Ask the Corps: Mother of Pearl

Another Corpsmen needs your help!

Joshua Writes:

I'm thinking of doing armor that appears to be made of mother of pearl and jade. I assume the jade would be fairly straight forward, but time-consuming to get the variations in color. Mother of pearl, I'm not so sure about. I'm thinking vallejo's pearl white as a base, then matte medium with some sort of mica flake pigment to get the proper shiny, color shifting look. I'd love to see how someone else would approach either of these.

I've personally never worked with an effect like this, so I'm putting it out to you, the community, to help a fellow modeler/painter out! So let's hear your method!

If you have a question of your own, send it to ThePaintingCorps@gmail.com with the subject 'Ask the Corps'!


  1. The problem is that the pearlescent paint effects is that at such a small scale its hard to make it look right. Using mica flakes would make the model (in scale) look like it is coated in glitter. I would recommend using thin layers paint mixed with matte medium. You may want to consider doing a few layers of white over off white, then use a colored glaze in slightly random patches, and keep repeating. This will help you get a translucent and pearlescent white effect, while not actually using any flakes.

    For a good tutorial on stone like painting, I would recommend http://www.coolminiornot.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31535&page=5
    and check out pages 4 and 5 in particular, you're looking for the ceramic stone white used on the helmet and shoulder details.

  2. Something I have had decent success with, though it does not give you the color changing effect you want but looks good on a models is to first paint the model white. Then get your self a cup of clean water.

    Dip your brush (a dry brush works well for this) in some silver and do as you would when dry brushing and wipe it on some paper towel till little or not paint comes off. Then rinse it out in the cup of clean water. Repeat with gold, and if you have it green and red metallics. Then put some white paint on your pallet and use the water from the cup to thin the white paint down to a wash, and then apply this to the surface a few time.

    The basics of what you are doing by wiping the paint off on a towel and then washing the brush out in the water is separating the majority of the colored bonder from the metallic paint and the metallic flakes that are still going to be in the bristles of the brush. So when you mix the now glittery water with the white paint, your a in effect creating a translucent white glaze with flake in a variety of colors in it up, creating a similar but not prefect pearlesent effect.

  3. I got a pearl-pearlescent Createx paint in a set for airbrushing. I haven't used it, but it might work out well if handbrushed onto a white basecoat. I really didn't get very great results from airbrushing minis with Createx though, so I would test this out sparingly.

  4. You may find Daler Rowney FW Ink White Pearl & Silver Pearl useful, I've not used those inks specifically, but others in the range have served me well - they're very liquid, smooth & with high amount of pigment.

    Could be worth taking a look if you have a local art supplies shop...

  5. I was in Michaels picking up more matte medium and Flow Aid and I saw some stuff called Iridescent Medium for acrylics. When you mix it with your paint you will get different reflective hues in the color.

    I would try a 3:1 off white to iridescent medium, then several 15:1 Flow Aid to pink washes.

  6. You could also try faschange paints from Parma. They are meant to be airbrushed for lexan r/c car bodies, but do have the color change qualities in them, the only problem is they are typically only color change from one to another. I used them brush on, on one of the old slaanesh pleasure seeker cav models, and it came out pretty good.