By way of disclaimer, I am no way a painting expert, with Crystal Brush or Golden Demon awards to my name… In fact I’ve never won a painting award that wasn’t for an “army” or “team” (read: a group of models that was judged by player votes - long live the popularity contest!)
It’s also worth noting that there are a LOT of waay better painters than me. But what I’ve come to realise with painting is that you get out what you put in… Kinda obvious really, but what that means to the average miniature painter is that you need to decide what level you are happy with. What you want to aim for.
If you are happy with 3 colours, wash, drybrush, done… That is perfectly fine. That probably means you can get a lot more painted as well! Slay that pile of silver and grey!
I have found a balance between a final result I’m happy with for the time and effort that I’m willing to put in. effectively balancing quality and quantity. You’ve gotta actually get shit done some days.
Of COURSE you can spend extra time on some models, and batch paint others… but it’s all about the end result YOU will be happy with.
Enough of the pep talk, here’s how I get to MY end result.
Firstly, let’s talk about some basic equipment.
Do yourself a favour, buy a decent brush. People will swear by Windsor & Newton series 7, to be honest I’ve bought 1 to try, but at the price they sting you for them, am a little worried I’m gonna ruin it.
By decent brush, I mean something from an art supply shop, probably sable, something with a nice tip (make sure that sucker comes to a really fine point) and something with enough bristles that it can hold paint. Forget about those tiny size 000 brushes… If your brush comes to a proper point, then that is all you need. The bristles hold paint, so bristles are not your enemy here.
My pick: Raphael 8404 Kolinsky Sable. Size 1.
About ½ the price of the W&N, and rock solid. This one has lasted me well over 18 months of pretty hard abuse, a couple of full armies, bunches of models for skirmish games (Guild Ball, Malifaux etc) and more.
There are many like it, but this one is mine
Brush soap & conditioner:
You’ve just spent cold hard coin on a good brush. Don’t ruin that sucker. Try some brush soap, you will be amazed at how much crap you get out of your supposedly “clean” brush. Apparently soap dries out natural hair (like sable) so one that conditions as well is always good… The same goes for the hair on your body. Pro tip.
My pick (well in this case, the one that I grabbed at the time): Faux Meister’s Brush soap & conditioner.
This keeps your paints from drying out. Basically you use some baking paper on a moist sponge as your palette. The moisture from the sponge slowly seeps through and keeps your paint thin, and slippery and ready for love. Moist.
My pick: Make one out of a sponge and some baking paper in a ferrero rocher box lid. It’s a good excuse to eat a box of ferrero rocher.
That age old question… which paints do you use?!?
I have some favourites, mainly across the vallejo game air range. To be honest, it was their metallics that hooked me in. So good. But there is nothing wrong with mixing and matching. I use a range of vallejo (game, game air, model, model air) Games Workshop (especially their foundations) P3 (they do really well with colours that are notoriously hard to paint, like yellow), Badger, Secret Weapon… Just try stuff out, find what you like.
My picks: Here are my weapons of choice...
Glue - we need it, I like Loctite Gel for superglue (metals) and revell contacta for plastic glue (that needle applicator!)
Pin vice - fuck that. 1mm drill bit in a cordless drill & some paperclips. Get a ½ mm drill bit for REALLY stupid contact points.
I dunno, some paper towel and basing stuff, putty, ooh - hobby knife… You can never have too many hobby supplies (unless you ask my wife).
Drilling by hand? What is this, the stone age?!
Onto the ACTUAL model.
So I decided to do this article after I’d decided that he needed painting, so what you see here is clearly already started. Let’s bring you up to speed with the story so far.
It’s some cork tile (local Bunnings should have it) torn up to give rocky jagged edges. It’s generally recommended pinning models to said cork, as it can rip under pressure.
Ex cork tile, for now it is rock!
Kraken was stuck together with aforementioned Loctite superglue… possibly even with pinning for that big old spear arm. Maybe…
Undercoating / Priming. Again, bunnings is my friend here, where rattle cans are plentiful and inexpensive. There’s a couple of products I like, but there’s generally 2 options. Grey - in which case I go for a “rust guard etch primer” - super smooth, great coverage and importantly paint sticks to it really well (which is why we are priming it in the first place).
What I’ve done here is a bit of a “zenithal primer” All that means is that I first sprayed it black with white knights “squirts” range of flat black spray paint, then, when that is dry, I hit it from above with white - in this case GW corax white spray.
The idea with zenithal priming is that you start to highlight & shade the model already. Theoretically colours that go over the white should end up brighter than the same colour that goes over the black. Also, it makes it super easy to make out detail, which can bit tricky with a monochrome model.
Anyhoo - The whole trick with it is LITTLE sprays. Short bursts. Don’t hold the nozzle down and cover it, and don’t get too close, if there is still some of the bare metal / plastic showing, that’s ok. Lots of thin coats is always better.
I should probably throw in something about well ventilated areas, and protective equipment here… but y’know, natural selection isn’t all bad...
Fast forward to today and we have an assembled, based, primed Kraken, raring to get paint slapped all over him.
So what to paint first?
So, you know how much of a pain in the dick it is to paint those areas that are inside gaps, where you have to dislocate your hand to get the brush in there, and then invariably get paint on some other part you didn’t want paint on?
Well, I’m too lazy to paint before assembly, so I feel that pain!
Solution: Paint “inside out”, start with the bottom layer, so in this case, the skin… the work outwards, effectively the outermost layer of clothes will be the last thing.
I do this to a point… Consistency is the refuge of a weak min… oh look, a squirrel!
Skin. That was the plan.
I’m starting with VGA Elf Skintone. It’s a good basis for skin, decent amount of colour, without being too pink, or anything. It’s kinda neutral.
So, we pour a bit onto our wet palette…
Now, dilution, that’s a thing. Again, I kinda cheat… If the paint is REALLY thick (like GW foundations) I’ll dilute it with water (regular, everyday tap water).
To be honest, the game air range is designed to go through an airbrush, so it’s already pretty thin.
In these instances (prepare to be grossed out) I kinda lick my brush, dip it into the paint, lick it again… through trial and error, I’ve kinda worked out the consistency I like… Spit makes a pretty good surface tension breaker.
Effectively you’re looking for a consistency that will “wick” up the bristles. The whole idea is that the bristles hold the paint.
So people seem to run into a new issue here… you apply diluted paint to model, and get like a “ring of paint around the outside of where you just dabbed it… basically the pigment runs to the furthermost edges. Long story short, there’s too much liquid in your bristles. Wipe that brush on some paper towel and try again.
You know when you dry brush something, how you wipe your brush until barely any paint is on it? You kinda wanna do that all the time. But because the paint is so diluted, it won’t actually be a dry brush…
An example… Undiluted paint, out of the pot vs diluted paint ready to be applied.
What I’m trying to do with this is “stain” the surface, if the paint is too thick, you get that “plasticky” looking finish. I want to try and avoid that. It probably won’t happen… But there’s a dream.
So coat 1 and we have a slightly stained Kraken…
A couple more coats of the same, and you start to build up a nice base coat. There is nothing wrong with layering on the same colour to increase intensity.
The added bonus with doing it this way, with really diluted paint, is that you can start to build up highlights, without having to be really neat about it.
I believe the technique is called “feathering”... Basically take your diluted paint & apply it to the place on the model that it should be the most concentrated. Generally it’s easier to start where the colour should be most intense and work outwards.
Once the paint is applied, wash out your brush (read: suck it a bit) and then try and (quickly) pull the paint from the edges of where it was applied further out. No need to be smooth / neat, it should be almost transparent here, and straight lines aren’t your friend (the eye is kinda drawn to them). Feather out the edges of your paint, until it starts to blend into the colour around it.
Other thing to note, diluted paint looks a lot brighter wet than it does when it dries… So don’t panic too much if it seems really obvious when you first apply it. It’ll all come together a bit once it’s dry.
So a few coats, building up some highlighted bits, feathering, stuff…
It’s still blocky, and early days… but you get the idea.
So let’s add some shade into this skin.
Once upon a time, that meant brown inks / devlan mud. Nowadays I kinda like trying to add some colour / interest into my shading.
Enter, my fav. 3 washes. Secret weapon amethyst (my go to for everything), algae, and drying blood.
They don’t act the same as GW washes, so aren’t as good for slapping over a whole area for super amounts of contrast, but are amazing for spot colour and shading… I tend to use these a whole lot shading any colour / texture / surface.
Side note, if you want to shade with a colour, Google “colour wheel” and pick the colour opposite the one you are shading… eg, using purple to shade yellow = works a treat!
Anyhoo - as mentioned, these still get diluted, and then applied to spot areas, still get feathered a bit, but it’s early days… so being a bit rough and ready can be forgiven, and more importantly, fixed later ;)
Paint me like one of your french women…
Did you see that Van Gough?
Another quick tip… actually one I learned from my father waaaay back in the day, painting model aeroplanes and shiz: When you THINK you’ve finished painting an area / colour / whatever - hold the model upside down and have a look.
Seems like I miss a spot every. Fucking. Time…
Also having other judgemental eyes scrutinising your every move helps… even if they are just hoping for Schmackos…
I do not care for your tiny men, I only care for treats
Ok, so we have got to a point where our model looks like he’s come off second best in a bar fight…
Next step is to try and make him look a little less beaten up. Basically we go back to our original skin colour (elf flesh) and tone down the shadows. To be honest a lot of my painting goes like this… a little bit too light *shade shade shade*... oops, a little bit too dark *highlight highlight*... This back and forth goes on until you’re happy enough with the result.
So after a bit more of the flesh colour, we are back here…
A bit more highlighting with pale flesh and we have some of that contrast back we are looking for.
Contrast is a thing… These little guys are tiny. To make them stand out you kinda have to bump up the contrast beyond what would seem “normal” or realistic… Darker darks, brighter brights. Like a good laundry powder ad.
Anyhoo - bit more pale flesh… That’s what we were doing:
Since most of the shading we have been doing has been “cold” colours… Kraken still seems a bit chilly. I want to bring a bit of warmth back into his skin… Maybe tone down the pink in the pale flesh a little as well.
With that in mind, a nice dark brown wash… In this case dark sepia. The whole idea is that I just want to tint everything a little. Take some of the edge off… So with that in mind I’m gonna dilute it pretty heavily… Like 2 parts water to 1 part wash. I’m also gonna apply it fairly liberally, since it’s sooo thin, this is pretty safe. Once dry it won’t really seem like we’ve used it. But it should take some of the harshness out of the colours.
Freshly applied you can see I’ve been pretty heavy handed with it.
Right. That’ll do for the skin… for now. I wanna come back and do some extra fun stuff later… but that’s a pretty good start.
Disappointingly they are a fact of life. The next “lowest” thing is the pants and his sleeve. For this, given Kraken is a fisherman, and I’m feeling somewhat unimaginative, I’m sticking with a standard blue theme here…
Step 1, the base coat. Ultramarine blue...
Again, couple of layers is always better than one thick one…
I’m blue da-ba-dee-ba-da
Now we go through the highlighting process, this time with electric blue, and the shading process, busting out my ol’ pal amethyst wash again...
All over you, electric blue
It’s right about now I’ve realised I forgot to paint his toes… sigh…
So I’ll fix the toes at some point… in the meantime, let’s just pretend no one ever noticed it…
Next step, let’s make a start on the leather and strapping and stuff.
Queue another favourite, Dark Fleshtone
This is a great colour as a base for lots of things… skin, leather, umm.. Leather is a kind of skin really, isn’t it? Ok… It’s good for skin.
Here’s where the whole inside out painting order sorta fails us… So the leather is the next bit “up” from the cloth… except when its over the haft of the harpoon, so I should do that colour first, but that’s under leather on other bits… So no system is perfect.
Moral of the story here is I’ll mess up at some point and have to go back and fix it.
Highlighting the leather, I’m using what is clearly another colour I use a whole lot… Parasite brown.
Yeah, I used this a fair bit...
Now we could get super technical about where stuff should be highlighted… but again, this guy is for gameplay… let’s not get TOO silly…
People will be looking at Kraken from the above, probably looking down at an angle of about 45 degrees… so that is a good way to highlight… The brightest bit should be the top… probably towards the front.
Edge highlighting is something I’m not really using, but the principle kinda still applies.
So edges of objects in a lot of cases catch light, so end up being the brightest bit. What I don’t want is a hard edge. So I’ll start at the edge, then feather it back towards the middle a bit, to give me a gradual highlight that is brightest at the edge.
Trick with edge highlighting, both traditionally and blending it further is how you apply the paint. By using the edge of the bristles, not the tip. By using the side of the bristles, you can be sure to just run paint along the edge of a surface without getting a funky jagged line. You don’t have to freehand a straight line, you let the edge of what your painting guide you.
Other trick (besides the usual, thin paints, not too much on the brush) is how much pressure you apply. The more pressure, the thicker the line. So easy goes it, yeah? Gentle.
With some highlighting…
Some more cloth and stuff
For the base, I’m using Khaki. It’s pretty neutral. Neutral is good…
If you have some bright, intense colours, adding more super bright intense colours until you have a rainbow means that no matter how well you technically paint something, it will end up looking like a my little pony.
The way I avoid the browny factor is to pick one major colour, then maybe a spot colour to offset it. The rest of the model I GENERALLY try and keep pretty neutral. Browns, greys, beiges, etc… Thus the khaki. You can add a bit of interest with coloured shading and the like… but keeping it bland makes the main colours stand out.
So that was a really long winded way to say I slapped some paint on his legwarmers and knife sheaths and shit.
Time for some METAL!!
I’m gonna take a quick moment to talk about how much I love these metallics… So they’re thin enough to shoot through an airbrush. That means the metallic flake (the sparkly bit) in them needs to be small enough to fit through the tiny ass needle hole in an airbrush. But airbrush, brush, however you apply it, it means NO SPARKLY BITS!
The thing I really didn’t like about the traditional Vallejo gaim metallics was the kinda “sparkly” finish you got with the metallics… Models ended up looking like they had been hit by glitter.
Not so with the game air range.
Apparently the Scale 75 set is also good for this… I haven’t tried them, I cannot comment.
Base coating some metals.
Then gonna highlight the gunmetal with some chainmail…
Just leave the darker gunmetal in the recesses etc…
Then a final highlight with silver. Apart from the edges / highest bits etc, I like to not highlight ALL the edges… leave some darker bits, it seems to add some depth
We will end up bringing this back a bit with a wash later, so when that’s the plan, it’s generally a good idea to make the highlight brighter than you want the final product… And remember, darker darks, brighter whites…
Speaking of darker darks.
I’m not even sure if they still make this… But it’s good.
The thing with Adeptus Battlegrey, or any of the GW foundation paints is that they are thick, and there is a LOT of pigment in them. This means it’s safe as houses to really dilute it. You’ll still get awesome coverage, even when there’s more than 50% water to paint.
I’m mainly using it for the fur around the top of his boots…
Now a sneaky highlight - enter wolf grey
Again, I kinda don’t want this to be even / regular. This would even be an opportunity to bring out the ol’ drybrush. Instead, I’m gonna highlight areas though.
These boots are made for walking...
Thanks for reading, stay tuned for Part 2.
If you got something out of it or have any questions please comment below :)