Rob's Corner - So, you want to paint eh? (Part 2)

If you recall from the last article I walked you through my process of cleaning and assembling a miniature, I was going to paint. Well in this week’s piece we will deviate from the original plan of painting that miniature, I received the models for a Kickstarter I backed in April (it actually arrived on time, shocking I know!) and, was far more excited about the prospect of one of my new 54mm miniatures than the model I was working on.

So before we get into it a little background and disclaimer on the project. This was the first 54mm miniature I have ever painted and on top of that I was planning to try a bunch of new techniques and styles, but as I progressed found myself going a little too far out of my comfort zone and pulled it back to a less ambitious paint job.  For those of you who are unaware of the scale difference; 54mm is a big model, the most common is 28mm – 32mm used by the like of Games Workshop and Privateer Press. The models for Judgment, the game the below model belongs too are significantly bigger. You might think that makes them easier to paint because the details will be bigger, but in fact, the details are in most cases very similar in size and because of that they are better proportioned. This elf has some of the smallest chains ever painted on it.

Anyway, let’s get on with it. This is Istariel she is an elf Fire mage, usually with a new standalone model or the first miniature in a new army I take a bit of time to think about what I want to accomplish with the paint job, and this case is no different. I knew from the get-go I wanted to paint her as a ‘dark elf’ with dark skin, I haven’t painted a lot of dark skin and find the process of mixing the colors for it interesting and because I thought it would contrast well with the flames, spoiler alert I kind of failed at the skin in this case. The next thing I had in mind was the lighting, usually, I use the tried and true ‘from above light source’, in this case, I wanted the light source to be the flames that make up the base, the key word here is ‘wanted’. In this case I just wimped out, lighting from underneath the model is so counter intuitive and I just backed down. It’s worth noting that I have never painted fire either, I was going to go for a normal yellow/ red flame.


On to color selection, know I wanted to paint the skin dark and the flame yellow red I had to be care full in the other colors I chose for the piece as certain colors would really ruin the harmony and ‘hurt’ the eye. Because I went for a dark-skinned look I chose a color I felt harmonized well with this and made the dark skin the primary element of the piece, and I wanted the whole ‘elf’ element to stand out from the flames. I chose purple this is a the compliment color to yellow, basically this means they are opposite each other in the color wheel. The color wheel is the basis of very a broad topic called Color Theory, which is a very interesting topic that fills university courses and text books, so I won’t even try to tackle it here. To keep it short purple harmonized with the dark skin and the flames.


To begin with I wanted to paint the flames fully before moving onto the elf because I know I would get fire paint on the elf part. Flames are another of those counter intuitive things to paint, because normally you want the lighter pieces to be at the higher edges of the thing you are painting and the shadows to fall underneath those edges. Well fire is a bit different. Because of physics, fire burns hottest at the source of the combustion and gets ‘colder’ as it rises and pollutants change the colour from a blue to hot white to a deep red, this can change with certain chemicals and stuff but I’m an economist, not a true scientist so I don’t know too much about all those details. Anyway the blue element of a flame is so minor that when painting miniatures we can skip it to start at white/yellow. I would definitely do this differently next time. I painted the whole flame orange my mid tone, more on this, later with the intention of blending it out to an off white at the source of the flame, and a nice crimson at the end of the flame. This was hard because the deep recesses need to be light and the edges needed to be dark. My blends were hard to pull off and I fell as thought it turned out rather rough.  I should have just painted the whole flame off white and dry brushed and blended out the darker elements on top of that. Lessons learnt. For the purposes of this model the source of the flame was the blazing fire at her feet.


Now that the flames were complete I could begin work on the elf itself.  I use a method of painting called two brush blending, with this method you base coat the model with the mid tone, then blend shades and highlights into this mid tone. Once I have a nice even coat with the mid tone (remember to thin your paints I use water based paints and just use water, its works best) I then move on to my first shade, I put a small dot of my shade colour into the recess I’m shading and then quickly use a moist brush to ‘pull’ the paint out of the recess. I do the opposite of the highlight, i.e. put a spot of my highlight colour on the edge and pull it into my mid tone. Once this is complete I like to go back to the mid tone to tidy up the blends. For an in-depth video on this method click here to see who the Privateer press Studio uses this technique. I learnt this from an ex studio painter who worked for Privateer press in a very insightful course.

The first part of a model I like to paint it the face. In this case I have used a terracotta paint from Vallejo game colour and added some dark brown. Once I had an even coat (two thin layers) From here I added some dark blue to the mix and did my first shade. Its worth noting that I added quite a bit of blue to the mix, I find that with two brush blending shades need to be quite a bit darker and the highlights a lot lighter. This is because I end up with thin translucent layers of paint and if the colour isn’t intense enough the gradient of the colour transition isn’t strong enough. My next shade was to add a small amount of black to the previous mix. For the first highlight I mixed terracotta with Khaki and blended from the high points towards the shadow. Add a bit more khaki for the second highlight. Finally a very slight edge highlight might help the face pop. The same recipe is used for the rest of the skin. Something to remember when painting skin is to experiment with colour! Don’t just stick to the paints that reference skin in the name, they can be a good place to start but play with different colours to shade an highlight, reds and blues can have a surprising effect on skin tones, making them warmer of colder, I even use dirty greens and greys to make skin look sickly.


When paint glowing eyes its important to avoid paint the parts of the face that the light won’t touch, like the bridge of the nose and the forehead.  


Once the Skin was done I painted the clothing purple, I shaded the purple with the same dark blue as I used in the skin, adding in more of the same dark blue and a tiny amount of black for the final shade. For the highlights I added a small amount of Khaki. And then a little more khaki for the second highlight. I then added a bit of off white/ bone to the mix for a final edge highlight.   At this point I just gave the chains a quick once over with gold and a brown wash (very thin brown paint) and I painted the metals, I because the metal elements if this piece are quite limited I won’t go into details on how I painted them here (plus I rushed them). Instead I will do a separate article on painting metals. But for the record I prefer true metallic metals TMM over non-metallic metals NMM. I also plan to do a separate article on painting eyes, normal ones not glowy ones.


That’s all for now as I said early not super happy with the outcome but I took a few shortcuts and made a few mistakes. Remember the best way to improve is to practice and push yourself; experiment with colours, you’ll probably surprise yourself.