September 29, 2009

Figure Painting Guide

I created a version of this guide a few years ago for my old website when some friends asked me how I go about painting figures. So I thought it would be a nice idea to rejuvenate it for this blog.

I first became aware of figure painting as a young lad watching over my older brothers shoulder as he painted boxes of Airfix figures and I guess soon after I covered my own figures in many layers of multicoloured paint. Over the last 20 odd years I have painted everything from English and American Civil War, Napoleonic, Roman, Dragons, Elves and Skeletons from 15mm to 1/35 scale.

I usually prepare 2 or 3 figures at a time unless painting character figures. Once I've decided on which figures I will be painting 1st thing I do is wash them in cold water with soapy liquid to get rid of any casting agent/chemicals that may remain around the figures then I leave them to dry. Next I will cut and file off any casting blocks or flash and fill any imperfections with milliput or glue depending on the size. Once prepared I glue the figures to little bases of old model box card for easier handling while painting.

PAINTS Mostly I use acrylics but make use of both acrylics and enamels of various makes. I have no particular favourite but you can finish figures much faster with acrylics.

STAGE 1 : PRIMING THE FIGURE Patience is the key to figure painting, first the I prime the figures with a coat of light grey. This acts as a good base for any following coats and brings out detail and any imperfections I've missed. Then I leave the figures to dry for a time depending on what type of paints I've used.

STAGE 2 : BLOCKING IN THE MAIN COLOUR I work from dark to light when figure painting and I tend not to use black neat on a figure unless with panzer uniforms or the base for very small details.

So I start off blocking out areas of uniform with a darker shade than I am aiming for (dark drowns, dark greens and dark reds). I then block out the flesh area using the same method but using a blend of browns and blue and flesh but I make sure I don't go to dark as the paint job can then become a wargames look.

STAGE 3 : PAINTING FACIAL DETAIL I then paint in the eyes with white then Prussian blue, I do this before finally shading the face. Painting the eyes before painting facial features lets you blend them into the face as you begin adding in facial detail. I do this by using a very fine brush to apply subtle shades of the base colours mixed with flesh to prominent areas such as nose, cheeks and ears then gently continue adding a little white until I am happy with the result. I also paint the rims of helmets or hat at this stage. (I do the face 1st as once complete I find it spirits me on to finish a figure well)

STAGE 4 : UNIFORM PAINTING There is no secret in my uniform painting just the same working from dark to light and I leave all small detail till later and treat all webbing and weapons as individuals leaving metals till later too. I also leave headgear till later as I have a tendency to hold the heads with my index figure.

STAGE 5 : PAINTING IN UNIFORM DETAIL I use black neat to pick out buttons, belt buckles, medals and unit insignia then it's down to a steady hand to paint the items in their actual colour and then I finish off headgear and metal objects (this is the points I feel really completes a figure). Then finally I varnish the figure in Revell matt Varnish and I'm done.
So that's my simple method of painting figures and definitely is not the only way but it gives me my best results. (Hopefully it will be of some help to someone else).
Happy Figure Painting !!!

When I am painting figures I try to gather as much reference material on the uniforms as possible, being able to see what your aiming for definately makes life much easier. All the figures shown in this article are from the Milicast range of 1/76 scale resin figures and are sculpted by Tony Boustead of England. Tony's figures are some of the best around for the smallscale modeller at the moment and can be found in many figure ranges such as Milicast, FCM and SHQ.

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