Etherfields Wave 2: Zenithal Prime and Contrast Paints

This is another post in my series on my adventures in painting miniature figures. You can see the entire series by clicking on the CRAFTS link in the tag cloud to the right (if you’re reading this on a desktop) or below (if you’re reading this on a phone).

Once again, I offer you lots of pictures which might help you in your own painting. Again, you’ll have to get through a few paragraphs on circumstance and technique before the pretty photos. And again, the links to Amazon are affiliate links that might profit me slightly.

With all those warnings:

Etherfields wave 2

I finally received the second set of packages for the game Etherfields; I’ve written before about painting the figures in the first “wave” of shipping. The second wave included expansions for the main game, each of which contained one or two large miniatures meant exclusively for those expansions.

As soon as I put the box on the table, Jiku was on the job, inspecting it for any evil influences.

I also ordered optional alternative figures. The first wave included miniatures for the players (when they achieve a “Lucid” state) and for the creatures you might encounter in the game’s Dreams. These alternatives represented the same thing, but with different artwork. You had a choice for which mini to use to represent, let’s say, the Tormentor when you met it in the game.

What came in that big box. Note the Alternative Creatures of Etherfields on the left.

All of this is optional. You don’t need extra or alternative miniatures to play the game. But the miniature designs are beautiful, and I wanted to paint them.


Well, maybe “paint” is too strong a word. I haven’t truly painted miniature sculpture since Mysthea. What I do is called “sketch shading” by Aella13, “pre-shading” by Vince Venturella, and “sundrop” by Awaken Realms. It’s a way to make the figures more colorful and bring out their details, without getting into detailed application of paint that’s beyond my skill.

Start with the unpainted minis:

Two unpainted miniatures, the She-Wolf and the Harpy, still nestled in their compartments in the shipping box.

For the most part, everything I do uses an inexpensive airbrush to apply the paint. I start with zenithal prime, with my choice of priming colors determined by the final overall color I’ll apply to the mini:

Gray Zenithal

I plan to apply a “cool” color as a final step for the Harpy miniature, so I’m going to use what I called a “gray zenithal.” Start with a layer of black primer.
Apply gray primer, holding the airbrush at a 45° angle.
The final step in the zenithal process is to use the airbrush to spray white ink from directly above the mini, to complete the highlighting effect.
After the zenithal, the final step in the shading process is to apply a color filter over it with a conventional brush. Here I used a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Glaze Medium and Citadel Shade Druchii Violet.

Tan Zenithal

For a mini whose final layer of color will be an “autumnal” or “cool” shade, start with a layer of brown primer.
Apply a layer of tan primer, sprayed at a 45° angle.
Complete the zenithal by spraying white ink directly from above the mini.
Apply this final filter with a brush: Citadel Shade Agrax Earthshade

Zenithal batches

I didn’t apply the zenithal primes to the minis individually. I set up separate batches for gray and tan zenithal:

After applying the brown primer base coat.
After applying the second zenithal layer at 45°.
Zenithal completed! The minis wait for their colored filter layers.

The pictures

For this blog post, the pictures are sized to fit the screen, so it may be hard to tell their relative scale. For a visual clue, note that I used the same pill container as a pedestal in the pictures.

You may want to compare these alternative sculptures with the figures in the photos I put in my earlier post on painting the minis from the first wave of Etherfields. They are all quite different from the art that shipped with Wave 1.

If you’re wondering how I chose the colors and whether to dilute them with mediums, I used all those reference dwarves I described in my earlier miniature-painting blog posts.

Frog. 50/50 mix of Citadel Contrast Ork Flesh and Citadel Technical Contrast Medium.
Alternative Lucid Tough Guy. Citadel Contrast Gryph-Hound Orange with a light dry brush with Vallejo Game Color Gold
Alternative Lucid Reaper. Citadel Contrast Magos Purple dry brushed with Vallejo Game Color Silver
Alternative Lucid Gambler. Citadel Contrast Iyanden Yellow dry brushed with Vallejo Game Color Gold
Alternative Lucid Free Spirit. 1/3rd Citadel Contrast Talassar Blue, 2/3rds Citadel Technical Contrast Medium, dry brushed with Vallejo Game Color Silver
Locker. Citadel Contrast Snakebite Leather
Moth Knight. Citadel Shade Athonian Camoshade over gray zenithal
Candle. Citadel Contrast Darkoath Flesh, drybrushe with Vallejo Moon Yellow. (No, this doesn’t look much like a candle to me either. But it still looks cool!)
Sweet Scent. 3 parts Citadel Shade Fuegan Orange to 10 parts Citadel Technical Contrast Medium (and it still came out a bit darker than I intended).
Automaton. When using Vallejo Shifter paints, I use their recommended approach instead of zenithal priming: base layer of Vallejo Gloss Black Primer, followed by thin airbrushed coats of Vallejo Shifter Gold/Pale Blue.
Mortis. Citadel Shade Nuln Oil, followed by a dusting of Vallejo Shifter Pearl/Violet.
Ancient Ram. Citadel Contrast Aggaros Dunes mixed 50/50 with Citadel Technical Contrast Medium.
Two-tailed Fox. Citadel Shade Seraphim Sepia.
Tormentor. Citadel Contrast Paint Apothecary White
Sentinel. Citadel Contrast Paint Plaguebearer Flesh.
Nyx. Citadel Contrast Paint Basilicanum Grey.
Sphinx. Gutrippa Flesh.
Funeral Witch. 50/50 mix of Citadel Contrast Aethermatic Blue and Citadel Contrast Paint Apothecary White. By the way, I know a funeral witch should you ever need one.

How I screwed up varnishing

My final step in painting minis is to apply varnish. After all, these figures are meant to be handled by players and stored in containers. I’d hate for any of the paint to rub off.

I used poster putty to stick the figures on cardboad, and used satin polycrylic spray.

In the middle of varnishing. You can see droplets of spray from what was probably a clogged nozzle, but luckily none of the droplets affected the minis.

In the past, I spray-varnished the minis outside, in the parking lot of my apartment complex. There were never any after effects before. But this time I did it after the lot had had a fresh layer of asphalt. The new layer is darker than the old layer. This happened:

It’s clear polycrylic, but it still shows up white on the asphalt.

It’s possible that the polycrylic picked up moisture from a subsequent rainfall before it fully dried. Or perhaps there some reflective property of the varnish on the new asphalt that wasn’t visible on the old. In either case, those markings remain visible to this day.

The landlord rightfully called me out on this. There was nothing for me to do but to admit that it was my fault, and offer to pay for any restoration. So far, they’ve done nothing. That’s probably the best course of action; after all, if asphalt marks were permanent, there’d never be a need to renew the lines between parking spaces.

From now on, I’ll have to risk applying varnish using the airbrush. Oh, well. I buy cheap airbrushes anyway, so it’s no big deal if I clog up another one.

Choosing the alternatives

Now that I had two painted versions of each creature, I let my players decide which one we’d use while we played Etherfields. The boxes that the miniatures came in were a bit bulky for me to carry both of them every time we had a gaming session at my friends’ apartment. They made their choices, and we stored them in a Plano box:

My label maker is one of my most valued possessions.
The top view, so you can (maybe) tell which mini the players selected.

Overall, the players mostly chose the original minis from Wave 1 over the alternative sculptures from Wave 2. It wasn’t that the alternative artwork was bad; several times they agonized over the decision. However, they generally felt that the original minis matched their idea of what the Entities looked like in the Dreamworld of the game.

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