Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)

Non-metallic metal (NMM) painting is the technique of using regular paint (without metallic content) to give the illusion of a metallic, reflective surface. In general, NMM requires high contrast painted with smooth transitions from light-to-dark. There are many technique you can use to blend color in the NMM style of painting miniatures. You can wet-blend, layer and glaze, or use the loaded brush technique. Keep reading below to see how you can quickly paint NMM on a miniature sword using the loaded-brush approach for blending acrylic paint.

In this article, I show you how I use the loaded brush blending technique to paint a NMM sword.

Vertical feature image - NMM blending with loaded brush and painting swords with non-metallic metal approaches

Things you’ll learn:

  • Understand how to create reflective surface using a high contrast painting style
  • Use an advanced painting technique, i.e., loaded brush blending, to create the NMM miniature painting effect
  • How to blend color quickly without an airbrush

Loaded Brush Blending for NMM

I felt it best to make a video of how I paint miniature swords using NMM. There are a number of other sites with great tutorials. I tend to borrow a number of techniques and mix them all together whenever I feel it fits the need.

Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)

In this case, however, I have found that the loaded brush blending approach is the quickest for small surfaces that are flat.

loaded brush blending gif animation showing the feathering of highlights on to the base coat layer

With video it is easier to visualize the actual application of paint. Check out the video here (about 7 minute runtime):

Loaded brush blending involves the use of two paint colors “loaded” into a single brush.


The key factors you should keep in mind when practicing this technique are as follows:

  • Use a kolinsky sable brush (see article about these brushes here)
  • A hair dryer can speed up the process of each paint application (see here for why and what I use).
  • Start with small, flat surfaces, like swords or other blades.
  • A smooth base coat layer is very important for the loaded brush blending process.
  • It is easier to load a darker color first, then use a highlight color on the brush tip
  • For non-metallic metal (NMM), contrast is more important than color.
  • Use a “kick” color as a glaze in the final step to “tie” the blended transitions even further into a smooth-looking surface
  • Practice, practice, practice!
Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)

How to Paint Non-Metallic Metal in 5 Traditional Steps

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary materials:

  • A miniature figure with an unpainted sword.
  • Acrylic paints in the colors you’ll need (usually black, white, and a mid-tone gray or blue-gray).
  • Fine detail brushes.
  • A palette for mixing colors.
  • Water and paper towels for cleaning brushes.
  • A well-lit workspace with good ventilation.
How to paint NMM swords - vallejo starter paint kit for non metallic metal painting with acrylics
Unsure of what paints to use? Start with a paint set with recommended paint colors already laid out for you. I learned the NMM technique using this Vallejo painting starter kit.

Step 2: Base Coat

Start by applying a base coat of black paint to the entire sword. This will serve as the foundation for the NMM effect. Ensure that the paint is smooth and covers the surface evenly. Let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.

mixing paints on a wet palette acrylic and brush loading
Load your brush with paint. But not too much!
base coating a sword on a model RPG barbarian primed black
Smooth, thin layers are what you’re aiming for. Make sure to let each paint layer dry before painting over it.

Step 3: Define the Highlights and Shadows

Now, you’ll create the illusion of reflective surfaces. Using your mid-tone gray or blue-gray paint, start by painting a broad diagonal line along one side of the sword blade. This will represent the area where light hits the metal.

Highlighting the reflections of light on a power sword on a warhammer 40k model
A shiny dark metallic sword collects light in specific areas. High contrast to denote high reflective properties. Paint your highlights first over the darker basecoat to guide you where you should refine your painting.

Next, mix a lighter shade of gray by adding some white to your mid-tone color. Carefully paint a thinner line along the upper edge of the diagonal line you just created. This is your first highlight. On the opposite side of the blade, paint a thin line using a darker shade by mixing black with your mid-tone color. This is your first shadow.

refining highlights on a sword close up photo blue and white hues
As you blend the highlights with the shadows, you’ll see some areas that need touch up. Don’t worry about doing this all in a single step. Blending takes time. If you’re using the loaded brush blending technique (see video above), this may take less time. For those looking for a traditional approach, layering and glazing may be easier to learn.

Step 4: Refine the Highlights and Shadows

Continue to refine the highlights and shadows. Add more layers of lighter gray to the highlighted side, gradually making them thinner and closer to the edge of the blade. On the shadowed side, deepen the shadows with additional layers of the darker gray.

Remember to blend the transitions between the colors smoothly. Use thin, controlled brushstrokes for this step. The goal is to create a gradual transition from light to dark.

NMM metal painting in red and orange colored paint on a Necron 40k Warhammer model
A rough and sketchy style still works and looks great!

Step 5: Final Details and Reflections

To add realism to your NMM sword, you can now paint small highlights and reflections. Use pure white paint to add tiny dots or lines along the edge of the blade, where the light would catch.

How to paint NMM power swords and effects - close up of a finished broadsword with various colors and tones
For added interest, play with colored glazes. Use premade washes or inks thinned with a bit of water to add translucent layers of color, if you like.

You can also paint a thin white line running along the very edge to simulate a bright highlight. For reflections, use white paint sparingly to create small, irregular shapes on the blade. These should mimic the surrounding environment, such as glints of light or reflections of nearby objects.

Power sword close up painted with the non-metallic NMM metal technique with dark black blue to white blended paint
There you have it! A sword painted with the NMM style and technique.

Miniatures Painted with the Loaded Brush Technique (Examples)

I paint a lot of miniatures with swords and other semi-reflective surfaces (a completely reflective surface). Here are a few of my favorites in various states of completion.

Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)
I blended the armor with a loaded brush
Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)
The daggers and the cloak used a mix of loaded brush blending and glazing
Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)
The entire sword used the technique I show in the video
Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)
The headpiece….blended using a size #2 kolinsky sable
Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) Sword (Blending with the Loaded Brush Technique)
The horns used a size #2 Raphael 8404 brush loaded with the dark and light colors

Final Word

The loaded brush blending technique is a fun, fast, and fairly straight-forward approach. The reason I would recommend painters learn how to use it regularly is because loaded brush application of paint is versatile. It can become the foundation for producing high-contrast quickly, which you can then use for other neat effects.

If you found this article helpful, let us know! Have a question or feedback, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Happy painting!!!

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