Home Forums General General Am I the only hobbyist who simply doesn’t believe in undercoat colours?

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  • #140040
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    In a painting livestream I was watching just now, the advice was given that a purple undercoat (in the sense of primer) does wonders for painting accurate-looking black and Asian skintones. This is a new one to me, but I’m familiar with the usual received wisdom: Use a white undercoat for colourful paintjobs; use a black one for more gloomy, grimdark ones; grey is good if you want a neutral effect on the finished thing; brown makes the paintjob more down-to-earth and natural.

    I don’t believe in ANY of this. I do hold by the importance of undercoats, but only for the sake of achieving a good surface to paint onto, and perhaps making the paintjob more durable. I simply don’t believe that when I paint a miniature, the undercoat will “shine through” the multiple layers of high-quality paint (e.g. Vallejo) that comprise the paintjob itself. It’s been a very long time since I last tried anything other than my usual white undercoat, but I don’t recall a black undercoat ever making any discernible difference back then. I’ve never tried any other colour because I don’t see the point.

    Judging by the general acceptance of the received wisdom of undercoat colours in the hobby community, I’m fairly sure I’m in the minority. Am I just a one-person minority, though? And conversely, does anyone feel they know for sure, from personal experience/observation, that undercoat colours make a difference? Many “masterclass” painters talk about it with a surety like they absolutely, definitely know, which always feels to me like a disconnect.

    #140041
    OB
    Participant

    Yes, it works in my experience.

    As an example I’m currently painting some Tai Ping. They have dark blue clothes with red turbans, head bands and sashes, long black hair too.  I need the red to really stand out so I undercoat the turbans etc in orange.  I’m happy with the result.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #140042
    Mike
    Keymaster

    so I undercoat the turbans etc in orange

    You do the whole figure in orange?

    #140043
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    Also depends on the opaqueness of the paints. Paints are becoming better at this, but for some colours (e.g. yellows) it is still difficult to find a good covering paint that can paint solidly over black in one layer. Or I should upgrade my collection of paints, I’ll leave that as a possibility as well …

    But anyway, I use an undercoat as the dominant colour of the figure. I have a whole series of cans of various colours to undercoat figures – brown, green, grey, blue … and I simply use the dominant colour of the uniform.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #140044
    OB
    Participant

    No Mike, just where I want red to stand out.

    In terms of undercoating whole figures, I find white makes for a brighter finish, black darker and a tan brown neutral.  I usually use the latter.

     

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #140045
    McKinstry
    Participant

    I find that a white undercoat on smaller scales such as 1/6000 ships or 2-6mm figures makes a significant difference. The purple undercoat is a new one on me but sounds worth a try.

    Never wrestle with a pig. You both get muddy and the pig just likes it.

    #140047
    Thuseld
    Participant

    I am with you. Would you believe that when I first started, I didn’t undercoat? I have old Airfix figures with only skin painted on them that I abandoned as soon as I discovered I wanted a girlfriend more than I wanted to paint miniatures.

    I use mainly grey for all: 28mm, 20mm, 6mm, vehicles and figures. I had a phase of using white, and I do believe it made those miniatures slightly brighter, it wasn’t enough to make me care. Likewise I has a phase of using this awful black spray paint for 20mm WW2. I used it and then dry brushed the midstone on (before I discovered washes).

    I do occasionally think about going back to white though. You won’t find me using other colours though, unless I work out how to use this airbrush my dad palmed off on me.

    #140048

    I always prime black, never had any problems making colors either stand out or be subdued.

    #140051
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    Primer and undercoat are different in function. You can make one coat do both jobs but using an undercoat to affect the appearance of a following coat is not the purpose of primer.

     

     

    #140052
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    There are two fundamental rules that most beginner guides to miniatures painting (at least most that I’ve seen) bang on about before they even get to the part where they actually start painting. The first is that the colour of the undercoat affects the end result. The second is that, at least before the optional highlighting stage, paints should be brushed on in multiple thin coats (with the premise that it’s a high-quality paint which has been watered down to a consistency similar to milk, or what you would put in an airbrush) until the colour appears as a solid, invariable block. My line of thinking is that the second rule makes the first one invalid. The only thing showing through the top coat of pigment (if anything is showing through at all) is more of that same pigment. This makes the cleanest colours, and the most saturated, assuming the paint is a bright, saturated colour to begin with.

    Just for context: With a decent-quality paint, like most of the Vallejo paints, I find that even the saturated colours which don’t have much grey in them only take two coats. Some reds, yellows, pinks and oranges might take three, as might pure white and some creamy off-whites. Less saturated colours with more grey in them usually only take one. This is for an average-sized surface such as a uniform on a 28mm figure. I try to use saturated colours fairly sparingly, BTW.

     

    Primer and undercoat are different in function. You can make one coat do both jobs but using an undercoat to affect the appearance of a following coat is not the purpose of primer.

    I’m just using the casual terminology that probably most hobbyists use in variable forms. Granted it’s not the most precise, but then we’re not working in a car body shop or an art studio.

    Let’s get back on topic before this turns into another confusing discussion about the difference or non-difference between a primer, an undercoat, a basecoat and the lowest uncovered “shading” layer of a layered paintjob. There’s no consensus about that in this hobby, and even the manufacturers fudge the terminology on a regular basis. See for instance Army Painter’s product descriptions for their sprays: They use “primer”, “undercoat” and “basecoat” interchangeably with no discernible pattern, and furthermore imply you could/should start highlighting or applying washes right on top of them. This is an untamed wilderness and I’d say it deserves its own thread, if not for my cynicism that such a thread would not make any progress sorting out the mess.

     

    Yes, it works in my experience. As an example I’m currently painting some Tai Ping. They have dark blue clothes with red turbans, head bands and sashes, long black hair too. I need the red to really stand out so I undercoat the turbans etc in orange. I’m happy with the result.

    Wouldn’t the red also stand out if you undercoated with more of the same red, instead of orange? Effectively, making sure the red is as “solid” a block of colour as possible, so that whatever colour is underneath doesn’t show through and influence it? My instinct is that this is the best way to achieve a striking saturated colour. It’s just an instinct, so I’m not trying to challenge your painting philosophy. I’m just curious about the whys and wherefores of the fundamental laws that govern the miniatures painting hobby.

    #140053
    Tony S
    Participant

    If you doubt the accepted wisdom Rhoderic, perhaps take some old or superfluous figures and try priming, or undercoating them different colours.  I think you’ll see quite a difference.  When I started painting figures, the accepted wisdom was white undercoat for brightness.  Which I duly did, and the results were dreadful, because that was my level of painting skill – dreadful.  White primer showed through and looked crap, so I switched to a red oxide primer, chosen for the important reason that my Dad had some.

    It was a lot better, as my numerous mistakes were not as glaring.  Years later, my skills must have improved slightly, as based on seeing some of my friend’s white primed figures, I decided to switch back to white.  His figures were much brighter than mine.  This time, I was quite happy with the results.

    Mind you, that’s for 15mm or larger figures.  For 10mm and under I use black, as I use the patented “Pete Berry of Baccus How to Paint Lots of Small Figures Really Quickly But Still Look Acceptable” method.  One exception are 15mm WWI or later figures – I still use red oxide as I like the duller colours on figures that wear camouflage.

    So, employing three different colours of primer, I can assure you that the paint looks different on each.  For the record, most of my paints are GW, P3, with a bit of Vallejo.

    Give it a try on three or four different figures – prime them white, black, red and gray and see the difference.

    #140057
    Truscott Trotter
    Participant

    Also depends on the opaqueness of the paints. Paints are becoming better at this, but for some colours (e.g. yellows) it is still difficult to find a good covering paint that can paint solidly over black in one layer. Or I should upgrade my collection of paints, I’ll leave that as a possibility as well …

    But anyway, I use an undercoat as the dominant colour of the figure. I have a whole series of cans of various colours to undercoat figures – brown, green, grey, blue … and I simply use the dominant colour of the uniform.

    I am with you on this one Phil
    It saves time and give a nice even finish
    Tried to paint straight onto primer a few times but it did not turn out as good as using a spray basecoat

    #140059
    MartinR
    Participant

    For some colours (esp red and yellow) I undercoat brown as it is only way to stop the underlying paint colour showing through. Depends on the paint and its opacity, even VJ paint is pretty patchy in coverage. No I don’t water it down, why on earth would you do that?

    I’m a black/grey undercoater in the main.

    Of course back in the days of Airfix figures and Humbrol enamels we didn’t do any of this stuff. Just slap that paint on.

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #140069
    OB
    Participant

    I’ll take some pics Rhoderic to show what the  result is.  I should add that once I have the figure painted I wash it in undiluted brown ink and when dry high light it.  The effect of the ink dulls the figure but also emphasizes the detail and that’s where the undercoat really pays off.

    I’ve been meaning to do a blog post on the process so it’s a timely question for me.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #140070
    Tony Hughes
    Participant

    If you put on a top coat of highly pigmented, opaque colour then the undercoat is irrelevant – that should be obvious. Using thin layers of semi-opaque paint with more layers in some areas than others (they way older artists used to do) then the undercoat will affect the final colour, though to a variable extent.

    I do mostly 6-15mm and only occasional larger stuff. Block painting with opaque colours works best IMHO on smaller figures, then a wash (sometimes) and a few highlights.

    What I want from a primer is a good surface for the paint to adhere to without it visually obscuring the detail. Both black & white make it more difficult to see the figure details so I add an undercoat to make details more visible. Dry brushed white over a dark primer & a black or dark brown wash or glaze over  light primer.

    The effect of both is to make the higher spots lighter than the lower parts and this can often let me manage with a single coat of colours that don’t cover too well because the undercoat gives me a bit of shading in low areas. The high areas then get hit with the highlight at the end, if they are too dull.

    That is how I see primer, undercoat (or basecoat – same thing) & top coat working for me.

    Personally I find the confusion of using incorrect terminology annoying and damaging. It isn’t easy for a beginner to get a good start if the community continually ignores those who misuse well accepted terminology and claim that it doesn’t matter. It does matter if you you’re just starting.

     

    #140071
    OB
    Participant

    Tony that’s a good point.  I nearly used the phrase ‘block paint’ in my post but didn’t because I know from previous experience that it can cause confusion.  We need a painter’s lexicon!

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #140072
    deephorse
    Participant

    No I don’t water it down, why on earth would you do that?

    Probably 95% of the paint I use is from Vallejo, the rest are ‘authentic’ colours from various sources.  I always add some water to my paint because I find that it flows better around detail on the model and it doesn’t dry on the brush as quickly.  Some paints are really too thick to use straight out of the dropper bottle without some dilution first.  The only time I would use the paint ‘neat’ would be to load the brush before wiping most of it off prior to drybrushing.

    Trust science, not the scientists.

    #140077
    Vanth SpiritWalker
    Participant

    If I may throw in my 0,2 cents, the answer is, as it often happens, it depends. Basically it depends onwhat you are aiming to achieve and the way you paint in order to achieve it.
    Generally speaking, throwing a solid opaque coat of whatever colour can pretty much block out most of whatever you put underneath it; this is not necessarily the most desirable of the outcomes though. Most experienced painters prefer to build the colour through successive semi-opaque layers. Why? Because this leads to more visual information being conveyed to your eye which translates it in a richer colour. Even if you cannot immediately recognize everything that is going on with all the layers, nonetheless your brain will read it and you will perceive the colour as more vibrant and interesting.
    To provide an example, the attached figure was painted using an undercoat of Pink, with Magenta applied to the shadows and a zenithal coat of white to create the sketch over which Yellow was applied.

    #140092
    Grimheart
    Participant

    With my relatively amateur painting skills I have over the years tried black, white and gray undercoats/primers. Not sure if they really impacted the final colours enough to notice but they certainly made a difference to the actual painting.

    I found black positively horrible to paint over, hard to see details and hard for many colours to cover. Using a white dry brush highlight didn’t really help me. With white I found too much generally showed through, and it made a heavy wash necessary to get in the recesses..

    Then I saw a video on using gray for its neutral balance and have not looked back since. I have used a gray basecoat for some years now, sometimes its an actual primer, sometimes its just what ever gray paint I have. It hasn’t seemed to make much different either way as the important thing to me is that I start with a neutral consistent base colour.

    Cheers

    Interest include 6mm WW2, 6mm SciFi, 30mm Old West, DropFleet, Warlords Exterminate and others!

    #140101
    Norm S
    Participant

    My general technique is black primer which is then heavily dry brushed with white to show detail and help the following block painting be brighter. This seems to work for pretty much everything ….. except my white uniformed Austrians, which too absolutely ages to bring up to a good white.

    For the second Austrian regiment I used a white primer and the job was massively easier in getting the white finish, though of course a thinned wash followed by highlights is still necessary.

     

    #140102

    Never had any problems seeing details with black primer/undercoat.  But I might be near sighted?

    Any minute detail that might show up with a white dry brush over black, would be gone the second the first layer of paint goes on.

    I use foundry,  reaper and a lot of Andrea and AK of late. As well as a few select citadel,  VJ, and coat d’arms.

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