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Spectral Dragon

SD's Basics: creating good, yet cheap, washes, and making old, dried paint like new.

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My christmas day is spent at home, and while I have only my sister for family yet stilled filled with holiday cheer this leaves me with very little to do, so as I sit here waiting for a game to download on steam I decided I would share a little trick of mine that I recently discovered after a bit of research and trial and error.

Turns out, making your own washes is a snap, who knew? I have played with this a bit, experimenting and finding out what seems to work best.

First, I want to advocate recycling old paint pots. Got two of the same paint and both pots are half empty? Fill one up the rest of the way and clean the empty pot thoroughly. I prefer GW wash pots for this although honestly this is just so I can identify my washes by the black GW rounded cap. For washes, dipping the pot in the brush seems to be one of the most used methods if not the most used method out there. This is why I like to use GW pots for this.

After cleaning out your pot thoroughly, find some window cleaner, and some flow aid, and the color of paint you wish to turn to a wash. I find that using Vallejo Model Air colors works the absolute best for this: the small pigments just seem to make this brand more consistent with a wash and while I have successfully done this with GW, Vallejo and Reaper paints the ratios are different, and they don't act quite as well when turned into a wash.

One quick note on GW and other brands you wish to turn into a wash: try to put your flow aid and window cleaner in before you put the paint in, it doesn't matter which order as long as the paint goes in last. This allows you to measure how much wash you are getting and GW paint in particular is hard to measure out correctly, due to the type of bottle it is stored in. Note that I have not tried this with P3 paints so if you want a wash in those colors you will have to experiment a bit.

For Model Air, the formula is as follows:
  • 1 part Window Cleaner
  • 1 part Flow Aid
  • 1 part Vallejo Model air

For Reaper, GW, Vallejo Game color this seems to work best for me:

  • 3 parts Window Cleaner
  • 3 parts Flow Aid
  • 2 parts Paint

Now, you may be wondering why it's necessary to make your own washes in the first place? Well, the answer to that is that sometimes you want to add interest to a surface by adding a slightly contrasting color to it, as I have recently been taught by a few of the good people here on WAMP. A good example is my recent Necrons: I use a metallic green on them, but because I also use a lot of Orange OSL it makes sense to reflect some of that in the metal. It also just flat out makes the metal look more interesting even without the use of OSL (such as on my warriors.) examples of this can be found in my WIP thread here: (the pics on the first two pages are the relevant bits for this post)

So, why not just thin the paint out like normal and add it? Well, that's where the beauty of the window cleaner comes in: by using window cleaner you are making your thinned down paint try it's best to leave a thin surface over wherever your brush strokes, and the flow aid ensures that if you do wish for it to work as a true wash, it will pool into recesses as well. This combination makes this work like any true wash I have used to date.

Now, the reason we used flow aid I believe is obvious to those who know what flow aid does: it breaks apart stuck together pigments and spreads it out as evenly as it can. The window cleaner is used for another reason: window cleaner is designed to spread itself out as thinly as possible over a flat, smooth surface. Combine the two and you have the necessary combination of a wash: something that will try it's best to make itself a flat addition to the surface you added it to without pooling in the middle of a flat surface, and if it does need to pool because you used to much it will find recesses and/or corners to do it in.

Now, I prefer using washes for the reason that, since they are slightly see-through once applied, I have more control when trying to blend, shade, and highlight. Washes are also good for correcting bad blends or bad feathering.

A second reason for making your own washes: I only know of dark washes that you can easily get on the market, used for shading. There is another application for washes: brightening up a model. Now, because washes pool into recesses just slathering these kinds of washes on isn't going to improve your model. Where these shine is in the careful application of highlights.

Oh, did I say careful? I meant the now much easier to accomplish application of highlights! because of the slightly transparent nature of a wash, it blends naturally when applied, and because windex is used, it will stick to a surface and smooth itself out so long as you don't use too much of it. Instead of taking the time to put another drop of paint and some flow aid on a pallet, you can just reach for this wash, which will partially work for you anyway.

There are many other good reasons to make and use your own washes: it's cheaper than buying them, and you get the colors you truly want for important starters.

You can use this same technique to save paints that are dried out, and I have even used this to save paints that were almost dried to the point of becoming hard, though once they are hard there is no saving that pot. The ratios are quite a bit less in this case: you want to use 1 part of Flow Aid and 1 part of Windex for 2-3 parts of paint in the pot, and shake very well. In GW pots I like to put the flow aid into the cup that holds paint in the cap because that is where the most drying occurs.
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Wamp , Painting


  1. kdlynch's Avatar
    Nice blog, SD. :) Reaper & P3 should use the same formula as GW/VMC, based on my experience with them.
  2. Spectral Dragon's Avatar
    One warning to anyone else reading this: creating washes this way makes the washes stink lol.
  3. Chang1701's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Spectral Dragon
    One warning to anyone else reading this: creating washes this way makes the washes stink lol.
    GW's old washes stunk anyway. no biggie. haha