Yellow can be a tricky color to paint, specially if you plan on doing an entire army.
But by using a long forgotten technique, you can get a vibrant yellow army done in no time. Get your brushes and get ready for yellow made easy!
Fear and Loathing Painting Yellow
Painting yellow miniatures has always been viewed like a challenge. The main reason behind all the hate and frustration is that yellow paint has a nasty tendency to cover very poorly, requiring multiple basecoats to barely get anything decently opaque.
This is mostly a myth of the old age of painting™. Despite the now available better covering paints (like Vallejo Opaque or Citadel Base) yellow still is not the friendliest colors. The rise of airbrushes, which help with base coating pretty much any color, also helps, like in this video from Kenny Boucher.
The Easiest Yellow Ever
Now mind you, getting a muted yellow, that bulldozer yellow, is sort of the easiest. But that’s not what we are looking for here. We want that atomic canary yellow; that bright and vibrant yellow.
What this technique lacks in finesse, it more than makes up in efficiency. This is what makes it, in my mind, the easiest yellow ever: you can paint a large quantity of models in no time at all.
This method requires very little skill and no airbrush.
The technique we are using is called staining. Ironically for the bright yellow we are after, this technique is quite popular for grimdark models; think Blanchitsu, Inq28 and the like.
But the principle is the same: A rich colourful base that we will mute down to white, and then bring back the color using a shade or a glaze. Where grimdark would use sepia or umber to bring this color, we will use a vibrant yellow.
Step 1 – Basecoat
I’m assuming your models already have an undercoat on, and for this I think white is the best bet, because it will make the base coat much easier to get smooth and opaque.
We are looking for an Orange base coat, and this one here is Lava Orange from the Army painter that’s been airbrushed.
Again, you don’t need and airbrush to do this, thin down your orange, grab a large brush and get 2 thin coats that would make Duncan proud. But I have a handy spray gun that makes short work of this, so why not.
Alternatively, you can also get a Tamiya Spray Can in orange and also save a lot of time.
What’s important to remember here is that our model is not staying this color at all, we just need a vibrant orange that will only poke through to give our yellow depth.
I would advise against using the Vallejo Heavy Orange or the Jokaero Orange from Citadel, because although they might cover better in one coat, they are quite muted.
Step 2 – Drybrush
Time to aggressively drybrush our model with white. Pick your favorite for this, but make sure it is a ‘clean’ white, not and off white. Even my ultimate favorite, Ulthuan Grey, won’t work here. I think this one was done with The Army Painter’s Matt White.
This is not the traditional drybrush, where we try and only highlight our miniature. For this technique, we are looking to drybrush the majority of the model, leaving the orange in only the recesses.
If you are unfamiliar with drybrushing, you can check out this dollar e-book from our Kindle collection.
Now, even if this is quite an aggressive drybrush, you still want to go lightly, but with more passes. In this cases, too little is much, much better than too much. So make sure there’s really not a lot of white on your brush.
You can spend extra time drybrushing areas where you want more highlights to make sure they pop.
You will notice from the picture that I really did a poor job cleaning the mold lines on the model’s left arm.
This is an area where this technique’s strength, making details pop, can backfire. Not only will mistakes be revealed, they will also be showcased by the drybrush and later by the shading.
Step 3 – Yellow
For this step, I used Games Woprkshop’s Cassandora Yellow. With the shade/tint phase, we want to give the model one even coat, rather that apply it on like a barbarian you would with a wash.
This glaze will tie in the orange and white and turn everything in a bright yellow.
It’s important here to try and get a smooth and even coat on the model. We don’t want to wash to pool into the recesses, we already have the orange to do this. We want to tint the whole thing in yellow.
Unlike the other steps, where the cool dad approach of take whatever color you like it’s gonna work itself out, it is quite different for this step.
I’m not suggesting that this technique is impossible without Casandora Yellow, but it will be significantly different if you use The Army Painter Yellow Tone, Vallejo’s Yellow wash, or even a thinned down Iyanden Yellow from the Contrast range.
Mind you, the model looks a little off at the moment, mostly because it’s all yellow, including the base.
And with just a basecoat on a few details and swapping the base for a completed one, our model looks transformed, and the yellow pops even more!
Small mistakes when adding the details you can usually fix with only the orange. If it’s more of a medium mistake, then simply repeat the 3 steps and try again. It’s really that simple.
You could call it a day here, and have your entire army done in a weekend with this technique.
Or, if you want to try something more advanced, proceed with the optional highlighting
(Optional) Step 4 – Highlight
This technique is very beginner friendly. There is very little dexterity involved and all three steps can be done with a very large brush.
Maybe you are not a beginner. Maybe you are, but you want to challenge yourself. Or reserve this extra step for Bobby-Ray the Destroyer, your army’s commander.
Adding a highlight to a few of the edges will give a cleaner finish, and will add extra definition to the joints and plates in your armor.
My favorite color for this is The Army Painter’s Moon Dust, because it is very light and very vibrant. I would advise againt using a bone color, because you don’t want to mute the yellow.
We want it to Pop! Pop! Pop!