Easy OSL (Object Source Lighting) Effects for Warhammer Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Easy OSL (Object Source Lighting) Effects for Warhammer Miniatures

As a warhammer hobbyist with over 20 years of experience painting miniatures, I want to share my passion for creating realistic lighting effects on models using OSL techniques. This article provides simple methods for achieving impressive OSL effects within 20 minutes, using common Citadel paints.

Read a full overview on The Best Paint Sets for Warhammer Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

What is OSL and Why Use It?

OSL, or object source lighting, refers to when a light source on your model casts light and shadows onto surrounding areas. By simulating light interacting with the miniature, OSL creates a realistic sense of illumination emanating from within the scene.

OSL is an advanced technique that brings models to life. The glowing plasma coils, flickering flames, and shining power weapons characteristic of warhammer lend themselves perfectly to OSL effects. By making light sources feel more vibrant and dynamic, OSL focuses attention and creates striking visual interest on the tabletop.

Lost on the massive amount of brands for paints? Check here for The Best Paint Brands for Miniatures

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Understanding Light Behavior

To depict light convincingly, observe how it behaves in the real world:

  • Light illuminates surfaces facing it brighter than shadowed areas
  • The color of materials impacts how they reflect colored light
  • Light falls off with distance, reflecting less on distant surfaces
  • Light travels linearly absent mirrors or reflective surfaces

By keeping these core principles of light physics in mind, your OSL effects will feel more natural and believable.

Metallic paints always shine with the light, check here for How To Paint Metallic Colours on Miniatures

Space marine using PC

Quick 10 Minute OSL Method

While advanced OSL utilizes blending, glazing and wet blending for smooth gradients, impressive results are possible with simple drybrushing.

Here is my quick OSL method using Baharroth Blue as an example:

  1. Paint model normally, ignoring OSL
  2. Drybrush Baharroth Blue outward from light source onto raised/facing surfaces
  3. Wash surrounding areas with Drakenhof Nightshade
  4. Drybrush Baharroth on edges nearest light source

And you’re done! Add white highlights on the source itself optional. The drybrush creates a diffuse glow effect quickly. Drakenhof provides shadows that make the light areas pop.

This works great for plasma coils in 10 minutes with Citadel paints. You can use any color by substituting appropriately shaded tones.

Warhammer 40k Space marine metallic paints

Color Specific Quick Methods

Beyond blue, effective OSL is possible in other colors:

Yellow OSL:

  1. Wash area with thinned Mournfang Brown
  2. Layer thinned Troll Slayer Orange
  3. Drybrush edges Flash Gitz Yellow
  4. Paint source Dorn Yellow

Green OSL:

  1. Wash areas with dark green shade
  2. Layer raised surfaces with same green
  3. Drybrush edges Moot Green
  4. Paint source Flash Gitz Yellow

Red OSL:

  1. Basecoat Mephiston Red
  2. Glaze Bloodletter, wash Carroburg Crimson
  3. Bleed Flash Gitz Yellow into wash while wet
  4. Edge highlight Troll Slayer Orange

As with blue, substitute appropriately shaded greens, yellows, oranges and reds to tint light areas in these colors. Always make the source itself brightest.

Want to take your Miniatures in a different direction? Read here for How To Paint Snow Bases for Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Using Contrast Paints for OSL

Contrast Paints function uniquely, creating spontaneous gradients. Their translucent nature also tints underlying layers. Combined, this makes Contrast perfect for quick OSL:

  1. Prime light source Wraithbone white
  2. Paint Power Weapons with Aethermatic Blue
  3. Glaze Aethermatic onto surrounding surfaces
  4. Edge highlight reflections with white
  5. Shade recesses with contrasting color

As Contrast naturally tints while shading, OSL color blends softly outwards from bright focal points. This reproduces diffuse glowing auras seamlessly.

Don’t forget to thin them first! Not sure how? Read here for How To Thin Your Paints for Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space marine

Advanced Blending for Smooth OSL

With blending and glazing, it’s possible to create ultra smooth, gradual OSL glow effects. The process is more intricate but the results speak for themselves:

  1. Paint model fully before adding OSL
  2. Layer chosen OSL color on light source and raised facing surfaces
  3. Glaze transitional midtone over layer
  4. Re-highlight edges nearest light source
  5. Spot highlight light source pure white
  6. Shade shadows darker (opposite color works well)

Blending requires more mixes and layers but executes advanced gradients. Controlling the transition from highlights to shadows sells realistic illumination.

With either quick drybrushing or smoother blending, OSL can be simple yet add impressive vibrancy.Consistency, contrast and understanding light behavior matters most for selling the effect.

Warhammer 40k Space marine

Photography Lighting for Maximizing OSL

How you photograph miniatures also impacts the OSL effect. Consider where light originates from and use exposure, angles and directional lighting to accentuate glows and visible shadows.

Position figures holding the light source aimed towards the camera lens with reflected surfaces facing the same direction. Use solid blacks in the scene background to make colors pop more.

A lamp can replicate side lighting on the model to pick out shape and details for dynamic mixed lighting. Highlights facing the light source will stand out boldly.

Warhammer 40k Redhair

Post-Production via Photo Editing

No need to perfectly execute OSL effects in-painting alone. Photo editing software like Photoshop allows strengthening lighting effects further:

  • Brighten exposure on glow areas
  • Darken shadows for more contrast
  • Saturation boosts colors
  • Add extra colored tints onto lit surfaces

With digital painting modification, minor OSL imperfections easily fix. However, well-executed painting remains essential for making edits appear natural.

Eye of terror metallic

Trying OSL with Different Light Sources

While glow effects commonly apply to weapons, anything emitting light offers possibilities – explore alternate light sources for unique OSL inspiration:

  • Torch flames
  • Computer monitors
  • LED strips
  • Neon signs
  • Bioluminescence
  • Magic runes
  • Lava flows
  • Sparking cables
  • Toxic goop

OSL inherently draws attention and focuses viewer eyes. Use judiciously on characters, centerpiece models and special weapons to make them focal points on the battlefield.

40k Space Marine

Now You’re Ready for OSL Magic!

Give OSL a try on your next Warhammer model! Start simple using drybrushing and washes for fast effects. With some practice, smoothly blended lighting effects come naturally. Even without an airbrush, incredibly vibrant OSL remains achievable.

Unleashing vivid glow effects draws awe. Transforming weapons into incandescent power conduits sings OSL praise. Cloaking figures in colorful auras emerges them cinematically.

What will you illuminate with OSL brilliance next? Our passion resides with this wonderful hobby – may your models shine ever brighter through the judicious application of light sources!

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