CK Studios Introductory Airbrushing Course #2 - Zenithal Highlights

Zenithal Highlights. You often hear this term thrown around in painting forums and some may think it is a mythical being. Well suffice to say, Zenithal Highlighting is real and it is very effective.

So what is Zenithal Highlighting? Simply put it is a technique that creates three-dimensional (3D) depth. 

It is achieved by completing the following steps:
  1. A primer coat of black is painted across your model, covering it from every direction.
  2. A lighter dusting of white is shot almost perpendicularly from above. This can be either a primer or straight acrylic paint.
  3. A further small controlled shoot of white is done at an angle of a little higher than 45 degrees to emphasize specific areas, mainly to draw attention to the center, main weapon and/or face of a model.
When you do this, you can simply use White and Black, some people use interim tones of grey. It really is left up to you to decide what colours and how many coats. Essentially it all boils down to how much time you wish to invest.

One key thing to note, when you look at the model directly from below, you should only see black primer color and conversely when you look from above, you should only see white.

Now I mentioned emphasizing certain parts. You do this to draw the eye across the miniature and/or focus attention. For example, if you don't want people to focus on the rear of the model, don't put much white highlight there. So on this example check a Cataphractii Terminator.

Look at the way light hits the miniature.  The shadows are what makes it three-dimensional. If you paint everything white. It loses the 3-dimensional quality and ends up flat. So you don't really want to do that.

So how do you highlight when you want to emphasize parts of the miniature? Well focus on placing highlights in the following manner.

Now for the kicker. And this is the MOST important point.

When you come in with your mid-tone base colour, don't cake your miniature from all directions.  

All your zenithal work will be lost if you just spray your mid-tone base colour across the whole model in a thick layer. Make sure you focus on building the colour, at 45 degrees, slowly building the colour. More colour on the lighter highlights and feather slightly into the dark shade area, you'll want a smooth transition into this, and do not remove the black.
Clear as mud?

Well if I haven't explained this one properly, pop across and have a read of this article from From the Warp. It will explain things a lot better than my quick notes.


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