Monday, June 16, 2014

Zenithal highlighting tutorial #1 Blue (Ultra Marine)

Hi everybody. Welcome back to my blog. This article will be one in a series of tutorials about zenithal highlighting. What I often do is I start a model with a zenithal highlight and I finish the rest up with brushes. In my opinion this is a good base to start from to get a general highlight onto the miniature before you start working on details. It is possible you have seen me use this in my painting a zombie step-by-step article.

In this first article I will cover how you can zenithal highlight blue miniatures. As always, we start by priming the miniature. Note, primer does not mean average black or white paint. Primer is a preparatory coating put on materials before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface and increases the paint's durability. Because I think the shadows on the blue can be really dark so I chose for a black primer.

Miniature primed black

First layer of paint is a really dark blue. Over the black it is hardly noticeable but it will give your deepest shadows a blue look instead of just black.  The final result kind of surprised me in the fact that it looked even darker then the bare black primer.

Dark blue painted lightly over the black primer

When this layer of paint is dry I continue to a lighter color. It is kind of the same as brush painting, the more layers, the smoother the transition should look. For the next color, I chose the old Citadel Regal Blue. I sprayed this color from a 90 degree angle. This will leave only the darkest blue visible from places only seen when looked at the miniature from below.

Layer of Regal Blue

Next color is the old Citadel Ultramarine Blue. I sprayed this from a 45 degree angle onto the model. This will leave some of the regal blue visible. Be sure to adequately dilute your paint to get your transition as smooth as possible. Short, controlled bursts are the way to go here.

Ultramarine blue

Here you can see some progress! The Ultramarine blue is covering a large surface on the miniature. You can see some shadows apearing on the lower leg, lower body and his right arm. (left on the picture)
For the next highlight I mixed Citadel Ice Blue into the Ultramarine Blue on a  1:2 ratio. I sprayed it directly from the top of the miniature mimicing light coming from directly above.

Highlight with a mix of Ultramarine and Ice Blue

At this point you have a pretty solid gradient going from dark blue shadows to the light blue highlight. I wasn't completely happy with it and wanted to push the highlight a bit further. In order to do this, I felt I had to saturate the blue and I did this by praying a blue wash / glaze made out of thinned down Minitaire Ghost Tint Blue.

After a blue glaze

It is kind of hard to see in the picture but with the blue glaze over the miniature I retained the gradient while darkening the blue. This gave me the room I felt I needed to give the model that one extra highlight, making it apear that the armor is reflecting lighting coming from above. I used pure Citadel Ice blue and watered it down using three parts water and one part paint. Using small, controlled sprays I focused on the head, shoulderpads, knees, feet and the backpack.

Final highlights using pure Ice blue

So this is the end of the first tutorial about zenithal highlighting. So far I recieved requests for bare metal/silver and red. I will do my best to cover these in one of the following articles about zenithal highlighting. If you liked this article or think one of your friends can benefit from this tutorial feel free to share it.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you next time.


  1. Excellent tutorial! Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks alot!

    1. Hi Johan, thanks for your comment. I also made a video tutorial a couple of years ago in which I perform this technique. I hope it helps :)

    2. Thanks! I actually allready found it. :)
      Excellent video too. It is nice to see the tecnique in motion. It gives a deeper understanding.

    3. You're welcome! The video was one of my better videos back when I really wanted to get into YouTube. It just was sooo time demanding to make videos next to work and just enjoying my hobby. Thats why I switched to Blogger. It is way easier and faster for me.