Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Gold Rush! ...a Quest for the best Gold

My experiments with Gold for all to see...

I had originally posted an early draft of this on another blogger site but this version is far more updated and complete.  I am leaving out Vallejo Liquid Gold at this point however, which has become my new favorite, and I will cover it entirely at a later date.

So here we go, and please note that each of these minis were 'speed' painted just for the sake of this experiment and could certainly be done much better and more patiently.

I'll start with some general impressions.  Tips and techniques used for small areas of your models may not apply to larger surfaces when using metallic paints. Metallic paints can, and should be thinned just like other paints but they won't behave exactly the same as a non-metallic paint.  First you will certainly need several coats; I've consistently used 3 coats of my thinned metallic paint to get an even coverage throughout this exercise.  Secondly, be mindful not to touch areas (with the brush) that are not newly wet (10 seconds or less) or completely dry (5 mins or more) because once it becomes almost/semi-dry the metallic will clump and push/pull into lumpy balls of paint on your mini and generally look like arse.  Metallic paints dry slower than other paints for reasons unknown to me.

My test bed of miniatures were all primed with Vallejo primer using my airbrush.
The Guinea Pigs...

GW method 1:  base coat GW-shining Gold, Devlan Mud wash, glaze thinned GW-Leviathan Purple into recesses, first highlight GW-Shining Gold, 2nd highlight thinned GW-Burndished Gold and matte medium, spot/extreme highlight (sparesly) GW-Mithril Silver.
GW Method 1

GW method 2 (AoBR): base coat 50:50 GW-Scorched Brown : GW-Shining Gold, base highlight with GW-Shining Gold, 2nd highlight with 50:50 GW-Shining Gold : GW-Mithril Siver, wash Gryphon Sepia, extreme highlight 30:70 GW-Shining Gold : GW-Mithril Silver.
GW method 3 (Sanguinary Guard): base coat GW-Shining Gold, wash 1:1 GW-Scorched Brown : black into recesses, glaze recesses with GW-Leviathan Purple wash, highlight with 1:1 GW-Shining Gold : GW-Mithril Silver, extreme highlight with GW-Mithril Silver.  Note: this method is NOT how they painted those minis, their base coat was sprayed on with an airbrush or aerosol.
I've found that these techniques actually look quite good on smaller areas but in my opinion, look terrible on larger areas and/or complete miniatures.
GW method 2 & 3 and a GW-Shining Gold based model

Generally speaking, I feel like the GW methods are lies! ...their recipes create an 'interesting' looking color but it's not gold.  If you look at the Sanguinary Guard tutorial on the GW site you can see (by the base) that those models were 'sprayed' gold, and the gold looks lighter and brighter than GW Shining Gold.  Regardless both method 2 and 3 had near identical results, and pictured are my second attempts for each method.  I went a little too far with the shadows and covered up the base color a little too much, but in either case the highlight color (shining gold + mithril silver) doesn't do it for me, it's too bronze-ish on larger areas.

Vallejo Game Colour method: base coat VGC Glorious Gold.  wash with 4:1 Vallejo Umber Shade Wash : Blue Shade Wash, highlight with thinned VGC Polished Gold and matte medium, extreme highlight with 2:1 VGC Polished Gold : VGC Silver, add 4-5 reflective spots with VGC Silver.
VGC method

The Vallejo Game (VGC) metallics actually went on smoother than the GW and they blended (when thinned) much easier.  The Vallejo washes were much less impressive here however.  The Vallejo washes are not nearly as smart as the GW washes in terms of knowing where to sit.  Also applied over the metallics the washes knocked the shine down quite a bit, which was nice for shadows, but they still pooled in unwanted areas.  The photo doesn't do it justice but this gold looks pretty good.

Vallejo Model Colour method 1: (good!) base coat with thin coats of VMC Brass, wash with 4:1 Vallejo Sepia Shade : Vallejo Blue Shade, go back over model (avoid recesses) with thinned base to bring back up the shine, highlight thinned VMC Gold, extreme highlight with thinned 1:1 VMC Gold : VMC Silver.
VMC method 1

The Vallejo Model (VMC) metallics were the easiest to use yet but have a more flat and colder tone.   I liked these... they blended so easily when thinned.
VMC method 1 expanded with HL and shadow

The VMC method 1 being a winner, I couldn't help taking it a little further with the highlights (VMC Silver) and then shadow over-tones by adding Umbral Umber and then glazing between highlight and shadow with the Sanguine Base... still all done for speed but you get the picture!  You can see that the colors added a lot of warmth were as the photo above it (pre- colored shadows) was a lot colder.

Reaper Mastes Series method: base RMS Ancient Bronze, GW-Devlan Mud wash, 1st highlight RMS Antique Gold, RMS Ruddy Leather to pull colors together, final highlight with RMS New Gold. All part of RMS Gold Triad, terrible blending.

Repear Masters Series Gold Triad

Andrea Color - Gold Paint Set method: base Base Gold, super smooth! But lighter than most other golds. Shadow with Shadow Dark Gold, interesting to shadow with a metallic color but it worked well. I also gave thinned GW Devlan Mud wash. Highlight with Base Gold again, then Light White Gold, which didn’t cover very well. The inks were not really usable here, by me anyway… they are so potent and intense that even with uber thinning they overpowered the gold. They would be nice to mix up with some medium and water to make intense washes though. The Chestnut ink is slightly darker than the old GW version.
Andrea via Airbrush
Andrea via standard brush

Tamiya Airbrushed method: Ok pain in the arse and a horrible mess to clean up... however the base coat is smooth as ice.  I'm not crazy about the color just yet. There are just too many ways to vary this, I could spend a lot of time experimenting with this but having to use a lacquer thinner and deal with a real messy cleanup puts this near the bottom of my list for now.
Tamiya paints sprayed through an Airbrush

GW paints "Mathieu Fontaine" method: base coat 3:1 GW-Shining gold : GW-mithril silver.  Shadow wash with thinned GW-Scorched Brown (or P3 Umbral Umber); 2nd shadow (deeper in recesses) with thinned black, highlight with base-coat, spot/extreme highlight with GW-mithril silver.  Please note - Mathieu Fontaine can make this method work because, he is Mathieu Fontaine and one of the best mini painters anywhere; and while I did like the results it wasn't my favorite for larger areas and/or complete miniatures.
The "Mathieu Fontaine" method (the master painter's method applied by a novice and in haste)

Vallejo Model Colour method 2:  (very good) base coat 4:1 VMC Brass : VGC Scrofulous Brown (or GW snakebite leather), wash with thinned P3 Umbral Umber, HL with VMC Gold, 2nd HL with 1:1 VMC Gold : VMC Silver, P3 Sanguine Base wash in shadows, extreme spotting with VMC Silver.

VMC method 2

Vallejo Model Colour method 3: (best!) base coat 4:1 VMC Brass : VGC Scrofulous Brown using Airbrush, wash with thinned P3-Umbral Umber, highlight with 4:1 VMC Gold : VGC Scrofulous Brown, glaze glaze glaze with very thinned 1:1 P3-SanguineBase : GW-DA Green to pull highlight into the shadow, re-touch highlight color, sparsely highlight with 3:1 VMC Gold : GW-Mithril Silver, add 4-5 reflective 'spots' with GW-Mithril silver near top/front of model.  Obviously I didn't take the shadows or highlights as far on this mini, but the gold was 'just right' so I knew I had my winner.
VMC method 3

In my opinion these are the best, or easiest to work with, gold paints for miniatures.  The Andrea was very smooth, but the VMC was exactly what I was looking for.
My favorite (winning) choices!

In case you were wondering why I did all this? was almost exclusively for this unit; the Sanguinary Guard and of course Dante, and eventually some Honour Guards.  I used the VMC Method 3 and I will stick with that formula throughout this army.   Here is my Sanguinary Guard Banner Bearer; I am pleased with the gold but the rest of the mini fell short of my expectations.
The reason for all this experimenting - my Sanguinary Guard (VMC method 3)


  1. Very interesting. I've just been using the Citadel range so far, but I see that I'm going to have to investigate some Vallejo paints!

  2. Thanks for comment Dan! my opinion the Citadel 'Mithryl Silver' is probably the best miniature paint silver there is, but the Citadel golds are totally lacking. VMC was really solid.

  3. Great tut ... now tell them about VLG ;)


  4. Thanks CS! ...hah well I hope to soon finish my Shrine of Aquila and get some nice pics. I used the VLG paints on it and fell in love with them. I'll be sure to do a writeup.

  5. The amount of research and testing you did for this is really impressive. I just went out and bought the vmc brass, gold and silver to solve my Grey Knights gold problems. I'm excite to compare to GW's after seeing you're samples.

  6. Thanks dude... yeah I think you are going to be very happy with those VMC choices; I can't wait to see those GK's finished.

  7. When are you going to post your process and results of the Vallejo Liquid Gold attempts?