Painting Figures to Match Art – ReaperCon 2018 Sophie

 

We may not always think of it this way, but one of the cool things about our hobby is that it is such a collaborative process. Unless you sculpted the miniature you painted, you are in a sense working with at least one other artist – the sculptor. And they often base their sculpting on a character design drawing or painting, or a concept idea from an art director or game. Often the miniature painter is the last link in a long chain of creativity!

Often we painters choose figures to tell our own stories or purposes and we do not aim to follow along with the colour scheme or characterization concept that the people who made the miniature thought up. It is a lot of fun to just let your imagination run free in bringing a character to life. It can also be fun, and instructive, to paint to match a painting or drawing. One of the most interesting parts of working for miniature manufacturers is the opportunity to do that now and again. But you can give it a try, too! You can paint a figure like this Sophie that I am going to discuss, where you have access to the concept artwork and ‘official’ colours. Or you might find a figure whose pose and characterization kind of reminds you of a piece of favourite art. Even though the figure might not be exactly the same, you can still paint it to try to match the artwork.

Sketch sculpt 800

ReaperCon Sophie 2018 began as a sketch by Izzy “Talin” Collier. The figure was deftly brought to life by Bob Ridolfi, who I think captured both the pose and the mischievous spirit of Reaper’s succubus mascot very well. While Izzy was working on adding colour to the original sketch, she ended up taking it a step farther and drew a whole new piece of artwork showing the same figure in a seated position. Had I world enough and time, I would have loved to be able to try to add some of the new elements like the mask to my conception of the miniature, but alas it was not to be.

What I did have to work to match was the specific colour palette. Painting to match 2D art can be a very interesting and instructive exercise, and I recommend it to anyone looking to stretch their painting skills. One element is simply matching the colours. Picking out or mixing colours to match colours in a picture or photograph is a great exercise for getting to know your paints better and start to learn colour mixing. Before I put any paint on the figure at all, I spent some time testing various mixes of the main colours. I tested shades and highlights, not just the midtone, as these can have a lot of impact on the mood of a piece, and it is preferable to make choices that can be included in several areas to try to create more unity. 

Colour swatches 600Since I was on a tight deadline, I wanted to use premixed colours as much as possible to keep things simple. I didn’t have too much trouble finding colours for some of the areas like skin and hair, but I tested a lot of different blues to see which would best match Talin’s colour artwork. For each of the blues I added a little water to part of the swatches. Often you can better see the intensity of a colour when you thin it down.

Another consideration to make is whether you can, or should, copy the colour scheme of the inspiration art precisely. The inspiration art may not have enough variation in value (lightness and darkness), or the way that the colour scheme works so successfully may depend on elements that are included in the source art but not in the miniature representation of it. For example, you might have art with multiple figures and you’re painting only one. Or even just the effect of the colours in the background can have a lot of impact on your perception of the colours on the figure. Your end goal is to make an effective piece of three dimensional art that captures as much as possible the appearance and spirit of the two dimensional art it’s inspired by, and sometimes you have to make tweaks and choices to accomplish that goal.

In this case, the artwork and figure are pretty closely matched, so I didn’t have to make a lot of tough decisions. But I did still choose to make a few tweaks. The most obvious one is that I added a much stronger directional light effect. That’s something I’ve been working on in general, and which I think helps a 3D piece be a lot more interesting to look at. The second is a lot more more subtle. I’ll put the artwork and figure side by side below so you can see if you can spot it.

Color versions

My change is pretty subtle, don’t feel bad if you missed it! In the seated artwork, Sophie has a goblet of red wine (or is it wine…), she’s seated in a red chair, and there’s some red text over her shoulder. The only element that is red that is part of the sculpted figure is a small gem on the silver bat on her bodice. Have one tiny thing a completely different colour than the rest of the figure is not a good choice to make for strong colour composition. So my choices were to change the colour of the bat, or find ways to add more red. I chose the latter, and used the same reds on her lipstick, blush, and nail polish. In the artwork those are coloured more to match her hair. Very likely I should have painted some of the bracelet elements with reds as in the original art to tie in a bit more red again. Alternatively, I could have chosen exclude all use of the colour red and instead used the green from the flower leaves for the bat’s gem and painted her lips and nails the same colours as in the artwork. Since there were so few areas to work the red into available to me, this might have been the better choice from the point of view of colour composition.

So that’s one quick look at the process of painting to match someone else’s colour scheme/artwork. I’d love to hear about your experiences painting to match artwork in the comments!

ReaperCon Sophie 2018! Sophie is a limited figure. You don’t have to go to ReaperCon to buy one, but she will only be available from Reaper’s website for the duration of the show. (Possibly a little later, but I don’t know for sure, so put the dates into your calendar if you want to be sure to get one – August 29 to September 2 2018.) Go to this site to buy one on those dates: http://www.reapermini.com. In the meantime, here are more pictures of my painted Sophie.

Sophie18 front 500

Sophie face2 500

Sophie18 back2 500

Sophie18 left 500

Sophie18 right2 500

I usually listen to audiobooks or ‘watch’ streaming programs while I paint. I don’t generally make any attempt to match what I’m hearing to what I’m painting, but I enjoyed the coincidence of listening to some scenes featuring Daes Dae’mar, or the great (and deadly) game of politics in the Wheel of Time series while painting this figure. Sophie is dressed perfectly for noble machinations, and I have no doubt she would be great at the Great Game!

Painting Fur Patterns

Inspired by painting the figures of my cat that I spoke about in my last post, I thought I would make a post discussing some tips for painting fur on animal figures. (Which is also applicable to painting animal fur patterns on fur cloaks and similar equipment for characters.)

My first tip is to study real world animals or photos of your intended fur patterns. Very often we think we know what something familiar looks like, but discover it is a little different than we thought when we really study it. Look for whether the pattern is clustered in certain areas or randomly distributed, the distance between elements of the patterning, how colouration changes on various parts of the body, all kinds of things. Because we’re painting figures that are quite a bit smaller than life, we may also need to look at areas we can simplify or exaggerate. For example, when I painted the figures of Archer, I tried to put key stripes in areas that match his tabby patterning, but there are fewer stripes on the painted figures than the real Archer because it would be difficult to see the actual number of stripes on a miniature – assuming I could even paint them!

So let’s look at some photos of real animals that I took at the local zoo.

Red panda tail

Red panda face

Tiger stripes2

Often when people paint animal patterns that don’t look very convincing, the issue is that they look like they’ve painted on rather than being part of the creature. This occurs when the edges of the painted patterns are defined with fairly sharp lines. Fur is not a solid surface. Even in short fur, each hair lies at a slightly different angle, and this creates the appearance of a softer line. You can see way the line is broken easily on the fluffy tail of the red panda in the first picture above, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the same kind of thing is happening with the stripes on the short fur of the tiger in the picture directly above.

So how can we make an animal pattern that is actually painted on look more like the way it does in reality? Here are some techniques that I’ve used, some of which can be combined. I hope you’ll give some of these a try and find something that makes painting animals a little easier for you!

Glazes:
This is probably the easiest method, particularly for small patterns or when painting onto smaller sculpts like familiars. Paint one colour of your pattern over the entire area. Since lighter colours are often poorer coverage, I tend to paint the light colour as the base coat. You may also find it easier to do some highlighting and shading at this stage, or other value or colour transitions like going from the darker orange to the light cream on the tiger above. Paint on the darker pattern stripes or spots without worrying about the edges. Mix a glaze (heavily thinned down paint) of your original base coat color. Apply this over the entire area of the pattern. This will soften the appearance of the edges. Unfortunately it also softens the entire pattern. So if you can, reapply a thinned layer of your darker pattern color over the central areas of your stripes or spots.

I used this technique on these two tabby cats.

Waiting cat2 cu

Waiting cat1 cu

Thinned Paint:
Another option is to thin down the paint for your pattern so it is somewhat transluscent. Then when you paint a stripe/spot onto your figure, some of the underlying base coat colour will show through and diffuse the edge a little. Then you will need to apply additional coats of the thinned paint in the centers of your stripes or spots to build up the full intensity of colour that they should have. That is the technique that I used on this harp seal. (For the reference picture of seal stripes that I used when painting this figure, see this site: http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2014/04/01/dont-pet-the-baby-seals/)

Xseal fade back full

Go Between:
A third option is to paint your main coat colour, and then paint your patterning colour with fairly opaque paint. Then mix the two together to create a colour between them. Using the tip of your brush, paint that colour along the edges of your stripes/spots. Or dot the colour along the edges to break up the smooth edge. That is the technique that I used on this cat tail. This is a larger anthropomorphic figure, not a familiar size figure.

Ella tail cu

Jagged Little Edge:
The last option (that I’ve figured out so far!) is to use a dotting motion or move the tip of the brush back and forth a little as you paint to create a line that is a little broken rather than even. This requires a decent amount of brush control, and may be most feasible on larger figures.

Figures shown on this page:

Two of the cats from Edna the Crazy Cat Lady pack: http://www.reapermini.com/OnlineStore/edna/latest/50235#detail/50235_g_1
The seal from the Christmas familiars pack. Not currently available, sometimes available in December: http://www.reapermini.com/Miniatures/Special%20Edition%20Figures/latest/01553
Ella the Cat Rogue: https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/visions-in-fantasy-critters/ella-cat-rogue.html