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Contrast Paints, is everyone really using them and are they actually quicker?

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  onlyonepinman 1 week ago.

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    Wasn’t convinced by Contrast Paints.
    A few of them are invaluable (really… Can’t do without the Apothecary White any more, for instance…). But for the most part, it must suit your paint style, and your method of painting. Doesn’t suit me.


    Cult of Games Member

    I have a collection of the whole set of contrast paints.  I enjoy using them as they tend to be just the right consistency straight out the pot, which makes life simpler.  I’m an experienced painter of nearly 40 years (although only of average skill, you’d have thought by now I’d be better than I am!) and while for the first few models while I was working out how the paint behaved the results were not the greatest, since then I have learned how to dilute them when necessary, and gained confidence in mixing them.  I find they do save a little bit of time when batting out large batches, and give nicer results than my previous preferred mass painting technique of “dipping”.

    Having said that, because I tend to do quite a bit of historicalsI find there are certain colour schemes and uniform types that I find do not lend themselves quite so readily contrast – so the muted, camo shades of WWII for instance, or the fiddly cross-straps for Napoleonics.  On the other hand something like a Celtic warband does suit the brighter colours of contrast.

    I also find I like to use the blacks, dark greys and some of the darker browns and other colours as a wash, which perhaps wasn’t how they were envisioned, but they do the job well I think.

    So to answer the OP I don’t find they save me oodles of time, but I do find that perhaps I get a better standard of paint job than I would have otherwise bothered trying to attain.  At heart I am fairly impatient, so I’ve never been one to spend hours and hours on a single figure.  Contrast lets me perhaps shoot for a better result than I would have tried for before.  Also I find the process of using contrasts (one or two coats over a light undercoat, say) less faffy than going for two or three shades with maybe a couple of coats of each, which nowadays I rarely bother with, and only for particular character models where the colour scheme justifies it.

    Certainly when it comes to the “one thick coat” for beginners as they were originally marketed, then I don’t really use them in that way, but TBH I don’t know anyone in person who does.  Any n00b who comes to me for advice at the club, I tend to recommend undercoat light grey, block colour, overall wash with Nuln Oil or diluted Dark Tone, then very light overall drybrush with a bone/off white.  A sort of modified “dip” technique I guess.  I find that is the simplest way to get half-decent results for n00bs with no experience.  Once they get comfortable doing that they tend to have mastered brush techniques enough to try more complex things such as different coloured washes, shading/highlighting etc.  Then only at that point would I suggest paying the big bucks for contrast paints in a few widely useful shades, such as dark grey, flesh, medium brown etc.  Once they get to that point though they tend to be competent enough to work things out themselves and experiment.

    Just my own experience, YMMV.


    Cult of Games Member

    I have quite a few contrast paints – not quite the full range, but quite a lot – and I love them. They made me fall back in love with the hobby; they make painting fun again.

    I’ve also seen looooaaaaadds of forum posts about people complaining that they’re not getting the results they want after firing them through an airbrush or cutting them 50/50 with home-made deionised water or something! They’re not complex paints, you don’t need a complex method to use them. The strap-line when they launched just about says it all – “one thick coat”.

    Sure, if you spray your minis with a different primer (the two “contrast primers” have a slightly satin finish, to help the contrast paints do its job better whereas lots of people use “proper primer” which leaves a slightly gritty surface finish as a “key” for the next layer of paint which stops the contrast paints from sliding around so much) or try to emulate your favourite Youtube painter by messing about with advanced painting techniques but not quite pulling it off, your minis will look less than brilliant.

    But they’re designed to be painted on *thickly*. Whack the paint on. Good and thick. Over *a proper basecoat*. And they work really well – high, sharp edges appear almost white (stained slightly by the paint) as it slides away from the highest points (thanks to that slightly slippy wraithbone/grey seer contrast primer) and the deepest recesses appear really dark. The bit inbetween retains much of the colour of the “stain effect”.

    Yes, you can mess about with them, and try out different techniques – but don’t then be surprised (or, worse still, take to the internet to complain about) if they then don’t always work the way they should!

    I discovered that painting purple contrast over a human flesh colour gives a really cool finish for my Space Hulk genestealers. And it’s really quick – block in the flesh, whack on the purple (good and thick) and you get really nasty, alien-looking skin.


    Also, use as big a brush as you can for contrast – bigger brushes with a good point are far better (and much, much more enjoyable) to use for miniature painting. Contrast paints made painting quicker but also more enjoyable for me – I wouldn’t paint a mini without them now!





    • This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by  ced1106.

    Cult of Games Member

    As I mentioned in the discord: depending on how expensive it will be I’ll give the starter set a go.


    Cult of Games Member

    of course ‘everyone’ is going to ‘copy’ GW’s success with ‘contrast’ by doing their own version.

    Scale75’s “Instant” paints were a bit different, but they shared the same idea of using just one paint to do both highlight and shadow in one as opposed to using several techniques and different paints.

    It may not be a ‘new idea’, but it sure as heck is better marketed and presented.

    I think the only actual negative for Contrast-style paints is that they are focused on the fantastic/futuristic where bright colours are the default. That may also be part of the reason why not everyone is having good results with them, because their style or expected result doesn’t suit the paint.



    (Repost from Dakka)

    Only took me two years ~8) but I finally looked up Contrast paints on Reaper Bones, and lowly linked Goobertown Hobbie’s not-quite recipe for Contrast paints:

    * 50% matte medium (a squirt or two)
    * 50% acrylic ink
    * A few drops of flow aid

    I’m sure there are other YT videos and web pages with more concrete recipes. But those of you who have used Les’ Wash recipe know that the ingredients are almost the same. Not surprising, since contrast paints behave similarly to washes. Flow aid is what sucks the wash into the recesses. Les’ recipe for washes uses more water and thus is actually a little more work to make.

    If you dislike DIY as much as I do, I only recommend making your own wash (and thus contrast paints) if you need a batch of it for a larger project, such as terrain or an army. No point making a few ounces when you only need a few drops for a cape. If you’re a fantasy gamer with dungeon and wood terrain, try making your own black and brown washes and see what you think. OTOH, If you’re used to mixing with mediums, I figure you could just mix up whatever contrast paint you need right in a bottlecap, instead of bothering with mixing cups.

    IIRC, You can get acrylic inks, matte medium, and flow aid at Michael’s or an arts and crafts shop, and use that online coupon. Obviously, the initial cost is more than a few bottles of hobby paints, so the premade stuff may still be better for new painters, those who don’t need more than a bottle of a color, and the convenience.

    Les’ Washes :



    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by  ced1106.

    Cult of Games Member




    Two years ago, draadhaai on Reddit came up with these results for DIY, based on Goober’s constrast mix.

    Sounds like contrast paints can be made with 9-10 drops of matte medium, 1 drop of flow aid, and 10 drops of acrylic ink. This is actually similar to Les Bursley’s (sp) wash recipe (which also has water), which I’ve been using for quite awhile.  (BTW, when using as a wash, try wetting down the miniature so the wash flows better.)

    Diy Contrast-like paints using acrylic inks from minipainting


    Cult of Games Member

    That looks strikingly similar to the usual contrast test minis I’ve seen. I think the only “advantage” of contrast paints is: they are ready to go and do not need to be mixed



    I think, rather than premixing colors, I’ll just have an eye-dropper of contrast medium (eg. 9 drops matte medium to 1 drop flow aid), a set of acrylic inks, and white milk caps. Add an equal number of medium to the number of drops of ink used and that’s it. Add water if you want a wash. I don’t think it’s more work than mixing paints on a wet palette. I start my painting with washes on colored primer, then hobby paints. Should be interesting to see if a contrast rather than a wash will help.

    That said, I’ll definitely be looking for any sales of the stuff on MM. MM has yet another sale, btw. I think the Micro Arts bases are good candidates for contrast paints, and I picked up a few plank sets!


    Cult of Games Member

    ECW 2

    I’m a painter of 30+ years experience.  I first bought some contrast paints to try last year and now have nearly all of them.  My entire 54mm ECW project has been painted using them.  I wish I had a better picture to show.  I was a fast painter anyway, but using my airbrush to zenithal prime and contrasts paints  to colour has made me even faster, I cannot see me going back to my old method of painting any time soon.



    Yes, contrast paints are *quicker* for colouring in your minis:

    201230 Bones 1 coloured in front

    210206 project colouring in header

    Straight onto white primer, one coat, no more than 5-10 minutes each, a few details in regular paints (eyes, metallics)
    These are all Reaper Bones from the first kickstarter, which means soft details in bendy plastic. Not to be confused with more recent Bones miniatures that are of significantly better quality all round.

    It all comes down to if you want a good paint job or if you want coloured in minis. These are minis that I probably never would paint if not for the contrast paint line.



    I’ve not tried any contrast paints (as I tend to paint minis 15mm and below in size), but I’ve been thinking about the possibility of using them to do a lot of “white” uniformed historicals (for example Nappy Austrians or early Peninsula Naps Spanish).

    It’s not just about speed, rather doing white uniforms for massed troops is just “difficult” to get a good result (without a LOT of work). IF the contrasts just give a good look (I’m not that bothered about speed), I might take another look.

    I’ve not seen any YouTube or Blog offerings where painters have done this for the smaller scale minis (usually it’s plastic 28mm being used), so if anyone has seen any videos/blogs showing contrasts being used on 15mm let me know.

    One of the downside to contrast paints is you can see when painters have used them (the colours tend more towards a “pastel” look), they work fine for “organic” surfaces but I feel they don’t do well for fabric for the lighter colours (darker hues and browns seem to work fine however).



    Kris Belleau has series of excellent quick tips, here he uses contrasts on team yankee minis:

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