Glaze, Quickshade, Speedpaint, Dispel Magic, Contrast, Lahmian Medium… so many acrylic mediums these days. But what’s the difference, and which one is the best for thinning washes? After experimenting with multiple test models and mediums, here comes my ultimate acrylic medium comparison and tier list.
First things first: In this post, we talk only about acrylic mediums used for thinning washes like Citadel Shade paints or diluting ink-like paints like Contrast and Speedpaint. There are also a lot of other acrylic mediums that make your paint more matt, more glossy, more transparent or prolong the drying time, but these are not the point today. Are you interested in other acrylic mediums? Then drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do in a future post or video.
Today I am testing six acrylic mediums: Lahmian and Contrast Medium from Games Workshop, Speedpaint and Quickshade Wash Medium from The Army Painter, Vallejo Glaze Medium, and Dispel Magic from Scale 75’s Instant Color range.
Each medium will be used for thinning Agrax Earthshade wash, Wyldwood Contrast Paint, Dark Wood Speedpaint, and Rhinox Hide. The diluted washes will then be applied to a bunch of Space Marine Intercessors I have primed with Corax White, which is a light grey matt primer. I’ll rank the results in a tier list from best to trash and I promise, the results will be quite surprising!
Check out my video here (and see me dress-up like a wannabe Aeldari Ranger):
Lahmian Medium review
We start with Lahmian Medium from Games Workshop, probably the most well-known acrylic medium. Or is it?
Lahmian Medium has the lowest viscosity, so the pigments are flowing well into the recesses. However, this makes your washes quite thin and thus somewhat more difficult to control. I therefore recommend using Lahmian Medium more sparingly than the other mediums.
The shading on the parts of the model painted with diluted Agrax Earthshade is quite pale and soft, however, the transitions can be quite harsh and there is a weird staining effect visible on the edges of the bolt pistol’s casing. Mixed with Dark Wood Speedpaint we see a quite smooth result, but the recesses dried shiny and cloudy where a lot of wash has gathered. The areas painted with thinned Wyldwood Contrast Paint don’t convince me so much, they look quite uneven and lack definition, and unfortunately thinning with Rhinox Hide didn’t work at all and bled out the brown pigments. I tested thinning Kantor Blue, and Lahmian Medium achieved the desired effect there, but I would still be careful if you want to thin normal acrylic paints with Lahmian Medium.
All in all, it’s a mixed bag. The low viscosity makes Lahmian Medium unique, but I can only put it in the C-tier, especially as there is another product that does everything that Lahmian Medium does but better. More about that later.
Contrast Medium review
Next, we have Contrast Medium. Contrast Medium has a medium viscosity and a slightly milky appearance.
On the parts painted with diluted Agrax Earthshade, we have an extremely smooth result on the flat areas, yet the brown pigments have settled very nicely into the recesses, creating a more pronounced shading than Lahmian Medium did. The transitions from light to dark, for example under the breastplate, are also quite smooth. Dark Wood Speedpaint thinned with Contrast Medium looks nice, the diluted Wyldwood also turned out smoothly, if we disregard the pooling on the flat leg armour, and the thinned Rhinox Hide also makes a good wash, even if it has not dried out completely dark in one of the recesses on the left foot.
Overall, Contrast Medium provides a smooth finish and gives very good results no matter what kind of wash or ink you use it for. For me, this makes Contrast the best all-round medium, so I have to put it on S-Tier, which is a bit of a bummer because it’s also the most expensive product, but we have a few more mediums left, so maybe we’ll find a contender who can rival Contrast Medium.
The Army Painter Speedpaint Medium review
The Army Painter’s answer to Games Workshop’s Contrast paints is Speedpaint. Speedpaint Medium is quite similar to Contrast Medium, maybe minimally thinner and not quite as milky in colour.
When thinning Agrax Earthshade, Speedpaint Medium does a good job, even if the transition from light to dark can be a bit abrupt, as you can see on the shoulder armour. As the name suggests, Speedpaint Medium lends itself very well for thinning Speedpaint and achieves probably the best result in this regard. Wyldwood Contrast Paint thinned with Speedpaint Medium also looks good, but of course there is the pooling on the leg again, and I particularly liked the result from the diluted Rhinox Hide. Except for the slight pooling on the leg, the dark brown pigments settled very well into the recesses.
But what about the reactivation issue? As I found out in my Speedpaint review, dried Speedpaints bleed through when you paint over them with acrylic paint. Does thinning with Speedpaint Medium have the same effect? We’ll find out.
I’ve painted two coats of Greyseer base paint over a few areas where Speedpaint Medium has been used as a thinner. As you can see in my video, there is only a minor reactivation on the thinned Dark Wood Speedpaint on the left pauldron, no reactivation with the other paints. So the culprit for Speedpaints’ reactivation issue is not the medium, but the dyeing agents used.
Overall, I liked Speedpaint Medium very much. When it comes to thinning washes, I feel Contrast Medium is slightly ahead, but Speedpaint Medium is a little cheaper, so overall a very good A-tier candidate.
The Army Painter Quickshade Wash Mixing Medium review
Next up is The Army Painter’s other product, Quickshade Wash Medium. This is intended for washes like The Army Painter’s Quickshade Inks. In terms of consistency, it has the highest viscosity of all the mediums tested and a very milky white colour. It definitely needs to be shaken well.
Mixed with Agrax Earthshade we got a decent result, the pigments settled well into the recesses, however, we also see some staining on the flat areas on the boltrifle. The areas painted with Speedpaint are surprising: The Quickshade Wash Medium mix left a distinct grainy texture on the flat areas, the only medium that did that. Mixed with Wyldwood Contrast Paint, however, the result is quite smooth, even though bright spots have formed in the recesses where a lot of wash has gathered. The diluted Rhinox Hide is quite light and pastel when dried, and we see these undesirable bright spots in the recesses again.
All in all, a solid if average performance and the thick consistency takes some getting used to. However, it is also one of the cheaper acrylic mediums out there, so therefore I put Quickshade Wash Medium in the B-tier.
Vallejo Glaze Medium review
Next is Vallejo Glaze Medium. This medium has been on the market the longest, and before there was Lahmian Medium, it was the only medium meant for thinning washes. It has a medium viscosity and a slightly milky colour. It dilutes washes well, but has one disadvantage: it increases the drying time enormously. I had to leave my test model overnight until it was completely dry.
And here is the result: The diluted Agrax Earthshade and Dark Wood Speedpaint went nicely into the recesses, the transitions from dark to light are even, though we see a minor coffee staining effect. With thinned Wyldwood, it’s noticeable that Glaze Medium makes the Contrast paint very matt, and the pooling is also prominent. The diluted Rhinox Hide has clearly lost a lot of its colour and looks very pastel and milky.
All in all, a decent result, but because of the endlessly long drying time, I can only put Glaze Medium on C-tier.
Scale75 Dispel Magic Acrylic Medium review
The last medium I’m testing today is the one that surprised me the most: Dispel Magic Acrylic Medium from Scale 75’s Instant Color range. It comes in a 60 ml dropper bottle, and at 7 euros it’s by far the cheapest product per millilitre. The colour is slightly milky, the viscosity is about as low as Lahmian Medium.
The areas I painted with diluted Agrax Earthshade are very smooth on the flat areas, the recesses well defined, only the transitions between light and dark are sometimes a bit harsh. On the areas painted with Dark Wood Speedpaint we also see a very smooth result with dark and pronounced shadows. Dispel Magic also does well with Wyldwood Contrast Paint, we have a very smooth result except for the usual pooling on the leg, and again very dark shading. Rhinox Hide looks a bit blotchy, I should have used more medium here, so I tested it again on the back of the chainsword and the result was good as well.
Using Dispel Magic worked like a charm and for me, it has displaced Lahmian Medium when I need a good flowing medium for sharply defined shadows. On top of that, it’s super affordable. Definitely an A-tier. It can just be a bit hard to find as not many online stores and local gaming stores have it in their range yet. If you have trouble finding Dispel Magic, check out this link:
Acrylic Mediums tier list
And that brings us to the end of this test. Definitely a few surprises, in my opinion. I wouldn’t have thought Lahmian Medium would be so outclassed in direct comparison, having used it so many times myself. Of course, none of the mediums is a total failure, but some are just a touch better.
Contrast Medium is my S-tier, the soft transitions and all-around capabilities have really convinced me. However, at 26 Euro Cents per ml, it is also the most expensive product. A good alternative is Speedpaint Medium, especially of course in combination with Speedpaints from The Army Painter.
As a complement, I recommend Dispel Magic from Scale 75. This medium is much thinner and pushes the pigments particularly well into the recesses. In addition, it is the most affordable medium at 12 Euro Cents per ml, and a superb replacement for Lahmian Medium. Quickshade Wash Medium is average, but rather cheap, Lahmian Medium I would probably no longer buy because of the price and the average properties. The only product I would really advise against though is Glaze Medium, at least for thinning Washes, Inks and Contrast Paints, as the drying time is astronomical. I feel it’s better suited for wet blending.
I hope you enjoyed these rankings and reviews, if you got any questions, drop me a comment below or come over to our Discord channel.
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Finally got my hands on the perpetually popular and sold out “Wash Medium” from Reaper. Would love to see that compared. I’m enjoying it, with (my vague memory, most likely made up) their fans recommend mix of a couple drops of water or so to a few drops of medium plus a couple to a few drops of the color of your choosing. Worked great with combining one of the army painter greys for a grey wash!
- Garth Mikita
Vallejo Glaze Medium as you’re using it, isn’t what it’s for. It’s meant to be a “filter” over multiple colours, ie dark green to lightest green, then a 10:1 Glaze/dark green. It blends the colours together. It’s not meant to be a contrast wash, at all.
- Geoff Foden
I am late to this review but there are also mediums like this:
You need to add some water too them but they are incredibly good value for money and windosr/newton is a trusted brand
Really appreciate this article, thank you. Will give “Dispel Magic” a try after reading this, and also continue to use Technical Contrast Medium.
Only thing I take issue with is your rating of Vallejo Glaze Medium. I believe it contains a bit of retarder medium on purpose so critiquing the long drying time is a bit beside the point.
I mean Valleja has a boatload of differend mediums and I guess the apples-to-apples comparison would have been to something like their Thinner Medium or Matt Medium (not sure, as I am not using either one of them), not Glaze Medium (which I happily use for special applications).
Yeah that’s true, Glaze Medium is probably intended to be used differently but I wanted to include at least one Vallejo product and this was the closest they have to a “wash” medium (which is actually pretty weird). I think their thinner or matt medium don’t have the special flow properties you need for making a good wash.
Ah interesting, thanks for clarifying.
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Thanks for doing this! Always interesting to see what is out there to add to paint besides water.
If you wanted to do more, different mediums like matt or gloss would be interesting, as well as other additives like crackle effect and granulation.