Object Source Lighting 101 | What is OSL?

Object Source Lighting is one of the best ways to make your miniatures stand out.  Painting OSL is simpler than it looks!

Object Source Lighting, OSL for short, is, in layman’s terms, how to make stuff glow.

What is OSL?

When painting miniatures, you are usually highlighting and shading your colors.

This is to mimic a light source illuminating our miniature.  Like the sun shining down, where highlights are on top of surfaces and shadows are underneath surfaces.

Objects Source Lighting is mimicking an object on the miniature being the source of the light.  See how I connected those dots…

To get this look, we need to create different highlights and shading on the model, around the object that’s shining the light.  This can be, for example, an aura around a weapon, or a like a beam in front of the headlights of a tank.

How to paint Object Source Lighting

OSL is a tricky technique, only because it follows different rules than ‘regular’ miniature painting.  Afterall, you are creating something that’s not there on your model.  This is rarely the case in our hobby.

Opposite Highlights

This is the cause of much object source lighting failing debuts, because it is counter-intuitive.

In regards to highlighting and shading, it is opposite of what you’d normally paint.  The generic way to paint is usually highlights on the outsides, or edges, and shades on the insides, or recesses.

With Object Source Lighting, your highlights come from the source of light itself.  Whatever’s emitting light is what’s the brightest, and fading and getting darker as it moves away.

The plasma gun is a good example of this.  If you paint it in the most traditional way, with a wash to shade and a dry brush to highlight, it will come out the exact opposite of what OSL dictates.

The shade will darken the inside parts of the reactor, which is where we would want the most white.

The dry brush would highlight the edges and corners of the reactor, which should be darkest of the purple we are using.

Pure White

When creating object source lighting is one or the rare times in miniature painting where you should use pure white.  And even then, use it sparingly.

Normally, everytime you want to highlight a color, you should have a hint of the color if you make it lighter with white.  Better yet, use light colors that are not white to highlight.

But when it comes to OSL, the pure white is what makes the light feels real.  The source itself should have at least a very thin white part.

One of the great ways to get started with Object Source Lightning is with simple power swords.

They are a great starting point because it offers a well defined area to practice, you don’t have to create the area yourself, it is the blade.




Share your thoughts