Editor’s Note: Today we are introducing a new author to the page, Sean Patchen, who we have gifted the nickname of “Mad Dok”. I can’t directly testify to his sanity, or lack thereof, but since he is hanging out with us, he must be a tad deranged. Without further ado…
Welcome back to the Big Mek’s Garage. The Big Mek has temporarily stepped out, but he’ll be back real soon. This is the Mad Dok, and I’m here today to inject a little bit of painting knowledge into you. If you have been following the Big Mek for a incredibly long time, you may have seen my work on this site. Not in the form of fancy writing, but in one of the Big Mek painting contests. I was the guy who made the fancy feather lizard for the speed painting contest. Remember this little guy, and the 2 hour contest?
Unlike a Space Marine, I am not loyal to the emperor, or really anyone. When it comes to painting, I am a firm believer in using the best brand for the job. One of the keys to painting faster is using appropriate materials. As any true ork will attest, the best tools can come from anywhere. One of my favorite brands of paint wasn’t specifically designed for painting miniatures. It wasn’t even designed to be used exclusively as a paint. These are the FW Acrylic Inks from Daler-Rowney. These amazing little bottles of magical talent were introduced to me by Justin over at https://secretweaponminiatures.com/. I was previously a Citadel fanboy and used only GW paints. I own the entire line thanks to purchasing the mega paint set and then keeping up on new releases. Just giving the FW inks a try was enough to shake my world and change my perspective on painting as a whole.
FW inks are essentially thin acrylic paints. They come in simple colors and if you decide to buy some look closely at the bottles. They come in (t) for transparent and (o) for opaque. The transparent colors have a strong hue, but essentially work like a glaze or the old citadel inks. The opaque colors are more along the lines of your layer paints. The come in handy glass bottles with dropper tops. The paints can be used with a brush, airbrush, or quill pen with little or no outside preparation.
The opaque paints are largely comparable with the layer paints made by Citadel and Vallejo. They have very similar color coverage, but are thinner in consistency. This gives the advantage of getting the same level of color on a model while apply a smaller amount of paint and leaving a thinner layer on the model. Just like typical acrylic model paints, they can be diluted using distilled water. I like to think that they can be watered down easier, but at a 20:1 water to paint ratio both Citadel and the FW inks actually held up really well. The inks pigment is nowhere near what the base paints, foundation paints, or the Reaper line have in terms of coverage without priming. If you use those paints extensively, then I wouldn’t suggest looking to these as a replacement.
Here is an example of using FW inks like layer paint. The colors are in this order;
- 1:2 Payne Grey: Light Grey
- 1:5 Payne Grey: Light Grey
- Light Grey
- 1:1 Light Grey: White.
The transparent inks don’t work quiet like washes. They don’t do much to darken what they are painted over. When I have needed a wash, I still enjoy the Citadel paints or making a wash out of oil paints. The issue with trying to use the transparent inks as a wash is that the paint still behaves like an acrylic paint. The oil and latex washes drift to the crevices on a model and cling to themselves; leaving the raised areas relatively untouched. The transparent inks will stick to whatever you paint them over, edges and crevices equally. The transparent inks are closest in attributes to the citadel glazes but with a much stronger pigment. These can be used to change the overall color of a surface and gives us a new way to paint the color red. Layer paints going dark to light for the color red usually consists of going from brown to orange through red. The inks allow us instead to preshade the model and then glaze over the preshading for a deep red that is neither pink nor fire red.
So, what do with these new paints and what really makes them worthwhile? The biggest advantage to using FW inks is what you can do with an airbrush. Quite frankly these are the best airbrush paints around. They have the pigment level of a citadel layer and go through airbrushes easier than any paint I’ve ever tried. If you are just a basic level airbrush user, this means you can base coat your models with the airbrush then have that exact paint for touch-up later on. That would be similar to the army painter strategy for painting except these paints actually stay on the model, where army painter layer paints can only be called paints by the loosest definition of the word. You’d have better success painting with food coloring mixed into glue. For advanced airbrush users, these paints can get you through all but the final stages of model painting.
The bottles the paints come in are another big advantage over other paint brands. The paint consistency + real droppers (not just nipple bottles that clog up every other use) make mixing these paints easier than anything else I’ve seen. You have such control over how much comes out of the bottle that you save on paint by not needing to use as much. It’s a good thing they are good at mixing too, because it has barely any color choices when compared to the premixed colors in miniature paint lines.
FW inks use a liquid pigment, compared to the dry pigment in most miniature paints. This means the paint will last much longer. Instead of slowly drying on the inside the bottles and then having small chunks of paint debris floating through when you try and shake it back to life, the paints stay liquid and pigmented. You may have a separation between the liquid base and the pigment, but when you shake these they easily mix and return to being useful.
If you like painting in multiple thin glazes, these are your paints. They are easier to control the amount of paint for dilution purposes and the transparent inks are essentially what you want as for consistency right out of the bottle. As a proponent of many thin layers of paint over a couple thick strong layers, these paints have become my most commonly used. You can also use them for recoloring areas and doing object source lighting with ease. Easier still if you are lazy like me and use an airbrush for most of your OSL.
While I would love to say they are good at everything and the only paints you need, they aren’t. As I mentioned earlier, different companies excel at creating different hobby materials. FW Inks are great for layers and glazes. They are not very good at doing strong color changing base coats, and I would recommend either the citadel paints or reaper paints for that job. They are absolutely terrible for drybrushing. The paints are just too thin and liquid to make them worthwhile for drybrushing both figures and terrain. Most miniature paints are perfect for this, so you will still need to keep those stocked. Metallic paint created for the FW line is all terrible and a waste of money. I personally like the alcohol metallics and the Vallejo air metallics. FW inks are not washes and would never replace oil or latex washes in my paint sets. Keep in mind if you are using alcohol based metals, oil based washes, and acrylic based layers you will need 3 sets of brushes. The different paint base compounds do not play nice together and can destroy good brushes.
Hopefully this inspires you to do some experimenting outside your comfort zone with types of paint. Comment below or shout at me @swordstoplow if you know of any gems that are worth giving a shot.