Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven
Schild & Vriend

'Schild en Vriend' is an old Flemish battlecry, used in the rebellion of the city of Brugge against the French, May 18, 1302. Legend tells that it was used to differentiate between the French-speaking (who could not pronounce 'schild') and Flemish-speaking citizens. Nowadays, historians tell us that it was probably 'Des Gilden Vriend'.

Bringing it all together
On painting figures using combinations of different painting techniques

After a short look at different painting techniques, we'll now try to give an overview of a few different painting styles, combining several of these techniques to paint entire figures. Remember that what we're trying to do is to paint the figure with not only the base colour, but also the shadows and highlights painted on, and usually, due to the scale colour effect, with the shadows and highlights exaggerated compared to real life. So, basically, we need to get a dark colour, a mid colour and a light colour on each area of the figure painted.

Well, that's the theory at least. When this theory is applied to actually painting figures, there's about as many different ways of doing this as there are different painters. Most of these different styles, however, can be subdivided by the colour they start with (dark, mid or light) and the way they apply the colours (normal painting, drybrushing, washing, staining, ...). Below, you'll find some styles categorized in this way, but this list is not exhaustive in any way whatsoever. We're dealing with the proverbial iceberg here, and this is only the tip of it.

In the following discussion, I'll try to use the term technique to describe, imaginatively, individual painting techniques (e.g. washing, drybrushing), and style to describe the combination of these techniques to paint the full figure. That in mind, painting styles can to a certain extent be categorized by the colour they start with:

Back to painting techniques page

Back to painting page

Bach to Schild en Vriend main page

From dark up

One way to build up shading and highlighting on a paint job is to start with the darkest colour, and apply successively lighter colours over that. To do this, you can use several different combinations of techniques.


This is the style I use on most figures I paint. The technique used (layering) was already introduced on the techniques page, so I'll only describe it briefly here. Basically, you paint on the dark colour first, then the mid colour over that, leaving the dark showing in the lower areas, and finally paint the light colour over the two previously applied layers onto the higher areas of the figure.


A fast way to build up the colours is by drybrushing them over the dark colour. Just paint the dark colour on the figure, and then drybrush the mid and highlight colour over that, applying more of the mid colour than of the light colour. If done right, this is a very fast way of painting a shaded and highlighted figure.

There are several variations on this. One common variation is to prime the figure in black, and then drybrush the figure in successively lighter shades. So, say you're painting the blue cloak from the earlier example, but this time over a black primed figure. You would first heavily drybrush the cloak using a dark blue shade, so that the black is only left showing in the deep folds and along the edges. Next is a somewhat lighter drybrush of the mid blue, and finally a light drybrush of the light blue colour. You can even make a shortcut by skipping the dark blue coat and drybrushing the basecolour blue onto the black prime immediately, effectively painting the cloak in a mere two drybrush steps. This technique works well when painting large numbers of rank-and-file figures, and works especially well on the smaller end of the scale spectrum, such as 15mm or even 6mm figures.

Back to top

From light down

Again, this can be done in several different ways:


This is, obviously, the opposite of the above style. In this style, you paint the figure using the lightest of the three colours, which is then toned down using a wash of the darkest of the colours. Due to the gradual shading (hopefully) produced by the wash, you get a nice transition from the dark colour in the deeper areas to (a slightly toned down shade of) the lighter colour on the high points, with the mid colour in between.

A common variation on this is to drybrush the highlight colour on once more after the wash has dried. This reduces the 'dirty' look a figure might get as a result of the wash, and increases contrast. Of course, if you are painting figures to get that worn-out 'on campaign' look, the dirtier appearance when this last drybrush step is omitted might be just what you're aiming for.

A final word of caution though: the same remarks made in the entry on washing are still valid here. If you're comfortable with washes, this is a good and fast technique of painting figures, but if your washes have a mind of their own, like mine seem to do, you might find it very hard to control how your paint job will end up looking.


Staining, as explained on the techniques page, accomplishes all of this in a single step. Briefly, a 'stain' is a diluted paint, but not as heavily diluted as a wash, that is painted over a white primed figure. The stain will automatically shade and highlight the figure much in the same way as the wash above, but in a single step, as you do not have to paint the light colour on the figure first. As such, staining is a perfect technique for mass-producing nice looking rank and file figures, and with practice can lead to extremely good results.

Back to top

From middle colour up and down

Base colour - wash - drybrush

This is the classic three-step style which combines washing and drybrushing to shade and highlight, respectively. When you're painting, hmmm... I don't know, say... a blue cloak (-:, you would first paint it with your basic blue colour, then give it a wash with the dark blue and finally drybrush it with the light blue. This is basically the same style as given above, but starts from the middle colour instead of the highlight colour. The particular advantage of this style is that it makes it easier to control the base colour and look of the area painted.

Phil's speedpainting technique

Phil's technique is a variation on this. Basically, he paints the basic colour on the area, then drybrushes it with the highlight shade. He then "washes" the figure, but in selected areas only, and with a somewhat richer paint/water mix than is used for normal washes. If you want more information on this technique, by all means click your way over here.

Back to top

Summary table

In case you're getting confused by this torrent of styles and techniques (I know I am, and I wrote the page (-: ), here's a table listing all of the painting styles and techniques used in them:

StyleShading ( 1 )Base colour ( 2 )Highlighting ( 3 )Order
From dark up

Prime blackDrybrushDrybrush23
From light down

WashPaint, drybrush after wash313
Staining------ Stain on white prime ------2
From middle up and down

Classic three-stepWashPaintDrybrush213
Phil's speedpaintingStain selected areasPaintDrybrush231

A final note: as said before, there's as many painting styles as there are individual painters. I just listed a few of the most common ones, but you'll find that you will be able to fit most other painting styles somewhere in this table by looking at the way the basecolour, shade and highlight are applied, and in which order they are applied.

Back to top

This page is maintained by Bart Vetters
Schild en Vriend Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven