Painting Non-Metallic Metal Tutorial by Team Toulouse

This is one of the clearest tutorials for painting non-metallic metals I have found online. Visit the site (link above) for other great tutorials.

There are two main techniques for painting metal effects:

TMP (True Metal Painting) involves using paints made from metallic pigments (fine metal dust) bound by an acrylic medium. This technique enables a realistic finish, as the metallic parts “shine” and reflect the light as metal would.

NMM (Non Metallic Metal) involves painting the surface in a trompe-l’oeil fashion with classic matt paints to give the illusion of a metallic surface. To do this, any ordinary acrylic paints will do.

One technique is not better than the other, they are very different and the choice of the best way to achieve the most appropriate effect is purely personal.

TMP gives the most realistic finish, there are pre-mixed colours for most metals (dark or light grey metals, bronze, copper, gold…) and it is easier to achieve a good result than with NMM. At an advanced level, the techniques are similar to those used for NMM, and the result is breathtaking.

NMM produces a rather more graphic result. It requires more imagination to find the correct colours to render the correct metal effect, but it is also easier to produce the rarer colours of metal (a red armour for a vampire, a blue magical sword, a dark black obsidian-like axe blade…) or to achieve more subtle grades of metal (blue or green tinted steel…)

It is harder to master for beginners and requires some training to achieve a good result. It is also harder to use on larger surfaces.
Some painters are more comfortable with one or the other of the two techniques or with the results they produce, it’s up to you to choose, both of them alow you to acheive great results when they are well used.

Basic principles.

Both techniques have the same aim: to give the illusion that the painted surface is made of metal. To do so, the most important thing to consider is the way the light hits and is reflected off the surface.

We can achieve a matt or gloss rendering depending on how the highlights and shading is applied.
For a metallic surface, the gradient is quite tight, quickly reaching a bright light colour to give the illusion of light reflecting off the surface (there are of course many types of metals, including matt, brushed or polished finishes, here we will try to be as general as possible.)


TMP – ‘True’ Metallic Painting

The easiest way to paint a metal finish is to brush a black base coat (see drybrushing in the previous article) with a dark metallic paint, then apply a lighter brushing of a lighter metallic colour. This is a very quick method, but it tends to enhance the defects of the figure (grain, casting lines…). If you use this technique, make sure you paint the metal parts first, as the dry brushing will tend to be rather messy and get paint on the other parts.

The blade has a black undercoat, drybrushed with GW boltgun metal, then lightly highlighted with GW mithril silver.

For a rather more subtle finish, forget the drybrushing, and paint your metal by fading from a dark metal colour to the lightest metal colour using the usual gradient techniques. While doing this, be careful not to dilute your paint too much, as the metallic pigments may separate and you will end up painting with water with the odd speck of metal. For a perfect result, don’t forget to position your highlights in keeping with the light sources and the shape of the element you are painting.

After giving the blade a black undercoat, diluted boltgun metal colour is applied in several coats until the surface is nice and smooth. The upper part of the blade is simply highlighted with mithril silver.

Once you’re more at ease with metal painting techniques, you can try out some more complicated things. Start your metal painting as previously mentioned. Once your highlights are done, add a final highlight, much lighter than the previous ones, where the light really glints off the object. For this, you can use paint from the Enamel (dilute this with turpentine) or the PA Air ranges.

To add more contrast, you can use diluted black paint for the shading of your metals, working up to almost pure black in the darkest areas. And finally, you can paint certain areas with matt paint to give an oxydated effect (browns, reds, verdigris, etc.) with well-dosed washes and glazes.

NMM – Non Metallic Painting

This method is the same regardless of the colour used, the illusion of metal is achieved simply by the way you paint the surface and work the gradient. One of the main difficulties is finding the closest colour reference(s) to the metal effect that you want to obtain (gold, silver, bronze, etc.)

The result of the quickest method of NMM is really not that great. You can achieve this by painting a neutral grey base and highlighting the protruding parts of the object with light grey or white.

For this thief’s knife, a uniform base coat of PA dark grey has been painted on, and a simple line of white has been added to highlight the edges.

With a little more work, you can start achieving a better illusion of metal. Apply the usual gradient methods to lighten your base colour according to the lighting, then add a dot or a line of white, where the metal would be shining.

As in the previous example, a smooth coat of PA dark grey is the base of this NMM. The top of the blade, which should be highlighted, is painted with a coat of PA dark grey mixed with sky grey.

The lighter top part of the blade is painted with a gradient working towards the sky grey where the light is sharper.
For the final, a few white highlights are added to the tip and the teeth of the knife.

For a realy satisfying result, you will really have to spend more time painting your metal. You really need to fully understand the way that light hits ojectes to acheive a truly life-like NMM.

The lower part of the blade that is in the shade is painted with a mixture of black and dark grey along the boundary with the lighter area (especially towards the tip of the knife). The lowest part of the blade is slightly highlighted (dark grey + a spot of sky grey).
The white spot at the tip of the blade is enhanced and enlarged. The white highlights on the teeth are also reinforced to give the blade more glint.

 NMM – Example with different Colours

Here is an example of NMM painted with different colours.


The base coat applied is scorched brown, mixed with a hint of dark blue


The base coat is highlighted with a mixture of scorched brown, dark blue and snakebite leather (be careful, the shaded parts remain painted with scorched brown)


The highlighting is enhanced following the light source with a mixture of snakebite leather and PA Japanese uniform.


Where the light reflects the most, the highlights are pushed towards pure white. Finally the oxidation is applied to the dents with GW scaly green and a few washes of PA verdigris in places


Dealing with metals may seem complicated, but as for many other things, it’s really all about practice. Once you have assimilated (resistance IS futile) the general principles, you will find it easier to get things looking the way you intended them to using one or other of these metal painting techniques.
Don’t start off with really complicated minis (large blades, complicated armour) or you will risk getting put off from improving your work. Chose smaller, simpler surfaces, and as you begin to feel more confident, move on to more difficult things.

Manuel Manumilitari Sanchez
Team Toulouse Creation

Scratch it up! – by MiniDragon, Bushido Website

Finally, here’s a little tutorial on making amazingly simple but effective scratches or gouges.

  • Start out by marring your lovingly painted mini with a few thin black lines.
  • Next, carefully paint a thin white line below the black one.
  • Finally, use the base color to clean up any mess and thin the lines a little.  Your lines have got to be very thin for this to work and look good!!!


If you are doing scratches on a base color other than grey, use appropriate colors… on green, you might use dark blue and the base green mixed with white, for example.

Using NMM techniques for metallic paint – by Automaton, CoolMiniOrNot


Really useful article on the difference between the two techniques and how to adapt one to the other.

(Download PDF backup)

TMM (True Metallic Metallics) vs NMM (Non Metallic Metallics)  – Kelly at Sable & Spray


Another great article on the subject that contrasts the two techniques