How I paint figures.(easy and simple with gauranteed results)

Discussion in 'Dioramas & Displays' started by JohnReid, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    This thread is for those who would like to try painting figures in a less conventional way.For those who have tried in the past but were unhappy with the results.For those self taught guys who are looking to do an acceptable job of figure painting without all the hassles.Please keep a open mind and you professionals out there please try to remember that this is geared towards guys like me who want to do an acceptable job without the benefit of any artistic training.(try not to laugh!)
  2. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Because I come from a different background than most modelers when it comes to painting figures my methods are a little different than you will see elsewhere.Not better,just different and very easy to do.Yes,I went through all the same problems that you may be having now but it was only when I stopped daydreaming about being the best figure painter in the world that I became an acceptable one.Some work a lifetime just painting figures,we dioramists should be so lucky! Figure painting is just one thing in a long list of skills that we must develop to become dioramists.We can't be the best at every facet of the game but we can be good at most.
    Yes I have read most of the long winded explanations about painting and frankly I have found them boring, more geared to the trained artist than the ordinary guy just trying to do a nice job.Personally I have no training in the arts and I guess some would say that it shows! But I also don't have all the baggage of formal training to weigh me down and I like to think that I am a little more willing to experiment with new ways of doing things.
    Yes,figure painting can be scary.Why? because all human beings are experts at picking up any flaws and mistakes and all the rest of our work can be judged upon how we painted our figures.The average Joe may not know what a horse really looks like but they sure know the human face.That is what frightens away most dioramists from adding figures to their work,they just don't look real to them and they spoil the rest of the illusion that they are trying to create.But what is a miniature world without humans around.Just that,a world devoid of humans and not very interesting to most humans.Imagine a movie with no actors or a book without human characters where they should be telling a human story.Sometimes in a small diorama or vignette we can get away with just suggesting human presence such as footsteps in the snow but most of the time they are essential to a good storyline.I have seen sailing ship models in full rig with nary a soul on board,not even at the wheel.Strange.........
    I am not here trying to convince those who would prefer not to put in figures but for those who do ,I hope that my limited experience can help get you over the fear of giving it an honest try.
  3. CJTK1701

    CJTK1701 Banned

    Where's the pictures? Must have pictures.:mrgreen:
  4. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    First and foremost it is all about having the right tools to work with,the skills you can develop with time.
    My experience has been that most modelers use the stuff they see in the hobby shops for their figure painting.First mistake! or they go to craft stores which is almost as bad.
    Think artists quality here.It may be a little more expensive up front but cheaper in the long run.Remember our goal here is to give ourselves the best shot at this as we can.You want the best paint,the best brushes and quality figures to paint.In our case the best paint is really not the most expensive.The brushes are expensive but some of mine I have had since the beginning.Learn how to care for them and they will last you a lifetime.Don't buy cheap figures.Try to find the most realistic looking that you can buy.
    I have had only limited experience in the different scales ,having only worked in extreme opposites of 1/72 and 1/16th. I would recommend that you start with the larger scales for good detail and practicing your techniques.When I started painting it was raptors or birds of prey usually in 1:1 scale.Large birds but with minute feather detail ,so I got lots of practice on both ends of the scale.
    You don't need a lot of different subjects to learn painting.I used to paint the same bird over and over, using castings.Sometimes this was hard to do because I thought what I had done was not too bad.It is also nice sometimes to keep a record of where you have been.
    When I started figure painting they were mostly the Tamiya 1/16th scale figures that you find in most hobby stores.They are not too expensive and usually have lots of good detail.They require a little clean up here and there deburring and filling in the odd hole but nothing serious.The pieces usually fit together very well , the seams soak up the super thin glue with a minimum of hassle with very little sanding required.The more expensive resin casting can be left for later as our skills improve.
    Today there really is little difference in the quality of detail between plastic and resin.
    to be cont.......
  5. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  6. CJTK1701

    CJTK1701 Banned

    Awesome. Fantastic work, Really, that totally works!
  7. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Secrets ?there are none!
    There are no secrets about figure painting.It is mostly practice,practice,practice.
    Like a friend of mine said,that is why he married a teacher,they make you do it over and over again until you get it right.
    But seriously,to be successful using my method ,you must use my method.Not sorta use it ,use this but not that or cheat a little here and there.If you commit to this ,I can guarantee good results,if not don't even bother reading any further.I know this sounds harsh but it is born out of frustration ,as I have been asked in the past over and over "how do you paint figures ?"and when I explain what is required it is clear to me that no one really is listening.

    First and foremost ,save the paint that you have been painting with up until now for your cars ,airplanes or whatever, but don't let it even near your figures.
    Go out and buy FLAT acrylic gouache paint.There are only 2 brands that I am aware of, JoSonja by Chroma or Acrylicos Vallejo (and no I don't have shares in either company nor have I ever even received a free tube of paint from any of them.)All of my experience has been with using the JoSonja brand ,so that is what I recommend you buy because there may be differences between the 2 brands that I am not aware of .
    For those who know how to mix paints buy the primary colors,for those who don't ,try to stick with the tube colors.Why? because unless you mix twice as much as you need and save it ,you will have one hell of a time getting back to your original color. Acrylics also have this nasty habit of drying to a darker shade.
    No matter what the hobby or art store guy tells you there are NO substitutes.Your success as a figure painter ,using my method ,depends upon using flat paint,period.
    While you are in the art store ,you may want to pick up some Gesso.It comes in various colors usually black,white,burnt umber and gray.Be careful using white gesso because if it chips or somehow contaminates the surface that you are working on ,those damn little white specks will go everywhere that you don't want them to go.You can use white or any of the other colored gesso as a substitute for the tube paint ,as it will also dry absolutely flat.

    Why all this emphasis on flat paint ? because future shading will be done will chalk pastels and chalk pastels will not stick to paint that has varnish in it!
    Areas that require some shine to it like leather ,can be buffed with your bare finger prior to shading.The skin of your finger can be used as a very fine abrasive and facial oil from your nose looks great on leather.(well maybe there are a few secrets after all!)
  8. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  9. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  10. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Using the color wheel!
    This is a color wheel that I made for my students when I was teaching bird painting years ago.It was made especially for the JoSonja range of colors.They have since added to their range ,what they call" carvers colors" .This was at the request of bird painters who found the original colors were too limiting.(more on this later) To find a tube color read the wheel from the inside out,you want red ,then buy napthol crimson.You want red-orange you will have to buy yellow(cadmium yellow medium )and red (napthol crimson) etc...etc...Don't buy a lot of paint now until you decide on a figure that you want to paint otherwise you may buy a lot of stuff that you will never use.
  11. Stev0

    Stev0 Active Member

    I use acrylics for painting as they are not only easier to work with but dry faster, blend easier and are not toxic like enamels.

    Metal and plastic figures are rather common. Metal figures range from lead, pewter or tin. Back in the late 80's some government idiot designated lead figures 'toys' and because of the 100% lead content they were banned/restricted from hobby stores which forced manufacturers to come up with another material... a combination of Tin and Pewter which was not as expensive as Pewter but gave the same qualities, one company even called this Rallidium.

    Proper trimming of mold lines from both types are required although plastic figures require cleaning or degreasing, the most common way is a quick bath in water and dish detergent, this removes traces of the mold expulsion fluid that allows for plastic products to be removed from their forms. If you don't remove this film on the plastic, it will compromise the paint on the figure.

    When you paint. You have to paint the figure with primer that facilitates easier application of color and allows you to see details of the figure easily. Primers of white, grey and black are good for figures that will have light medium and dark final colors respectively.

    Careful planning of painting should be worked out before you get your brush wet, having a color wheel like above is invaluable to planning as well as understanding how color works with painting. When you paint you start painting base colors which are generally darker than the final color. This color will flow into the folds of clothing and in cracks and crevices and is usually more watered down to help this along. A medium coat will go over this and this coat is not as watered down to have better control over where the paint goes. Finally a lighter shade of the final color is applied to the high points of the surface. The light shade is created by mixing the medium color with a complimentary light color. For example... Painting a green color may require a base of 'Green/Black' followed by a shade of 'Green' and finally highlighted by 'Green/Yellow' not 'Green/White'. This painting technique is a 3 step process which is good for painting large numbers of generic figures but some painters apply layers of colors in more steps and gradual shades from Dark to Light so that they appear even more seamless. Sometimes inks or washes of color are thinly applied over top of the shade layer to give greater depth and smoother color shade transistion from dark to medium. Also the washes fill the crevices and emphasize details and depth.

    Lets use an example.


    Colors are applied to figures in different ways depending on the material you are painting. For example, a soldier dressed for a winter campaign would be dressed in a dark green uniform with white camoflaged coverings and carrying a metal machine gun and of course the face and hands. There are belts and buttons and other small details. All details will require different techinques. The base colors of 'Green/Black' to all uniform areas, 'Grey' to all white camoflage covering areas, 'Black' to all of the weapon areas and 'Brown' to all flesh areas. All raised areas then recieve a shade color respective of their final colors. Uniforms get 'Green', Camoflaged covered areas recieve a very-LIGHT shade of 'Grey/blue', the weapon gets a touch of 'Dark Silver', finally the flesh areas will be painted based on the race of the figure, since I want the typical white male of the period I am painting I paint the flesh areas with 'Lightbrown/Red'. The highlights on the model will bring out the details. The Uniform will recieve 'Green/Yellow' on the the very edges, the camoflage coverings will have traces of white on the top most edges and metals like the weapon will have a 'drybrushing' of silver. Drybrushing is a technique where you put a trace amount of paint on a brush and wipe it off on a cloth. Passing the brush over the edges of the surface will leave behind a slight trace of the silver... immediately the object's details will spring forth. The flesh areas will get a touch of 'Tan/Pink'.

    The face is an area that immediately recieves attention and so requires the greatest amount of care.

    When you view the face with a single light source above. The face will have darker areas around the eyes, nose and bottom lip. Highlighted areas where the light strikes the most would be above the eyebrows, cheek bone areas, nose ridge, upper lip and chin.

    Certain areas of the face can get touches of watered down 'DarkBlue' to the 'beard & moustache' areas and watered down 'Red' to the cheeks.

    Painting the eyes can be done in two ways. The eye can be painted with a 'White/Pink' base and a single black dot for the pupil. The eye can be painted in reverse with the eye painted 'Black' with two small 'White/Pink' dots on either sides for the white of the eye. Be careful of painting the pupil, roughly the top 30% of the pupil is covered by the upper eyelid if you paint the whole pupil in view it will make the figure look like he has been on 100 cups of coffee.

    Eyebrows are painted black or brown. A slight touch of 'Tan/Red' can be applied to the bottom lip of male figures and both lips of female figures and the cheeks of females can get an extra dryrushing of red but becareful to not go too far into the 'trashyness zone' =).

    If the figure is gripping an object the blood will be flushed from the hand so that a highlight of 'White' on the finger ridges or knuckles will emphasize that.

    To protect your work when your done. A light coat of matte clear coat is a great idea. For game models I tend to pick up and move around a lot I spray a light coat of gloss clear coat and when it dries I coat it with a light coat of satin or flat clear. The gloss clear is tough and the matte overcoat dulls the gloss.

    In Closing
    These are the methods I use for figure painting. In fact I use them for painting all miniatures including vehicles. Perhaps tomorrow I will post a couple of pieces as examples of lead figures I have painted using these techniques with respect to the fact that this is a card model forum. My painting comes from techniques learned from Games Workshops magazines and books. So I have to say they are great for learning how to paint with very little experience and get great results with some practice.
  12. Jim Nunn

    Jim Nunn Member

    Thank You John,

    This is defiantly a keeper.

    Jim Nunn
  13. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Yes StevO yours is a more traditional way of doing things but that is not what I am talking about here.Thanks for your input.Cheers! John.
  14. Stev0

    Stev0 Active Member

    Well other than doing the whole task naked or on a balancing beam, I can't see a different way of doing the job with proper results. Either you put color on a figure or you paint by number it.

    I'm not sure what your looking for here.
  15. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  16. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Bird or fine art colors.
    These are what JoSonja call their bird carver or fine art range of colors.
    You may want to revise your color wheel to reflect these changes.
    Cad yellow medium becomes Cad yellow light
    Napthol crimson becomes Cad scarlet and
    Ultra blue becomes Ultra blue deep
    They have also added some new colors to their regular line.I picked up Olive Green awhile ago and use it a lot for the military colors.
    You may want to consider this color for your first figures underpainting.For highlights you will need a yellow-white pastel like yellow oxide and for shade dark green.
    If your figure has a leather belt and shoes buy a nice medium brown or red-brown for underpainting.
    For flesh use a mix of burnt sienna,yellow ochre and white for underpainting.
    Underpaint the rest in colors of your own choosing.
  17. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    The secret is out!
    Well guys I guess my secrets are now all out.In review:
    -use flat paint so your chalk pastels will stick to the finished underpainted surface.
    -use chalk pastels for highlight and shade
    -washes? fogeta-bout-it.
    -dry brushing ?use to hi-lite the hair or other surfaces where pastels may not work as well.
    -painting eyes? don't bother ,especially in the smaller scales.
    -mixing your own colors? avoid if possible,use tube colors and modify them with pastels right on your figure.
    Like I said ,easy and fun with guaranteed results .Now please take the time to practice and try to be very soft and subtle when shading or blending your colors.
    Next I will post some pictures of my work and try to explain how I got there using my methods.

    For details on surface preparation and cleaning your resin or plastic figures there has been much already written.
    For our purposes here I will assume that we are dealing with a dry ,clean surface that has been properly prepared.(On a very slick or shiny surface preparation may call for a little very light sanding using 600 or higher sandpaper)
    In keeping with our budding artists approach to painting figures lets start with an artist type base coat called Gesso.Gesso will stick to just about any surface and just about anything will stick to it.It comes in a few basic colors and I usually pick something that is closest to the finished color.Also you may want to use something that has enough contrast to the plastic to verify an even coat has been applied. Some artists that use a lot a transparent washes may want to use white gesso to give their finished surface more life.I don't like using white for my method because it can easily contaminate a finished surface with little white specks that are very visible and hard to remove.
    I add about 50% distilled water ,(that has been treated with flow medium or surface tension breaker ),to my gesso.JoSonja flow medium does have a little varnish in it but the few drops that I add to a bottle of water has not caused me any problems.
    Brush on your thinned gesso evenly and let air dry.Do not use a hair dryer here to speed up the drying process, as this may cause tiny holes that are difficult to paint over.Another thing about hair dryers,be careful not to hold it too close to the surface as you may cook it rather than drying it.2-3 coats of gesso may be necessary to get a nice even surface.Be super careful not to obliterate any detail on your figure. to be cont......
  18. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  19. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

  20. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

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