Cocktail Stick, Powder and Paint

Last time out we looked at something completely different… well, this time it should be all too familiar as we look at using some weathering powders to add depth and grime to your lovely urban bases. Again, Google is your friend in finding some inspiration, this time with colours but a word of warning beware of recoloured images as they might be exaggerated in terms of hue, saturation and tone.

This guide will help you add colour and variety to your lovingly crafted urban bases using weathering powder. Full disclosure, the thought of using weathering powders initially scared the b’jesus out of me. I’d read tutorials on grime and streaking, using solvents and gloss varnish – my head was swimming.

This guide pares back that information – I had to simplify and settled on using Vallejo weathering powders as they don’t need you to use thinners or anything toxic, they are water-soluble. You have three options once the powders are applied:

  1. Leave the powders unfixed – this gives you the dustiest finish but will come off and wear away over time with use.
  2. Varnish the models to seal the powder in – I tried this and can confirm that using a rattle-can spray blows most of the powder off before it can be sealed
  3. Using a pigment fixer – this is the option that I settled on in the end. It is a bit more time-consuming and you end up with a cleaner, less dusty finish.

In terms of the colours, I went for: a sooty black, orange rust and an earthy dusty oche which I think covers most of the environments that you will see in pictures and also gives you a nice visual contrast.

Step One – Getting to the Start

Paint your models as you normally would – I’d recommend a grey primer, just so that it gives you a good base to work up from. Make sure all the elements are painted on the base not just the model.

Step Two – Applying the Powder (Black)

To get the most out of the contrast I started with the darkest colour and made sure that this went into all the highly textured areas so that when I applied the fixer it gave me some nice shading and really made those areas shine. I used and flat-headed art brush for the application as it allowed me to scoop up the powder as well as pick it up in the bristles.

Step Two – Applying the Powder (Orange/Earth)

I’ve added these steps together as I’ve found that you don’t want these two colours next to each other if possible or if so only small patches. The earth and orange can bleed into each other at the fixing step and creates a bit of an unsettling colour combination. Again, brush the powder on, dab or jab it into the nooks and crevices.

Step Three – The Fix Is In

The final stage is to use a largish brush (I used a size 3) to apply the pigment-fixing liquid to the powder. You can see the difference that this makes below; the front bases have had the powder fixed and the rear three large bases have not.

Step Four – Tidy Up

Finally, paint the rims of your bases so they are nice and clean and tidy again and mount any models that you still need to add – like the 5cm anti-tank gun below.


Having seen the ease of the results that I’ve managed on my urban bases using some time and some new techniques I’m gutted that it’s taken me so long! Making the bases is a little more effort upfront but once you have the bits and some imagination the world is your oyster. The more textures and features you can add the better the overall effect will be.

For basing, the Vallejo weathering powders are fantastic and extremely economical – I have based an entire Hungarian army using them and each pot is still more than three-quarters full!

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed that jog through the wonderful world of urban basing until next time enjoy a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee and ponder more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.

2 thoughts on “Cocktail Stick, Powder and Paint

  1. I’m really in two minds about pigments. They look great IMO until you need to fix them in place. Given the extra time and faff that all this takes I think I’m in the camp of it’s not worth the effort, whether it’s on bases or vehicles. There may well be situations where their use is essential and can give some outstanding results in 15mm (I know some scale modellers making 1/35th kits are quite happy to 15-20 different products), I guess I’ve just not come across that situation yet so the few I bought will likely stay in their pots.

  2. Using airbrush thinner for applying and adjusting the pigments is also a good option.

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