Monday 12 December 2016

Diary of an Average Painter

Well, I'm probably "poor" rather than "average" compared to the usual bloggers-who-paint, but I'd argue I am representative of the average gamer; competent enough, no stupid colours, understands details, drybrushes and washes, but lacking the ability (or time) to do things like glow effects, non-metallic metal, good faces, or any layered effects, with bland basing rather than elegant dioramas.  Perhaps like me, you also struggle with expanses of flesh, white or yellow.

Looking good on the tabletop vs looking good up close
I'm showing off these werewolves as they are part of my attempt to improve my models at "tabletop range" while perhaps decreasing how good they look up close. This is because I am applying my 15mm techniques to 28mm.

With models with rather bland colours, aggressive contrast and highlights is important. These were a test-run for an orc warband.

These werewolves (not at all inspired by my wife forcing me to see Underworld: Blood Wars) are painted using my 15mm methods.  Most people with 15mm models know the basic premise - use much brighter-than-usual colours, use a limited range of colours, and use aggressive and distinct highlights that "pop".   The other thing I use for 15mm vehicles is kinda reverse-highlighting. 

E.g. traditional technique is to paint the model a darker shade, and edge a model in a brighter tone, with a strip of lighter paint on the edges; as per this spaceship and warjack:
You can see the shoulder pads of the jack, and many of the edges of the spaceship are highlighted in a lighter hue.... only small strips are painted on the raised edges of the model...

However 15mm reverses this technique - as per these IFVs:
You can see the models were painted in a darker shade, then painted in a lighter shade over the top. The edges were deliberately left; I only painted the large flat surfaces.  I'm sure this is not original but I got the idea from looking at a car bonnet; the flat parts of the car are bright and shiny, and it's the edges that are left dark.

It kinda works like a wash - by leaving the cracks and crevices and edges in a darker colour, it accentuates them.  In my opinion, it looks better at tabletop distances (i.e. a metre or so). 

Traditional edging: basecoat dark, then a thin strip of light on the raised edges.
15mm style: basecoat dark, then do all flat surfaces light, leaving edges, nooks and crevices dark.

So I decided to use very strong contrasts, and highlight whole chunks of my werewolves with big chunks of a much lighter tone.

I wanted the muscles to be contrasted, so I did a dark wash before applying a highlight to the muscles.

If you wash AFTER the contrast, it softens the contrast and makes the model shinier or "wetter" - which is what I was aiming for with this Doberman-like werewolf. If the contrast is too much, a wash afterwards will smooth out the rough edges...

I applied the same method to the paints, Up close they look a bit weird, but it looks good from tabletop range. 

The brown pants on the bottom 'wolf' was initially too contrasting, so I washed it after to give it a shinier leather look.

Anyway, hope this helps someone.  As usual, I used only a few coats:

1. Base colour (i.e. dark brown)
1(a). Optional wash to make it contrast more
2. Highlight colour (i.e. light brown) applied across large/flat surfaces
2(b). Optional wash to make it contrast less
3. Add in highlights in bright colours (bone for teeth and claws, red tongue)

I don't think any model used more than 6 colours.  No surface had more than 2 coats and a wash.
 It's quick and looks quite good at tabletop range, whilst perhaps being a bit lacking up close.   But that's fine with me - I spend most of my time with models on the table 3 feet away, rather than holding it up to a jeweler's loupe.

So I reckon 15mm-style-for-28mm works, especially for otherwise bland models in muted colours. As usual, the intent is not to teach your granny to suck eggs - I know I am strictly average as a painter - but instead to inspire fellow average painters to experiment.


  1. I am enjoying your articles on straight forward paining aimed at getting the figures on the tabletop and not left in a pile waiting to be painted.

    1. My holiday aim is simple: no new minis in a genre until I have painted MORE than that amount... i.e. if I want more 28mm for Christmas, I have to clear a few trays worth first... I have painted a LOT of aeronef, I can buy more small scale stuff (for some reason I have an excellent painted/lead ratio in smaller scales of 15mm or under...)

  2. Nice job mate - I do love those SoTR figs

    1. I'll have to email you - I've been fiddling with the SuperCav sub rules and wanted to run some changes by you...

  3. I'm going to give this a try. I made a similar pledge and then promptly broke it - it doesn't count if my wife gives me miniatures, right? Speaking of which - who makes the werewolves? :-)

    1. West Wind. It's part of their Secrets of the Third Reich range. They also do the steampunk Empire of the Dead series which also has monsters.