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Citadel COLOUR Contrast Paints First Impressions / Review

Hello and welcome to a special edition of The Art of Caesura!

I've just returned from Warhammer Fest 2019 (and what a brilliant time it was!) Without a doubt, the big reveal of the festival was the new Contrast Paints that Games Workshop are touting. 

They have seriously been marketing the bejesus out of these things, whether it be the three hilarious teaser videos in recent months:

Leading up to today's reveal trailer:

Or the heavy branding throughout today's swag bag and arena:

Warhammer Fest

Warhammer Fest

Warhammer Fest

Warhammer Fest

Warhammer Fest

Including half of an entire floor devoted to display cases of miniatures painted entirely with the new Contrast Paints - and, more excitingly, demo pods where we could give them a spin ourselves! But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I attended a seminar on the science behind the new Contrast Paints and between that and what I saw (and experienced) today, I'd like to share as much of it with you as possible. At the moment information is a little light on the ground (though that is sure to change in the coming weeks leading up to their release), so I hope this can be your one-stop shop for getting up to speed on Citadel's new paint system. 

As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below!

What Are Contrast Paints?

TL;DR: they are high pigment, low viscosity paints that feel like shades when you use them, but act as a magical combo of layer paint / shade / highlight. 

The Nitty-Gritty:
Contrast Paints are a whole new style of painting. David Cross, the guy giving the seminar (the chemist behind making citadel paints), likened the way we currently paint miniatures to traditional oil painting. Many people undercoat in black (to forgive any whoopsies by hiding them in deep shadow) and build up the colours and highlights on top. 

Contrast Paints, in contrast, are like watercolour paints. You start from a light undercoat (close to white), tinting this with paint that is thin enough (low viscosity) to act like a shade - sliding naturally into recessed details, but has enough surface tension and opacity to colour the flat surfaces and thinly tint the raised surfaces (with the light undercoat showing through, this gives the effect of a highlight).

Do Contrast Paints Work?

TL;DR: Yes* (terms and conditions apply, read on). 

The Nitty-Gritty:
They'd better. Apparently Games Workshop has spent the past 4 years developing these paints. They were working on them when Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition was still a thing. According to the guy's presentation, they tested these Contrast Paints on 12 companies (1200) worth of Space Marines!! He showed pictures of picnic tables full of Space Marines of many a hue, saying that that would be one day's testing!

They had to test the paints on assembled models (rather than just pieces of paper or chunks of plastic sprues) because the way the paint flows (like a shade), naturally settling in crevices, you wouldn't really get an idea of whether or not the paint was working as intended unless you could see the paint dry on an upright model. 

All of this amounts to a paint that flows into recesses, but stays (thinly) on raised surfaces. 

I will give my opinions of if they work at the end of this post. 

How Do You Use Contrast Paints?


The Nitty-Gritty:

So, going back to our watercolour pontifications above, you need to start this approach from a light colour. Who knew, but white spray paint is REALLY difficult to make. There are only two things they can use for white pigment: titanium dioxide (which is used in white bread) and lead (which is not). Titanium dioxide molecules are very large compared to pigments used in other spray paints (the analogy he used was: scaling up a molecule of titanium dioxide to the size of a soccer ball [football], a molecule of whatever they make black pigment out of would be the size of a marble!). With their relatively large surface area, these molecules begin to dry in mid-air (between the spray can and your model) causing clumping (hello White Scar spray). 

The way they got around this was to cheat a little. They've produced two new sprays: Wraith Bone (off-white beige) and Seer Grey (off-white grey). By "contaminating" the white with another colour, this "fills in the gaps between the larger molecules". Science; what can I say? They tested these sprays in all kinds of conditions (including having a kettle perpetually boiling in their spray hood to create humidity).These spray colours will also come as paint-on "Base" paints. 

The models that we got our grubby paws on today were already assembled and primed with the new sprays and I can say that they are very smooth indeed.

Once primed, you really just slap these bad boys on. As I've said, they're much less viscous than normal layer or base paints, more like a shade. In fact, apparently Nighthaunt Gloom and Hexwraith Flame were semi-failed first attempts at these paints. Those two are made with the same base (medium) as the rest of the paint range, while Contrast Paints have a whole new medium (Contrast Medium). Because of that, you shouldn't use water with Contrast Paints (it will create streaky water marks like shades diluted with water), you also shouldn't use Lahmian Medium (it would ruin the "Contrast" effect, making them just act more like normal paints). 

Drying time is similar to a shade (a few minutes to 20 min in heavily-pooled areas), and yes, you can speed things up with a hair-dryer. You can then use layer paints etc. to add further details / highlights if you wish. 

Because these paints work by very thinly covering raised surfaces, the guy said they will pretty much have to be varnished so the paint doesn't rub off. He did say that they will be releasing a new varnish which will have a similar finish to "acrylic painted miniatures" so...satin finish? 

What Colours of Contrast Paints Are We Getting?


The Nitty-Gritty:
  1. Apothecary White
  2. Black Templar
  3. Space Wolves Grey
  4. Gryph-Charger Grey
  5. Ikhelian Grey
  6. Volupus Pink
  7. Blood Angels Red
  8. Flesh Tearers Red
  9. Magos Purple
  10. Shyish Purple
  11. Ultramarines Blue
  12. Aethermatic Blue
  13. Talassar Blue
  14. Leviadon Blue
  15. Terradon Turquoise
  16. Akhelian Green
  17. Militarum Green
  18. Dark Angels Green
  19. Militarum Green
  20. Warp Lightening (Green)
  21. Nazdreg Yellow
  22. Iyanden Yellow
  23. Gryph-hound Orange
  24. Snakebite Leather
  25. Cygor Brown
  26. Guilliman Flesh
  27. Fyreslayer Flesh
  28. Darkoath Flesh
  29. Plaguebearer Flesh
  30. Ork Flesh
  31. Skeleton Horde
  32. Aggaros Dunes
  33. Creed Camo
  34. Gore-Grunta Fur
Thanks to Retro on TGA for help with this complete list

There will be 34 colours to start (we got to try out 10 today), but I must say, the two different undercoats ACTUALLY DO make a huge difference (it's not just a marketing gimmick). I saw the same yellow over each undercoat and it looked like two completely different colours. And you don't even have to use these new undercoats if you don't want to (you could use Corax White - or anything else) but they were designed around these undercoats. Separate pots of "Contrast Medium" will be sold, but this won't turn "normal" paints into Contrast Paints (the "normal" paints already have their own medium in) instead it will help with wet-blending.

The Contrast Paints will be completely compatible with rest of paint range (they tried to colour-match specific paints, so for example Blood Angels Red is like Mephiston Red, shaded and then highlighted with Evil Sunz Scarlet. Contrast Paints work better on textured surfaces (as it can pool on large flat surfaces – like tanks (though I saw a bunch of tanks there, and they all looked great!).

There will be no metallics in the Contrast range (because the metallic “pigments” are too heavy to work with this medium). But, you can paint them over metallics, and apparently it gives a nice "matte-metallic" finish. 

Other Bits:

  • Contrast Paints are high pigment and will stain clothes (I did not test this claim)!
  • Contrast Paints are in new medium-sized pots (between normal 12mL (layer, base etc) pots, and large 24mL (shade) pots. 
  • We don't know if they can be used with an airbrush.
  • We don’t know the price.
  • We don’t know the exact release date – only that it’s in June.

There was a constant emphasis of the term “battle ready” (i.e. tabletop quality) in reference to the quality produced, however, I did see ones that the teams had highlighted up with the rest of the range after applying the contrast paints – and they looked great!

My Thoughts:

These paints introduce a totally different style of painting. You have to start with the lightest colours first, because you can’t paint a light colour over a darker colour (they're very unforgiving in this way), so you would have to repaint the undercoat colour then use the Contrast Paint again. This can be tricky as the lightest colours may be the outer-most surface (like the tabbards on these Sequetors) – which I would usually leave for last – painting from the “inside out”). 

But, used well, in combination with the rest of the Citadel paints (metallics etc.) these will be a seamless addition to our armamentarium and will definitely save time and sanity. For the first time I can actually see myself going back and painting my Battle for Skull Pass Night Goblins! 

I have to admit, these were quite a surprise! For the most part they do seem to do what they claim to! I only got to try 10 colours, and certainly had more success with some of them than others. 

The standouts for me were: 

Guilliman Flesh (genuinely was like several coats of Cadian Fleshtone, Reikland Fleshshade and then highlighted with Cadian Fleshtone) but it only took one quick stroke (literally 2 seconds per face). 
Skeleton Horde: Did a beautiful job of replicating Zandri Dust > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone. In. one. coat.

They blend really well – like wet-blending. Apparently when using the new "Contrast Medium", they blend even better.

I can actually see myself using these for my old Night Goblins hordes (of which I have many millions) a lick of Black Templar and a green for their faces, would pretty much have them done in a few hours.

I can also definitely see myself using Skeleton Horde for my Barak Mhornar under-suits – especially if they have one for the dark blue – green armour.

Over the course of the day, I tried 3 different minis (one with standard base / layer paints and the other two with the new Contrast Paints. I spent about 8 minutes per model (as I was rushing between seminars). Obviously they're very rushed, but might give you some idea of these paints.

I've shown the model above (with standard base / layer paints over the new Wraithbone Spray) just to demonstrate how much (little) I was able to paint in 8 min compared to using the contrast paints (over Seer Grey) below for the same amount of time. 

Here are a few (very blurry) pics I took of models on display that were painted with Contrast Paints. 

Peachy photo-bomb above!

And here are some high-res images to get a better idea of what's going on (thanks to CaptMytre for these)

Ben, from The 2 Ps Podcast (who I had the very great pleasure of meeting today), has filmed his first go using these paints:

In Conclusion:

Are these total game-changers? You know what, I think they could be. They might be the best thing since Agrax Earthshade!

Thanks for your time and interest. I'll see you on Friday at our usual Bat-time, usual Bat-channel, right here on The Art of Caesura!

Watching: Vermintide II: Winds of Magic Gameplay
Reading: Maleditictions - Various
Listening: Danger! High Voltage - Electric Six
Drinking: Durgrund's Hellfire - Bugman's Brewery

Next Week:

The rest of the fest...


  1. Hi. Thanks for your feedback. But let's say you want to paint yellow and use some appropriate contrast paint to achieve that. What if you paint some black over it by mistake when you try to paint the joints or the weapon ; how are you going to correct that mistake ;

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks very much for your comment! It's a great question, and a good example of how these paints differ from what we're used to. If you look at my picture of the Sequitor without the helmet above, you can see that I was pretty messy along the central tabbard, I got some dark brown in the lower left corner and bits of blue along the upper right side. To fix this with these new paints, I would have to re-base these parts with Seer Grey (the brush-on version, rather than the spray-on version) and then re-apply the Contrast Paint Skeleton Horde (which I originally used for these areas). Just applying Skeleton Horde without first re-undercoating wouldn't really do anything - it wouldn't cover the brown or the blue.

      Same would go for your example of black on yellow, you'd have to re-base the yellow part with either Wraith Bone or Seer Grey and then reapply the yellow Contrast Paint. Are we talking about Imperial Fists by any chance? For Dorn!

      I hope that makes sense.

  2. Thanks so much for this! Thanks for linking to it from the BOLS . As a player and an independent stockist I'm really exited by this. A great new way to teach! For me it will be a great way to paint more neatly!

    1. Hi Joe,

      You're too kind. Yeah, I'm glad I finally joined the commenting community on BOLS, I go there every day, but until now had just been a backbencher, but the response has been really nice.

      Anyway, as a player and stockist I think you're in an awesome position to really benefit from these new paints. Being in a role to learn (and teach) new styles will only improve your own skills!

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thanks for the run down, nice review! My massive amount of grey plastic and I are looking forward to this release!

    1. My pleasure! Thanks for reading it. Regarding your pile of grey plastic...yours and mine both dude!

  4. Great article, thanks for the detailed feedbacks! Quite excited about those new paints, will definitely start a new ork army thanks to them.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks very much, I too am looking forward to turning these towards greenskins, but mine will likely be the Orruk and Grot variety ;)

  5. Thanks so much for posting the detailed explanation. Without actually trying them, my conclusion is that it is another tool in the paintbox and it will make painting a little bit quicker but I'm not sure it's a game-changer, at least not for GW models. I mean, those examples in the stills and video just looked like part-painted models that still need highlights, details, basing, etc. A typical paint job for me is about 16 stages, of which the wash is probably just one of those stages. If we eliminate that stage (because it's combined with the basecoat) then that still leaves 15 stages! Another example - I am currently painting Necrons, basically they're silver metallic colour with some bright green weapon parts and details. I don't think I would be able to use Contrast paints at all on them, because there are no metallics in the range. So I would still be doing Black -> Gun-metal -> Black wash -> Silver highlight, then weapon details, etc. No change. Ironically, where I see the biggest impact of Contrast paints is historical figures! These are more 'organic' and less demanding individually, e.g. I still have quite a few Vikings and Anglo-Danes that need painting, these can be a chore with lots of different variations of neutral tones. But I have already developed a speed technique which means painting all the base colours (in very light tones) and then a single brown wash over the whole model. Contrast would help here, but again not that much because the wash stage is already the quickest stage. Still, I'm sure Contrast paints will make painting a bit quicker and anything that does that should be applauded.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thank a million for your message. I totally hear you! These definitely won't be for every situation - metallics being a great example of where these won't help at all. I'm thinking the same about my Kharadron Overlords (which involve a good bit of metal).

      I would say, though, that they hope to replace more than just the wash stage. The idea would be that you go from (sprayed) undercoat -> Contrast -> secondary highlights and details. So skipping out / combining: base layer, shade and one layer of highlights.

      Outside of horde armies, I agree that the biggest gains will be in non-GW minis. You can probably see from my blog that I enjoy an eclectic mix of Kickstarter box games (working through Hellboy at the moment), which often involve a lot of cloned mono-pose minis; they can get a bit monotonous after your 20th variant-pose zombie / pirate / frog monster etc. I think these paints will really shine blasting through these. Given my especially good experience with the flesh tone Contrast Paint, I'm looking forward to going back and finishing off the million near-naked warriors in Monolith's Conan box set (like your Vikings and Anglo-Danes).

      Thanks again for the comment!

    2. I think you'll be able to do wonderful things with metallic! Stormhost silver and green for a green glowey metal. or black for a dirty oily metal. Then pick out details in the primer basepaint and do those bits.

      I do think it's better for the new painter than the veteran because you kind of have to unlearn how to paint- Bright to dark. I've been playing with with using shades. If someone looks at it like a fancy wash, he or she will be disappointed, I wathced a video of someone playing with transparent and translucent acrylic inks and the results had a lot of potential.

    3. Hey Joe(s Garage Games and Comics),

      That's a great point about the metallics! They did mention about the matte-metallic finish that you could achieve. Painting some Necromunda dudes at the moment, your suggestion of a dirty oily metal is spot on!

      I agree that it's a totally different way of painting. But I've since heard a rumour that a lot of the 'Eavy Metal team have been using these for like 6 months already and have used them on some models that have been released, and we've been none-the-wiser! Your definitely right, they're not just fancy washes.

      Thanks for being in touch!

  6. Great article. I really like your blogging style. You include as many details as possible, that seemed to have been skipped over by most coverage of this odd paint. It's funny how quickly we want to say, "Oh it's like X" without even having tried it. From what I've seen it acts more like a self-leveling gel or even enamel than "just an ink" or "just a wash," otherwise everyone that I've seen work with it would have said as much (including the pros that were flown over to test it out).

    Anyway, as a mini painter (and lover of paint in general) since '88 I'm excited to try them out, hyped gimmick or not.

    1. Hi Dain,

      Thanks very much! You're totally right, as a species, we're always wanting to cling to what we know and draw comparisons that way. Man, it's been so long since I painted with the enamels, I can hardly remember the feel (I do, however, remember the smell!)

      Just a few short weeks to wait (my nearest store is running Contrast Paint demos on June 15th) until we can really sink our teeth in! Enjoy!

  7. Can you tell me which contrast color you used for the skin on the stormcasts face please? It looks very nice.

    1. Hey! Absolutely, it's just one coat of Guilliman Flesh over Grey Seer. Hope that helps.


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