Wonderfest 2002 "How-To Demos"


Washes and Drybrushing


June 9, 2002

By Larry Johnson

Email: scifi58@yahoo.com



The Purpose

Models are scale replicas cast in non-scale light.  Washes and drybrushing force a lighting effect intended to highlight the details of the model, enforcing a shadow in recesses and a reflection off of raised areas that normal light would not show on such a small scale.  Grills look more like wire mesh with a wash, and grab handles look like the sun is reflecting off them with drybrushing.




Washing is simply letting heavily thinned, darker paint flow into recessed areas, crevices or around the base of raised parts to enforce an illusion of shadow.




      Paint the model completely and apply decals normally (decals should be weathered too). Then overcoat.

      Thinning the paint. Practice will help you achieve the right consistency.

o    It should be thin enough to run into the crevices.

o    Not too thin as to evaporate with the thinner.

      Load the brush with the paint and touch it to engraved lines, recesses, or the base of raised parts. Let the wash flow into the area. 

      Or, you can swath the wash all over the model, making sure it gets into the recesses but also dirties up the surrounding area.

      When it is dry (in an hour or so), go back with a swab or cloth dipped in thinner and wipe off the excess wash from the areas where you donít want it.



      Use a different type of paint for your wash than the base coat of the model.  The solvent used in the thinner will attack the base coat otherwise.

o     If you paint the model in enamels, wash in acrylics or oils.

o     Alternately whatever your base coat is, if you cote in lacquer (Dullcote or Glosscote), donít use a turpentine based wash

      The type of overcoat can make a difference.

o     If you use a gloss overcoat, the wash will flow more evenly into the recesses. 

o     If you use a flat overcoat, the wash will stain the paint as it flows into recesses, giving it a dirty and grungy appearance.


The overcoat should dry thoroughly before applying the wash.

      When washing with acrylics, thin with alcohol.  Water as a thinner will cause the wash to bead up and not flow.

      Washes are primarily used for enforcing shadow, but you can also use them to dirty up a model. 

      Washes can also be used to simulate fluid leaks.

o       Use different colors to simulate various futuristic fluids.

o       Pool a dot at the rear of an access panel, letting it flow into the panel lines, and streak it back to simulate air flow.  Keep in mind that such an effect would be inappropriate for a vessel that only travels through space only. Use this technique on a vessel that travels through the atmosphere.



Drybrushing is the companion to washes.  Once the wash represents deep shadow, drybrushing will show light reflecting off of edges and raised areas, bringing out the detail.



      Prepare your paint by taking some of your base color and lightning it with white or tan.

      Now touch your brush to the paint.  You DO NOT want too much paint.

      Wipe your brush on a paper towel.  The point is to get nearly all the paint off.

      Lightly drag the brush over the model.  You want to hit the raised detail and the edges, to bring them out.




      The type of paint doesnít matter as it does with washes.  We will not be using thinner to damage the base coat. 

      Drybrushing DOES work best on surfaces that have a flat coat of paint applied onto it. The flat coating gives the paint something to grab.

      Drybrushing is mainly for showing light and generally saying ďHey, look at this detail that you would maybe not otherwise notice cuz itís the same color as the rest of the model!Ē

      Drybrushing can also be used for showing worn areas or fading of the sun. 

      Another technique is to drybrush with silver or metallic grey to show worn paint where metal is showing through.

      Drybrushing is it is very hard on the brush.  You might wish to save old brushes that have been reduce to stubble for your drybrushing brushes.  This lets you scrub away and not damage your good brushes.



Pre-shading is a wash related technique.  It involves, either by brush or airbrush, applying a darker color - black or dark brown - along a panel line or recess area.


Next, paint the model as you would normally.  The darker pre-shading color will show through the base color (if the base color is not too thick), and have the same effect as a wash.



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Copyright © 2010 by Anthony I. Wootson & Larry Johnson. No material may be reproduced without permission. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.