Ghost Bride Betty: Then and Now

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I first painted Betty for a Reaper Miniatures special promotional sale in October 2015. I painted a second copy of her on an episode of my Beyond the Kit episode to celebrate Halloween. I think it would be interesting to compare the two and see what difference six years (and two hours) can make. The paint colours I used on both versions are listed further down in this article. The video recording includes information on painting a monochromatic colour scheme, how I mixed the new colour scheme, my complete painting process on the figure, and a demonstration of my reverse wet palette system.

Ghostbride comp frontThe left figure was painted in 2015, the right in 2021.

Value and Colour Differences

I think comparing these two figures is a good example of the power of contrast! (I’ll circle back to the idea that this character is a ghost later on.) I used the original photo as inspiration for my second version, so the overall value choices are pretty similar in terms of white dress, medium skin, dark hair, etc. However, in each individual area I used darker shadows overall in the 2021 version than in the 2015 version. Compare the shadows on the face, dress, and bouquet. In particular look at the lining around the bodice ties and lace trim as examples. You can even see it in the stone of the base, which has much darker shadows than the v2015, but roughly the same value of highlights.

Quick reminder: value refers to how light or dark a colour appears. It can be more difficult to see in full colours, so I’ve converted the photo to black and white below.

Ghostbride comp front bwIf you view Betty 2015 and Betty 2021 converted to grayscale, the contrast difference is even more apparent.

While the shadows are darker overall, I also increased the value range between darkest shadows and lightest highlights significantly in a few areas. The highlights on the hair of v2021 are almost white, and the shadows are almost black. The highlight and midtone colours of the two faces are very similar in value, but the shadows of v2021’s face are darker. The contrast of the darker shadows help make the highlights appear lighter. (I also applied some of the lighter highlights to a broader area on v2021.)

To help you compare the two, I have isolated samples of the highlight, midtone, and shadow colours from an area of the skin and hair on both figures in the picture below. The grey background is 50% grey, exactly halfway between the lightest and darkest possible values. These swatches also help isolate some of the differences in colour tones between the two. The colours are pretty similar, but those used on v2021 are a little more saturated and have a touch more green in the midtones and highlights.

Ghostbride comp value range

I’ve converted the swatch picture into a grayscale version below. There is a swatch in v2015’s skin and another in v2021’s hair that are exactly the same value as the 50% grey background, so they disappear in the grayscale version of the photo. The grayscale comparison confirms that highlights and midtones on the skin of both figures are similar, but v2021 has darker shadows. The shadows of the hair on both are similar, but v2021 has much lighter highlights. This larger value spread is part of what makes the hair of v2021 appear shinier.

Ghostbride comp value range bw

The back view is predominately just the white dress and veil. Here the colour differences between the two versions become the most notable difference. That colour difference enhances the appearance of value differences. The more saturated greenish blue used on the white of v2021 stands out to your eye more. Using strongly saturated colour in shadows can be tricky for that reason. In this instance I think the shadows drawing attention and glowing a little works since the figure represents a ghostly character.

Quick reminder: Saturation refers to the intensity of colour, whether it is very vivid, or duller and greyed out.

Ghostbride comp back

When the back view photos are converted to black and white, you can see that there is actually a little less value difference than it might appear. v2021 has deeper shadows on the veil and darker lining colours, but the overall shadow colours are not that much darker than on v2015.

Ghostbride comp back bw

When considering the contrast levels, remember that you are likely viewing these pictures at several times larger than the actual figure. It is critical to hold miniatures at arm’s length and consider how a colour scheme and level of contrast works at arm’s length on a shelf or table as well as thinking about the close-up details. I’ve shrunken the photos down to simulate that here. When viewed at a smaller size, the various elements of the figure are more clearly distinguished in the higher contrast v2021 than on the original v2015.

Ghostbride comp front tiny

Ghostbride comp back tiny

Grey divider edit

Personality Differences

I was a bit surprised at how much a few small changes to the way the facial features were painted altered the expression and characterization of the figure. The deeper shadows around the chin in v2021 make the face look a little pointier. The slight changes to the mouth make her look a little snarkier. Most significant is the difference between the eyes. Betty v2015 is painted with eyes facing forward and larger areas of white in the eyes showing, which combine to make her look more innocent and guileless, whereas Betty v2021’s slightly narrowed eyes that are looking off to the side give her a bit more sinister of an air.

Grey divider edit

But She’s a Ghost?

While I think the stronger contrast on Betty v2021 makes her the more visually effective of the two, I just want to note that the painting on Betty v2015 was lower contrast by design. I felt that using softer contrast and very subtle lining would help convey the characterization that she is an insubstantial being. The hair in particular is painted with much lower contrast than I would have used even in 2015. I wanted her to look a little different than the other tangible Bonesylvanians when they were viewed as part of a group. She was released the same week as Jake and Maddie and displayed with them in promotional material. I think the hints of green on Betty v2021 have a bit of a spectral glow, but I suspect many viewers may feel that the lower contrast of the the 2015 version better conveys the idea of ghostliness. I’d love to hear which one you think looks more like a ghost in the comments!

Bride jake medusaJake, Betty, and Maddie were limited releases, but other Bonesylvanians are available for purchase.

During the painting process I did not expect the value and colour differences between the two to end up as differently as they did. I was not referring to the original photo very often while painting, so once I had the main colours blocked in I painted as I would normally rather than trying to copy the original. Painting while streaming means I devote all of my focus to the painting task, and I’m more apt to go into auto-pilot mode instead of stopping to ask myself questions about what and why I’m doing something before I do it. Not that I’m always so great at that when I’m not streaming, either! But in this case it meant I defaulted to my standard level of contrast instead considering whether a ghostly character should be painted differently.

Based on some assessments of other figures that I’ve painted lately, I’ve been concerned that I have not been pushing my contrast and ‘pop’ levels as much as I though. This figure suggests I have certainly pushed my threshold past how I used to paint, even if it isn’t exactly where I want to be yet.

Since I did approach Betty a little different than the others Bonesylvanians, I thought it might also be useful to do a quick comparison with one of the other figures I painted in 2015, Mary. When I posted pictures of Mary the other day I was a bit disappointed by my paint job. The non-metallic metal, particularly on her crown, does not have as much contrast as it should either for general NMM principles, nor to fit the cartoony type of character. Were I to paint her today, I would add more contrast not just to the NMM, but also a few areas of the blue, the pearls, and just overall. I did a quick digital edit example of how I might paint Mary today that you can see below, but I suspect I would push it even further if I did a physical repaint like with Betty

Mermaid combo crThe original 2015 version of Mary is on the left, my quick digital edit is on the right.

Grey divider edit

Colour Schemes

Both of the Betty figures use a monochromatic colour scheme, similar to a black and white movie or a sepia tone photograph, but using values of blue instead of grayscale or brown. One of the reasons that I chose this figure to paint on stream is that a monochromatic colour scheme is pretty quick to paint once you have all the paints mixed up, so I was pretty confident I could get it mostly finished in one stream. Painting monochromatically is also a great exercise to help force yourself to push contrast, and to explore painting textures. I talk about the fun and challenges of a monochromatic scheme more on the stream.

Below is a photo showing the paints I used and the mixes I made with them to paint the 2015 version of Betty. One of these paints is a sample colour, two are from the canceled MSP HD line, and Maggot White was canceled this year. So unfortunately the only one currently available is Pure White! 

Ghostbride palette

One of the reasons I wanted to paint a new version of Betty was to work out a variation of the colour scheme using more accessible paint colours that I could share so other people could paint something similar if they wished. I started by doing some tests on paper comparing the original colours to some other paints.

Gb colour tests edit

After testing I settled on these colours:

9039 Pure White with a tiny dab of 9410 Dragon Green to substitute for Maggot White. (If you have the swag box 29137 Vampire Pallor, that is pretty similar to Maggot White.)

9056 Templar Blue mixed with various ratios of 9039 Pure White to substitute for both Sample blue and Winter Blue.

9422 Nightsky Indigo mixed with 9066 Blue Liner to substitute for Nightsky Blue. This mix has a little more purple than Nightsky Blue, but I thought that would complement the touches of green in the highlights well. This darkest shadow colour was mixed with Templar Blue to create additional shadow mixes. (You can mix a very close colour match to Nightsky Blue by mixing Templar Blue with swag box 9507 Kraken Ink if you have it.)

Gb new colours

I liked the effect of the slightly darker test mix of Pure White and Dragon Green, so when I sat down to mix up my paints before the stream, I mixed up some white and green mixes with the intention of using those in some different areas than the white and blue mixes. I ended up only using them on the face highlights. However, I did decide to mix a little bit of the white and green mixes into the lighter four or so blue highlight colours, so the colours on my palette and the figure are shifted a little bit teal compared to the colours on my test swatch paper above. Use the colours as listed beneath the swatch sheet if you want a colour scheme closer to Betty from 2015. Add tiny dabs of Dragon Green into the mixes if you want a colour scheme closer to Betty from 2021.

Here is a picture with all the mixes. Again, I didn’t paint much with the green mixes on the left, just a bit in some of the highlights on the face, but I did mix some of these into the blues.

Gb new colours mixes

Updated November 1, 2022
* Removed dead links.
* Added group photo of Jake, Betty, Maddie.
* Improved formatting.

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