04 December 2011

Painting zombies [Tutorial]

A couple of days ago I was asked how I paint my zombies for Incursion/Secrets of the Third Reich. I had, like 2-3 years ago, posted a very brief rundown of paints involved and the order of applying those paints. However I think a step-by-step tutorial is better and perhaps easier to follow.

First I should comment about the look of my zombies, they are as mentioned used for Incursion/SoTR. In that universe zombies are created by a biological weapon known as "V-Gas". This gas is the main reason most units in those games sport a gasmask. An important detail in the background for the V-gas is that it only affects the living, or those who have just recently died and who still have a pretty intact brain and nervous system. Decomposing dead are just too far gone to be re-animated.

So I wanted zombies that looked somewhat fresh, doing some ghoulish research on the internet I saw that newly deceased bodies suffer from discoloration and swelling that sets in before it actually starts to rot. So I wanted that bruised discolored look on my zombies as well. And that is why they are painted the way they are painted and not more grey/green/whatever color zombies have been painted in by other people on the internet.

List of paints that you need for the skin alone:
Mechrite red (GW Foundation)
Devlan mud (GW Wash)
Thraka Green (GW Wash)
Leviathan Purple (GW Wash)
Tanned Flesh (Vallejo)
Dwarf Flesh ( Vallejo)
Elf Flesh (Vallejo)

Paints I use for blood are old out of production GW inks "Red Ink" and "Flesh wash" which I mix.

Tip: This is a fast method of painting skin and works very well in a "production line" painting situation. Especially as it involves a couple of washes. Painting 5-10 models at a time will allow you to wash each model from nr 1 - nr 10 and go back to the starting model which should be dry by now and apply the next step.

Step 1,

Prime the model black, and paint all the skin areas in Mechrite red, then wash the skin areas with a generous amount of Devlan mud.

Step 2

Apply Tanned flesh, leave the deep shading from the Devlan mud visible in cracks and tight spots for the sake of contrast. Now apply the Dwarf Flesh, use a bit of creativity here - don't simply cover the previous layer of flesh to a 100%. Leave some Tanned Flesh visible here and there. Paint the zombie flesh layers "rougher" and with much more contrast between the layers than you would paint a normal model.

Step 3

Time for the second wash, Thraka green - watered down to something like 50-50. You want to create a shading in the cracks to darken the Devlan mud wash while also adding the first layer of discoloration to the flesh.

Step 4

Now take Elf flesh and pick out details with a bit more effort. Fingers, bones, cheeks, brows, ears muscles etc. You don't have to be very precise, just as during step 3 the goal is to create a contrast between the previous layers and this most recent one. You want to see all 3 layers of flesh and still have a bit of green discoloration.

Intestines, lungs, brains but also bones and such should be left alone as they are - so don't touch them with the Elf Flesh.

Step 5

Final step, a wash of Leviathan purple. Just as with the Thraka green wash you need to add some water to thin this one down or else it will darken the flesh too much. Experiment a little, 25-50% Wash and 50-75% water depending on how dark/light you want your zombies to be. This model was washed with a mix of aproximately 40% wash 60% water.
Step 6

Once dry it could still be glossy in places, I actually prefer my zombies to have this somewhat slimy and sticky look to their skin. Now you can proceed to painting everything else, like clothes, eyes and teeth. Save the blood for last. I paint bones with Vallejo Bonewhite and the eyes with Vallejo Dead White.

The end result is just down below. As mentioned this method is rather fast. And you don't need to be an expert painter to pull this off since you could be a bit "sloppy" between the layers of skin and the washes will still fix that most of the time. Just make sure you have sufficient contrast between the layers to make the zombies really stand out in a gory way.


  1. Nice Tutorial. Would be cool if you could post this over at our Zombie Forums


  2. Brummie, if you want - you can copy/paste this entire tutorial on your forum as long as you add a link back to this blog. I can't seem to enter the forum without registering and I'm already registered on so many forums that checking them all daily is quite a chore.

  3. Great tutorial mate, I'll be sure to use it for my Incursion Zeds!

  4. I saw that a new body of the deceased suffering from color and swelling that sets before it actually starts to rot. So I wanted to look discolored bruises on my zombies as well.


  5. Posted a link to your tutorial at my blog here:

  6. Thanks Paul! Very kind of you :-)

  7. Great tutorial. I've Just picked up some Tharkka Green to add some new tones to me zombie flesh, thank you.

  8. Your stuff always looks so professional, and yet you produce in high volume too. Thanks for the tutorial!


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