Hi guys, here is an article I've just finished writing, on a commission mini I painted last week. I'll post this one around the place over the next few days, on a few forums, just like with the metallics article. But here is a preview for oz painters hehe. You guys can see it first, to make sure it all works and that there's nothing I need to fix before posting it elsewhere!
p.s. warning, it's massively long! I got carried away haha...
Urmuth Painting Article
painting flesh and using colour
Hello again everyone, it's been a long time since I wrote my last article, so I am afraid this new one is a long time overdue. First off, let me mention that the techniques and theories I discuss here are not the 'right' way to paint, only one particular way to paint. The object of the article is not so much to teach anyone how to paint in a specific manner, but more to give some insight into the processes and thoughts that I personally go through when I am painting my own figures. Hopefully this is interesting to somebody
Everyone has their own way of painting, and that is how it should be – you should never feel like you need to copy someone exactly. In my opinion, you are better off if you listen and watch a variety of other painters, and take on board the elements of their technique which appeal and work for you, yourself. Not everything works for everyone, and when it comes to high-level painting, personal taste plays an ever increasing role in the way painting is approached. I think one of the most important things to do when painting is to simply think
about what you are trying to achieve when you set out to paint a figure, before you even begin.
The figure I have chosen to use for this article is Urmuth, Scars of War, from the Andrea 'Warlord Saga' 54mm range. This figure was a commission painting job, so many thanks to the client for allowing me to use it for this article.
Preparing the figure
First, a quick look at the figure before undercoating. I spend a lot of time cleaning and preparing my figures for painting. After the mould lines have been removed, I gently file rough areas, and then use very fine grade sandpaper to ensure a smooth surface. The sandpaper I use on most metal figures ranges from grade 600, up to 1200. Little rectangles of sandpaper stuck on the end of a small stick-like instrument (I used a piece of brass rod flattened at one end) can help to reach the smallest areas of the figure.
Following this, I scrub the figure all over with a stiff-bristled brush, like a black synthetic dremmel brush. If your figure is of a harder metal, such as the GW figures, you can even use a rougher brush – I have a brass bristled one that I use carefully on a lot of metal figures. But be sure to test it first on something unimportant – you don't want to be overzealous and use a brush that will leave your figure scratched to oblivion and ruined!
After this, I give the figure another scrub in hot water with some dish-washing liquid, using an old toothbrush. This makes sure that any oils from your hands etc. are removed from the surface before the undercoat is applied.
Once the figure is dry, if there are still some rough or pitted areas, I use some very thin washes of Milliput dissolved in water to fill in the rough texture on the surface. In my opinion, the best Milliput to use for this is the standard yellow-grey variety – I only use this type, and it works especially well for the 'Milliput washes'. It works like this: I mix up a little putty, then stick it to the bottom of a well in my palette. Then I add some clean water, and stir things up with an old brush, until I have a milk-like, opaque, beige-coloured mixture. Then I carefully paint layers of this mixture onto the surface of the figure in the problem areas, similar to applying a wash. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 coats before the pits and texture on the surface are filled in. And if you feel the surface may still be a little rough, you can wait until the Milliput is dry and carefully sand the surface with very fine sandpaper (1000-1500 grade).
In this photo, you can see the evidence of the Milliput washes if you look carefully. I have drawn some red arrows to some of the areas where it can be seen on the figure. Notice also that the axe has not been cleaned as well as the main body of the figure. This was because the axe was quite fragile and bendable, and I was not able to be quite to vicious with my scrubbing and cleaning.
And now here is a quick photo of the figure after the undercoat has been applied. I used GW white spray in this case, in two very thin layers. The most important thing to remember, is to make sure that you do not apply too thick a coat of paint. A very light coat is best; do not worry if there is still some metal showing through – that is as it should be. Because the layer is so thin, the surface actually appears light grey, rather than white.
Using a thin coat of undercoat in this way aids the painting process. A light 'dusting' of undercoat results in a slightly textured surface, allowing the paint to grip the surface, and causing the layers of paint to spread evenly over the figure, aiding the blending process. If the undercoat is too thick, the paint will not adhere to the surface as readily, making smooth painting more difficult.
Now at last we are ready to paint!
The preparation process may seem tedious, but I think it is a very important step to obtaining a nicely painted miniature. The foundation needs to be solid before you can start to build the tower, right?
A word (or two!) on colour
I'm going to talk about a little theory here, but I realise it may not be the most interesting thing in the world for a lot of you! So if you are
interested in the practical part, but just cannot face wading into the theory, then feel free to skip ahead to the next section where I begin painting the flesh. In recognition of you guys, and in the tradition of Mythbusters:
In my opinion, to create a great fantasy figure, it is crucial to emphasise the overall 'concept' past the point of realism, and into the realm of hyper-reality. This is an important part of the way I think about painting, so I would like to take a few moments to explain it a little.
In order to take the step up into real fantasy-style painting, I think one needs to let go of the intuition that a miniature should look 'realistic', and instead try to think along more 'artistic' lines: what mood or atmosphere am I trying to evoke with the figure, and how can I transmit this feeling to the viewer? This is where colour choice and balance, contrast and lighting, and groundwork (basing) start to play a more important role. If you can break the boundaries of what is possible in the real world and try to create something that goes further
than reality – whether it be colouring, lighting or whatever – then I feel you can obtain a stronger, more focussed result, that creates a much clearer mood in the mind of the viewer. There is a place for realism, of course, and many people enjoy painting realistic pieces; I am just saying that for me personally, and the way I like to paint, a conceptual portrayal of a figure is much more important than a realistic portrayal.
Let us take a quick look at the palette of colours I have chosen for Urmuth. My personal taste in colour means that I usually prefer a very balanced scheme of warm and cool colours on a miniature. Because of this, most of my colour schemes could be characterised as either triadic
(using three colours equally spaced around the colour wheel), or split complementary
(a set of analogous colours, 'split' from a basic key colour, counter-balanced by this key colour's complementary). Urmuth's scheme is an example of a split complementary scheme. See the picture below:
You can see that the dominant warm colour I have chosen is a sort of golden yellow colour – you would probably describe this hue as yellow-orange. I knew from the start that I wanted to use this hue for the flesh areas of the figure, so I used this fact to help me make the rest of the colour choices. The yellow-orange has been balanced by its complementary hue, the purple-blue, and then by two other hues lying on either side – the red-purple and green-blue hues – creating a sort of 'peace sign' spread on the colour wheel...peace man, peace!
So this spread between green-blue and red-purple makes up all of the cold portion of the colour scheme, and the yellow-orange provides a dramatic warm counter-balance.
I also put thought into the distribution of cold and warm colours over a figure. I think it is nice to use the dichotomy between cold and warm to one's advantage, in order to break up different areas of a miniature by creating colour contrasts. I also think it is important to balance the opposing forces of warm and cold, so that the end result still presents a visually satisfying experience...I think this sort of effect is often subconscious in the viewer, but I have noticed that a visually balanced and well composed figure tends to be more successful and 'popular', even if the viewer cannot put their finger on the exact reasons.
To illustrate this balance between cold and warm colours, I have made up a little comparison photo below. On the left, I have removed all of the warm colours, leaving only the cold; on the right, the opposite, only warm colours remain. This should make the spread and placement of the cold and warm colours more clear.
In these photos, you can see the way in which the cold and warm colours are spread quite evenly, in a balanced way, over the figure. The lower section, from the straps around his stomach to the top of the boots, is predominantly cold, and this is why I have introduced elements such as the belt, staff of the axe, metal pendant etc. in warm colours, to 'break' the coldness and prevent it from becoming too dominant or overwhelming. Similarly, in the upper half of the figure, the cold elements are designed to break up the dominant warm colouring.
It is also worth mentioning the special colour attention given to the main 'focus area' of the figure: the upper shoulders and head. In addition to using the cold versus warm principle, I have also intentionally increased the saturation of the colours here, to create a more violent contrast of colours. The extra brightness of the green-blue on the horns and necklace charm, the red-orange hair, the red-purple straps on the horns, red and yellow tints on the helmet, the dark colour of the chest strap against the light flesh of the shoulders, and extra colours nuances in the face, are designed to ensure that this area of the figure becomes the focus of attention. It is natural for the eye to be drawn to areas of greater contrast, so by employing colour in this way, we can direct the viewer's attention to the places we feel are most important.
These are the sorts of issues I think about when designing a colour scheme, and making my colour choices when painting. Using colour contrast in these sorts of ways can help to make the detail of a figure more clear and 'readable' for the viewer, present areas of focus on the model in order to control the movement of the eye, and help to create a more pleasing result.
Painting the flesh
Now begins the practical section! Those of you who tuned out for the theory, time to get the old brush into action at last
The base-coat. In this case, the colour I used was a mix of P3 Rucksack Tan, P3 Midlund Flesh, P3 Menoth White Highlight and GW Fortress Grey, with a point of P3 Battledress Green. The reason I often have such elaborate mixes of colours is simply because I just keep adding a touch of this and a touch of that on the palette, until I reach my desired colour. But really, the colour for the base-coat is not so important; any flesh-type colour is fine, although I prefer my starting colour to be less saturated, and a little lighter, than the typical pre-mixed flesh colours you might find in a paint pot. And for this particular figure, I wanted the flesh hue to be a step or two away from pink (red), and more towards yellow-orange, to fit with the colour scheme and balance I was planning.
Just to briefly mention technique: the base-coat was applied with dilute paint, in 3 or 4 passes over the figure, rather than 1 or 2 heavier layers of paint. It is applied in this way in order to preserve the detail and retain a good surface for future layers of paint. If your base-coat is too thick, it can both obscure some detail, and also create a slightly shiny, plastic-looking and 'slick' surface, which will cause paint application problems in the proceeding stages and make smooth painting more difficult.
The next stage was to begin some rudimentary shading of the flesh, to start establishing the shadowed zones. For this step, I mixed up 5 different colours on my palette, as you can see in the palette photo: (1) a slightly deeper, more yellow-brown version of the base colour; (2) a more intense, darker yellow-orange brown; (3) a dark red-brown; (4) an olive green, darker again; and (5) a dark teal-grey. You can get a feel for the consistency of the paint by looking at the paper towel (kitchen paper) on the right of the photo, where I have been wiping off the brush after mixing.
The reason I mixed five colours for the first stage of shading, rather than just one, is very important for my way of painting. I like to have the flexibility of being able to work with a variety of tones simultaneously when painting, as I find that it gives a more interesting, 'nuanced' result, and is also faster and easier for me. The idea is that if you have a variety of tones available on the palette, you can very easily make subtle (or quite obvious) changes of hue over the surface, in order to create a more complex and interesting tone. It also allows more control over the 'areas of special attention' or 'focal points' for the viewer; that is, by modifying the colours in a certain way, you can either draw more attention to a part of the figure you feel is important, or create an effect that will move the viewer's eye in a certain direction.
For example, I knew I wanted the mid-upper section of the torso, around the chest and upper shoulders, to be quite warm and light in feeling, in order to direct the focus up toward the face. In contrast, the mid-to-lower arms, lower torso, and especially the side torso under the arms (where the serratus muscles lie), were to be colder in colour, further emphasising the effect of pushing the eye towards the centre and upwards. So, I applied this logic to the way I applied these first shading colours, using the red-brown (3) and yellow brown (2) colours mainly around the upper torso and shoulders, moving the colour colder (4) and (5) in the lower and side areas, as you can see in the photo. The lighter colour on the palette (1) was used a a sort of 'clean-up' colour: if some roughness started to occur in the transitions, thin layers of (1) painted over the areas as a glaze helped to smooth out any problems.
For me, working in this way with several colours at once, is one of the greatest advantages of using the 'successive glazing' (or 'juices') method of painting, instead of more traditional forms of layering. It is useful having all the colours ready on the palette, because it allows you to monitor and modify the result as you go. I switch between the colours very rapidly, adding a layer of this colour here, a little of that colour there, a little more of that colour in this part, a bit more in that area where it is not strong enough, and so on...it is a very rapid, fluid process. This is what I mean by the flexibility of this technique – the colours are gradually built-up on the surface with lots of overlapping layers, and you can just keep adding more layers until you feel it 'looks right'.
The next step was to further emphasise the shadows, to create some very dark areas, for good contrast. First, let's look at the palette for this stage: a mid-light, low saturation warm yellow orange (1), a slightly darker, warm yellow-brown (2), a yellow-green brown (3), a dark, slightly colder and more green brown (4), a dark red-purple (5), and a very dark and cold purple-blue (6).
Following the arrangement of warm versus cold colours outlined above, I used colours (1) and (2) to treat the chest, upper shoulder and the area around the clavicle (collar bone), with some gentle use of the red-purple (5) in the areas that needed the most definition. The lower areas of the upper arm were treated using colours (3) and (4), which were a little colder, less saturated and more 'greenish' in aspect; some layers of these colours, particularly (4), were also applied to the lower torso, going around and under the arm to the serratus area, further establishing the green look of those areas. More layers of (5) were applied around the lower-side of the pectorals, and just underneath the pecs at the top of the serratus muscles. Colour (6) was used for the very darkest parts, on the inside of the biceps, in and around the armpits, and the lower-side of the torso; these are the areas that would receive the least amount of light, and should be very dark to create the appropriate amount of contrast to create a clear sense of lighting on the figure.
A very important thing to remember this stage is to make sure you do not over-darken the areas that will be receiving most of the highlights in future stages of the painting. Most people understand that the highlights need to be lighter and brighter in the areas that would be receiving the most direct light, but in my experience, failing to lighten the shadow colours for these 'areas of light' in a corresponding way is a very common mistake. Let's look at this figure, Urmuth, as a specific example. In the areas that will end up darkest on the figure, such as the side of the body, and the underside of the arms, both the shadows and highlights are quite dark. In fact, the highlight
colour here is darker than the shadow
colour on the upper shoulder, upper chest and so on. Conversely, on the areas that would receive the most direct light, such as the top of the shoulder, upper chest etc., both the shadow colour and highlight colour are much lighter than any of the other colours on the rest of the flesh. The whole range
of colour is lighter, just as the whole range
of colour is darker in the most shadowed areas. So what I am arguing is that the entire 'range' of tone should vary from area to area on the figure.
See this picture of the finished figure below. On the right, I've given an example of the sort of colour range present in different parts of the flesh. This isn't exact of course, there is quite a bit of colour variation (and I just guessed the colour for those little swatches hehe), but I think it might help to explain what I mean.
The next step was to re-establish, and further emphasise, the light zones of the flesh. I mixed 4 colours on the palette: a very light, pale purple (1), a light, pale pink-orange (2), a light orange-yellow (3) and a mid orange brown (4) – all of these colour were quite low in saturation.
The lightest colour (1), the pale-purple, was reserved for the very lightest parts of the flesh: the highlights on the tops of the shoulders and upper parts of t he chest along the clavicle. I moved the colour cold again for these lightest areas, because I think the contrast between cold shadows, warm mid-tones, and cold highlights creates a nice, almost 'glowing' sense of light on the flesh.
The middle colours (2) and (3) were used around all the upper areas of the chest and shoulder, as well as biceps. (3) was used as a gentle highlight on some lower parts such as the abdominal and most protruding serratus muscles. Colour (4) was used mainly to aid the transitions between dark and light areas; wherever the transition was becoming a little rough, some glaze layers of (4) helped to keep the gradation smooth.
The next stage of the painting was to introduce some stronger nuances of colour into the flesh. You may notice that the colour has become quite washed-out after step 4; this can commonly happen when applying strong lights and shadows.
Consequently, the palette for step 5 is much more vibrant than the previous palettes I have used through the process. Colour (1) is a mixture of GW Snakebite Leather with P3 Heartfire (a bright yellow like the old GW sunburst yellow). Colour (2) is pure P3 Sanguine Highlight; (3) is a mix of GW Dark Flesh with P3 Khador Red Base (almost a primary red) and a point of purple; (4) is an aqua colour made from VMC Dark Sea Blue mixed with P3 Arcane Blue (a bright aqua), and (5) is pure P3 Battledress Green. It is important to note that the dilution of the paint at this stage is much greater than in previous stages; the paint has a very thin consistency indeed. See the paper towel on the right of the photo: each colour has been streaked across the paper with a loaded brush.
These colours were applied in very thin glaze layers, and because the paint is so dilute, it was extra important to concentrate on technique. So I ensured my brush was not over-loaded with paint, by wiping thoroughly on a piece of paper towel before moving to the figure; also the movement of the brush is important, stroking the brush towards the area where the colour needs to be strongest.
Again I continued with my 'warm-cold' logic for the distribution of colour over the flesh, meaning that the warmest and brightest colours, (1) and (2), were concentrated around the upper, lighter areas of the flesh, and the colder, darker colours, (3) and (4), were primarily used around the darker, shadowed parts around the sides. (5) was the 'clean-up' colour used to aid the transitions if they became rough. And also, as a colour of yellow hue, (5) was applied on areas of the flesh that I felt had strayed a little too far from the overall 'golden' feeling of the flesh, to try to re-establish the dominance of the golden colouring. You can see in the photo that I also concentrated the brighter yellow colour (1) around the central upper areas of the chest, and the pink-purple more to the sides; again, this was designed to draw the eye and push it upwards toward the face.
This is a very important stage in the process, because the subtle tints and nuances of stronger colour in the flesh really give it a lot of life, and generate a much more interesting surface, in my opinion. If you are wondering how I choose the colours to add, the reasons is quite simple: the colours are always somehow determined by the overall colour scheme. In this particular case, I mentioned earlier that I wanted a sort of 'golden' (warm orange-yellow) ambiance for the flesh, so the colours I have chosen to add as nuances lie on either side of this hue on the colour wheel: orange-red going towards red-purple, and yellow-green going to teal. All the colours on each of the palettes I have used for each stage in the painting have been decided by this logic. This isn't the only way to decide which colours to use, though – on my Lathiem, for example, (see here: http://www.guildofharmony.com/lathiem.p ... 1#picstart
), the colour nuances I introduced into the flesh were dark blue-green (GW Scaly Green), red-purple and a touch of orange, in order to echo the overall colour scheme of the figure which is balanced around these 3 colours.
The next step was to re-establish the areas of greatest light, because the extreme highlights had become a little lost under the glazes of step 5. The colour palette was very similar to the first three colours used in step 4: a very light, pale blue-purple (1), a light, pale pink-orange (2), and a light orange-yellow (3), all of which were low in saturation.
As you can see in the photo below, I have worked only on the very 'top' of the areas catching the most light, being careful not to use too much of the light colours, in order to keep the more strongly-coloured (saturated) mid-tones intact. One of the important principles of painting, I think, is the gradation from dark, low saturation colours in the shadows, through to more saturated colour in the mid-tones (think of this as the 'real' colour of the surface you are painting) and then a decreasing saturation again for highlights. This means you can preserve the dominant colour of a surface, while still using quite extreme contrast and lighting.
The flesh is just about finished now! At this point, I went ahead with other parts of the figure until the painting was close to complete.
This is the finished figure. All that I have done to the flesh in this step, is to add a touch of even lighter, extreme highlights or 'light points' on the most exposed parts of the shoulders and upper chest, and added some little finishing touches like painting the nipples, and adding a touch of extra colour here and there – you can see that some of the red nuances around the sides of the pectorals/armpits have been emphasised a little more, for example, and obviously I have painted the neck and face also.
So there you have it! Another absurdly long-winded, overly complex and all-round confusing article haha
To be serious, though, I do hope that this helps some of you to understand the process I go through, and takes away some of the mystery by giving a little insight into how it all happens.