To the untrained reader, it may seem like I constantly push the products from Secret Weapon Miniatures. Truth is, I use lots of misterjustin's products because they work great for me. Same goes for other vendors that have great stuff out there. At this point in my hobby life, I'm tired of cutting corners and trying to make do. I'd like to use things that make the hobby enjoyable for me.
All that being said, I got my hands on some of his new washes a few weeks ago and have been looking for ways to use them in my work. It's been tough since most of my recent stuff has had to be painted according to previously laid out color schemes and such for consistency.
But... I have been able to try them out in a few places and I'd like to share my initial thoughts on them. It might help some of you make up your mind when it comes to buying a set or a few colors for your own work.
The difference between a suspension and a solution
There are basically two kinds of washes as far as I go. There are suspensions and solutions. Suspensions are washes that when left sitting for a period of time will settle and the material will separate from the liquid in the bottle. These require a good bit of shaking to mix up each time.
Solutions are different in that the materials will not separate from the liquid no matter how long they sit on your shelf. The material has dissolved in the liquid and will not come back out. For those with kids... KoolAid is a solution. No matter how long it sits in the refrigerator, you don't need to shake it up before you drink it.
Games Workshop washes are solutions. I can leave the Baal Red sitting on my desk for a few days, pick it up, turn it over and there is no pile of material sitting on the bottom that has settled out.
Secret Weapon washes are suspensions. Leave them sitting for a while and the material will settle to the bottom. Now you need to shake it before using it. In the end, it doesn't make much difference as most of us shake everything before we use it anyway.
Dropper bottles vs open lid bottles
I don't like these at all. I understand they help you with proportioning out a certain amount of wash, but I don't care for them at all.
I will say that I do like that these are clear bottles as opposed to opaque (as P3 wash bottles are). I like that I can see what's inside, how much is left and how "mixed" it may be before I go to use it.
I don't like them because of the problems you can encounter with the tip. The slightest clog with some pressure build up and you can have a huge blowout of wash all over the place. Happened to me with a bottle already. This means you need to check the tip each time you go to use it and have something handy you can use to clear it out in the event you need to. It can be a pain sometimes.
The one flip side to dropper bottles as compared to open pot types (GW style) is that if I bump one of the dropper ones over, next to nothing comes out of it and there's no mess. Do that to an open lid pot and you'll have a huge mess on your hands.
How do they stack up to GW washes then?
This is perhaps the million dollar question. I know it's what I was trying to figure out. In the end, I am sticking with Games Workshop washes for most of my subtle washing. That's right, a review where I say I'm going to use another product more than the one I'm reviewing. Follow me though.
Here's what I don't like. Despite the fact that I shook the wash up thoroughly and thinned it slightly (two things I don't need to do with GW washes), I still ended up with some marks around the edges of my wash area even though I was also careful with the amount I applied. I attribute this to the fact that it's a suspension and not a solution. The liquid dries and you're left with material on the surface of your model... but not always like you want it to be.
Way too much work for something I need to get done quick. Washes are supposed to save me time and make things look better in the end with just a little bit of work. This is not it.
But stick with me... If I'm using the GW washes for shading models and such, what would I possibly use the Secret Weapon washes for? Why spend the money on another brand?
What Secret Weapon washes are absolutely perfect for:
These washes are perfect for weathering. Go figure. Almost all of misterjustin's products are geared towards that, but I'm going to be picking a few more colors so that I can expand my weathering capabilities.
As I was painting the doors on my drop pod, I started to grab my GW washes for some weathering on the ramps. Then I thought about trying the Secret Weapon washes instead. They have slightly stronger pigment in them and I thought it might save me a pass or two like I have to do with the GW versions to get a nice effect.
They were perfect. The stronger pigment makes them perfect for creating things like oil spills and grime buildup in crevasses. I'm sold.
To buy or not to buy then?
If you're comfortable with using GW washes and you'd like to have something a bit stronger that you can use for weathering, I'd absolutely recommend picking up a few colors.
They will make it easier to get some nice weathered effects like grime on metal and such. You won't need as many passes like you would with GW washes and you've got a wider selection of colors to choose from.
As for myself, the Secret Weapon washes will be replacing the normal GW washes I use when it comes to working over metals. I like the GW washes, but I like these more. The metallic hides the imperfections of the wash more than flat colors do and the variety of colors is definitely a plus. I am curious to try these on something like a Grey Knight model to see how it comes out.
Using them in different ways
Instead of shaking them up before using them, I decided to leave them settled and just use what had remained "mixed."
You know, use the stuff that remained dissolved in the liquid to see if it made any difference.
I'm sill on the fence about doing it this way, but it may have potential. The wash appears to be slightly lighter. It's not as strong as if I had mixed all the pigment back into the liquid before applying it. That makes sense.
It also seems to be a bit smoother. Again, because I did not mix the undissolved material back into the liquid, the wash seemed to dry as smooth as GW washes. I used the blue over the digital display elements on the center console above. I got a nice effect by adding the "unmixed" wash and then selectively removing the center portion for added contrast.
This somewhat unorthodox method definitely needs some more investigation. I think it has potential depending on the color wash you're using and the color paint it's going over.
Get yourself a few colors if you're serious
In the end, I'd certainly give these a thumbs up for someone who is already comfortable using and working with washes and is looking for a brand they can use (that is a bit stronger than a GW wash) to get some nice weathering effects on their models.
These may not be the set for someone looking to start out, but once you've got the hang of it, these will certainly add a few more options to your painting. Will they replace your GW washes? I don't think so, but I can tell you they'll give you few more options/results you don't get with the GW ones and for that alone, I'll be using mine.
A follow-up to this review
Recently I had the chance to try out the washes again (without mixing) when it came to painting white armour and the results were better than I imagined. You can read the whole tutorial here and see how the Soft Body Black wash fared in this process.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
The difference a wash can make on your models