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Posted by Carl on Feb 6, 2019

Using Inks to help your painting

In some episodes lately (Episodes 179-182 specifically) we have discussed using artist inks through an airbrush. We get a LOT of questions about these inks in our Facebook Group and so in the interest of eliminating repeat questions and answers, I thought I would take a few minutes to explain what they are, how we are using them, and which ones you should look into.

In particular we are talking about the Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Water-Resistant Artists’ Inks. You can find them several places such as Amazon, but I have found them primarily at Dick Blick in the United States. (For overseas purchases – just do a search!). You really do NOT need the large 6oz bottles. Go for the 1oz bottle. It will last you a long time.

Hopefully the FAQ below will help answer your questions:

Why use inks?
Inks are great for a number of reasons. But the way they react is an important one. An ink has pigment in it which, as you spray it, the longer or more coats you apply, the darker or more vibrant it becomes. So if you are trying to not obliterate some pre-shading, these work great for ensuring you can see some of the shading underneath.

Remember, Inks are PERMANENT and will dye anything they touch.

Do you shoot them through your airbrush directly?
Yep. Some of us like to use flow-improver, but I have found I can pretty much shoot them directly through with no problems. When I am doing small details work with them, I DO use a flow-improver to keep my needle from gathering dried up ink.

Can I use them as a wash?
Nope. Well not straight anyway. Inks and washes behave differently. I suppose you could MIX the ink with something and get it to flow like a wash (maybe?) but I wouldn’t recommend it. Use the right tool for the right job. The ink can darken colors you are working with, or even highlight them, but it will not flow into the grooves and crevices like a wash. (Edit) Some people have stated they have been making washes with inks by mixing in water or flow improver to achieve these effects. We have not done this ourselves but it apparently IS possible.

Shadows in the eagle applied with Burnt Umber

You keep talking about using them for shading. What does that mean?
I am primarily using them for shading effects in the darker recesses of the surface I am painting. For example, I may spray a darker colored ink from below a model to heighten the shadows of that area of the model. The color I choose depends on what color paints and such I am spraying over.

What colors should I start with?
We have found the following colors to be VERY useful. Paynes Gray, White, Burnt Umber, Sepia, and Purple Lake. Though your use may vary depending on what you are painting.

Can I just paint an entire model with these?
Sure! Some people do. I personally have not done so yet… but I am eager to try it after seeing the results others are getting.

Glowing Lights done with Ultramarine Blue paint and gradually lightened with white ink

Why White ink?
White ink solves multiple issues. For one, I am using it now instead of white paint! It goes on so smooth and after a few layers I can cover up black primer with no problem.

Second, I use it to lighten colored paint (Usually mixing it IN my airbrush cup) as I am painting a model or trying to get a specific effect. Take for example glowing plasma weapons or glowing lights. You start with a slight overspray of a dark color while lightening the color each time with a few drops of White Ink and covering a little less or the sprayed area. Finally you do a touch up of just a small amount of white for highlights.

Can I use these with a paint brush?
I haven’t really tried. They are VERY thin and I don’t think they will take well to brushing on in all but the most specific cases. This is more of an airbrush tool than a paintbrush tool. (Edit) Some people have reported using SOME inks with a paint brush. In particular a gold ink for gold areas. We have not done this ourselves yet.

Are Liquitex or Vallejo Inks just as good?
We hear mixed reports on all this. Just like any hobby tool or process, there is no RIGHT way to do this. There is the way that works for YOU. I would suggest experimenting on your own and let us know what works for you.

Can I put decals over inks?
We have heard from a couple people that MircoSol and MicroSet (a product you really should use if you are putting on decals), will cause inks to run. The best way to avoid this is to seal the model prior to putting on the decal. You should be doing this anyway with a gloss finish prior to putting on a decal. It allows a smoother surface for the decal to bond to.

Is there a video tutorial for this?
Sure is. Justin was nice enough to show you how he used the inks while painting a squad of Plaguebearers in about an hour and a half! You need to be a member of our Facebook Group to see it (for now), but you can click HERE to see it.



Hopefully this helps. If you have any other questions, please feel free to post them below!

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