Friday 18 December 2009

How To Paint Chipped Armour Tutorial

Had a couple of people ask how I did the chipped armour effect on this chap (above), so I have decided to put together another tutorial on this subject.

Chipped armour effects and other painted texture effects, also sometimes referred to as trompe l'oeil (French for "trick of the eye") can sometimes be tricky to get looking right, especially on white or black backgrounds due to a difficulty in creating the necessary contrast or definition for the effect to work.

There are two main ways of achieving the appearance of realistic chips and scratches on painted surfaces:
  • Sponge - Applying the "chipping" colour using a piece of sponge or blister foam.

  • Liquid Latex Mask - Applying liquid latex mask (Vallejo being my personal preference) to a surface painted with the desired "chipping" colour, before covering the entire surface with the overall desired colour and then gently removing the liquid mask with an eraser of cloth to reveal the chips.
Both techniques are fairly easy to do, with the sponge method undoubtably the easier and quicker of the two, yet I find it best to use a mixture of both to get a good variation in the size of and randomness of the chips.

The following tutorial looks at the sponge method, however the liquid latex technique is fairly similar in terms of application. So without further preamble, lets get down to it!

Prepare the Surface

The first step in the process is rather obviously to prepare the surface the chips will be applied to. In this example, the chips are being applied over a white surface, which requires a little extra thought.

Rather than simply applying the chipping to a perfect white surface, the white needs to be shaded a little first in order for the effect to work properly when it comes time to highlight the edges of the chips, but more on that later.

In this instance, the white was shaded with a mix of a touch of a heavily thinned touch of Vallejo Basalt Grey and Games Workshop Asurmen Blue wash (not very visible in the pic).

Let the Sponging Commence!

Arming yourself with some sponge or blister foam (blister foam is free and a good size for the job!), choose an appropriate colour for your chips, bearing in mind that strong contrast, but not "too" strong is what we are after. For this example, I'm using GW Charadon Granite, a nice dark grey/green/brown which fits well with the fatigues on the figure.

When applying, get some paint on the sponge, then dab it against a piece of tissue to remove any excess paint that would spoil the effect, then lightly apply focusing on the edges of armour plates and areas that would receive natural wear and tear.

As you can see in the pic above, it can be a bit of a messy effect, so consider applying the chips before finishing the surrounding areas.


Now that the chips have been applied, it's time to work on making them look realistic and creating the "trick of the eye". To do this, we need to start applying some simple lighting effects to the chips.

To do this, mix some black with the chip colour from earlier and using a fine detail brush, apply some of this colour in a thin line around the top (relative to the direction light would be falling) inside edge of the chip to simulate shadow from the lip formed by the layer of paint that has been chipped away.

Next, apply a thin line of white (or white mixed with your overall surface colour) to the bottom outside edge of the chip. This simulates light catching the raised edge of the paint where it meets the chip, adding to the realism.

To go one step further, you could fill in some of the larger chips with some metallic paint (GW Mithril Silver being my preference) to get the look of chips and scratches going right through both paint and primer to expose the bare metal of armour plates.

Thats pretty much it. As I said, easy and quick to do!


  1. When you say not apply the paint to the model what do you mean by that? Do you dab a flat area of the sponge against the armor or just the point? Do you rub across the surface (similar to dry brushing) or do you dab at it? How much pressure do you use?

    Everyone of these tutorial skips that key bit of why you use a sponge to apply the paint and not the brush and the method used. Sorry not trying to put down your post, it was quite good actually, just commenting on a lack of explaination that is common in these types of tutorials.

    Remember you should explain, show, and then get someone you are teaching a technique to try it and then critique their work. That is the best way for us to get it.

  2. @HuronBH - I can't speak for CMDante, but I took it as read that this tutorial was aimed at painters with some experience, rather than beginners. Most beginners shouldn't tackle weathering like this until they have the basic skills down and, once they have reached that level, they are likely to be able to apply their own experiences to tutorials like this. They are also fairly likely to know that much of miniature painting is trial and error, and that it is very hard to convey in words (for example) just how much pressure is too much. It depends what kind of sponge you are using, the shape of the sponge, the shape of the surface you are applying the effect to and how much paint you have on the sponge. In summary - apply pressure until pleased with results ;)

    That said, don't rub the sponge across the surface. It will completely ruin the effect.

  3. @Sholto - Well with 20 years of experience, numerous painting awards, and a painting style that uses weathering heavily, I am not what you would call a beginner. Check out my Blog @ for examples of my work.

    However, I do like experimenting and picking up new techniques that may expand my knowledge and skill set. However I have tried this technique before and never been successful. It seems to me when you dip a sponge in paint, even if you dab some of the paint off on a tissue first, you are going to get big blotchy areas of paint on your model and not the nice sparse pricks that this article's example shows.

    I simply want to understand the technique as performed by some who has used it successfully. And when writing a successful Tutorial, Implementation is just as important as setup. Showing the before and after is not the same as teaching some one how to do a technique.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys.

    @ Huron - Your right, I did neglect to mention a few things. Put the tutorial together late at night so hope you can forgive the exclusions. I'll amend it accordingly when I get a chance.

    I used the corner of a piece of blister foam rather than a flat edge. The more ragged you can get it, the more random (and therefore realistic) the effect is likely to be.

    By apply, I mean gently touch the sponge against the surface after you have removed much of the paint. This should avoid large blobs. If you find you are still getting some, have a look at the sponge to see where paint is pooling and try to dab these areas with some tissue of kitchen towel.

    Best to do a test application on a piece of paper or card to get the amount of paint on the sponge right before doing it on your fig.

    As Sholto rightly says, it's difficult to say exactly how much pressure to apply as different paints (and even age of the paint) can be a factor in determining how much pressure and paint on the sponge is required. It really involves a little test practice on behalf of the painter to get the ideal results.

    You can try doing slight rubbing effects to get some dragged scratch type effects, but again, test it out first on some paper or card to make sure it results in the desired look. I wouldn't recommend rubbing much further than tiny movement otherwise it will end up too uniform and covering too large an area.

    Hopefully that helps fill some of the blanks, anything else just ask. You make a good point about testing the tutorials on someone. Unfortunately I don't have anyone I paint with to do so, but feel free to link to some pics etc to discuss around.

    Once again, thanks for the comments and discussion guys, much appreciated!


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