Washing a miniature, terrain, or scatter is one of the first tools and techniques I learned when painting. While I am still learning how to apply washes to the best of their ability, DO’s and Don’ts, How and When etc. I have begun to make my own for terrain painting in order to save money and have a consistent color or recipe for a project that can stretch years. In this post I will share my method and recipe for crafting my own Washes.
Now for those who ask “What is a Wash?”
Washing in miniature painting is the term for using a low viscosity semi-transparent layer of color or pigment to move into the recessed areas of the model. This is a quick and an easier skill method of applying shading to your models or figures. Although this method does not take away from the fact or need to learn proper shading (in progress skill for myself).
Some of the most famous washes or shades in the miniature figure painting hobby are the citadel lines of shades and most notoriously “Nuln Oil”. Nuln Oil is famous and owned by almost all hobbyists as the default black wash/shade. It is also well known because in many ways spilling your wash all over your hobby space and staining a project, your desk, or your clothes is so common it can be considered a right of passage into the hobby.
However miniature painting washes can be expensive at around $7.80 per 24 mL container (Shade cost on Games Workshop Website). So what do you do if you need ALOT of wash for your hobby or project but don’t want to spend the money on these small containers? I do not always need much for miniature figures and shading but for terrain, dungeons tiles, or scatter using a home made wash saves me a good deal of money in the long run.
Making your Own Wash
The Theory: A wash is typically made with 3 primary ingredients:
- Medium: Making up the bulk of the wash. Typically made up of water which holds everything together.
- Color/ Pigment: Determining the appearance or Hue of the wash.
- A surfactant: substance used to break down and reduce surface tension of the solution
- Distilled Water aka DI Water: This is what i’ve used to make up the bulk of my wash. By using Distilled Water, I do not have to worry about the quality of water coming out of my pipes in the house. However in a pinch tap water can work as well.
Where to Purchase: Any Grocery Store for around $1 a gallon
- Acrylic Ink: This is the pigmentation used for my home made wash. I currently use 3 different pigments for different recipes/applications. These can be purchased at almost any hobby store.
3. Matte Medium: Is a white paste like gel that will thicken the paint so instead of making “colored water” will retain some shape and allow brush strokes. I am also using the Liquitex brand of matte medium.
4. Dawn Dishsoap: Taken from the kitchen counter every once in awhile is my current surfactant to break up the surface tension. Although the more expensive and improved choice would be a Flow Aid. I do have some but have yet at the time of this writing used it for creating washes.
5. Containers/ Bottles: Used to containing your mixtures and completed created washes. This can truly be any container you have around the house or personal preference. I’ve used everything from Mason jars to small liquid containers.
6. Disposable Pipettes: I prefer to use ones with volumetric measurements on the sides. You can easily purchase about 100 for $4 on amazon
- Create a Water and Flow Aid Mixture . Currently us a ratio of 10:1 water to flow medium. Creating plenty of mixture each batch I create is 30 mL of DI Water to 3 mL of Dawn ultra Antibacterial Handsoap. However any surfactant could work.
- Take water mixture and add Matte Medium. Ratio is 2:3 water mixture to matte medium. I tend to create 8mL of water mixture to 12 mL of matte medium for most projects.
- Add pigment for desired color
- Black Wash: 3-4 drops of amsterdam oxide black per 10 mL prepared in #2 (commonly used in my Dungeon Tiles)
- Brown Wash: 4-5 drops Burnt Umber per 10 mL (Commonly used in my Tavern Tiles).
There you have it. My current recipe for creating my own washes. Do you make your own wash? How does it differ from my own? Don’t hesitate to comment down below.