How to paint everything: Weathering with Pigments

Pigments are fantastic way to add some extra depth and character to your projects, whether that be your line infantry or buildings. They help to make the piece look like it belongs on the base and add coherency to an overall force. When you’re selecting pigments something close to your basing colour is usually best, representing dust and grime kicked up during combat and movement. For vehicles and unbased miniatures, it should be close to whatever you’ve chosen for your troops. I’ll be covering a range of models and some of the more common methods, including how to build layers when varnishing and how fixers interact with pigment.

There’s a variety of pigment sources available from pre-packaged and identified ones like the Mig Ammo or Vallejo pigment ranges, artist pigments and pastels. Using pastels and artist pigments is a cheap way to get a wide variety of colours. If you’re using pastels you’ll also want a pestle and mortar to grind chunks of the pastel up so that it’s workable, assuming you’re apply it as a powder to infantry or vehicles.

Pigment fixer tends to be an enamel based fluid, which tends to be acrylic safe. If you don’t have any fixer rubbing alcohol also works but care should be taken and ideally you should varnish before using rubbing alcohol as this will interact with your acrylic layers, potentially stripping paint.


Adding pigments to your infantry is a simple way to kick up the effectiveness of your basing. Before starting you should consider what colour you’d like to use. For concrete style bases you may want a mix of grey shades, dirt and mud could be a mix of green and browns, you get the idea. I personally prefer to apply my first layer of pigment before varnishing, however I don’t usually use fixers.

Begin by setting aside a small amount of pigment from your container, this helps to minimise mess and if you’re sensitive to dust you may want to wear something like a surgical mask. Using a makeup brush, or other soft bristled medium length brush, apply the pigment in a downward motion from around knee height aiming for an even coat on the lower portion of the model. I tend to also spread some of the pigment across the base to help with the transition.

Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

After adding the first layer, whole model is hit with a layer of matte varnish. A combination of air pressure and the pigment becoming wet will drastically reduce the effect of the first layer. You can prevent some of this by using very short bursts from slightly further away at first, to help fix the pigment in place. Once you’ve finished applying your first coat of varnish repeat the process from earlier, adding another layer of pigment to the lower portion of the model. If you want a graduate effect, with more dust being present lower then begin lower on the model in the same way you’d build a gradient with acrylics.

The left image is after a second coat of pigments and the image on the right shows a third and final coat of pigment.


Depending on the scale and your preference, vehicles might not always be based. This may mean you’re not trying to tie the model in to a specific basing scheme but more broadly with the rest of the army. With this in mind you should be selecting the same or similar pigments for your vehicle.

When considering where grime, dust and dirt might build up on the vehicle it can be useful to look at reference images if they exist, or reference something of a similar role and shape. For my Panzer Panthers I wanted the weathering to reflect them operating within towns and villages, potentially firing hull down from behind the rubble of buildings or crunching through craters kicking up concrete and brick dust. With this in mind I alternated between reddish and grey pigments in different areas, building up the layers over a series of applications as before.

Building up and bedding in successive layers using varnish, I also used pigment fixer on this model to make sure I had some brick dust built up on the front of the model and within the treads. I don’t often tend to use fixer but really wanted to make sure I had some areas with specific tones built up, and a couple of areas with extra dust and pigment secured.

Walking armour

The process for armoured walkers like Titans, Dreadnaughts and Sentinels should feel pretty similar to infantry, you’ll just be starting slightly higher and you’re likely to have more large flat panels combined with angular crevasses to build pigment up in. I used the same basic pattern of alternating the application of pigment and then securing it with a layer of varnish until I have the desired effect.

In the image on the left I’ve applied my first layer of pigment and on the right you can see the difference the first layer of varnish makes to the overall effect, significantly knocking back the applied pigment.

For the second layer of pigment, I added a larger amount lower down the Titan to represent where dust and debris would typically build up as it makes it’s way across the battlefield.


What’s Next

That wraps up our look at weathering with pigments but this may just be the start of your journey into weathering! Next, take a look at our other article on weathering, which takes a more generic approach. And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at