Miniatures Painting 101

Blending, the third and most difficult technique in my arsenal, will require a lot more explanation on my part and a lot of practice on your part to master.   So to that end....... you thought you were gonna get away with not having to hear another "back in the day" story, eh?   WRONG!

So, why naked women?

Back in my college days, I had to take a basic western civ course to fullfill my lower division humanities requirement.  I had the misfortune of getting an old harridan of a teacher who is best described as a classic '70s style liberal feminist in the grand tradition.  She was such a paragon of so-called "academic freedom" that one of her favorite activities was trying to bait young born-again-christian girls into discussions about the existence of God, with her taking the "no" position very fervently. Being very skilled in the art of "debate", or perhaps due to their own lack of experience therewith, she crushed them easily.  A real piece of work, the old hag enjoyed it.

It was her understanding of art that the "great masters" used to love to paint nudes because they were men and therefore received a sexual thrill from painting naked ladies.  This basically reduced nudes to nothing but pornography for the upper classes.  I had already been painting and working with digital art for several years and realized from the word "go" that this was a bunch of ideologically-motivated bullshit.

Why did people paint bowls of fruit?  Pears, and apples, sheafs of grain, etc.  These were all just a basic exercise, a practicing of technique, so that they could begin to simulate looks of reflectivity, firmness and softness, coarseness or softness, etc.  Just a warm-up for that most difficult of the painterly arts, correctly painting human skin and anatomy. 

Y'see, dealing with human flesh tones and textures is extremely difficult.  There are a number of things that could go  wrong with just trying to get the colors themselves correct, let alone trying to match the sheen, reflectivity, etc. of human skin.  We men are far easier to paint.  We're rough and angular, have less body fat and consequently less fine features.  More body hair... five-o-clock shadow, etc. etc.... you get the picture.   Even if you can get the colors right, you can still can hide a world of sins in painting us.

But painting female nudes..... boy, that requires real skill to pull off correctly and you can't hide any mistakes!  Your technique had better be spot-on to do it right. These old boys were trying to out-do themselves and each other by tackling the most difficult subject they could. If they could do that, they could tackle just about any painting subject that came their way.  And you're about to face a similar challenge, ladies and gents.....   'cause if you can master this, the rest is gravy!  After all, you'll be painting human skin tones on most of your miniatures, so you might as well do it right.

Ada, this one's for you!

The photos I'll use during this "course" are extremely magnified so you can see my brushwork.  Keep in mind these minis are appx 1 inch tall, and therefore appear more subtle to the naked eye. 


How to Paint Naked Women

For Models A&D , I'll use a more-or-less average flesh tone.  Model B will be a young lass with a killer tan, and Model C will be a pale girl.  As you can see, the base colors vary already.  The tanned model has a darker base color and Model D has a base flesh tone that is already quite pale. This early in the game, neatness isn't really that critical. Don't worry though, that's comin' soon.

The next step is to give them a wash to bring out the contour lines.....

How do you get dressed?  In theory, you start off naked.  Then the underwear, pants, shirt, coat, shoes, etc.  You typically want to paint the same way.  You want to work from the "core" outward.  Remember this as we go along.

The first steps are to primer the miniatures, and once they're dry, to apply the base flesh tone that will be used.

Blending Flesh Tones

What you do now is take the basic flesh color you've used for each and paint it back onto the miniature with a detail brush, making sure to leave the deep recesses as they are.  Paint only the raised areas.  Use a smooth even coat.  You've basically corrected the roughness of the wash, and from here on out, neatness will count.

Aread to focus on in this step: All skin areas except the recesses.

Now to switch gears:  The essence of preparing your subsequent paint mixtures is to keep in mind that you want to layer several thin coats on top of each other.  The paint will have to be of a consistency that will allow some of the color beneath to shine through, but enough "cover" to allow for a change in tone.  This means you'll be taking your "base" color and adding a lighter color to it, and then adding just a little water to it to get it to the right consistency.  This will take practice.  Once you've gotten your mixture "just right" a few times, you won't forget it.  It'll just flow...

Here's an example of appx what is needed for a "blend": watery enough to have the background showing through at the edges, yet enough "cover" in the middle to allow for an overall tone change. (Below)

Well, darnit, what rotten luck.  Model A's picture came out blurry, So I'll have to use Model D as the example for both. I used various mixtures of ink, water, and the base flesh color.  This usually yields a decent result.   You typically don't want to use straight ink.  Put a little of the base flesh color in it to get a mixture that is a dark version of your flesh color.  Then add enough water to make it an effective "wash".   As you can see in the above examples, the wash has done its work.  Maiden D has the stuff in the contour lines.  St-Tropez-tan Model B has it as well, and although her wash is fairly dark, the raised areas are still quite intact with the base color.   Model C is still quite pale, and the slightly lighter base color has mixed with the ink to create a slightly lighter wash.  The effect is more subtle, as it should be with a paler subject.

Hmmm... very interesting what has happened here.  I've taken my detail brush and painted a lighter layer of paint slightly higher-up on the raised areas of the figure.  I've left some of the base color in the more shallow recesses (such as lines in the musculature) and only painted the slightly higher highlights.  This now leaves them with a bit more subtle tone variation on their skin that makes logical sense with their rather smooth female muscular/anatomical features.

Areas to focus on in this step: All raised areas of musculature, Forehead, nose, Cheeks (all), Chin, Upper and Lower Lips, Shoulders, Knees, Buttocks, Breasts or Pectorals, Abs, Hips, Shins, Tops of hands and feet, Muscles of the neck.

The logical extrapolation of this is that the more you vary these tones, the more pronounced the musculature will appear - something that you can use on your male figures!


And now, back to our regularly-scheduled painting program!

In this step, an even lighter highlight has been added to an even smaller raised highlight area on the anatomy/musculature.  This additional layer raises the overal brightness even higher.  You can see this especially on Model B, the tanning girl.  I've put an even higher highlight on her buttocks.  Other noteworthy areas to consider for these types of higher highlights are (once again) the most raised areas of the musculature, shoulders, kneecaps, hips, knuckles of the hand, brow ridge, bridge of the nose.cheekbones and chin. Butt cheeks and the tops of breasts should be slighly paler than the rest of the nude.

and finally......

Another even smaller high-highlight has been added, in the same manner and following the same rule as the previous.  Boy, that skin is starting to sparkle now!   Model C, the pale girl, is really starting to get almost ghostly white!  In fact, her "high highlight" color in this step was an almost 100% ceramacoat white.  The eye sockets have been painted a dark brown in preparation for the eyes - a difficult step.  We're in the home stretch now!

Areas focused on in this step: Nose, cheekbones, top of lip, tip of chin, tops of shoulders and knees, tops of breasts, knuckles, toes.

Now it's time do do their hair....

A coating of that miracle substance, Windsor-Newton Peat Brown Ink has been added to each hairstyle.  This has "drabbed" the base color considerably.  A slight highlight has been dry-brushed on with a #1 round brush.  Model C, our vampiress, didn't have any contour lines molded into the hairstyle, so the highlights had to be painted on with a #000 detail brush.

Some notes on dark hair:  Typically, use dark brown, ink it, then highlight with a fairly dark brown.   If Model B were to have been destined to be an asian girl, I would have painted her skin tone fairly pale.  The hair would have started out straight black, then to be highlighted with a very dark gray, and then possibly inked to get the sheen back into her hair.  Platinum blonde hair is also a challenge.  Start with a very pale tan, then dry brush with a near-white and possibly finish it off with a light tan wash around the hairline.   White "Elric"  hair is well-nigh impossible.  Paint a very pale gray and dry-brush with straight white.  You will probably have to use a detail brush to pick out the highest highlights and any stray hairs around the face.

EYES -  You can paint a straight line of white and put a dark dot in it.  This will give them a starey maniacal look.   I typically don't do that.  With the eye sockets painted a dark brown, I carefully, with the extreme tip of a #000 detail brush, put a teeny tiny white dot in each corner of the eye.  You will need many hours of practice with this.  DO IT.  Weird looking eyes can ruin the best paint job.

Below are some examples of our finished product for you to examine in detail.....

Model A will be possibly a Norwegian or Scandinavian girl, so she will be blonde.  Blonde hair is NOT YELLOW!  It is usually a pale tan of some sort  The paint I used here is called "Palomino Gold" by Vallejo.  It is a somewhat drab yellow that covers very well. 
Model B I envisioned to be a Spanish girl, sunning herself on the beach, so she will have dark hair.  Keep in mind that typically only asian, east indian, or african peoples have completely black hair.  I used a very dark walnut brown for her.
Model C is obviously a goth vampiress, so I'll start hers as an almost-unnatural red.
Model D is possibly an American country girl, sunning herself on the "back forty" somewhere.  Her hair starts off at a medium brown.

Model A is "full frontal" in pose, but really won't need any pube hairs painted as her leg is crossing over slightly.  There is a hard shadow as one leg folds over the other, so trying to paint something in such a defined recess wont' be necessary.  Pubes are generally a slightly darker color than the hair on a person's head.  Just a fact of life, hair consistency and all that.

Another thing you will want to avoid is to put a too-dark shadow around the nipples.  Breasts are paler than the rest of the body as it is, and if you put that kind of hard shadow around that prominent an area, they will stare out at you and look completely silly!   Be subtle here!

On a figure of this scale, human skin tones should sparkle like gems.  They should capture the gaze and hold the eye.  The viewer should want to look more closely, and ooh an ahh over it.  THAT's what you're going for.... a miniature with "pop"!

And if that ain't enuf, here are a few more examples....!

Here's a model of a mad scientist's henchman, in the style of the incomperable Tor Johnson.  It is part of Bob Murch's "Pulp Figures" line (see links) and has been given the above flesh treatment. 

Bald heads get the high highlight on top!

...and speaking of mad scientists, here's a model from the same line... Vincent Price as THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES!

The skin has been given "the treatment", but more importantly, the techniques have been used to shade his mad doctor's tunic also!  Anton never looked so good in "Psycho Ward Green".

I told'ya, you're gonna wanna use this technique on practically everything...!

I'm a huge fan of Frazetta's, and his "Death Dealer" is one of my faves. 

Here's a really rare out of production version that I found and really took my old sweet time on.  I wanted to get every ripple right.  The results speak for themselves.

See the rule?  Women = subtle muscular contrasts, Men = bolder muscular contrasts




But death is not solely a man's province.....

There's always

Ahh.... dear Hope, what has become of you?  Burnt at the stake to cast your lot for the throne of Hell....

A really supernatural pale is possible.  In this case I washed her with a really light blue and then blended my way back up to pure white.   The blending technique was also used to great effect on the red cape.  When doing cloths with this method, always save your highest highlight for the edge.  It'll make the item really stand out.   See?  You'll wanna use it for practically everything! 

A truly ethereal effect for the pale Lady Death.

Since I KNOW you're gonna ask, the figure is a Reaper conversion.  I don't know the name of the actual figure of it's out of production or not.  Check their catalog.

Hey... wait a minute...  it's a ...  no, it can't be.  But it IS.  It's a Green Man of Mars!   This gem is a (slightly) converted figure from Bronze Age Miniatures. 

It was primered using olive drab testors spray paint and then washed with a darker green.

This is to illustrate the fact that even "exotic" flesh tones can be worked using the "blending" technique.

It's not easy being green, but people sure don't pick on you when you have four arms, multiple weapons, and stand 12 to 14 feet tall!

From out of the darkness comes.... DARKNESS!

Yes, it's the nasty Tim Curry Demon outta LEGEND!
This extensively-converted former Final Fantasy figure illustrates that even difficult colors such as red can be blended from a deep crimson to an almost-yellow highlight.

Since they don't cover well, red and yellow were actually advantageous blending colors.  One level cleanly blended over the other for a terrific effect.


Now go out and PRACTICE!  Go to Hasslefree miniatures and get all of their naked harem girlies.  They are the best nude minis I've ever seen.   Following closely on their heels are the barsoomian harem princesses from Bronze Age Minis.  Get those too.   If you can lay your hands on an old Dennis Mize "Slave Auction" set, grab those and PAINT THEM ALL.  After all that, your painting skills will have grown by leaps and bounds.   HAVE FUN!