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"Citadel Contrast survival guide for Epic Scale ACW!" Topic

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914 hits since 11 Aug 2021
©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
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Baranovich11 Aug 2021 3:37 p.m. PST

Hello all! So I've been wanting to do this for a while. Now that I finally have a sizable amount of Epic Scale stuff actually painted it can happen. I hope this guide helps you get your own pile of Epic Scale sprues built and painted.

The moment I opened the starter box back in February, I knew there was potential for me to burn out just a few sprues in. I immediately knew that this set was enthusiastically purchased by many excited people and that a lot of them would end up getting through half a sprue and then throwing the whole thing in the closet, never to see the light of day again. Great potential to become a graveyard of unpainted, second-hand Ebay.

My first plan was to spray prime each army's sprues in blue and gray so that the coats would be instantly done, then I could paint the other details with regular mini. paints.

About half-way through my first sprue I realized this was a terrible mistake! Spray priming the sprues in blue and gray actually saves little to no time, and actually prevents you from being able to do shading and highlighting on the coats because they start out dark.

So I switched tactics and realized that the way to go would be to spray prime all the sprues in white or off-white, and then abandon regular paints for the most part, and use Citadel Contrasts instead.

Bam. I instantly realized that this was the key to getting through all these thousands of tiny guys. With the sprues primed in white, I could use Contrasts on everything.

Another important decision I made was that I painted all the strips while still attached to the sprues. This was the first time in my modeling career that I did this. The reason I chose to paint them on the sprue was because it was a huge time saver, it allowed to me hold onto the frame and paint them much easier in an assembly line fashion. I didn't have to mess with cutting them off, sticking them individually onto craft sticks, or whatever else. Just made sense to paint them in place and then just touch up the tiny areas where they are cut from the sprue.

And I can't stress enough how valuable Citadel Contrasts are for a massive historical mini. project like this. I'm estimating that the Contrasts are allowing me to paint a single sprue about four times faster than if I was using regular paints.

If you have the patience to actually paint the entire set with regular paints, and then do shading, and then highlighting separately, god bless you seriously. You have far, far more patience than I do!

Personally I just wanted to get them all and done relatively fast and have them look good. There was no way I was going to make it through all of this painting the traditional way. It would have taken forever and I would have lost my sanity.

The Contrasts are absolutely perfect for this kind of scale and for historicals in general. You can begin to go seriously whacko after you've painted your 350th blue coat or 400th musket, etc.

The Contrasts made this process so much more efficient and enjoyable. The coats and trousers were all done in one pass. The muskets were all done in one pass. There's almost no separate highlights or shading done except in a very few select places. Nearly 100% of the details were all done in one pass where the Contrasts provided the base coat color, shading, and highlighting.

***One special note here, however. The primary sky-blue trouser color for the Union and some Confederate soldiers is NOT a Citadel Contrast. It is actually a Citadel Technical paint from 2018 called "Nighthaunt Gloom". GW released it along with their "Hexwraith Flame". They were produced for painting the undead models that came in the Age of Sigmar 2.0 Soul War starter set.

I still had nearly a full bottle of it sitting there, and quite by accident noticed and realized that it made the perfect light blue trouser color for ACW! It works pretty much the same way the Contrasts do, shading and highlighting in one pass. Amazing stuff, allowed me to the lines of trousers super quickly.

Unfortunately, GW no longer sells this as far as I know. You could try to find it on Ebay I suppose. And there aren't really any Contrast colors that are good for that Union sky blue color. I was lucky I still had this stuff on hand!

That aspect alone of a single pass for each color saved mountains of time and energy. Uniforms, equipment, faces and hands, only had to be passed over once.

I got the process down to where I am now able to get through and entire single sprue in just an afternoon. That's using about seven Contrast colors on each infantry sprue.

For the artillery it was the same deal. Contrast colors allowed me to get through the carriages, barrels, and limbers very quickly.

Horses, same deal. There are a number of excellent shades of Contrast browns that make perfect horse colors.

For all the casualty markers and command stands/personalities, it was all the same Contrast colors I used on everything else.

And the end results I think were pretty good. After a few weeks working on sprues on and off, while painting some buildings and terrain in between I've gotten through about 10 of the 30 sprues that come in the mega-starter set.

Below are a series of pics. showing what this scale looks like when it's done in Citadel Contrasts. I also included several photos showing the exact Citadel Contrast colors I used on the Union and Confederate infantry, the horses, and the artillery.

I hope this Contrast technique works for you! I highly, highly recommend going this route if you are afraid of burning out with a project of this size.

Union infantry Contrast colors

Confederate infantry Contrast colors

Artillery Contrast colors

Horse Contrast colors

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2021 4:44 p.m. PST

Nice article and thanks for the information

torokchar Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2021 4:57 p.m. PST

Those look great, nice work. I have painted 1,000+ Union using the "old standard flat paint method" but I like your efforts here.

khanscom11 Aug 2021 7:17 p.m. PST

Very impressive work!

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2021 7:33 p.m. PST

Impressive work – thanks for sharing!

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2021 7:43 p.m. PST

I've just started using Contrast paints.
I fell into a funk because I couldn't do the job I had done in the past.
Roger recommended a few paints, but especially to use a SATIN primer. He recommended a Krylon White primer. I had a ton of Rustoleum primed figures that bummed me out, because Citadel and craft paints on horses, and blue coats just … sucked.
I found that Citadel Contrast paints IN TWO COATS gave me the same horses that in the past I was proud of.
Even better, I can use them as a wash over my "inferior" coverage.

Baranovich11 Aug 2021 7:55 p.m. PST

@John the OFM,

Interesting what you said about the using two coats of Contrast.

That's a really good tip and an important one!

I've also found as you did that some of the Contrast colors can kind of look washed out with just one coat. For some of my horses I would use like Skeleton Horde as the first coat, and then I'd go back and do like Basilicanum Grey over it to solidify and alter the brown color a bit so that it wasn't identical in color to the Confederate jackets done in Skeleton Horde.

Most of my infantry is pretty good, but I did notice that on some of the stands where I was painting pretty quickly they have a bit of that washed out look.

I think for the rest of the sprues I might do as you are doing using two coats on the horses. Might be a good idea on the infantry as well.

Baranovich11 Aug 2021 7:59 p.m. PST

@John the OFM,

I think on my sprues I sprayed them with ummm…GW Wraithbone maybe? I think I also used a plain white spray primer from a hardware store on a number of the sprues.

The Contrasts can give vastly different finishes over different types of primer as you mentioned.

I have found that on primed hard plastic and primed metal the Contrasts generally work very well, particularly the darker browns, greens, yellows, and blues. Black Templar is a good Contrast color for doing black leather straps, shoes, and knapsacks on the Union soldiers. Some colors are as good as using regular mini. paints.

But other colors can struggle to give a good, solid finish.

Because of that I've gotten into the technique of using dry brush highlights over a lot of Contrasts, particularly on 28mm scale models.

Baranovich11 Aug 2021 8:23 p.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback guys, much appreciated.

Couple more thoughts on the scale.

I found that details like beards and moustaches were simply not worth it. At tabletop height I simply can't distinguish them. So I just painted the entire faces with flesh including the facial hair.

I painted the metal barrel bands but not the actual lateral top of the barrel. I mean the half that sticks above the stock while running down the length of the stock the long way.

Things like blankets and canteens I just painted in the same tan color regardless of Union or Confederate. This helped speed things up, and brown and tan are universal enough colors for blankets and canteens to work for both armies.

I made a conscious decision to paint the vast majority of slouch hats for both armies in black. Again, this was a time saver and held true to the fact that the majority of slouch hats seemed to be black, although brown and tan were certainly common as well.

All the musket wood is the same Contrast Color, Wyldwood. This was again another time saver, and it seemed a good, solid neutral brown for muskets for both armies.

I did take the time on certain details to make sure it got a unique color so that it could be distinguished.

Example is the Union coats and jackets which I did all in Ultramarines Blue Contrast. For the Union drums however I used Talassar Blue because it was a distinctly different blue from the Ultramarines Blue and it helped the drums stand out from all the blue around it.

Astra Militarum Green Contrast turned out to be the perfect color for Union artillery carriages and limbers. I ended up using a Citadel shade wash, Agrax Earthshade as the brown base color for the Confederate artillery carriages and limbers.

McWong7311 Aug 2021 11:39 p.m. PST

Hats off, great work.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 5:58 a.m. PST

I don't understand contrast paints at all, but they look good.

Mirosav12 Aug 2021 6:07 a.m. PST

Great stuff and a helpful guide.

Baranovich12 Aug 2021 7:46 a.m. PST

@79th Pa,

Yes indeed, the Contrasts are a curious creature for sure. I've been using them for about two years and have found them to be super useful.

That being said, there are still plenty of times where traditional paints simply cover better and look better and I have to use both.

Kind of comes down to how you use them and where and when to sort of take advantage of them if that makes sense.

Definitely a learning curve with them though, had to do a lot of trial and error to learn how the colors behave. They very widely in opaqueness and transparentness.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 8:29 a.m. PST

Contrast paints are runny, and that's the first thing that is different. Also, the hue is subtly different once it dries.
So there is a learning curve.

donlowry12 Aug 2021 8:59 a.m. PST

Never heard of Contrast Paints -- how are the different?

Baranovich12 Aug 2021 9:42 a.m. PST


Contrasts are a product that GW came out with in 2019.

It's not a new concept by any means. Essentially it's when you use inks or thick washes to base coat models instead of traditional acrylic mini. paints.

The Contrasts give you the base coat color, shading, and highlighting all in one pass as opposed to having to do a base coat paint, then a wash, then a highlight, etc. like you would with normal paint.

I've been using them for about two and half years and I swear by them now. It has made my painting better because it's so thin and preserves detail, as well as because it speeds up base coating immensely. It's also way more forgiving in terms of being able to "push" it neatly up to the edge and border of another detail in a way you just can't do with regular paints.

However, different colors have different levels of opaqueness vs. transparentness and you get to learn over time how strong each color is or isn't. In that way you can learn what order to use them on a model i.e. for example you would use a lighter, more transparent Contrast first, then go back and to the detail next to it in the darker Contrast. That way you don't have to deal with touching up since the darker Contrast will completely cover over and cancel out the lighter one. Which means that when you use the lighter Contrast first you can go much faster and be more sloppy because you know the darker one will cover up any accidental over-painting onto the wrong detail.

I've also found that with many of the Contrasts, they look much better if you do an additional dry brush highlight over it with regular paint. But you're still getting the Contrast base coat color and shade in one pass which is a big benefit.

Stuff like that. I've gotten a pretty good set of techniques down with them, but I'm still learning new stuff all the time.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 10:50 a.m. PST

Satin finish primer is a key to their success. A good chalky one doesn't work as well.

Beautifully done and I'd expect converts with this kind of detailed and illustrated posting.

One ought not to recommend anything novel or unusual about miniature painting without documentary evidence as you have done.

Excellent contribution!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 11:25 a.m. PST

Thanks for the explanation OP.

Baranovich12 Aug 2021 11:59 a.m. PST


Very important point you bring up with regards to the primer!

Indeed, I have also found that if you use a chalky primer the Contrasts will soak in too much and the effect becomes very muddled and grainy.

As you said, a satin primer works well and I think it's because it gives you a solid enough layer between the paint and the model that the Contrasts "stay on top" and do what they're supposed to do, and don't soak in too much.

Another interesting aspects of this is that I found that Contrasts often do not work well and will often in fact not work at all on primers that are painted on.

A painted on primer acts almost like a resistant shield and the Contrasts tend to bead up and run off like water off a raincoat.

I guess what that means is you need a primer with SOME porousness to allow the Contrast to bite in and soak in a bit, but not too much.

I found the GW spray primers Wraithbone, Grey Seer, and their generic white work very well with the Contrasts, as well as several generic hardware store spray primers. I also got good results when using an airbrush to prime models before using Contrasts.

John Leahy13 Aug 2021 3:39 a.m. PST

You did a great job on those figs! Well done!

You can make your own contrast paints. You could use acrylic paint but I use acrylic inks. Equal parts of ink/paint + equal parts matte medium fluid plus a few drops of flow aid. I use a light gray or white primer. It isn't gloss and the figs look good. Goobertown Hobbies (a chemist) on Youtube has a video on making your own contrast paints and he discusses contrast paints from GW as well. Very informative.



donlowry13 Aug 2021 9:08 a.m. PST

Good explanation -- thanks!

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