The Black Tutorial

So here it is, the first proper painting tutorial for The Goldfish of Justice.

First of all let’s get the basics out of the way.

Paint consistency

Thinner is better in this case, about the same consistency as milk for your first highlight layer, and from then on even thinner, 3:1 or even 4:1 in favour of water and some of my black glazes are pretty much just slightly tinted water. You can use less diluted paint if you wish, but you’ll be spending a lot more time blending and smoothing out the transitions between colours.  The diluted paints also go some way towards negating the ‘chalky’ look that sometimes happens when putting pale colours onto black because you can build the layers up and glazes take less effort.

Consistency like this is about right

Brush technique
Use the side of the brush from the tip to about 3/4 down the bristles  and push the paint to where you want the most pigment to be (angle the brush perpendicular to the direction of travel), so in the case of the highlights, push the paint towards the centre of the highlight, and for blending colours into the black, push out from near the relection  towards where the highlight meets the basecoat.

Although i’ve used thicker paint to highlight the technique you can still see that theres less pigment at the start of the stroke on the left

IMPORTANT: You’re going to be working with heavily diluted paint, so before you put the brush onto the model, wipe off the excess paint onto a piece of tissue or kitchen towel, you want to be applying micron thin layers, if it pools you have too much on the brush.

It takes practice to do so don’t be disappointed if your first attempt doesn’t turn out the  way you want it too, its taken me a long time to get to grips with brush technique, and even now I’m still learning. And remember, this isn’t the only way to do this, just one of many and some techniques will suit different people.

With all that done, let’s get started!

Prime your model black using your preferred method and if you’re using citadel black aerosol, make sure to brush a thin layer of your normal black paint on afterwards. Citadel spray can blacks aren’t as black as paint from a pot, so you’re making the work harder than it needs to be by painting straight onto the primer.


It doesn’t matter how smooth your blending is, if the placement of the highlights isn’t correct it won’t look right, but that being said, the ‘rule of cool’ is still applicable, if you place a highlight that isn’t quite in the right place, but it looks good and doesn’t detract from the effect you’re trying to achieve, keep it.

The way I do it (and there are many ways, this is just one) is to hold the mini under a single lamp and look at where the light hits the model, turn it until the reflections look good and place the highlights in the same spot .

As you can see on the shoulderpad there’s a nice relection so I’ll put the highlight here.
Eshin grey placed where the reflection is

In the photo above you can see I’ve placed the first highlight (in this case eshin grey) where the reflection was in the first photo. You can also see that because I now have two lamps on for painting, there’s two spots of reflections, and sometimes using two points of reflection can enhance the effect, however for this tutorial I’ll just be doing the one.

A note on colours. Because I like to have easily reproduce-able results I’ve used set colours for the most part, however if you’re comfortable with mixing or you use a wet palette (I generally don’t, no idea why) then you can get away with just black and white. And for those wanting more variation of colour in your black, glaze your desired tint over when you’re all done with the basic black.

From this point on it gets a lot easier, you’ve got the position of the highlight marked and its now a case of taking your time and remembering to smooth between each layer.

Below I’ve smoothed out the eshin grey by glazing on several layers of heavily thinned black , pushing the pigment from just inside the edge of the spot of grey to where it meets the black of the shoulder pad (every couple of layers glaze over the whole shoulder pad including the grey, the previous glazes will leave different levels of shine which can make it look messy, just one glaze over the whole thing tidies that right up)

Now you add the next highlight, which in this case is dawnstone. If you keep the layers thin you shouldn’t have to do much tidying up.

Heres a couple more angles to see how it looks on the figure so far.

Now you’ve got the second highlight on, smooth the grey if required, I did it with a touch of heavily thinned eshin grey and then a black glaze over everything.

Smoothed dawnstone highlight

If you don’t want super glossy black you can just leave it like this if you wish. But I’m going to push this further.

With this in mind I mixed a dab of white into dawnstone and thinned the mix down.

And as before, glaze over everything with black.

Now for the bit that really makes this technique work. Thin down some pure white so it’s almost water, wipe most of the paint off the brush as before and gently dab it into the centre of the reflection, do this a few times and use a tiny flicking movement to push the pigment towards the centre, if done correctly this should leave you with a tiny, bright highlight with a slightly fuzzy edge. Don’t worry about having it perfectly circular, glossy black surfaces show up imperfections more than any other surface and I can’t imagine space marine armour would be perfectly smooth, so a little bit of imperfection adds realism.

I’ve also added another highlight on the edge of the shoulderpad for a bit of visual interest

And that’s basically it! If you have brightly coloured materials near the black you can glaze on those colours onto the black as extra reflections, just make sure to glaze over everything after with black and be careful if you’re using yellow as some blacks contain blue pigment, and we all know how that will end!

Looking pretty shiny to me!

I hope this was of some use to someone!

Keep Practicing and Keep Painting.

6 thoughts on “The Black Tutorial”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *