Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A Galaxy In Flames Tutorial: Weathering and Battle Damage on Infantry

 I have been approached quite a bit lately about painting battle damage and weathering miniatures, including today by Ty over at the Traitors Hand blog. I have covered the topic in the past on vehicles, but today we are looking at the infantry themselves. These models can be much harder, as too much work with the sponge, brush or weathering powders can cause us to lose the detail of the model beneath. So, where shall we start?

Weathering: Dusting.

Ok, when we are dusting models, we want to keep it low down. Here I have used an image of an Imperial Fist from HH book III and drawn some very obvious red circles. Within this area is where we want the 'dusting' to occur.

So here is the 'dusting' applied to an Alpha Legion model, in this case MK IV. I have chosen to use rotting flesh, as it gives a good 'tint'.

Tint? Ok, when I say tint, we are referring so a paint that is applied so thinly to a model that the basecoat still shows through to some degree. If you don't tint, then a weathering colour comes on too strong and you risk the dust looking either like mud, or, worst case it will look just like the model has different coloured legs.

The application process for dust is usually done in one of two ways: Weathering powders, or airbrushing. This isn't to say that it cannot be done with a brush, but it really is much more difficult as a brush tends to 'streak'.

To apply a powder:

I am (pretty much as always) using a Secret Weapon Miniatures powder. I find Forge World and Tamiya work great too, (Tamiya is a thicker powder, almost like it's slightly wet, so it applies a bit differently) however, I just think of SWM as old faithful.

The brush is just like the little make-up applicator that most women use. I mentioned in my last weathering article that  you shouldn't take one from your girlfriend as she will likely make life hard. This still applies. Don't do what Donny Don't does.

I just get a bit of powder on each end of the brush and apply it gently to the miniature. To seal it, a really gentle airbrushing of white spirits or just a straight out spray varnish will do the trick, however, do be warned that it will remove most of your good work, so multiple coats WILL be required.

See, super simple brown dusting, yet the grey colour beneath shows through. This is what you want, as it is clearly just 'dusty', hence, the grey has been 'tinted'.

Battle Damage

Who here knows someone who over does sponging? I know. Sponging is great, if you use it well. I am not going to place any Googled images  up, but I then we all have seen armies that are so weathered that they really have lost the armour beneath the damage. This is WORSE then doing super GW highlights, as all the skill and effort you put into the original model has been lost.

Lets start with the basics, where do you weather? Cue Imperial Fist number two:

As you can see, I have used my red circles to denote the 'yes' zones. Why have I chosen these areas? Well, as an ex soldier myself, I know the bits that get damaged. Knees, elbows, hands, and any protruding areas around the ribcage, as well as the occasional scuff on the helmet. Also, you tend to bump into a lot of things when you're wearing a pack, as you slump with it, lean against walls and use it as a prop when sitting, so the edges of that can be hit too.

To start with, we have a torn up bit of sponge. This is about the size of my thumb nail, and is rough. Rough is great because it gives you an uneven effect, whereas a neatly sliced sponge gives a repeating pattern.

Next, we sponge our chap.

Note that we are very gentle with our sponge. This keeps the chips small and realistic. If you have too much paint or press too hard, it just smudges. A quick tip to know if you have too much paint is that if you dip the sponge, you should be able to clearly see the profile of the sponge, if it's soft and rounded, then you have too much paint and need to wipe some off.

To get a realisitc effect,  you want to use multiple tones. This represents the paint chipping through layers and adds depth. The human eye is very adept at picking up things that don't look right at a glance, so make sure you do this well.

As you can see, the model has utilised both types of weathering, dusting and battle damage chipping. Now we have a reasonably realistic looking model.

Colour Palette and Handy Tips

Ok, there are a lot of colours, (again, it's spelt with a 'u' America, flippin' learn it) so picking the colour to weather with is very difficult. As I said before, you want to use multiple colours for depth, so here's a few pointers:

-Don't use like-colours. If you are painting a red model, you don't want to use red. If you're painting green, well, same again. The only exception to this is if you're painting vehicles, as the extra size lets you work with this, so unless you're a gun painter, stick to the basics.

-Pick colours that contrast. You want a colour that is far enough away from your base colour that it sticks out very obviously. This is key as it means you need less sponging to make it stand out from the model, saving your paint job. An example is yellow on black.

-For the 'oversponging' that is, the sponging done over the first layer, pick something that is a different shade as this enhances the depth. An example is the Alpha Legion marine above, his knee uses gentle greys, which are tonally different to the blue armour, followed by the darker near-black.

-When sponging over decals, use the armour shade. Why? Well, look at any real symbol on a vehicle, it is often half worn away, as it is an extra layer over the existing paint job. Treat models the same.

Here's my Alvarex Maun. He has light grey chipping on his knee, but on his shoulder you can see a mix of black on the white area and grey on the black. This is so both areas have contrast.

I stole this picture from Keepy for another post, but I will use it here as it demonstrates multiple colours again. We have lighter metallics on the clawed hands, and multiple tones of grey on the red and black armour plate edges.

So, I have given you the basics for doing battle damage now. I sincerely hope that people get something out of this, because believe it or not this article was actually quite hard to write. This is always the hard part of any tutorial. Picking up the tools and doing the job is easy, but taking the chance to write a step-by-step approach can be really difficult. Simplicity is the key, and I have tried to make it as simple as possible. If anyone has any thoughts about the article at all, especially if they try these techniques, I would love to get some feedback and even a few pictures. If you do have pictures, post them on our Facebook page.

For anyone who was curious, I have a special mix of tools which help me to write every article and to articulate my thoughts:

That's all for now, Macca.


  1. Another to article Macca. The dusting bit in particular is very useful. Each time I've tried it so far I've gone too heavy. I think I'll pick up one of those little applicators and give it another shot on over of my Smurfs.

    Ditto the chipping. The only other time of tried chipping an infantry fig I went to far with it which over sold the look. Less is definitely more.

    1. Less is always more. Chipping is even harder to judge then dusting in my books, it can ruin a model fast, we have both seen pictures of Death Guard tanks which have little to no bone colouration left!

  2. Any tips on weathering Minotaurs space marines, bronze/gold. Having a bit of trouble coming up with a sponging colour(s). Dark colours are getting lost and metallics aren't very visible either.

    1. Personally, I would go with lighter grey tones, as they should contrast with the bronze of the minotaurs. Metallics can be a hard one to chip as they change colour as the light shifts around them, but I would try and stay away from other metallics as chipping tools. For the Red sections on them, I would also keep the grey-tones, refer to the Mechanicum Castellax above. Lastly, dusting on minotaurs is damn hard, and really doesn't work with any of the brown-sandy colours, so instead you have to go either a bone like colour or a grey tone.

      I hope this helps you Polynikes.