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Discuss all areas of historical miniature painting and painting preparation.
New to acrylics - advice needed
England - East Anglia, United Kingdom
Joined: May 28, 2016
KitMaker: 3 posts
Historicus Forma: 2 posts
Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2016 - 01:36 AM UTC

I'm new to using acrylics and need some advice. I've got a few sets of Andrea paints for my busts, 54mm and 75mm figures.
Some guides say to allow each layer dry before adding another (in particular for the base coats). But on some videos it appears you can just layer over layer. Which is correct?
I'm assuming it's a bit of both. A good dry base layer and then using the lights and shadows 'wet on wet'.

Any help will be appreciated.


(More used to painting in oils)
Utah, United States
Joined: December 14, 2007
KitMaker: 3,389 posts
Historicus Forma: 22 posts
Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2016 - 06:58 AM UTC
I don't know if I've been doing it correctly, but I have let the base coat dry and then done wet on wet to blend the color. It seems to have given me a good result. Dry brushing is the only area where I have let everything else dry.
Spain / España
Joined: November 18, 2004
KitMaker: 456 posts
Historicus Forma: 15 posts
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2016 - 02:34 PM UTC
Hi Mark,

With acrylics such as Andrea's or Vallejo's the technique that most figure painters use is painting one layer after another. Before applying a new layer the latest one must be dry.

You start with a base color that is like any other base color. It is advisable to apply a few coats of a more diluted paint instead of one coat of a thick paint and of course you have to wait for the coat of paint to be dry before applying a new one.

After the base color has been aplied you start with the painting of the higlights and shadows. The succesive layers that you apply for the higlights or shadows are done with the paint highly diluted (it must be like a transparent paint). You also must dry a little the excess of paint from the brush by touching a towel or paper so that you don't end with a wash.

The succesive layers that you apply are applied on a smaller area so you get a transition from the base color to the highest higlights and from the base color to the darkest shadows.

Other painters paint the highlights and shadows not being transparent and then use transparent layers of paints to unify everything in order to make a smoother transition between the higlights, base color and shadows. Calvin Tan and Jaume Ortiz use this technique and they both have each a book printed by Osprey.

A few painters use the wet on wet technique but they must use retarders because this kind of paints dry very quickly.

It is also advisable to make your own wet palette so the paint doesn't dry fast on your palette.

Hope my explanation has made things a little bit more clear to you,
England - East Anglia, United Kingdom
Joined: May 28, 2016
KitMaker: 3 posts
Historicus Forma: 2 posts
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2016 - 09:14 PM UTC
Thanks Guys,
I am looking forward to giving it a try
Colorado, United States
Joined: July 29, 2004
KitMaker: 132 posts
Historicus Forma: 89 posts
Posted: Monday, May 30, 2016 - 01:32 AM UTC
here are few helpful places to look:

Pongsatorn's facebook SBS:

translated article from Vallejo:

below is how Jason Whitman does it. his technique is buried on his blog spread across multiple posts, so i created a list of blog post links on this thread to make it easier to read:

Jaume's method:

Mario Fuentes had a good article that Vallejo once reprinted on their site, although it's no longer there. here is a little bit of "theory" borrowed from that article on the Prince August site. there relevant part is only the page where layering/feathering/highlighting/shading is explained. the illustrations will help you the most:

Doug Cohen demonstrates his high contrast (i.e. fewer increases/decreases) technique here, which still works because your brain will do the visual blending for you:

there are also a couple of decent youtube vidoes to help you.

Borsod-Abauj-Zemblen, Hungary
Joined: October 09, 2005
KitMaker: 626 posts
Historicus Forma: 55 posts
Posted: Tuesday, June 07, 2016 - 03:49 PM UTC
There are more than one techniques for acrylic painting, with their own implications.

Dry layer technique requires very thin, almost transparent layers painted on each other over a light (white) basecoat and having them dried between layers. This technique is similar to aquarel painting, where you put transparent layers next to or over each other. With this method you are able to achieve light, crisp finishes with less blending, which are more spectacular than realistic. Very good for colourful subjects. This will require a very skilled brush handling, because you need to add shadows later, and you cannot make a mistake.

Wet layer technique is on the other hand more similar to oil painting, where you blend thick layers into each other. If you want to achieve this with acrylics, you need to use paint retarder over wet layers. With this technique you can use dark basecoat, which is helpful in defining the shaded areas in advance. Basically, on a dry basecoat you add a spot of paint and use much retarder to blend the edges into the surface. With this you mix the paints on the surface itself, like a pallette. This method is easier to learn, I think, this is why you see it nowadays more often, it is also more forgiving on errors, since with a wet brush and a little retarder you can wipe away your mistakes and start over again.

I have tried both methods, I find the dry techique suits small figures better, while on large figures the combination of the two worked for me (dry technique for the uniforms and equipment, wet technique for hands, body and face). I always use white basecoat.