Painting Zombicide in a black and white theme
I have a lot of ‘side’ projects. I play board games with my wife, and one of her favorites is Zombicide. Of course I bought it hoping she would learn how to paint, like some kind of gateway drug to the rest of the hobby, but that never happened. We only own the first ‘season’ and an extra zombie expansion pack, so far.
I had started painting up the zombies using a lot of washes over a basic zenithal highlight, and they look alright. I used all kinds of different skin-tones and tried mixing up the colors of clothing. The problem here is that this takes a really long time. I could do the whole set like that, but they’re a back burner project for sure.
Black and white zombie test models
A little while ago I saw some pics on Twitter, posted by @amysnuggs7 (she told me they were painted by @dezartfox). They were Citadel zombies, drybrushed in a black and white theme with splashes of blood on them, and she was using them in an AoS-based board game that looked homebrew. At any rate, the zombies looked cool and sort of stuck with me.
I asked my wife what she thought of it and to my surprise she liked it. She did want them to be less “ashy” though, so I had to interpret what that meant a little. We decided the black and white look was both evocative of classic zombie movies, and also certain comic books with a heavy contrast. The pops of red would modernize it a bit, but you still have the effect of anonymous hordes of zombies, in a semi-abstracted form.
I decided to test a few models with stark zenithal highlights and a quick wash of thinned Nuln Oil to bring some of the surface detail back out. After checking with the wife, I got the go ahead to do up some more. I grabbed the gas-mask and settled in for a long airbrushing session.
Stage 1 – black primer
The key here is not to worry too much. I sprayed an entire tray (minus the 3 test ones), so basically half the full set of zombies. I wasn’t being very careful here, the key being to make sure the under surfaces (or nadir, if you like fancy talk) and nooks and crannies had a good, strong black. The upper layers were going to get hit with two zenithal highlights. This stage took the longest, as there was more black to cover than gray or white. They don’t look too impressive yet.
Stage 2 – gray zenithal highlight
What’s a zenithal highlight? It’s just a fancy airbrush term for spraying a lighter color from overhead. The zenith of an object is the part that sticks up the highest (while a nadir is the lowest), and as the name suggests you simply keep the airbrush angled and establish where the zenith is, letting the color hit all the surfaces that are facing that direction.
I used a gray primer for a gray zenithal highlight through the airbrush. The way I did this middle stage was to give the angle a little more play to get more color on. I moved the model around a bit, hitting it once from each direction. I did try to move the heaviest focus around on each model, so some will be brighter from the front, back, or one of the sides. It just adds a little variety.
Zenithal highlighting can look very computerized and a bit boring, so I was deliberately letting some of the variations come through, and also letting the airbrush spit and speckle a bit here and there before I cleaned the tip.
Allowing some randomized elements in just make it look a bit messier and can almost add a film-grain sort of effect, which is exactly what I was going for here. At this stage, they were mostly good to go, but I wanted to take it one step further with pure white.
Stage 3 – white zenithal highlight
At this point I kept the model in one place and just gave it a light spray from overhead, without moving it around much. That meant less surface area was getting the highlight to ensure at least some of the gray would still be showing. The models basically looked like the test up top, so I didn’t bother taking a picture.
Stage 4 – thin black wash
I love washes. The gentle gradations they can achieve with ease, and the ability to pull together both ends of a color or tonal range, just make something feel much more polished. In the case of these zombies, I thinned Nuln Oil down about 50/50 with water, and just used a fat brush to slather it all around. It took some of the chalky harshness out of the white, while deepening some shadows around small detail areas like pockets, folds in the cloth, hair, etc. At this point the entire box looked like the three test models I did, more or less. I think this would be a fine place to stop if you’re going with just a basic black and white theme, and the hint of warmth from the Nuln Oil makes the shade feel very comfortable. I considered doing a more sepia tone, either with Agrax Earthshade or Seraphim Sepia, but ultimately opted not to for these.
Stage 5 – Blood splatter
This was the really fun bit where all that was about to pay off. I went through with a smaller brush and added streaks, smears and pools of the technical paint Blood for the Blood God to all the models. This is a semi-transparent, very glossy deep red. Of course it’s made to simulate fresh blood, exactly as I was doing here.
I tried to strike a balance between being too little to notice and being way over the top, and added more or less to various models as well. On some, I added blood around the mouth and hands to show a zombie that had recently fed, and on others I focused more on wounds. I added some around the shoes on a few to show where they might have walked through some gore, and on others I made sure to bloody up the knees, as though they were stooped over a body, kneeling in blood.
I’m very pleased with how these turned out, and it’s worth mentioning I was able to do all this in a matter of hours. I should be able to finish the set and the expansion with minimal effort, and then I can spend more time on the survivors, painting them in a more traditonal manner and adding lots of character to them.
We decided to do the big baddie, called an Abomination, in black and white as well, but I’m thinking the glass shards sticking out of him will get a little special treatment with brush-painted reflective surfaces a la NMM techniques, and maybe a gloss coat so they’re actually shiny.
I still have to paint the bases. I’m thinking just a straight black, maybe with colored rims to help differentiate the different types of zombies. There are walkers, runners and fatties in the mix. More when you start buying expansions…
Here are a couple more shots of individual models for you. Click or tap to zoom way in.