How to Paint Red

How to paint red is a question as old as time.  What used to be every painter’s nightmare is actually really easy with this technique.

Red is known as a hard color to paint.

This is mostly due to the fact that a lot of red paints don’t cover well.  In fact, this used to be unavoidable.  Nowadays, with paints like Bases or Opaques, getting a red paint that covers well is much easier.

How to Paint Red

To some extent, this could very well be the only problem you have with red.  Find a red that covers well; the end.

The great thing about red not covering well is that this so-called weakness can be used to our advantage.  With more transparent paints, it’s much easier to blend your highlights and shadows.

And this technique uses both an opaque red for a solid base coat, and a much less opaque red for highlights.

The Basic Technique

This is the standard way to do red.  It is four steps, three colors, and can easily be improved and pushed to higher quality.

Base coat: Games Workshop Mephiston Red

This color is amazing.  It is a bright red that will cover black primer in a single coat, or two thin coats at most.

And when working with bright colors, having an opaque base coat is the real game changer.  Get that second thin coat on there, making sure none of the undercoat shows through.

A spotty base coat is where most paint jobs fall short when it comes to painting red.

Shading:  Agrax Earthshade

(Or The Army Painter: Strong Tone)

Brown is my favorite way to shade red.  It tones down the brightness and looks very natural.

It’s also more potent than red, which helps us keep the scheme short and effective – great for entire units and armies.

Depending on the result you want, you can vary how thick of a coat of Agrax Earthshade you are putting on there.  A thin and even coat will make a very smooth transition, while a heavy coat will produce a strong contrasting shade.

First Highlight: Mephiston Red

The first highlight is the same color as our base coat.  This step is pretty much to clean up the shading and bring the raised areas back to a bright red.

You can do this highlight in the method you prefer, either dry brushing, layering, or feathering, depending on how much time you want to spend on it.

Second Highlight: Evil Sunz Scarlet

Even brighter than Mephiston Red, Evil Sunz Scarlet is a great highlight color.

It is not quite as opaque as our base coat, but not frustratingly too thin to require 2-3 coats to show through.

Much like the shading, how much you apply Evil Sunz will impact the finished model.

A few edge highlights throughout the model will crisp up the edges without making the red too bright.  A more thorough highlight, even from light dry brush will result in an overall brighter and lighter red.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  You can simplify or kick it up a notch this technique, or use it as a guide when you want to airbrush red.


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