How to Paint Professional Looking Miniatures by Mark Fernandez
Okay, so you have the paints and the brushes, and you’ve started painting the little buggers to get them up for tabletop play. Here are some tips for further raising the quality of your miniature painting- tips that I wish someone had told me when I started out.
Construct and Use a Wet Palette
One way to conserve your paint (You can keep you paints fresh for days!) and also to mix and prepare gradients of colors for transitions is by using a wet palette.
A wet palette is essentially a moistened piece of parchment paper or palette paper placed on top of wet foam or sponge or even tissues. The essence is that the foam is full of water. Porus paper sits on the wet foam, keeping a little water moistening the top surface. Paint placed on the top surface will be kept moist, so won’t dry out. It will be thinned to the perfect consistency automatically, and becomes easier to mix and blend.
Wet palettes can be purchased, but can also be constructed using nothing more than (a) tissue paper; (b) a plastic container and (c) parchment paper. Basically you place the tissue in the container in several layers- around 6-8 layers. Then you moisten it with water until its water logged but not floating. Take the parchment paper (which should be cut to fit on top of the tissue) and moisten it as well then place it atop the tissue. You then use the parchment paper as your palette.
Example of wet palette technique
Plan your Color Scheme ahead of time
Too many colors can produce an unharmonious circus of colors. For example, the chaos dwarf to incorporates yellow, blue, red, violet, turquois, and ivory.
Your eye wanders around the piece, not really focusing on any one feature. This disharmony of colors
Typically you’ll want to use no more than two main colors. Select one warm color and one cool color to gain contrast. You can select a third color such as black, white, or ivory, which are not primary or secondary colors with which to provide a neutral tone which makes the main colors stand out more.
Complimentary colors lie directly across from one another on the color wheel. Find compliments to the most common colors in the chart.
The left-hand column shows each primary color and its complimentary color. For example, the complimentary color of red is green.
The right-hand column of colors includes each of what are known as tertiary colors. These are combined by mixing a primary color in even proportions with the secondary color next to it on the color wheel.
Learn to use Washes and Inks
A very quick way to paint which also simulates the so-called dip method is to use washes or watered down inks (usually a light brown or black) to shade a basic colored miniature.
A “Wash” is essentially thinned-down paint or ink that is applied to the miniature and is allowed to run down and build up in the recesses, leaving the higher raised areas free to shine through. Experiment with different manufacturers of paint and ink and find something that gives you the result you want – it is useful for mass painting, metals, flesh washes, you name it. You’ll be using it again and again.
You will want to achieve a consistency that allows the base color to shine through. If not enough shows through, add water. If too much shows through, add more ink (or paint) or wait.
Proper basing helps complete a miniature
If there is one stupidly easy technique that will make your miniatures look 1000% better, it is proper basing. Elmer’s glue + little rocks + sand all around your dude’s feet makes a huge huge difference. Something about the completeness of it tricks the human eye into ignoring paint problems and seeing the mini as a whole and it will really improve how your stuff looks. It is also very easy.
Coat the base in elmer’s glue – just thick enough to be opaque. Use a toothpick to move it around. Stick whatever stuff you want on. Let it dry. Drybrush it with a little paint if you are feeling saucy. It is that easy. I am a big fan of sand and kitty litter for fake rocks. If my wife has bought the grey kitty litter, I drybrush it tan and that comes out really well. I’ve bought static grass and even fake snow and glued those on, they look good too.
Use Glaze Medium
Do you want to tint something a certain color without overpowering the other colors underneath? Do you want to highlight easily? Do you want to have good transitions from one color to another? It’s all about glaze medium.
I’ll start by defining what a glaze is in painting terms. Simply put, a glaze is a thin (mostly) transparent layer of paint (or ink). The official definition is: A transparent coating applied over a painted surface to modify the color tones underneath. That sounds a bit more complicated than it really is.
When a transparent color is applied over another, the top color alters the first. This is because light rays mix, creating a visual color mixture. You can achieve greater depth in your painting by using several layers of transparent color. In glaze paint layers, light rays penetrate the layers, strike the opaque model surface and reflect back to the eye creating various visual color mixes. The more layers of pigment that the light travels through, the greater the “depth” of color the eye perceives.
I like to relate Glaze Medium to a transparency slider in Adobe Photoshop for those who have used it. Paint straight out of the bottle would be 100% or solid. Glaze Medium straight out of the bottle would be 0%, or completely transparent. (Well, not really, but close enough.) The trick is finding out just how transparent you want your paint to be.
Now that I know how to make a glaze, what else can I do with Glaze Medium? I like to use Glaze Medium to assist in my layering. By varying the amount of medium in my paint, I can use the transparency it gives to achieve some pretty subtle transitions without resorting to wet blending or other tricky methods. Best of all, by writing down my mix ratios, I can recreate the blends easily at a later date. This is very important when painting a larger force that you want to look consistent.
Mark Fernandez is a part time lawyer by occupation and a full time gamer by obsession.
Comments are closed