Painting Naus, Waghalter

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Naus the Waghalter is the February 2022 promotional miniature from Reaper Miniatures. When I sat down to paint him, I decided spur of the moment to try some experiments. This article includes the colour recipes I used and WIP photos, and it also describes my experience with the experimentation, since I think others may have had similar experiences. I think you could use the main colour recipes I share here and end up with a figure pretty similar in look if you don’t want to bother with the underpainting step.

Wag blue face

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The Brief

The Reaper art director, Ron Hawkins, was emphatic that this character appear like a dark and dirty a street level thug type. (Waghalter translates to ‘gallows bait’, so that gives you a pretty good idea of the character type Ron was thinking of!) Ron’s initial colour choicer was brown. I pointed out that I had hit the browns pretty heavily with Romag Davl, so he agreed with my suggestion to incorporate other dark neutrals like greys and blacks.

I had a pretty tight deadline for this figure, basically ASAP.

Wag blue back

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The (Poorly Designed) Experiments

I’ve painted this character type before, and it presents a thorny puzzle. How do you paint a figure so people are drawn to look at it when the character it depicts is a person doing their utmost not to be seen? In the past I’ve tried using freehand and texture. I’ve tried careful and restrained use of contrast. I’ve tried directional light. When I sat down to paint this version of that conundrum, I got the idea to try using colour underpainting. And hey, why not also experiment with painting warm shadows and cool highlights, when I almost always use cool shadows and warm highlights?

My inspiration for the colour underpainting was largely the work of Craftworld Studio. I have been fascinated by the amount and variety of colour in their work, and have watched a couple of videos where Marko demonstrated his colour underpainting. (Craftworld is a partnership of two painters, Aleksandra Cvetanovski and Marko Miladinović.) Their painting approach seems to have some elements in common with how James Wappel works, though each very much also has their own style. Both styles heavily incorporate elements of underpainting in their approach, using colour and value to establish elements of composition or characterization, though my impression is that James focuses a bit more on value and Craftworld a bit more on colour.

Craftworld Studio links: Facebook, Patreon, YouTube, Instagram, webpage, blog
James Wappel links: Twitch, Patreon, Facebook, YouTube, Instagramblog (currently inactive, but tons of great info in the archives)

I’m not afraid of colour. I’ve experimented with it non-miniature art as well. I do find it a little tougher to go nuts in miniature painting because of the constraints of working with acrylic paint, and the many years of ingrained habits I’ve developed to work with it. In my miniature painting I occasionally use it during the painting process by mixing some non-local colours into the shadows. More often I add colour complexity after the bulk of the painting is completed by using glazes.

IMG 1103I’m not afraid of colour! This is also an example of using warmer shadows (reds and purples), and cool highlights (pale greens).

While I am fascinated by the approaches of both James Wappel and Craftworld Studios, I would not say that I feel like I deeply understand what they’re doing. I’ve watched a few videos from both, and the way that they work pretty much feels like ‘hey presto’ magic to me. I do not mean that either is a poor teacher or trying to withhold aspects of their process! Both have legions of happy Patrons. I’ve spoken to painter friends who rave about how much Wappel has helped them improve. I definitely recommend studying with either or both of these painters. I particularly recommend James Wappel to people looking to paint game figures quickly that also look great. Wappel’s rate of output is astonishing and he paints and plays for games, not to enter contests and win awards. (Though he has also done plenty of that!) Both James and the Craftworld team describe what they’re doing in the videos, and the thought process behind it. The words make sense, but I don’t think I really grok the concepts behind them on a deeper level. I think the issue is that the way they work is so very different from my approach and how I think about painting that I can’t quite get my head around it.

I’ll review the reasons why I say the experiments with my figure were poorly designed in the conclusion of this article, but there are definitely some hints in everything I’ve written above as to the nature of the problems I ran into. I think it’s worth talking about because I suspect that plenty of painters will have had a similar experience of trying to follow the techniques or approaches of other painters, and feeling that it did not turn out as hoped.

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The Underpainting

As mentioned, I had a tight deadline, and my decisions to experiment were spur of the moment when I sat down to begin painting the mini. I decided that  experimenting with underpainting was pretty low risk since I could always paint over with more opaque paint if things did not seem to be working out. My gamble was to take an evening and try something out, and my deadline wasn’t so tight as to rule that out.

I wanted to focus on a colour underpainting for this figure. More of a Craftworld Studio approach, which sometimes kind of looks like madly slapping some colours on the mini to me because I can’t seem to grok all of the thought process behind the decisions. (I have used value underpainting techniques several times in the past, and will have a new example for you in the near future.)

I pulled out a small selection of artist grade paints. I wanted to be sure to use paints that are intense in colour and fairly opaque, and I knew these fit the bill. It would certainly be possible to do a similar experiment with vivid colours of miniature paint, like the Reaper Clears or Kimera Kolors, or whatever most highly saturated colour paints that you have on hand. Then I started madly slapping colours on the figure. Well, somewhat madly. I didn’t worry about the values of the underpainting colours themselves, but where I placed those colours was based on where I should place different values on the figure based on my lighting scenario. To put it another way, for the most part what I did was paint magenta where I would paint shadows, green where I would paint midtones, and blue where I would paint highlights.

The secondary part of my experiment was to paint with warmer shadows and cooler highlights. I chose my colour underpainting paint colours with the idea that magenta, as a variant of red, would add warmth in the shadows. The blue was a cool colour for the areas of that would get cool highlights. Green is usually considered to be a cooler colour. This green has some yellow in it it. It’s warmer than the blue, so it seemed like a good choice for the intermediate midtone areas. I’m not sure I did choose the correct colours, but I’ll come back to that in the analysis at the end. (Information on colour terminology.)

As I worked on this stage I became concerned about whether areas of crevices and indented lines and so on would be as dark as they should be at the end of painting. I planned to paint over the underpainting with somewhat transparent paint rather than my usual opaque basecoats. To insure crevices and depressions were dark in value, I mixed up a wash with magenta mixed with black and applied it all over the figure. Then before it dried I wiped it off the high points of the figure with a makeup sponge. I have seen James Wappel do something like this in several videos.

I took pictures, but I foolishly did not remember to take a photo after the initial colour application. In the pictures below, you can see what the underpainting stage looked like on the base of the figure. The figure portion is what things looked like after the wash and wipe, which definitely did dull down the colours.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said I slapped on the paint. ;->

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If I try this method of underpainting again, and I think that I will, I am wondering if it would be more effective to start with a wash that I wipe off the high points and then work with the pure colour.

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The Painting

I planned to paint with slightly transparent paint. I also planned to mix my shadow, midtone, and highlight colours, and then apply each in the appropriate location of the figure. The goal with both of these choices would be to allow the colour underpainting to subtly show through and create some visual interest and complexity by hiding a little colour within the overall drabness of the colour scheme.

I typically start painting with a completely opaque foundation of paint. This might be the darkest colour, and then I paint layers of lighter colours over it to create the midtones and highlights. More often I start with the midtone colour, and then paint layers of darker paint over it in the shadow areas and layers of lighter paint over it in the highlight areas. The video of painting Ghost Bride Betty demonstrates the former process. The Layer Up! kit that I created for Reaper teaches the latter process.

These different approaches are examples of why variations in paint opacity in various paints aren’t inherently good or bad. A given paint is just better or worse for some applications than others. Super opaque colours are great when you’re trying to quickly paint basecoats onto black primer. They are more challenging for the layering technique, do not work as well for glazing, and weren’t what I wanted for the type of painting I was doing here. 

Skin, Cloth, and Brown Leather Armour

The best order in which to paint areas of a figure is a common question, so I always like to explain how I make those decisions in these process articles. Naus is not completely armoured. He has small areas of clothing visible on his legs and arms. These are located under armour and straps, so it’ll be much easier to paint them before painting the armour and straps! However, the hood sits somewhat on top of other objects, so it would make more sense to paint later in the process.

There is a similar issue with the skin. The skin of the face is inset underneath both a hood and a mask. The skin of the fingers (he’s wearing fingerless gloves) is on top of some objects and beneath the gloves.

If I want to paint all the cloth the same colours and the skin the same colours, I have to make a decision. If I paint everything at the same time to use the same colour mixes, which is faster and easier, then I have to accept that it will require some fiddly brushwork at points to avoid getting paint on completed areas. Or I can paint areas in the most logical order for easy painting, and accept that I will have to mix the same colours at two separate times. (Unless I’m painting quickly enough to finish in one session, of course.)

With Naus, I decided to paint the face first, and leave the fingers for later. I also chose to paint all of the cloth at the same time. I decided to paint the cloth grey and a little lighter than the armour and accessories would be. Even though the overall intent was a very dark figure, there needs to be some contrast of values to define areas and bring out volumes.

I used a mix of magenta + black for the shadows, a warmer grey for the midtones, and a cooler grey for the highlights. I know that some of the midtone greys I have are a bit more on the transparent side, so having some underpainting colour peek through the midtones and shadows was possible. Many colours that we use for highlights are mixed with white paint, which is more opaque, so I needed to thin those with water to make them a little more transparent. To try to keep the highlight areas cooler even if the underpainting didn’t show through there, I used a light blue to mix most of my highlights.

IMG 2494The grey cloth colours. LAG stands for Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. I am 99% certain that Reaper’s Clear Magenta is the same pigment.

Next I started on the banded leather chest armour and the knee pads. I decided to use the colours Bruised Purple and Ashen Brown. In part this was because Reaper recently rereleased those paints and I wanted to have a painted example with these great colours to show viewers on my Twitch show. I used my magenta + black mix for the darkest areas, and Ashen Brown for the lighter areas, mixing in a little light blue for the lightest areas. I planned to use the Bruised Purple in the midtone areas.

I quickly rediscovered that Bruised Purple is a fairly transparent paint colour. This can make it frustrating to use to layer over a darker/stronger colour, or to paint visible texture. I had experienced that when painting Ziba the Efreeti. I used a limited colour palette on Ziba. I chose to use a mix of red and black created a colour similar to Bruised Purple for her skirt, which I aimed to paint with a woven cloth texture. The colour mix was too transparent to work well to create visible texture strokes until I mixed it with a little white.

IMG 2500Torso and kneepad armour colours. LAG stands for Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. I’m 99% certain that Reaper’s Clear Magenta is the same pigment.

The colours for Naus’ armour didn’t really work to paint in the same way I painted on the grey cloth. The Bruised Purple was too transparent to layer over the midtones and create blends with the layer shadow and highlight colours. So I tweaked my process a little. I painted the highlight colours over some of the midtone areas and then painted the Bruised Purple over it to tweak the colour and smooth the transitions. The Ashen Brown is a more opaque paint, and I thinned it down in hopes of allowing the underpainting to show through a bit. I think you can see a bit of the green peeking through in spots, though it’s certainly pretty subtle. While the colour isn’t obvious, I think the painting approach resulted in a more visually complex surface than the smoother and more uniform appearance my painting often has.

I began to run into another problem here. You can see Blue Liner in the paint picture above. That is a cool dark colour, it doesn’t really fit into my warn shadows plan. It’s also just about the darkest paint I have. Because it’s a dull cool blue it usually appears even a little darker than black. (Most blues appear to recede from our view, while warm colours like red and orange appear as if closer to us.) That darkness of Blue Liner makes it great for lining or filling in crevices that you want to recede from view. The black + magenta shadow mix just wasn’t dark enough to use as lining between dark colours.

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How the figure appeared after completing the cloth and chest armour.

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Leather Accessories and Weapons

The next items I painted were the leather shoulder armour and some of the straps and belts. I wanted this to look like dingy blackish leather and to be quite dark, so it would contrast a little with the chest armour piece. I used black overall, and another purply-brown for the highlights, mixing in a bit of pale blue to lighten it up a bit here and there. None of these choices worked that well with my experiments. The paints are on the opaque side, and I had to do more stippling to smooth transitions, so I don’t think any of the colour underpainting shows through. The purply-brown colour ended up feeling fairly warm in colour because the low contrast highlight mixes didn’t include enough of the light blue to appear very cool in value.

IMG 2503Colours used on the warm black leather.

At the stage of these WIP photos, the black shoulder area did not look like it has anywhere near enough contrast to me. I reminded myself that those areas were not finished. All of them would have NMM steel added – metal studs on the shoulder armour, and buckles on the straps. Those would pop more against the dark surface. I might still need to add more highlights in spots (and I did), but I needed to get more paint on the figure to be able to accurately assess how everything was working.

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The next time I sat down to paint I wanted to try a different colour combination to see if I could get cooler colours in the highlights of my dark leather. I swapped out my midtone for more of a grey with a touch of brown in it. I tested this colour selection on Naus’ satchel. 

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It did add a little hue variation, but it didn’t work any better in terms of showing hints of the colour underpainting. I decided to switch back to the original leather recipe to finish off the rest of the leather areas.

After finishing the leather I worked on the weapon blades. I used my magenta + black mix for the shadows, neutral greys for the midtones, and pale blues for the highlights. I didn’t go up to pure white as I usually would. It’s been my experience with others of these dark colour scheme figures that a slightly smaller value range between darkest and lightest colours can work for non-metallic metal in this kind of colour scheme. Since I had to paint back and forth a bit to smooth out the blending on the NMM, I lost some of the colour underpainting. I had liked that touch of green on the blades from the underpainting, so I added it back by applying thinned down green paint on top.

IMG 2513The NMM colours. I added touches of the greens and the magenta to tie together my scheme and suggest reflections from the environment. LAG stands for Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. Reaper’s Clear Magenta is likely the same pigment as the Liquitex, and Jungle Camo would work as a substitute for the green.

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This picture of the back of the sword below was taken to confirm with the sculptor Bobby Jackson the nature of the material at the base of the blade. His answer: “Leather I guess.” Even having direct access to a sculptor won’t always answer the ‘what is this object supposed to be’ question!

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The following WIP pictures were taken with my fancy camera. Reaper likes to show pictures of new and upcoming products on their Reaper Live Twitch stream show on Thursday nights. I was pretty far along by Thursday afternoon, so I did a little touchup to make the really rough bits look a little less rough (mostly the mask), and then took some pictures to send to Ron to use on the show if he wanted. (If you compare the above cell phone pictures with the photos below, the only additional thing I painted was the mask, all other differences are between the cameras.)

Wag wip front

Wag wip back

After taking the above photos I kept working on the figure, painting the NMM details with the same NMM colours, and I also painted the small pouch.

Finishing Touches

Ron liked the figure as he appeared in the work in progress pictures, but he asked whether the hood and mask were finished, since he was concerned that both were too light in value for the character type. He thought maybe I had been trying to go for a sort of Assassin’s Creed vibe. Which I had not, at least not consciously! My intention had been to use touches of lighter value highlights around the face to make it the focal point of the figure and draw the viewer’s eye. When I went back to working on the figure the next day, I immediately saw why it made Ron think of Assassin’s Creed!

As I mentioned above, the hood was one of the first things I painted. Without more information on the rest of the figure, I didn’t really have the context to judge whether or not it was done when I first painted it. Now that I was close to finished I could see that it did look pretty pale in comparison to the rest, and had lighter highlights than the shiniest parts of the NMM!

I did a couple of things to tone it down. I started with a green glaze on the highlights, but it still looked pretty light.  Next I added glazes of Bruised Purple mixed with a little Dragon Black all over the hood, painting additional layers into the shadow areas to darken them further. Conversely, I felt like the non-metallic details did not stand out very well. This piece overall is very dark and not very colourful, there has to be some kind of contrast to make it legible and at all interesting to look at. So I went back over the small details with lighter values of paint, and I also increased the highlights a little on the two weapons.

Wag blue front

This is an example of two things. One is that you need to accept that you can’t accurately judge exactly how well the overall figure or even a section of it is working until you’re pretty close to done. This is particularly true of some effects, like non-metallic metal and source lighting. Every colour you add, every value you shift, it all affects your perception of what is already there. A colour that looked great in the beginning can end up looking too light, too dark, too bright, too dull  when viewed in the context of the overall piece. Sometimes the best way to fix that is by changing what you painted first; sometimes you tweak something you painted later. The main point that I want to stress here is that you can improve your paint jobs a lot if you plan for a step near the end of painting where you stand back and look at the figure as a whole to see if there’s anything that needs to be added or tweaked.

This experience is also a reminder that it is helpful to keep in mind the function of your object as you paint. For this project, my goal was to paint to paint something that met the expectations of the person commissioning the piece. Ron was very clear that he wanted a colour scheme of dark and dull colours, and that the figure should look dirty and weathered. I sent him pics when I thought I had things finished to the point of what he wanted. My inclination was to bump up the highlights around the face and in a few other areas, and just generally increase the level of contrast. I also wasn’t sure if Ron would consider him grungy enough. I had initially thought to use weathering powders after I finished painting, but I liked the colour where I was. Ron was happy with the figure as it was, so there was no point in my painting further unless I wanted to spend more time to make my client less happy.

Wag blue back left

Sometimes the function of your figure may be as a quick tabletop opponent, and it’s better to use some strong contrast and not waste too much time with the blending. Sometimes the function might be as a contest entry where there’s no such thing as too much time, effort, and thought put into it. Not having the time or effort put into an important display piece can lead to disappointment, but spending too much time and energy on something and always stressing yourself out instead of just painting and having fun sometimes can also hamper your enjoyment of the hobby and put you off painting. I used to aim for the best I could do on pretty much every figure. I’m a much happier painter now that I have different levels and approaches towards my work. Different kinds of work require different kinds of thought processes and effort.

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Assessing the Colour Underpainting Experiment

When assessing how well an experiment or study worked out, I use different criteria than I use in determining whether or not I think the paint job of the figure is. I think my painting of Naus turned out okay. There are a few things I might tweak to fit my preferences rather than my client’s, but overall it works. This and the following section are assessments of how well I thought the experiments I did on Naus turned out, and that is a different question!

If my goal in painting this figure was to learn the painting approach of Craftworld Studio and paint a figure in a similar style, it would be fair to say that I set myself up for failure. I did not follow any of the tips I outlined in my article about how to study from painting videos. I didn’t pick a particular video or video series and study it to identify the specific painting steps. I didn’t choose a figure similar to one painted by my inspiration. I didn’t study Craftworld Studio’s colour palette and pick the same or even a similar set of colours to use when practicing.

I knew going in that I wasn’t doing any of those things, and that the figure I painted wouldn’t look much like the ones that inspired me. The Craftworld Studios figures I admire burst with rich saturated colour. They typically have a strong focal point that is often achieved by intense value contrasts between the areas the viewer is meant to look at (light value, saturated colour), and the less important areas (darker value, less saturated colour). None of those choices really fit with the brief I had from my client for this figure, which was that it be desaturated in colour and overall dark and dirty looking. Either of the Craftworld Studio painters could probably paint something in their style that would fit that brief, but for me to try to paint in the that style for the first time while also inverting the main elements of it would be pretty much impossible.

Yet I suspect many painters unthinkingly make similar errors when they are trying to better understand and replicate the techniques they see in videos and articles. You want to paint something that looks like the work of a painter you admire. But you also want to get this mini of a different scale finished for next week’s game, and it needs to be in these specific colours. And also you don’t want to use the brushes/paints that your inspiration recommends. You can’t learn someone else’s style/approach/techniques and adapt them to your own in one painting attempt. You’ll be much more successful if you work on a few figures following what they do as closely as possible. Once you have a good understanding of what they’re doing, then work on adapting it into your usual workflow, tools, figure type, etc. If you’ve ever been in the position where you took an in-person class and had good results but then had less success on your own at home, it may be because of issues like this.

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Assessing the Warm Shadows, Cool Highlights Experiment

A common colour use guideline is that if the colour of the light is warm, highlights will be warmer colours and shadows will be cooler colours, and vice versa. A full discussion of colour temperature in shadows/highlights is beyond the scope of this article. In brief, I think that guideline can be useful if you’re not comfortable with colour, and that it can help a figure appear more naturally part of an environment than when painters think of each colour area on the figure individually. I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule required for successful painting.

Quick note for those less conversant with colour theory terms. In the abstract, a cooler colour is one with more blue in it and a warmer colour is one with more orange in it. So red, yellow, orange are warmer colours and blue, green, purple are cooler colours. In practice, it’s all relative, and every colour has warm and cool versions. A green that has a bit more blue in it than yellow is a cooler green, one with more yellow in it is a warmer green. So if you were painting a green cloak with cool shadows and warm highlights, you could use a dark green that skews a little blue in the shadows, a standard green in the midtones, and mix yellow into your green for warm highlights.

Colour temperature is also tied into colour saturation and value. Less saturated versions of colours generally appear cooler than more saturated versions of colours. Red is a warm colour. If you add black to that red you make it darker in value, less saturated in colour, and cooler in temperature. If you mix white into the red you make it lighter in value, less saturated in colour, and… cooler in temperature. With red you can use orange/yellow/salmon in the highlights to keep them warmer, but in general this happens with all colours – the lightest versions and darkest versions of those colours are less saturated and cooler in temperature than the midtones.

I think the overall darkness I needed for this figure is a large part of where I ran into trouble trying to put warm shadows, cool highlights into effect. I didn’t use the lightest versions of any colours other than the steel grey on the weapons. You can see the pale and cool blue in the highlights on the NMM. On the rest of the figure, the majority of the lightest colours are midtones. The issue is particularly noticeable on the dark leather. The shadows are black or near black, and the midtones are pretty dark. If I add the light cool blue directly into the black to mix highlights, I’d get grey, like on the satchel. If I use any other colour in the highlights, even mixed with the light cool blue, it’s probably going to look warm in comparison to the cool shadows, and it’s not going to get light enough in value for the light cool blue to be noticeable like on the weapons.

Wag blue face

I have always thought painting warm shadows/cool highlights would be tricky on any gaming scale figure because we usually have to use a wider value range than may be required for a piece of canvas art or a larger figure to make things look three dimensional. If I were to try it again I think it would need to be on a figure where I could use more colours in the middle of the value range.

I don’t think every area of the figure below displays warm shadows and cool highlights, but I would say this mermaid has more of the warm shadows effect than I was able to manage with Naus. You can see a warm glow to her skin, especially on the hand and upraised arm. There are hints of the warm colour in the shadows of the tail and the shells. I used the same magenta colour in the shadows of Naus as I did in most of the shadows of this mermaid. The pale highlights of the beer foam, sand, and skin are cooler than their shadow and midtone colours. There are some blued shadows on the sand and in her hair that don’t fit the warmer shadows pattern, but overall this mermaid figure where I wasn’t particularly aiming for a warm shadows effect does a better job of it than I did when I was trying to achieve that style on the super dark Naus.

Mermaid face

Drybrush Brush Tests #1: Billowing Cloak Folds

When I started my Beyond the Kit stream on the Reaper Miniatures Twitch channel, one of my goals was to encourage a spirit of exploration both in my viewers, and in myself. The Core Skills learn to paint kit that I wrote for Reaper includes the technique of drybrushing, so I thought experimenting with it would be a great way to literally explore beyond the kit. The first experimental question that came to mind is: Does the brush you use make much of a difference to your drybrushing result?

Malcolm groupSix figures and a bunch of brushes stepped into the ring.

I designed an experiment to see whether different types and sizes of brushes might give different kinds of results on different types of sculpted surfaces.  Drybrushing is generally considered a good technique for strongly textured surfaces like rocks, chainmail, wood grain, and so on. It can be more frustrating to use on smoother surfaces like cloth and skin since the results often look uneven, streaky, or chalky.

I’m sharing the results of my experiments in case they’re useful to others, but also to encourage you to explore and experiment with your own hobby materials. Experiment with brushes you already have but haven’t used for drybrushing before you buy new ones. Also, consider how the results might differ if you use different application techniques or approaches to lighting.

The other main technique that I cover in the Cores Skills kit is washes. I’ve conducted a couple of previous tests with washes, mainly focused on the effect of combining different wash colours with a more or less saturated base colour. (Wash test one, wash test two.)

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A Note on the Video(s)

I had hoped to be able to link to the YouTube upload of the video so you could see the brushes in action and how I used them. Unfortunately the save files of the videos for both the first and second experiments had issues and cannot be uploaded. The video for the third experiment is available. This experiment was on a textured stone wall, so it’s a different kind of surface, but you can at least see the tools and my approach to using them.

If you’d like to see me make a new video testing drybrushing on smooth cloth, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to put one together!

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The Seed of the Experiment

For a while I’d been hearing that soft makeup brushes were a great tool for drybrushing. A year or so ago I got curious enough to buy a cheap set off Amazon. I didn’t have time to explore them in depth, but I was encouraged by my initial use. The larger, softer brushes seemed both easier and quicker to use than the smaller, stiffer flats typically recommended for drybrushing miniatures. I did a quick test with my favourite blending test subject, Anirion the elf wizard. The version on the left was painted with smaller flat brushes, and the figure on the right was painted with a huge fluffy makeup brush.

Ani flat vs makeup backLeft side: small flat brush, right side huge fluffy makeup brush. Brush 4 in the list below.

The right side isn’t wildly smoother, but it has a more even distribution of colours, is slightly smoother, and was much quicker to paint. It got me thinking that there is something to this makeup brush idea!

Ani flat vs makeup frontLeft side: small flat brush, right side huge fluffy makeup brush. Brush 4 in the list below.

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Setting Up the Experiment

When I decided to put together some drybrushing test episodes for Beyond the Kit, I wanted to include as broad a range of brushes as possible. Between my general art interests and my habit of collecting a lot of art supplies, I have a lot of brushes! My curiosity also drove me to purchase a new style of brush that is advertised as being specifically designed for drybrushing miniatures.

I selected the cloak of Malcolm Lightbringer as my first test surface. This cloak is a mix of flatter and rounded surfaces, with some well-defined recesses and peaks. I also already have smoothly blended versions of it to compare the drybrushing versions against. After the mixups during my previous wash experiments, I labeled both the figures and their holders so it would be easy to identify which figure was painted with which tool during and after the experiment!

Malcolm group holderThe test figures right after completing the experiment.

I chose to use the same paint colours I had used on my smooth blended copies of Malcolm for easier comparison. I’ll discuss more specifics of the paint mixes in the process section below. I used Reaper MSP paints. These are a fairly fluid consistency paint. Paint viscosity would be another variable to experiment with for drybrushing. Even with these more fluid paints I might find I need to add a little water or medium to pale opaque colours that have a lot of white in them to help avoid a chalky look, or if I’m using older paints that have thickened up a little.

I used a wet palette for this painting session. I use a dry palette in the second experiment.

Since this was a test of drybrushing, I did not use any washes. I basecoated the figures with the darkest shadow colour. I do not think the shapes of this cloak are very amenable to an attractive result when adding shadows with uncontrolled washes.

I used the same general process and approach with each of the figures and brushes. I found that it was optimal to use a larger brush for the main area of the cloak, and a smaller brush on the smaller folds on the hood and shoulders. However, in some cases I had only one size of a type of brush, or I had to use a different shape for a smaller brush, so the comparison of the effect on the hoods isn’t as accurate as the comparisons between the results on the main cloak area.

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My Painting Process

I think a lot of us view drybrushing as a simple technique without much variation. I think there are definitely some variations to how you can load, unload, and in particular, apply the paint, so I want to be clear about the approach that I used in testing the various brushes on these figures. (I have written a more hands-on how to for washes and drybrushing in the Core Skills learn to paint kit if you’re new to these techniques.)

Proof of Concept Approach
With these tests I was aiming to get an idea of how the brushes work and the kind of results that might be possible with them. I was not trying to paint each figure to the best possible standard I could. I think of this as a proof of concept approach, and often use it to do tests for colours or textures I want to paint before applying them to a miniature I plan to spend a lot of time on. With this approach I’m trying to get an idea of the best result that might be possible, not actually achieve that result. At the end of the general experiments I may take a few of the most successful brushes and paint a few miniatures with more care to see what quality of a result I can achieve.

Paint Loading and Unloading
Dipping the brush into paint is referred to as loading the brush. My aim was to load paint on the bottom third of the bristles, and avoid getting paint near the ferrule. For unloading, I wiped and tamped the brush on a piece of textured paper towel. I aimed for a paint load level where the paint was visible on the tops of the paper towel texture but not filling the depressions of the paper towel texture. I also checked to see that it didn’t seem too streaky when I did test strokes. However, I tried not want to wipe the brush on the paper towel to the point where the paint would be super dry, chalky, or dusty. 

Brush Handling
I applied light pressure to the brush in a sweeping or dusting motion. I did not vigorously scrub it around the surface with strong pressure. I tend to use this approach even when drybrushing sculpted textures. It’s gentler on the brush and is less likely to result in a chalky, dusty look. It also allows me to make some painterly decisions instead of leaving everything up to the sculpt and the brush.

Paint Mixes
I painted four lighter layers of paint on top of my darkest shadow basecoat. I mixed these in advance for this test, but did on the fly mixing for my second test. If necessary, I applied multiple coats of a single colour mix to build up the colour intensity. Using more intermediary mix steps between the darkest and lightest colour values results in smoother transitions with drybrushing, just as it does with layering. And just as with layering, applying multiple layers of a mix that is more transparent can also help create smoother transitions.

Paint Application
I applied paint with intention by changing the angle of brush and/or miniature as necessary. I tried to apply the first couple of paint layers further down the slopes of the cloak folds, and restrict the lightest value layers to small areas on the peaks of the folds. I also applied the values of paint with the idea of simulating light shining from above. Part of my assessment for how well each type of brush worked include how much it allowed me to control the application of the paint.

And now on to the actual test result pictures!

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The Test Results

For each test figure I’m including a photo of the figure, and of the brushes used to paint it. Since there are so many different brands of brushes and differing availability of brands depending on location, I’m including a photograph of the brushes used on each figure next to a ruler that includes both metric and imperial units. This should allow you to see the general size and shape of the brush you might be interested in rather than trying to match my exact brand choices.

I don’t think any of these brushes would allow you to achieve a flawless smooth blend without as much time and effort as layering or wet blending, regardless of how many paint mix layers you use. However, I do think that some of them would allow you to get a more attractive result than standard drybrushing with just a little more time and attention.

1. Classic Synthetic Flats

I believe these are the most common choice for miniature painters when drybrushing. Used as I described in the Painting Process section, they performed much better than I had expected! However, size really matters. You need a larger brush to get a smoother effect on large curved folds of cloth like on a cloak or robe. The smaller size worked better for the finer folds of the hood. I found that I needed to reload the paint on these brushes more often compared to some of the others. Likewise, paint application took more time with these than most of the others.

1 flat classic

The brush on the left is a size 4 Reaper Miniatures flat. This is a larger brush than the one included in the Core Skills learn to paint kit. I know less experienced painters are often nervous about using larger brushes, but I encourage you to give them a try! If I spent a little more time and effort on applying the paint to build up the colour and depict the light, I think I could get a pretty good looking result. I believe synthetic filberts would achieve similar results, possibly with a little more control. Filbert brushes are also called cat’s tongue brushes. They’re similar to a flat but rounded off on the corners.

Malcolm crop 1

2. Large Soft Bristle Flat

Since the softness of the bristles seems to be part of what makes the cosmetic brushes work well, I had some hopes for this one. It’s a type of brush that is available at a low cost in craft stores. (In the United States at least.) Sadly it did not perform well at all. I think it was either too big or too flat. I did not have a comparable smaller brush to use on the hood, so everything was painted with this one brush.

2 flat large

I did not enjoy the experience of painting with this brush, and I also don’t think the results are very attractive. It was challenging to aim the brush exactly where I wanted. I could see streaks where the bristles touched down to paint a layer on the sides of the folds. The overall result is streaky and stark. I think part of the issue is the size of the brush, but given the streaky issue, I’m not sure a smaller version of this brush would give an attractive result.

Malcolm crop 2

3. Art Store Oval Mop (Inexpensive Brand)

I purchased these brushes from my local art store. Watercolour mop brushes are usually larger and more expensive. They’re also most commonly round, where these are a bit more like filberts in shape. The hair on these brushes is very soft, which is part of what I think makes the makeup brushes work well. This hair may be too soft, however. It has no spring, so the shape quickly deforms, and you can’t use the edge of the brush to get in smaller sections as you can with a stiffer brush. It’s also not stiff enough to push paint into areas when that is necessary for successful application. So although they seemed similar to the makeup brushes, they don’t really work the same way at all. Watercolour detail brushes are a great choice for miniature painters because they work well with our more fluid acrylic paints for general painting. However, watercolour mop brushes are designed to apply watery washes of paint, so I guess it’s not too surprising that these didn’t work well for drybrushing.

3 oval mop

I think even the larger of the brushes was too small and maybe too short. They were very frustrating to use, even more so than brush 2. It might be possible to spend time and effort to get a bit more of an attractive result, but if the aim of drybrushing is to make painting easier and/or quicker, this brush is no help at all. I have used this for small areas of sculpted texture with some success, but we’ll see how it does in comparison to others vis a vis texture in future drybrushing tests.

Malcolm crop 3

4. Makeup Brush: Pointed Round

The makeup brushes I’m using came as part of a large inexpensive set I purchased from Amazon. In the US, you can look for inexpensive makeup brushes in big box stores and pharmacies. ELF is a common brand, and Walgreens in house brand has a variety of options. Cosmetic stores like Sephora and Ulta will have a much larger selection, but the brushes seem to be much more expensive. I purchased this set of brushes prior to doing these tests. The large brushes work surprisingly well even for gaming size miniatures, but if I were buying another set or looking for individual brushes, I’d probably prefer to have brushes that are a half inch diameter rather than these full inch diameter ones. The larger brushes would be great for working on vehicles and terrain, however. 

4 makeup pointed roundThese tests make me I wish I had a brush in between the size of these two.

The larger brushes have very soft, dense hair, which I think is what makes them work so well for drybrushing. The shorter hair and smaller diameter on the smaller brushes makes them feel firmer, closer to how a standard flat brush like Test Brush 1 feels. I think a half inch diameter version would be the sweet spot between control and softness/density. I wasn’t able to get down into the lower areas of the folds for the first few layers as well as I would have liked. The shape of the pointed round worked pretty well for the larger folds. I would probably switch to the smaller brush for the lightest highlight layers to have better control in applying paint to smaller areas. The bristles cut into a point shape style brush did not work well for the smaller, sharper folds on the hood. Even when I switched to the smaller brush it was hard to keep paint out of the crevices of the hood folds.

Malcolm crop 4

5. Makeup Brushes: Flattop and Filbert

When I had talked about makeup brushes on stream, someone mentioned that the ones with flattops work well. I checked my Amazon set and discovered I did have a couple of those in the larger size. I did not have anything comparable in a smaller size, so I used smaller filberts for the hood. The comments on the Test Brush 4 section all apply to these brushes as well – the larger ones are soft and dense, the smaller ones are a little closer to a standard flat in terms of being stiffer due to the crimp of the ferrule and the shorter length of the hair. And as with the above comment, I’d love to have one about a half inch in diameter rather than these larger one inch diameter ones.

5 makeup flattop filbert

For the Malcolm figure below, I only used the straight flattop brush directly adjacent to the ruler on the right. I tried the slanted flattop in my second drybrushing test. I was impressed with how these worked. They filled in some of the shadow areas a little more softly so that there is a less stark transition between the deepest shadows and the first few values of highlights. On the downside, the size of the brush and the flatness made it hard to control, so it was much more difficult to confine the lightest values of highlights to small areas on the peaks of the folds. It was difficult to keep the large brush away from the hood, so the painting on the hood isn’t a great test of these filberts really.

It might work well to start with the flattop and then transition to the pointed round makeup brushes to get a combination of the softer starting point and more control for the later layers.

Malcolm crop 5

6. Dome Shape Drybrush

The last brush type I tried is a new type of brush that is marketed as being specifically made for drybrushing. The vast majority of tools and techniques in our hobby are repurposed and often repackaged from other types of arts or crafts. I have seen dome brushes with longer brush heads made both with this goat hair and also other types of hair sold for both makeup and fine art purposes that pre-date this brush. The first place I saw this shorter bristle style of brush was from Artis Opus. Their brushes look lovely to work with, but they are fairly expensive, and I was reluctant to spend that much money for conducting experiments in a technique I probably won’t use that much in every day painting. The Army Painter has come out with a similar looking brush for a lower price, so I decided to give those a try. I suspect that the Artis Opus version has more densely packed and higher quality hair so it’s likely to last longer and perform perhaps a little better.

NOTE: Both brands of these brushes use goat hair. If you’d prefer a synthetic alternative I would look for dome makeup brushes. Less expensive ones are more likely to be made of synthetic hair.

6 dome drybrush

The brushes pictured are from the Army Painter Masterclass set. Artis Opus has two additional sizes – one even smaller, and one even larger. One interesting thing about these brushes is that you can apply paint with them in two different ways. You can use a sweeping/dusting motion as with the other brushes I tested, or you can use them in a dabbing, stippling motion. The effect you get with each is slightly different. 

When painting the figure below, I wiped off a little less of the paint for the initial layers to try to build up some colour in some of the lower areas as the flattop brush 5 had done. I used the largest brush for the main area of the cloak, but I think the medium size might have been a better choice to have a little more control in some sections. I was pleasantly surprised by these brushes. They were easy and enjoyable to use. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the dome shape makes it easier to control where you are applying the paint, and also easier to avoid getting paint in areas where you do not want it to go. I suspect there are a few nuances to learning to use these for optimum result, but overall they’re pretty easy and low stress to use.

Malcolm crop 6

A little while after the tests I had occasion to paint something I wanted to look a little speckled – a Gingerbread Knight. I used these brushes for the bulk of the painting on the cookie area.

Gb front

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Here’s another picture of all the figures together, lined up in order from 1 through 6.

Malcolm group crop

Coming soon – the results for tests two and three!

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Patron Spotlight: Ward Shrake

This blog is made possible by the generous support of my patrons, and I want to share more about them and their work with the world!

Ward’s primary hobby work has been model kits, and he has years of kit bashing and scratch sculpting experience, particularly in the genre of vehicles. But his hobby interests range far beyond that. He has dipped toes into many facets of modelling, and sees interesting areas of overlap of which those of us who specialize more intently might be unaware. He also loves sharing his knowledge and experience and has had numerous articles published in modelling magazines.

Ward SFFM Horror and Monster Modeller Special Issue by Ward Shrake Eddie from Aces High 06 jpg a3c1d9b042444e5fd0b7db4a5bbba9bfEddie from Aces High. You can read more about how Ward painted this figure and fitted it with lights.

The following are Ward’s words, accompanied by some photographs of his work and links to where you can see more and read more about how he made his creations. Thank you Ward for the support, and for sharing your thoughts!

Hello, fellow blog readers, and fans of figure modeling!

Like many of you, I enjoy reading about various aspects of this craft or hobby — the art, the science, and/or the philosophy and psychology of the figure modeling world.

I have to admit, though, that it’s not all I ever read about. I am a life-long “book-a-holic”. I have spent many years happily reading about many areas within the overall scale modeling world. Figure sculpting, painting, and vignette or diorama creation always interested and even fascinated me, as a reader. But I mostly “stopped at reading,” with figure models. It wasn’t just figure modeling that I read about, but “did not do”. There are many areas within the scale modeling hobby that I mainly “read about” but wasn’t actively involved in, in a hands-on kind of way. There’s only so much time, money, and energy available to anyone. If you are easily inspired by art, when you see examples of it, you’re simply not going to be able to “do” everything you want to. Being a “multi-potential-ite” is fun, sometimes: but it’s hard to force myself to focus on only doing one specific “new” thing!

Ward article by ward shrake sffm vol 17 01 remodelling max sized lYou can see more of this piece and others Ward has done on his Putty & Paint page.

I knew about gaming minis since the days when companies like Grenadier and Ral Partha were creating and selling lots of awesome little sculptures. I still have a few minis I purchased in the 1980s; and I’ve added a lot more minis to my collection since then. I haven’t painted them, mind you: I mainly like marveling at the sculpting work! (It took me far too long to realize I was attracted to the idea of being able to do figure sculpting work, myself!) In my local hobby shop, in the 1970s, I saw Aurora’s “Monster Scenes” and back then, I wanted all I could get. Which was none of them: I had a parent who thought all such things were evil. (Any of those I brought home, would have been trashed in hours, and I would have never heard the end of it.) I finally got most of those kits, when they were re-issued, about ten years ago. But to be honest, as a kid I was more sorry that I didn’t have more of that company’s “Prehistoric Scenes” kits: those kits were majorly cool!

Ward steampunk modeller volume 3 hornethopter 04 article by ward shrake sized lWard’s diorama with a Steampunk Hornethopter.

As a youth, of elementary and junior high school age, I built (but at first, rarely painted) injection molded plastic kits of any subject that was within my price range, as long as it had “cool shapes and colors”. World War One bi-planes and tri-planes were favorites of mine back then. By the time I was about 16, I had built 200 plastic model kits. I became more interested in figure models, in various scales, in the early to mid-1980s: but I became distracted by other hobbies, including computers and auto mechanics.

Ward 234397760 132348599055529 2250407868523966301 nSome of the fun details inside the Steampunk Hornethopter. You can see additional photos and read more about the construction of the piece.

I am sort of “circling back” to figure modeling now. It wasn’t planned. What happened was that, several years ago, a publication I used to love writing for (“Sci-Fi & Fantasy Modeller” from England) decided to stop publishing. I had done fifteen articles with them, as a writer and builder, over time. That publication was very “in-depth” with most of their articles, and I had loved being able to share what I knew, with others. When that writing gig stopped being an available option to me, it was devastating to me, hobby-wise. I had very much wanted to simply keep doing what I had done with them: but it was not possible, any more. So I sort of “had to find another hobby,” in a way. It took me several years to begin to visualize what that might be.

Ward steampunk modeller volume 2 hpls fish submarine 02 article by ward shrake sized lWard’s Steampunk Fish Submarine diorama.

I had learned that I truly loved to learn! I also knew from writing about my projects, that I loved to be able to share things like what people in one hobby were doing, to folks in a seemingly unrelated hobby. (“Cross Pollination”.) But opportunities for doing that seemed quite slim, at least in “printed publications”. I wanted to explain techniques, but most publications only wanted to show completed projects.

Ward steampunk modeller volume 2 hpls fish submarine 01 article by ward shrake sized lA closer view of the Steampunk Fish Submarine itself.

So I mainly focused on my love of reading and of learning, after that writing gig ended. When I realized, with a bit of a shock, that what I had been doing with SF&FM was sort of like “sculpting vehicular models,” I realized I already had a little sculpting knowledge (of a kind). I signed up for the (free!) Shiflett Brothers’ Sculpting Forums, on Facebook. That fascinated me! It put me deep into “artistic overload”! Seeing so many talented sculptor’s art works, so often, made me want to study harder about the “how to” of sculpting various figures. At least for me, it is nearly impossible to see that many inspiring sculptures, without eventually having a strong urge to want to learn more about “adding cool colors” to the “cool shapes” I was seeing.

Ward steampunk modeller volume 2 hpls fish submarine 03 article by ward shrake sized lSome of the details inside the Steampunk Fish Submarine. You can view additional photos and read more information about how this was built.

Due to how much time I had spent studying it, and doing it, I am more comfortable with vehicular scale modeling than with figure modeling; and “building” versus “painting”. But I love to learn! So now I am studying what “real painters” are doing, in places like this (and others). I’m buying up more tools and equipment and supplies, related to working on scale figures. And I’m enjoying being on this journey!

Ward has some additional project folders in this gallery where you can see more of his great work.

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Figures and Paints in this Article

Anirion the Elf Wizard is available in Bones USA plastic, clear plastic, and metal.
Malcolm, Lightbringer is available in Bones plastic and metal.
Paints: 9076 Deep Ocean, 9077 Marine Teal, 9078 Surf Aqua
The Gingerbread Knight will be available for individual sale in January 2022 from the Reaper website.
I have the impression that the kits Ward worked on are no longer available, but if you have questions about any of those ask in the comments and I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer.

Saturated Wash Colour Experiments

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Recently I have been experimenting with washes. With my skeleton bone wash experiment, I learned that different colours of washes could be used to quickly add a little individuality to batch painted figures without too much extra time or effort. The experiments also suggested that variations in shade colour choices could help tie colour/light schemes together, or be a useful tool to convey different effects or moods, if some of the other colours were adjusted a little.  

Btk1 figsThe skeleton bone has different wash colours, but the same basecoat and drybrush colours. The bases were painted Naga Green in preparation for today’s experiment.

In the case of the skeletons, I applied washes of somewhat saturated colour over an fairly neutral ivory basecoat colour. I didn’t have time in the initial wash testing stream, but I also wanted to study the effect of applying saturated colours on top of a saturated colour. In a follow-up stream, I used the bases of the skeletons for this experiment. Each was painted with the steps outlined in the Core Skills Learn to Paint Kit, other than changing up the wash colours. The starting basecoat for the bases was Naga Green.

You can also watch the video version of this if you prefer.

I picked out a selection of colours to use for the washes. Since the Naga Green was a darker starting point than the Desert Sand of the skeleton bone, I chose darker value colours for the washes than I had on the skeletons. Regardless of colour, the washes still need to function as shades that shadow the recesses.

Base wash paintsThe paint colours used for the washes.

As with the skeletons, I had some ideas of how these paints might or might not work. Some of my ideas are based on years of study and practice with colour. I know colour is a confusing and scary prospect for a lot of people, but I think that some elements of colour use are areas of art well suited to more left brain thinking painters. There is colour theory you can study, and practical experiments like this that you can perform. You don’t have to have an innate sense of colour to be able to paint with it successfully! You just have to accept that you might not be successful with colour every time. (And I don’t think those with a more innate sense of colour use get it right every time, either!)

Pine Green: This seemed like a pretty safe wash choice. Similar green to the basecoat, just darker. Not too exciting, but very unlikely to ‘fail’.

Rotting Wood: I thought this less saturated green would dull down the base a little, and fit the atmosphere of a skeletal figure better.

Ritterlich Blue: Blue can be a very effective shade colour for more saturated greens, so I expected this to work as a shade, but I wasn’t sure if it would look like convincing grass.

Coal Black: With its touches of teal, I thought this would strike a nice balance between creating good contrast and adding a little colour variation.

Gothic Crimson: Green and red are contrasting colours. (Magenta/pink is considered red in colour theory.) Mixed together they create brown. I expected this to dull down the green to the point where it might not even look grasslike anymore.

Styx Purple:  Purples work well to shade a surprising number of colours, including green, so I thought this could be interesting.

Mahogany Brown: Mahogany is a red-brown. Since it’s less saturated than the Gothic Crimson, I thought it would work better as a wash colour for green, dulling it down a little but not turning everything brown.

Basic Dirt: This is more of a true brown. I expected it to dull the bright green to more of a muddy grass type of look.

Base wash paletteThe washes (and drybrushing colours) on my palette at the end of the stream.

I had three additional skeletons at hand, but these were posed on rock bases. They are sculpts that used to be used as a substitute for the other skeleton figure in the Learn to Paint kits when it ran out of stock. Now the kit skeletons are manufactured at the Reaper facility using the Bones USA material and should always be in stock for kits, but those of you who bought kits in the past may have received this different Skeleton Warrior Archer instead. I painted the rocks as described in the Core Skills kit, starting with a basecoat of Mountain Stone. Then I used these washes:

Goggler Green + touch of Pure Black (Rock): I thought this might create a moss or algae covered rock look.

Coal Black (Rock): I thought this would make a nice shade colour for cool grey rock.

Ritterlich Blue (Rock): While touches of blue might simulate some kinds of coloured rock, I thought a blue this saturated would look ridiculous.

Below you can see pictures of what the bases look like after completing the drybrushing steps. The drybrushing steps started with the original Naga Green, and then a couple of steps of lighter greens achieved by mixing in Candlelight Yellow, as outlined in the Core Skills learn to paint kit. Below each figure is a swatch of the wash colour I painted on its base during the stream. The figure on the far left of each picture is painted according to the kit directions, using thinned Pure Black for a wash, and is there for comparison purposes. The stone bases were highlighted with mixes of Mountain Stone and Dragon White.

Base washes1 cr

Base washes2 cr

Drybrushing with the original green (or grey for the stone) altered the appearance of the washes. Brushing on additional highlights of the green mixed with yellow further altered the appearance by introducing touches of a third colour, yellow. The difference in impression between the green with just a wash and the green with both wash and drybrush steps complete was significant, as you’ll see in an example photo below. These are my impressions of each base to compare with my guesses for what might happen with the colours.

Pine Green: The general effect is harmonious, though possibly a bit bland. The green I chose wasn’t quite dark enough and/or I added too much water. The crevices need a bit more shading.

Rotting Wood: The effect is more natural than the black wash, and the slightly duller green fits the skeleton figure better.

Ritterlich Blue: This is a gorgeous shade on a saturated green highlighted with a yellow-green. This colour mix might not be well-suited for simulating grass, but I definitely want to keep it in mind for other types of materials like cloth.

Coal Black: I mixed too much water into this wash, so it didn’t effectively shade the recesses and provide enough contrast. I think the colour works well, I just would have applied a second coat if I’d been painting in my own time.

Gothic Crimson: At the wash stage this looked very jarring, but once the drybrushing was added what remained was a brown created by the visual mixing of the green and magenta. I think it actually ended up working a little more harmoniously than the red-brown Mahogany Brown version.

Styx Purple:  I chose a somewhat blue-violet purple. It was interesting to see how much more apparent the pink/red component of the purple became when the wash was applied over the green. The purple gives a really nice sense of depth to the crevices, but I think it needs to be just a little darker to bring out the sculpted details well.

Mahogany Brown: The contrast between the complementary colours was very jarring after just the wash phase. In the end it is less contrasted than it initially looked, but the red and green do fight a little. 

Basic Dirt: This gave a look of ground made up of mixed dirt patches and grass patches that fit well with the skeleton figure. The effect is less jarring than with the Mahogany Brown. 

The wash on the rock bases wasn’t dry enough to paint over by the end of the stream, but I finished them up later.

Goggler Green + touch of Pure Black (Rock): The colour works well as a shade, but if I really want to convey the idea of algae or moss, I would need to apply some additional drybrushing or glazing in green colours.

Coal Black (Rock): I used a less transparent mix of this for the wash on the stone, and it works well for shading the recesses and creating a cooler grey look.

Ritterlich Blue (Rock): This has great contrast and ended up being my favourite of the stone versions! I might use a slightly duller and darker blue for stone going forward though.

Since I performed this experiment on a live stream, I don’t have any WIP pictures. I did add a wash to a single base so you could compare the difference between the wash stage and the final result stage though. In the picture below the base on the left and the one in the centre were both painted with the Mahogany Brown wash. The base on the right was painted with the Gothic Crimson wash. The centre and left figures demonstrate the differences between wash stage and final stage on the skeleton bone. Both were painted with a wash of Naga Green.

Base wash demo cr

I think these experiments make a good argument for breaking away from using just black or a darker version of a colour to do a wash. You can get additional depth and richness or add little touches of variation by using more coloured washes.

I was somewhat surprised that the majority of these experiments worked pretty well. I had previously had an experience of combining a more saturated wash with less saturated base and drybrush colours where I did not like the end result at all. Perhaps that might partly be related to the texture and the type of figure? If nothing else, that experience demonstrates that even people who well practiced at doing something can have instances where things don’t turn out as expected. Results we don’t love happen regardless of our skills. They aren’t a reason to beat ourselves up or get down on our hobby pastimes, and often we can learn from them. 

Products Mentioned in this Post

Core Skills Learn to Paint Kit
Skeleton Archer in plastic or in metal
Skeleton Warrior Archer in plastic
Mountain Stone
Pure Black
Naga Green
Pine Green
Rotting Wood
Ritterlich Blue
Styx Purple
Mahogany Brown
Basic Dirt
Gothic Crimson was a special release colour at a convention.
Coal Black has been seasonally available in the Holiday paint set, which is currently on sale for people who don’t like to order paint in the colder weather. This set is being retired after this run sells out. Below is a swatch of all the Holiday paints.

Swatch rm holiday2020The Holiday paint set is on sale right now. Sparkling Snow is a metallic colour.