Painting Tips Part 4

IVa. How to get good at painting? Q & A.

>>3. Learn a new painting technique.
>Try a few until you find what suits you.

Agreed - I guess you could assume what I wrote to mean "Learn only my
technique", but that is not what I actually said. Learn a new technique - any
new technique different from what you are already doing.

>I prefer a black primer for a number of reasons. The effect I get is
>quite good, and I can avoid most washing and highlighting because of
>it. I prime balck and then drybrush white over it before painting.
>This creates natural shadows and highlights and looks quite good.

IYHO - I personally dislike the end result of the of prime black / dry-brush color school for figures. Although I do use that exact technique (prime it black, lightly brush pure colors onto to the raised surfaces leaving black shadows in the crevices) for my buildings and terrain pieces, where I find it a perfectly lovely method for LARGE scale items.

>>I have not touched dry-brushing or staining as they can only be done once
>you have mastered getting paint onto your figure in a clean and accurate way.

Because it was merely a newsgroup posting and I had already gone way too long. But since you've went to the trouble of starting the discussion...

>Neither is too difficult with only a small amount of practice. One of
>the keys is to never use inks or washes in large amounts, and to use a
>colour that accents the base colour.

Agreed - here's a nifty trick if you ever have to paint a yellow uniform (Napolonic spanish heavy cavalry or Nechantel battalion spring to mind). Paint the yellow normally, but when you go to stain it, make a wash of the orginal yellow color with a tiny bit of lilac (a pale purpish color) mixed-in. This will create a yellow-brown-grey color which will give sharp shadows in the bright yellow without changing or overwhelming the color.

>For example: I paint my Russian
>Napoleonic artillery equipment a very light green, and wash it with a
>darker wash. This brings out the deep wood details, and darkens the
>overall piece to a satisfactory "apple green." I then apply the black
>for the iron strapping and bolts.

Which is exactly what I do as well - but here's another trick. Let the newly stained artillery piece dry for a little while, but while the paint is still wet turn the model over so the stain will run back in the opposite direction and not puddle along the bottom of the wheels or frame.

>You have to experiment with colurs
>to get a satisfactory one, but a good rule of thumb is to make washes
>at least two shades darker than the base colour.


>Drybrushing is a different thing. Depending on what you do, use a
>cut-down brush or a full one.

I actually use one of my high-quality but slightly used-up brushes.

>The colours should be a shade or two
>lighter than the base colour. It takes parctice to figure out what
>weight of brushing and what amount of colour is needed, and sometimes
>several trys are needed to get the proper amount of paint on the fig.

I've found that most people when dry-brushing don't use enough paint. In my experience I will test a brush on the skin on the side of my thumb - if it leaves paint on just the "bumps" it's ready. Then a light and gentle touch works best - I've seen people with an almost dry brush literally try to scrub paint onto a figure. Which is something I don't recommend because it breaks the bristles on the brush, wearing it out prematurely and making it fray badly. Plus it can cause the paint itself to 'flake' off, leaving little dusty motes on the figure and often revealing the undercoat or bare metal.

>The best bottom-line suggestion is to find a couple of books on the
>subject, and ask some of the pros what they use. Then try each one out
>'till you achieve an effect that looks OK. After that, it's

IVb. Gettin' good at painting: More Q & A.

Thanks to everyone who has wrote to ask me more questions, my mailbox is getting full. Rather than try to answer all your queries individually, I'll try to cover them in a NG posting.

Mounting Figures for Painting: Here's what I do - I get an ordinary sheet of corregated cardboard and mark it out in 20mm by 20 mm square (for 15mm infantry) OR 20mm x 40mm rectangles (for 15mm horses). These are then cut-out with either an exacto knife or a heavy shears to make my painting bases.

Now the next steps I take might seem slightly ridiculous, but keep in mind that I run a painting business and have used most of my painting "squares" for the last five years and have had to replace very few of them, despite constant use.

Each "virgin" square gets a heavy drop of ordinary white glue smeared on its top surface to form a foundation. Once the glue has dried, the "pad" is painted with the same green paint I use to do my bases. Now comes the messy part - I use the nozzle of the glue bottle to force glue into the edges of the corregated cardboard squares. The goal is to seal them on all sides and make them strong - I will sometimes use a toothpick to make sure glue gets on all the edges. Allow them to dry overnight.

Once the base has dried over-night and is practically indestructable, a figure is glued to the foundation with a small amount of white glue. And because of the heavy glue/paint foundation I went to the trouble to build, I can easily pop the figure off with the edge of an exacto knife without stripping the top layer of cardboard with it OR getting a clumply lump of balsa or wooden splinters (like you get when using wooden tounge depressors as painting strips). And they can be used over and over and over and... I paint thousands of figures each year and have only 150 square and 80 rectangular painting bases.

Painting lots o' figures: I work off a drafting table, which is mostly cluttered with glass bottles (of brushes, water, alchohol, etc) or open topped boxes containing all my paint. So I have very little room to actually work on.

But what I do have is about twenty wooden pressboard squares that are about 13"wide by 15"long by 1/8" thick. Each board can hold about 48 15mm infantry or 24 15mm cavalry.

What I do is paint the figures until they need some extensive drying time. I pick the board and all the figures off the drafting table, carry it to a drying rack (ie, the bookcase with all my painting sources) where it is placed and another board containing different figures is brought back. And I commence work on an entirely different project. At any one time I will have six or seven boards in operation.

In order to prevent the board from slipping, I always place it on top of a thin, old washcloth. Otherwise it can be very difficult to keep the board from sliding.

  • Gettin' Good: An introduction, explanation and disclaimer.
  • Part 1: How to get good at painting? A professional's opinion.
  • Part 2: How to get good at painting? Dissenting opinions are heard.
  • Part 3: The selection, care and feeding of brushes.
  • Part 4: Questions and answers from the gentle readers.
  • Part 5: A primer on using stains and washes.
  • Part 6: Ragged Rebs (or painting irregular units in a regular way).
  • Part 7: Painting Ponies I. Just what sort of beast is that, anyway?
  • Part 8: Painting Ponies II. Your basic black, brown and chestnut horses.
  • Part 9: Painting Ponies III. Fancies - whites, greys, duns and finishing touches.
  • Part 10: A primer on stripes, checks and tartan plaids.