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"Found the perfect Contrasts for Union uniforms" Topic

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Baranovich25 May 2024 10:29 p.m. PST

Just finished assembling and priming my 28mm ACW project. After having the experience of doing 600+ models for my AWI project, using primarily Citadel Contrasts and Army Painter Speedpaints, I had a good idea beforehand what colors would be useful for ACW.

And in the process I found pretty much the perfect colors in my opinion for Union coats and trousers.

I got through a few test strips to see the results and I could not be more delighted and happy.

If you are starting up any kind of ACW project, I HIGHLY recommend you get at least the following two Citadel Contrasts: *Stormfiend* and *Nighthaunt Gloom*.

These colors were unlikely candidates until I tried them out a few years ago on other projects.

As you can see in the photos, the Stormfiend gives that perfect shade of Federal medium/darkish blue for the Federal issue fatigue blouses or frock coats, and the Nighthaunt Gloom is an absolutely fabulous tone for the Federal issue trousers.

The job these Contrasts do in shading and highlighting in a single pass over a model is why I barely ever touch traditional mini. paints any more. There is no way I would go back to the snails-pace endeavor of a base coat, then a shade, then a highlight. The Contrasts method is roughly three times faster than traditional painting in most cases.

In addition, from the Army Painter Speedpaint range, a MUST color for any ACW project is *Gravelord Gray*:

This is an absolutely fabulous single-pass color ideal for cartridge boxes, haversacks, bayonet scabbards shoes, hats, and cap brims. Again, it's a single pass giving you shading and highlighting.

For painting large armies in 28mm scale, you simply cannot go wrong. It is amazing how fast you can get through a strip of soldiers.

For the Zouaves, it was the same Stormfiend for the jackets, but this time with the addition of Citadel Contrast *Blood Angels Red* for the baggy trousers and fezes. Another fantastic single-pass color giving you shading and highlighting for a rich red cloth color.



The last two photos are the two color palettes used for both the Union infantry and the Zouaves:

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2024 11:43 p.m. PST

Well, that worked! Thanks for sharing your research (and the nice pics!)

Bandolier26 May 2024 2:48 a.m. PST

Thanks for the tip.
Looks effective.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2024 3:20 a.m. PST


rct7500126 May 2024 4:09 a.m. PST

Wonderful – going to give them a go on 18mm ones I have to do.

Now to find the same for the Confederates :)

panzerCDR26 May 2024 5:35 a.m. PST

Those look great! I bet it would look good for 15mm as well.

"Now to find the same for the Confederates :)" Please!

Thanks for sharing.

KevinV26 May 2024 7:00 a.m. PST

Thanks for sharing. They look good.

Perris070726 May 2024 8:52 a.m. PST

Well, that was very helpful. Thanks much!

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP26 May 2024 9:30 a.m. PST

Wow…they look amazing!

FilsduPoitou26 May 2024 7:43 p.m. PST

What color did you use for the skin? Whenever I tried using contrast paints for skintone they always end up coming out way too dark.

SeattleGamer Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2024 9:10 p.m. PST

Wowzers! I am just in the early stages of a big ACW Project, in the early stages of massive assembly. Have not started painging anything yet. Doing some research into the colors as though, and had a number of different combos noted to try samples of, to see which ones worked best for me.

Your color scheme looks perfect. Loving that you are using Contrast Paints. I kept hoping to stumble upon someone who found the magic combination. I think you have done so sir!

Hope you work something out for the Rebels! Would love to see what y'all come up with!

Thanks so much for sharing!!!

Travellera27 May 2024 2:01 a.m. PST

Excellent! Many thanks for sharing! What do you use for undercoating? White? What do you use the Pallid Bone and Ashen Stone for?

Barry S27 May 2024 7:31 p.m. PST

They look brilliant.

Over the past few years I have been thinking of building a couple of small ACW skirmish sized forces and this post is making me think a little harder about this idea.

Thanks very much for sharing.

Baranovich27 May 2024 8:58 p.m. PST

Hey folks!

Thanks for all the feedback, much appreciated!

So in this post I tried as best I could to answer all of the questions asked above. My apologies if I missed any!

Here's the completed unit along with a pseudo-tutorial of how I think to make the best use of the Contrast and Speedpaint colors depending on their strength vs. weakness (some being more opaque than others).

If you're still getting used to the Contrasts or have been using them for some amount of time, the most important principle to keep in mind is that they're transparencies.

Which means you're following a set of light and shadow rules depending on the strength or weakness of a particular color. Some Contrasts I use straight out of the bottle, others I will dilute with medium. And still others I will do two coats to darken a particular color.

The undercoat for both the metals and plastics here was an airbrushed gray coat followed by a heavily drybrushed white coat using artist's acrylic.

To start I used the Stormfiend and Nighthaunt Gloom Contrasts at full strength for the coats and trousers. These both give an amazing shading effect in just one pass/coat.

For the flesh, I used Army Painter Speedpaint Crusader Skin. This I diluted with some medium as I found it can make faces and hands look a bit dark at full strength.

Following this was one of the most important steps, doing all the areas of black on the models. For this I turned to Army Painter Speedpaint Gravelord Gray. This color is AMAZINGLY useful! For Civil War in particular, this color is a miracle for doing Union infantry.

Basically, just take this color and paint over every part of the Union solder that needs to be black: Cartridge box, waistbelt, haversack, bayonet scabbard, shoes or boots, forage cap brims, and any slouch or Hardee hats that are present.

After this initial coat of Gravelord Gray is dry, you'll notice that it doesn't actually produce a black color but rather a dusty sort of blackish gray. However the other thing it does is instantly outline every strap and piece of equipment with a dark line which beautifully separates the black from the blue of the coat.

The next thing you want to do is to go back and do a SECOND coat of Gravelord Gray over JUST the leather areas, (the cartridge box and waistbelt, the shoes, and the bayonet scabbard, as well as the cap brims.) This will make these areas closer to black and will distinguish them from the haversack which I leave the lighter grayish color. It's subtle but it does make a difference.

For the canteens, I used Army Painter Speedpaint Pallid Bone. This provides a nice, butterscotch/dirty tan color which is perfect since a huge number of federal issue canteens were covered in brown or tan jeancloth, it may have been one of the most common Union army canteen colors of the war if not the most common.

Following the equipment I do the muskets in two heavy coats of Citadel Agrax Earthshade. This produces a nice, rich, dark wooden color for the muskets and also instantly shades and outlines all of the barrel bands, lock plate, etc.

For the musket furnishings is one of the few times I actually use a traditional silver model paint. I then run a coat of Citadel Nuln Oil over the metal parts of the musket to dull them down slightly.

I also use a traditional paint to paint the brass cartridge box plates and waistbelt plates.

For the blanket rolls, I used Army Painter Speedpaint Ashen Gray. I use this at full strength and I did two coats. It provides a fabulous shading effect on the blankets. You could also use one of the brown Contrast paints for blankets as well since gray and brown pretty much covers 95% of federal issue blankets.

For the hair and facial hair of the soldiers I used various Contrasts and Speedpaints, nothing really specific, just picked what look like convincing hair colors.

And that was pretty much it. A full 20-man regiment painted in just a couple afternoons! Admittedly, the Contrast technique is meant for efficiency and speed, and the paintjobs do break down once you get up really close. But that's true of any paint job, even slower, more careful paint jobs with traditional paints. As long as you're reasonably neat when filling in the details, it works great for tabletop height and even for displaying whole units on the shelf. Not the most refined paint jobs perhaps, but for the massed effect on a tabletop the technique works wonderfully!

I've got Confederates on the painting desk next, will post a separate tutorial for those!

Travellera27 May 2024 9:59 p.m. PST

Thanks for taking the time to do this fantastic tutorial. Sorry for more questions, being new to contrast paints and not using an airbrush…

1. What is the code of the grey undercoat? I am afraid I might use one that is too dark?

2. What is the spec of the medium used?

Manu thanks!

Baranovich27 May 2024 10:23 p.m. PST

Hey there Travellera,

No problem, happy to help!

The undercoat is Stynylrez:


This primer is about as dark as I prefer to go when doing a Zenithal prime with white on top of it. I've tried it with darker grays, both can and painted on by hand. But the Contrasts need a minimum amount of brightness under them for them to work. As a reference example, I once tried using Citadel's Standard Mechanicus Grey spray can with a white drybrush over that and the models came out way too dark.

Actually, I've also done just as many models using the straight up Citadel spray primers, like Wraithbone and Grey Seer. They work great for the Contrasts. The reason I resorted to doing airbrush is because of not being able to spray with a can indoors during the winter months. But now that Spring is here I've reverted back to using mostly spray can to prime for Contrast projects.

But either way will work fine!

The medium, I use three different kinds. I find that they really are all pretty much the same thing and function the same way when used for dilution. There's the Citadel Lahman Medium, and then the Citadel Contrast Medium, and finally Army Painter has their own version which is just called Speedpaint Medium. I would imagine that any brand of acrylic medium, even artist's stuff would work must as well, like Liquitex brand for example.

Travellera28 May 2024 3:44 a.m. PST

Excellent! Many thanks!

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