Ask the Corps: Arctic Highlighting

Somehow this slipped through the cracks a few months back. After digging back through TPC's email, I found it again. With our recent post of the Tank Whitewash tip, I thought it a good time to bring up another winter related post here in Ask the Corps.

Dane writes:

Greetings oh ye Gods of painting,
I stumbled on this site though the wet blending video on youtube and I cannot thank you guys (and gals) for the work that goes into everything. The Painting Corps is a truly invaluable resource for all hobbyists (especially those who's standards FAR exceed their abilities...like me ^_^)

So here is my problem. I am attempting to paint an arctic/winter/snow world army and after several attempts, Ive washed and scrubbed the same squad ten times now, I feel I have finally found a decent paint method that yields acceptable results.

-Prime with Armoury White Spray
-Basecoat with 1:1 mix of Astronomican Grey/Skull white
-Wash with 3:1 mix of Badaab Black Wash/Astronomican Grey
-Several Drybrushings of Skull white
-Freehand camo composed of 2:1 Codex Grey/Chaos Black

The entire process yields a decently crisp white with greyish black shadows. The issue is, as Ive learned is the case with most heavily drybrushed minis, the skull white comes out very "chalky" and takes away from the entire model. I have been told by hobbyists at my local gaming store that this color scheme is likely one of the hardest to pull off correctly and I should try something else. So I have. I have tried around fifteen totally different schemes and while they look ok for one of my skill; they aren't what I want and I never had the satisfaction of completing something challenging. So, I turn to the masters for advice. Is there anything; any trick or technique or product I am missing out on? Or will this be a case of keep trying until I have the experience to pull it off? Thanks in advance for any advice/help you can offer. Again, fantastic website.

I know there are folks out there with a lot more experience in painting your winter themed models. If you've got a nugget of insight, let's hear it!


  1. I'd suggest two things.

    First off, I find the key to a smooth white is my airbrush. it takes a lot of work to get confident using an airbrush on a mini, but once you are there, you'll never look back.

    the second thing is shadow colours and highlight. I'd be very sure use use quite cold, quite blue shadows, rather than black. and conversely to use quite a warm white for highlight,

    case in point, take a look at the image on top of this thread. (not perfect due to the filter used in snapping it but still) - slap that in photoshop or GIMP and wander the colour picker around it. youll be hard pressed to find much white. do the same for a few other image you find "wintery" and consider selecting your highlights and shadow shades from that palette.

    hope that helps some

  2. I never like to use black in a white themed army.

    blog.brushthralls.com/?page_id=1967 might be a good place to start.

  3. After giving it some additional thought and taking some things already said here into account, I think your best bet is to go with a white base coat and carefully paint in shadow using a cool color. You'll need to touch this up of course, but you really need to move away from using drybrushing as a major part of your painting repertoire. Drybrushing has a place, but getting a smooth finish on your minis will never materialize using it.

    Check out the url oldgrue posted for some really great thoughts on the subject as well.

    Someday we'll try and tackle this with a bit of serious depth.

  4. Thanks for the the information everyone! Ive actually moved away from the white/black/grey scheme to a white primary with spacewolves grey shadowing. Grey Death is absolutely correct. Ive been drybrushing way too much on nearly everything. I am learning to layer and wetblend but the altitude here in denver makes it difficult because the paint dries so rapidly. Again thanks for all of the information!!