Cold Temperatures versus Miniature Paints

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Miniature paint doesn’t require a lot of special care and maintenance, but it can be damaged if exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period of time. If you have paints in transit during a cold snap, or you’ve realized you had your paint stored in an unheated area like a garage, how can you tell if your paint is okay?

A little while ago I swatched out some of the colours from the Reaper Virtual Expo swag boxes. People were disappointed I didn’t have all the paints to swatch, so Sadie, the Reaper paints mixologist, packed up the rest to send them to me. She did that just before severe winter weather hit large areas of the United States. My package made it out of Reaper in time, but was trapped in UPS storage facilities and vehicles for days. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for scans of the first set of swatches.)

When my package  finally arrived, I thought I had better check the condition of all the paints. I let them sit and warm up for a few hours, and then tested all of them. I made a video of the testing process, so you can see how I checked and what a cold damaged paint looks like. I’m also including some pictures here in this post.

There were 14 paints total in my package. Two sets of six were packed in Reaper’s FastPalette packaging. This is a thin plastic tray inside of a thin card box. Then there were two sample paints that were loose in the box. (Everything was secured with air bubbles, I mean loose in the sense of not being in a blister or other packaging.)

IMG 0569Example of FastPalette packaging.

Out of those 14 paints, one of the loose sample paints is damaged and unusable, and the other 13 are fine. Pigments vary considerably, and there are some differences in the acrylic formulas used for various colours. So perhaps pigment or base made the difference, or perhaps the packaging of the boxed sets help insulate them. Whatever the cause, some paints are more sensitive than others. Having been exposed to weather cold enough to damage paint doesn’t mean that all exposed paints are automatically ruined.

In the video I open up the bottles of the two loose sample paints and dispense some paint onto an index card to examine. One of the paints acts as I would expect. You can see in the picture below that the other paint has been damaged. The pigment and some of the binder has curdled to a lumpy cottage cheese texture, which has completely separated from a runny fluid component. The problem bottle was shaken on a vortex mixer for some time prior to testing.

Frozen paint1 cr

I have had a previous experience with this. In one of the first learn to paint kits I bought, the tub of yellow paint was grainy and slightly curdled. It was not as extreme as the condition of the paint above, so there is some variation with this. I later learned that other people who bought that same set also had problems with the yellow paint. Likely it had gotten cold while in storage at the distributor warehouse that supplied my local game store. 

Frozen paint2 cr

So if you do have a damaged paint the issue might not be quite as obvious as this, but you should be able to see a notable difference in the texture and consistency of a damaged paint compared to a normal one.

EDIT TO ADD: To my knowledge there is no way to restore a paint damaged by freezing. You can’t add water or medium and stir everything back into suspension the way you usually can with a paint where the liquids and solids have separated after a long period of not being stirred. When paint freezes some of the components coagulate or congeal in a way that is a permanent structural or chemical change. If you experience this with a newly bought product, you can contact the retailer or the manufacturer and request a replacement.

In the video I just did a simple shake test on the other 12 bottles, but later I swatched them out. Six of the paints were metallics, and I was particularly concerned about those. In my years of doing paint maintenance (and not always being perfect about doing paint maintenance), I have found that metallic colours dry out and get ruined a lot more quickly than standard matte colours. So I was concerned they might be more easily damaged by cold, as well. All of the metallics in my shipment were fine.

Rve paints wet crSwatches straight from the bottle, still a little wet. The top six colours (one swatched twice) are the Reaper Virtual Expo Punk colours. The bottom six are the Cyber Metal colours.) These are photographs not the scans I did of swatches in my other post, so may not be as true to colour.

Rve paints dry crSwatches after drying for a few hours. Paint still looks normal and fine.

Frozen paint3 crUnaffected vs cold damaged paint after drying for a few hours. The ring on the paper shows how separated out the liquids were from the solids in the paint mix. 

I hope that helps give you a little more of an idea of what to look for if you’re concerned that you have paints that have been exposed to cold temperatures.


Snowflake photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Freehand – How to Practice and Other Tips

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In the miniature community we use the term freehand to describe using paint alone to create patterns/pictures/textures on flat surfaces. (In contrast to when those details are sculpted directly into the surface and we are using paint to bring out the sculpted details.) I have a previous article on freehand that discusses considerations for subject and colour choices.

Today I want to share some suggestions for how to prepare to paint freehand, and some tips for the actual process. I’ll also give an example with some work-in-progress pictures from the Baran Blacktree figure. (In a previous Baran Blacktree article I talked about weathering and colour temperature in non-metallic metal.)

Baran s shield fullThe black tree is the symbol of Baran’s family.

Before you get too intimidated about even the idea of freehand, consider that chances are, you already have painted some. So don’t get too in your head about not being able to do it before you even try. Have you painted pupils on a figure’s eyes? You’ve painted freehand. An animal pattern like stripes or spots? Freehand. Camo? Freehand. Painted in a strap or other detail that was sculpted on the original but the outline isn’t well defined on the miniature cast that you have? That is freehand, too.

Now at the same time, there’s no question that painting freehand images and patterns can be challenging to do. It requires a decent level of brush control. (And a good brush to use that control with!) In fact, practicing freehand is a great way to improve your brush control. It also requires a certain amount of patience. There are likely to be moments of tension and frustration, and with large scale freehand projects, also tedium.

Dancers front fullThis took some patience, and a whole lot of time. Also note these are 75mm figures.

A note to those who know that I also do 2D drawing and painting The two figures with freehand dragons and the two scenes that include painted text were all painted prior to when I started to study traditional art as an adult. I had taken art class in high school, but that was many years before I started painting miniatures.

Practice Before Painting

Practice and preparation greatly improve your chances for successfully painting freehand. However, I have at times also found practice to be discouraging, so I think it might be worth sharing some tips for how to practice in ways that will give you the most benefit.

Pencil/Pen on Paper Practice

In my early days as a painter, when I started to practice to work up to painting freehand, I began with pencil on paper. While there is some value to that, my experience was that it can also lead you astray or be discouraging.

Painting freehand on a miniature involves using a brush to apply liquid paint to a non-absorbent surface. This is a completely different set of tools from using dry pencil or pen on paper. Drawing on paper is of no benefit in learning how paint acts, nor in developing muscle memory to use paint on a brush. Note that painting directly on paper is also not the same experience as painting on a miniature, since paint behaves differently on the absorbent paper than on the non-absorbent surface of a primed/painted miniature.

Another issue is that the kind of simple line art you’re likely to draw with pencil practice does not reflect what a fully rendered piece of painted freehand can look like. Line art is flat, with no shading or highlighting. It’s very easy to start with some simple drawing practice and get discouraged before you even try painting freehand because your practice drawing looks flat and boring and crappy and not at all like what was in your imagination, so clearly you just aren’t ready to paint freehand yet.

Freehand that incorporates different colours and/or shading and highlighting to match the shapes of where it is applied on the figure is going to look different than simple pencil lines on paper. Don’t give up on the idea of even trying before you get past this point!

Even with paint instead of pencil, a tiny freehand design can look a lot different on a flat background with no context than it might on a miniature in the context of the pose of the figure and the various colours used to paint it. The Asian style dragons I painted below don’t look like much. Even the most finished looking of them, the topmost above the 3, is nothing too great.

IMG 0547

Below is a photo of what the dragon I painted on the figure looked like. The difference in the practice and final dragons isn’t that I suddenly improved in skill in the minutes between painting the practice dragon and painting the dragon on the actual figure. The difference is that you’re seeing the dragon in the context of the overall figure and with the intended colour background. (And of course I put a lot more effort into painting precisely and fixing errors with the dragon on the actual figure.)

Misaki dragonThis is an older photo taken with an older camera. I painted this in 2006. It was one of the first figures I ever sold!

That’s not to say that practicing with a pen/pencil on paper has no value, just that you need to understand that what you draw will not look the same as fully rendered freehand you see on a figure.

The big value of practicing on paper is that you can work out how to simplify your image/pattern. It will be easier to paint freehand if you first figure out how to break it down into basic shapes to replicate it. If you’re modifying an image/pattern to fit a particular size and/or shape of space, it’s also a quicker way to iterate options than using paint would be. 

Consider the following as an example. The pencil practice on the left was on an index card, and definitely not at scale. I had started by looking at some dragon tattoo designs for reference. You can see how rough the initial drawings were, and how they look completely different from the painted version. I needed to work out the basic shapes I could use and how to connect them, and quick pencil sketches were great for that. The bottom right dragon is very similar to what I painted on the figure. It’s made up mostly of lines rather than having a snake-like body like in the initial attempts. I tweaked the final pencil version a little further to apply to the unusual shape of this miniature’s shield. (More on painting this shield below.)

Dragonshield practice

Paint on Paint (or Plastic) Practice

The best way to become more comfortable and skilled with the tools you will use to apply freehand to a miniature is to practice with those tools – use a brush to apply paint to a painted or non-absorbent surface. You have a few options here.

Practice Miniature
Practice painting on something with surfaces similar to the area where you will be applying the freehand is ideal. So another figure with a flowing cloak if you’re trying to paint a line of trim on the edge of a flowing cloak.

Sk wip freehandPracticing on a similarly sculpted area was very helpful.

Practice Before Painting
You can also use your actual miniature for practice. Before you start painting the area you plan to add freehand to, do a little bit of practice by painting your intended freehand design in the appropriate area to get a feel for it. This will help you see if your design is too complex or not quite the right shape, or if the area is too small for your current level of brush control. Make sure you use slightly thinned paint so you don’t build up any texture on the surface.


Dragon shield practice2In this case I had an extra copy of this figure from teaching a skin painting class. I tested some initial ideas, and then once I decided on the dragon design painted a practice run. This also let me test the paint colours I proposed to use. Looks like I was playing around with some ideas for tattoo freehand, as well. In the final version on the figure I added more shading and highlighting to both the shield and the dragon symbol.

Paint on Plastic
Plastic practice surfaces can work well, as plastic is non-absorbent. I often use black miniature bases or the bottoms of Bones miniatures for a little quick freehand practice. Plastic like blister packs and washed sour cream container lids is also a good practice surface, though you may need to add a coat of paint or primer to some plastics for them to take in the same way a painted miniature does.

Paint on Painted Paper
You can prime heavy weight paper like watercolour paper or index card. Or even just put a coat or two of paint on it and then practice over that. Cheap watercolour paper like Canson XL is great for purposes like swatches, colour tests, and freehand practice. You should be able to find it in big box craft stores. In general heavier weight paper will work better, but I’ve practiced on paint swatches on printer paper and index cards. Other than a good brush, you don’t need fancy or special tools to practice!

IMG 0542I first painted swatches on printer paper to test the colour scheme. Later I used a brush and paint on that to practice freehand for the piece.

Lmp topLucky for me the freehand in this case was supposed to look like it was drawn by a kid. :->

On versus Off Miniature Practice

Whichever practice surface you use, if it is not the actual miniature, you will have to work to keep in mind the size and shape of the area. It’s super easy to think you’re working at a size that fits the miniature, only to discover that you’ve been practicing at a much larger size than the area on the figure.

It can be helpful to actually measure/trace the area on your figure and copy that onto your practice surface. The tick marks on the practice sheet for the tiny dragon above are 5mm apart so I could keep the size of the area on her shawl in mind. The black stripes in the following image are the size of the street sign I wanted to paint.

Bsophie practice

Most practice surface options are flat, which may not be true of the area of the miniature you plan to paint on, so that’s something else to keep in mind. If you’re newer to painting freehand I recommend painting freehand on flatter or gently rounded surfaces at first.

Step by Step Freehand on Baran Blacktree

Now let’s look at a step by step example of me painting  a simple freehand image on the shield of Baran Blacktree.

In reality I did not do a ton of advance practice prior to painting the shield images, but keep a few things in mind before you judge me for not practicing what I preach. At the time I painted this I had painted all of the above figures and several more with freehand and precision detail painting. I had also been studying traditional art for a few years, so was practicing in other ways. And most importantly, I was on a tight deadline and willing to roll the dice a little. ;->

Step One

In the photograph below you can see my practice surface and the shield prior to any freehand. My practice surface was the bottom of a Bones miniature. I practiced making the basic shapes, and worked out the steps I would use to apply those shapes to the miniature. The black border section was drawn with Sharpie, based on measurements of the smaller area on the shield, to ensure I did a practice run at the same size area as I would be working on the figure.

The silhouette tree design was inspired by some clipart tree drawings. Silhouette style art can be tricky in that it does not have shading and highlighting applied, or any other colours. Part of why I practiced was to feel confident that the basic shape of the tree I had designed was clear and interesting enough to work well as a silhouette.

Shield wip1

Step Two

I used poster tack to attach my practice figure to the painting handle holding Baran. This kept it very close by so I could easily reference it while painting. In this step I have laid in the initial tree shape. I did not use super thin black paint for this step. I used slightly thinned light grey paint. It can take a lot of coats of paint to cover over mistakes or bits you’re not happy with on a light colour like white. I wanted to make sure I was happy with the basic overall shape before applying true black paint. Slightly thinned rather than super watery paint was easier for me to work with. Though if you find you feel like the paint is a little ‘sticky’ and doesn’t feel like it’s coming smoothly off the brush, add a bit of Flow Improver to it. (Learn more about paint additives and mediums in my upcoming free class!)

Shield wip2

Step Three

Next I painted in the initial shape on the second tree. It was more efficient to work on similar stages for both images at the same time instead of painting one to completion and then painting the second. It also helped me keep them in sync and as similar as possible. However, the shield areas are slightly different shapes and sizes. And I’m human. So I could not exactly duplicate the tree. The medieval crafter who would have applied something like this in real life would have been in the same situation, so I didn’t stress that too much.

Shield wip3

Step Four

I started to build up the flat black colour on the trees. I did this in multiple slightly thinned coats. Again, better to go slowly and carefully than have to spend a lot of time and effort fixing mistakes.

The effect in the WIP picture below is a little like shading and highlighting with some depth and variation in the trees, so this also gives you an idea of how something painted with a little variation of colour/shading can look different than a flat shape or simple line art.

Shield wip4

Step Five

Once I was happy with the shapes painted with the lighter grey paint, I painted several coats of slightly thinned black paint over each tree shape to build up the black silhouette appearance. 

Shield wip5

Patron Spotlight: Lana Tessler

This blog is made possible thanks to the generous support of my patrons. The Patron Spotlight is an opportunity for me to share their work and philosophy with the world! 

Lana sent me her photos just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post. By sheer coincidence her figures include some fantastic examples of painting freehand, so they’re very topical to the post! The rest of her painting is terrific, too! You can check out more of Lana’s work on her Instagram page.

In Lana’s words:

I am largely a hobby painter but always working to improve. I’ve been mini painting for about two years but I have over twenty years of 2D art experience and love applying that to miniature painting.

Lana tessler1

Lana tessler2

Lana tessler3

Lana tessler4

Lana tessler5

Figures in this Post

Baran Blacktree is available in metal. Coming soon(ish) in Bones plastic.
I do not know who manufactured the Dancing Couple or if they are still available.
The metal version of Misaki from Wyrd Games is no longer in production. There is a different plastic sculpt available.
The Female Warrior with Sword is available in metal from Dark Sword Miniatures.
Masquerade Ball Sophie is available in metal.
Little Miss Pigtails and her dragon friend Smokey are no longer in production. Nor is the table item. The open book and the closed book are available in metal.  
Bourbon Street Sophie is available in metal
The Frost Giant Queen is available in Bones plastic.
Father Christmas is a seasonally available Reaper figure.
Doctor Oronotius and his owl companion are available in metal.
The Christmas Hugs dragon is available seasonally from Reaper.
Kelainen Darkmantle is available in Bones plastic and in metal.

Swatch Part II – Delayed

The Swatch Party I planned for February 15 on my Twitch channel is DELAYED and will not be happening on February 15.

I will update with a new date as soon as I have the paints in hand.

I expected to have the second set of Reaper Virtual Expo paints by today to be prepared to Swatch Party tonight. That expectation was based on normal weather patterns, which are definitely not what is happening through most of the United States currently. The package tracking info declines to suggest an expected delivery date at this time, so it’ll probably be a few days or more.

Painting Classes and More – Reaper Virtual Expo 2021

Swatch Party II – DELAYED, TBD (was Monday, February 15, 9pm Eastern)
Birdwithabrush Twitch Channel
I’ll be painting out the Cyber Gang and Cyber Metal Fast Palette Packs from the RVE Punk Box
Storms across the US mean late package deliveries, so the swatch party is delayed until I have the paints!

Reaper Virtual Expo is an online event on March 5-7 2021that includes miniature hobby classes, games, panels, painting challenges, and more. The classes include painting, basing, sculpting topics, and others. Even if you’re not a Reaper product fan, you’re likely to find something of interest. I’m going to highlight my classes and the other events I’m participating in, but for check out the Reaper Virtual Expo page for all the information. 

All of these events are free and take place online. I hope I’ll see some of you there!

General Events

Reaper has planned a full slate of fun events to run on their Twitch channel throughout the weekend. Here are a couple that I’ll be involved in.

Crow’s Nest Painters’ Panel
When: Saturday, March 6 at 12:30pm to 2:20pm Central time
Where: Reaper Twitch channel

A panel discussion with a number of miniature painters, including Michael Proctor, Aaron Lovejoy, Derek Schubert, Jen Greenwald, and myself. The Crow’s Nest is also hosting a sculptors’ panel on Friday, March 5 from 2:30pm to 4:30pm Central time.

Reaper errantKnightheart Gaming puts on a heck of a show!

Reaper Errant Dungeons and Dragons Session
When: Friday, March 5 from 5pm to 9pm Central time
Where: Reaper Twitch channel

Knightheart Gaming runs a Dungeons and Dragons session every other Friday for a team of the Reaper sculptors and painters. I love playing with these guys! Our Dungeon Master, Frank, does a terrific job of setting our sessions up so you don’t need to know the whole backstory to enjoy watching them. If you do want to catch up on our previous shenanigans you can read summaries from the perspective of the character Kay Nimblewit. These are a great read! Or you can watch any of the previous episodes. One recent adventure featured our gnome stripping down and greasing himself up with a tub of healing salve to squeeze into a small space…

Knightheart is also running a one-off game for the Reaper Twitch personalities. That one will have a cyberpunk theme to fit in with the Reaper Virtual Expo theme. I believe this is slated for Saturday night.

Hobby Classes

The hobby classes include an array of topics – painting techniques/colours, weathering, special effects, basing, using an airbrush, and more. You can get the schedule and details on each class over on the class schedule page. The classes take place on Zoom, so you’ll need to register to receive the login details for a class. Also if you check the class Details button, you’ll see if a class has a handout with more information on supplies and so on.

I believe the plan is to record all the classes and put them up on the Reaper YouTube channel, but if you’re really excited about something I’d try to attend live so you can ask questions. (And in the very rare event of technical difficulties.)

I am teaching two classes during this event.

Snake rust rve

Painting Scales
When: Saturday, March 6 from 8pm to 10pm Central
Where: Register to receive the Zoom link

I’ll be running this as a paint along class, though you’re also welcome to just watch and try out the techniques later. I’ll cover methods for painting smaller scales and large plate scales. The figure shown above is the colour scheme I’ll be using in class, but I’ll be using a different snakeman figure with a more open pose so you can see the painting more easily onscreen. My class PDF includes suggestions for alternate figures and paints. 

IMG 0476Texture paste samples. I’ll also demo onscreen.

Additives, Mediums, and Texture Pastes – Oh My!
When: Sunday, March 7 from 2pm to 3:30pm Central
Where: Register to receive the Zoom link

In the first half of the class I’ll take about what additives and mediums are, and why you would add them to your paint. In the second half, I’ll cover products you can use for basing and effects. I’ll be demonstrating and discussing products from Reaper, other miniatures companies, and the art store. You do not need to buy any of these products to participate. Part of the point of the class is to help you figure out what you might want to buy later, if anything. The class PDF includes general information and information on specific products.

Reaper Virtual Expo Swag

If you are a Reaper fan, you may want to pick up some of the Reaper Virtual Expo swag. Currently they have three box collections up for sale. I suspect some of the contents will go up for individual sale later, but I don’t know for sure.

Recently I swatched out some of the RVE paint colours and showed off some of the figures on a Twitch stream. It’s in two parts because I had technical troubles in the middle. Part 1, and then Part 2

Reaper has better pictures up of the figures than I could take, so I’m just including pictures of my paint colour swatches here. I have the remaining paints on order and hope to be able to do another stream and swatch scan soon so you can see all of them.

My scanner scans pretty close to true colour, but also remember that differences between my monitor and yours may mean that these colours appear a little different in person.

Rve box

The 12 colours above are part of the Commemorative MSP Colors set that is included in the RVE 2021 Hobby Box.

Rve plasma

The three plasma colours are packaged in a blister pack and included in the RVE 2021 Expo Box. They are intense colours, I’m not sure the scan captures the full intensity.


These three colours are not related to Reaper Virtual Expo. They are sample colours. Bottles of sample colours may be randomly added to orders placed at the Reaper store during February. So if you do order some RVE swag, you might get one of these, as well. The VDAY 3 colour is shimmery, which is not really captured in the scan at all. The Reaper paint wizard, Sadie, tells me that there are two additional pinks as well!

IMG 0498

How to Paint Baran Blacktree – Extended Edition

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Throughout 2018 Reaper released a special Dungeon Dwellers figure each month, and these continue to be available. The figures were sculpted and painted by a variety of talented people. Each is accompanied by a free painting guide PDF, and there is also a fun role-playing adventure you can download. All these documents are available on the Dungeon Dwellers page at Reaper Miniatures.

Baran front full

I painted the February figure, Baran Blacktree, and wrote the accompanying PDF painting guide, which includes information on painting black fabric, non-metallic metal, and scratches. Since I knew I would be writing a painting guide for him, I took a lot of work-in-progress pictures as I painted him. I ended up with more pictures (and more tips) than could reasonably be included in the painting guide. So I thought I’d dig up some of the ‘deleted scenes’ and share them with you now.

Members of my Patreon will be getting additional bonus content some time soon, as I will be sending them a copy of my draft for the PDF that includes my full resolution photos.

Preparing to Paint

In the PDF I discuss how I used a mix of primer colours to block in the major value areas on the figure. (If you’re unclear on terms like value and saturation used in this article, here is a handy guide to colour terms.) This gave me a chance to consider the composition of values across the figure. It also gave me the chance to create my own lighting reference photos. I positioned a small LED desk lamp where I wanted to have the light appear to fall on the figure, and took pictures.

If you struggle to figure out where to put your shadows and highlights, this is something you might try. You can do this with the base coats of your major colours, not just in black and white. Here you can see the lighting reference photo of my primed figure next to the final version of the figure. There are areas where I added some nuances to the lighting (the reference photo lighting is pretty blown out), and the NMM is handled a little differently to try to evoke the appearance of metal. But you can also see that I followed the reference photo pretty closely, and it was very helpful to me to have.

Baran light comp

My article on painting Caerindra Thistlemoor has another reference lighting example, and so does my article on painting Ziba the Efreeti. It’s an effective tool to help you push the level of contrast on your figures.

Weathering Metal Areas

In the non-metallic metal section of the PDF I talk about general principles of painting NMM, and painting the scratches. I also share the colours and materials used for the general weathering. Unfortunately there wasn’t really space to talk about the process of the weathering apart from the scratches.

The way I paint NMM and my general blending approach can result in a sterile or boring appearance for NMM. A little too ‘factory fresh’, if you will, especially for a battled-wearied character like Baran, who has damage sculpted into his equipment. In addition to painting on scratches and damage as appropriate, I also like to use glazes to add wear and tear and visual complexity to NMM. (I use pretty much the same techniques to add interest to true metallics, too, this idea is definitely not limited to NMM.) 

I often apply a dull dark brown like Reaper’s Woodstain Brown or Blackened Brown to areas that are more recessed and less likely to be cleaned thoroughly, like the bottom quarter or so of the sword where it meets the hilt and crevices in armour. I also added hints of rust to areas of scratches and damage on Baran. Applying thin glazes of colours used elsewhere on the figure is a simple way to create the impression of surrounding items reflecting on the metal areas. Baran’s colour scheme was fairly subdued, so I didn’t really do that here, but it’s a trick to keep in mind. 

Baran front fullYou can see light rust in the sword cracks, dirt on the armour, and dust on the floor stones.

Sometimes I use paint glazes alone for this kind of wear and tear and colour interest. In this instance I also used pigment powders. These are finely ground powders that you rub on to areas of a figure with a dry old brush. They can be applied with a damp brush, as well, but this gives a different appearance. You may need to use fixative on them for gaming figures that will be handled frequently. Several companies produce these products. I bought my set years ago at my local HobbyTown, and I’m not finding the producing company online to link to. You should be able to find recommendations for pigment powders from other miniature hobbyists in your favourite discussion venue.

For Baran, I applied dirt and rust coloured pigments in various areas of the figure, with a concentration on the NMM to add interest to it. Some lighter dirt coloured powders were also used on the base. In the picture below you can see a comparison of some of the NMM areas before and after weathering glazes and powders. Although the effect is subtle, it’s quick to do and I think adds a lot of visual interest to the figure, even if the viewer isn’t always consciously aware of it. You can also use these powders on areas depicted as cloth and lots of other materials.

Nmm glaze comp

Contrast of Hue and Temperature

One of the biggest challenges in painting Baran is that the overall colour scheme was dark and the colours used were fairly low in saturation. Strong differences in value and hue are very effective tools for creating contrast. Most miniature painters rely heavily on one, if not both of those tools. 

I think Baran is an interesting example of how colour elements always need to be considered in the context of the overall figure. A strong colour like bright blue or vivid red would stand out too much and look weird on this figure. In this kind of somber colour scheme, even subtle differences in colour saturation and temperature can create some contrast.

Color v bw

As an example, look at the lighter brown leather accessories of Baran’s bags, pouches, and straps in the photo above left. These stand out pretty well against the metal armour plates and the darker leather armour and boots. Looking at the colour picture you may feel this is because the colours are lighter in value than the surrounding colours. But if you look at the picture converted to greyscale on the right, you can see that the value of the leather accessories and even the face is close to or even darker than the value of the metal areas. Those areas do not stand out much at all in the black and white photo, so they definitely do not have much value contrast with the surrounding areas. (Differences in temperature and saturation are only apparent in full colour. Looking at something in black and white is a great way to assess its level of value contrast.)

Instead, those areas stand out due to contrasts in temperature and colour. In isolation, I would classify the colours I used on the NMM as warm greys – they are grey paints with a little bit of brown in them, not true neutral greys. There is some dull blue (Blue Liner) and neutral grey (Grey Liner) in the shadows that makes them cooler there, but this is a much warmer NMM colour than one painted with neutral or blued greys. However, in the context of this figure, if you compare the armour colours to the leather and skin colours, the armour colours by comparison are both cooler and less intense in colour saturation.

This is an example of what we mean when we say colour is relative, and why it can understandably feel a little frustrating to try to figure out sometimes! Below is a photograph with some additional figures that show more colour relativity. These are all NMM figures, but you can get similar contrasts of temperature on true metallics depending on the colours you use in the shadows.

There’s no one right answer as to which way to go with your colour use. But one other thing you can see in comparing the figures as a group is that stronger contrast makes it easier to delineate a smaller scale figure and make it more readable to the viewer. The hue contrasts on the left figure make it pretty readable. The centre figure has strong value and texture contrasts that would help it stand out on a tabletop or shelf. Keeping Baran dark and moody and limiting both the colour contrast and the value contrast means he doesn’t quite have the same visual oomph when you look at him in a group of figures, nor when you look at him at the smaller size he would appear on a table or shelf rather than larger photos online. I should have pushed the saturation and value contrasts just a little bit more than I did. (The white/black contrast on his shield definitely makes that area stand out though!)

Nmm contrast

The metal colour of the figure on the left is quite cool. The blues in the shadows are not strongly saturated, but they’re obviously blue. It is also cool in the context of the figure, since the skin and leather colours all incorporate warm yellows and oranges, even though they are likewise fairly low saturation versions of those colours. (Speaking of weathering, the dried mud on the bottom of her skirt was applied with paint glazes, but you could also use weathering powders for this kind of effect. You can also see some light glazes of dark brown in the crevices of her swords and armour plates, similar to what I described painting on Baran above.)

The figure in the centre has fairly neutral colour metal. The paints are true greys with touches of weathering and reflected colour added through glazes. The colour looks pretty neutral in the context of the figure, as well, since she has warm colours in her skin and leather and a cool colour on the pants, so it keeps the steel metal colour between the two and feeling neutral. However, if you transplanted that same metal colour NMM to either of the other figures, it would look cool in contrast to their colour schemes. Neither of the other figures has cool blues or greens or even purples used in their overall colour scheme. All of their colours other than their metal areas are warm. In colour schemes with warm colours and no cool colours, neutral greys would look cool by contrast. The reverse is also true – if you placed that same NMM colour scheme on a figure painted completely in cool blues and greens, it would look a little warm in contrast.

Then we have Baran on the right. His overall colour scheme is warm, though dull in saturation. But the skin and leather areas are a little warmer in colour than the armour, so in the context of the figure’s overall colour scheme, the armour is a cool colour.

Additional Photos

Here are some additional angles and uncropped photos. I’ll have one more behind the scenes article on Baran coming up, with step-by-step photos and tips for painting freehand like that on his shield.

Baran s face 500

Baran s shield 500

Baran s back2 500

Baran back right 500

Paints Used

Please see the PDF Paint Guide available from the Reaper site for a complete list of all paints used on the Baran Blacktree figure, as well as additional information on how I painted him!

Figures in this Article

The Female Dual Wield Fighter is based on a Larry Elmore drawing.
The Female Demonkin Warrior with Sword is also available from Dark Sword Miniatures.
Baran Blacktree is available in metal from Reaper Miniatures.