Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Great Vallejo Wash Review

Regular readers may know that I'm a bit partial to Vallejo paints. I love the dropper bottles, the consistency and the price/quantity ratio. The only thing I kept buying (of course I still own and use a lot of Citadel paints) from the Citadel range are their very cool washes. Obviously when I learned that Vallejo comes out with a brand new range, I had to have them. This is a humble review of my impressions.
I bought my set from Maelstrom; using their latest voucher the whole set cost a mere £ 12.79 for eight bottles, and let me remind you, you get 17ml bottles for this price, not 10 as for Citadel washes.The Citadel set sells around £15, so per ml you pay twice as much for Citadel.
The colour range is very similar as for the Citadel washes, the only exception being the lack of violet, where you get the mysterious pale wash instead. This is how the washes look boxed.

I tested the washes basically in 4 or 5 different settings:
  1. Undiluted over Vallejo's grey primer. (this is a fine light gray polyurethane resin primer, ready to use in an airbrush, but good to apply with an ordinary brush too.)
  2. Wash diluted with distilled water, 1:1, over grey primer
  3. Wash diluted with Johnson&Johnson Pronto Floor Polish mix 1:1 over grey primer. We have no Future in Hungary. Of course it is not nihilism, I'm not worried about the national debt, but we have no such product, as Future or Klear, or Klar etc. However we have this floor finish that is almost identical, but is not clear but have a pale almond colour. It disappears though as it dries.I mean the colour. I use my mix with 1 part Pronto and 1 part distilled water, so in this case in fact it is 3 parts water, 1 part Pronto
  4. Wash applied over a suitable colour, to show how it fares under real circumstances
  5. In case there is something needs testing, armour, a face etc.
For a test model I used CW's very fine Cadian standard bearer. Shown below with primer only, for reference.


Black is one of the basic washes you need and Vallejo's works quite well:

  1. Nice even finish, it glazes surface, but stays mainly in the recesses. Perhaps a bit too strong. Has a slight brownish hue 
  2. Diluted the wash falls apart a bit and the result is rather blotchy, with some tidemarks
  3. Diluted with floor polish the wash performs rather well; remains nicely in recesses,
  4. For the colour test I chose Vallejo's air colour grey primer (not to confuse with the urethane one!)
  5. The result is quite convincing, a tad too dark again
  6. As armour wash over Citadel Mithril Silver: nice gradients, performs quite well

Conclusion: a solid performer, a bit dark, and I learned not to dilute it with water.
Rating: good 


Another classic. Umber comes in a nice neutral dark brown colour, that I came to like quite well
  1. Over the primer it looks quite nice, promising
  2. Diluted with water looks much better then black, perhaps a tad too light
  3. Diluted with Pronto it looks OK, a bit light again
  4. The real test is over VGC Iraqian Sand (I know, but they call it like that regardless) one of my favourites nowadays
  5. The colour test looks very much to my taste, exactly what I'd expect from such a colour

Conclusion: Umber and me will be good friends. It has the perfect shade and coverage, can be used to make darker shades too, mixed with other washes
Rating: Excellent


Sepia is exactly what you'd expect, a warmer, yellower brown. Less versatile than Umber, but still have it's uses.
  1. Over the primer it looks good, with some of the quality of Umber, but warmer. It glazed the primer nicely
  2. Diluted with water it falls apart a bit
  3. Looks great with floor polish, I guess this is my new recipe for bone
  4. Again, Sepia will be tested on Iraquian Sand
  5. Nice even coverage, but a bit too much. Would look better diluted.

Conclusion: I think sepia will be a good choice for aging gold, bone, cloth, whatever. Good to have on the desk
Rating: very good


Fleshtone is meant to shade human skin, let's see how it fares. The tone is much lighter than the previous colours, and looks very different than VGC Skin wash, which in fact is a dark orange ink, and looks quitre strange on minies (shading flesh I mean).

  1. Applied over primer it looks exciting. It takes some abstract thinking to see human flesh in the flag, but you can try. A bit reddish where it pools.
  2. Diluted with water it doesn't cover much
  3. Little better with floor polish; stays in the recesses nicely
  4. The test is with Iraquian Sand again, as I use it as basic skintone too, quite often
  5. The result is OK but again one needs some imagination
  6. Helping the thicker hobbyists I painted a Catachan face. I think it looks good, especially if highlights were added

Conclusion: I'm not yet fully convinced as it needs some more testing but the results look OK.
Rating: good


Pale wash is a very interesting colour. Actually it is light grey, and it is primarily meant to shade white, which is  good news to anyone struggling with that colour (Hey, Island of Blood is coming! Hint, hint... Elves?)

You can't see much on the first few pictures, as the primer and the wash have similar shade. The difference shows when tested on VGC White Primer; it shades white nicely and evenly. With the proper shading the results can be stunning. Please note that in the latest flag the wash was diluted 1:1 with Pronto mixture.

Conclusion: Pale wash is something new and I'm positive that it will make many of us happy in the future
Ranking: very good 


Red is what I feel is the weakest link in the range. It has a dark magenta colour, that is great for enriching red though
  1. Painted on the primer, red wash looks rather weird, but the consistency is OK
  2. Diluting red is a bad idea. the result is a lot of uneven tidemarks looking quite bad
  3. Using floor polish will not solve the problems either
  4. I tested the shading qualities over Citadel Blood Red. Perhaps it was not such a good idea, I should have chosen a less saturated colour
  5. Red wash shades Blood red nicely, but the result is too weak and light to work. As a side effect the magenta of the wash  boosts the saturation of Blood red to irrational levels.
  6. With a second coat of wash the banner looks OKish.

Conclusion: Red wash in one layer will not do the trick, it is too light and bright for that. Might work on oranges perhaps. Before I'd bury it though, it must be said that combined with sepia or umber it will work well, and one can find many useful ways to use it. But still no good to shade red.
Rating: below average


Green is similar to red in many ways but performs better. The colour is quite light and bright, and therefore suitable for lighter greens only.
  1. Applies over the primer I quite like the way it looks, though it shows alrready, that the wash is too light
  2. Diluted with water it is much less blotchy than red wash is
  3. Looks nice, though pale with Pronto too.
  4. I tested over VGC's Scorpion Green (A bit too saturated, but unfortunately I have a limited palette of light greens)
  5. Wow! This looks cool! The paint and wash look great together.

Conclusion: Green is a decent wash, but to wash Orks or any darker green stuff, it is no good. Mixing it with umber or black may worth a try, but in itself it is good for lighter shades only.
Rating: Average 


Compared to red and green blue is a much darker shade that works as expected
  1. It looks decent on primer
  2. Does not look good diluted with water, does not fill the recesses or builds nice gradients
  3. Looks OK though, diluted with Pronto 
  4. For the test I used Citadel Enchanted Blue
  5. I quite like the result, with highlights it would look splendid.

Conclusion: Blue works as expected, and gives a very nice result
Rating: very good

To sum it up

Vallejo washes are a cost effective alternative to Citadel ones. They are slightly more viscous, and should not be diluted with water. Future or matte medium works fine though. The glazing effect of the washes is nice, but they keep to recesses perhaps very slightly less than Citadel washes do. The gradients the washes create are very nice. Red and green are way too saturated and light for my taste. 
The range does not have a purple, and it is a shame, for purple is quite useful at times, but the revolutionary pale wash is a very good trade off. I'm quite happy that I bought the set, and advise all of you the same.
For the price sensitive ones will be delighted to hear that 200ml bottles are also available for £6.52.

For Vallejo I'd recommend to sponsor a professional painter, or a blog to help people to use their products most effectively. I still have no idea how to use VGC Smokey Ink (thick brown paste with flakes in it, no ink at all), VMC transparent smoke, the Skin Wash (not Fleshtone) or basically any of their inks. Up until that day it is trial and error, unless someone does the testing, or writes tutorials. But I think it is most easily done by those who designed these products.

That's all folks, I hope you liked it. Stay tuned there might be a wash comparison one day (including home made wash recipes!)


  1. I have started to use vallejo paints with good results.

  2. Great review, thanks for putting this up! A number of those do indeed look great!

  3. Really happy to see this; like yourself, I much prefer Vallejo paints to Citadel ones, if for nothing else but the ability to dole them out as I prefer.

    I'm a bit sad that the red is kinda low-end compared to the others, but overall this is very good news.

  4. nice article. so far I only have sepia and pale - (pale is stunning, took the place of dilute payne's grey for me)

    The main reason I havent changed to them from GW is that the GW perform so well. - i can see supplementing with these, but not replacing. at least not untill GW totally change all thier paint again and the washes vanish from shelves :)

    as to you "smoke" thin it a little to improve the consistency and ability to "fade" then stipple it onto flamer and gun barrel tips :)

  5. @Karitas: VMC Smoke, or VGC Smokey ink?

  6. Thanks for the effort you put in this great review! I use VGC paints and mainly citadel washes. I'm satisfied with them, but that pale one on white here looks damn stunning!
    I use both VGC Smokey ink and Skin wash.
    The Smokey one can be used on metallic gun barrels, just as Karitas writes on a flamer for example, it works quite well but needs to be used carefully. I use the Skin wash diluted with water and a bit of dishwaser liquid to shade my Imperial Fists' yellow armour. It is simply perfect for that purpose.

  7. To shade the darker greens, mix a very small amount (and I mean VERY SMALL) of your red wash in with your green wash. Red is the complimentary color for green, and adding a very small amount of it into your green wash will help give a more natural shadow tone to darker greens. The same is true for shading reds. If you add a very small amount of a dark green (Dark Angels green type of color)in with your normal red shadow color, you'll get a very nice deep shade color.

    Check out anything that Ali and Mike McVey have painted (http://studiomcvey.com). Mike gave these tips out when he and Ali were still working in the Privateer Press studio. Those nice deep shadows on reds are built up with a bit of green in the mix.

    It works really well, but you really only want to add the tiniest bit of the other color. You can always add more to get it darker without turning it into a completely brown mess, but correcting it requires adding a LOT of the main color back in the mix, and that never works well.

  8. Thanks, It is really helpful!

  9. Awesome write up - I didn't think to use Future but now I can't see a reason not to use it automatically

  10. For good ways to use the Smokey Ink check out the older tutorials on Brushthralls.

  11. WOW, thanks for putting this up. Helps like a charm.

    Very useful and well-written article.

    I haven't any (new) citadel wash yet but devlan mud (got that like a month ago) and today I was heading to my local store for thraka green (to shade white and make it look ghostly) but somehow the guy suggested I needed more glazing effect than citadel green wash could provide so I ended up getting vallejo green wash instead.

    I was wondering how would it work and about to make those tests myself so your article came handy.

    I should add that, to date I use vallejo air color as glazes and have to admit some work well for that.

    Cheers, and thanks again! :)

  12. Thanks for such helpful review. I just ordered some of Vallejo washes and will give them a try.

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  14. Sorry to necro but what is the ratio of Vallejo wash to floor polish and was it applied over a clear gloss or right over a matte paint?