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How to Paint Yellow – Three Techniques on Three Different Models

Yellow is one of those ‘hard’ colors. So, much like painting black, I stepped up to the challenge and created a tutorial on how to paint yellow. But not just one way, but three different methods to paint yellow.

Tutorial on How to Paint Yellow with layers, wash, and one coat paints

Mostly this tutorial was spawned by painting my Dwarven Blood Bowl Team with yellow padding. Since I wanted to try a couple of other techniques for painting yellow, I built a Bretonnian Knight and a Death Watch Space Marine.

Both of these other kits provides great opportunity to paint other colors. Well, at least if you don’t keep to the ‘standard’ Death Watch scheme.

So if you need some help or inspiration on how to paint yellow, check out the three tutorials below.

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Using Layers to Paint Yellow on a Knight

I picked up a box of Brettonian Knights years ago to practice painting different colors and freehand. Β And so far, I have painted only two of them! But Sir Sunshine here has provided the canvas for my first tutorial on how to paint yellow.

In this example, I used layers to paint yellow as that is the traditional way of painting. Start with a base coat, maybe a wash, and add lighter highlights. But yellow does not cover well and I will say, doing this example was a practice of patience as the mid-tone yellow took five layers to get good coverage!

How to Paint Yellow with Layers - Base Coat

I started with a primer of white paint and a base coat of all the colors. For the yellow, I used Game Color Plague Brown (GW Zamesi Desert). This is a yellowish brown that would work for the low-level shadow.

How to Paint Yellow with Layers - Wash

I then gave it an all over wash with Vallejo Brown Wash. This was mostly to provide shading to the rest of the model, but it also adds even more shadow to the yellow.

How to Paint Yellow with Layers - First Highlight

Using Game Color Sun Yellow (Flash Gitz Yellow), I painted layer after layer until it looked smooth. This is exactly why yellow is frustrating for so many painters as it was so tough to paint over the base layer. Straight out of the bottle, the thick yellow left ridges. Too thin and it wasn’t anything more than a glaze – and a terrible glaze at that.

But patience and persistence got me through. I realized later that I could have used Gold Yellow (Yriel Yellow) first as it would have provided a better transition. Alternatively, I could have mixed some of the Plague Brown in a well. It may have only taken four layers that way!

How to Paint Yellow with Layers - Second Highlight

The next layer of Model Color Moon Yellow (no clear GW color) was easier as I was only painting the highlights and ridges. I started emphasizing the folds in the cloth at this stage.

How to Paint Yellow with Layers - Third Highlight

The final highlight was a 50-50 mix of Moon Yellow and White. This was an extreme highlight that I thinned down with Airbrush Medium.

Finishing the Rest of the Bretonian Knight with Yellow and Red

From there, I painted the rest of the miniature, including his coat-of-arms. I used the decal from the Space Marine vehicle kit for the fist. I simply cut off the circle and painted over it with my reds.

To clean up the colors and add further shading, I added a carefully placed wash of brown. This was thinned down with the Airbrush Medium and used between each color area. I also added some of it to the folds of the cloth to add shadows.

Yellow Bretonnian Knight of the Realm

I finished up the base and added some mud to the bottom of the horse’s coat to match my first knight. A couple of coats of matte varnish and he was completed.

One Coat Yellow on Dwarves

For the other two techniques for painting yellow, I wanted to show how easy yellowΒ can be.

This version involves using WarColours’ One-Coat Yellow which is a high pigment paint similar to Games Workshop’s Averland Sunset, but brighter.

The beauty of the One-Coat paints is that they will pretty much cover over anything. So on my Dwarf here, I painted the yellow last.

Using One Coat Yellow - Base Colors

You can see that most of the armor pads are still black with some paint splatter here and there. I wasn’t too careful with this first layer as I want to get all the colors in place and then tidy up.

First Layer of One Layer Yellow

You can see that after the one coat yellow, everything is covered up. On a few sections, I did need to use two coats but compared to standard yellow paint this was fantastic to paint right over black.

Brown Wash over One Coat Yellow

After that, I followed up with my typical Brown Wash all over. This is a magic elixir for getting quick results on your miniature. It not only shades everything nicely but provides an excellent separation between each color.

In many ways, this could be tabletop ready, and everything from here is gravy.

Highlighting Colors on Dwarf Blood Bowl Player

Once the wash was dry, I highlighted all the other colors. Since I am painting my Blood Bowl teams to a quick gaming standard, I only went with a single highlight on most of them. You can see the full paint list for painting the Dwarf Team here.

Re-apply One Coat Yellow to clean up

I then went over all the yellow with the one coat except for the deeper recesses of the armor. This cleaned up any extra wash and re-brightened it.

Highlight Yellow with White

And a final highlight of pure white. Again, these guys are meant to be a high-contrast gaming piece. So a pure white highlight adds a ton of pop without many layers. I kept the white only to the top edges of the armor.

How to Paint Yellow with One Coat Paints Finished

All that was left to do was add the decals, finish the base, and varnish him. From start to finish (not counting drying time) the dwarf only took about two hours to paint. This is pretty fast for me!

Painting Yellow with a wash on Lamenter

For the second, easy version of yellow, I wanted to paint with washes. I’ve seen many other painters get great results with using a wash straight over a white primer.

So I built up a Death Watch Space Marine to paint in the Lamenters Chapter scheme. I know that Death Watch is typically silver and black with only the right shoulder pad in chapter colors, but I like the idea of having them more colorful and only the left arm in silver.

I gave him a layer of white primer from the rattle can. In hindsight, I would have given him a second coat as the spray didn’t fully cover some areas where were visible in the final model.

Candora Yellow over White Primer

I then gave the whole model a generous wash of Games Workshop Casandora Yellow Shade. The bottle threw me off at first as the wet paint has an orange look to it. But it goes on with a nice yellow color and somewhat orange in the recesses.

Adding a second wash of Casandora Yellow

After a second wash, the yellow started to pop and give me the shade I was looking for. Be careful with each wash so that it doesn’t pool like it did on the inside of his left leg. Use an extra brush to wick away any extra wash.

Drybrush White Over Yellow

I wanted to do a third wash to deepen the yellow but wanted to keep the highlights. So I did a quick drybrush of pure white. This drybrush focused on the upper ridges of the model including the top part of the pad and helmet.

A Third Wash of Yellow Space Marine

The third wash turned all the dry brush work back to yellow and gave my Lamenter a solid look.

Painting the Lamenters Space Marine Details

I then went in and painted all the other colors. This was a nerve-wracking experience as I knew it would be hard/impossible to fix any mistakes. So I was careful with each brush stroke and made it through.

As another tip for when I do this again is to leave the silver arm off the model and paint it separately.

After I had finished all the highlights, I used a mix of Black and Brown washes mixed with extra Flow-Aid to create a dark pin-wash. Using a small brush, I added the wash to panel lines, rivets, and between colors. This helped provide better separation of color and deeper recesses in the yellow.

Lamenter Death Watch Space Marine Tutorial

From there, it was a matter of doing all the details and base. The chapter badge took a while, and I’m still not happy with it, but it gets the point across.

Wrap-Up

I hope that this tutorial has helped provide some pointers on how to paint yellow. Whether doing it with layers (and layers!), using a high pigment paint like the One-Coat, or with washes, painting yellow can be done.

After painting all three methods, if I were to do a whole army of yellow, I would use a combination of the one-coat and layers. The wash worked well but makes it hard to paint everything else.

A nice look could be achieved with One Coat Yellow, Brown Wash, highlight with mid-tone yellow, and then bright yellow. The One Coat gives you the speed while the wash and highlights would give you additional color range.

Do you have other tips on painting yellow? Gripes about certain shades? Let me know in the comments below!

Download the free eBook on How to Paint Yellow

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  • Statham

    For yellow I’ve somehow always gone with the recommendations GW put out in White Dwarf when the Glottkin was initially released, which was Zandri Dust > Carroburg Crimson > Cassandora Yellow > Yriel Yellow > Flash Gitz Yellow and then Dorn Yellow. It’s always turned out decent results for me, especially in terms of doing sickly yellow eye-colours on my Ad Mech. This is a great guide in terms of having multiple options, though, given yellow is really up there as a difficult scheme, but.. At the same time, I’d love to see more Imperial Fists.

    • Cheers Statham! That is a great way to paint yellow as well. The added layer of Crimson would give a nice shadow base for the remaining wash and layers.
      As a long time Warsmith, I cannot endorse painting mongrel Fists πŸ™‚

      • Statham

        It does turn out really nice – again, though, there’s some really interesting options for doing yellow here, so kudos on a great guide.

        And admittedly, Fists aren’t my loyalists of choice – I’m a Salamanders kinda guy – but I find the yellow colour scheme much more interesting than the other ‘big’ loyalists like the Ultras.

  • Big tip for the wash technique. Do a zenithal highlight from above. (primer grey, then hit up with brighter tones on raised surfaces). Because all the painting you are doing is transparent, this will end up giving the model significantly more variance and depth by the final stage. (and doesn’t add much time if any to the model prep stage)

    • Nice Greg! I had completely forgot about doing that. At some point I need to figure out my airbrush so I can do better zenithal highlighting.

  • Mordian7th

    Yellow is one of the trickiest colors to do, good guide!

    I’ve settled on a recipe that’s served me well on my Imperial Fists and the like of late. Black primer, basecoat of Vallejo Scrofulous Brown, followed by a heavy drybrush of Golden Yellow, and then a light drybrush of GW Flash Gitz Yellow, concentrating on the uppermost surfaces (pseudo-zenithal). Once that is done the whole model is given a Seraphim Sepia wash and left to dry.

    The catch with any wash-based process I find is that what works well on infantry and smaller models doesn’t necessarily translate well to the large flat surfaces of vehicles and the like. Gotta be really careful about pooling and streaking – It’s not impossible to do, but can be a challenge! (Hence why my Imperial Fists vehicles are predominantly black with yellow accent panels rather than vice-versa, heh.)

    • Nice! At some point I will need you to write a whole post on your quick painting tips πŸ™‚
      I agree with the washes on vehicles, I haven’t figured out the best course of action there yet. Switching color schemes is a great way to go though.

  • Really good guide to 3 different but effective ways Joe. Wish I had come across this a few years ago when I started la Danse Macabre. Would have saved me a fair bit of pain πŸ˜€

    • Thanks NafNaf!I think a big part of your Macabre was pain πŸ™‚

  • I’ve experimented with stuff like the wash technique here for various things, but abandoned it because yeah, doing the rest of the Model is nerve-wracking when there’s basically no good way to fix anything that gets over on to that main colour.

    I now do layers, and I’ve noticed that GW and some others have got some good base yellows that cover well, but the mid-range yellows are mostly still pretty sketchy. Getting some of those with the kind of pigment density that, say, Averland Sunset has would be very nice.

    • I think the washes have a place and Greg has put them to great use on his Orks, but it does take more careful painting.
      I think the combination of GW’s foundation yellow (being darker yellow-brown) and WarColours’ one coat (being brighter) could go along ways for painting yellow. Adding some white to WC’s would provide additional highlights.

      • Oh, yeah, I love the effect of the washes, I just don’t like having to be that careful πŸ˜‰

        I need to get some of that WC yellow, I think.

  • All very good ways to do it but yellow defeated me
    I just couldn’t get it done in the end.

    • I don’t blame ya! Even after doing this article I’m not sure I would want to do a major yellow army. The one-coat helps a ton though.

      • Yeah that stuff looks ace.

  • Great tutorial

    • Nice! I don’t have many of the Model Color line but I have seen where they can fill gaps in their Game Color set.