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Adventures in Contrast Paint

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Step 1 - Da Kunnin' Plan

Like the rest of the hobby world,  I was curious how the new Citadel Contrast Paints worked compared to traditional hobby paints. Along with the usual hobby disease of buying whatever is shiny and new, I figured there were a few other hobby symptoms I could bundle together and treat all once with a bit of planning. Here's what I wanted to achieve: 

  1. Try shiny new paints released with a whole lotta marketing and fanfare
  2. As Contrast Paints are designed to speed up painting to tabletop quality, clear out some minis from the backlog on my shelves
  3. End up with something useful, aka, a Blood Bowl team, skirmish warband, or similar
  4. Try out one of the shiny new games GW has been releasing at breakneck speed 

With those criteria, here's how I chose to fulfill each of them: 

  1. Contrast Paints, duh
  2. I dug through several bags of old Squigs and Squig Herders. Fun models that I happened to have bunches of for some great idea I've since forgotten. 
  3. I scrounged up 11 Squigs, 3 Squig Hoppers,  and 4 Squig Herders. Seemed like enough to make a warband (or an anachronistic Necromunda gang). 
  4. I noticed the brand new Warcry game had a supplemental release of warband cards for Squigs - Perfect! 

Step 2 - Prep and Primer

With the plan defined, I was ready to get started. The next step was cleaning and prepping the models, including priming. Since I was experimenting with Contrast for the first time, I decided to experiment with primer colors as well so I could compare the effects. Here's a photo of the warband and primers. 


The group on the right side is my test batch. I planned to run them through first to test the primer colors in combination with different Contrast colours. You can see I sprayed them: white, Wraithbone (an official Contrast primer), Wraithbone zenithal (black first, then Wraithbone from the top only), Mechanicus Standard Grey (a GW colour), and finally a lone Herder sprayed white so I can test out a goblin. 

The group on the left is the meat of the warband, with a few more Squigs, including a giant one, the three Hoppers, and three more Herders. 

The Mechanicus Standard Grey is obviously darker than the other primers, and according to recommendations about Contrast, a bad idea. Still, I wanted to see what the effect would be as I often use that as primer for my normal painting projects. 


Step 3 - First Contact with Contrast

Treating the project as pseudo-science (like most of what's on the Internet), I took notes about the colours, brushes, and times it took to paint for the first test group. I'll list those here, and post photos below. 


  • Basing - 20 minutes - GW Shade Brush - Dark Angel Green on four models, Ork Flesh on four models, Militarum Green on the Herder
  • Skin - Gryph-Hound Orange - 18 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - lots of details I was careful to paint around! 
  • Skin - Blood Angels Red - 16 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - less details on the newer edition Squigs
  • Skin - Talassar Blue - 10 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - really got the hang of application now
  • Tongues and gums - Volupus Pink - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush 
  • Lower lips and tails - Magus Purple  - 1 minute - Size 1 brush
  • Teeth and claws - Skeleton Horde - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush 
  • Eyes - Wraithbone - 1 minute - Size 00 brush - cleanup step to ensure eyes are clear of other spills 
  • Eyes - Iyanden Yellow - 1 minute - Size 00 brush - applied Contrast colour 
  • Teeth and claws shading - Aggaros Dunes - 2 minutes - Size 0 brush - applied around the base of the teeth and claws to add a gradient tint
  • Fine details - various - 6 minutes - Size 00 brush - Squigs feature a lot of warts as a trait and I wanted to highlight them a bit more than the Contrast did
  • Totals: 8 models, 85 minutes

Night Goblin Herder

  • Skin - Warp Lightning Green - 4 minutes 
  • Belt and cymbal ties - Snakebite Leather - 2 minutes
  • Nose bandages - Basilicum Grey - 1 minute - was too dark so I highlighted with white 
  • Teeth - Skeleton Horde - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush 
  • Tunic and shoes - Black Templar - 6 minutes - the bulk of the model, went very easily! 
  • Cymbals - Brass and Silver -  5 minutes - metals aren't available in Contrast and they also take so much time to get a decent coat! 
  • Totals: 1 model, 23 minutes

The Results: 







As you can see above, using Contrast over the dark Mechanicus Standard Grey was a total fail. All of the colors were washed out and dull compared to the other Squigs. In the interest of science, I wanted to see if I could salvage these models with something equally simple and fast. I put in another 20 minutes of drybrushing to fix them up, and I think the results turned out great, although the photo doesn't do them justice so you'll have to take my word for it. 


One last note on the experimental phase: the zenithal primering didn't have an appreciable effect. Probably due more to the Squig models being very short, so their undersides where the black primer remained is not terribly noticeable. During this same time I tried the technique on an AdMech Dominus and it worked nicely as an additional gradient to his robes. 


Step 4 - The Real Deal - (1 week later) 

Next up was applying all my test experience to the heart of the warband. There were 9 more models left to paint, including a Boss. The Boss model was Skarsnik (circa 4th edition WFB) featuring quite a bit more detail than the other models. I also replaced the dark Mechanicus Standard Grey primer with the official Contrast Grey Seer on three of the models. Since I already described the breakdown of steps by colours above, I'll get straight to the results. 

3 Squigs
3 Squig Hoppers
2 Squig Herders
1 Boss 
Total time: 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes). I estimate about 30 minutes was extra time put into the details on the Skarsnik model. 


For those keeping score at home, that brings the totals for the warband to:
18 models
350 minutes (call it 6 hours with bookkeeping fudge factor) 

Pretty good compared to "classic" painting! Of course, all of these models are tabletop quality. Maybe slightly above since there are some areas/colours where Contrast really shines, like the skin on all of the models. Since that element often takes the most time in classic painting, that in itself is a huge win. It's also worth noting that there are no metallics in the Contrast line, so all of those areas I had to do classic style. In this case, that meant a couple of layers of metal and a wash with Citadel shades. Nothing fancy. 

Here is the entire warband ready for action. 


The lighting on my desk is not doing any favors for these photos, so I'll endeavor to get some better action shots in Step 5 when I get them on the battlefield. They really do look pretty good in person, especially for the time put in. 

If there's one lesson learned in this adventure that is not apparent from the photos, it's the psychological factor that Contrast has on painting. Wargamers often have a love/hate relationship with painting their models. For me, it's always been love, but despite that there are dark moments of grappling with the sheer prospect of how much time and effort a model, team, warband, or army, will take to paint. During the gap after painting the first half of this warband, I found myself genuinely excited about painting the second half for one simple reason: IT WAS SO DAMN FAST. 

I am quite certain that practice with the Contrast line, both in refining application techniques and simply learning the colour range better, can produce amazing results with ridiculously little effort. I don't think they'll ever replace what is needed to produce truly stunning models that win competitions, but they sure make it a viable prospect to field painted gangs/teams/whatever for the ever-increasing number of GW skirmish games that keep coming out. 


Step 5 - To Battle!

I finally got these adorable little monsters onto the tabletop for my very first game of Warcry and all I can say is, what a blast! Warcry is a very fast and very brutal game that is easy to learn and very fun to play. I played against @scottshoemaker and it was the first game for both of us. We managed to setup, skim the rules, and get through the first turn in about 30 minutes. The next two turns were only a few minutes each as we got a feel for it. We had been told, and quickly learned, that a Warcry game is generally over by Turn 3. We could have stopped then, but we kept the carnage going for another 3 turns until one side had been completely wiped out. Note that we didn't even bother with a Scenario (and thus Objectives) or a Twist. Those are sure to inject even more mayhem and fun into an already thrilling game. 

(in case you can't tell, I'm looking forward to playing more Warcry and encourage you to try it out!) 

The Team Photo - the whole collection I painted up, posing in the ruins of a wizard's tower, who they surely ate, along with the tower. 


The warband for the game. Turns out Squigs (and Hoppers) are awesome so they cost a lot of points. That meant I could only take a few of them out to dinner for the first game. My selection was a Loon Boss (Skarsnik), 2 Hoppers, 2 Squigs, and 3 Herders. 


Turn 1 - Warcry plays very (very, very) fast! We got stuck in right away with Scott's Iron Golems equally fired up to throw blows. Note we were using the wrong counters for Activated and Waiting (we didn't even know what Waiting was). 


Any attack roll of a 6 is a Critical hit and generally does double damage. My Squigs were feeling the thrill of their first battle and rolled A LOT of Crits. (sorry not sorry, Scott) 


Hoppers have a move of 10(!) and the Loonie warband has an ability to give bonus moves, resulting in 20" flying leaps! --AND--- the Hoppers can land beside (aka, on) an enemy model and squish them while they're at it. 


The Iron Golem Ogre charged into the center melee, but even his 30 Wounds couldn't hold up to the slavering jaws of hungry Squigs rolling Criticals like it was Christmas. NOM NOM NOM! 


After Turn 3, it was a meat grinder as the Iron Golems staged an effective comeback and took out the wounded Hoppers. By Turn 6 there was only a single Squig and its hapless Herders against the ultra-powerful leader of the Golems. 


But the dice came through one last time, and the Squig opened its huge mouth extra-wide, swallowing the leader, his crunchy armour, and his fancy hammer of death. YUM! 



Step 6 - Final Thoughts

Because there ended up being a couple weeks between finishing painting the warband and fielding them on the table, it gave me a chance to set them aside and "forget" how they looked, letting the afterglow of completing the painting project fade. Therefore, it was very pleasing to unpack them and realize just how good they looked on the table alongside all the painted terrain and Scott's awesome Iron Golems (he also used Contrast and metals). The bright, vivid colors lit up the table, and, as all hobbyists know, playing with painted minis is not only good luck, but makes any GW game 100% more satisfying. If I had any lingering doubts about using Contrast paints, they were firmly erased by playing a game with fully painted minis. 

My Arbitrary Ratings: 

Contrast Paints - 6 out of 6 Squigs  - fast, effective, and great results
Warcry - 4 out of 4 Bludgeons - simple, quick rules, and the thrill of tense combat in about 45 minutes
Squigs - 37 out of 37 Fangs - so many teef, so much chomping! 



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1 hour ago, Ish said:

I wonder if Contrast paint can be used in an airbrush...? 


1 hour ago, Dark Trainer said:

It's basically a thick wash. Not having an airbrush, do you airbrush 'washes'?

I have some concerns about running it through an airbrush, the paint itself dries sticky and harder than regular acrylics (forgot to rinse a brush after painting with contrasts, took forever to loosen up, almost like glue). I would absolutely thin it with airbrush thinner. I also feel like it would lose the pooling quality that contrast is designed to do. 

Running washes through airbrush give a great effect, but it is more of an all over shade than a traditional wash that would pool in the crevices.

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The game was quite a good time, and playing with an old hand like jollyork made it even better.  The game plays quite smooth, and really rewards aggressive moves.  I totally second his opinion that's it's so satisfying to play fully painted.  

Contrast Paints: 5 of 5 hammers

Im pretty crap at smooth skin tones, I used thinned gulliman flesh over a light tone to get a light maiden skin.  I think on squigs it's a much better timesaver that takes advantage of sqiggy texture.  Plus they roll more 6s.

Warcry: 7 of 7 hemotomas

Fast and easy, with enough crunch to satisfy.

Squigs:  3 of 3  Rolaids

Chaos Dwarves cause indigestion when eaten whole

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  • 4 months later...

More Adventures in Contrast Paints 

I've been rustling through the dusty figure cases for the random army cast-offs that never got finished. This gives me the opportunity to kill (paint) two birds with one stone: finish those old models, and compare Contrast to old (sometimes very old) paint colors. 

First up, some laggards from my Beasts of Chaos army, which is so old it was called a Beastmen army back then, or is it the other way around now? At some point 15 years ago I decided to stop playing Orcs & Goblins, but coincidentally the new incarnation of the Beastmen book had new Tuskgor chariots, so I was able to yoink the Orc crew and replace them with Gors. Trouble was, I never got around to painting the new crew. So I fished them out of the case and sprayed them with Wraithbone primer.

I spent about a couple hours painting up all six crew, with the first chunk of time experimenting with Contrast color combinations to match the reddish-brown tone of the rest of the army. I ended up doing a basecoat of Gore-Grunta Fur followed by a layer of Volopous Pink over the top. It's not a perfect match, but I'm really happy when the the result. More importantly, the crew fit in perfectly with the chariots painted over a decade ago. Check out how closely the horns on the Gors match the horns on the Tuskgors. The Tuskgor ones took multiple layers and ages; the Gors took one coat of Skeleton Horde and about 10 seconds! 



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Yeah I love the new formula stuff for paint, I'm a paint it for the table guy not a competition winner. That said I love scale 75 and they are entering this space with an offering right now.



They recently did a toughness test and rubbed fingers over a model with no varnish and the paint stayed on. Personally I can't wait till October! Scale has delivered multiple starters on time in my personal experience.

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Next up, a Minotaur hiding in the bitz box. The Beasts of Chaos army mentioned above was actually a Minotaur army, that's why I didn't originally have the chariots. I only had blocks of Minos, some Trolls, Dragon Ogres, and a Shaggoth. It was one of the few Big Stompy armies available back then. Anyway, the army won a Best Painted at the Warhammer Grand Tournament and was featured in the Citadel Catalog 2006-7 edition. In the photo below, one of the Minos is from that army, the other is the new one I added using Contrast Paints in - and I'm not exaggerating - less than 30 minutes. Can you guess which is which? 


Well, the cheaty way to know is that the Mino on the round base is, of course, the new one, since WFB used to be all square bases. I hope I don't regret trying out a round base when the new version of Fantasy comes out in a couple years. Hopefully they will cleverly bring back formations and ranks without needing squares. 


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A bit of a palate cleanser from the stench of Beasts. I've got another warband update project in the works, so this is a quickie before posting those. It's an Endless Spell from the Gloomspite Gitz. I just wanted to paint a giant mushroom, but also wanted to see how Contrast looks on large, smooth surfaces - which it is not recommended for. But what the heck, it's so fast to paint up a model, there's no reason not to try. The only non-Contrast I did on this was drybrushing the magic steam to lighten it up after Aethermatic Blue. Overall, I'm very pleased with the results: big, bright colors with almost no effort, as in no second coats of anything. I applied the Blood Angels Red in a deliberately swirly pattern to get some visual design. It didn't turn out very distinctive (even in meatspace), but the red is a pleasing rich tone. 


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I’ve found that Contrast Paints on a flat/smooth surface look rather nice if you let them get a little “tacky” and then stipple at them with a bit of sponge. I don’t have a good photo of it handy, but doing this with Basilica Grey on the roof of the Marvel Crisis Protocol newsstand gave me a really nice “tar paper roof” finish. There’s no actual raised texture, but it has the appearance of one.

(I’m very tempted to try the same trick to make “adobe” walls.)

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On 4/26/2020 at 7:42 AM, VonVilkee said:

Yeah I love the new formula stuff for paint, I'm a paint it for the table guy not a competition winner. That said I love scale 75 and they are entering this space with an offering right now.



They recently did a toughness test and rubbed fingers over a model with no varnish and the paint stayed on. Personally I can't wait till October! Scale has delivered multiple starters on time in my personal experience.

Heads up, there's only 39 hours left to pledge on this KS. 


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All rightey, after that dalliance with a few random miniatures to test out colors and textures, I'm back into quest mode. This adventure: filling out my old (very old - recognize the theme in these posts?) Mordheim Witch Hunters warband. Back in the day, Mordheim was da bomb - the only way to play Fantasy without painting up blocks of 20 or 30 troops (or 50 goblins). I loved the game and we had a pretty regular campaign going until two things happened. One, I found out my vampire with a spear (always strike first) was pretty much unbeatable in melee, and thus made everyone else cry. Two, @Burk armed his entire warband (Reiklanders, I think?) with crossbows, and pretty much eliminated melee from being a factor in his games, and thus made me cry. Ahh, those were the halcyon days. 

So it's been a while since I took these chaps out of their figure case (side note: I realized that instead of playing games with these minis, I've transferred them from figure case to shiny new figure case dozens of times over the past two decades - anyone else find themselves doing that on boring Saturday afternoons?). As with the minotaur, I wanted to test using Contrast to match up new figures to my old paint jobs. Here's a pic of just the witch hunters, can you tell who I added? 


Of course you can! It's Van Hatling, the striking fella with the feathered cap and... the round base - clearly not a 90s WFB choice! He also happens to be a special edition Empire model that was released long after Mordheim disappeared from shelves, so if you used your Oldhammer knowledge, kudos to you, my aged brethren. 


But guess what? I'm really a tricksy hobbit when it comes to this game. There's another Contrast-painted witch hunter who is from the original line AND on a square base! Can you figure out which one it is if I narrow it down? The guy on the left or the right of Van Hatling


Times up! It's the dude on the left... just kidding. I said I was tricksy. It's the dude on the right, Gregor Greatsword. But it's damn hard to tell, isn't it?? 

Here's another group shot of all the witch hunter models together. Gregor Greatsword was always a burr under my saddle, sitting in my bitz box all unpainted and pewter-y. As I recall, the Mordheim rules only allowed me to field 4 of them, but they made 5 models, so it was a painful choice to leave him out for 20 years. Now in the Age of Contrast, it goes to show that if it only took another hour to paint him up, I would have done it and saved myself the emotional trauma of an incomplete collection all these years! 

(BTW, it might have been 5 witch hunters, but I used the Warhammer Quest Witch Hunter as my 5th - I just realized I forgot to include him in this photo). 


I didn't track my painting time as closely as the squigs, but I am confident each of these guys took less than an hour, which is crazy. It helps that they are mostly black and three shades of brown, but that's the advantage of a tight color scheme for a warband. 

Funny side note: remember what I said about Burk's crossbows? All of my old witch hunters have crossbows added to them. You can't tell from the photo above, so I'll include some closeups. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, you gotta join 'em. 

image.png   image.png 


Coming up next time: More Minions for the Warband. I found some cool old minis (surprise) to breath some new life into the warband, and using Contrast, I've been adding them with almost no effort. 



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