Mailbag Monday: Should you thin paint?

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Email question:

Hey Jawaballs i love ur blog and i've recently started a chaos space marine army. When i was browsing youtube i noticed that many gamers like natakue and redxgamer use thinned or watered down paints and get outstanding results. Do you like to use watered down paints and do you suggest that i do it?- Frenzy

Jawaballs Answer:

All painting experts suggest adding at least a little water to your paint to 'cut' the surface tension and make it more spreadable. It is a good suggestion. I however rarely do so. I use paint straight from the pot. But I have a good control over it to allow that... The way I paint, with miniscule amounts of paint on the end of the brush, gets me results straight from the pot.

I suggest you thin your paints a tad, it will make your highlighting easier. Pull a little out of the pot, dip your brush into water and mix it in with the paint on your pallet and you are good to go. Good luck!



Flekkzo said...

I'm still very much learning to paint and I've done my best to soak up advice on thinning your paint with water. To be honest, most of the advice has left me more confused than when I started! Big props to JB for being very to the point here.

With my limited experience I would give this for advice. Give me feedback if I write something that sounds bad.

* Not all paints are created equal. Some paints feel overthinned out of the container, others are thick, and a few feel perfect. Yellow is a bugger.

* If the paint feels thick and hard to apply, thin, but not much. Seems to be a learning experience thing. I like to dip the brush in water, dry it off a bit on a piece of paper, and then get paint on my brush.

* Overthinning. I've done it, more than once. The paint flows out all over the place, like a thick evil wash. Often it seems to be related to too much water in the brush. Putting it against a piece of paper and letting it soak for a few seconds seems to help. I can get the exact same paint on again and it is much better.

* Trail and error. Time tested method. Grab a small squad and try to paint each of them differently but with the same result in mind. Experiment with drybrushing, washing, level of paint thinning, etc.

* Don't try the advanced techniques too early on. Glazes and 20 layered blending might give great results, but, well, they aren't the first thing one should learn:)

jawaballs said...

Flekkzo nailed it. Trial and Error are your best friend. It is how I learned. Buy some cheap marines, black reach or some used/painted ones off ebay/rogue market and practice painting them. I will also say that I used the "How to Paint" books by GW a lot when I learned. But being an artist, I was able to visualize their instructions and apply them to my painting... not easy to do for every one. See what works best for you!

AutarchAndrew said...

I Have been using The Jawaballs how to Paint Black templars and Deathwing as guides on my ulthwe and have also been using The Deathwing guide to paint my own space marine chapter and what can i say the results are amazing thanks jawaballs and stay tune to my new blog for pictures on my success using your how to videos.thanks from AutarchAndrew

Longscope said...

Flekkzo is correct, not all paints thin well.

I personally use Formula P3 paints for quite a bit of my work, but it's a little bit thicker than most other brands. It has a liquid pigment though, so it take thinning exceptionally well.

i have a water bottle with dropper that has a mix of water, acrylic flow release, and acrylic retarder (extends drying time) that I use to thin the paint.

I get really vibrant colors, with no loss of detail due to the thickness of the paint.

I also have a 2nd water bottle thats 4 parts water & 1 part Future Floor Wax for making Wicked Washes and Magic Inks.

Ash said...


I find that when the paint is getting a little to tick I suck on the end of the brush more, this adds water (spit) to the brush and thins the paint as I go.

In your videos I se you do the same.

I think that there is no one answer to this. All paints are different. Even the same pot is different from one week to the next.

My Chaos Blacks are open so much that they tend to thicken very quickly so the first half of the pot is much thinner that the second.


jawaballs said...

Yes, I am a paint sucker... but it cant be healthy, which is why I advise against it now. I sure do it, but you should not... :)

Frenzy said...

Thank You!

Chernobyl said...

I myself use purely the GW paints not digging much on the other acrylic paints out there. \

My experiance with using them is to use a dropper bottle,a Q tip and a paint pallet wit the little pits in it ( dont know the acctual name for it but you get the idea) I snip off the end to the Q tip and dip it into the paint and tap in about 3 "drunks" worth of paint into the resivor and one drop of water from the dropper bottle ( when i have some time ill post up the stuff i use on my blog ) and mix , I find this makes it smooth enough where you wont get chunks of paint but thick enough to apply easily without it running all over the place.

Flekkzo said...

One more little tip. Don't isolate yourself. If you go to a club or a store there are plenty of other hobby painters. You might even be gaming with some of them. These people are excellent people to ask about painting, and the cool thing is that they can more than likely show you hands on what they mean.

Ellahrairah said...

I usually thin my paints... but since I almost exclusively use the citadel brand, its different for each pot. Some colors congeal quicker and some are pretty runny right out of the pot. Sunburst yellow never needs water in my experience, the same is true for blood red it seems... The opposite seems to be true space wolf grey, which thickens extremely quickly. Every painter I have met has their own technique, and what is good for the goose is rarely good for the gander.

J said...

Thin your paints instead of painting from the pot and you won't get those chunky textures visible even in the pictures.

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