27 February 2012

The Cautionary Tale of the Heavy Black Wash

I painted my first three Rebel Minis VIPER Mecha this past week.  Well, almost.  Sometimes I'm quite successful when I try new paint techniques.  Other times the results are disastrous.  This was one of those times.

The VIPERS were purchased to support my existing Rebel Drop Troopers and CAT 'Bots.  Those were painted with the famous green-wash-over-bare-metal technique, producing a metallic green finish:

The plan for the VIPERs was to use the same technique.  But Rebel Mike did something I wasn't anticipating - he released them in resin!  On the plus side, the VIPERs are the least expensive 1/100 mecha available, and come with a huge variety of really nice weapons.  On the down side - I needed to find a way to match these resin mecha to my existing figures.

I've had some luck using wash over metallic silver paint (like these GZG Cyclops Suits).  It produces roughly the same effect as bare metal - maybe a little cleaner in appearance.  But the VIPERs are larger minis.  Would that same technique work?  I've had zero luck using that same technique on larger models like terrain pieces.  So, a trip to the friendly local hobby store was in order.

My four-year-old actually found it before I did - Model Master Dark Green Pearl.  It looked just fine in the bottle, but that's never a good indication.  So I tried a little bit on one corner of a VIPER suit.  It was pretty transparent.  I ended up putting two coats over the whole thing, then started picking out the other details with the same Vallejo Heavy Bluegray and Gold paints as the infantry.  It still didn't look right to me.  So, instead of the nice and thin Wonder Wash that I used on the infantry, I tried to use Secret Weapon Heavy Black Wash.

Big mistake.  

The Secret Weapon wash was far too heavy for this application.  The green finish was bad, and it pretty much blacked out the bluegray on the weapons.  I also noticed that the gold on the canopy was too thick - it had actually created "chunks" of paint on the panels.  Then I took a closer look at the Model Master Green bottle, and noticed one of the problems.  All the metal flake had settled to the bottom.  No wonder it had seemed so translucent!  I scraped the bottom of the bottle with a popsicle stick, shook the hell out of it, and then applied a single coat to a second VIPER. 

It worked much better that time.  I finished that second VIPER using the same techniques as the infantry and 'Bots - bluegray weapons, gold (thinned this time) on the canopy, and Wonder Wash black over the whole model.

Here's the comparison:

The difference isn't an effect of shadow or camera placement.  This is pretty close to how they each look in person.  Suffice it to say - the left VIPER is currently sitting in a bath of Simple Green cleaner and waiting to be stripped.  The second one, on the other hand, is a very good fit with the existing figures:

Not perfect, but good enough for my game table. And the best news?  Painting that second VIPER only took about 30 minutes.  I'll easily get the third one finished, and then order another set or two from Rebel Minis.  They are very nice mecha, and the price is just unbeatable!



  1. If I might recommend TAMIYA COLOR X-19 Smoke...best black wash there is!

  2. I'll give it a shot - the local hobby shop does carry Tamiya paints. What would you compare it to?

    And don't get me wrong about the Secret Weapon washes - they are great products. The Heavy Black is perfect for the way I do Khurasan Space Demons. It just didn't work for this application. :)

    1. it's similar to Citadel ink wash at half the cost.

  3. Every ink I've ever used has it's own little ideosyncracies. Wouldn't worry about it to much Chris. We've all got our ink horror stories to share. And it worked out all right in the end.

  4. At least you got the right result in the end. I've lost count of the number of minis I've had to strip for one reason or another-one more sharp stab of the brakes on the learning curve!