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Operation House Party

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey gubbins effect
 - like a cheap soap opera or sitcom 

We're heading back 12 years to the summer of 2008, I'm still living in Oulu, Finland, and I'm bored.  Wandering the streets I find two things:
  1. Iron Man has just been released in cinemas so I'll be going to watch that.
  2. The local news agents has a magazine I remember from when I was a kid - White Dwarf, and amazingly 40K is up to its 5th Edition (I last hobbied in '96 when we were still playing 2nd).
Little did my wallet know how expensive one of these discoveries was going to be....

Fade cut back to the present...

You see in the intervening years amongst all the changes there had been the introduction of at least one new race, the Tau.  Having just gone to see Iron Man, the obvious connections occurred in my head and an Iron Man themed Tau force was the offspring.  It only took me 12 years to realise... 

The idea rattled around in my head but whenever I tried to think of a way to implement it I fell foul of how on earth do you create a nice metallic red and gold.  It was finally when GW released the Contrast paints that I saw how I could do it given my ... ahem ... painting abilities.

To be honest, this is probably going to be more about Contrast paints with some (hopefully) pretty pictures of the Tau interspersed; as what I think I've learned about the paints has ended up being more interesting to me and I wanted to share.  Everything I'll be talking about here can also be found elsewhere, I'm no Contrast guru, but maybe some of the things I've found might be interesting.
  • I think Contrast paints are great.  
  • I think GW made a mistake in the way they sold them.  
  • Yes you can paint an entire army with contrast paints and it will look good.  
  • The more details there are on the model, and the more organic those details are, the better the model will look when painted with Contrast.
  • Not all contrast paints are the same!

Contrast seem to fall into 3 broad groups.  
  1. Light colours like the various flesh tones, Apothecary White, Skeleton Horde, Gryphcharger Grey and others which make painting those very pale colours that a lot of people, myself included, struggle with really rather easy.  These work very well for what they are intended.
  2. Some dark colours like Black Templar, Wyldwood, and Snakebite Leather which can achieve a great one coat finish for their specific purpose.
  3. All the rest, like the Iyanden Yellow and Blood Angels Read that I used here which just don't work as advertised.  These don't really seem to flow into the recesses, or produce much in the way of shading, they are more like an ever so slightly translucent regular paint.
However, luckily there is a way to "fix" those paints that don't work, and the same techniques can be used to manipulate any of the other Contrast paints to do what you want.


"Research" (ie:  watching YouTube vidoes) helped me learn that Contrast medium is basically a 50:50 blend of two common art supplies - Matte Medium and Flow Improver.  These can be bought in bulk from most art shops.  The Matte Medium is the liquid that most paints are based on, it carries the pigment in the paint and manages not to separate out too much; there seems to be a higher concentration of this in Contrast paints compared to regular paints which I think is what gives them their translucency.  Flow Improver is used quite heavily by folk who airbrush and has magic in it which helps reduce the surface tension of liquids so they flow more, a bit like dish soap but without the bubbles; in Contrast paints I guess this is what helps the paint flow over the basecoat into the recesses to achieve the shading effect.


What this allowed me to do was mix in varying combinations of Matte Medium, and Flow Improver, to change both the transparency and the flow properties of these Contrast paints until they behaved much more like the "good" paints.  What did this mean? Well for a brand new pot of Blood Angels Red I added about 50 drops of Matte Medium, and 90 drops of Flow Improver.  This completely changed the behaviour of the paint and turned it into something I really liked.

Finally, the paintjob on these.  
  • Spray with Leadbelcher
  • Wash with Nuln Oil
  • Drybrush liberally (more like an overbrush or wetbrush) with Leadbelcher
  • Drybrush with Necron Compound
  • Paint Iyanden Yellow Contrast paint onto select panels
  • Paint adjusted Blood Angels Red Contrast paint onto the rest of the panels, letting it run into all the panel lines
  • Sponge chip with Necron Compound or similarly bright metal
  • Glow effect (not very good) was several glazes with very light blue applied into the recesses


That's kind of it.  I really do like Contrast paint, but I think you have to treat them as a tool rather than the painting equivalent of 42.  

There's lots of much better guides and tutorials out there on these that I drew from to get these to look this way, so if you are hesitant about Contrast paints then have a look at those, and get yourself some Matte Medium and Flow Improver and just experiment.

Right, time to get out of here before someone enacts a Clean Slate Protocol.


  1. I think Contrast is great for organics, not so for plate armour and flat panels, you can't get rid of brushmarks and tidemarks. Great you've adjusted your recipe to suit, its a nice bright T'au scheme!

    1. Its a challenge, one I wasn't 100% successful at, but by changing the properties I was able to keep most of the brush and tide marks off them. Making only one pass at anything is a big part of that. Duncan's new painting channel has a good guide on that part of using Contrast

  2. These look very cool, and it's very interesting to hear about your experiences with Contrast. The High Lord of Two Thin Coats said similar things about there being three types of Contrast paints. I'm interested to see what your plan is for infantry though, since that will (I assume) involve mixing in some non-metallic cloth...

    1. I don't currently have any plans for infantry as it was always the suits that I loved about the Tau. If I did though, I'd probably still use the Contrast and just use one of the black or dark grey colours to make the cloth fade into the background against the bright metallic of the armour.

  3. They look excellent, sir :)


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