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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-01-13, 11:40 PM Thread Starter
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Default Zenithal Highlighting Question

So after spending some time trying to determing how to best approach painting my Sisters of Battle I've decided to take a new approach I hadn't tried yet: zenithal highlighting.

To cover it quickly for those who haven't heard of it: you first take a model and prime it a dark colour, say black. Then using a lighter colour (often white) you prime directly at the top of the model at a distance so that it only hits the upper surfaces, and gradually fades the further down it hits. This creates a smoother gradient effect when you paint over it (thin coats mind you so the base colour can effect it, and darken or lighten the shade you're using due to the translucency of the paint). It's a nice way to create a lighting effect that is more subtle than hard highlights and easier to achieve in a shorter time than doing it by hand and blending it.

Okay, my main point of this post is for those who've tried this technique: can you do this with metallic paints? My paint scheme with my Sisters is Gold Armour and White Cloth so it working with metallic paints is a big selling point in my doing this.

I'd appreciate any input people can offer.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-01-13, 11:54 PM
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It does work with metallics but you do have to thin the hell out them or the effect is lost. I would also try using a grey intermediate primer when doing your pre shading/highlighting, it will give a better transition from light to dark and if you're going to the trouble of doing zenithal lighting its worth doing the extras. I would also recommend spraying from around a 45 degree angle, it will hit more of the details on the miniature meaning you get more definition to make the model pop.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-02-13, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by normtheunsavoury View Post
It does work with metallics but you do have to thin the hell out them or the effect is lost. I would also try using a grey intermediate primer when doing your pre shading/highlighting, it will give a better transition from light to dark and if you're going to the trouble of doing zenithal lighting its worth doing the extras. I would also recommend spraying from around a 45 degree angle, it will hit more of the details on the miniature meaning you get more definition to make the model pop.
I'm glad to hear it works. Though you gave me a few questions:

So Black, Grey, White or Black and Gray or Gray and White?

And do you mean a 45 degree angle from one side or all sides?
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-02-13, 12:12 AM
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Prime the whole mini black, then hit it with a shot of grey from a 45 degree angle, just the one direction, on sisters I would aim for the left or right shoulder pad, slightly to the front of the mini. Once you've done that give it a dusting from the same angle with the white, it should show up on the most raised areas and almost look like its been dry brushed.

This is really a technique that's best used for display minis as it will leave whichever area you didn't aim at with the primer very dark, so the mini will be best viewed from one angle, much like NMM. Experiment with the angles you spray at, some interesting effects can be achieved using this technique, such as strong OSL effects from spraying up at a low angle ect.

Here's an incredibly crappy picture done using Paint


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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-02-13, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by normtheunsavoury View Post
Prime the whole mini black, then hit it with a shot of grey from a 45 degree angle, just the one direction, on sisters I would aim for the left or right shoulder pad, slightly to the front of the mini. Once you've done that give it a dusting from the same angle with the white, it should show up on the most raised areas and almost look like its been dry brushed.
Ah, that makes a lot of sense, thanks!

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Originally Posted by normtheunsavoury View Post
This is really a technique that's best used for display minis as it will leave whichever area you didn't aim at with the primer very dark, so the mini will be best viewed from one angle, much like NMM. Experiment with the angles you spray at, some interesting effects can be achieved using this technique, such as strong OSL effects from spraying up at a low angle ect.
True, I have seen it used to greatly not only to create the OSL effect but to also determine where the light falls on the model from the object. The thing is by using gold (a bright metallic) and white as my colors, even the dark portions won't be dark, and in the case of the gold it should affect the way light reflects off of it, giving it an actual shaded effect. because the translucency of the paint means metallics (even if not thinned down very much) get a colour shift depending on what your primer colour is. If it's dark it makes the shade of the metallic look different than its light.

While I get that it would look best if I was using it for display models, I don't think it looks bad on the table. When I get a little more time I think I play with this to try and work something out. Who knows, I might manage to make it work for the models even though I'll be playing with them.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-02-13, 07:51 AM
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I've done zenithal highlighting a lot (and I use it extensively for my commisions).

My greyknights are done that way... For metallics, I'm sad to say.. it doesn't work quite as effective as regular paints. The contrast has to be huuuuuuughe before you'll even notice. (I'm talking model air gun vs steel). So here's my suggestion.

Are you planning on airbrushing or using rattle cans?

Personally, If you are going to do this with gold paint, I suggest going with a very dark brown tone (Rhinox hide, scorched brown, or krylon ultra-flat brown), and doing the gold in a zentithal on top of that. Start of straight from the top and go from that 90 angle to a 45 angle on the model.

Then, you can still wash with something like agrax earthshade and rehighlight again (it'll be dirt easy, I always use my zenithal highlight as a guide for the highlights). Pro-tip: add some satin varnish (acrylic!) to your wash to both dilute it (the new washes are a big pigment heavy to my taste) and to get smoother/more even coverage.

Better still, you can use oilwash and clean it up afterwards with mineral spirits... but that would require a coat of gloss varnish over your paint first... Mineral spirits can damage the paint if you overdo it.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-02-13, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by elmir View Post
I've done zenithal highlighting a lot (and I use it extensively for my commisions).

My greyknights are done that way... For metallics, I'm sad to say.. it doesn't work quite as effective as regular paints. The contrast has to be huuuuuuughe before you'll even notice. (I'm talking model air gun vs steel). So here's my suggestion.
Ah, yeah, it might not be so great if the contrast doesn't work so well.

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Are you planning on airbrushing or using rattle cans?
While I own an airbrush I haven't had the time to play with it yet, so I was considering doing the zienthal with rattle cans. I currently only paint actual colours by hand though.

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Originally Posted by elmir View Post
Personally, If you are going to do this with gold paint, I suggest going with a very dark brown tone (Rhinox hide, scorched brown, or krylon ultra-flat brown), and doing the gold in a zentithal on top of that. Start of straight from the top and go from that 90 angle to a 45 angle on the model.
That's the thing I was going go use the zienthal to set up the highlights then hand paint on the gold and whites. Since most Sisters models have bare heads I'd just be creating more work for myself by priming them gold.

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Originally Posted by elmir View Post
Then, you can still wash with something like agrax earthshade and rehighlight again (it'll be dirt easy, I always use my zenithal highlight as a guide for the highlights). Pro-tip: add some satin varnish (acrylic!) to your wash to both dilute it (the new washes are a big pigment heavy to my taste) and to get smoother/more even coverage.
Duly noted.

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Originally Posted by elmir View Post
Better still, you can use oilwash and clean it up afterwards with mineral spirits... but that would require a coat of gloss varnish over your paint first... Mineral spirits can damage the paint if you overdo it.
Probably not going to do that one. I tend to stick to the current range of GW paints. Not as flashy as some of the other stuff out there but they do a nice enough job that I enjoy using them.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-03-13, 08:53 PM
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From the Warp: How to do basic zenithal highlighting

This guy gives a nice detailed step by step process on how to do it. Doesn't mention metallic paint though, hope it helps!
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