You almost ruined it! Pt. 2: Eat, build, paint, repeat

How to prime like a pro
After doing the dog’s work and spending your hard earned man hours on building the ruins it’s time to get them primed and ready for painting. This article will cover an easy life hack that will not only save you time when you bring out the brushes for the final paint job, but also improve the overall look of your terrain and make them playable if you need a quick fix. Just trust me.

Most people (including me) like to pre-shade our miniatures using what is sometimes called a ‘zenithal highlight’ technique when priming. What this means is that after covering the entire miniature in black (or any dark color for that matter) I go over and ‘dust’ them lightly with a soft white layer – sometimes directly from above, and sometimes at a 45 degree angle from above. By doing this I enhance the shadows and automatically lighten ever color that I’ll be painting later on. Since color is always affected by the tone of the surface underneath, this simple preshading step will create a realistic gradient and transition from dark to light that will shine through when you paint over it. There’s no reason to not do this on your terrain as well unless you’re lazy, especially when you have several large ruins to paint in a hurry. So what I suggest is that you buy three spray cans of different tones to try this out on your newly built ruins! For this project I used GW’s Chaos Black as a base color, Warlord Games/Armypainter’s Uniform Brown as a mid tone, and GW’s Skull White as a highlight.

The end result after about 30 minutes of spray can work, if you’d want to you could easily get away with leaving them as they are at this stage and just finish the bases.

Step 1. Basecoats
You know what to do. It’s simple, it’s basic, and it’s grimdark. Just cover the entire thing using your darkest base color. Make sure to get into all the cracks and crevices, and as the ancient Chinese saying goes: several thin coats is always better than a single thick one!

Step 2. Grade A gradients
This is where it starts to get a bit tricky. When applying your mid tone to the terrain piece you have to have two things on your mind: angles and cautiousness. Firstly, only spray this color from a 45 degree angle onto the terrain. This means you shouldn’t be painting the ceiling or any other surface that would never get hit by light unless you want to ruin the end effect. Secondly, make sure to not cover the entire structure. Instead you should aim to leave a little of the dark base color at the botton of your model and in the corners of the inside. Take a good look at the picture below where a black line is almost visible at the bottom of the building where the walls meets the ground – This is the actual (pre-)shading in the technique.


Step 3. Here comes the sun!
At thist point you’re going to pop out your brightest (prefereably white) color and highlight the piece. This is where the magic happens. Remember that less is more and it’s easy to get carried away and overdo this step so try to be disciplined. Spray or ‘dust’ your terrain piece lightly straight from above. Imagine that the spray can is the sun itself, hence the term ‘zenithal highliht, and only target the horizontal surfaces that would catch the brightest light. I also like to emphasize the points of interest in my pieces here so all window areas, heaps of crates and bombed out holes in the building will get more attention. This draws the attention of the observer to these areas and creates more interest.

This is a point of interest that I worked on with the white zenithal highlight. Note that the wall directly behind the crates has almost no white on it and therefore works as a neutral backdrop for the pile of junk.
Other areas that received the ‘dusting’ treatment were the window frames and the scafolding across the ruined floor.

That’s all for now. Once dry you can slap these onto a table and start playing, or wait until the next part of this series when it’s time to work some different colors into the terrain, pick out details, and weather it to the max!


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