Monday, October 12, 2015

Shading Red

Bright reds are a very difficult color to paint well. I've been painting Blood Angels for almost twenty years now, and I'm still figuring out new ways to paint red. My preferred method now is to start with a base of Mephiston Red and layer up through lighter reds, but some times you have to go in the other direction and add darker shading to a lighter red. I've had to do much of this when refurbishing my older models, adding shading to the recesses of models that I originally painted flat red.

The best way I've found to do this is to carefully paint washes into the recesses, darkening them. I tried GW's Carroburg Crimson, but I found that it wasn't dark enough for what I wanted. I've found two Secret Weapon Washes that work really well, depending on what you want.

Red black is a strange wash, as it is very purple when it's wet, but dries to a nice, deep red. It gives you a subtle shading on a bright red. One of the major benefits is that it doesn't tint the paint much when spread in a thin layer, which is what happens when some of the wash spills out of the recesses. This makes it very easy to repaint the raised areas and clean up the shading on the model.

Sewer Water is a reddish brown wash, and is pretty similar to the old Devlan Mud. This means that it's a great wash on just about anything. It produces a very pronounced shading, giving you deep, clean demarcations. I like the overall look a lot, but it does strongly color even with a thin coat. This means that you'll need several coats to cover any spots that the wash gets out of the recesses. This makes using Sewer Water for any light colors (such as red) very time consuming, but rewarding in the end.

Here are some examples for comparison. Both tanks were originally painted a flat Blood Red. The Rhino was shaded with Red Black, while the Baal Predator was shaded with Sewer Water.

Red Black on the left, Sewer Water on the right.

The differences are subtle, but it really comes down Red Black producing a softer, more red shade while Sewer Water is a deeper, more defined shade.

I like both for slightly different effects, so I'll be keeping them both around.


  1. I strongly prefer the Sewer Water version. Looks an awful lot like Agrax Earthshade, which happens to be my fave shade of all time. The Red Black isn't bad, but it's almost too subtle. Maybe some of that's the lighting?

  2. I think it does have a lot to do with the distance that you're looking at the model from, not so much the lighting (though I'm sure the red black is more pronounced in person than in the photo).

    The red black is definitely more subtle, but I think it looks better when looking at the model up close. At tabletop distance, I think the Sewer Water looks better, so it depends what effect you want.

    The Sewer Water reminds me of Devlan Mud, which I think was a bit darker than Agrax Earthshade, but very similar. It's definitely my favorite shade for a variety of colors. It seems to work on just about everything.

  3. Did you thin down the SW washes? I always find them utterly packed with pigments, and generally add some water to them to get them more to GW consistency.

    Thank you so much for the comparison photos!

  4. I don't water them down directly, but I put them on a wet palette, which likely has the same effect. Since I paint them directly into the recesses rather than washing them over the model, the higher pigment is actually helpful.


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