When it comes to breathing life into your Warhammer and tabletop miniatures, the magic lies in the details. An essential tool in every painter’s arsenal is the wash – a secret weapon that enhances depth, shadows, and the overall visual appeal of your models. In 2024, there are so many brands competing for your hard-earned money, but I’m here to share my personal best washes for painting Warhammer and tabletop miniatures.
Similar to Contrast, it was Games Workshop who popularized this style of painting with their original Citadel Washes in the 2000s. Since then, washes have become an integral part of miniature painting, and nearly every manufacturer offers their own range of washes. Quite a selection, but I’m here to guide you through the best.
What makes a good wash for painting Warhammer and tabletop miniatures?
The essence of a good wash lies in its ability to flow smoothly into the recesses, defining details and adding shadows. It should have a fluid consistency for easy application, dry evenly without pooling too much, don’t leave an unsightly coffee staining effect, and don’t reactivate when dry.
Strong Tint vs. Subtle Hue: Navigating Wash Intensity
Choosing between a wash with a stronger tint or a subtler hue depends on your desired outcome. It seems there are two schools of thought here. Some prefer washes with a stronger tint (like the old Citadel Shade paints), which almost function like Citadel Contrast, Speedpaints, or other “one coat” paints. Apart from providing a bold shadows in the recesses, these also significantly tint the smooth surfaces. Washes with a stronger tint are ideal if you favour the layering technique, as they often require to layer the base colour on top.
Personally, I lean towards washes with less tint, but which still settle well in the recesses (similar to the new formula Citadel Washes). This type of wash has lower viscosity, meaning they flow faster and are often a bit thinner. This way, the pigments find their way into the recesses, but the surfaces are less intensely tinted, reducing visible pooling. This approach often allows for avoiding layering, so you can move directly to highlighting.
Of course, washes with a stronger tint (or Contrast and “one coat” paints) can also be diluted with an appropriate medium such as Lahmian Medium, Contrast Medium, or one of the mediums from my comparison. However, not only does this reduce the tint, but it also lessens the dark shading in the recesses because adding the medium reduces the proportion of colour pigments.
Acrylic washes vs enamel and oil paints
Acrylic paints are the industry standard for painting Warhammer and other tabletop miniatures. They are available in wide colour ranges, quick-drying, non-toxic because of their water-based nature, and brushes can be cleaned easily. Unlike oil and enamel paints, they don’t require strong solvents, making them safer and more convenient for daily use. While enamel-bases and oil washes have their uses for weathering and advanced techniques like oil washes and panel lining (which I explain in this tutorial in more detail), for this list I decided to cover acrylic-based washed only.
The best acrylic washes for painting Warhammer miniatures in 2024
On our hobby journey, we usually start with Games Workshop’s Citadel Colours. There is nothing wrong with that, their quality is certainly not bad. The selection is large, and they are available virtually everywhere.
But my recommendation has always been to mix and match the best colours from all available miniature paint brands. Each range has its pros and cons, stronger and weaker colours. If you have a problem with a specific colour, there is a good chance another manufacturer does it better. Different brands have different properties, and with some experimentation, you might find a brand that complements your painting style better than good old Citadel paints.
In recent years, miniature paints have made a great leap forward in terms of quality, especially in terms of opacity and pigmentation. Even if you’ve been using the same paints for years and are used to them, I advise you to leave the beaten path and switch to one of the paint ranges listed in this post.
Best lower tint washes
Citadel Shade paints
As mentioned above, I prefer washes with a low viscosity that easily flow into recesses, while leaving as little tint or staining as possible once dry. The new Citadel Shade paints in the 18ml pots do exactly that, and because of that, I think they’re excellent. Yes, they are more expensive, but I vastly prefer the new formula. The new colours like Targor Rageshade, Kroak Green, Berserker Bloodshade, and Soulblight Grey add even more choice, making Citadel Shades one of the most comprehensive range of washes. You can find out more in my review here.
Where to get: Everywhere you can find Games Workshop products, for example from our partner shops with a discount of up to 15%:
Best higher tint washes
Pro Acryl washes
The Pro Acryl range has only three washes so far (Black Wash, Brown Wash, and Flesh Wash), but they all are excellent. They are more concentrated than the new formula Citadel Shade paints and provide a slightly darker shading. Yet, the flow properties are just as good, so pooling and staining are at a minimum. Their matt finish is also quite pleasing. A more in-depth review is available here.
Where to buy: Pro Acryl is available at some of the bigger hobby stores like Wayland Games and Element Games. Buying from Monument Hobbies’ website is also an options, as is Amazon and ebay:
Two Thin Coats washes
For those who preferred the stronger tint of the old formula Citadel Shade paints, I recommend the washes from Duncan Rhodes’ new paint range. There are 9 washes to choose from, and the colours are close matches to their Citadel counterparts. I like the matt finish, and the Two Thin Coats range also has Glaze paints, which are pretty much identical to the OOP Citadel Glaze paints. Check out my review here.
Where to buy: By now, Two Thin Coats are widely available in all major hobby stores in the UK, Europe, and the US (via Noble Knight Games). Popular colours can sell out quickly, but you can also check ebay:
AK Deep Shade washes
AK Deep Shade washes are very well-balanced washes with excellent flow properties, settling nicely into recesses while having a slightly stronger tint. In addition to the very cost-effective 30ml pots, the colour selection stands out. Most colours are slightly different from what you get with most other manufacturers. Find out more in this review.
Where to buy: As AK caters more towards a scale modelling crowd, you can often find them at scale modelling shops, but they are also available at hobby stores like Wayland and Element Games.
*These are affiliate links from our partner stores. Using these links supports Tale of Painters at no extra cost to you at all and is a little thank you if you enjoyed this article 🙂
I have compiled this list of my personal best washes for painting Warhammer miniatures to share my experience from over 20 years of painting and hobbying. On Tale of Painters, I have reviewed a plethora of hobby products from minor to major brands. Only those products that I use myself regularly have made it to this list and receive my Seal of Hobby Excellence.
On my Patreon you can also find my hand-painted comparison chart for pretty much ALL acrylic washes on market, which will help you compare colours from various brands:
This comparison chart is available in my Patreon shop for a small donation, or by becoming a member of the Autarch tier. By the way, I made even more hand-painted swatches, e.g. for all Contrast / Speedpaints / One coat paints.
In conclusion, selecting the best washes for painting Warhammer miniatures involves understanding your painting style, the level of detailing you seek, and the desired intensity of shadows. Whether you opt for a wash with a stronger or more subtle tint, a well-chosen wash is the key to unlocking the full potential of your paint jobs. Experiment, explore, and watch your Warhammer models come to life with every stroke of the brush.
What are your experiences with the various paint ranges out there? Which products should I try next? Feel free to drop your recommendations in the comments section below so that other readers can benefit from them too.