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Tutorial: Painting Battle Damage


We all love tabletop wargames, and our miniatures often see many battles. As hobbyists, we want our miniatures to look it! Well-done battle damage effects can make miniatures look more realistic on the battlefield, and also more fun to look at. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate a couple different techniques for giving your models that battle-hardened appearance. The miniature I’ve chosen to demonstrate them on is a Deathripper, a Cryxian bonejack from Privateer Press.


Realistic Chipped Paint

The first technique I’m going to demonstrate is called the blister-foam technique. Its purpose is to give the appearance of chipped paint. A warrior or war machine in the field is going to be scraping against the terrain and other combatants, not to mention getting pelted with gunfire and hacked with melee weapons, and its paint will not remain intact long. That is the effect this technique will achieve.

You will need a small piece of foam, like the “blister-foam” that comes packaged with most miniatures.

Step 1:

Before painting on damage, begin painting as you normally would: base-coat, shade, and highlight. This effect works best on lighter surfaces, so I suggest choosing a light color for your base-coat.

Step 1: basecoat, shade, and highlight, as if there were no damage

After step 1, the Deathripper looks like this. I’ve chosen a color which is a bit lighter than the usual Cryx colors, starting with a base-coat of P3 Cryx Bane Highlight, and shading and highlighting from there.

It doesn’t matter whether the other areas (where you are not applying the chipped paint effect) are painted or not at this stage.

Step 2:

Prepare the bit of blister foam you will use to create the paint chip effect. The reason you use a bit of blister foam is it will create many tiny marks, simulating paint chips, and gives a good random effect. It’s difficult to intentionally simulate randomness, so having a random source—the blister foam—makes things much easier. To make sure the effect is really random, you want to tear the blister foam, and use the torn edge to apply paint.

Step 2: prepare a small bit of blister foam with irregular edges for applying the chip effect

A tiny little scrap of foam is all you need.

Step 3:

Use the bit of blister foam as a stamp to apply random patterns of paint to your model. Use a dark reddish brown color, such as P3 Bloodstone mixed with black, or GW Dark Flesh with a drop of black. Do not thin the paint at all. (If you normally use a wet palette, don’t use it for this, as it will automatically thin your paint.) Get some paint on the torn edge of blister foam, and pat it on a paper towel to remove most of the paint (like what you would do if you were drybrushing). It might take some experimentation to figure out how to get the right amount of paint on the foam.

To apply the paint to the miniature, use the foam as a stamp: press it straight down, applying some pressure, and lift it straight up. You want to avoid smearing the paint onto the model at all, as that will ruin the effect. Repeat this several times, getting more paint on the foam as needed. You want to rotate the foam or use a different part of the torn edge for each stamp, to avoid repeating the same pattern. Try to concentrate the paint chips along areas where you would expect the most damage, such as around bolts and on edges, and around the feet and arms.

Step 3: using the foam as a stamp, apply a chip effect with dark brown or black paint

Here’s the Deathripper after step 3. Notice how on the leg, the damage is concentrated around the edges of the plate, which are most exposed to the elements. On the side panel, which is a broad flat plate without exposed edges, the damage is more uniform.

Step 4:

Go back with a brush to sharpen the effect created in step 3. Using the same color of paint (but now thinning it as you normally would) and a fine brush (such as a #1), add more damage to areas such as edges of armor plates. At this stage you can also join together some of the chips created in step 3 where you want larger chips. This is also a good time to add damage to areas which are difficult to reach with the foam. The reason to go back with a brush is it provides a much greater degree of control, which allows you to concentrate damage in particular areas, such as edges.

At this stage you can also highlight some of the larger chips with a lighter color, such as GW Dark Flesh, or P3 Bloodstone with just a drop of black. To highlight a chip, paint the lighter color in the middle of the chip, leaving the darker color around the edges. You want it to look like the darker area is recessed back from the surrounding surface, and so the edges of it will be in shadow.

Step 4: use a fine brush to make some larger chips, concentrating on areas which are most exposed

Here’s the Deathripper after step 4. Some of the differences are subtle, but you can see that some of the smaller chips have been joined together to create larger chips in several places, and I added more damage to the edge of the large armor plate.

Tip from the pros: this is a great way to hide imperfections in the sculpt or casting, or mold-lines you missed while cleaning. Just put a paint chip right where the imperfection is, and nobody will be able to see it!

Step 5:

Highlight the paint underneath the chips created in steps 3 and 4. Go back to your base-coat or highlight color (for my Deathripper, that was Cryx Bane Highlight) with a fine brush (such as a #1), and paint thin line highlights underneath each of the chips.

You want the highlight to be a bit lighter than the surrounding area, so use your base-coat color, highlight color, or a lighter version of your highlight color depending on whether the color around the chip you are highlighting is your shade color, your base-coat color, or your highlight color.

Step 5: highlight underneath each chip to create a 'trompe l'œil' effect

This effect creates the illusion of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface, known in the art world as trompe l’œil (French for “fool the eye”). Notice that the chips now look much more 3-d, even though the surface they are painted on is completely two-dimensional.

Step 6:

To really sell the effect that the paint has chipped and the underlying metal has rusted, paint rust marks running down from the chip, and subtle glazes of a rust color in the areas around the chips. Begin with several very thin glazes of a rust color (such as P3 Bloodstone) over limited areas centered on the larger chips. Then, paint several very thin vertical lines running down from the larger chips to simulate rust drips.

Step 6: paint rust streaks running down from the larger chips

The drips should run “down” in whatever direction you picture as being down when the war machine is at rest, or the armor is in storage, not whatever direction is down in the current pose. Rust drips would tend to accumulate while the model is inactive.

At this point, the poor ‘jack looks like he’s really been through hell!

One should always give credit where credit is due. I learned this technique in a painting class with Todd Swanson, who used it on his Slayer-Sword-winning Festus. The steps above are exactly as he taught them.


Beaten and Corroded Metal

Weathering using the blister foam technique is very effective for painted areas, like the gray parts of the Deathripper. However, the metals still look completely undamaged. To fix this, they must be weathered to match the rest of the armor. That is the goal of this second technique, which will leave the metals looking beaten and corroded. As metal is much more durable than paint, much less weathering is needed, so this technique will be much faster than the first one.


Step 1:

Just as with the first technique, before painting on damage, begin painting as you normally would: base-coat, shade, and highlight. (Shading and highlighting is just as important with metallic paints as it is with non-metallic paints.)

Step 1: base coat, shade, and highlight the metals

After step 1, the Deathripper looks exactly as it did at the end of the first technique. Here, the iron areas were painted with GW Chainmail, given a wash of matte medium + P3 Thamar Black + P3 Traitor Green, then shaded with thin glazes of Thamar Black and highlighted with Chainmail. The brass areas were base-coated with a mix of approximately equal parts Chainmail, P3 Blighted Gold, and P3 Molten Bronze, then shaded with matte medium + Thamar Black + P3 Bloodstone, using two-brush blending to smooth the transitions. But each person has their own favorite recipes for painting metals, and the techniques I describe can be combined with any of them (even if you prefer to paint your metals with non-metallic paints using NMM).

It doesn’t matter whether the non-metal areas are painted or not at this stage.

Step 2:

Metals are damaged differently from paint. Instead of chipping, they accumulate scrapes, dents, and corrosion. To simulate scrapes, paint fine lines with a light silver color, such as GW Mithril Silver. Vary the length and direction at random. Try to keep the lines as thin as possible, but if you made a thicker line than intended, you can clean it up on the next step. To simulate dents, paint short, fatter lines.

Step 2: paint light streaks for scratches

The effect is subtle at first, but will become much more pronounced after the next step.

Step 3:

Using black, paint lines parallel to and just above all of the lines you painted in step 2. You can overlap the lines slightly in order to fix any lines that ended up wider than intended. The parallel black and silver lines will appear as a scratch, using the same trompe l’oeil effect as with the paint chips. For the dents, again paint short, fatter lines with black, just above the shorter fatter silver lines. You can accentuate the effect by blending the black for larger dents.

Step 3: for deeper scratches, paint a dark streak immediately above the light streak

Step 4:

Using an appropriate corrosion color (for rust, try P3 Bloodstone; for copper/bronze corrosion—verdigris—try a mix of P3 Arcane Blue and a light brown color), paint thin glazes where rust would accumulate, such as around rivets and in crevices.

Step 4: add corrosion with thin glazes and stippling

The metals now look just as beat up as the paint! I have corroded the iron but not the brass on the Deathripper, because the verdigris would clash with the green necrotite glow I have in mind for the vents. Artistic license and all that.

Finally, here’s a shot of the completed Deathripper.


If you’re curious about how I did the glow effect, check out my lighting tutorial.

More examples:

The axer from my intro post is a great example of worn and beaten metals, especially on the axe blade:

The troll's axe is a great example of worn and beaten metals.

I used both of these effects—beaten metal and chipped paint—in my winning battlegroup from Gen Con this year. Photo courtesy Privateer Press. More pictures in this post.

For my Khador battlegroup, I took this technique to the extreme. ;)

Happy painting, and never be afraid to paint outside the lines!


  1. althai

    October 29, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I originally posted this on Hand Cannon Online, but now that I have my own blog, I wanted it here. The examples at the end are new.

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