How to Use Washes and Glazes to Bring Warhammer Miniatures to Life

Mixed metallic paint

How to Use Washes and Glazes to Bring Warhammer Miniatures to Life

As a Warhammer painter with over 20 years of passion, love, and experience painting miniatures, I’ve learned that washes and glazes are essential tools for bringing depth, blending, and intrigue to any Warhammer model. These techniques may seem complicated at first, but are actually quite easy to master – even for beginners!

In this comprehensive guide created by our expert team at Warhammer Universe, I’ll share everything you need to know to start implementing washes and glazes effectively. We’ll cover what they are, why you need them, how to use them, tips and tricks, and even how to make your own custom washes and glazes. I’ll also show some examples of miniatures painted using only washes and glazes to inspire you.

So grab your brushes and let’s get creative!

Looking for paint sets? Check here for The Best Paint Sets for Warhammer Painting

40k Space Marine

What are Washes and Glazes?

A wash is an extremely diluted “stained” paint that naturally flows into crevices and details, naturally emphasizing textures while creating shadows. The capillary action of washes makes them perfect for shading models with minimal effort.

A glaze is a very thin translucent layer of paint applied over another layer to subtly alter its color or properties. Glazes blend layers together smoothly while allowing underlying details to show through.

Both work by utilizing thin, translucent paint to modify colors for depth, blending, weathering effects and more. Now let’s look at why you need them in your miniature painting toolkit.

Read a guide here for understanding What Are Washes and Glazes for Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Why Use Washes and Glazes?

Adds Depth and Realism Instantly

The shading effects of washes and smoothing transitions of glazes add crucial depth and realism, making details pop and finishes more natural. This takes a model from flat to extraordinary with very little effort!

Saves an Immense Amount of Time

Compared to manually painting transitions and shadows which is extremely tedious and time consuming, utilizing washes and glazes streamlines the process exponentially while achieving better results.

Paint Set

Easy to Learn and Implement

These techniques sound incredibly complex but are actually quite simple to grasp. Even beginners can start implementing washes and glazes after reading this guide and watching a few short tutorial videos.

Fixes Mistakes Easily

If any paint layers have unintended textures or tones, a quick wash or glaze can blend them together perfectly. This makes the process more forgiving.

Adds Visual Interest

The translucent nature of washes and glazes allows creatively layering colors to achieve unexpected yet captivating finishes full of depth. Endless variations are possible!

Now that you know why washes and glazes are so essential for taking miniatures to the next level, let’s get into the specifics of how to use them.

Warhammer Metallic paints

How to Apply Washes

Applying a wash involves saturating your brush and applying it over areas you want to shade – the wash will naturally flow into recesses. Here is the quick 3 step process:

  1. Load Brush: Dip brush into wash, ensuring it is very saturated.
  2. Apply Wash: Drag brush against surfaces with texture, letting wash settle into crevices.
  3. Let Dry: Allow 15 minutes for wash to dry before painting over.

The reason this works is because washes utilize capillary action, allowing them to flow and settle into intricate details and textures automatically. The thicker areas create natural looking shadows when dried.

It’s important when washing to work in small sections instead of entire models. Gravity will pull washes downward, potentially causing unwanted buildup during application. Sections prevent unintended pooling and tide marks.

Don’t forget to prime you brushes first! Read here for How To Prime Brushes for Warhammer Miniature Painting

Paint Brush cleaning

Layering and Cleaning Up Washes

After a wash has dried, some painters prefer to re-establish midtones and highlights through careful layering before moving onto subsequent steps:

  1. Basecoat Model: Paint model according to planned scheme.
  2. Apply Wash: Use preferred wash color to shade basecoat.
  3. Layer Basecoat: Paint basecoat color again over raised/highlighted areas, leaving wash visible in recesses.

This helps blend the wash into surrounding colors for extremely natural, subtle shading. Note that this takes more time compared to just a simple wash application. Both approaches work!

Warhammer 40k Space marine

Wash Techniques and Tips

Now that you understand the basics of applying washes, let’s go over some key techniques and tips to take your wash game to the next level.

Controlling Wash Application

  • Watering down washes with acrylic medium allows smoothly blending colors as a transitional “glaze wash” – perfect for large flat surfaces prone to splotchiness
  • Apply multiple thin coats instead of single thick coats for more control and mistakes forgiveness
  • Work in small sections to control wash flow before moving to adjacent areas

Choosing the Right Wash Color

  • Black and brown washes are extremely versatile starting points for shading any color
  • Shading with an darker version of a color (red shaded with crimson or purple for example) keeps shading harmonious rather than harsh
  • Don’t just default to black – experiment with different hues over various basecoats for natural, unexpected shading

Making Custom Washes

  • Mix any paint color with acrylic medium at a 1:1 ratio to make a custom glaze-wash
  • Lahmian Medium works perfectly as an acrylic medium for custom washes
  • Adapt finish by adding matte or gloss medium – perfect for creating grimy or oily effects

Now that you have wash fundamentals and tips down, let’s look at applying glazes!

Looking for more tips and techniques? View here for Brush tips for Painting Miniatures

Eye of terror metallic

How to Apply Glazes

The application process for glazes is extremely similar to washes in terms of steps – the difference lies in desired effects and placement:

  1. Load Brush: Dip brush into glaze, removing any excess. Too much risks pooling.
  2. Apply Glaze: Paint onto area you want to tint/transition using completely thinned mixture.
  3. Build Up Layers: Add multiple thin coats for smoother, subtler color changes rather than single thick coats.

It’s all about thinness and transparency – you still want to see underlying details instead of covering them. This transparency allows endlessly layering colors.

Here are some common glazing techniques:

Glazing for Blending and Transitions

  • Gradient color shifts – perfect for blending fabric folds, muscular transitions, gear cabling, OSL effects and any area needing subtle color flow
  • Smoothing unwanted textures between paint layers
  • Creating natural highlights that aren’t stark/harsh

Glazing to Tint and Shift Colors

  • Cool undertone by glazing with complementary color (red tinted with green or blue for example)
  • Creatively shifting colors like adding undeath hues to zombies via greens and purples over flesh tones
  • Making colors more muted and grim by glazing grays

Enhancing Details with Glazes

  • Make gemstones radiate inner light with glazed-on glow effects
  • Use glazed metallic paints to make blades shimmer as if truly steel
  • Any area needing vibrancy or glow effects

As with washes, let’s go over some key glazing tips for further success.

Warhammer 40k Metallic Paints

Glaze Techniques and Tips

Here are techniques for unlocking glazes’ full potential:

  • Lahmian Medium mixed 1:1 with paint makes perfect custom glazes
  • Water works but risks streaky coverage without acrylic medium
  • Multiple thin glazes always yield better transitions than single thick coats
  • Work in small sections to prevent drying between layers
  • Glazes can integrated into established layering by glazing midtone transitional colors
  • Contrast paints make vibrant glazes to radically shift colors

That covers everything you need to know about fundamentally applying washes and glazes during the painting process. Now let’s check out some inspiring examples of miniatures painted using only these techniques!

Wondering if you NEED to paint your Warhammer Miniatures to play? A guide here on Do You have to Paint Warhammer Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Where to Buy Washes and Glazes

Now that you’ve seen firsthand results from utilizing washes and glazes, let’s briefly cover where to buy them:

  • Local gaming stores often stock washes and glazes from Citadel, Army Painter, and Vallejo
  • Consider starting with 1 black and 1 brown wash – versatile foundations
  • Citadel glaze range offers base glaze colors for common effects
  • Specialty hobby stores carry acrylic mediums for making custom washes/glazes

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the options though – start experimenting with a few key colors and discover your favorites!


I hope this guide has effectively demonstrated how essential yet easy utilizing washes and glazes are for adding crucial depth, blending, and intrigue to miniatures with very minimal effort.

Don’t let the terms scare you off from incorporating these ubiquitous techniques that radically boost miniatures. Grab some shades and glazes and start experimenting!

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