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Case Study: WarhammerQuest Dungeon Portals

In the past, I haven't had much success with washes. I often ended up starting over and just drybrushing to bring out detail. However, it is sometimes difficult to emphasize inset detail with drybrushing, so I wanted to work on washes a bit more.

Some time back I purchased the WarhammerQuest game--mainly for the miniatures, though we have actually played the game a few times. It comes with a large number of well-detailed (if oversize and a bit on the stout side--just what one expects from GW) figures. It also comes with 10 dungeon portals.

Since I have no other use for the portals outside the WHQ game, I decided to use them to experiment with washes. After all, if they end up looking horrible, who will care? (Other than me, of course; I'm a perfectionist.)


Most of the paints I used for the portals are from Gunze Sangyo. I actually prefer Tamiya paints, but I had the GS paints available.

Paints (all acrylic)

  • Krylon Living Colors primer (light gray)
  • Gunze Sangyo #H12 "Flat Black"
  • Gunze Sangyo H53 "Neutral Gray"
  • Gunze Sangyo H301 "Gray"
  • Gunze Sangyo H8 "Silver"
  • Gunze Sangyo H24 "Orange Yellow"

Other supplies

  • Simple Green household cleaner
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Toothbrush
  • 1/6, 0, 000, 5/0, and 10/0 brushes

Preparing the Figures

Portal Before Prep

Prior to starting in on the portals, I used a hobby knife (#1 blade) to scrape off the mold lines as much as possible. The figures had no flash at all. The most difficult to remove were the mold lines that ran across the "stone" floor at the base of the portal (easily visible in the photo below).

I cleaned the portals with a household cleaner (Simple Green), rinsed them, let them dry overnight, then primed them. I've found that, especially with plastic figures, I get much better results if I apply a fine base coat or primer before painting them. In this case, I decided to try a different primer than usual. Krylon has a line of acrylic spray paints called Living Colors, which includes a light gray primer. I laid the portals out outside, on a flattened cardboard box, and applied the primer. After the paint dried, I turned them over and sprayed the other side. It took longer to dry than the hobby primer I usually use, but provided a fine, even base coat.

Since the plastic was gray to begin with, and I used a gray primer, another base coat was unnecessary.

I let the portal dry thoroughly before continuing.

The Wash

Portal After Wash

For the wash, I used Flat Black, thinned 5:1 with household isopropyl ("rubbing") alcohol.

I applied the wash liberally to the portal with a 1/6 brush. Then I removed the excess wash from the brush and used the (now relatively dry) brush to remove excess wash from some of the carvings at the sides of the portal, where it had accumulated too thickly. I had only to place the tip of the brush against the accumulation, and most of it would quickly flow back into the brush. This sounds simple, but it took me several tries to get it the way I wanted it.

After the wash, the entire portal was dark gray in color, with even darker gray or black in the inset details.

Once again, I let the portal dry thoroughly before continuing.


Once the inset details were emphasised by the wash, I used the 1/6 brush again to heavily drybrush the entire portal with Neutral Gray. This restored the basic gray of the "stone".

Yet again, I let the portal dry thoroughly before continuing. (This part does get a little old!)


I emphasized a few additional details by painting and drybrushing them. The metal rings at the sides of the portal I painted dark grey (Gunze Sangyo H301 "Gray"), then drybrushed with Silver. (Flat black and a "steel" drybrush would probably have been better.) I then placed drops of bright orange (Gunze Sangyo H24 "Orange Yellow") in the eye sockets of the skulls above the portal. I used orange because red doesn't seem to have the desired glow in such a small detail. The additional skull on the floor beside the portal I drybrushed with "Flat White" to make it stand out against the portal.

Completed Portal

I could have also detailed the skulls and other figures that surround the portal as actual skulls, but I decided that they were just carved stone, and left them gray.


I painted most of the ten portals from the set grey, as described above. On some of them, however, I want to create a sandstone appearance. For them, I plan to use a base coat of a dark brown, applied with an airbrush. I will then drybrush them heavily with a rust red, and lightly with Tamiya XF15 "Flat Flesh" (a good yellowish-tan sandy color). For these, I will make the skull on the floor much darker, as though it were rotted to black. I'll add this alternate portal to this page when I've completed it.

A Gamer's Gallery

Decorating Figure Bases
Color Schemes
Dungeon Portals
LEGO Fortifications
Mixing Paints
Paint Selection
Prepping Miniatures

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