Painting Chop and Grub the Halfling Cooks

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Chop and Grub are brothers and cooks. They are characters from Reaper Miniatures’ Savage Coast setting who run an eatery called Chop’s Skullery in the pirate city of Brinewind. I think they would easily fit into any fantasy or steampunk setting.

Blue chop grub frontBoth Chop and Grub were sculpted by Bobby Jackson, who has a fondness for halfling characters. He plays one in our Reaper artist Dungeons and Dragons game!

Often I work on a single figure over a short period of time where I concentrate completely or at least primarily on that piece. That painting approach fits with the way my mind works. It makes it easier for me to reflect on the process of painting the miniature and pin down useful thoughts to share with you. I’m also more likely to track (or be able to recreate) the colour recipes I used on various areas to be able to share those.

I painted this pair in a much more disjointed fashion. I painted them in the midst of working on other projects, painting on one for a session or two over a period of months. Every time I thought I’d have time to sit and focus on these, another project would pop up that was a rush job high priority. I did end up working on them sometimes despite deadlines. On occasion either my hands, mind, or eyes aren’t up to the highest level work or the highest stress work. What works best for me is to just accept that. It helps if I have a lower stress sculpt or project to work on. That allows me to get a little practice or warm up for the more pressing project, and still get something useful done. The side project doesn’t have to be another commission, it might be a character for a game or working on a demo for an article.

Blue chop grub back

As I worked on these, I did take a few WIP pictures, and I tried to record the colours I used. I’ll be sharing that information below. These miniatures are both sculpted by Bobby Jackson, and cast in Bones USA plastic. The copies I painted are not masters, they’re straight out of a wide release blister pack. I did not prime these; the grey is the colour of the plastic. I did dunk them in isopropyl alcohol to clean off any finger oils or mould release, as I do with pretty much all miniatures of any material.

Blue chop grub face

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General Painting Process

I painted these in the style I studied with Sergio Calvo Rubio. I started with the darkest colours and successively layered up with lighter colour mixes. My goal was to put the focus on the faces and upper torsos, as is Sergio’s usual approach. I used darker colours on the legs and feet and didn’t highlight the skin or hair on the feet up to as light a level as on the faces. I also tried to focus the more saturated colours in and around the faces. Both have rosy pink cheeks. Chop’s blonde hair has hints of yellow, and I used red for his kerchief for more colour contrast in the face area. I think the focus works pretty well on Chop.

Grub has red hair, and I used blue for his kerchief both as colour contrast and as a colour link to his brother. I’m not sure that I was successful in making the face and upper torso the focus area on Grub. I think I should have used darker greys on the lower part of his apron, and maybe stronger highlights on the ends of hair that ring his face.

Both of these were painted in a slightly different style than I usually use. It’s a little exaggerated, almost cartoony. For example, with the shadows on clothing folds and wrinkles, I aimed for definition and good contrast much more than butter smooth blends. I felt that style meshed well with the nature of the sculpts and the characters, and I think it was a good experience to push my boundaries a little.

Blue chop grub nub front2Nub, on the right, is also sculpted by Bobby Jackson, and is also a Bones USA figure that I painted straight out of a blister pack.

The pictures above and below include a third character, the dwarf sausage maker, Nub. He works at the same eatery. I actually painted him first, and I am working on another article with more information about him. I also painted him from darkest colour to lightest, and trying to practice the principles I studied with Sergio Calvo Rubio. However, I pictured him as a bit more sinister of a character, and one who works in the back, not directly with customers. So he has a darker colour palette and looks a little grittier. I was trying to paint a lot of texture on him rather than the cleaner defined shadows on the halflings.

Blue chop grub nub back

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Chop WIP Pictures

In the first couple of sessions I worked on the face, feet, shirt, vest, and pants. Because parts of the axe and the satchel were under the arms and hands, I decided to paint those later. Since later ended up being a month or two later, it made it a little tricker to match the skin tones than it might otherwise have been!

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Next I worked on the hair (including halfling foot hair!) and the leather foot wraps.

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When I picked up the figure again for my next painting session, I wasn’t entirely happy with the hair. The highlights looked too choppy, and there wasn’t enough of the more golden colour to fit into my denatured yellow-red-blue triad colour scheme. So I reworked the hair. I also took a moment to take a couple of pictures with my higher quality camera.

Chop wip face

Chop wip back

Unfortunately at this point I forgot to keep taking pictures of the figure and the paints I was using as I worked, so I don’t have much information to share between this point and the final paint job, shown below.

Blue chop face

Blue chop back

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Grub WIP Pictures

The characters are brothers, so I wanted the figures to look like they could be related. My plan was to use same paints for the skin tones. Then I realized that I had not recorded the paint colours I used on Chop’s skin, I had to aim for similar rather than identical colours! I didn’t want to paint them too close in appearance, so I chose to make Grub a redhead. I used green for his clothing since green is the complementary colour to red. I chose a less saturated version of green. All of the colours on these figures were somewhat desaturated. (Not the most vivid versions of those colours, so a brick red for Chop’s kerchief rather than a cherry red.) These are not rich characters who could afford the finest of clothing!

I took the WIP picture below after finishing the face, feet, shirt, apron, and leather. You can see here that the blends on the apron are a little more cartoony and not butter smooth.

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And… then I forgot to keep taking WIP pictures. :-< But here are pictures of the finished figure.

Blue grub face

Blue grub back

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Chop Paint Colour Recipes


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Vest and Pants

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Dark Leather (Foot Wraps)

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Grub Paint Colour Recipes


IMG 2351The paints to the right of Linen White were used for glazes, the cheeks, and the lips. The rightmost pot is a N-Paint from Nocturna.


IMG 2352I painted the pants in an earlier session and the vest later on.


IMG 2353I used different colours than on Chop’s shirt. I’m not sure why I took this picture before I painted the shirt though…

Copper Stein Mug

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IMG 2441Since the vest is higher up on the figure and in the focus area, I added an additional highlight step for greater contrast than I painted on the pants.

Foot Wraps and Leather Bag

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Wrist Bands and Belt

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IMG 2454I couldn’t find the skin paints picture to remind myself what colours I used, so I did my best guesses! The paints to the right of Pale Flesh were glazes to try to match the face and feet.


IMG 2455While I didn’t want them to be matchy-matchy, I did want the figures to appear connected, so I incorporated the blue from Chop on Grub’s scarf.

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General Colour Notes

I used paints I had used on the figures to create the stains on their aprons. There is a little bit of weathering powder on the aprons, but it’s mostly paint. I did not record the apron paint colours for either of them. The colours were just a series of slightly warm neutral greys. I used similar colours on the cobblestone bases, but with blue liner in the wash so they look a little cooler in colour tone.

I chose to use metallics to add an additional kind of contrast to the figures. I don’t think I recorded the steel metallic recipe for either. I used a mid value steel like Honed Steel painted over the entire area, then thinned layers of Blue Liner in the shadows, and highlights with a lighter metallic like Filigree Silver. I also chose metallics because I thought I had used them on Nub. Which I had. But when I had reached the final stages with Nub, I felt like the blood was not showing up well on the knife. I had made it shiny, but the metallics were also shiny. I painted over the metallics with matte paints using the non-metallic metal approach. (Painting around the blood was not easy!) This allowed me to control the location of the painted reflections on the knife much more precisely so there was more contrast between the textures of the knife and blood. But now my characters don’t all match. Ah well!

I wish I had been a little more organized in recording the colours and taking WIP pictures for you, but hopefully this gives you some idea of how I approached these figures!

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