Friday, 15 June 2012

Tutorial – undercoating – black or white or both?

Black or white? That is the question.
A white undercoat will give brighter colours, but you might get these annoying white specks in crevices – places your ordinary paint didn’t cover, and where the undercoat shows in a most irritating way.
A black undercoat will give a more dull finish, and you’ll find it hard to cover it with yellows and reds for example.
You can off course undercoat with other colours. If you would like to paint a figure in mostly reds, then a red undercoat could serve you very well.
My take on undercoats is a mix of white and black.
I paint the figures with white paint, usually Citadel or Vallejo (simply because I have them). You could use spray paints, but I prefer using a brush, mainly because the climate makes spraying outside impossible during at least half the year, also because I’m not very skilled with airbrushing and painting by hand will give me a chance to study the details of the fig.
I then give them a black wash, and there you have the best of both worlds. A light base with dark crevices. Easy to cover, no white spots, and instant shading for lighter colours with weak coverage. It also makes it easier for you to appreciate all the details of the figure, so it helps you in painting.
An extra plus is that you will see mould lines easily, as on the head on  this zombie from Mantic. This saves you the irritation of finding those lines the hard way, when your figure is nearly finished.


  1. I'm largely a black undercoat man myself but I like this idea as a compromise measure. I can see it being very useful on larger figures and especially on fantasy figures where colours tend to be bolder and brighter. I'll definitely give this a go next time I do something in 28mm.

    Great tip.

  2. Undercoating are for sissys!

    Seriously I think undercoating is the most tedious phase so I try to spray as much as possible...

    One option of combining black and white is to spray black everywhere, but then only spray white from above, at roughly a 60 degree angle. Thus you get shadowing and highlighting automatically. And of course you can do it with say a dark and a light green instead of black and white.

  3. I've gone Leif's way with two part sprays several time. It helps the color to be brighter where it would naturally be better lit, keeps arm pits black, and just looks a bit better. That said, I may try the wash method presented here. I have some Secret Weapon washes (the soft black) that would be great for this, even on very bright models.

  4. Do you use the Vallejo washes or just dilute black paint? (Your Night Terror figure is wonderfully disturbing!)

    1. Now I use mainly Army Painter inks. Ususally Strong Tone or Dark Tone for undercoats.
      I also have the odd pot of Citadel washes I use occasionally.
      Thank you! The Night Terrors turned out far better than I thought they would. The eyes could be better, but I'm satisfied.