Thursday, 22 November 2012

Easy Plasma Weapons

If, like me, you're no good at object source lighting (OSL), fine and delicate highlighting, or just like to get things done easily, then you may find this method for painting plasma weapons of interest.

I have used a few methods for painting the plasma ... err ... bit ... in the middle of plasma weapons from trying to painstakingly line highlight each individual ridge to just painting the whole thing metallic. Neither method was satisfactory to me; the former due to inevitably failing to paint in a straight line, the latter due to it not having that plasma weapon glow to it.

One day I tried a somewhat radical experiment, which I refined this evening into something that I am happy with. This method is so easy, it requires practically no skill beyond being able to hold a paintbrush. Hopefully, you will find this useful.

You will need ...

I actually used quite a few paints for this; but don't worry, it's still an easy technique! From left to right (and in order of use) we have:

  1. Averland Sunset (Citadel Base)
  2. Sunburst Yellow (an old Citadel paint, but any bright yellow would do)
  3. Tyrant Skull (Citadel Dry)
  4. Drakenhof Nightshade (Citadel Shade)
  5. Praxeti White (Citadel Dry)
  6. Waywatcher Green (Citadel Glaze)
Yellow is an unusual choice, but all will become clear ...

Ok, so here's a plasma gun on a WIP Grey Hunter. I have painted the rest of the gun and the plasmary bit is the last major task left to do on the gun.

Step 1: basecost with Averland Sunset

Rather unusually, we are going to start off with a base of yellow. Averland Sunset base paint provides a nice strong yellow basecoat.

Step 2: layer with Sunburst Yellow

Next we brighten up our base with a nice bright yellow. I had an old pot of Sunburst Yellow so used that. I'm sure GW have an equivalent in their new range.

Step 3: drybrush with Tyrant Skull

Tyrant Skull is a slightly yellowy/creamy dry paint which is used to add a very slight definition to the ridges. Do not worry in the slightest about going over the edges onto the casing of the gun. In fact; we want this as it will create the OSL effect later.

Step 4: wash with Drakenhof Nightshade

Now the use of the yellow becomes clearer. One of the only things I remember from art class at school is yellow + blue = green. Therefore, combination of the yellow and blue gives a green-blue tone which I like plasma weapons to have. The wash, of course, also creates shading in the crevices. Go over the edge onto the casing where some of the drybrushing from Step 3 went. This tints the drybrush overspill and begins the OSL effect.

Step 5: drybrush with Praxeti White

A drybrush with Praxeti White gives a very bright highlight tone over the previous work. This will help the glowing effect. Again, as in Step 3, do go over the edge of the casing as well as the plasma ridges.

Step 6: glaze with Waywatcher Green

This is the final step. The glaze encourages the green tone and also tints the white drybrushed highlight. The glaze should be applied around the edge of the casing to tint the highlighting there, thus creating the OSL effect.

And we're done!

Now, this is not a technique that's going to win any Golden Daemons, and it is a little darker that one might normally see glowing plasma coils, but I cannot emphasize enough how easy this is to do. In fact, the darker tone fits my style better than a really bright plasma would.

I should also point out that this method partly evolved out of not having an appropriate green colour. I am sure Citadel would have one in their rather large range of colours. You should feel free to apply some of these techniques, especially the drybrushing and glazing, to other colours.

Let me know what you think in the comments. I hope you find this helpful, and I'd love to hear if you end up using this method.


  1. "I have used a few methods for painting the plasma ... err ... bit ... in the middle of plasma weapons"

    Plasma chamber? Obvious design flaw? The bit that always kills your mini's?

    Speaking as someone for whom even basecoating is a perilous and rarely attempted challenge (out of laziness and lack of skill, no other reasons), I approve this post. Anytime that you can reduce highlighting down to a drybush and wash is a win.

    It might be interesting to try it with some of the new paints. I presume that they have a green drybush in the new range, and that might provide you with a richer green.

    1. Thanks, Nick. GW have a dry paint called Hellion Green which may be a good plasmary green, but I think a touch of the Praxeti White would still be good to give it that extra brightness.

      I may see if drybrushing, washing and glazing can be used for other cheap and cheerful OSL effects if I get the chance.

  2. Hi I paint Dark Angels, so green plasma with green armour might look a bit strange, how would you do this if it were standard blue plasma? Deathwing models I own are so getting this idea though, thanks for the tutorial!

    1. I've never done it blue, but you could try a white or very bright blue base coat instead of the yellow and go from there.

      Good luck!