charges and the time he turns things around in. I've been meaning to ask him what product he uses, but I bet its this stuff.
    1. GreyHorde's Avatar
      GreyHorde -
      Kudos, CT! Nicely researched, well-written. I dig it.

      Quote Originally Posted by pae View Post
      So how does it compare to a can of Minwax, which costs about 1/8th the price?
      I think I can answer this, since I have tried QuickShade, Minwax and a homemade version head-to-head for cost, quality and speed.

      Skipping the homemade version (didn't like the results, fared poorly in cost & speed comparisons), let's look first at cost. 1/2 pint of Minwax Stain - no varnish - is roughly $4, compared to full retail for QS at about $32. So, you're right, about 1:8 in price, but it's kind of an apples to oranges comparison. More directly, add $5 to the Minwax cost to get a separate 1/2 pint of polyurethane varnish. Now it's closer to 1:3 in price. Unfortunately, this method sacrifices speed by applying two full coats - stain + varnish - cycling through minis twice instead of one and done. Bleh. IMHO, the cost savings and quantity gains are offset by lost time and effort.

      Looking further at cost, at about $8 to $10 for 1/2 pint of Minwax PolyShades, the stain + polyurethane varnish, we're closer to 1:3 to 1:4 cost vs. QuickShade. But, Miniature Market and others routinely discount QuickShade and, factoring in lack of sales tax and free shipping in the U.S. (the only way to fly!), at just over $25 for QuickShade the ratio drops to about 1:3 to 1:2.5 and no time/hassle factor of chasing down the right color combos at the hardware store(s). (My experiments failed to generate the desired effect on the first try, so I had that wasted time, gas, materials, etc.)

      So, cost-wise, Quick Shade is realistically about 3x the cost of the comparable Minwax product, PolyShades.

      Quality: well, CT covered the QS side very well, so I'll just agree and say my results were almost identical. I prefer brushing on, rather than a full dip. Less waste, better control. After about 3 models, I had the technique sorted out to my liking.

      PolyShades...well, not so much. The PS tends to be thinner, harder to control. I find it to be sort of self-leveling, meaning it does not want to pool where I put it, spreading out and leaking elsewhere. It also tends to climb up other surfaces by air pressure / capillary action. It also stains lighter color areas more readily than QS, meaning that when I put a thin coat of it on a highlighted area and try to push it away, wick it off or otherwise push it back to the recesses, the 'damage' was done. Everything looks more heavily soiled with the PS and I end up trying to bring back some of the highlights. PS simply took more time to apply, more time to clean up, and did not achieve the effect I really wanted. This was no surprise...putting wood stain on a painted mini surface...wrong tool for the job. Kolinsky Sable vs. basic craft brush. Hammer vs. screwdriver.

      So, honestly, I prefer QuickShade by far over Minwax PolyShades or other similar products. QuickShade is a tool designed to do a specific job and it does that job admirably well, saving an army painter time & hassle to get good results.
    1. precinctomega's Avatar
      precinctomega -
      I'm also a big fan of Quickshade for speed painting tabletop armies. I've only used the Strong Tone, so far, which I found inappropriate for space marines (as they lost a lot of the brightness of their heraldry, and the finish of the dry varnish is somewhat "organic") but absolutely brilliant on Wood Elves, Beastmen and my LOTR Uruk-Hai.

      I mostly dip, for reasons of speed. However, I like to leave the mini upside down for at least two minutes, hanging over the pot, to collect a run-off surplus. For larger minis, and when the tin is running down, I also use an oral syringe (available from your local pharmacy) to apply it with more accuracy.
    1. Cregan Tur's Avatar
      Cregan Tur -
      I just wanted to confirm that applying matte varnish over the Quick Shade makes it much easier to paint on highlights.