Last week I posted I paint job of the Hill Giant Tyrant Ogi Skullcrusher and my experimentation for painting skin. While it was setting my baseline for skill and observing room for improvement when painting skin I also really wanted to finish the model.

Since I already spent quite a few painting sessions on the miniature and already am behind schedule in painting my Frostgrave game with over 15 miniatures over the next month I decided to try in more detail the usage of citadels contrast paints. I am still very much new to using contrast paints and acknowledge a lot to learn. However here are some of my first experiences and observations using the paint.

What Are Contrast Paints?

Contrast paints are a paint formulated by Games Workshop to help assist new painters or even those who choose to speed up their painting process. Contrast paints are designed to base coat, shade and highlight the miniature in a single coat and most commonly used over a light undercoat. By suppling so many steps in a single application it can help a novice painter glaze over some technical steps and save valuable time going back to apply multiple coats or even colors to achieve similar effect.

The largest benefit of these paints can be used in tandem with a zenithal highlight (light color prime over a dark like the sun is shining at its zenith). Contrast Paints appear similar to a wash or shade but also appear somewhat thicker to allow for full coverage in painting the model.

While there are other companies who have created paint similar to the contrast paint, access to Games Workshop paints are widely available in my area and are considered by some to be the best of their type.

My Bias

Since the release of contrast paint in 2019 into the hobby space, I admit I’ve avoided buying and using a them. Having watched many YouTube channels during their release reviewing the product line the consensus was along the lines of interesting but not necessarily valuable to the experienced painter. You see the market of contrast paint was aimed towards the new painter as a way to do several painting techniques in one; base coat, shade, and highlight. Why would a experienced painter want to use them? An advanced painter has significantly more control and finesse doing these things the old fashioned way. As for me, why would an aspiring painter use them if it takes away from the practice of other techniques. I aim to grow not necessarily avoid tasks.

Over time however I’ve begun to notice an increase of usage of contrast paints in various applications for people. Many paint models for their games and are absolutely happy with the tabletop standard contrast paints provide. There is a growing category of people who have begun to use contrast paint as a unique tool in various situations providing yet another SKILL to use rather than a shortcut. Due to the increase in the latter I’ve decided to over come my prejudice and try them for myself.

I will also admit the that cost of contrast paint is something that has turned me off over time as well. Contrast paint can be roughly 40-50% more in cost than a standard container of paint.

My First Use of Contrast Paint

I was inspired to use contrast paint for the very first time during my woodworking deep dive color palette test. I saw several people in the painting community painting wooden objects such as doors and barrels with contrast. I absolutely loved how they turned out and asked “What was your process?” “Did you use a particular color?” The response: Contrast Paint.

Since contrast paints are commonly referred to as a “transparent filter” I loved seeing the difference in behavior using the three different undercoats: white, gray, and black. The biggest difference was noticed in the Gore Gunta Fur Contrast Paint. With a white primer the paint appears more red as opposed to brown.

I absolutely loved these colors and to be honest testing contrast myself on these tavern tiles made me excited to use contrast paint in my arsenal for other projects.

Contrast paints tested for Wood painting deep dive

My First Real Application of Contrast

After the wood working testing and not knowing how I wanted to finish painting the Hill Giant after my experiment with skin I realized that there were three areas on the Hill Giant that I technically had contrast paint for: Wood, Leather, and Fur. This was the perfect opportunity to see the contrast paints in a real application for a three dimensional miniatures instead of a relatively flat base. This distinction is valuable as contrast paints are intended to help add shade to a model.

For this test I attempted to experiment with three different starting processes to see how they responsed and behaved.

  • Tree Trunk: this tree trunk is mostly white but technically a zenithal highlight and would represent the most default usage of contrast paint. This would ideally produce shadow and contrast upon the addition of the contrast paint.
  • Fur texture: I painted a light grey color as a uniform bright undercoat to see what would happen. With a consistent color and not preshaded. This would be most similar to the white primed Gore Gunta Fur painted base from above.
  • For the leather I wanted to try to use two pre toned colors and see if the contrast paint was transparent enough to be impacted by the contrast paint and therefore potentially produce two variants of leather.
Hill Giant Prepped for Contrast Paint

The Leather

When I applied the snakebite leather contrast paint to the leather you can absolutely see below that the contrast paint completely over powered the under coat color of the hill giant. There is zero indication that any work went into painting the leather differently. This was by far the most disappointing portion of my testing with contrast paints. In order to fully use them the way I want to in the future I will have to learn more methods to thin down the contrast paints or mix them to increase the variety of color and tones for the paint itself.

To help compensate for this singular hue in color I did end up dry brushing and a small amount of edge highlighting to try and get more of that worn leather look.

Close up to the Leather work after Drybrushing

Fur and Wood

Applying the contrast paint to the wood and leather also yielded interesting results for me. While the fur behaved approximately as expected with darker recesses and lighter tops the wood overall did appear very splotchy. While this works very well for a tree trunk as there is no uniform color to the bark of a tree I am left frustrated in the consistency of the paint and my skill working it. I found the paint pooling in locations and not applying in a smooth layer. Again learning how to thin out the paint would be ideal.


At this state of using contrast paint I was largely disappointed. I know I am not the most skilled of painters but was frustrated that I could not move the paint in the direction I wanted to go and could not anticipate the results. Which is of course silly because the whole purpose of using these paints was to see how they behaved and to learn and grow.

Deciding to move forward and see what would happen I decided to apply more dry brushing and highlights to the contrast areas of the model in order to get more areas to pop and add variety of color. I added some of my original light gray color to the fur and some light brown to the tree. Overall I am really happy. I do and think overall there is much more life to the model and applying highlights yourself over the contrast paint is a necessity.

Perhaps I just need to learn more to add skills of contrast paints to my arsenal overall? What else could I have done?

Hill Giant with Highlights

Painted Hill Giant

In the end I am really happy with this model and the quality of its paint job. This is a fantastic tabletop standard piece and looking at it across the room brings a smile to my face. There is always aspects of any project you want to grow upon but in the end I think this figure is a great representation of my current skill and knowledge.

I also am really happy with the usage of some vallejo earth texture paste and a mixture of grass toughs to add final touches to the base. I tried to add the tuffs in between the rocks where grass or shrubbery would grow.

What’s Next?

While I have learned to no longer write off contrast paints and consider them a valuable tool. I definitely realize that I want to do more with them. Talking to some other hobbyists and watching more videos I realized that the use of Contrast Medium or some water will help thin down the contrast paint. I think perhaps the use of thinning down my contrast paint could help me unlock its potential. There is also different types of contrast paints. There is so much I can do and learn!

Maybe contrast paints deserve their own deep dive? Do you use contrast paints? What has worked for you and not? Lets start a dialogue to add this tool to our range of skills. How do you feel the model turned out?

As always Happy Hobbying.

~ Carrie the Crazy Mad Scientist

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