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Vallejo - Mediums, Thinners, etc.

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I'm looking to "step up my game", hoping to introduce retarders, mediums and/or thinners to my regular painting practice. Vallejo seems to offer everything, though I'm overwhelmed as a painter moving beyond simple color choice for the first time.

Thing is, I'm not entirely sure I understand the difference between a medium and a thinner. Retarders I get, they slow the drying process and I'm all for that. Keeping paint wet on the palette is good-good. Thinners are obvious ... they thin the paint; seems these are favored by airbrush artists, something to use other than water. Mediums I'm a little hazy on. They thin the paint without causing it to break down, right? Instead of diluting with water you use a medium and it allows for greater transparency? These appear to be favored by brush painters, for obvious reasons. I think. Toss in variables like matte and glaze medium and you've totally lost me.

Could someone shed some light? Especially on the Vallejo range?

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Hi there i use Vallejo glaze medium for all my washes and ink shading as it stops that glossy look you get from inks when it drys. and yes you are right i does help stop the break down of thin downed paints but if you use to much of it in your mix it does put a grey tinge in your colour.

Hope that helps you little bit as i use Vallejo paints all the time so any question feel free to ask me and i will do my best to help

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I would suggest hitting the nearest arts and crafts store and go to the paint section. Look for Liquitex mediums. The bottles come in a much more economical size and they are very good quality.

Basically the mediums contain binders which allow to dilute the thickness of the mix without losing the overall integrity of the pigments.

If you can, I'd suggest picking up a few models for the sole purpose of experimenting with them before using them on actual game pieces. Getting the right mix can be a trial and error thing. As a basic starting block, work 1-1-1 paint-medium-water and go from there til you find what works for you.

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For a complete rundown on what they all are, what they are for, and how the work, check out this Brushthralls article here.

Thanks to that article, I use Vallejo's Matte Medium, Glaze Medium and Retarder extensively and I've never looked back. I used to have a thread around here on these boards which showed off my Perdita crew - have a search if you like and see for yourself what you can achieve by pretty much just washing colours mixed with mediums over a grey undercoat! ;)

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Thanks for the info, y'all. I "accidentally" purchased some Vallejo Thinner thinking it was some kind of medium. I suppose I'll return it and look for something more appropriate.

Currently, I'm comfortable with a 3 or 4:1 dilution for shading and highlights. I guess my issue is, I'm not sure how a medium will impact the dilution process, not to mention the end result. Will it replace water? Will it improve coverage and vibrancy without sacrificing transparency? I fear change!

I've got a ton of minis around to experiment with. Sounds like a good idea.

I'll definitely check out the article, Major. Thanks for the link.

EDIT: This article is exactly what I've been looking for. Cheers!


Glaze Medium is primarily an extender, but has some qualities of flow release as well. Matte Medium and Gloss Medium are extenders that affect the sheen of the paint.
So ... glaze medium is an extender that doesn't effect sheen, while matte and gloss have obvious effects. Correct? I find "glaze" to be a little confusing, assuming it's meant to be used extensively during the glazing process; while smoothing for instance? Myevilants (above) mentioned the he uses glaze medium with his inks and washes, that it mitigates the glossy end result of dried ink ... but wouldn't matte medium be better suited? Or does glaze medium have variable properties when used with ink?

And another question, the retarder, does it slow the drying of paint on the mini itself? Or mostly on the brush/palette? I'm not sure I want my paint to take longer to dry on the mini. I prefer blowing it dry.

Edited by Hatchethead
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Slow-dry can definitely affect the dry time on the mini by a lot. I've never had a lot of luck with it. Either I add too little and it doesn't make a noticeable difference, or I add too much and suddenly I've got a spot on my mini thats still wet after a couple of days.

With things like flowaid, it doesn't totally replace the water. It will usually tell you approximately how much flowaid:water you should use, and then from there its trial and error till you find what works for you. I think the mediums can be added right out of the bottle.

Acrylic Thinner is actually the binder used in the paints without any of the additive effects of different mediums. I'm not sure what makes thinner and glaze medium different, or one better than the other. But I'm sure they both have their uses.

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Thanks, ispep. I may avoid the slo-dri altogether. I don't generally have issues with my paint prematurely drying on the palette and I really don't want each stroke to stay wet.

That entire sentence sounded dirty.

Acrylic Thinner is actually the binder used in the paints without any of the additive effects of different mediums. I'm not sure what makes thinner and glaze medium different, or one better than the other. But I'm sure they both have their uses.

Huh. Good question.

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Okay, some general advice and some specific comments on what I do/use.

1) I find that the retarder is too hard to use on its own. What I do is get an empty dropper bottle, and fill it 1/4 with the retarder. Then, I fill the bottle up to 3/4 with distilled water and shake it super-vigorously for five or six minutes with the lid on. The following day, I repeat the shaking to make sure it has mixed well. After that, the stuff stays mixed and I can add a single drop to my various mixes knowing that it will do its job without messing up the paint.

2) Matte medium is like 'blank' paint. In other words, it is very matte paint with no pigment. I normally add at least a tiny bit to most paint that I put on my palette just to ensure that it dries fully matte. However, it's main effect is to make normal paint more translucent and effectively cover less well. The advantage of this is that the paint still retains it usual work properties.

3) Glaze medium is both a flow release and an extender. I don't find it particularly matte (more satin actually), but I do find that it helps paint dry more evenly than just matte medium and water does if I happen to make a particularly thin paint mix.

4) I mostly use P3 paints because they have a great coverage and have liquid rather than ground pigments. This means that however much I dilute the paint with water, the paint never becomes 'gritty'. The finish is quite satin though, so you will need to add a tiny bit of Matte medium, or seal with matte varnish at the end. I have transferred all my P3 paints to Vallejo dropper bottles for two reasons; I like the dropper bottles more because I'm not dipping my brushes into the paint pot, and because the drops are the same size as the other paints and additives I use which makes the ratios easier to track.

5) A typical layering/blending mix (over a base coat for example) would be:

- 1 drop of diluted retarder (longer working time on the palette, but still dries reasonably fast on the model because I'm only painting a thin layer)

- 1 drop of paint (kinda obvious!)

- 1-2 drops of matte medium (depends on the natural coverage of the paint; more opaque paints mean I add a second drop)

- 1 drop of glaze medium (helps the flow and drying)

- 3 drops of clean water (keeps the paint nice and thin and with the retarder, it stays wet for a long time of the palette).

6) A typical glazing mix (for shading with for example) would be the same as above but with half the paint and maybe a fourth drop of water.

7) A single drop of ink can be substituted for paint in (5) and (6). If I use ink 'straight', I still add a drop of matte medium and a drop of water anyway. This gives me a better (matte) finish, and better control of the ink.

I find a small hairdryer is also handy; I can waft hot air across the model on a low fan setting to help the washes and glazes dry if I need to. Higher fan settings will blow the paint about if you've applied it thickly and you're not careful though, so watch out!

I dug out my Perdita crew painted with washes and glazes over a grey sprayed undercoat for you to see the results of building up dilute colours using the ratios I gave you above. Highlights on the crew were minimal, and were sparingly applied between the glazing stages. These highlights were largely done with very dilute mostly pure white. The darkest shading was done with very dilute mostly pure black ink.

As a side note, if you want to make your own 'washes' in the GW style, simply mix three drops of matte medium, three drop of glaze medium and one drop of ink together. If you use P3 (or other liquid pigment paints), add a drop of that instead of the ink to make any colour into a similar 'wash'. ;)

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Cheers, Major. Great advice. Thanks for going into such detail. You've answered my questions and more.

Also, your Perdita crew is impressive. Very clean, great color choices, awesome work. I be jealous.


Edited by Hatchethead
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