Zenithal Priming- Why You Should Be Doing It

40k, age of sigmar, ak interactive, army painter, games workshop, greater toronto, gta, miniature gaming, miniature painting, miniatures, painting, tabletop gaming, toronto, Wandering Adventures, Warhammer, woodbridge -

Zenithal Priming- Why You Should Be Doing It

A lot of customers ask me "Mike, do you zenithal prime? and my answer, these days, is always a resounding yes! Today we will dive in a bit and explore zenithal priming, why it's useful, and why you should do it even if you don't want to necessarily use the effect.


Zenithal priming is a painting technique used in miniature or model painting, particularly in the context of tabletop gaming miniatures. The term "zenithal" refers to the highest point in the sky, directly above an observer. Zenithal priming involves applying primer to a miniature from a specific angle to create natural-looking shadows and highlights.

Typically, you use black, grey, then white to create values or gradients using mostly primers. This helps accomplish a couple of things. First, you get to actually prime your mini, which is almost always necessary. Secondly, you are creating a natural value or grade of shadows to highlight, that you can use when you eventually apply paint to the miniature.

How to Zenithal Prime

This is an image from The Army Painter, where they side by side a miniature primed all in black, and then beside it a nice coat of white that accentuates all the details and gives you natural highlights.

Check out their Blog Post: https://thearmypainter.com/blogs/explore/zenithal-priming


They do in fact skip the part of adding grey, but I like to add that part in. The grey will help with your mid-tone colors, where the white will really make certain areas pop. If you simply type in: Zenithal Priming into Google, take a look at all of the images around to get an idea of what your mini should look like.

To zenithal prime. you want to apply a solid layer of black all around the model. Then you want to take your grey primer, and have the models head face you. Apply the grey. This will put a nice grey coat all over the model, but still leave the undersides black. Lastly, I like to take my white, and do the same as grey, but put more emphasis on points of interest on the model. This includes (but not limited to): head, chest, weapons, knees. I like to add in the grey and use less white more specifically when I am doing approach #2 below.

This is a nice example of black, white and grey really making distinct sections in the model so when you apply contrast or paint by layer you have different gradients to work with.


How to use zenithal prime:

So you've created this black-to-white value on your miniature, now how do you use it?
I like to use two different approaches to this, one is a bit more difficult than the other.

Approach 1: Contrast- Contrast paints (and their friends like Vallejo XPress or Army Paint Speed Paint) are semi-translucent paints that are meant to color your miniature in one coat. You apply the paint once, and it should dark in the recesses, and lighten in the higher spots. Now if you can image combined with zenithal highlights it will really push this effect. You can see the effect on the image below. This is one coat of contrast paint over a zenithal prime, and the green basically looks complete and doesn't need any other applications. It looks amazing for tabletop. The recesses stayed dark, the highlights went lighter, all in one simple coat.

Approach 2: Using the gradient- This technique is more difficult, and I would suggest using the first approach before you try this. However, it is basically using the zenithal coat to tell you where to apply paint. Basically, you want to take your base/shadow color, and apply it in the black areas of the primer. Then you want to take your highlight color, and apply it in the whitest/ highest parts of the model. Then you want to take your mid-tone/ layer and apply it where the two above colors meet. It takes a measure of blending and constant layering, but gives a beautiful natural effect when done properly. The nice part about having the zenithal down and then doing this is that the primer is essentially telling you where to put the paint, because sometimes the hardest part about painting is deciding where to put the colors and make it look natural.




That's it for today everyone, hope that helped show you why zenithal priming is a great start to painting your mini. Even if you decide to not use the values you've created, at least it will give you some basis as to where colors should be applied.

Check out Events, we have been hosting a monthly paint day where you can learn more about how to zenithal and use it to your advantage while painting.


Wandering Adventures
7766 Martin Grove Road, Unit 5
Woodbridge, Ont



Free Shipping Available See Shipping Policy
Easy Returns See Return Policy
Secure Checkout Secure Payment