Gradient undercoats with an airbrush


in this article I will demonstrate how to fairly quickly and easily give your miniatures a gradient undercoat from a dark color (or black) to a lighter colour. Logic would dictate that you would simply spray a colour on top of a black/other undercoat, but there is a faster way that requires less coats and gives a vibrant look instantly.  I will be using a Drukhari Ravager as an example in this tutorial, but this method is applicable to any vehicle (or miniature, for that matter) imaginable, be it a Space Marine Rhino or a T’au Stormsurge. What you need is the following:

  • An airbrush and a compressor and tools
  • Airbrush paints
  • A slab of cork or similiar material that you can stick wire or rods in
  • Wire or thin steel rods

This tutorial presumes you have the basics of airbrushing down. All that is required for the method in this article to work is basic spraying and some patience.


Step 1

The first step naturally, is to unbox your miniature and take the parts out of their sprues, file them for mould lines and generally clean them up. However, we will not be putting the miniature together before priming. Instead, assemble the parts you feel can be airbrushed together, and leave others separate according to need. This requires some planning on your part, but the end result is amazing (for an undercoat, that is).

To attach the parts into a position where they are easy to airbrush in bulk I use a block of cork and some wire. I then drill small holes in the parts and attach them to the cork slab as indicated above. It’s a good idea to direct the parts away from eachother and to use a different axis for some parts in order to avoid overspray when airbrushing. This is dependant on the painters ability ofcourse; if you want to make sure, put only a few parts per cork/other slab to make things easier. Now just prime the parts black, I used a Citadel Chaos Black Spray.


Step 2

The second step is where we get to the airbrushing. Using this method only two coats of  paint are required to create a vibrant gradient effect as your miniatures undercoat, of which you have full control. The trick is to first spray the parts with pure white on top of the black. The design and methods of shading are up to you. I simply use white, but if you really want a super smooth transition you can first start with grey on a larger area, and then white on a smaller area. As you can see at this point, the white can look grainy ontop of the black undercoat. Don’t worry however, as the next layer which I simply call the color overlay will smooth it out. The only color you got to watch out for with is green, as the human eye detects more shades of green than any other color. This is due to evolution giving us the capability to see better in natural environments.


Step 3

Now we get to the color overlay. Simply spray a basic colour ontop of the black/white shaded parts as a single layer, making sure to get good coverage. I used Vallejo Air Red. If you want the gradient to start with black and not say, dark red as in this example, you can do this by simply airbrushing ontop of the parts where the previous white spray begins, avoiding the black parts. I have done this for some parts as seen in the image above, the Shock Prow and the Aethersail for example. The airbrushing is easy as I simply need to rotate the block in my hand to spray the different parts, and therefore the whole ordeal doesn’t take much time. Here you can also see that some parts I sprayed independently according to need, and some I put together (the side of the Ravager and the rear rudder for example).


Step 4

Next up you simply assemble the model, wait for the parts to dry ofcourse. And voila, you have your gradient undercoated model that looks pretty good even before you’ve even touched it with a paintbrush. This method works for any colour, as I’ll demonstrate below with a shot of my Venom. It’s simply Photoshop and the hue changed, but the end result is the same, you can reference some ideas from it:

And last but not least, here is my full Drukhari fleet. You can follow my army progress right here on The first part will be a while, as I still got some Talos Pain Engines and other stuff to assemble and undercoat!