Many people recommend undercoating with black if you are painting figures with lots of armour. I don't. I have tired it and I do not like the effect.
If you use spray paint to undercoat it has a tendency to give a deeper covering over highlights and miss out some of the lowlights. With armour you need the opposite: dark in the groves and lighter on the high points. You could get around this by brushing on the undercoat but that does not seal the figure as well and it takes a lot more time.
Furthermore, if you undercoat with black, the non-armoured parts of the figure will also be black. This gives a much duller colour than with a white undercoat where the highlights are naturally lighter and the lowlights darker.
Therefore I stick to a white undercoat even for fully armoured knights. I used to simply paint the armour with a silver colour and then apply a black wash at the end. Now, however, I find you get a much better effect if you first apply the black wash then dry brush with dark metal (gun metal or something similar) and finally dry brush again with silver to bring out the highlights.
I apply Coat d'Arms 154 Ink Wash Black over the armour and blades.
I do this before painting anything else in the one main departure from my usual method of painting from the inside out.
The reason for this is that some of the black wash will inevitably spill over onto other areas and will need touching up with white before painting the other colours.
These 15mm figures have a Raw Umber wash over the white undercoat to pick out the detail (see Secret Ingredient). I do not bother to do this with larger scale figures.
The next step is to dry brush the armour with a dark metal. I like Games Workshop or Coat d'Arms Bolt Gun Metal. They are dark enough but still have a nice shine.
Don't worry if either the black wash or the dry brushing strays onto other parts of the figure.
This can easily be touched up with white before moving on to other colours.
After touching up spilt over areas with white, I paint the rest of the colours in the same way as described at Main Colours.
Here you can see I have also added some touches of gold to the armour as this unit will be a Viking King's retinue. I wash the figures with Raw Umber at the end of this stage, not worrying too much if the wash spills onto the armour as it can look like a little rust gathering between the rings or plates.
Once Raw Umber wash is thoroughly dry I often apply another light dry-brushing of silver to pick out a few highlights on the armour and on the edges of weapons.
Black armour became increasingly common in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Black can be a tricky colour to get right as pure black will give no definition. Black armour looks very impressive when done well and it took me quite a bit of experimenting when painting Wars of the Roses and Renaissance knights to find a way of getting it just right.
The trick is to first paint the armour with a metallic blue. I use an old Citadel Polished Blue, which is now produced by Coat d’arms as Enchanted Blue. This paint has a nice silvery sheen to it and is an excellent undercoat for black armour. Adding a dash of it to silver also gives a beautifully bright finish to sword blades to produce a shining, polished metal.
These 17th century cuirassiers have metallic blue painted over their armour.
I then pick out some of the highlights with Bolt Gun metal and add some brass details. Before moving on from the armour I like to give it a final wash with Coat d'arms Black Super Shader. This has a nice glossy sheen to it and settles into any grooves that may have been missed or covered over.
Ink wash black over the metallic blue creates the effect of blackened armour with a silvery bluish gleam on the highlights.
Finally I touch up with white, any non-armour areas which have been spilt over on with black. Then I begin painting those areas from the inside out, starting with the faces.