Painting light effects: Object Source Lighting (OSL) - Miniature painting guidePainting light effects: Object Source Lighting (OSL) - Miniature painting guide for OSL painting

Article updated: 2020.11.09

OSL painting guide: This is a quick tutorial on how to paint OSL, that is creating light effects from object source lighting (OSL). OSL painting can be achieved by drybrushing, glazing or using an airbrush.

When light shines on an area, if that light is stronger than the surrounding light, the colour area will become lighter, and unless the light is white, it will also change colour. This is how you paint the glow effect on miniatures.

There are a couple of different ways to achieve the object source lighting (osl) effect, I try to explain them in the article.

Contents

How to paint OSL on miniatures

How to paint OSL on miniatures with drybrushing

How to paint OSL on miniatures with glazing

How to paint OSL on miniatures with an airbrush

Frequently asked questions about object source lighting

Resources - Painting light sources: Object source lighting

How to paint OSL on miniatures

Before you start painting light source effects, finish painting every other part of your miniature.

If you use dark wash to create shadows on the miniature, do it before adding light effects. If you apply wash by brush, avoid the parts that will get lights, because the dark colours in the recesses could create too much contrast.

If instead of a dark wash, you use pigmented varnishing as a last step to protect your miniature and create shadows (referred to as Magic Dipping), you'll need another coat of varnish to protect your light effects.

When you are finished with these, you can add the object source lighting effect by either airbrushing, drybrushing or glazing.

Personally I find drybrushing the easiest way, as you have a lot more control, and the draw of your brush dictates the lights without any planning. If you are good in airbrushing, the next easiest way to make OSL painting is to use an airbrush. Glazing is for me the last, because you need to have a plan before you start painting.

The glowing effect will look more natural with airbrushing, but it will take some practice to do it right.

How to paint OSL on miniatures with drybrushing

When you add OSL effect on the miniature by drybrushing, you add a successive layer of lighter colours with lighter touches of the brush, applied by pulling your brush away from the source of the light.

The illustrate the OSL process I used the Battlezones terrain from Mantic Games.

I have to admit that chosing this piece for the photos may not be ideal, as it shows a light source that is fantasy technology. The idea came from Ralph McQuarry's concept art for the original Star Wars. He came up with the idea that in that universe they are able to bend light, so they could use light sources built into the panels of the wall that will still shine light to the sides.

If the unreal nature of these light-panels bother you, try to imagine that it's not a flat area but one that protrudes from the panel.

Step #1: Paint the colour of the light

Painting light sources - Step 1: Paint the colour of the lightPainting light sources - Step #1: Paint the colour of the light

You have to decide what will be the basic colour of your OSL lighting. I've chosen a greenish yellow.

To make the lights look right, you might need to paint the source of light with a white basecoat. Then paint the whole area of your lights with your chosen colour.

Step #2: Add a lighter colour in the middle of the light

Painting light sources - Step 2: Add a lighter colour in the middle of the lightPainting light sources - Step #2: Add a lighter colour in the middle of the light

Make the central parts of your light a bit lighter.

If you basic light is not a uniform colour, you can also use glaze, so the original paintjob will show up.

Step #3: Add glow colour around the light

Painting light sources - Step 3: Add glow colour around the lightPainting light sources - Step #3: Add glow colour around the light

Lightly drybrush the edges around the light-source with the basic colour of your OSL light. Draw the brush from the middle of the light outward. If you are not satisfied, you can brush it in a circular way around the light source.

Instead of drybrushing you can also use carefully painted glaze.

You can take this step with Step 1 if you wish.

Step #4: Add a lighter glow colour

Painting light sources - Step 4: Add a lighter glow colourPainting light sources - Step #4: Add a lighter glow colour

You can use a bit more heavy drybrushing with your lighter colour. The farther you get from the center of the light, the lighter you should drybrush. Don't draw your brush as far outward as you did with Step 3.

Instead of drybrushing you can also use carefully painted glaze.

You can take this step with Step 2 if you wish.

Step #5: Add the brightest colour to the light and glow

Painting light sources - Step 5: Add white to the light and glowPainting light sources - Step #5: Add white to the light and glow

Add the brightest colour (for lamps it's usually white) to the center of the light source.

Last step is a heavy drybrush near the light. The farther you get from the center of the light, the lighter you should drybrush.

Instead of painting and drybrushing white you can also use carefully painted glaze.

Step #6: Add shadows

If you are not satisfied with your lights, if it doesn't really feels right, try to add shadows, add darker glaze or wash to adjacent areas to make the light really light up the miniature.

Painting light sources in reverse order

Some prefer to do it in reverse - they paint everything with the brightest colour (usually white) in the beginning, drybrush the adjacent areas, and then add coloured glazes in the areas that gets light. If you are finished with glazing, add the brightest colour again to the center of the light source if it got covered.

How to paint OSL on miniatures with glazing

When you add OSL effect on the miniature by glazing, starting with a layer of the brightest colour, you add a successive layers of darker colours. When you use glazing, you need to be more careful than applying a drybrush, and you'll probably need photos references (or OSL painting tutorials) to know where to apply those glazes.

Step #1: Paint the brightest colour of the light

Basecoat the source of light with white. Then choose a glaze with the brightest colour of light, a paint it on the source of the OSL effect.

Step #2: Add a darker colour around the lighted area

Add some darker paint to the brightest colour glaze, and paint it around the light source area. Repeat this process until you reach the darkest colour you'd like to use.

Step #3: Add highligts with lighter colours

By this time of OSL painting you might have achieved a perfect light effect. If you still feel that you miss something, you might need to appy highlights to get the right contrasts. To do this, choose lighter colours than the darkest glaze you have used to highlight some areas. If you are still not satisfied, choose a lighter colour, until you reach the brightest colour.

I don't recommend to choose the brightest colour for the first layer of highlights, because then you won't have any more colours to use to add to the effect.

Step #4: Add shadows

You only need to add shadows, if you are not satisfied with your work. If you feel that the contrasts are not right, just add a darker glaze to the adjacent areas, to make the lights more visible.

How to paint OSL on miniatures with an airbrush

If you decide to add OSL effect on the miniature with an airbrush, you add successive layers of lighter colours, by spraying away from the source of the light.

Step #1: Paint the colour of the light

Before you start, painting the source of light with a white basecoat is probably a good idea. Then paint the colour of light you have chosen.

Step #2: Add a lighter colour in the middle of the light

Spray the middle of the light source with a lighter colour.

Step #3: Add lighter glow colour around the light

Put the nozzle close to the light souce, and lightly spray the areas close to it with diluted paint. You can achieve a better OSL effect by giving it several light shots.

You can repeat this step multiple times with using a brighter colour, and spraying more and more closer to the light source.

Step #4: Add the brightest colour to the light and glow

The brightest colour is usually white, but depending on your chosen light source, it might be something else.

Put the nozzle close to the light souce, and lightly spray the areas close to it with diluted brightest paint. It's better to give it several light shot. Unless you are skilled enough, for this step I'd recommend drybrushing, because you have more control over the brush, and as this is the last step, you won't have another chance to repair it easily if you make mistakes.

Step #5: Add shadows

If you are still not satisfied with your OSL painting, you can add washes or glazes to the adjacent areas to add more contrast to your lights.

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Frequently asked questions about object source lighting

What is OSL painting? / What is OSL in painting?

OSL stands for Object Source Lighting, a technique when you paint light effects on the model, where the light comes from sources that are on the model itself - for example, lamps, torches, high-tech power sources, or glowing magical weapons.

How do you paint an object source lighting?

You can paint an object source lighting with the methods mentioned above. For painting OSL, you apply the paint by drybrushing, glazing, or you can use an airbrush to create the OSL effect.

How do you paint a glow effect? / How do you paint glow on miniatures? / How do you paint something to make it look like it's glowing? / How do you paint glowing eyes?

When you paint a glow effect on miniatures, the glowing area will be the source of light. Then you apply the osl painting techniques in the tutorial.

Can you create a osl effect without airbrush?

Yes, you can achieve the glow effect by using drybrushing or glazing, although it looks better with an airbrush.

How difficult is OSL painting?

It depends on your skills and preferences. Painting OSL by drybrushing (as explained in the tutorial) can be achieved by anyone. Using glazing and airbrush requires a bit more practice.

How can I paint OSL effect on my minis faster?

If you only use a minimal amount of colours (1 or 2), you can very quickly paint an object-source lighting effect on your model with an airbrush. With drybrushing, painting the OSL effect takes slightly more time, but that can be still fast enough if you don't use too many hues of light.

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Resources - Painting light sources: Object source lighting

Tutorial articles: OSL painting

althai (for Hand Cannon Online): Tutorial: Advanced – Object-Source Lighting: Tutorial article. (2019.01: The website is offline.)

the article on Archive.org without images

kbanas: Object Source Lighting Modeling Help: Tutorial article.

Roman aka jar (for Massive Voodoo): Tutorial - Object Source Lightning: Tutorial article about OSL painting.

James Brown (for Flames of War): Shine a Light: An Introduction to Object Source Lighting: Tutorial article.

Anthony Adamo (for The League of Underwhelming Miniature Painters): Tutorial: Quick and Dirty Brush Tricks for Object Source Lighting (OSL): Tutorial article.

Ron Saikowski (from From the Warp): Hobby Focus: Object Source lighting pitfalls: Tutorial article.

Ron Saikowski (from From the Warp): Painting a glowing powerfist, Part 1: Tutorial article, step-by-step.

Ron Saikowski (from From the Warp): Painting a glowing powerfist, Part 2: Tutorial article, step-by-step.

Ron Saikowski (from From the Warp): Painting a glowing powerfist, Part 3: Tutorial article, step-by-step.

The Painting Shop: I show you how to paint 40k plasma gun glow effect: Tutorial article, step-by-step.

Thor (for Creative Twilight): Painting a Glow Effect/OSL on Miniatures Is Surprisingly Easy!: Tutorial article about painting OSL.

Tutorial articles: OSL painting by glazing

Tangible Day: How-To Paint a 3D Printed Miniature with OSL: Tutorial article about how to paint OSL. A very useful step-by-step guide to paint the whole miniature, and add OSL with applying glazes.

Tutorial videos: OSL painting

Colour of the Gods: Painting Tutorial - OSL (Object Source Lighting): Painting tutorial video, using brush.

EonsOfBattle: How to Create a Glowing Plasma Effect: Painting tutorial video, using brush.

ralf137: Warhammer 40K Advanced Techniques part 16- Glowing Eyes: Painting tutorial video, using brush.

GhostxHeart (from linkinhearts666): How to Paint: Object Source Lighting (OSL) | Warmachine: Cryx Slayer Helljack: Painting tutorial video, using brush. Miniature: Warmachine - Cryx Slayer Helljack

Game Face Nation: Studio Workshop - How to: Paint Simple OSL: Painting tutorial video, using brush. Miniature: Games Workshop - Warhammer 40.000 - Chaos Space Marine (2020.04.20: The video is offline.)

Tutorial videos: OSL painting with airbrush

ichibanpainting: How to paint OSL *glowing effect*: Painting tutorial video, using airbrush.

Showcase articles

James Wappel (from James Wappel Miniature Painting): You might even say it glows... Object Source Lighting: Showcase article.§

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Do you have further ideas about painting light sources for miniatures? Do you have your own methods for OSL painting? Do you have any questions about them? Tell us in the comments!

 

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