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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, so it’s fitting that Reaper’s Bones USA miniature of the month is Finn Greenwell, the leprechaun. Christine Van Patten of Moonlight Minis did a wonderful job sculpting this little charmer. I can’t give you any tips for how to find the end of the rainbow, but I’m happy to share my experiences with painting Finn. I’ll also share the exact colours I used to paint this figure at the bottom of this post.
NOTE: My copy of Finn is a metal master. The Bones USA version wasn’t ready in time to send to me for painting.
With some miniatures the choice of colours is vast. With other figures, like this one, you may be working within established colour scheme ideas. It didn’t take too much time looking at other artistic interpretations to establish that leprechauns are most commonly depicted with fair or ruddy skin and red hair, and wearing clothing/accessories of green and gold. Taupe/brown/cream as a third accent colour was fairly common, as well.
I did have some decisions to make about which kinds of greens, however. Earthier less saturated greens were as common and logical as intense vibrant greens. I chose to go with more intense greens, reddish gold metals, and taupes/yellow-brown for an accent colour. I decided to use Bones HD greens, since I haven’t previously had a chance to use the saturated Bones greens that much and I wanted to get more familiar with them.
While I was researching the depiction of leprechauns, I was interested to learn that in the past it was traditional to depict them as wearing red, most often a red coat. So if you plan to paint Finn for a game or want to mix up the colour scheme for some other reason, you might want to read more about that. (I have another article with some tips and recipes for painting red.)
My initial impulse for the skin colour was a pinkish-red, as many fair skinned people with red hair have a lot of pink and red in their skin tones. In the end I decided to go with a less saturated and more peachy skin tone. My thinking was that the touches of red I planned to paint on his cheeks, nose, and ear tips would stand out more that way.
Two last elements influenced my colour choices. One is that I was trying to get this done ASAP, since people are always eager to see the monthly mini as soon as they can. So I chose a lot of Bones paints and other paints I know have decent coverage, and I used a few old favourite recipes for some colours. It was a time for trusted standbys, not experimentation.
The final influence is that I tried to avoid using discontinued or special edition paints, since I know not everyone can get those and whether I mean to or not I seem to use several on most pieces. There is one in my gold recipe, but I’ll discuss alternatives to it in the colour list. I can’t do this every time, but I wanted to try to minimize it!
Approach to Painting
It is generally the case that I have one or two main areas that I’m concentrating on trying to improve in at any given time in my painting efforts. Attempting to just ‘get better’ is too vague a goal. Working on too many areas at a time is too much to think about and stressful. Examples of improvement goals I’ve concentrated on over the years have included blending, basing, more complex colour use, higher contrast, directional lighting, stuff like that. For the past while I’ve been concentrating on the idea of creating more of a focal point on a miniature.
A focal point is the main area of interest, the place I want the viewer to spend the most time looking. There are things the human eye is drawn to look at – faces, areas of strong contrast, and saturated colours. And there are things we’re less likely to look at – dull or dark colours. So the idea is to use painting techniques and colour choices that draw more viewer attention to the focus area than other parts of the miniature. You still want people’s eyes to move around the figure as a whole and not get bored, you just want them to spend the most time and interest on what you have decided is the most important/interesting part of that figure.
I’ve been aware of focal points as a general concept for a long time, but it is something I have not put nearly enough thought and effort into for most of my painting history. Sometimes the trickiest part of focus is not even doing anything special in the focus area, but making sure that choices you make elsewhere do not steal focus from the important area(s). I think I managed that well enough on Finn to use him as an example of what I mean.
First off, the sculpture is already doing a great job of putting a lot of focus in the area circled in blue. The face is there, and it has a lot of animation and expression sculpted in. The mug is close to the face and it’s easy to picture (or create) a relationship between the face and the mug. In other words, you can make the story of this miniature the emotions that Finn feels for (or because) of his drink. (Or maybe he’s trying to distract someone who’s eying his pot of gold with his drink.) The face is surrounded by interesting details to help pull your eye – two of the buckles, the scarf, and the details on the hat are all in close proximity to the face. The mug also has a fair amount of detail compared to the figure as a whole.
For this figure, my job as a painter was to compliment that focus area, and also to make choices that did not distract the viewer too much from it. The buckles are painted as shiny NMM that draws the eye, and the NMM on the mug is painted to be quite shiny too. The lightest and brightest colours are on or near the face – the bright green of the hat shamrock, the reddish hair and eyebrows, the light colour foam of the drink. The highest contrast is in that area, as well – the light skin tone next to that deep shadow under the hat brim, and the pale foam of the drink next to the dark colours on the mug. Detail is concentrated in that area, both detail that is sculpted (facial features, mug, clothing and hat details) and detail that is added with paint – freckles, and freehand stripes on the scarf.
The areas further away from that are downplayed a little. The contrast on the NMM of the shoe buckle and gold coins isn’t quite as dramatic as the NMM near the face. The skin of the hands has less interest and contrast than the face. The pot and shoes are fairly subdued. The tan of his socks is darker than the tans on the scarf near the face. An example of stealing focus would be if I had made Finn’s socks the same colours as the beer foam. That would fit in with the colour scheme and makes sense from a colour use point of view, but it would distract the viewer’s focus down to Finn’s ankles, and they are not a significant part of the characterization or story of this figure.
One important aspect about miniature art is that figures are three dimensional, so you’ll get a different effect from different angles. In an angle where you’re looking only at the back view of the figure, things might look a lot different. You might need to choose another spot as the focus area. I will confess that I didn’t think a lot about the focus of alternative angles while painting Finn, but if you look at the back, I think this area becomes the focus point because of the contrast, saturated colours, and detail in this section.
I also talked about working to create focal areas on the Mistletoe Goblin.
Paint Process Notes
I’ve covered much of what I did on this figure in other posts. I chose a simple pattern and subdued colours for the scarf for the same reasons I talked about with the freehand on the pillow of one of the succubi. I’ve shared non-metallic metal tips before, too.
My approach to painting the darker and lighter green areas was similar to what I described for the red in the Mistletoe Goblin. I picked out a selection of greens from dark to light value. The darker greens focused on the darker side of the values with lighter colours in small areas for the brightest highlights. The lighter greens were painted with the lighter half of the scale. Their shadows did not go as dark, and they had lighter value highlights. The key is the difference between the midtones of the two areas, as depicted in set of paint swatches below.
Order of Operations for Painting
One of the most common questions I get from newer painters is wondering what order they should paint things on the figure. I have talked about order of operations before, too. It is something that came up for me several times while I was painting Finn. My paint colours at the bottom will be listed in the order of painting each of the areas.
A good general guideline for painting order is to paint ‘from the inside out’. So paint items that are the most inward or under other objects first, and then work out from there. Usually that means skin, then clothing/armour, then accessories and weapons. I typically paint hair/hats and objects that protrude away from the main body of the figure (often weapons) last. These are most likely to get handled during the painting process and experience some rub-off, so I like to leave them for last, even touching up the primer if necessary. (Letting your primer cure for a while and using a painting handle help make your paint jobs sturdier.)
Painters also generally try to paint all areas of the same colour at the same time, particularly for quicker paint jobs. If you decide to paint the gauntlets, boots, and belt on a figure all the same colour leather, it’s more time efficient and uses less paint if you paint them all at the same time.
These two goals sometimes collide, and you the painter have to make decisions about how to handle that in the way that works best for you. Skin is often an issue for this. The face, torso, arms, and legs are generally under clothing and accessory items and most easily painted first. Hands often surround or rest on top of other items so are most easily painted later in the painting process. You have to consider whether it’s easier to mix up your skin colours twice and paint things in the easiest order, or paint all of the skin areas at the same time and deal with the challenges that can bring.
On Finn, the hand and arm holding the mug in the front view are kind of tucked away between the torso and the mug. The handle of the mug is inside that tucked-away hand. I started painting with the idea that I would paint the skin first. I painted the eye and did an initial base coat. While I was putting the base coat on the hands I got to thinking it would probably be easier to paint the gold in the pot on the right side and the mug handle and the sleeve on the left side prior to painting the hands. As a result, I ended up painting the skin nearly at the end of the process, and breaking up the painting of the steel on the mug and the hair/eyebrows into two parts. Another option would have been to paint the face early on and the hands when I had the other areas done.
Work in Progress Pictures
I took some pictures while I worked, so I figure I might as well share them. My PDF Patrons will receive back view WIP pictures as well.
I used brush-on primer, but applied it with my Reaper Vex airbrush. I love that it doesn’t clog and frustrate me when using primer! (I have been using the larger needle, I haven’t really used the smaller needle.)
After painting the eye first and thinking I would start with the skin, I instead painted the hair, socks, dark green clothing, the wood of the mug, and then the handle of the mug in my first paint session.
In my next short session, I tackled the black areas – the shoes, belt, and the pot. I looked up ‘cast iron cauldron’ for photo references on the more subdued reflections on that kind of metal.
The next day I started with the hat band, then the lighter green sections, and the gold NMM, and then finally on to the skin!
One more long session staying up way past my bedtime, and I was just about finished. The picture below shows where I left off after that session. The next day I checked for anything that needed touch ups, added some vegetation to the base, and added freckles at the request of Ron, the Reaper art director. (And I think he made a great call on that!)
You can get a free copy of Finn Greenwell with purchases of $40 (or equivalent in local currency) from the Reaper website. You can also just buy copies directly.
Colours Used to Paint Finn Greenwell
All paints used are from Reaper Miniatures.
Colours in italics are not in production. Alternatives are suggested.
Colours are listed from darkest to lightest. A few areas were painted this way. Most were painted by starting with a base coat of the midtone and layering in shadows and highlights. For items painted with a starting midtone I’ve indicated the midtone colour in bold, or made a note of the colour mix used.
9282 Maggot White for sclera (alternative option: Ghost White), Elven Green and Turf Green for the iris, Blue Liner for the pupil, Blackened Brown for the upper lid line and Saddle Brown for the lower lid line.
Socks and Mug
9040 Dark Shadow, 9127 Uniform Brown, 9129 Faded Khaki, Yellowed Bone
9070 Mahogany Brown, 9072 Rust Brown, 9243 Highlight Orange, 9247 Saffron Sunset
Blue Liner, 9488 Elven Green, Wilderness Green, 9481 Turf Green, 9012 Pale Green
Midtone: mix of Elven Green and Wilderness Green
Black (pot, shoes, belt)
9066 Blue Liner, 9479 Solid Black, 9085 Shadowed Stone, 9086 Stone Grey, 9087 Weathered Stone
Dark Shadow, 9041 Dark Skin, Uniform Brown, 9032 Amber Gold
9411 Wilderness Green, Turf Green, Pale Green, 9415 Dungeon Slime, (For the leaf, added a dab of White in for top highlights)
Midtone: mix of Turf Green and Pale Green
9137 Blackened Brown, 9071 Chestnut Brown, 9073 Chestnut Gold, 9074 Palomino Gold, 9075 Buckskin Pale, 9061 Linen White, 9039 Pure White
Chestnut Gold is currently out of production. 9256 Blond Shadow is a close match to mixing Chestnut Gold and Palomino Gold, as shown below. Mix with Chestnut Brown for intermediary shadow colours.
9428 Saddle Brown, 9443 Bronzed Flesh (previously called Warrior Flesh), 9445 Peachy Flesh (previously called Youthful Flesh), 9487 Yellow Mold, Pure White
Red areas glazed with very thinned down 9134 Clotted Red
Freckles – 9305 Tarnished Copper, Mahogany Brown
Scarf Light Stripes
Entire scarf was first painted with the lighter colour.
Uniform Brown, Faded Khaki, 9143 Yellowed Bone
Scarf Dark Stripes
Chestnut Brown, Chestnut Gold, Palomino Gold
9318 Carbon Grey, 9088 Stormy Grey, 9089 Cloudy Grey, 9038 Rainy Grey, 9090 Misty Grey, 9316 Foggy Grey, Pure White
Yellowed Bone, wash with Uniform Brown, highlight with Yellowed Bone, then Pure White
Mottled areas of Uniform Brown and Turf Green, wash of Blackened Brown, highlight with original colours and versions lightened with Yellowed Bone.
Sticks painted with browns used elsewhere on the figure.
Grass is grass tufts, shamrocks are small dried flowers.
Shadow areas on much of the figure glazed with very thinned down 9023 Imperial Purple.
Quick cellphone scale picture. Does anyone need a pint more than Sir Forscale?