Basic Blending: When to Avoid Washes

Hey guys Cavalier here, commission painter for Frontline Gaming and co-host of Splintermind the Dark Eldar podcast. Here to share my advice on when and where to forgo using washes and apply some basic blending.

With so many amazing paints out these days, it seems like there is a special kind of paint that’ll give you a short cut to achieve traditional painting techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace that to the max and totally plan on embracing stuff like the GW Contrast paints, especially for doing  models with exposed skin (Pox Walkers, Daemonettes, Daughters of Khaine etc.)

But sometimes even just stuff like a basic wash doesnt give you the precision and/or the depth of color you need. This is when blending comes in handy.

When To Blend

My rule of thumb, is when you have an area that needs a definitive definition through shading, yet is on a very broad surface without a lot nitty gritty nooks, crannies or depth in the details for the washes to pool in, typically its time to do some blending.

A great example of this on an Asuryani Wind Rider. The prow of the bike has two nodes on either side of big central raised area (where I think the engine is) and you really want to give some definition through color that area, otherwise the bike really starts looking flat, especially at a distance. Beyond Wind Riders I’d do this on any areas that are highly visible, typically with rounded surfaces, especially if they are the visual focus of the model.

Now, you can totally just highlight those areas and get away with a basic wash. However be warned, the shading will not be as dark as you want (or it could get really messy in the attempt) and the result will be a much brighter finish, with less vibrance and depth.

For myself, I want these models to feel like a nice dark Khorne Red and to standout visually from say their Saim-Hann counterparts. So the way I do that is by keeping the paint job nice and rich and doing some really dark shading.

The Approach

So here is the prow of the bike with just my first layer of highlights on there. I like applying the basic highlight first just to make sure I’m not going too dark, because these colors are going to be side by side.

Here is an example of the model with a Nuln Oil Wash. As you can see its not doing much to define those cool features on the bike. It’ll probably be lost visually after additional red highlights are applied, thus creating a brighter looking model than I want.

Yet here is an example of me doing a 60/40 blend of Dryad Bark and Khorne Red to really give some color depth to the model. Now that 60/40 blend is very rough. In the areas closest between the nodes and central engine block node I may have gone a little darker. As I go down the nose of the bike its probably closer to 50/50. Its not an exact science and something you just need to eyeball.

Now it might not pop out to you so much just in this photo how rich the depth is, but it will once all the highlights are applied.

As you can see in the photos below, that blended shading really goes a long way to establishing some great dark tones in the model. It also means you dont neeed to go crazy highlighting to get a really vibrant looking model. I only did a simple 3 stage highlight and you are still getting a great range of color which is plainly visible even from a good distance.

Now besides a little bit of blending on the highlights this is all the hand blending I did on the model. I used washes for everything else, especially because the details are really deeply sculpted everywhere else on the model, particularly on the arms and legs of the model.

I’ve found this to be a very manageable and easily reproduced approach to blending that can really add a lot, especially when you are cranking through big stand-out units like a big squadron of Wind Riders. So I hope you guys found that helpful! Let me know if there are any specific painting tips you are looking for and I may cover them in an upcoming article. Thanks for reading!

If you are interested in Aeldari discussion check out our podcast: Splintermind for exclusive Drukhari and all things Aeldari news and discussion. We’ve got a great new episode coming soon for non-Patreons featuring Lawrence Baker from Tabletop Tactics and Wes from D6 Evolution coming up that features an in-depth breakdown of the new Ynnari highlighting all our favorite combinations and units. If you are interested in following my painting exploits check me out on Instagram! Thanks for reading and stay tuned!


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!





About Cavalier

Commission Painter for Frontline Gaming + Co-Host of the Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast

2 Responses to “Basic Blending: When to Avoid Washes”

  1. Charlie A. June 7, 2019 4:18 am #

    What technique do you use for blending in this case? When would you use angled airbrush highlights over brush blending? This shape seems like it would lend itself well to some highlights via an airbrush and an angled approached.

    • Cavalier June 8, 2019 12:38 pm #

      Oh yeah totally. You can airbrush this stuff no problem. But I just wanted to show how a bit of hand blending with a brush works as a tutorial for people who just rely on washes and stuff.

Leave a Reply