We’re Going on an Adventure!

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Each of these figures is a classic character type that would easily fit into most fantasy role-playing games, and some skirmish games, as well. However, they are also designed to be displayed as a group, with poses and bases that key together to depict an adventuring party bravely exploring a dungeon corridor! Bobby Jackson was the clever sculptor on this project, and I was asked to paint the set. 

9party bl front hammer

In this article I will outline the decisions and process I used to paint this group. Articles with more details on how I painted each of the individual figures, including the specific paint colours I used, are also available:. Human RogueHalfling FighterDwarf Cleric, Elf Wizard. I’m also working on an article that explores what I could have done to make the source lighting effect more dramatic, with plenty of tips you will be able to use to paint your own figures with more convincing OSL effects.

9party gr back hammer

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The Figures

I think these figures are super fun. They’re sculpted and produced with modern quality sensibilities, but have a bit of a nostalgic vibe to them. They call to mind those exciting first few levels of playing a new tabletop or computer role-playing game – your gear isn’t very exotic, but your character looks good, and everything you do and see is new and exciting. Each of the figures has personalized details and logical equipment, but they are sleek sculpts that are more accessible than many to less seasoned painters and people who need to quickly get figures painted and on the table. The detail is nice and crisp, which should allow them to paint up well regardless of the techniques you use.

9party bl 3front

These figures and a dungeon dwelling goblin (pictures further down in this article) are teasers for Reaper’s Bones 6 Kickstarter: Tales from the Green Griffin, which is happening right now! A random selection of one of the five figures is still being added to most Reaper Miniatures orders. One of the five was included in the swag bags for AdeptiCon, and there may be other giveaway opportunities where you can obtain one or more of these figures. If you are interested in these figures but are not able to receive a free one, or you’d like to ensure you get all of them, they are included in the Kickstarter core pledge level. I expect that they will go into retail sales channels at some point after the Kickstarter pledges have been fulfilled, but it will be several years until that happens.

9party bl 3Bbases front hammer

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Preparation

The copies of the figures I painted are master prints from a 3D printer, since the production figures hadn’t arrived by the time I was sent these to start painting. The prints were very clean, with just a few small marks from support struts to shave off. The only serious issue I faced is that the cleric’s hammer had broken off in transit. I gave the figures a quick dip in isopropyl alcohol to remove any finger grease, and then used superglue to reattach the cleric’s hammer.

The wide release figures are produced in Bones Black plastic. It has a little flexibility, so is much less likely to experience the kind of breakage I had to deal with on the 3d prints, but it is still solid (not bendy) plastic with crisp details. If the copies I painted had been Bones Black, I would have cleaned them the same way: a dip in isopropyl alcohol. You can use a toothbrush and dish soap instead of alcohol if you prefer. Recently I received production copies of the figures, and I’ve taken photographs of them. You can see a picture of the goblin below, and I am including pictures of the other figures at the end of this article, so you can assess the appearance of the Bones Black material for yourself.

P goblin frontA Bones Black production copy of the promo goblin.

Planning

It has increasingly been my experience that it is more than worth the time to spend some time planning out colours and making a few other decisions prior to applying any paint. Even with speedily painted tabletop miniatures. Actually especially with tabletop miniatures! It has also been my experience that I’m not always consistent at doing what I know I should do. My regular bedtime is ‘way too late’, for example. But I do keep trying, and I recommend that you do, as well!

In the case of these figures, I did make some decisions upfront. But there was other planning I probably should have done, but didn’t. My first decision to make was about the nature of the source lighting effects. I’ll discuss the options and the reasoning behind my choice in a future article. For now I’ll just share the final decision. The first priority for the paint schemes was for each of these figures to look good viewed individually, and then generally as the group. The oomph level of the OSL effect was a secondary priority.

My second decision was about the style of painting to use. As I mentioned, these reminded me of computer RPG games, and I felt like they had a bit of an old school vibe. The style of painting that was in vogue when I started miniature painting was smooth and clean, and that’s always kind of been my comfort zone. Nowadays I regularly paint figures with more complex colour schemes, and I enjoy exploring ways to simulate textures with paint and colour, but I decided to go back to my roots with these figures.

I picked out the main colours for each of the individual figures prior to painting them, but I did not work out my choices for all of the main colours prior to painting anything. My idea was for each character to have a colour (or two colour combo) that would set them apart a little, but I didn’t think about choosing all of the colours in advance to ensure everything meshed together well. The characters are positioned quite closely together when assembled as a group, and I thought having a signature colour would help make each easier to see, as well as being a way to enhance their individual personalities. I think that my choices achieved those goals.

1party printsThe figures as I received them. NOTE: my copies are 3D prints, the production figures are in sturdy Bones Black plastic and shouldn’t break very easily.

However, I’m not sure that I was as successful in terms of creating the overall colour palette for the figures as a group. There are some elements that tie multiple figures together, and for the most part I think the cleric, rogue, and fighter look like they fit together in the same scene. I don’t think the wizard’s colours mesh in as well. The gold NMM and his staff handle are the same colours used for gold and wood on the rest of the group. The rest of his colour scheme uses different colours. The blue of his robe is different than the teal blue on the rogue’s shirt. The green of his spell effect and gems are different than the rogue’s green clothing. The only violet-purple colour used on the figures is on the wizard’s cloak. His leather is also a new colour, a cool grey.

Overall the wizard has a much cooler colour scheme than the others. In some ways that fits, as he is primarily lit by the cooler green of his spell effect and is at the furthest distance from the torch. I think he would visually mesh a little more with the others if his leather accessories were painted using at least some of the colours in the rogue’s pants (or cleric’s hair, or some other brown/tan on another of the figures). It would also have created more colour unity if I had worked some of the violet-purple into the other figures. It would clash with their red and orangish colours if used too obviously, but I think using some in the shadows of the leather on the other figures would work. The rogue’s gem could also have been magenta rather than red. These are the kinds of issues I might have avoided had I spent more time working out the main colours of the group prior to doing any painting.

Although I didn’t do everything I could have, I did take some steps to share colours between the figures to help them appear as if they are part of the same world under the same lighting conditions. You can easily do similar things to help tie a non-uniform wearing unit or band of RPG foes together.

* I used the same colours on the gold and steel non-metallic metal on all of the figures.
* The colours of some of the accessories like leather straps, pouches, and wooden weapon handles are repeated across figures.
* The rogue’s hair and the cleric’s leather armour share colours in common.
* The rogue’s boots and the warrior’s leather gear share a few colours in common.

The primary thing that I did to tie the colour schemes together was to use the same dark colour to mix the shadows for all of the figures. In this case I used Black Indigo, but I’ve used Blue Liner and other colours in the past. You can also do this with highlight colours, though I find sometimes you need to have a couple of different light colours to successfully mix highlights from a variety of colours.

I painted out swatches of some of the colours I used on the figures, and you can see photos of those below. Notice how the darker squares look fairly similar to one another regardless of the colour. This is the effect you get when you use the same shadow mix colour, and it is what helps make the figures look as if existing in the same scene and lighting.

3party colours1Paint colours used on the rogue. If I recall correctly, the colours from top to bottom are shirt, hair, boots, pants, and skin. (But not painted in that order!)

3party colours2The rows on the top left are colours from the cleric (skin, hair, leather armour I think). Bottom right are the fighter’s skin and green clothing.

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Underpainting

Working out in advance where to place the lighter areas and the shadow areas is helpful regardless of the lighting scenario. It’s particularly helpful when you’re fairly new to painting or you’re working on an important piece like a contest entry. Once you’ve had some experience painting diffuse lighting from above, you can generally imagine where to place lighter and darker areas on the figure without too much difficulty. However, it is always useful to use some reference, particularly if you’re trying to push your contrast. Reference can be as simple as holding your figure beneath a single bulb lamp now and then to check where areas appear lighter and darker.

Determining where to place lights and shadows can be a little trickier when you have directional lighting or source lighting. I’ll go into more detail on ways to create reference for that in the upcoming article about the source lighting on these figures, but for now I’ll keep it brief. I used my Vex airbrush to apply black primer to the entire surface area of each figure. Then I sprayed dark grey from a 30-40 degree angle to create a low contrast zenithal prime to represent the ambient light. I used grey primer mixed from white and black primer, but since there was primer on the entire surface already using grey paint would also be fine. My last step was to fit the puzzle bases together and then spray bright white ink from the direction of the two light sources.

I used an airbrush in this case, but I have used a brush and brush-on primer to paint a roadmap on other figures. Drybrushing up from a black primer base would also work.

2party prime1

How to Use Underpainting

Often I apply painted shadows and highlights to a figure by starting with the midtone value of an area, and then painting in shadows and highlights. The tabletop or terrain equivalent would be applying shadows with a dark wash, and then adding highlights by drybrushing with successively lighter colours. Occasionally I paint by starting with the darkest shadow colour of an area and then layering up through the midtones to the brightest highlights. With both of these methods I might refine blends a little as I paint, and/or refine a little once I get the values layered on to the figure, but for the most part the blending (or texturing) is developed at the same time as I apply the shadows and highlights.

I often change my method for applying paint when I am using an underpainting foundation. I treat it as a roadmap or guideline for where to place the values of my colours. I used that approach to paint the larger areas of these figures. I mix up a range of values on my palette like these examples below:

3party colours2 fighter

Then I apply those mixes on top of the roadmap of my underpainting. So for these figures, I painted the darker shadows where the underpainting was black, midtone mixes over grey areas, and the lighter mixes over the light grey or white areas. I don’t worry about making smooth and pretty blends. I’m just thinking about where should areas look lighter, darker, or something in between. I apply the paint in patches, kind of like tiles of colour, or like patches on a quilt. You can see this in the pictures further below. The pictures on the left demonstrate the patchwork painting process on the boots. The photos show a first pass. I missed some spots, and since some colours are more transparent, there are areas where I’ll need to apply two or three coats to make sure that all my colours are painted on opaquely.

During the patch painting stage, I’m just worried about the larger areas and the big picture. Note that in the initial pass on the left, I haven’t added any definition to the wrinkles on the boots. I just want to make sure I put a slight highlight on the forward foot overall, and a fairly dark shadow on the rear downturned shin and foot. Both boots just have big patches of lighter or darker colours, with no attention paid to wrinkles in the leather or other nuances.

2rogue faceAfter I finish underpainting I take photos so I can double check something even if I’ve already painted over that bit.

As I continue to add paint, I begin refining. My first focus is to refine the placement of the various values. You can see an example of that below. In referring to my reference photos I decided that the shadow on the left side of the forward leg was placed too high up on the leg, so I moved it lower down. If you compare the final version on the right to the starting point on the left, you’ll see that the areas of midtones and highlights are larger on the thigh of the forward leg in the final version. How can I check my work and see whether I need to make changes like that if I’ve covered over the underpainting? After I complete the underpainting, I find it helpful to take pictures from a few different angles so I can reference it later, like the example above.

I don’t worry much about blending until the refinement stage. Imagine that I had painted that thigh with standard layering, and after I finished most of the painting, then I realized the shadow was in the wrong place. I’d have had to do a lot of painting over again. It usually saves time and effort to work out the major value placements in a quick rough way, and then only blend once I’m confident about placements. To blend, I apply intermediary mixes of the values along the transition lines. I usually use stippling, or short brushstrokes to smooth the transition lines. If I’m working on a display piece like this, I keep working until I don’t really see any transition lines. This is also the stage where I add details and pick out small folds or wrinkles, add edging, or paint in some extra shadows, etc. I have all the colour mixes on my palette, so refining details is easy and fairly quick to do.

This can be an effective tabletop technique, as well, and a great way to push yourself to paint the high level of contrast that really makes a piece stand out on a game board. Apply the tiles as I’ve described above, and then just smooth out the roughest of the transitions to get it to the point where it looks good at arm’s length.

4map front

4map left

The Patreon PDF copy of this article includes more photos of the rogue, and an additional set of photos illustrating the process on the non-metallic sabatons of the cleric, as a thank you to my Patrons for the generous support that allows me to make the majority of my content freely available.

Underpainting (or any other kind of reference like a photo) is a useful guideline, but it is not a shackle. Part of my role as the painter is to make judgements and changes. Maybe I need to cheat a little more highlighting into an area to help tell the story, help define the character, or just help the viewer see what’s going on. Maybe I add a little more shadow into an area for more drama. Maybe I push the overall value range a little lighter or darker in places. The final decisions are up to me, but it’s immensely helpful to start with the guideline of a photo or other resource like underpainting, especially when tackling unusual lighting direction.

Note that there can be challenges with the technique of starting rough and then refining. Just like any other method for applying paint, it’s not perfect. Some colours are trickier to work with than others, and this technique can take a bit of time if you’re working with transparent colours. It takes more time to shift shadows around like in my example of the thigh because you have to paint a lot of coats of brighter red over the shadow to remove it. Some colours are also easier to finesse into smooth blending than others. I used the method of painting on tiles of the correct value of paint to paint Ziba the Efreeti. I misplaced some of the shadows on the legs, and it took a lot of time to tweak things because I was working with reds. In Ziba’s case I did not use underpainting, I used reference photos taken in a specific lighting set up. You can see an example of one of the photos in the article

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Group Paint Process and Notes

Anne Foerster of Painting Big often recommends that you start painting with the part that you dislike or dread the most, and that’s pretty good advice. This was going to be an extensive project, so in this case, I felt like I needed to ease my way in, to try to start with a win. I chose to begin painting with the rogue. She was one of the figures with a light source right on the figure, and I also had a pretty good idea of the colours I wanted to use. I had the least idea of what I wanted to do with the fighter, so I painted him next, and then the dwarf.

5fight rogueWIP picture taken during the stage where I was painting everything but the NMM.

As I progressed through the first three figures, I painted pretty much everything but the non-metallic metal and their bases. My thought was to leave those areas until the end, since I would use similar colours for them on all of the figures. As the painting continued, I started to rethink that idea. It was highly unlikely that I would be able to paint the steel or gold NMM on all of the figures in one sitting, which reduced the value of batch painting it. Painting NMM in the smooth clean style I was using on these figures can be pretty tedious, so I decided that maybe I should start working on that now, and leave the more enjoyable painting tasks on the wizard to look forward to. 

5fight rogue clericStill painting everything but the NMM.

That lead to several days of smoothing grey blends tedium. During one of those sessions my thumb twitched a bit and knocked against the glue repaired war hammer on the cleric, and it popped it right off again. I called my husband in to help me look, and we had a tense 10 minutes of searching for the piece while trying to be very careful not to inadvertently step on it. We found it, and I tucked it away for safekeeping. I decided to complete the painting on the rest of the figure before gluing it back to touch it little as possible! Resin figures and 3D prints like this glue back together well, and often the join isn’t even visible. But given my general glue curse, I don’t want to take too many chances. 

7party rightA picture of the group as it appeared after my stay up late and finish as much as possible paint session.

NOTE: My copies of these figures are more brittle 3D prints. The preview copies being sent out and the ones available in the Kickstarter are Bones Black plastic, which is sturdier, but still holds detail well. Pictures of the production copies are at the end of this article.

I got a call from the Reaper art director on a Tuesday during the endless NMM painting. Was there any chance the figures were finished? Or were any of the figures close enough to finish in the next day or so? It turned out that the deadline for Reaper to submit an ad to the AdeptiCon program book was noon the next day. The rogue and the fighter were very close to done, and I thought the cleric might be possible as well, and I pushed to paint as much as I could. Between the painting and taking pictures, I stayed up until 5am. It’s been a long time since I did a stay up late painting crush! I had to rush a couple of things more than I would have liked, but overall I’m pretty happy with them, and pleased that I managed to get at least three of them finished in time to go in the ad.

7party face lowI think this is the picture that was used in the AdeptiCon program guide ad. Let me know if you see the ad!

I do regret not being able to paint all of the bases at once. Since that could easily have been finished in a single painting session, it would have been quicker that way, and also easier to ensure that the colours and values on all of them matched.

If you’re curious about attending AdeptiCon in the future, I have an article with some information about it.

9party gr front hammerFinally, aveng… I mean adventurers assembled.

After a day off to recover, I got back to painting the wizard, and then touched up a few things and called it done.

Coming soon are articles with more information on the paint process for the individual figures and the paint colours used on each of them, and tips for painting OSL.

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Paint Colours Used on all Party Members

Gold NMM:

IMG 2665

Steel NMM:

I used neutral greys and then added glazes of colours appearing elsewhere on the figures. Any neutral greys would work. The specific ones I used were:

9328 Black Indigo, 9289 Noir Black, 9088 Story Grey, 9089 Cloudy Grey, 9038 Rainy Grey, 9090 Misty Grey, and 9039 Pure White.

Bases:

IMG 2670

An article on the Human Rogue painting process and paint colours is available, and the same information for the other characters is coming soon.

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Photos of the Production Copies of the Miniatures

These figures and a dungeon dwelling goblin (look for a picture at the bottom of this article) are teasers for Reaper’s Bones 6 Kickstarter: Tales from the Green Griffin, which is scheduled to start on March 31 2022. A random selection of one of the five figures is being added to most Reaper Miniatures orders. One of the five will be included in the swag bags for AdeptiCon, and there may be other giveaway opportunities where you can obtain one or more of these figures. If you are interested in these figures but are not able to receive a free one, or you’d like to ensure you get all of them, they will be included in the Kickstarter core pledge level. I also expect that they will also go into retail sales at some point after the Kickstarter pledges have been fulfilled, but it will be several years until that happens.

I recently received production copies of the figures. I have taken photos of them so you can assess the production quality, level of detail and so on for yourself. These are produced in China in the Bones Black plastic material. Bones Black is more rigid than the original Bones formula. As a result it is just a little less sturdy (I probably wouldn’t drive over these), but it holds detail very well and avoids the issues with wavy or warped weapons. These were shipped to me in standard blister packs.

P fighter front

P fighter back

P cleric front

P cleric back

P rogue front

P rogue back

P mage front

P mage back

P goblin front

P goblin back

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