Oz Painters

Page 1 of 2

Author:  automaton [ Sat Dec 15, 2007 4:57 pm ]
Post subject:  metallics


Almost since the day I found the online community, I have been a huge admirer of the amazing metallics seen from minis by painters like Allan C, Cyril, Mathieu_l, and of course the metal master himself, NANO :D I have been trying to emulate their excellent results for a long time, and I have been receiving some questions about my own metallics technique recently, so I thought it might be time to write a bit of an article about some of the things I have learned about using metallics.

Metallics or NMM? A bit of discussion.

A lot of painters seem to have a strong preference for either metallics or NMM, but the more I think about it, the less logical it seems to favour one method over the other. As I have been doing more and more painting, the ways I have been applying two techniques – metallics and NMM – have been converging, until they have reached a point where they are essentially the same. But how did we end up with such a clear distinction between the two techniques, and the way they are viewed?

I think one of the reasons that NMM became so popular a few years ago, is that true metallics were not being used properly. It was all too easy to fall into the trap of neglecting the metal areas on minis when using metallics; a bit of ink and a highlight with mithril was pretty standard procedure (I know it was for me in the old days), and this meant that the ‘shiny’ properties of the metallic paint itself was relied on too much for the resulting effect.

However, when NMM came to the fore, suddenly there were these metals around with real contrast and lighting, something that was a little lacking in metallics use, but is essential when painting good NMM. So it was natural that NMM should become more popular, because it offered a way to finally achieve a great result on metal areas, to match the increasingly impressive work being done on other non-metal parts of minis.

But it doesn’t need to be this way – if metallics are used properly, I think they can provide just as much contrast as NMM…and they have the added benefit of an extra ‘dimension’ that can be used to create the contrasting effect: ‘shine’.


In my opinion, the key to painting good metallics is to think about and approach things in exactly the same way as one would when painting NMM. This means that the focus should be on creating a very strong contrast between dark areas that area receiving little light, versus very bright points of light where the light would be hitting the surface directly. By painting shadows and highlights on a mini, we are simulating the effect of light hitting the surface from a certain direction – top-down or ‘zenithal’ light is the basic, conventional method. So when painting metallics, as with any other surface, it is very important to be clear from the start about the direction from which the light will be coming, so that you can paint in the light and shadows accordingly.

The main difference between painting metallics and NMM comes with the application of the highlights. With NMM, highlights are painted right up to ‘light points’ of almost pure white, to achieve the maximum contrast between light and shadows in order to simulate the effect of ‘shine’ on the surface. But with metallics, of course we cannot use white to highlight; instead, we substitute the brightest metallic colour we have, and use this in the same way, to achieve maximum contrast. But here is where the main strength of metallics lies: because we are using metallic paint to apply the highlights, we can obtain a contrast not only between ‘dark’ and ‘light’ on the mini, but also between ‘shine’ and ‘dull’ (flat).

This is the dimension of metallics use that I feel is often neglected, and which can ruin attempts to reach proper contrast, preventing the proper definition of details on metal areas.

So, what I am trying to say, is that in order to achieve the best from painting with metallics, we need to have the shiny, bright metallic parts in the highlights, against dull and dark areas in the shadows. To do this, we need to put aside inks, and instead use glazes of normal paint to shade a metallic base coat. The problem with inks, is that they are inherently transparent; no matter how many layers are applied, the surface will remain ‘see-through’. But with paint, the opacity of the colour can gradually be built up in layers, ending with a completely opaque (dull!) and dark surface in the shadows. Then, once the metal is shaded and the shine is killed in the appropriate areas, we can switch back to metallic paints to apply the highlights. This is the basic theory behind the technique.

The theory put into practice

Ok, enough talk, time for some pictures! I have painted some metallics on a mini – Kelian Durak from Cadwallon, by Rackham - to try to demonstrate the ideas I have been discussing. Usually I like to stay with NMM for Rackham minis (tradition!), but I thought I would break that convention this time, because Kelian’s armour looked like a good opportunity for metallics.

First, let me just mention that the colours I have chosen are wholly dependant on the overall scheme I was planning for the rest of the mini. There is no rule that says you need to use these colours, any colours will work fine – as long as you make sure that the shadowed parts are nice and dark. The colours I have chosen are just an example; be creative!

Before we begin the painting, a quick word on mini preparation. This is a bit of a diversion, but I thought I would take the chance to show a comparison photo of a mini straight out of the blister, against a mini ready for the undercoat. To prepare a mini, I start by removing the flash and mould lines with a knife, then use files to smooth any very rough areas that I can reach. Then I use little strips of fine sandpaper stuck to the end of an implement (like a piece of flattened brass rod) to sand as much of the mini as possible. Then I use some stiff dremel-type brushes to vigorously brush the mini by hand. Then finally, I scrub the mini in warm water with a toothbrush, using some dishwashing liquid.


You can see in this photo that the prepared mini on the right is much shinier and significantly darker in colour – in real life, the difference is quite remarkable. While it may be a bit of a drag, my thinking is that if you can obtain such a change in the appearance of the mini with just a little work, then it must do some good – achieving a smoother surface to work on makes the painting much easier (and more pleasant!).

So, now to the painting finally! I began with a base coat of GW Boltgun Metal, over a mid-grey undercoat (I used Tamiya ‘surface primer’ in this case). As always, I added a little water to the paint, and painted 2 or 3 thin coats rather than 1 thick coat.


Next, I began to shade the metal by adding a little colour. I wanted something a little unusual, so I decided to start with a light purple-blue colour and follow it down through the spectrum, getting darker through red, orange and finally a very dark black-yellow.

The first colour I used was a purple colour, something like GW ice blue + P3 Sanguine Highlight. You can see the colour on the palette in the top right corner of the pic. In the palette photo, I also tried to show the paint consistency, by including a portion of kitchen paper (paper towel) where I have wiped off the brush after dipping it in the paint. Hopefully this demonstrates that the paint is very dilute – it needs to be so dilute that only a hint of colour will show up on the surface each time you apply it to the mini. This is because we want to very gradually build up the colour with many glaze layers, slowly increasing the opacity. I only use water to dilute my paint.

When painting this way, it is important to wipe off as much of the excess paint as possible on a piece of kitchen paper or similar, before moving the brush to the mini. You definitely do not want any flowing, pooling or running of the paint on the surface of the mini. This is not a wash, it is much more controlled. You simply want to apply very thin layers to the surface, moving the brush towards the shadows from light to dark. The layers should be so thin that they dry very quickly, within a few seconds. If you do this correctly, you will avoid the problem of blotchy colour or ‘tide marks’ that are associated with very thin paint – the layers should be applied so thinly that there is no chance for the paint pigment to move or flow around and gather to dry unevenly. If you want more information about this aspect of technique, I have written another article specifically about it, which you can see here: http://www.mainlymedieval.com/ozpainter ... 49&start=0

So here is the first shading photo, where I have applied a few layers with the first purple colour.


Next, I did the same thing again, this time with a colour mixed from P3 Sanguine Highlight and GW Dark Flesh. Again, the same paint consistency and technique.


Next with pure GW Dark Flesh.


And again, with VMC Hull Red.


Then with VMC Hull Red plus some P3 Bloodstone and a little black.


Next with P3 Bloodstone and more black.


Then P3 Bloodstone, some GW Snakebite Leather and more black.


And finally, with GW Snakebite Leather and black – a very dark mix.


The shading and colouring of the metal is now finished, and it is time to begin the highlighting stage. At this point, it is especially important to make sure you are clear about which parts are going to be light and which dark, ie., where the shadows and highlights lie.

The first thing to do is to bring back some of the metallic particles into the armour. The surface can often end up very dull and lifeless after the shading stage, because the colour has been built up in so many layers and is blocking most of the ‘metallic’ part from showing through. So to bring back some of the metallic look, some very very thin glazes can be painted over the entire area, replacing some of the missing metallic particles. To do this, I used the base colour, GW Boltgun Metal.


Then the highlights: I used a mix of GW Boltgun Metal and GW Mithril Silver, very diluted with water as in the shading stage, but this time moving the brush from dark to light, gradually re-building the metallic colour in the highlights.


Next with pure GW Mithril Silver plus water, really concentrating on the highlights.


Before applying the final highlights, I went back and re-applied a little colour to the armour. I used glazes of GW dark flesh on the darker areas and a light mix of GW Electric Blue (an old paint – like Ice Blue + a tiny bit of purple and white) and a point of P3 Sanguine Highlight on the highlighted parts.


Then the final highlights, small light points, were applied using GW Mithril Silver again, and then VMC Metal Medium. The metal is finished! :)




And here is the finished mini.


You can see more photos of the end result in the painting section of the forum here: http://www.mainlymedieval.com/ozpainters/viewtopic.php?t=880, or on my site.

Well, I hope this article was useful or interesting to some of you! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to post in this thread, and we can discuss it.


Author:  torm3nt [ Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:00 pm ]
Post subject: 


(reserved for later)


Author:  Paintingploddy [ Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

Very nice. Now how to adapt it.....possibly with some questions later.

Thank you for taking the time and preparing this, it is much appreciated.


Author:  Aidan_K [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:28 am ]
Post subject: 

Great article. One little gem of information was where you move the thinned paint from high to low for shading and low to high for highlighting.

From the mini's point of view, i really like how the chainmail around his waist got a different treatment to the plate armour, it gives a really nice contrast. Looking forward to giving this a go!!

Author:  VMartin [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 8:52 am ]
Post subject: 

This is a priceless article. Thanks for writing it and going into such detail! I'll definitely be giving this a go.

I just have a question about the colours you initially apply to the metallic surface; If I got it right, you start with colours which would define the tone, or hue, of the metal's midtones, and then continue on with defining the dull parts with layers of other colours - making the mixes of colour darker to define the dullest parts. What I'm wondering about is the initial layer of purple; It looks really cool how that layer is barely visible at the final stage of shading, like a bridge between the dull parts and parts exposed to the light, but when you get to the stage of bringing back some of the metallics, that hint of purple gets lost until you introduce it back again as a glaze when you do the metallic highlighting. IMHO it looks like you introduced the initial layer of purple to get a general idea of how and where hues of colour should be placed, so that you can bring it back when highlighting, but I'd like to see what your thoughts on that are, in case I got something wrong.

Oh, and thanks for including the pallete/paper towel photos. Those are very helpful.

Author:  markofthedead [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:34 am ]
Post subject: 

thanks Seb, been looking forward to your article foe a while.
When i was chatting with you at GD i remember you saying that apply a layer of Dull Cote before you start highlighting with the metal paint to keep it really flat and differate between the two surfaces.
Again cheers and keep it up.

Author:  agentmolar [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:57 am ]
Post subject: 

thanks so much for this article. It helps cement some ideas about understanding your technique. thanks also for showing the paint consistency, thats something that helps alot.

Author:  mars [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 2:57 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Sooo Much for this I always wondered how to do nice Metallics
and experimented myself but I could never ever get it right.

I searched the net for so long and finnally I know :)

I got a couple of questions.

1) how did you know to use those shades of colours, could you use a different palette with a good outcome?


2) How would you go in say glazing/Highlighting Gold?

Author:  KyleM [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 3:18 pm ]
Post subject: 

Mars, I will try and answer your questions as I know Seb is very busy at the moment and prob. wont reply anytime soon.

1) you can use any colours! Sebastian has used these colours to help compliment the overall appearence, and harmonise it, but really any colours can do. You could go for a rusted look, and use mainly browns and oranges. A greensh/tirquoise colour for a weathered metal look. Really any paint is suitable to use, and like Seb has explained, the paint is soo transperent that if you do a colour that you dont like, then just try out other colours, one layer wont make much of a difference, it is really the constant application of paint that builds up the colour. So give any colours a wirl, just make sure to use darker shades in the deeper recesses to create the effect of light coming from the top of the model down.

2)Gold is a different matter, it is not, really such a neuteral colour like the grey metallics. It is still entirelly possible to do the same method, but just consider your colours more. Eg, yellow wont be of much help. :wink: But, I guess it depends what kind of gold you are going for, a shiny gold, or a rusted gold, or Gold with verdigris (green oxidisation). I think consider how you want to gold to look and apply the appropriate colours.

Also, pratice, pratice, practie! I have been paint my metallics like this for about a year and I still havent got it down properly. and remeber that if the your metallics go to colourful, just re-apply the metal colour to bring it back to a more metal finish.

Author:  automaton [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 5:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for fielding some of the questions kyle :)

Mars - Kyle is right, any colours will work, try to be creative! But it's important to keep in mind the overall colour sscheme and atmosphere you are aiming to achieve.

When I was working out which colours to use, I considered my plan for the rest of the mini: I knew I was going to have a red-to-blue cloak, and this would be the dominant colour scheme for the mini. Normally, I would tend to start with a yellow-brown like snakebite leather, and shade from there following the spectrum and getting darker, ie., going darker through orange, red, purple and very dark blue for the darkest areas. But for fun, I decided to reverse this trend with kelian, and start with the blue-ish colours, going darker the other way around.

If you want to use a gold kind of colour, the process is the same, but you could start with a gold or brass coloured base coat. Then if you don't have a very bright gold colour, move into silver for the final highlights - I think this gives a good effect, and takes the edge off the yellow-ness of the colour which can get out of hand sometimes with gold.

VMartin - with the purple, I like your explanation haha, but what really happened was this: I was a bit too heavy handed when re-applying the metallics after shading haha, so I lost a bit more of the colour than I wanted. That's why I decided to bring back some of the colour at a later stage. This is pretty common I think, so maybe it was a good lesson to try to teach: you can always add more colour at any stage of the process, and it's important to be aware of how the overall effect is progressing as you paint. Then, you can adjust things accordingly.

Also, I find that if a layer of colour is present underneath but get a bit lost, it is very easy to bring it out with a light re-glazing over the top - the subtle hints of the colour are still there, meaning that the colour comes out again without much effort.

I'm glad the article is interesting to you guys!

Author:  Sjt22 [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 8:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

This is a MAD article haha I love it, it explains so much about metallics aswell as paint application cause we get to see how watered down the paint is. Great article it really explained alot to me :)


Author:  mars [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 10:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

KyleM & automaton

I'll shall use this wisely!

I don't think I'll do this for an entire army but only my showcase mini or small warbands.

Kudos I think that nice metallics looks way better an nmm.

Author:  laurence [ Sun Dec 16, 2007 10:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Great Article!

Your university lecturers must love you! I say this because this article is so clear and easy to comprehend. I really will have to dig my paints out of their boxes and have a paint this evening. I feel seriously inspired!

Thanks Sebastian!


Author:  PrawnPower [ Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:19 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Seb, a very interesting read

Once again I'm thinking I should vary things more
Mix the colours up a bit
Maybe next time :D

Author:  Szymon [ Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:28 am ]
Post subject: 

Nice article, i have only one question- how many layers of each color you apply ?

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC + 10 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group