Tom’s How to Paint: Glow Effects


Hey guys, back again! Hopefully people enjoyed the last one (here) – people in the club chat certainly seemed to.

So much so that they started getting ideas above their station and making requests… So this one is going out for Toby, who can’t make things glow.

Object Source Lighting (or OSL) can be pretty intimidating, but (as with everything I’m planning on talking about on here) there are some simple ways to get a good looking tabletop version without having to be Mike McVey (luckily for me).

The first and most important rule for good looking, easy OSL is: Have a dark or medium base colour.
It’s very, very hard to make glow effects look good and sell themselves on light colours – this is because anything emitting light should be the brightest point on the model (in general). Just look at a lightbulb somewhere nearby and see how the light on the ceiling or wall around it ebbs away – this is even more pronounced with a coloured light.

So, having started with a nice medium or dark background, and knowing that the centre of the glow is going to be the brightest point, it follows that the glow should gently fade between those two extremes. To make this happen easily we’re going to use a Glaze Medium – this is basically paint that has no colour in it, adding transparency to the colour you mix it with. This makes it a lot easier to get a fade effect across a surface, as well as helping your highlight layers blend together.

So, I’m going to demonstrate three kinds of glow effects on a ‘spare’ Wold Wrath shoulder given to me by the good Dr. Norbert (this one is pretty flimsy in places so he got PP to replace it).

The processes in this technique have some pretty lengthly drying times, so be sure to let the previous layers dry completely before moving on to the next one – there’s nothing worse than having to start again because your final mixed in with the previous one and everything getting messed up…

0. Basecoated


Here we have the three areas I’ll be working on, with the area finished. It’s much easier to do glows as the last element to the model, as the glow will ‘overlay’ everything else anyway, so I suggest finishing everything else first. If you’re specifically interested, I’ve broken down the colours and techniques I used on the stonework at the end of the article.

From left to right, we have a single glowing line across a plain area, a set of recessed runes, and a glowing gem (or other magical thingamabob).

1. White-out


From here, thin down pure white (I use Vallejo Model Colour White) quite a lot (you want it to easily flow into the areas that will be glowing). Then, run a brush carefully(ish) through the line and/or runes, or around the glowing object.
Don’t worry too much if you go over the edges a little, this will help with the next step, just try and keep it close to the edges of the rune and not too overpowering (just whick  excess away with your brush or wipe it with your finger).

2. Main glow


Grab a bright colour that you’d like your glow to be (in this case, I went for GW Moot Green), and mix it roughly 40/30/30 paint/glaze medium/water so you have a thin mixture that should have quite a bit of transparency to it.
Then for the line and rune, just run it roughly down the recess itself, and generously around the edges. Where you have a large area with nothing else glowing around it (as on the left), feather the glow colour out to help the blend.
For the glowing object, do something similar – paint around the object, feathering outwards – the more area you cover, the ‘brighter’ the object it. Where you’re hitting a raised area, treat it like you might a regular highlight, just extend the glow a little more to sell it (as you can see on the edges to the sides and below the gem).

3. Highlight


The next layer helps make the glow pop. Pick or mix a highlight colour (I used GW Yriel Yellow), and mix it to roughly the same consistency as before (including the Glaze Medium). Repeat the process as above, but keep the highlight colour closer in to the recesses/object – on the object, keep the highlights on the edges to help it pop.

4. White-in


The final step in most of these glows is a final pop highlight of white – make the mix even waterier (roughly 30/30/40 paint/glaze medium/water) so it runs down into the recess even if you mess up and splodge outside.
If some paint sticks on a flat surface, whick it up with your brush or wipe it off with your finger.
For the object, keep the white right in next to the source itself.

5. Final touches


This is mostly finished, but you can take the opportunity to look at the model and see if you’d like to adjust anything before calling it done.
In this case, I thought the gem didn’t look sufficiently glow-y to be making as much light as it obviously is, so I grabbed my GW Moot Green and glazed a little around the edges, then added a coat of GW ‘Ard Coat (gloss varnish) to help the light pop.





So, there we go, all done! This is a pretty quick and dirty technique, but the fundamentals should see you through even if you want to go for a more advanced paint job.



Basecoat VMC Grey Green
Sponge highlight Vallejo Game Colour Cold Grey
Sponge highlight 50/50 VGC Cold Grey/VMC Off White
Shade GW Nuln Oil
Edge highlight VMC Off White

Wash VMC White / VMC Glaze Medium
Wash GW Moot Green / VMC Glaze Medium
Wash (less) GW Yriel Yellow / VMC Glaze Medium
Wash(even less) VMC White / VMC Glaze Medium


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s