Saturday 21 November 2009

The Eye's Have It - How To Paint Eyes On Miniatures

Recently I was asked by Hushrong, a fellow member of the Painting and Modelling forums on Warseer:

can i ask what kind of brush you use for the close detail? i have the fine detail brush from citadel since it was the smallest one i could find but is that good enough for doing eyes?
It's a good question as a lot of folks struggle to find a brush that's right for them for doing fine detail work such as eyes, leading some to simply leave the eyes of a model un-painted, or resulting in the "thousand yard stare" of an intensely frayed veteran who's seen one too many armour saves come up 1!

If your having similar problems yourself, don't feel down, everyone starts out much like this, it's simply a case of developing good brush control, through practice, to enable you to get the paint in the right place, and using the right equipment for the job.

Personally, I use W&N series 7 brushes for my detail work (size 000 for eyes, size 00 for most other stuff). W&N brushes are considered some of the top brushes and really are deserving of this title as they maintain a perfect point (with proper care) for a long time (I've had mine since January and they're still like new).

For eyes, the other thing I have found is that white and black are both colours that can dry out quickly on the brush when in the small quantities required for such small detail work. Therefore, for the last few months I've been using W&N Flow Improver. This stuff basically makes the paint go on so much easier and with so much more control, without diluting the strength of the colour (like water would), and without making the colour take forever to dry (like drying retarder would).

It's also good stuff for any awkward colours and for freehand. Best of all, you get a pretty big bottle which lasts a long time.....unless you spill some of it on your desk a day after getting it (doh!:o).

When I paint eyes, I find as large a part of the process as any is simple patience. Regularly I will rework the eyes 2 to 3 times before I have them just right.

Also, you will want to think about at what stage you paint them in relation to the areas around them, most commonly the rest of the skin on the face, but sometimes masks, helmets etc can get pretty close, within "splash range" (where you might slip and fudge up the adjoining area). Typically, I like to paint the eyes in after I have reached a mid point in painting the flesh of the face. This way, if you do mess up a bit when putting the colours for the eyes in, you don't have as many layers of colour to re-do.

The process I use for painting eyes is:

  1. Paint the sockets with a very dark brown, almost black, but not totally black as this can look a little unrealistic. The hint of brown takes the edge off a bit and makes them fit better with the flesh of the face. For me, this will typically be a mix of GW Scorched Brown and Vallejo Black, but any mix to make an almost black brown will be fine. Think of this step as eventually representing the eye lashes of the eye.

  2. Paint the whites of the eyes in using an off white, being careful to leave a thin line of the above step around the edges of the socket. I use P3 Menoth White highlight (a creamy white), but again, any will suffice. The reason for using off white is for the same reason we didn't use pure black above. Real eyes aren't brilliant white anyway so it adds to the realism.You can play about here if you are so inclined, and depending on the model, to get different expressions. By leaving more of a top "eye lash" line on a female model, you can simulate make up and a sultry appearance.

  3. Finally, add the pupils with a very dark grey, again, almost but not quite black. For this I use Vallejo Dark Grey mixed with a tiny amount of Vallejo Black. When applying, try to keep the pupils equally positioned on the eyes, both pointing in the same direction. To make the eyes really pop, I like to add a tiny highlight to the pupils (if possible depending on the figure) with a tiny dot of a slightly lighter grey (normally Dark Grey on it's own, sometimes with a little Basalt Grey mixed in).

That's pretty much it! Again, don't be afraid to go back and re-work things to get them right. I normally find it takes a few attempts to get things like both the pupils looking equidistant and in the same direction.

Have fun!

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Modern Warfare....

Ok, I managed to tear myself away from MW2 for long enough after recovering from illness to do some more on this chap.

I've pretty much finished the body now and have built and started painting the base. At the moment the base isn't even a third of the way done so try to imagine it with some foliage and snow!

Next up - the arms and finishing the base and weathering on the legs!



Saturday 7 November 2009

Fleshing Things Out - Flesh Painting Tutorial

About time I added another post here!

As you can no doubt tell from the dodgy pun of the title (sorry!), this post is concerned with the method I use to paint human flesh.

I've received a lot of questions on forums lately asking me about the recipe's and methods I use to paint flesh (specifically caucasian flesh), so I thought rather than reply every time with the same response, I would put together a short (text heavy for the time being - not had a chance to do step by step pics yet) tutorial.

Prep Work

With any painting project, it is always worth doing some good preparation to ensure that you don't make any mistakes etc that you would have to correct later, or that could frustrate you/ruin the look of the finished figure.

The first thing worth doing when painting flesh is to look at reference pictures. Skin tone's vary from person to person, regions and climates. The picture below is a perfect example of this - notice that even among caucasian people, the tones can be quite different.

Paint Selection

While most paint manufacturors make "flesh" colours, and these can be good for painting armies in a quick fashion, often they are quite orangey, or pinkish in appearance, leading to an un-natural looking figure (for example the skin on my old ogre hunter below (2004), while nice enough, doesn't look very realistically human).

Therefore, for my current method of painting flesh, I like to look to other, more realistic looking tones for skin.

Base Colour

My current colour of choice as a base for all caucasian flesh is Games Workshop's Dheneb Stone paint from their foundation range. A nice "off-tan" colour, it also has the added benefits of great coverage, thins well and takes paint and washes over it very well.


The colours used for shading flesh go a long way to helping define the mood, character and overall look of your finished figure. Greener shades can be used to create sickly looking characters, while red and pink shades can help define a healthy, "softer" looking character.

While the shades I use for painting flesh are dependent upon the figure for the reasons outlined above, most commonly I use a mix of Vallejo Warlock Purple from their Game Colour range, and Charadon Granite, again from Games Workshop's foundation range, along with a little Dheneb Stone mixed in. The figure in the picture below has had the above mix applied over a Dheneb Stone base.


Beyond simply shading the flesh on your figure, it's also a good idea to add some toning in order to add a bit more interest to the skin. On the Cadian stormtrooper I'm working on at the moment for example (pictured at the start of this post), I have added some toning to the face using a mix of Baal Red and Devlan Mud washes from Games Workshop mixed with a little Vallejo Matt Medium (to remove the shine). The reason for this is that the figure will be set in a winter scene and I wanted a cold look to the face, hence the pink cheeks.

While this isn't an immediately noticeable effect that can be picked out on it's own, it adds considerably to the overall appearance of the mini. On Griff Oberwald's face (below) for example, toning was applied using a darker purpleish tone to make him appear aged.


For highlights, as always it is simply a case of lightening the base colour. In this case, Dheneb Stone is first re-applied in a few thin coats to build a base for the highlights. Following this, P3 Menoth White is added to Dheneb Stone in increasing quantities for a few stages of highlighting. There is no definitive placements for highlights as it very much depends upon the figure, look you are aiming for etc, however as a general rule, the areas to focus upon are the brow, tip of the nose, tops of the cheeks and the tip of the chin.


In order to replicate the translucent qualities of real human skin, the shades and highlights are best applied in very thin layers. Thin the paint until it is almost was like in consistency, get some on your brush, then dab the side of the brush lightly against a tissue a few times until most of the moisture is removed and then apply.

Hopefully that covers the main thrust of how I approach painting flesh. As with anything, there are many approaches that can be taken, this is the one that works for me, but you might find something else more suitable to your own style. Above all, don't be afraid to experiment with colours, tones and techniques to get the effect you desire.

Would love to hear your comments on your own experimentation and techniques for painting flesh.