Contrast and Compare

Recently Games Workshop released a new range of paints; Citadel Contrast.  Primarily aimed at their fantasy and sci-fi range, a lot of people have been wondering how they stack up on historical figures.

I have been experimenting with my US riflemen and airborne and have a few tips tricks and quick guides for anyone thinking of using them.

Contrast paints are really very heavy pigment washes (much akin to ink washes) which when applied to a light undercoat give a wash, layer and highlight effect to your model.  In theory you only need to apply one coat of colour to achieve a detailed finish.  The paints are very watery so easy to apply, however caution needs to be used to make sure they don’t go where they aren’t wanted.

Its important to remember Contrast Paints are not magic!  You need to get used to them and you need to be prepared to paint carefully if you want a good effect.  You need to be especially careful with your lighter colors and ensure the darker paints don’t run over them and spoil the effect (eg when painting the helmets make sure the paint doesn’t run onto the flesh).  

Here are a few examples of US infantry painted with contrast paint.

US Infantry

Above are some pictures through various tests and experiments with US infantry.  For me I have found the following works (with thanks to my friend Paul for the initial ideas).

Flesh – Darkoath Flesh
Trousers – Gulliman Flesh (2 coats)
Webbing – Skeleton Horde (when dry, layer on Vallejo stone grey).
Rifle and entrenchment tool handle – Snake bite leather or Wyrdwood (the former gives a light wood the latter dark wood).  I used a vallejo steel for the metal.
Boots – Basilicanum Grey (2 coats)
Helmet and painted metal – Militarium green
Slings – Vallejo Saddle Brown
Jacket – Skeleton horde (2 coats).

These models can be done very fast.  I found the best way was to clip the joints on the sprue and clean up the models with a file.  Undercoat and then paint on sprue.
The key thing with contrast paint is that the colour of the undercoat really matters.  White will give you a lighter, brighter, look and I think a light grey base coat gives a darker but perhaps more historic color effect.  Note the flesh is a bit dark on the grey coat examples, but I think i over did it as I applied 2 coats of the flesh color not realising how much it would darken it.

With a light grey undercoat

Same colors with a white under coat

Its really personnel choice which is better.  I took a few examples to the BF Open Day and it was interesting how split opinion was on which worked better.  Some like the bright look, contrast and a brighter shade works well at smaller scales, others liked the more subdued but accurate looking darker look with a grey undercoat.


Here is a step by step for my US Airborne.

White undercoat and then darkoath flesh
Weapons in Snakebite Leather.  I could have made this a bit darker.
Helmets with militarium green.  Note the effect on the scrim in the helmets.

Boots in two coats of basilicanum grey and webbing in skeleton horde.
[I think Mark missed that US WWII boots are reddy brown – Lee]

Uniform is tricky as its a mix of militarium green and basilicanum grey.  I went for about 50/50.  I may try adding a little skeleton horde just to give it a little more olive.
Steel added with vallejo and saddle brown by vallejo for the slings and helmet straps.  I also added some brown and sandy yellow to the scrim.  The webbing was layered with stone grey mixed with a little white
view from the back.
A finished base 

Well there you have it.  For me the contrasts work really well for 15m infantry.  Its amazing how much detail it brings out and quickly you can get models ready for the table.  I paint a lot and this will really help me get projects done.  

One final piece of advice: While it’s fine for weapons such as mortars and guns do not put it on tanks and other vehicles, it looks horrible, neat, on flat surfaces as it pools. Some have commented that it can work if thinned with the medium but tanks are probably best left to the more tried and true ways of drybrush and pin-wash.

One thought on “Contrast and Compare

  1. On vehicles I have found it works ok if you highlight up – so in effect use as a basecoat and shade- but make sure you highlight .
    Also depends on the vehicle – Churchills with the recessed detail work pretty well..big open spaces on say a Sherman perhaps less so

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