Oil washing is a painting technique used to shade fine details of miniatures, such as the thruster details of an X-wing. An oil wash is created by thinning oil paints with a thinner, such as turpenoid. It “seeks” the crevices of the miniature to bring out fine details. I’ve heard this technique was originally developed by historic wargamers to shade tanks, but it works just as well on small scale X-wing miniatures.
Before washing the model apply a coat or two of gloss varnish. The varnish protects the original paint. Without a coat of varnish the wash seeps into the paint and permanently discolors it. The varnish allows the wash to be wiped off to reveal the original color. A clean brush soaked in thinner works well for this purpose. Don’t use your best brush for this.
A gloss coat also helps the wash to flow into the detail areas. The glossier the varnish the more it flows. Satin or gloss varnish is recommended. Matte varnish may inhibit the wash from flowing.
Oil paint drys slowly. This is the advantage of oil paints over acrylics for this purpose. After the model is shaded, even hours later, the excess can be wiped off leaving the original color largely intact. Acrylics dry quickly and leave a dirty surface. If you mess up acrylics must be removed immediately. Oil washes are more forgiving.
How to apply an oil wash
- Paint the model to your satisfaction. After the model is sealed its hard to go back and fix the original paint.
- Apply gloss or satin varnish. This protects the model and creates a smooth surface to allow the wash to flow into crevices.
- Take a small amount of oil paint, black is suggested, and dilute it with turpenoid.
- Apply the wash to the model as heavily as you like.
- Wipe off excess wash with a clean brush dipped in thinner or your finger.
- Apply a final coat of matte varnish (or whatever your preference is) to seal the oil paint.
For a complete tutorial watch Buypainted’s video How to make and use oil wash? Enjoy painting your X-wings!