5 Ways to Achieve Contrast in Your Painting

The great John Margiotta, aka BloodASmedium, joins ToadChapel to explore the concepts in contrast which have led him to countless major awards over his career as a mini painter. BaM first learned these concepts from Meg Maples of Arcane Paintworks, and has been refining them ever since.  Thanks to John for this great article, and to Meg for giving her blessing.


A while back I took a class with Meg Maples. I found “EVERYTHING” she said was on target regarding what to do to make one a better miniature painter. Later on I found an article on her website, ARCANE PAINTWORKS, that was called The 5 Layers of Contrast. Mark Soley and Meg Maples are the originators of these 5 ways to get Simultaneous contrast. I am merely going into my own explanations why I feel it’s such an important rule to include when one selects colors and sits down to paint their miniatures.

Let’s start with the actual ways one can achieve more contrast in painting their models. I will give the layer and an example of it on one of my models.

The first is the most basic.


Put a light color near a dark color or shade a really dark color onto a brightly painted model- when doing this you get contrast… a lot of contrast !!!

Here are examples of painting a model with light and dark colors.

-Arena Rex gladiators-


Here you can see brightly colored skin next to darker clothes and armor making parts of the model highly readable. For every dark color alternate a light one.

A hand that moves into a vambrace or a bracelet- light skin and directly next to it the bracelet or forearm guard gets the darker color (a dark brown, leather perhaps!)

Let’s take a look at the second way.


On a color wheel any color directly opposite the color you’re using is that color’s complimentary color that works nicely with it, giving further contrast when the two are paired together.

-Orc Brave-

-Nurgle Plague Marine-

The two examples show a green skinned ork and a green armoured plague marine.

The ork’s skin and the green armor of the marine have been painted greens -then for the shading I’ve used the opposing color of green which is red. If I would have used a darker green it would have been fine. However using the pair of complimentary colors brings about a more beautiful and highly contrasted model that look much more realistic and more pleasing to the eye of the viewer. I’ve even gone as far as adding other types of reds to them like the plague marine’s pustules and the ork’s blood mouth etc.

Next we have the third layer. It is a color temperature gauge that balances cool and warm tones to achieve another nicely contrasted and aesthetically pleasing result.


Let me explain: Now, in color theory, there is a color thermometer that artists refer to. The thermal poles are opposite, where the coldest and coolest colored are in the bottom of the thermometer and the warmest at the top. The coldest tones are blues, purples, blue-greens, etc. As cool tones become less and less cold they start to transfer over to the hotter colors like reds, oranges, yellows, etc. This is the idea and tool for making a piece have a particular atmosphere- cold cemetery, say, as opposed to a lava base where that’s a hotter (much hotter!) enviorment .

We can also use this cool/warm when we paint s miniature .

-Arena Rex Gladiators-

These figures have warm skin with reds and red-browns glazed in, yet in the darkest shades and the secondary shadows I’ve use a deep blue to offset the very warm skin.

– Genestealer Aberrants-

These genestealer aberrants also take advantage of the possibilities of thermal contrast. The warmer red/pink skin is offset and balanced by the blue chitinous exoskeleton: the carapace. You see. Again another way of showing a beautiful, more natural color grouping and adding further contrast to the model as well.

Next to last we have the…

Shiny & Matte

This can be a couple of things. If you’re using metallics on an area, you can add further contrast by having that shiny metallic area transition to a matte or dull shadow. In addition to that, you can have a glossy area (a slimy tentacle etc) surrounded by matte (dull) area on a model.

-Orruk trio-

Take these two examples on the same piece: if you look at the Orruk boss clad in armor, you’ll see metallics, which stay shiny due to the metallic pigments. However when you move into the deep shadows you’ll see they are a darker color that remains matte (dull). This enhances the surface of the model.

As for glossy and non-glossy, look at the drummer’s bone drumsticks. The parts that look as if he ripped them str8 out of a living creature’s ball and socket stay glossy, simulating blood and gore, while the rest he’s sort of cleaned up (licked the blood off, or maybe the power coming from them has burned it off, only leaving the balls still bloody!). Again we can give another way of simultaneously contrasting the same models by achieving different surfaces as a result.

The last of them is a favorite of mine and can be optional as Meg And Mark explain.


This is a way of having a model’s surface becoming enhanced or a way of giving much more interest on models that have several areas which can be broken up by using textural contrasts.

Examples: if we take a space marine’s armor, it really only possesses one type of surface. To add interest and contrast, one may use scratches, scrapes, and other types of rough texture to the model’s armor, giving more aesthetics and further contrast between parts.


-Garden of Eden-

The Deathguard have been given corrosion and rust, along with other types of grime. This is a way of enhancing the otherwise boring and monotonous standard-like green armor most use.

In my Garden of Eden, for example, the first chap wearing a gibbet has smooth skin. This has a higher contrast next to the armor which shows much wear and tear. The armor also has its surfaced enhanced to do this.

The second chap again has a smooth skin with sores and scrapes and scarring, again enhancing and giving further contrast.

The last model shows the skin again as above, only now it’s contrasted much more against the worn leather fool’s cap that he wears. And again the hat has its surface enhanced also.

I hope this is helpful to other painters. Meg and Mark have done a terrific job educating all of us, and to pay it forward we must recognize how we all can achieve a level of painting wonderfully realistic looking models because of such talented and wonderful folks .


Because of the central and inspiring role mini painting has played in John’s life, I asked him to give an account of his journey as a painter. His success is a testament to what generosity of spirit, a clear vision, and an incredible amount of hard work can accomplish. Here’s what he had to say.

Hello painting community. My name is John Margiotta . I go by the screen name BloodASmedium-or BAM for short. I began painting miniatures when I was 9 years old. Back then Toys-R-Us sold Dungeon Dwellers boxed sets of lead models. I thought they were cool so I started painting and stayed with it. I began to want to become more adept with my skills when I was at a friend’s house and he showed me a book called “Fantasy Miniatures.”

This book introduced me to Golden Demon and Citadel miniatures. I was enthralled and intrigued just to say the least. Me and a friend went to a gaming store, bought all we could carry of space orks, Rogue Trader, eldar war walkers, zoats, etc. You name it, we bought it. Our painting was not very good but we loved painting these small pieces of metal. We both had hopes of making it one day into White Dwarf and winning a Golden Demon (back then it was a two inch metal miniature on a plinth).

Through the years I stayed with it – with no means back then in the 80s to improve. We both accepted that, but hey, who cares? We loved doing it.

In 1993 I attended the first Games Day on US soil. There was a small room and a few tables with at most 20 models in each category. I landed in the finals and was so high I was over the moon. After that I would attend every year and make the finals. I considered myself a finalist and that’s it. I was ok with that. I loved it. As I got older I came to realize my passion was sports and being a 4 star athlete was what I did and what defined me. I still continued to go to Games Day with no real hopes of elevating my consistant status. I somehow in my long journey worked very hard, and in 2005 won a Gold Demon for my Treebeard in the Canadian Games Day. In 2009 I won a Bronze Demon for my large scale Abaddon. I was happy my quest was over- or was it?

In 2011 I was severely disabled due to an intense athletic schedule.  At the time I was training full-time and competing as a semi-pro boxer. My injury ended my career in sports. Not cause I wanted to be- it was the doctor’s orders.

I asked myself what could I do to replace this purpose in my life that spanned 3/4 of my life and served as such a source of identity to me. Golden Demon was gone in the US at that point. I noticed as I was looking on the computer a site called COOL MINI OR NOT. They had tutorials and all sorts of things that one could take advantage of to actually break the cycle and become better. So I began my quest, slowly seeing results in each and every thing I tried. In 2012 I signed on to CMON and met wonderful folks who helped clear up questions that were holding me back. Most notable of these was David Powell, who became a very dear close friend of mine . He helped me prepare and in 2015 me along with Dave took our entries to our first Crystal Brush. The amount of talent was incredible, the biggest names were present, and I was like a kid in a candy store. Lo and behold I achieved two Crystal Brush trophies in the toughest international event at the time.

Since then I’ve won 42 international painting awards. I now have placed in the top tier of some of the biggest names in the competitive painting community. I’m a multi Crystal Brush award winner, a multi gold medalist at MFCA (the biggest historical miniature event of its kind), a multi gold medal and overall winner at Nova Open’s Capital Palette (a Crystal Brush qualifier), and a multi Golden Demon award winner. With the exception of the Golden Demons, the 40 awards were achieved in the last 4.5 years.

My awards mean all the more to me as I was awarded them after being judged by Jennifer Baily, Jose Palomares Nuñez (Big Child Creatives), Francesco Farabi, James Craig, Roman Lappat (Jarhead), Matt DiPietro, David Taylor, James Wappel, Sam Lenz, and many more. It has been s thrill to meet so many of my painting heroes.

In addition to this I’ve also earned a top ranking on Putty and Paint and in the galleries of CoolMiniOrNot, written articles for Figure Painter Magazine, and soon I’ll appear in Fine Scale Modeller. Most meaningful of all to me is making Volomir’s “do not miss” list, where each week he picks his favorite models out of the 100s that are uploaded on different sites all over the world.  I’ve been featured on Volomir six times.

I definitely fashion my style after Jacob Nielsen and John Blanche. These are my two favorite painters and early on I’ve tried to emulate some of the look of their models into my own.

I couldn’t be happier than where I am now. By my side is my lovely  fiancé Janet Ng and she’s now been painting over a year and has two silver medals as well. 😉

It’s amazing what miniatures and some paint could do to literally turn a life around.

Now I try to continually better myself and to help others raise their skillset as well.


Oxide & Patina Technique Step by Step Part 3: Pulling the Scheme Together

Pt. 3.PNG


All previous paints for enhancement

Mig Ammo light rust enamel wash

Enamel thinners


Step 1 – Adding oils/enamels

 This step adds in another dimension and visual texture to the weathering –


Apply the enamel wash in small dots in and around the transition areas but don’t be afraid to let it overlap into the patina and for there to be some extra dots out into the cleaner areas of the model

enamel wash.PNG

Allow this to dry for a while before using the enamel thinners to soften the effect and allow the enamels to spread out – this adds an oily, almost wet effect to some areas of the patina and enhances the corroding metal effect


This brings together the key elements that make up the effect. However it is important to continually layer, adjust, and tweak the effects to fit your own requirements and expectations for the overall effects.

Additional colours can be added into the mix, such as tiny specs of bright orange or gold to increase the variation in oxidation. Pigments can also add depth to the verdigris effect.



Hopefully the basics of this make sense… it’s very much an intuitive process that needs to be adjusted to suit your project. Most of all have fun experimenting with it!


Phil Pryce has been fascinated by fantasy illustration and imagery from an early age, beginning with the Fighting Fantasy book range in primary school.  He poured over the text and images in these books endlessly, eagerly awaiting the next release.

The lead mini obsession began following a change trip to Games Workshop Birmingham in 1984 (age 9).  Following a 22 year lay off from the hobby between 1994 and 2016, Phil started painting again as a means to relax.  He hasn’t looked back since.

Hairster has always been keen to exhibit his own perspective and take on miniatures, developing unconventional approaches to painting in order to covey that vision.

Phil has achieved multiple GD highly commended awards and achieved a choldhood dream when he won a Silver Golden Demon in the Age of Sigmar Squad category at Warhammer Fest 2017.  I expect much more success in Phil’s bright painting future.

Thanks again to Phil for his fascinating breakdown of his process and artistic thinking! Check him out online:

Instagram – @hairsterminipainting


If you missed any part of Phil’s tutorial, don’t forget check out Part 1 & Part 2.

Oxide & Patina Technique Step by Step Part 2: Building up the Patina

Here’s Part 2 of Hairster’s step-by-step guide to how he achieved his amazing patina effect on his Necron Doom Scythe.

Pt. 2.PNG


Vallejo Model Air Tinny Tin

Vallejo Model Colour Light Turquoise

Vallejo Game Colour Escorpina Green

Vallejo Game Ink Blue

Vallejo Game Ink Green

Vallejo Game Ink Skin Wash

Vallejo Glaze Medium

reference material.PNG

Step 1 – Translucent layering

 Mix a 50:50 blend of Escorpina Green and Turquoise. And add plenty of glaze medium to create a translucent blend


Apply the translucent mix with either a brush or a small sponge to start to build up the patina colouration. At this stage the colours will appear quite dark but will increase in saturation and intensity as they are overlaid.

brush:sponge translucent

2nd layer

Step 2 – Intensifying the patina

Mix green and blue inks to create an intense turquoise and apply this sporadically to the patina areas to increase the variation in tones. At this point you can also add in various tones of turquoise, white, and GW Nihilakh Oxide to enhance the depth and variation in the patina.

turqoise ink.PNG” width=”1701″ height=”1701″>

Step 3 – Enhancing the transitions pt. 1

Dilute skin wash using water and begin to apply this to the transitions between patina and basecoat in glazes – this will blend create the bridge between the two colours along the margin of the areas that are beginning to oxidise. This coat can be applied very roughly and wet, as any watermarking that may arise will just enhance the effect

skin wash.PNG


Step 4 – Enhancing the transitions pt. 2

The next step further intensifies the transitions and adds flecks of metallic into the patina areas to create more variation in tone – add glaze medium to VMA Tinny Tin and blend between the two zones once again…irregularity is the key to this whole process

tinny tin.PNG

glaze over transitions

Phil wraps up this incredible tutorial here.  If you missed it, you can find Part 1 over here.

Oxide & Patina Technique Step by Step Part 1: Laying Down the Basecoats

This very special guest tutorial comes to you courtesy of Phil Pryce, aka Hairster.  He is one of my favorite painters and has developed some impressive original techniques over recent years.  In this three-part lesson Phil reveals his secrets for an amazingly rich and realistic verdigris effect.

You can check out more of Phil’s work on Instagram.


Pt. 1.PNG


Vallejo Model Air Chrome

Vallejo Model Air Bright Bronze

Vallejo Game Ink Yellow

Vallejo Game Ink Red

Vallejo Game Ink Skin Wash

Vallejo Game Ink Brown

Step 1 – Basecoat

Prime with your usual primer – colour is not important

Then airbrush basecoat with VMA Chrome

Apply an airbrush coat of VMA Bright bronze to the rear sections of the model to create a gradiated sunset effect.


br.PNG” width=”1701″ height=”1701″>

Step 2 – Intensifying the colours pt 1

 Mix a 4:1 Yellow to Red ink mix in your airbrush hopper to create a mid orange tone

Airbrush this over the top of the base layer focusing on the transition between the chrome/bronze and the main bronze section. Apply light coats

4:1 y:r ink.PNG

Step 3 – Intensifying the colours pt 2

Airbrush a coat of the Skin wash ink over bronze section of the base coat to add further saturation and colour intensity to the mix.

skin wash.PNG

Step 4 – Intensifying the colours pt 3

Airbrush a coat of the brown ink over extremities of the bronze section of the base coat to add still greater saturation and colour intensity.

brown ink.PNG

Step 5 – Microscratches 

Using a brush with a fine tip apply tiny micro brush strokes to represent scratches – the Vallejo chrome air runs smoothly anyway but if you have issues with it drying on your brush then add in some flow retarder to help. Apply the scratches as you would expect them to appear on a worn vehicle, focussing on leading and prominent areas that would have gotten scuffed in day to day use.

chrome scratches.PNG

You can find Part 2 of this great tutorial here!

Playing the Flame Game

Sorry it’s been slow in ToadChapel lately. My schedule has been hectic. Things have cleared up now, though, and I plan to be productive in the weeks ahead.

Here’s a little combi-flamer toting veteran who’s coming together step by step. It’s been a while since I’ve played a game of Kill Team, so I can’t wait to get him & his mates onto the battlefield!

The Vanguard Cometh

I’ve put together a pair of Infiltrators to frustrate my opponents’ plans.

With these single pose models I usually just add a bit or a bob to give it some character, swap the head, and call it a day.

I figured these Infiltrators were a good place to start from the Shadowspear box. I’ll probably build some of all the Vanguard models, but the high cost of the Suppressors and the low strength of the Eliminators’ bolt sniper rifles put them farther down the list of priorities. The omni-scramblers, however, seem useful and the concealed positions rule seems fun & potentially effective for grabbing valuable real estate.

Pick up Shadowspear on Amazon and support ToadChapel