What are Citadel Shades and Washes?

Warhammer 40k gunner miniature with cool shading and washing

A great way to make miniatures come to life is by using Citadel shades and washes to help highlight the details and textures on your models. Using these shades and washes is easy, so you do not need to be a master painter to get a high-quality finish.

What are Citadel Shades and Washes?  A Citadel shade or wash is a very thin paint designed to run into the recesses and details of your miniature. The result is giving the miniature more depth and shadow. Citadel calls their version of this type of paint “Shades,” but they did not create this type of paint; it is just their brand of it.

Citadel shades and washes are thin water-based paints that will flow into the nooks of your miniature creating shading and definition that will make your miniature stand out. Your miniature will look flat and dull if you do not use shades and washes to create depth.

We’ll talk about why and how to use them to get the effects you want.

Why Do Citadel Shades and Washes Enhance Painting?

The look that you get by using Citadel shades and washes is due to the low viscosity of the product. Citadel shades and washes are formulated specifically to create a shadow effect on a miniature. The same look will not be achieved by using thicker paint. 

Using shades and washes will help beginners achieve great looking miniatures without having to master highlighting and other higher-level painting techniques. 

How are Citadel Shades and Washes applied?

You do not need to have the painting skills of Michelangelo to create a stunning miniature. The process of applying Citadel shades and washes is simple and can even be done by beginners. 

Here are two helpful videos about shades and washes:

How to apply the shades and washes

Tips and tricks for using the shades and washes

Here are the steps for applying shades and washes:

  • Apply Citadel shades and washes when the existing paint on the miniatures is dry. If the paint is wet, then the shades and washes will mix with the paint created a muddled look. 
  • Be sure that the brush you are using is clean and dry. The brush should not have dried pigment on it from the previous painting. Once that dried pigment gets wet, it will bleed into the shades and washes, creating a sloppy appearance. 
  • Shake the Citadel shade and wash pots before you use them. 
  • Dip the wash brush into the pot and place a dollop of the wash onto a pallet. This will help you control the amount of paint on your brush. Some people use a separate brush to get the wash out of the pot in order to control how much paint goes on the miniature.
  • Begin to apply the wash onto the miniature liberally, but do not saturate. There should not be any puddles of paint sitting on the model. Move the paint around the model spreading the wash and removing any pools of wash.
  • Before the wash dries, look over the miniature to make sure there are no areas with too much wash. If too much wash is applied, it can pool up in areas and altar the color you are painting over instead of shading that area. 
  • Dragging your brush over an area of wash that has started to dry may lift the paint from the model, so it is important to finish checking the model for pooled areas before it starts to dry.
  • Allow the wash to fully dry before applying the next paint color to avoid the unintended mixing of colors. 

How Long Do Shades and Washes Take to Dry?

Citadel shades and washes take about 30 minutes to dry. The drying time will depend on factors including humidity, temperature and how much paint is used. The drying process can be sped up with a hairdryer.

It is important to allow shades and washes to dry completely before moving on to the next paint color. If they are still wet, the colors will mix and create an undesired or messy look. What are the Best Citadel Washes and Shades? 

All Citadel washes and shades are useful, but the three most used shades are: 

  • Nuln Oil (Black shade good for most things. Use this shade to create detail, depth, and shadow);
  • Agrax Earthshade (Brown shade that is great for things like leather brown, dirty looks, and adding shade to the ground); and 
  • Reikland Flesh Shade (Light Brown shade that is great for Caucasian and lighter skin tones as well as gold and other metallic colors)

What Shades Come in the Citadel Shade Set? 

This Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set includes a wash brush and 8 pots of the following shades: 

1- Nuln Oil – Black, 

1- Carroburg Crimson – Red, 

1- Drakenhof Nightshade – Blue, 

1- Biel- tan Green, 

1- Casandora Yellow, 

1- Agrax Earthshade – Brown, 

1- Reikland Fleshshade – Light brown,

1- Seraphim Sepia – Yellow/Brown color

How to Care for Paintbrushes for Miniature Painting

Paintbrushes are essential for miniature painting. If you’re looking for brush recommendations, I share all of my favorite brushes here.

Taking good care of your paintbrushes will help extend the life of those brushes.  This may be even more important to you if you buy more expensive brushes for better quality work. 

If you do not properly take care of your brushes, it can be like throwing money down the drain. Here are some tips for keeping these important tools in good shape.

Do Not Let Paint Dry in Your Brush 

  • Dried paint on your bristles will make your brush stiff and cause the bristles to break and fray. To get good coverage on a miniature, you need the bristles to be soft and flexible.
  • Washing your brushes often will help ensure them stay clean. Be sure to thoroughly rinse your brush when changing paint colors. 

Keep Paint out of the Ferrule

  • The ferrule is the small metal part between the bristles and the handle that keeps the bristles together. Do not let paint get into the ferrule because it is extremely hard to clean it out and will cause the bristles to harden. It can even cause the brush to split.

Change the Water for Rinsing Brushes Often 

  • When you paint, rinse your brush regularly to keep it clean. Reusing the same water can damage the ferrule and the bristles. 
  • Also, if you are using multiple brushes, you should let the brushes you are not using lay flat, instead of sitting in a cup of water. This will protect the bristles.

Clean Brushes with Well Before Storing Them

  • Once you are done with your paintbrushes for the day, ensure you get all off the paint off the brush, including paint on the ferrule. 
  • Use warm water to clean your brushes. 
  • Do not press the bristles too hard while cleaning it, to avoid damaging the brush. 
  • You can also use brush soap, in addition to water to give your brushes a deep clean.  

Store Your Brushes Properly

  • The best way to store brushes while they are drying is lying flat. If you store them tip-up while wet, water will get into the ferrule and cause damage to your brush.
  •  After brushes are completely dry, you can store them flat or tip-up.  
  • You should not store brushes tip down with pressure on the bristles. Some people save the plastic cap that comes with the brush and put it on after each use to preserve the bristles. If you do this, you can store brushes tip down because the pressure will be on the plastic cap and not on the bristles.

Image Credit: Victor Yoon