How to paint realistic rocks with oil paints

This is a Guest Post by misterjustin

The question I've been asked the most since I started posting this semi-regular series has been, "how did you achieve that realistic rock look on your Runic Mountain bases?"

And so here it is - my method for painting realistic rock using Winsor & Newton Artesian Oils. This is a line of water mixable oils made with a modified linseed oil. You can pick them up at most art shops - including Michael's in the USA - and the basic starter set will likely last the life of your hobby.

In the demonstration I'm using Phtalo Green, Raw Umber and Payne's Gray. For a lighter look, such as the finished image at the top, I add Raw Sienna. For a darker look add some Lamp Black.

With water mixable oils there's no need for astringent cleaners; soap and water work just fine. The drying time is considerably less than traditional oils, maybe 1-2 hours, and you won't want to paint over the oils until they're completely dry. You can test this by rubbing your finger gently over the oils. As with anything that's going to be handled, a clear sealant is recommended.

Start by priming the model or base. The color you use at this point will eventually show through in spots so think ahead. I recommend white but have split this base for effect.

Realism is achieved by using a technique similar to the dot filter method with oils. In this case we're going to use more paint and wash less of it away since we want to keep more of the color. Simply get a bit of oil on the end of a brush and apply dots to the surface.

Using a slightly damp brush alternate dragging and stippling the colours to create an uneven mix. Blending away from the raised areas will create a natural looking shadow in the recesses. At this point it doesn't look like much but...

Using a clean, dry paper-towel or tissue very gently begin wiping away the paint. Wipe with the flow of the rock formation - that is from the base to the top - and you'll leave more paint in the recesses.

By wiping paint away selectively you can achieve a very natural, realistic rock effect with very little effort. I managed this base in just a couple of minutes while waiting on a pressure tank to cycle. Once this is fully dry the effect is much more realistic.

Try different colours for different effects and vary how much of the paint you remove. On the Runic Mountain bases product image I used a lot of paint and removed very little. On the demonstration I skipped the Raw Sienna and wiped off most of the paint so that the effect was more visible.

If you have a question about basing, weathering or other detailing please leave it in the comments or email misterjustin at secret weapon miniatures dot com. I'm more than happy to explain any of the tips and tricks I use.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Terrific tutorial; a simple and very useful technique clearly explained. I have regular oils I use for weathering, but I will need to get some of the water-soluble ones - the drying time does my nut.

  2. Great technique, thanks for sharing how you achieve such an effect!

  3. Payne's Grey is the whip! I love that color!

    It's also interesting to note that applying the oil paints and then wiping them off has stripped the paint off down to the natural color of the base. Who'd have thought that of water-based oils? (Unless of course the final base picture is a different, white-primed one without the half 'n' half?)

  4. what is a good brand of oil paints I should look at? I would love to start using them. great tutorial by the way!

  5. never dum, its right in your post! lol thanks..

  6. very nice technique. I usually go about it with washes, drybrushing, and wiping paint away. never used oils for it though. it does make sense you'd get better results from them though.

  7. Just what I needed! Now to test it out and buy more of your bases ;-)

  8. Thanks for the comments everyone - and remember, this is a question driven series so let me know what you'd like to see demonstrated.

    @Tinweasel: You're right about stripping down to the white plastic - but that wasn't the paint, it was my impatience and hurrying. I wrote this while pressure tanks were cycling and didn't let the primer dry long enough *AND* probably wiped too hard. Let that be a lesson on taking your time :)

    @CanolliCrusader: First, great handle! Second, yeah, I recommend the Winsor & Netwon Artesian oil paints... for now ;)

    @Farmpunk: When I first tested this technique I was blown away with the results. The "Runic Mountain" example, at the top, was my second attempt. I don't know that I'll do rock any other way in the future.

    @Jean-Francois Theoret: Yes, you should buy more bases. HA! I'm glad that you like the technique - and thanks for your previous order. Much appreciated.

    If there's a basing, weathering or detailing technique you'd like to see broken down please leave a comment or email me.

  9. Excellent stuff, thanks Justin.

  10. That looks excellent misterjustin.

    Might have to use that for my Tyranids!

  11. Where the feth was this when I was painting my RoBG? I'm having a laugh of course... Seriously, that is amazing and I'm probably going to revisit my RoBG with this technique.

  12. Thank you for the tutorial. I was given a set of the Water Soluble Oil Paints last Christmas and have yet to use them. I may try this technique on some rocks later.

    Thanks again.


  13. Tony, thanks for the comment. I still haven't found a better way to create realistic rock. I hope you'll share the results of your attempt.

  14. What do you use to varnish minis painted with water soluble oils? Is the anything you shouldn't use?

    Do you really have to leave them 6 months before varnishing like W&N recommend?

  15. UltraMagnus: That's a really good question, let me see what I can find out for you.

  16. I'm using Krylon Matte -- and I typically wait 24-48 hours but never six months.

  17. There you go UltraMagnus, from the man himself.


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