Tool Tips 11 – Test Strips

Tool Tips 11 – Test Strips

Last time (Tool Tips 10) we wrapped up a long series of detailed articles on the miniature prepping and painting process. Starting now, future articles will be shorter and more focused. So, let’s get on with “Test Strips”!


As mentioned in the past, I had run into some issues with the Vallejo Glorious Gold Paint I had been using. Hobbyists often talk about ‘test painting a mini’ before they start a big set of them. This is useful in figuring out if the chosen color scheme will work well. I had attempted to do the same with the Dwarves I’ve been painting. While the color scheme seemed to work, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the paint. When the Glorious Gold started to apply poorly, I was at odds with how I should proceed. Should I redo the mini, switch to a different color, a different brand of paint, etc.?

I decided I needed to do more testing. Now, I could go back and test by repainting a whole mini again. That takes a lot of time and even worse if I had to reprime the mini yet again. During some browsing, I had stumbled upon a miniatures site that offered painting classes. They had pics of small sample tiles that students would practice on for various techniques. Small tiles with pieces of armor, wood, etc. Unfortunately, I didn’t jot down the site name. Also in the Citadel Paint App, they use the same test piece (a Space Marine Jetpack?) with different colors applied to it, to show how it looks.

All of that stuck in my brain and somewhere along the line, I came up with a ‘Test Strip’.


Test Strips!

Pretty simple really. I took some old GW Goblin shields, glued them to a strip of cardboard, and primed. To be a bit more scientific, I used the same shield for all six. That way I wasn’t introducing too many variables into my comparison. I also jotted down the paints and washes I used on a separate note card (hence why everything is numbered).

The first test strip (above) is a test of different gold schemes for the Dwarf’s amor. With the lighting in the image, it’s kind of hard to tell which paints I used and how they look, but it was essentially Vallejo Model Color Flat Brown base & Vallejo Glorious Gold for I-III, and Citadel Retributor Armor base for IV-VI. They then received different washes and some highlights.

Ultimately, I liked the look of the Retributor Armor gold combined with an Agrax Earthshade wash (VI). The Retributor Armor gold is so easy to work with. You can even thin it with water, and it still retains a nice consistency. My second favorite color scheme was Retributor Armor washed with a Druchi Violet shade (V). The effect was pretty nice, but a bit darker than what I was looking for. It might be something I keep in mind for the future though.


Here are two more test strip examples I was working on.

Flesh tones. The two Orc heads on the left (1 and 2) have been base painted with Citadel Bugman’s Glow.

As you can probably see, Orcs 1, 2, and 4 have been thoroughly covered with one coat. The paint on Orc 3 is very thin, and will need at least one more coat. Good to know, if you’re doing a base coat.

I found the Orc heads to be particularly nice for testing skin tones, as the head has just the right amount of detail and shadows. The goblin shields are a bit too flat to get an accurate read.


Above we have Vallejo Scarlett Red (I-III), Khorne Red (IV-V), Mephiston Red (VI), and Vallejo Game Color Extra Opaque Red (VII).

Again, paints on VI and VII basically applied in one coat. I was surprised that the Mephiston Red, which is a GW Base color applied that thin. It could be that I added too much Flow Aid to the bottle, when I transferred the paint to a dropper bottle. At any rate, I have been painting the Dwarves with Vallejo Scarlett Red, and the thinner paint is one of the reasons why it is taking so long to get them looking like I want. Had I done this beforehand, I would have used Mephiston Red or Vallejo Extra Opaque for the base color.

On the red armor test strip, I went on to add more layers to bring them all up to a nice base paint. Then applied washes to find out which one I liked the best. The Dwarves are already base painted with Vallejo Scarlett Red, and I liked Carroburg Crimson best as the wash. You can see the results in future progress pics of the Dwarfs.


I’ve found test strips to be a great way to quickly try different colors and techniques. Really helpful for experimentation and it saves a tremendous amount of time. I can quickly get an idea of the consistency of several different paints, what sort of washes will look good, how highlights will look, etc. Way better than making all those mistakes on an actual miniature. I imagine others might have done something similar, but I found this particular method worked very well for me.

5 thoughts on “Tool Tips 11 – Test Strips

  1. Thanks! Heh, I just had another crazy idea…gluing bits on top of bottles. I (like a lot of people) paint the tops of my bottles so I can tell what the paint color should be like once applied. But the top of a bottle is relatively flat and doesn’t provide much of an idea of how a color will do in crevices or when pooled, or when ‘stretched’ across a surface. I imagine one could glue a tiny bit on top of the bottle as a test piece. Just another crazy though for the day!


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