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Pathfinder Paint Set Preview

The Pathfinder role-playing game and Reaper Miniatures have teamed up to bring out a new set of paint colours based on Golarion, the Pathfinder game setting world. Reaper was kind enough to send me the set, and I wanted to share some information about it to help others decide whether they’d like to add this to their arsenal of paints.

I will be posting some swatches I made of the paint colours in a few days, which will hopefully help you judge the colours a little better than online digital swatches do. (We need to finish up a few home renovations before I have access to my scanner and photo station to be able to scan the swatches.) But in the meantime, here’s a preview of the cases, the colour selection, and what the paints look like in the bottles.

Pathfinder Paint boxes exteriorThere are 56 new colours in total, divided into two boxed sets of 28 colours each.

This is also one of the first products to be sold in Reaper’s new box set packaging. The new boxes have more of a squared off design than the previous Reaper cases. They appear to be completely plastic, including the hinges, but everything feels thick and sturdy. All of my old style cases are currently packed away because of the home renovations, so unfortunately I don’t have any comparison pictures between the old and new cases.

Reaper case detailCheck out that cool logo relief on the bottom front of the cases. 

I know you’re probably eager to see more about the paints, but there are a couple of other new elements that affect all Reaper products sold in box set cases that are worth pointing out.

Case fastenerNote the zip tie fastener sealing the handle closed.

When you buy a new-from-the-factory Reaper product in a case, whether you buy it directly from Reaper, or from an online retailer, or from a brick and mortar store, the handle will be fastened closed with a zip tie like the one shown in the picture above. If your boxed product is not closed with a zip tie, particularly if it is in the old style case, it may be from older stock that a seller has on hand. I used to work in a game store, and depending on local gamer tastes and initial stocking levels, products can sit on a shelf a lot longer than you might imagine. While I very much advocate supporting one’s local game store, I now prefer to purchase paints directly from the manufacturer when possible to ensure I’m getting as fresh of a product as possible. If you receive a box without a zip tie fastener, particularly if it is this new style box, it could also be a returned/pre-owned product that should have been sold as such. 

Pathfinder paint set openThere is a card inside with helpful instructions on what to do if there is an issue with your product.

When you cut off the zip tie, don’t toss it away immediately. First have a look through your product to ensure that everything that should be included is inside. If it isn’t, Reaper will be happy to make it right! There should be a card inside your box set that will tell help you get your issue sorted out. One piece of information you will need as part of that process is the colour of your box’s zip tie. Reaper is happy to resolve issues with non-box sets, too. If you get a blistered mini with two left arms and no right or any other kind of issue, send an email to help@reapermini.com. Do NOT include pictures of the issue. If they need a picture of anything, they’ll let you know.

Enough about boxes, let’s explore the awesome new paint colours! These are all new colours created specifically for this set. There are 56 colours total in the Colors of Golarion paint collection. For those who don’t play Pathfinder, Golarion is the world that the game is set in. The names for the colours are based on nations, deities, and iconic monsters and characters from that world. The colours were selected by Pathfinder creators at Paizo, so they truly reflect Paizo’s vision of their world.

Back of Pathfinder paint set box #1The back of the box and paint swatches for the first half of the Pathfinder paint set.

Paint bottles from Pathfinder paint set #1Set #1 includes pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and blues, and a couple of neutral colours.

Pathfinder creators selected the hue of the colours, but Reaper’s paint maven Anne Foerster, created and mixed the actual paint formulations for each of those colours. She used the same kinds of ingredients and approach as she did when creating the Reaper Bones Ultra colours, which she has said represents the pinnacle (so far!) of her years of paint creation experience. Both the Bones and Pathfinder paints are designed to cover in just one or two coats, dry matte, and be durable for gaming use. The colours intermix well with each other and other Reaper paints, and should work well with most other acrylic paint brands. (There are a couple of paint lines out there in both the art and hobby worlds with additives that don’t play well with other paints, but the vast majority of acrylic paints successfully intermix with other acrylic paints.)

Of particular note is the new metallic paint formulation in the Bones and Pathfinder sets. New materials have become available since the Master Series Paint line metallics were formulated, and Anne has incorporated these into the Bones and Pathfinder sets for shinier metallics. She’s mixed some pretty cool metal colours with them, too, in both the Bones Ultra and Pathfinder paint lines.

Back of Pathfinder paint set #2Paint swatches on the back of the box for the second half of the Pathfinder paint set.

Pathfinder paint bottles from set #2Set #2 includes a few more blues and pinks, several purples, skin tones, neutrals (including grey, black, and white), and a number of metallics.

If you don’t need to see swatches to know you’d like to get your hands on this paint, these box sets will be available starting September 3, 2019, with a MSRP of $99.99 for each set. The paints will also be sold individually, though I don’t know if they will go on sale on the same date. Individual bottles have an MSRP of $3.99. Note that this is higher than Reaper’s Master Series or Bones Ultra paints, due to the cost of licensing with Pathfinder. Single bottles of MSP and Bones Ultra paints are MSRP of $3.69. You should be able to ask your local Reaper stockist to order these in for you, or get them direct from Reaper Miniatures online store.

NOTE: I received these products from the manufacturer at no charge to myself. (Unless you count the cost of the sweat of my brush over all these years. ;->) This isn’t exactly a review, though I do primarily use and love Reaper paints, and I am excited to have these new colours to add to my repertoire. 

Suggestions for Contest Entries

I wrote this up to post in the Reaper forums as advice for people entering the MSP Open at ReaperCon in a few weeks, but since most of the advice applies to entering any contest, I figured I would share here, as well. (Also it’s not too late to come to ReaperCom 2019, come join us for the fun!)

ReaperCon stage

Hey fellow painters! We’re a few short weeks out from the Reaper MSP Open. I am really looking forward to seeing what everyone brings – it’s a highlight of the show for me!

For many years I have offered feedback on people’s minis after the contest, in classes, or just hanging out at the artist table. I expect I’ll be doing so again in a few weeks. But this year I thought I might also try offering some general advice in advance. These comments are based on the feedback topics that come up most often.

I know some of you have heard similar critique more than one year running, or from more than one critiquer. Which I know from experience is very frustrating! Trust me, I still get told that my work needs more contrast. And I’m still struggling to try to put that advice into practice! So I would like to start with a radical suggestion –

Go Big!

This one is for all the people who’ve received criticism about insufficient contrast, or their OSL not being dramatic enough, or another effect appearing too subtle. So many people worry about being too over-the-top or ‘unrealistic’ while they’re painting, and then after the contest receive feedback that their work is too subtle or subdued. So why not try the opposite for a while? Or try it for even just one figure?

Go big! Exaggerate! Be outright ridiculous! Put so much contrast in there you think people will be flabbergasted. Paint that OSL effect so brightly your viewers will need to wear shades. Exaggerate the action of your diorama story. Whatever you’ve been critiqued for in the past, try not only doing that thing, but dial that thing up to 11.

Then bring your crazy exaggerated piece along to the show. Put it in the contest. Bring it with some pieces you’ve worked on in your usual way. See which gets picked for judging. Take a look at the photos that are taken of all the entries and see which style looks more effective in photographs. Show the work of both kinds to your friends and your favourite teachers and see what kind of response you get.

If you have been painting for years and repeatedly gotten feedback about needing more contrast, or more vivid colour use, or more whatever else, what would it hurt to try at least one figure going to the other extreme? Maybe you’ll find out you need to dial it back just a little. Yeah, maybe your blending or fine detail painting will suffer a bit. But even if that is the case, you’ll probably be closer to where you need to be than you’re getting by slowing inching forward year by year.

Comparison Study

If you entered the MSP Open last year, I invite you to try this exercise. Go to the http://www.reapercon.com page and look at the contest picture entries from previous years. Find entries by other painters that were awarded the same level as you. Then scroll through and look at some of the entries that placed the next level up. So if you were awarded a certificate, look at a few other certificate winners, and the compare those pictures to bronze winning figures. Try to identify specific differences. Compare the level of contrast, the use of lining, whether and how the base materials are painted.

Dionne before afterComparison between different figures with different colour schemes requires a little more detective work, but is a valuable exercise that will improve your painting.

Try to find two or three specific things you want to do more like the people who placed a level higher than you did. Look at the pieces you plan to enter. Did you push yourself to do those things? If not, it’s not too late to go back to the hobby desk and try to incorporate them, or even try painting another piece or two.

(I suggest looking at other people’s entries at the same level because it’s harder to look at your own work objectively, but since it’s been a year, you might also try comparing your pieces from previous years to others as well.)

Read the Rules!

It is always a good idea to study up on the rules, and particularly the nature of each of the categories. https://reapercon.com/contestrules

Try to keep those in mind as you create your entries and decide which category to put them in. Also use that information to temper your expectations. If you put a figure with an elaborate base into the Painters category, the base work is only considered for a small part of the overall score. Regardless of how awesome the base is, the greater emphasis in judging will be on the standard of the paint work. Conversely, if you put a fantastically painted piece in the Open category but it has only a small simple conversion, the paint work is a much smaller component of the judging in that category, and the figure may place a level one or two lower than it would have if assessed on the paint alone.

For Diorama, story is critical. It’s not about having a number of figures together on a base. It’s about telling a story and setting a scene. Make sure your figures are interacting with each other and with elements in the scene. Add elements to the scene that contribute to the story or add interest to areas that don’t have a lot going on. Condense the size of the base if you don’t need that much space to tell the story. (The size of a scene base is another case where being as ‘real’ as possible isn’t always the best answer in terms of catching and keeping viewer interest.)

Bronze Sophie trophyThe MSP Open has fantastic trophies! And great looking medals. (Unfortunately mine are currently packed away for renovations, so I don’t have pics of those.)

Lining (aka Blacklining)

This is an issue that often comes up in feedback sessions. The various areas of your miniature need to be well-defined for the viewer. This definition needs to be apparent at arm’s length as well as in close up viewing. Using a tool like lining to distinguish one section of a figure from another is particularly important when you have adjacent surfaces that are similar in value. So if you have a pale skin person with blond or white hair, you need a bit of a line around the face to help the viewer see that this area is skin, and that area is hair.

Darklining is not the only method to achieve that. You can use strong contrast in your shading and get a similar effect. You can make adjacent surfaces very different in value (dark skin, pale hair). Note that generally speaking shading done via washes alone will not be strong enough. You don’t need to use a stark black. You can use a dark version of the colour of one of your adjacent surfaces (use a darker colour of the darkest surface.)

Sometimes people seem to feel like darklining is unrealistic. In actuality, it often simulates a very real situation. Take a look at someone nearby or in a photo. Where their sleeve meets their arm or the hem of their pants overhangs their shoes, you will likely see a thin line of shadow. Darklining is a way to create that effect on a miniature. Even when it isn’t 100% realistic, it helps make a tiny gaming figure more ‘readable’ to the viewer.

It looks like there are number of tutorials on YouTube that will help you out if you want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how to paint lining on your figures.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=miniature+painting+lining

Contrast

You’ve probably been told you need it. Maybe you feel like you’re doing it, why can’t people see that? Or maybe you feel like it’s not realistic, why won’t people accept you want to paint in a more realistic way? Or maybe you accept that contrast is a good thing, but you just aren’t having much luck actually doing it. Whichever of the above best reflects your opinion, I have some blog posts for you!

More vs less contrastContrast! Try it!

First, an example of what more contrast actually looks like on the same figure.

Let’s talk about the issue of contrast vs. realism.

The way we think as we paint can make it harder to paint more contrast (includes additional examples of what more and less contrast look like on the same figures.)


And finally some hands on tips for painting with more contrast.


See you in a few weeks!

Inauspicious Beginnings: Painting Spanish Part One

Sometimes a journey of learning begins with great enthusiasm and an ambitious roadmap of goals. Sometimes it begins with faltering steps and only the vaguest idea of a direction to head. In March 2017 I began an adventure of learning in a pretty lacklustre way. The journey continued throughout 2018, but it also continued to be fairly unfocused and haphazard.

As 2019 has progressed, I’ve been finding more pieces of a map. By sharing thoughts about learning how to paint miniatures better on this blog, I’ve also discovered ways to be a better learner myself! In hopes that it might help someone else, I thought I would share some moments from my journey, both the successes and the failures. Today I’m sharing the not very noteworthy beginning.

Orc painted at Sergio class in April 2018How it began. Not great.

I rarely have the opportunity to choose classes I take at conventions based solely on my topic interests at the time. My interests certainly come into play, but the options available to me have to work around my own schedule for teaching. At AdeptiCon 2017, it worked out that I was able to take several classes with talented Spanish painters. My first class was a hands-on with Big Child Creatives. Sergio Calvo Rubio was with them then and provided the painting demonstration, and Jose Manuel Palomares Nunez provided additional explanation and translation, as well as helpful feedback on our attempts. 

This was not at all a successful class for me. I was struggling to understand the principles, and naturally that made it challenging to try to apply them hands-on. Jose wasn’t quite sure what to make of my attempt, and neither was I. I’m sure it didn’t help that the class started at 10pm after what was a long day for all of us, but where other students seemed energized and excited by what they were learning, I just felt lost.

The next day, I had a class with Raffaele Picca, another Spanish painter. This class was a demonstration of his painting approach. Being a demonstration, it allowed me to just focus on what he was doing to try to understand it. I’m sure it also helped that I took this class earlier in the day, before my old brain was tired out.

On the last day of the convention, I had another class with Sergio and Jose. This one was also a demonstration. So Sergio and Jose had time to demonstrate and explain the painting process much more thoroughly and cohesively. The figure was passed around at the end of each major stage so I was able to take work-in-progress pictures of the process. People tend to have a very strong preference for hands-on classes, but there are a lot of valid reasons to consider attending demonstrations. If a painter’s process is quite different from what you normally use, it is helpful to see it in an overview before attempting to apply it yourself. I felt like I had a much better understanding of what Sergio and Jose were teaching after this class than in the hands-on one.

Sergio goblin 400Sergio’s demonstration figure from one of his classes at AdeptiCon 2018.

I also lucked out in that final class. They gave the figure away to one of the students, and I was the lucky one! So I have been able to use it for reference as I study this approach in more detail.

While I enjoyed the class better, it wasn’t a magic moment that turned into me knowing exactly what and how to proceed with studying this approach or the Spanish style in general. Mainly what I grasped was that both painters advocate working in a similar big picture first, small details later way. Many people in the miniature community have been calling this approach ‘sketching’ or similar terms. It’s also a concept that most of the traditional artists I’ve been studying advocate. Traditional artists often describe it as working from general to specific.

Working general to specificAn example of working general to specific from an oil painting workshop I took recently. 

The basic idea of working general to specific in traditional art is that in the early stages you should concentrate on getting the correct proportions and placement of the general shapes before you start refining, and definitely before you start adding any sort of detail. Look at the picture on the far left and then compare it to the others later in the process to the right. The area of light on the chin and the shape of the forehead are different in the first picture. The light area of the nose is shorter. If I had started to put in the deep shadows and bright highlights on the nose before fixing that shape, I would have had two choices when I noticed the problem later – leave everything as it was to preserve the time I had put in but have a less correct painting, or fix it and lose all that time I had put into painting the details. It makes a lot more sense to work on getting all of the big stuff right first.

Sergio sketch stagesSergio Calvo Rubio sketch stages from a class at AdeptiCon 2017.

Painting miniature figures does not involve drawing overall shapes, but the idea of working general to specific can still be applied. You can see an example in the figure above, which is the figure Sergio Calvo Rubio painted in the demonstration class I took with him and Jose Manuel Palomares. In the first step, he’s worked out the colour for all the main area of the figures, and the colours he plans to add to them to create highlights. He’s also worked out the broad area of highlight and shadow placement. This was in the first 10-15 minutes of the class. Applying all of the paint colours and working out the big picture location for shadows and highlights in this way allows him to test a lot of his concept for the figure with a pretty minimal investment of time and effort. If one of the colours doesn’t fit or something looks off about the lighting, it’s just a few minutes of time lost in fixing it.

Then he proceeded to add more highlights and refine his overall vision for the figure. This was a two hour class. Jose was providing much of the explanation, but with time taken to pass the figure around, I’d say Sergio painted for only a little more than an hour to get to the end point pictured above. (Only on the front of the figure as shown, granted.) That would be a fine stopping point for a tabletop miniature. If he intended it as a display miniature, he could spend as much time as he wanted refining the blends and textures and adding fine details. So it’s also a great system for painting within a tight time limit or to a desired level of finish. 

Raffaele Picca class demo figureRaffaele Picca demo figure from a class at AdeptiCon 2017. My pictures are even more terrible than the usual convention class pictures and don’t do his work justice.

The other painter I took a class with at AdeptiCon used a similar approach in terms of working out the big picture of light direction and shadow/highlight placement before refining and working on details, but Raffaele Picca used different techniques to get there. Sergio Calvo Rubio does all of the early and mid sketching and refinement with a standard brush. He uses an airbrush only in the final stages of painting to smooth blending transitions and unify his lights and shadows. Raffaele used an airbrush to lay in the broad sketch of the lighting and highlights and shadows, and then refined and added detail with a brush. Sketching is an approach to how to add colour and contrast to the figure. There isn’t just one technique you can use to explore doing that.

Taking these classes did not transform my painting overnight. I didn’t fly home full of enthusiasm to start slapping paint on minis in whole new ways. These painters did expose me to new ideas, but they were planted as tiny seeds. I had to nurture them, and then once they sprouted a little, take some time to observe them to figure out how to get the most out of them with the way I paint.

This was a not particularly noteworthy beginning. In future chapters I’ll explore where I went from here.

Figures, People, and Events Referenced in This Post

Now is a great time to start planning to attend AdeptiCon 2020! Read more about why I recommend the convention here. (The Crystal Brush contest is no longer continuing. Next year AdeptiCon will host the first US Golden Demon contest in some years.)

The orc in the first picture is from the Storm Coast Marauders fantasy football team, but I don’t seem to be able to find it online, so I’m not sure it’s available for purchase currently.

The goblin is Bocanegra the Little Tyrant.

Big Child Creatives has lots of other cool figures for sale in their shop.

Sergio Calvo Rubio’s webpage

Raffaele Picca’s webpage.

I don’t have any information on the figure from the Raffaele Picca demo. Sorry!

Lessons Learned from 2D Art: Part Two

Recently I took a two day workshop on portrait painting in oils. With only four students, it was an intimate and intensive class. It was also an opportunity to make some observations about teaching, learning, and various types of students that are relevant to miniature painters, too.

Knowing is only HALF the Battle

Those of us who are more left-brain learners tend to overemphasize the value of study type learning. We figure if we just watch enough videos and read enough tutorials, we’ll grasp the concept and understand the techniques needed to execute it, and then we should be able to sit down and just get ‘er done. So when we feel nervous or doubtful about trying the new thing, we may tend to seek out more and more videos and tutorials and forum posts in an attempt to feel we’ve mentally mastered the topic. Or if we sit down and try the new thing and the attempt goes poorly, we get very frustrated and beat ourselves up for not learning well.

A study approach might work pretty well for learning history or science or other fact-based subjects, but when you’re learning a skill that has a physical component, intellectual study can only get you so far. And where it gets you probably isn’t even fully half of the battle. There’s no substitute for hands on practice. There is no way to avoid the fact that you are going to make mistakes and it’s going to be slow going working on something new. You will get further and get there faster the better you are able to accept that reality.

Desk area 800Step 1: Apply butt to chair.
Step 2: Learn

Watching videos and reading about painting is great fun when you’re not in a position to sit down and paint. If you’re in a situation where you have a choice between sitting down to practice and watching another video, push yourself to sit down and paint. You will learn a lot more from the butt in the chair practice. Even if the attempt goes very poorly, it gives you experience to draw on the next time you do study a video or text tutorial.

That’s not to say that your left brain analytical skills can’t help you learn something artistic like miniature painting! Put those skills to work analyzing and comparing your work to examples of the technique or effect that you’re trying to master. Figure out the differences between them, and you’ll have a map to follow to try to get closer to where you want to be Look at work you like and figure out what about it you like. Look at more intermediate level work and try to identify specific flaws and successes. The more you train your eye in this way, the better you’ll become at analyzing your own work for issues and potential solutions.

I’ve been watching videos and studying art related topics for three years now, but I learned more about oil painting in those two days of hands-on guided experience than I have from any video. My general art study was a great foundation, but I had to struggle with mixing the paint and goofing up the brushstrokes to start learning those skills on a physical level. And I had to be patient and kind with myself and accept that I was going to be a lot slower than instructor OR the students who were more familiar with the materials.

Portraits combo3These pictures were not drawn in the order you imagine. I didn’t just figure out how to draw a face a bit better and never goof up again.

Knowing is only half the battle in another way, as well. You might intellectually know you need to paint with more contrast, or maybe you’re trying to improve your ability to do smooth blending. Sometimes you’ll finish a miniature and see that you’ve made progress towards your goal. Then the very next figure you paint might feel like a big step backwards. Remember that your hand and your eye have to learn how to do the thing as well as your brain. And you have to stay very conscious about it when you’re working on something new or trying to change a habitual way of painting. If you zone out listening to a movie or talking to friends, you will more likely than not slip back into your comfortable old painting habits. You can’t expect to paint one miniature ‘right’ and then you’ve just gotten it and you can go into auto-pilot mode and get those same results.

Multipass… er Multitask

Trying to do a bunch of new things at once is hard! Trying to do a bunch of anything at the same time is hard. If you can find ways to split something up into separate tasks, it can be very helpful to increasing your chance of success. On the first day of the workshop, we did something similar to what I discuss in my hands-on how to paint contrast post – we used a limited palette of colours and concentrated on blocking in the main areas of light and dark, and then refining from there. We started with a series of quick lighting exercises in the morning, and then working on one longer pose painting in the afternoon. I’m new to oil painting, so I was still juggling a few things as well as trying to deal with painting slower, but for the most part I felt like I had a handle on things and was grasping the idea.

Value exerciseThe quick lighting exercise from day one of the oil painting workshop. It was challenging but manageable. (Though because I was concentrating on a number of things at the same time, I repeated a common error of make of the nose/center of the face being too long.)

On the second day, we repeated the quick lighting exercises in the morning, but with the addition of trying to see and incorporate as much colour into our painting as possible. I’m still working to see the kind of subtle colour variations practiced artists can see in surfaces. I’m still working on colour mixing on the fly, and on how best to apply a lot of colour to a canvas. Trying to do all of that at speed and while still maintaining the light/dark value system we worked on the day before, and having a completely new angle of the model… that was a lot going on at the same time, and I had moments of feeling like I was drowning. (I flashed back a little to the workshop I took with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes, and what I learned there was an additional resource to draw on for these colour studies.)

Colour studyWait, now I have to do the same thing but with lots of colours I can barely see?! The quick lighting exercise on day two was much more challenging for me.

As we started working on the long pose in the afternoon, I made the conscious choice to narrow my focus. I decided to concentrate on the ‘drawing’ (getting the shapes and proportions correct) and the values while I had an experienced instructor available to correct me. Colour is something that can be layered over a value scale painting. There are ways to do this on miniatures, and it’s an even more accessible approach in oil painting on canvas. Colour and mixing it better is something I could work on learning later.

My point in mentioning that is that sometimes when you take a class or workshop, you may not be at a level or mindset to incorporate all of the information being presented. Try to make note of what you can for future use, but it’s okay to focus on the parts that are clicking and sparking your interest. It’s probably better to do that than to try to do everything and barely learn anything.

Colour longMy long pose painting from day two is not very colourful. I chose to continue concentrating on value and drawing.

 

The Challenge of Experience

In addition to learning more about oil painting, the class was also an opportunity to observe different types of students and learning methods, and to reflect on some approaches that might make it easier to learn a skill. Each of the four students, myself included, represented a different level of knowledge and approach to study.

Student A was quite expert, both in general and in this instructor’s method, having studied with him extensively. Their results were very similar to the instructor’s, and the feedback and guidance they needed was much more nuanced and refined. Some people might have wondered how much value they could get from receiving more instruction, but as I recently opined, there’s always something to learn, regardless of your level!

Student B had not painted in decades, and my guess would be that they did not receive extensive art training at that time. But they were very open to diving in and trying things out, and were very willing to follow the guidance offered by the instructor.

Student C was clearly an accomplished artist with a good deal of training. I suspect they also practice their art frequently. So frequently, in fact, that their issue was that their usual approach and technique was so ingrained that they very easily went into autopilot and did what they always do. Student C’s paintings were well-executed and demonstrated a pleasing style. But at the same time, they also diverged from the method used in the workshop, and they frequently jumped ahead of where the instructor was guiding us. It was clear that Student C wasn’’t really following the instruction all of the time, and thus they probably did not get the full value out of taking the workshop.

Sergio Calvo Rubio teachingBeing a good teacher means doing your best to reach students with different learning styles. Picture from workshop with Sergio Calvo Rubio in Denton, Texas.

I have taken and taught miniature classes with students like Student C pretty frequently. Once some people have a miniature in hand and paint on the palette, they jump in painting just as they would at home. They’ll often be two or three steps ahead of where the instructor has directed. And if the technique or effect of the class is different from their usual method, that causes problems. They end up confused about why they aren’t getting the same results as others, or fall behind as they scramble to redo things.

The tendency of people to jump in and start painting at the first opportunity has affected the way I teach classes. There are some steps where I do not pass paint around to the class until after I have both explained and demonstrated the technique. One example is glazing. I explain it as just enough paint to make coloured water, and then I make a glaze to show the exact consistency. And walk around and show the class. If people have access to the paints, there will be at least one person who will start mixing their own glaze while I’m explaining, they’ll mix it too thick, and they’ll paint over all their hard work from the last hour before I can go through all the information they need to prevent that from happening.

If you’ve been attending classes or trying video/text tutorials with this kind of approach, I recommend you reconsider. Don’t worry about losing your style, and don’t stress about it being uncomfortable. As you continue to practice with it at home, you’ll either get more comfortable with the new methods/tools/approach, or you’ll figure out how to incorporate the bits that work for you into how you usually work. And in the same way, you’ll incorporate the new approach into your style.

A Better Way to Learn

So how should you approach study in a class or workshop, or when you’re trying to learn from an online video or text tutorial? Here are some tips to get into the right mindset and get the most value from your effort.

Ready to learnBeing a good student sometimes means being willing to put aside what you already know and being open to trying new things in new ways. Photo from Fernando Ruiz workshop in Atlanta.

Like a Virgin
No matter how skilled you are, you are working on learning something new. You need to approach it as a new thing. There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You can’t expect to do things the way you normally do AND learn something new.

Try as much as possible to put aside your current methods and habits. If the tutorial says X brush, get something as close to X brush as possible, don’t use your usual. If it says paint highlights first, paint highlights first, even if you usually paint shadows first.

Slow Hand
One of the challenges I have found as an intermediate/advanced miniature painter is expecting myself to pick something up quickly. I know how to paint, I should be able to get up and running with a new technique pretty quickly, right? If anything it’s the opposite, because my usual way of doing things is so ingrained. I haven’t even spent a full 50 hours oil painting yet. I don’t have muscle memory for handling the brush or mixing the paint or anything else. So it was easy-peasy for me to shift to do something the way the instructor suggested. It was much, much more difficult for Student C to do the same.

Slow is important for another reason. When you’re learning, the best kind of practice is focused, deliberate practice. The auto-pilot of how you usually paint teaches you nothing. You need to slow down, and be very conscious and focused on the task at hand when trying something new to get the full benefit from it. When I’m doing my everyday commission painting, I need to have YouTube videos or an audiobook running. When I’m learning and practicing something new, I need to NOT have those things distracting me so that I stay focused on doing the thing the new way rather than fall back into my usual habits.

Value long comboStep by step pictures from the long value pose on day one of the workshop. This is the same sort of thing people talk about with sketching or blocking in on miniatures. First you work on the correct placement for the broad areas of light and shadow. Then you refine those and working blending. And only as a last step work on details.

Forgive Me
Learning and trying is going to mean failing. No matter how well you focus and follow instructions, there are going to be times where you misunderstand an element or need time to train your hand to paint that way. That’s how learning works! Keep your expectations for yourself realistic. Congratulate yourself for the hard work and effort – it really is as much about the process as the result.

I was very results focused when learning to paint miniatures, and as a result I experienced a lot of mental turmoil if I didn’t do well. This was discouraging and sometimes kept me away from practicing. (Who wants to do something that makes them feel bad about themselves?!) When I started to learn 2D art, I initially had a similar approach. It was frustrating, and I was not learning consistently. Eventually I came to a realization – I enjoyed being in the moment and drawing and painting, even if I hated what the picture looked like at the end of it. I was happier overall when I was drawing and painting regularly than when I wasn’t because of the zen moments of the process. I got value, even from the ‘failures’. I redefined success to be regular practice and sincere attempts to learn rather than what I thought of the end results on the paper. I have been able to study much more regularly and with a lot more pleasure than the results-focused approach I took to miniature painting. 

Take a Look at Me Now
During your study, pause to periodically look closely at what you’re doing. This is best done after taking a brief break where you leave your desk and then return to it. Does your work on the whole look like the example you’re following at this stage of the process? Likewise, once you finish your practice, put it aside for a few days and come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Do you feel like you successfully executed the technique or effect you were attempting?

Value long pose finalIt’s far from perfect, or done, but I’m pretty happy with the result considering my current knowledge and experience level!

If the answer is no, the correct response is not despair! Do not just paint everything over, or start again immediately on another practice piece. Instead, stop and analyze your work and compare it to the example you were following. Try to identify what exactly is different about your work. THIS is where you really start to learn and build your skills. This type of ‘failure’ might ultimately be more instructive than getting it right your first go out of the gate, because it will give you a much more conscious understanding of how to execute the technique/effect.

Key elements to consider are the contrast range (the darkest value compared to the lightest value); where the dark, mid, and light values are placed on the figure; the proportion and size of the dark, mid, and light values; the texture of the surface (clean smooth blending vs large patchy strokes vs fine stipple and/or dash strokes, etc.).

Elements of colour can play into some techniques/effects, but on the whole try not to get too caught up in worrying about colour. If your version is much more vivid or dull in colour than the example, that’s not as important as did you manage smooth blending or creating the illusion of reflected light, or whatever technique/effect you were practicing.

It is unfortunately quite difficult to perform this kind of analysis on our own work. Our hobby in general does not emphasize training of critique skills, and even with those skills it is always easier to critique work by someone else that you have no emotional attachment to or knowledge of. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, and it remains the best way to practice and study.

Here are some tips to help you see your work differently:

Take a photo of it. For best comparison, manipulate a photo of your example in the same ways described below.
Convert your photo to black and white.
Shrink your photo down until it’s the size of a miniature on your screen.
Flip your photo (or look at your miniature in a mirror).

Dds sorceress mirroredIt’s not a whole new view, but it can jog your brain into seeing your miniature a bit differently. The figure is Andriessa, also available in Bones.

I hope that some of you will share your tips for successful learning in the comments! The better we can get at learning, the better we can get at painting!

How to Paint Hair

My first ever how to paint video is now available! You can watch my Reaper Toolbox segment on how to paint hair on miniature figures on YouTube. I thought it might be helpful if I posted some pictures of the figures from the video for people to reference as they practice painting hair. I’m also going to include the paints used and links to more Reaper Toolbox how to paint goodness. I’ll post the pictures roughly in the order they were presented in the video, with the colour recipe and links at the end.

At the beginning of the video I shared a couple of miniatures I’d painted from the Reaper collection. These demonstrate two very different approaches to sculpting hair, but I used the same basic approach for painting both of them. Unfortunately both of these were limited edition figures and are not currently for sale. The shirt featuring Sophie (which I am wearing in the video) is still available though!

ReaperCon 2018 Sophie hair exampleI visualized the light coming from the upper left in the front view picture. The figure has wings, so the back of the head is quite shadowed. 

Tristan hair exampleOn this figure I visualized the light as coming from the upper right in the front view.

Hair is sculpted with a strongly defined texture. Washing and drybrushing techniques work well to bring out sculpted texture, and can look pretty good used on surfaces like woodgrain, chainmail, and feathers. These techniques do not tend to look as good when painting hair, however.

Example of drybrushed hairI started with the same basecoat colour as for the rest of the demonstrations, and made a wash out of the same shadow colour. I drybrushed the strands by starting with the basecoat colour and moving up through the highlight colours. (I demonstrated this on only half the head, and have blocked out the other half.)

The fact that hair is made up of thousands of strands does not strongly affect how the surface of hair appears to us visually. Individual strands are barely visible if you’re standing even a foot or two away from someone. Do an image search on the word ‘hair’, and look at some examples. You’ll see that the way light and shadow falls on the hair is not vertical like the strands, but rather appears more in horizontal bands based on the shape of the head/body that it is draped over, and the shapes of large waves and curls.

Hair example from pexels.comThis photo from pexels.com illustrates how you perceive the horizontal bands of light and shadow on curves and curls more strongly than the strand texture of hair.

Example of painting blonde hairThis is an example of painting hair focusing on the larger shapes of the waves and curls and visualizing the light as coming from above – the shadow colours appear most on the underside of the curls, and the highlight colours are strongest on the tops of the curls.

Since it can be hard to get a good look at where people have placed various levels of shadow and highlight mixes if the blending between layers is fairly smooth, I also created a black and white example to help you more easily see where to place the highlights and shadows. This is just one interpretation based on a light source coming from above. Deciding where your light source is and which areas of your figure are more strongly lit or more darkly shadowed is where miniature painting gets more artistic, personal, and fun!

Black and white example of shadow and highlight placementI think some of the highlights are a little too far down the curve of the upper curls, but hopefully it helps you see the general idea.

On the video I demonstrated an alternative to drybrushing that is still quicker for tabletop use, but which follows the principles of where to apply the lights and shadows that I described above. This alternative is something many people call ‘dampbrushing’. When dampbrushing, you remove excess paint from the brush, but still leave it moist. Apply the brush perpendicular to the hair texture pulling it down or up the texture to pull paint off the brush on the raised areas, but leave the depressions shadowed. 

In the video I mention that I normally wear a magnifier and hold the figure a lot closer to paint, and you’re about to see an example of why I have to do that!

Dampbrushing example of painting hairThis example shows the basic idea of dampbrushing, but I could definitely have done a better job with this. The principles I describe work, what I needed to do was another layer or two of the original basecoat colour, and then I think I did need to use an additional transition mixes and work up a little more slowly. This looks choppy because the jump to the top two highlight colours is very sudden. I needed to build up more midtones with the Blond Hair colour and a mix between Blond Hair and Blond Highlight. 

This is a picture of the figure I painted on camera in the video. Once again you can see why I use a visual aid when I’m painting! If you are having difficulty getting the brush where you want it when you’re painting, sometimes the issue is as much to do with your eyes as your hands. Make sure you’re painting in good lighting. Some people use two or even three lamps in addition to the ceiling lights of their painting area! You can also use magnifying lenses. I recommend dual lenses rather than a single magnifying plate. Viewing objects through both eyes helps us best visualize their location in space. With just one magnifier, you will have more trouble getting the brush in the correct place on the miniature. If you don’t wear glasses, all you need is a pair of cheap reading glasses from a drugstore. If you do wear glasses, I highly recommend the OptiVisor brand of magnifying visors.

Comparison of reference example and on camera versionHere’s a comparison of my reference example and the one I painted on camera. This quick version painted without my magnifier doesn’t look as polished as the finished example, but I think it looks a lot more interesting and more like hair than the drybrushed example!

These are the colours used to paint the hair examples in the video. You can buy all of these from Reaper Miniatures online as well as in many retail locations. But as hair comes in a lot of different colours, you should be able to find some similar paints in your collection that you can practice with if you don’t want to buy more paint. The key to a natural blond hair look is to not use a lot of strong yellow colours.

IMG 8299

I’m including some additional angles of both the full colour and black and white versions of the figure in case anyone wants to reference these while practicing. The figure used in all of the examples from the video is Sarah the Seeress. She is available in both Bones plastic and in metal, and she is a terrific figure to practice painting hair on.

Colour example back view

Colour example back side and front view

Colour example top views

B&W example back view

B&W examples front and back side views

B&W examples top views

Reaper now has a playlist for all the Toolbox videos so they’re easier to find.

Reaper’s paint maven is doing live stream videos on Wednesday afternoons on Twitch. These are also posted on YouTube once completed. Anne is starting off by painting a black dragon. Watch episode one, or episode two here.

And in case you missed it, Reaper has announced that Bones V is coming – September 5, 2019.

Lessons Learned from 2D Art: Part One

If you look at the home page of this website, you’ll see a subtitle of ‘Art in many forms’. My wonderful husband wrote that when he was helping me set up the page. Our expectation was that I was going to be talking about my adventures trying to learn traditional art forms as well as miniature painting. In practice I’ve only talked about traditional art a couple of times. One was a post about measuring your progress at learning a skill by more than just your end result. The other was about artist challenges and prompts.

Random Encounter bust face viewIf you need a miniature fix right now, I posted additional photos of the first bust I ever painted over on my Facebook page.

I have wrestled with whether to include more information about my traditional art study in my blog. I was concerned that it would disinterest people primarily interested in miniature painting. But the reality is that my study of traditional art is having a lot of impact in both how I paint miniatures,  and in how I teach others about miniature painting. Experiencing the struggles of a student again is very helpful to me in learning to be a better teacher. And reflecting on my journey through miniature painting is helping me become a better student of both traditional art and miniature painting.

A week ago I attended an afternoon workshop for alla prima oil painting. Alla prima means to paint all in one go while all the paint is wet, rather than painting in layers or stages. Wetblending vs layering/glazing in miniature terms I guess. ;-> 

Photo by Clemens Schmillen courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsPhoto of a cave painting by Clemens Schmillen courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Early humans used ochres as pigments, and we still do today.

But first the class started with learning a bit more about the paints we were using, and some general colour theory information to help us mix the colours we would need to paint the subjects of our paintings. We used a split primary palette, with some additional earth tone colours. Earth tones are reds, yellows, and browns that were originally mixed from minerals and were the first paints. 

Split Primary Palette

The split primary palette we used in the workshop is shown above. On the top row are the primary colours, with a cool version of each on the left, and a warm version of each on the right. Down the left hand side are the three earth tones we had on our palette. You can match earth tones by mixing from primaries, but many artists find it convenient to include a few in their palettes for various reasons. Our palette also included white, but we mixed our own black rather than using a pigment black paint. You can see the mix on the right edge of the paper – ultramarine blue and burnt umber (or burnt Sienna) make a great chromatic black. (A chromatic black is something that mostly looks black or can function as black but is made from colour pigments and might have some colour undertones to it when thinned down. They are less dull than true pigment blacks, but may behave differently in mixes.)

You can experiment with painting miniatures with a similar palette by picking out colours like these from your paint collection. They won’t mix exactly the same way these single pigment artist colours would, but you can do more with them than you might realize. (I’ve written an article with a lot of information about paint and pigments for miniature painters.)

Split primary palette used to paint PromenadeThis is a split primary palette (plus a few extras) that I used to paint the award winning figure Promenade. My very scientific method of colour selection was to pull a warm and cool version of each primary colour from a box full of convention paints. 

I will confess that I got a little impatient with this segment of the workshop. I have been studying colour theory for years. I’ve got a ways to go in mastering the application of the knowledge, but my understanding of the key terms and basic theory is pretty solid at this point. I would far rather have had more time painting, and chafed a bit when student questions caused this segment to go longer than the instructor had planned. 

And yet at the same time, I did learn something – I learned that I really have learned a lot about colour theory! I mention this to give any of you struggling out there some hope. In the early days of study, I struggled to keep terms like hue and value straight in my mind. I had trouble deciding whether a colour was warmer or cooler. It was very difficult for me to determine whether a given brown was really more orange or green or what. I still have plenty of struggles with colours, and more struggles will come in the future, I’m sure. But I was stoked to realize just how much I have learned, and that I am beginning to be able to apply that knowledge in practice. (When we got down to mixing, I had fewer difficulties getting the colours I wanted than I had with my first attempts!)

This moment goes back to stuff I mentioned in that measuring progress post. We have a tendency to focus on what we’re struggling with and what we feel we have not yet learned. We tend to minimize or completely overlook moments of mastery in things that we have successfully learned. If you’ve been painting for more than a few months, I guarantee that there are things you do with ease or even unconsciously now that were a struggle or required immense concentration for you when you first started. You have learned, and you have succeeded. Give yourself credit for that!

Colour wheelThere is a lot of useful colour theory reference material on a simple Pocket Color Wheel!

I also learned something that will be useful to trying to teach people about colour in the future. The instructor had a simple and effective way to think about which primary colours to use to mix the most vivid secondary colours. When using a split primary system, you have a cool and a warm version of each of the primaries. So you have a greenish yellow and an orangish yellow, an oranger red and one that’s more violet/magenta, and a warmer blue that has a touch of yellow in it, and one that is more purple and has a touch of red in it. To mix the most saturated version of each secondary, choose the primary closest to it on the colour wheel. So for orange, you would want your warm red rather than one which is more magenta/violet, and your warm yellow rather than one that has a hint of green.

Finally we got down to painting! And then I was fully a student, struggling to learn and apply each of the stages in a very short amount of time. I think we had maybe an hour and a half of painting time. That’s not a lot of time to mix colours, draw out the subject, and slap paint on everything. Though plenty of the people in the workshop got further along than I did, so I guess I’m just as slow in other forms of painting as I am at miniature painting! A lot of the issue is that I’m still learning to draw, so getting things remotely in proportion and correctly placed and so on takes time and concentration on top of the issue of learning to manipulate paint. Things go slower when you’re learning and when you’re focused. But you learn more when you slow down enough to focus and really concentrate on what you’re doing. So take it easy on yourself if you find that’s what you need to do with new miniature painting skills.

Painting from alla prima workshop with Heather Hartman FolksThis is as much of the painting as I was able to complete during the workshop. Thanks to the miracles of science, this painting was made with water-soluble oils, which were applied onto paper treated to accept oil paints. Science so fun it’s magic!

This experience has also given me a renewed sympathy for students of my miniature painting classes who are racing to get through the hands on portion in 45 minutes while I’m continuing to spew more information in the background. :->

I really enjoyed the approach, and I hope that I’ll have the time (and more importantly the focus) to sit down and practice with it. I’m debating finishing up the painting since I took a reference photo. I’m okay if I don’t do that, though. It’s okay to do some things for practice. We don’t have to make a finished piece out of every single thing we work on to get value out of the piece and the time we put into it.

Study Guide for Painting Tutorials: Sketching in Highlight and Shadow Placement on a Face

I just watched a terrific video I think many people would find it very useful to view. In addition to linking to the video so you can go watch it too, I’m also going to share some information related to the topics of the video, and suggest a sort of study guide for how you might put the material from the demonstration into practice.

Still from Miniature Painting Masterclass videoA still from the video on how to paint a face by starting with a sketch of highlights and shadows. Painted by Jaume Ortiz.

The video is called Painting a Face in 75mm Part 1: Creating a Sketch of Highlights and Shadows, and it is a painting demonstration by Jaume Ortiz. It is produced by Miniature Painting Masterclass in partnership with Vallejo paints and FeR Miniatures, but the principles demonstrated are applicable to most figures, painted using any kind of paints. There are several points in the video that I think people may find useful to consider in their own painting.

Mixing Layers and Paint Transparency (Consistency)

How to mix layers, how many, and how much to dilute the paint to use the layering techniques are all very common questions among miniature painters. At the start of the video Jaume demonstrates the paint mixes he will use to paint the highlight and shadow layers. He mixes these onscreen. All paint colours used are clearly listed, but he does not detail the precise ratios of one paint colour to another for the layer mixes beyond what you can see him place on his palette. Since paint colours are unique in strength, transparency, etc., you can’t use a universal guide of X to Y drops for all mixes. You need to judge by the visual results with your specific paint colours. If you look at Jaume’s palette once the paints are mixed, you can use that as a tool to get an idea of the appropriate steps between the highlight and shadow mixes.

Likewise, Jaume indicates that he’s added a little water to his mixes, but he’s not specific about how much. Some paint colours are much more transparent than others, so the amount of dilution you need to add to a paint to make it the right transparency for a particular function varies from paint colour to paint colour. Instead, take a look at the way the edges of the paint look on his palette. You can see some of the palette through the paint, but it’s also still opaque enough to make noticeable strokes when he layers one paint over another.

Sketching (also known as Roughing In or Blocking In)

Caerindra sketch NMM and finished NMMI used the sketch approach to paint the non-metallic metal on Caerindra. On the left, you can see that I roughed in the main shadows and highlights only on the armour I ignored blending, and I also ignored details like the rivets and lining between panels. My goal was to establish the key areas of light and shadow. In the finished version on the right, I refined the blending and added details. I wrote a blog post about painting Caerindra, and my post about painting an Efreeti includes another example of blocking in highlights and shadows on NMM.  

Roughing in colour or doing a sketch is basically what you see in the above pictures – the highlights and shadows are painted in with no concern for blending smooth transitions. This accomplishes several goals:

* Quick application of highlight and shadow colours allows the painter to verify that the colours they’ve selected work well and provide enough contrast without investing a lot of time in painting everything to a high standard and THEN discovering you need to change your choices.

* The painter can concentrate their focus on precise placement of where areas should appear darker or lighter. (More on that below.) Breaking a task down into separate elements increases the chance of you performing each of those elements well. (In contrast to the challenge of trying to manage placement and blending simultaneously, which is more challenging and thus more likely to run into issues.)

* The painter can customize their vision of where light and shadow appears based on different types of lighting. The video demonstrates placement in a zenithal lighting scenario. You can photograph a figure under a small bright light to customize your light direction and know where to place lights and shadows. I’ve got an example of such photo reference here and here

* The painter can use this approach to push themselves to create a more dramatic level of contrast. It’s easier to do that using a completely different method of paint application than you usually do. It’s easy to vow to push your usual approach, but easier to fall back into usual habits and do what you always do.

Ingrid sketched in different lightingThe sketch on the left was painted with the light imagined as coming from above (zenithal lighting). The sketch on the right imagines the light coming from the upper right angle.

Placement of Highlight and Shadow Layers

Even you aren’t interested in learning more about the sketching approach, the way it is applied in this video provides valuable information for painters. When you look at something painted with smoothly blended transitions, it is quite difficult to deconstruct it to determine where the painter applied each of the specific levels of highlight and shadow mixes. When you watch this sketch approach video, it is very easy to see exactly where Jaume is putting each of the highlight and shadow mixes.

The demonstration figure in the video is 75mm scale. The general location of highlights and shadows under zenithal light is the same on gaming scale figures, but there may be cases where the highlights and/or shadows need to be simplified a little to read well at scale. (Or you may need to simplify if you have trouble applying them to some of the more detailed elements at smaller scale.) Jaume’s knowledge of anatomy is impressive, and encourages me to hurry and get to that point in my study of drawing!

Barbarian finished in colour vs black and white sketchCan you tell where I placed the third level highlight in the finished version? It’s a lot easier to see where the various layers are placed in the black and white sketch version on the right.

Suggestions for Practice and Study

These suggestions for how to practice and study miniature painting pertain to this video specifically, but also instructional tutorials in general.

Following a step by step example using the same figure and paints as in the demonstration can be very helpful for many people. It allows you to just focus on following the steps, rather than having to improvise to work around differences. You can find the figure from this video at FeR Miniatures, and the specified Vallejo paints through many local and online merchants. (The Face Painting Set used in the video is available from US Amazon, and likely international Amazons as well.)

If you don’t have access to the same figure and paints (or you want to jump in practicing while waiting for supplies to arrive), search through your figures for a male figure with a head similar in size, pose, and expression. If possible, you want a larger than gaming scale figure – a giant or ogre or something else with a larger than 32mm face for your first time practicing. The closer your supplies are to those used by Jaume, the easier you’ll find it to obtain results similar to his. You also want a figure with the head facing forward and not tilted to one side or the other. (If the head is tilted, you can remove the head from your figure and place it on a holder so you can paint it as if it is posed straight up and facing forward like the demonstration figure.) The location of highlights and shadows would be different if the head were tilted in a different position.

For paints, it is most important to match the value – the relative lightness or darkness of the colour. If your colour choices are a little more yellow or a little less red or whatnot, that will present far less of an issue than using paint which is much lighter or darker than the paints Jaume uses to mix his layers. Once you understand the principles of mixing and applying layers in this fashion you can use crazy colours to paint fantastical skin tones, but I do recommend practicing with natural human skin tones the first few times. The fewer variables you have that differ from the example you’re following, the more likely you are to obtain similar results and come to a better understanding of the principles. And if your results do differ, fewer variables make it easier for you to try to isolate and resolve the problems you might be having.

Still from Miniature Painting Masterclass video of paletteThis is a still from the video isolating the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow paint colours. (On the mid-tone, look at the edges of the pool for the best look at the colour, the centre of the pool looks lighter due to paint separation and/or reflection of the studio lights.)

B&W still of the palette from Miniature Painting Masterclass video.I converted the palette image to black and white to give you a better view of the values of the paint colours. You can lay out drops of your own colours and then take a black and white picture of them to check how well the values match. Notice how dark that shadow colour really is! Reddish colours are often much darker than we perceive them to be.

Once you have your supplies in hand, I recommend that you start by watching the video all the way through at least once. When you’re ready to paint, it is handy if you can put the video up on  a tablet or PC near where you paint so you can pause the video and restart it as necessary for you to follow along completing each step. You may also find it helpful to take screen shots to reference where to place each highlight or shadow layer as you paint.

After you finish each step, stop and compare your work with the example. Do they look roughly similar? If not, spend some time studying your work against the reference to try to identify what’s different – do you have a layer in the wrong place? Did you make a highlight too wide or too narrow? If you don’t get it correct straight away, don’t beat yourself up! The purpose of practice is to learn. Think of an error as an opportunity to build your eye’s ability to identify issues, and your brain’s ability to come up with potential solutions for them. Both are very helpful skills to improving as a painter.

After you’ve finished painting through the tutorial, put your work aside for a day or two. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and compare again. You may find that your level of contrast is much less than you thought it was while painting, or you might spot new errors in layer placement. This is a very common experience! I often walk away from a session of painting with an impression of what I did, and when I come back to look at the miniature find that my impression was pretty off and I need to adjust the very thing I thought I was doing well while I was painting.

Once you’ve practiced the demonstrated technique as closely as possible to how it’s demonstrated, spend some time thinking about the experience. Did the method seem to work well for you and you might like it better than your current approach? It can take more than once practicing something to get a good sense for whether or not the technique or approach works for you.

However it’s also the case that instead of adopting a new technique or approach whole cloth, you might find that it works better for you to incorporate it into the way you work. I normally paint the shadows first, and I normally work down from my lightest shadow to my darkest. In this video, Jaume Ortiz paints the highlights first, and then begins painting the shadows with his darkest shadow, then a step lighter, and then a step lighter again. If I try this approach, I might find that it works very well for me. If it does not, I can still incorporate valuable lessons about where to place the shadows and highlights and how to use a sketch approach into my normal approach to painting shadows and then highlights.

Coming Soon

I haven’t always worked to improve my miniature painting with this kind of study and deliberate practice. I wish I had, as I think it would have helped me learn things much easier and more quickly than I have. But I still have a lot to learn, so I am trying to take more of this kind of approach now. I’ll have a few experiments and experiences of my own to share in upcoming posts.

And I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how Jaume Ortiz turns his sketch of a face into a beautifully painted face when part 2 of this video series comes out!

Additional Resources

Follow Miniature Painting Masterclass on Facebook for links to more great videos, and also galleries of step-by-step picture and text instruction.

I included some information about how I sketched in initial highlights on a black cloak in this PDF.

I sketched in both black and white and then colour on this Christmas dragon figure.

Figures Referenced in this Post

Officer of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment 1862 by FeR Miniatures
Caerindra Thistlemore by Reaper Miniatures
Ingrid the Gnome by Reaper Miniatures is available in metal or Bones plastic
Tyrea Bronzelocks by Reaper Miniatures is available in metal or Bones plastic