Monday, April 2, 2012

Product Review: Secret Weapon Weathering Powders

As you've seen if you've been following the progress on my Executioners, I picked up a couple types of weathering powder from Secret Weapon Miniatures. I've been using them to dirty up the Executioners, and I think I finally have enough experience with them to write up a bit of a review.

The powders provide very realistic looking mud and dirt on your models, but they have to be used in the right way. I watched a lot of videos online about applying weathering powders, and there seem to be hundreds of way to apply them. Some worked for me, some didn't.

First, I tried just dusting the models with the powder before I varnished them. This produced a dry, dusty appearance before I varnished them, but the varnish either blew the powder off or covered it up. I really couldn't see any effect.

I then tried mixing the powder with some water and brushing on the resulting paste. This worked better, giving a muddy appearance rather than a dusty one. Importantly, it also held up after being varnished. However, it went on more like paint than powder and didn't provide the texture I was looking for.

After that, I tried brushing on the powder and "fixing" it by applying rubbing alcohol over the powder. The alcohol dried quickly and left the powder, mostly in the crevices. I think this works better on lighter colors, such as metallics.

Finally, I made a paste with the powders and rubbing alcohol. This is how I applied it to the last few squads. So far, this is my favorite approach. It applies with some texture but still creates a strong color. It looks very much like mud. I apply it with an old drybrush, using both drybrushing and stippling.

Dark Earth is the darkest of the powders that I bought, and it works great for representing wet mud. I use this as the base for all my weathering so far. When mixed with rubbing alcohol, it goes on with a strong color and good texture. It's also the best powder for brushing on dry and then hitting with alcohol as it has the strongest color.

Terracotta Earth is a brighter, reddish color, very good for representing clay. It can be used on its own or as a highlight on top of the Dark Earth, and goes on with a similar texture to Dark Earth. When applied as a powder, my experience is that it disappears against anything but lighter colored paints such as white and yellow.

Clay Brown is the lightest color I bought, and seems to work differently to the others. I haven't found a way to apply it over paints that really looks right, but it works great dabbed on top of the other two powders to represent drying mud. The problem is that it doesn't mix with alcohol to form a paste but rather looks like a suspension with small particles floating in the clear liquid. When applied in this state, it doesn't look like anything but clear fluid was added, but it dries as a strong color. This has led to me overapplying it when not careful, as it's hard to see when wet. It's the trickiest to work with, but the final look is quite good when applied sparingly.

Overall, I really recommend the Secret Weapon weathering pigments. The price is reasonably cheap, you get a lot of powder, and it seems to be good quality and produces a nice finish. I found that there was quite a learning curve to using it, but I think that applies to all weathering powders.


  1. I love the SWM powders and they are the ones I use. I'm more of a dry application though... I do very little work with alcohol in my powders.

    Glad to see you're having some good experiences with them! I struggle with the super light colors as well and prefer to use the reds and browns becuase I like the way they look on models.

    Ron, From the Warp

  2. I am really enjoying using them, and I'm pretty comfortable working with them with alcohol to get a muddy look, as seen on my Executioners.

    I really need to experiment more with a dry application. I tried that first, and it looked good until I varnished (with Testors Dullcote) but then seemed to vanish. I'd really appreciate any suggestions.

  3. I don't varnish because it has the tendency to "kill" the dusty look of the powders that I like so much. Of course I don't game so that's not an issue.

    Ron, From the Warp

  4. Ah, that's the exact same thing that happened to me. I plan to game quite a bit with the Executioners once they hit 1,850 points, so varnishing is a necessity. If I find anyway to keep the dusty look, I'll be sure to post it up.

  5. Good luck! I've been down that road with a number of methods and have had little to no success to my liking. I'm just used to handling my models differently now so as to only handle the bases and not the models themsleves.

    Ron, From the Warp


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