The 12 Days of Reaper 2021

The 12 Days of Reaper is an annual tradition on the Reaper Miniatures webstore. For 2021 it runs from December 1st to December 12th. I painted nine of the 12 figures available this year, and I thought it might be helpful if I shared larger pictures and additional views, as well as some painting tips and colour recipes related to the figures.

12Days 2021

During the 12 Days promotion period you will receive a free copy of your choice of one of the 12 figures for each $40 you spend on the site. (I believe this also applies to the UK, I’m not clear if it’s available from the Australia hub.) This stacks with the other promotions from the webstore. Each daily order over $60 also receives a Christmas Sampler that includes a Gingerbread Knight and two holiday paint colours – Holly Berry and Ginger Cookie, while supplies last. All that is on top of the every day promotion of receiving a copy of the free Bones USA figure of the month for every $40 spent on the site. 

The 12 Days figures are part of a collection of holiday figures that is only made available during the holiday season. The figures cannot be purchased singly from December 1st to 12th. Any stock remaining after December 12th will be put up for individual sale. These are metal figures. All of them are single piece figures. If you’re not familiar with metal figures, the main difference is you will need to apply primer to them prior to painting. Reaper sells brush on primers in white, grey, and black, or you can use spray primer if the weather permits in your area.

Now on to the pictures! I have included front and back pictures for each figure below, with links to where you can see additional view angles. I have included additional angles in the Patron PDF version of this article.

The Mistletoe Goblin debuted last year. I had a ton of fun painting him! I wrote an article that includes my recipe for the reds and some tips for painting this challenging colour. It also discusses the idea of creating a focus point on your miniature, and the value of using reference photos to paint objects because we usually don’t remember what things look like as well as we think we do!

Xgob frontSculpted by the talented Julie Guthrie.

You can see more photos of this cute little guy in this article.

Xgob back

It took some effort to paint the white dress on the regal Winter Elf, but I’m pretty happy with how she came out. You can see some WIP pictures of the figure, which I started by using the greyscale value mapping technique I discussed in a recent article.

Welf front fullSculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

Welf back full

Christmas Hugs is the second miniature that debuted in 2020. I am in love with the sweetness and joy Julie captured in the dragon’s expression and posture. I wrote an article about painting this figure that includes the gold non-metallic metal recipe I used on the dragon, as well as some general tips and discussion of the challenges in painting NMM. You can also see additional angles of the figure in that article, and a detailed guide to what each of the geeky gifts on the base is if you’re having trouble seeing them while you paint yours.

Xdrag frontSculpted by the dragon mistress herself, Julie Guthrie.

Xdrag back

Speaking of using reference when we paint miniatures, I had a very specific model for this naughty cat dragon – my own orange tabby cat. Julie perfectly captured the sort of ‘what, I’m not doing anything wrong/weird’ facial expression he makes all the time. (Especially when he is doing something weird/wrong.) You can see additional angles in this Facebook gallery. If you want to paint your copy as a cat with a patterned coat, I have an article outlining four different methods for painting fur patterns.

Xm cat bk face fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie, who loves both cats and dragons.

Xm cat bk back full

IMG 6116My furry muse, Korben Dallas.

This little cutie can’t wait to break into their stocking. Or are they sneaking something out of someone else’s stocking? The article I wrote about painting this figure includes additional angles and WIP pictures. I used greyscale value mapping and colour sketching to paint the Stocking Dragon. I have some tips for painting green in another article.

Xdrag face2 fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie.

Xdrag back full

Is anyone surprised to find that this other cat dragon is also naughty and entranced by Christmas decorations? Julie did such a great job capturing the wonder and delight on a cat’s face when spotting something shiny to play with. In my article about this figure you can see lots of additional views, including what it looks like from above. I used the greyscale value mapping technique with this figure as well.

Catdragon left fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie, wise in the ways of both cats and dragons.

Catdragon right full

Who doesn’t love a hoard of gifts? Or the little dragon that is protecting it? This is the first holiday dragon Julie sculpted, in 2015. My article includes several different view angles in addition to the ones shown below. I also share tips on how I painted the wrapping paper and the base. I have an additional article with information on how to practice painting freehand.

Xmas dragon face fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie.

Xmas dragon wing full

I don’t have an article about painting the befuddled Tinker the Gnome, but you can see additional view angles of him in this Facebook gallery.

Xgnome front fullSculpted by Bobby Jackson.

Xgnome back1 full

Mylk and Cookies is a charming fantasy twist on holiday staples. This baby yeti is just so delighted to have all these yummy Christmas treats! I once again used greyscale value mapping with primer on this figure. The article on Mylk includes some WIP pictures, and also some tips for how I added icing texture to the cookies. I demonstrated the materials I used to add icing to the cookies on a recent Beyond the Kit stream.

Yeti front fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie.

Yeti back full

Whew, that’s a lot of holiday fun! Whether your Winter festivities include Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Yule, or just the opportunity for some great sales, I hope you find something to celebrate this season. I wish you much joy, health, and fun painting miniatures!

Gingerbread Knight

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One of my holiday traditions has become painting a festive miniature for Reaper, and this year is no exception! This year’s new miniature is the Gingerbread Knight.

Gb front

This fierce and scrumptious fellow was sculpted by Christine Van Patten. The Gingerbread Knight is part of Reaper Miniature’s Christmas Sampler for the month of December. The Sampler is a gift with purchases over $60 on the Reaper website starting December 1st, and available while supplies last. It also includes two special edition holiday colours – Ginger Cookie and Holly Berry. The Sampler is available with orders from the UK Reaper hub, and I believe also the Australia hub. (I am awaiting confirmation on that.) The Gingerbread Knight will go up for individual sale in early 2022.

The Gingerbread Knight is made in Bones USA plastic. The copy I painted is a metal master since the Bones USA moulds had not yet been completed. The Knight comes in two pieces – the main body and the arm holding the candy cane. My metal copy glued together quite easily, and that should be even easier to do with the Bones USA version. All you’ll need is a little superglue. The base he is standing on is smaller than in my version. I extended the base on my copy as I have something in mind to try that I haven’t had time to get to yet.

The 12 Days of Reaper also begins on December 1st. I painted nine of the 12 figures available this year. I will be putting up another post on or around December 1st to show larger pictures and different view angles of the figures I painted. That post will also include some information on how I painted some of the figures and some WIP pictures.

Gb left

I wanted a super spicy gingerbread cookie look for the Gingerbread Knight, so I ended up not using Ginger Cookie in my paint scheme. However, I have that paint for other past projects, and it is a great colour that is popular with a lot of people. I did use Holly Berry as one of the paints on the red candy portions of this figure. Reaper has a set of holiday colours available this year starting December 1st, and I used a few of those on this project as well – Frosty Blue and Christmas Wreath. This year’s holiday paints are available as a set of 12, or four sets of triads, and includes three colours that are brand new this year – Graham Cracker, Chocolate Bar, and Toasted Marshmallow.

Gb right

Recently I’ve been doing some experimenting with the effect of different types of brushes can have on the results when using the drybrushing technique. I performed these experiments on my Twitch stream show, Beyond the Kit, which airs Monday from 3pm to 5pm EST on the Reaper Twitch channel. Reaper archives all of their streams onto their YouTube channel. Archive uploads are a bit behind, so I’m not currently able to provide links to the drybrushing experiments videos, but I will be adding articles to accompany them once they are available so people can view photographs as well as the videos to assess the different kinds of brushes.

Casey chae 3DrCZblTGoQ unsplashGingerbread cookie photo by Casey Chae on Unsplash.

One of the styles of brush I tried is new to me. It’s an adaptation of dome shaped super soft bristle brushes used for makeup. It can be used in a traditional drybrushing dusting motion, or with more of a stipple motion that can create a speckled appearance. I believe Artis Opus first brought these brushes to the miniature painter market. Since I was not sure that I would use the brush much beyond the experiment videos, I opted to start by trying the brush set sold by The Army Painter

When I studied several pictures of different kinds of gingerbread cookies, I noticed that most had a bit of a speckled look to them due to the spices included in the dough. Painting the cookie surface to look like spicy gingerbread cookie seemed like a great opportunity to try these brushes out on a real project! I used the dome brushes to build up the main areas of highlights on the Gingerbread Knight. I used a fine pointed Kolinsky sable brush to refine the transitions between the different values of highlights and add more precisely-placed stipples. 

Gb face

I’m a fan of the Shrek movies, so my initial thought was to paint the Gingerbread Knight’s buttons as gumdrops. Apart from bright colours, the most notable visual features of gumdrops are that they are fairly matte and dotted with little crystals of sugar, which makes them speckled looking. I had already painted a matte speckled texture on the gingerbread cookie. To paint the gumdrops in the same way would reduce the level contrast between the cookie body and the candy decorations. (If I were to paint another version of this with gumdrop buttons, I might even experiment with coating the buttons in fine pumice paste to have literal texture as well as painted.)

Dhester morguePhoto by dhester on Morguefile.

Instead I painted the buttons as candy coated chocolates. Kind of like M&Ms, but the Canadian/UK version of the candy that I’m familiar with from my youth – Smarties. (Smarties in the United States are a completely different kind of candy.) Smarties are not quite as shiny as M&Ms. I painted the eyes as a similar type of candy, but with a little spark of white to set them apart as the eyes of an animate creature.

Gb back

I decided to paint the Gingerbread Warrior in the colour of some of the darkest cookies I saw in my reference photos, in order to create maximum contrast with the icing piping and other decorations. I will include complete information on all the paint colours I used at the end of this article. The Patreon PDF copy of this article includes a dozen more WIP pictures.

I want to share a couple of WIP pictures that show how working on contrast can be a constant challenge no matter how long you’ve been painting and and working to push your contrast! There will always be times when you need to step back, take a second look, and reflect on whether you have as much as you need. The first picture below shows where I was at the end of my first session of painting the cookie body. I was trying to depict the light as coming from the side with the candy shoulder guard, and I thought I had painted plenty of contrast by the end of my painting session.

IMG 2142

When I took a second look at the figure after a night’s sleep, I realized that it would benefit from more contrast. The shadow level was pretty good, though I thought I also needed to tweak the details of where the shadows were placed. But the highlights definitely didn’t go up high enough in value for a miniature figure to view well in thumbnail pictures or at a distance. I did a little more work and revised the cookie area as seen in the picture below. I increased the lightest value of highlights used, but also increased the area of highlights on the face to help it stand out more.

IMG 2144

The paint colours I used on each area of the figure are listed below.

IMG 2146Gingerbread body colours.

IMG 2172Icing colours.

IMG 2173Green candy button colours. Christmas Wreath is one of the Reaper holiday colours this year.

IMG 2174Blue candy eyes colours. Frosty Blue is one of the Reaper holiday colours this year.

IMG 2179Colours for the white portions of the candy cane and mint candy shoulder pad.

IMG 2180Colours for the red portions of the candy cane and mint candy shoulder pad. Holly Berry comes in the Holiday Sampler with the Gingerbread Knight. Lotus Orange was available to Bones 5 Kickstarter supporters, and will be made available to retail sales at some point in the future. 9321 Red Neon Glow is currently available and would work in a similar way. You can see what that colour looks highlighting some reds I’ve painted previously.

Recently we celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States. I want to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am for all of you who read the articles I write for this site. I appreciate those of you who take extra time to comment and share your thoughts and experiences for the benefit of others. I am especially thankful for the generous members of my Patreon. Their support allows me to take time away from paid work to work on information for this site, which is freely available to all. As a thank you to them I provide occasional exclusive or bonus content, like the extra photos they will receive with their copy of this article. Patrons at the PDF level receive PDF versions of each article that have larger high resolution photos and improved formatting. If you are a regular reader, please consider joining my Patreon to help support my work.

Going Green with Focus

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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.

Lep bl front

NOTE: My copy of Finn is a metal master. The Bones USA version wasn’t ready in time to send to me for painting. 

Colour Considerations

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. 

Lep bl face

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. 

Lep bl back

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.

IMG 0636

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.

IMG 0637

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.

IMG 0660

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. 

Lep bl left

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.

Lep bl right

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.)

IMG 0574

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.

IMG 0585

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.

IMG 0587

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!

IMG 0592

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!)

IMG 0594

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.

Eyes
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

Hair
9070 Mahogany Brown, 9072 Rust Brown, 9243 Highlight Orange, 9247 Saffron Sunset

Dark Green
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

Hat Band
Dark Shadow, 9041 Dark Skin, Uniform Brown, 9032 Amber Gold

Light Green
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

Non-Metallic Gold
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.

Gold nmm paints

Skin
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

Non-Metallic Steel
9318 Carbon Grey, 9088 Stormy Grey, 9089 Cloudy Grey, 9038 Rainy Grey, 9090 Misty Grey, 9316 Foggy Grey, Pure White

Beer Foam
Yellowed Bone, wash with Uniform Brown, highlight with Yellowed Bone, then Pure White

Base
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 Glaze
Shadow areas on much of the figure glazed with very thinned down 9023 Imperial Purple. 

IMG 0644Quick cellphone scale picture. Does anyone need a pint more than Sir Forscale?

NMM Gold and Painting Patience

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I had some thoughts about painting patience while I was painting the non-metallic metal gold on the Christmas Hugs figure that I wanted to share, along with my colour choices and some tips for painting NMM. Also if you’re trying to paint your own copy of Christmas Hugs and finding it challenging to identify all the gift items on the base, I’ve included a guide to what and where things are are near the bottom of this post.

Xdrag front2

The Patience of Painting

If you’ve been painting miniatures for any length of time, you’ve probably had non-painter friends and family look at your work in amazement and declare something like “I’d never have the patience to paint something small like that.” I’ve never really understood that remark. While the tools and techniques may differ between different art forms, the kind of patience it takes to sit quietly at a desk seems similar whether you’re painting a tiny dragon or a large canvas, and similar to lots of other creative hobbies, as well. 

Xdrag back

However, I definitely have found that different painting tasks require different kinds of patience. I’ve also found that it’s helpful to be aware of that and try to keep it in mind as you work. I think patience and expectations can get us into trouble with certain kinds of techniques. With many kinds of painting tasks, things start to look better pretty quickly. If you apply a wash and/or drybrushing to an area of texture, you can immediately see more detail and depth and it looks better. When you start layering or wetblending shadows and highlights onto matte materials like cloth and skin, you see results pretty quickly. A given area might look even better if you added more contrast or detailing or something else, but doing anything is an improvement over leaving it a flat coat of colour.

Xdrag faceI love this adorable little dragon! Julie captured so much joy and personality.

This is not the case for all types of miniature painting tasks and painting effects. Some effects do not look very good until you’ve done a lot of painting. I talked about this last Christmas with my experience of painting the source lighting effect on the Ghost of Christmas Past (below). I was painting the illusion of light being cast from a candle to the side of the figure, while I was looking at the figure under light falling from my ceiling lamp above. The figure looked wrong when it was only half painted because the appearance of the painted light on some areas contradicted the appearance of the room light falling on the unpainted parts. The contradiction prompted my brain to tell me to make changes to what I had painted. That would have been a mistake. I needed to resist that urge until I had painted most of the figure and could assess the appearance of the painted light over the figure as a whole. Once I got to that stage I was able to see that my mistake was in not having painted the effect of the light strongly enough. Giving in to the urge to tone things down in the early stages would have been a mistake on multiple levels.

Xm past bk front full

The Mental Challenges of Non-Metallic Metal

Non-metallic metal is a similar sort of effect. You cannot really tell how well it’s working until you get enough painted that you have some quite dark sections and some very light sections. The main visual properties that set metal apart from other textures/materials are that it appears shiny and reflective. Extremes of dark and light, particularly in proximity to one another, are a large part of what creates the illusion of a shiny surface. 

If you’re used to painting textures and effects that start to look better as soon as you apply paint, it can be very difficult to make the mental shift when you start to work on effects that don’t come together until after you’ve put on a lot of paint. It can be difficult to force yourself to be patient when you start to experiment with more advanced effects like source lighting and non-metallic metal. After all, if you don’t have a lot of experience painting NMM, how can you tell if you’re doing it ‘right’ but you just need to get more paint on it, or if you’re doing something wrong that you need to change? The answer is that you don’t. So my advice is go through the process you’ve decided to follow at least once without making major changes while you paint. Then assess the end result and see what you think. If you identify problems, consider what changes you might make to the process to resolve those on your next attempt.

I sometimes find it challenging even as an experienced painter who has been painting NMM for years. As I mentioned in my recent article on painting succubi wings, my patience has taken a hit in this unusual year. I have had fun painting things that are relatively quick and simple, and have found some high level display stuff to be a mentally exhausting slog.

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With Christmas Hugs, I started by painting the gifts on the base. Some people might look at all that detail and not be too excited about the prospect of painting it. I found it perfectly suited to my current state of mind. It was a lot of little things I could break down into easily achievable goals. It didn’t require fiddly blending that takes forever. I have good light, good brushes, and a lot of practice painting details. I’m not saying that there weren’t parts where I had to position carefully or control my breathing to paint precisely. But painting the details went fairly quickly and I could see tangible progress hour by hour to have a sense of completion and accomplishment. 

That all came to a screeching halt when it was time to paint the dragon. The Reaper Christmas dragon collection already has two red dragons and one green. Given the amount of red and green I’d used on the base, I didn’t think either was a good choice to make sure the Christmas Hugs dragon stood out against her base. I often use warm gold as an accent colour for the Christmas colour schemes, so I thought that would be a good choice for the dragon, and I busted out my favourite warm gold NMM paints. 

Xdrag front

Knowing it might take a few sessions to paint, I also busted out my ceramic welled palette and sponges. I often use a wet palette during a session of painting, but I don’t find that it preserves the paint in good condition to paint over several sessions. I know lots of people use it that way, but it just hasn’t worked well for me. I can use it for small touch ups, but not for extended painting. When I want to use paint over an extended period of time, I use this porcelain palette with small wells. (Small wells reduce evaporation speed.) I fill the wells at least three quarters full. I add water to the paint as necessary for the opacity that I want, usually a drop or two. If it’s very dry, I might add a little drying retarder. I add water to sponges to the point where they’re not literally dripping wet, but they will expel water with any squeezing. When I’m not painting I put the sponges over the wells of the palette, creating a sort of ‘reverse’ wet palette. Even while painting I will often put a sponge over one side of the palette if I’m not using those colours to help slow evaporation. I tend to put shadows on one side of the palette and highlights on the other partly for this reason. Every now and then I check on the consistency of the paint and add a drop of water as necessary, and I reload the sponges with water once a day.

Succ2 skin paletteI bought mine at Cheap Joe’s, but sometimes I see similar palettes for reasonable prices on Amazon. Lab spot plates are similar.

Painting the hide of the dragon felt like much more of a slog than painting the tiny details. I had hoped to finish the dragon up in a relatively short amount of time, but as I started the second session, it became clear it was going to take me longer. I don’t know if that was a question of being out of practice with fiddly blending, the knowledge of the looming deadline, or just not being in the frame of mind to want to do it. All I can say is that it was aggravating. I spent a lot of time feeling like it just didn’t look very good at all. I questioned whether I should have started with a lighter midtone, or did I need to change something else I was doing? Luckily I have had enough experience painting NMM to know that sometimes it doesn’t start looking right until pretty close to the end of the process. I was able to refrain from making sudden poor choices during painting and instead convince myself to just push through and see how it looked at the end.

There are two suggestions I can make to help with the patience part of painting NMM. One is to paint a small area completely. This gives you an idea of how your colours are working with one another and what it looks like when it all comes together. Once you have that small part looking good, you can refer back to it to remind you what the end result will look like! I did this with Christmas Hugs. I started painting the dragon’s hide late in the evening, so I just mixed my paint, painted the end of the tail, and then headed to sleep. I had that end of the tail to look back at when I was questioning whether my colours were off or if the overall effect would work. While this trick works for NMM, note that it doesn’t work as well for all effects, like source lighting.

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The second approach is to quickly sketch in the light and dark areas with your paint. You can do this with rough layering, quick wetblending – whatever works for you. The idea is to paint in the major shadow and highlight areas where they need to be. The transitions between shadows and highlights might look rough, but placing them this way should allow you to get a good idea of whether you are getting a ‘shine’ effect and if your colour choices are working well. It gives you a quick way to judge whether you’re putting things in the right place, and to determine whether you’re using enough contrast between your darkest shadows and brightest highlights. This approach helps you avoid getting something that looks like stone instead of metal! I definitely recommend trying this approach if you’re newer to painting NMM and have been finding it frustrating. You can see an example of me using this technique to paint Caerindra Thistlemoor. This approach works well for a wide variety of effects, like source lighting, though often you’ll need to sketch in all the large areas of the figure not just one section like I did on Caerindra’s metal.

In this approach the second step is to refine the transitions and rough application, and then add smaller detail elements. This can still require patience, but you at least know you got things right in the big picture, which makes it easier to avoid the temptation to change something that doesn’t need changing because you’re afraid it isn’t working. In this approach, as you can see in the pictures of Caerindra, I don’t bother with small details like rivets until the refining stage of the process.

Xdrag nmm comboThe middle picture has shadows and the first few levels of highlight on the back plates, but it doesn’t look right because the lighter layers of highlights aren’t painted on yet. So for 80% or so of the time I was painting, things looked not great to me. I had to have faith about where I was going in the end to keep on with it.

The main point I want to make is that as you stretch your painting wings and move into painting intermediate and advanced techniques, your relationship with your inner critic might need to become a little more complex. Your inner critic is that little voice in your head urging you to tweak something a little lighter, add some of this colour over here, that kind of thing. It can you make decisions while you paint. But sometimes, particularly when trying something new and different, it can lead you astray.

It’s important to understand that your inner critic is calibrated to assess how your work is going based on your usual techniques and approach. It can be actively unhelpful when you’re trying to stretch to paint new effects or try new techniques. If you usually paint fairly matte textures with a low range of contrast (which is how most of us paint in beginner and early intermediate stages of painting), your inner critic makes suggestions based on how your work should look using that approach. It’s going to tell you that painting NMM with high contrast looks wrong and urge you to tone down your shadows or highlights. If you’re trying a new paint application technique, it will make suggestions based on your experiences with familiar techniques that could hamper you learning and understanding the new one. So if you’re used to drybrushing and trying to practice layering, it might prompt you to use types of brushstrokes or thicker paint or something that works better for drybrushing but isn’t great with layering.

It’s kind of like that saying about if you only have a hammer, you treat everything like a nail. Your inner critic is used to using a hammer. It can fight you when you’re trying to acquire and learn how to use a wrench. Sometimes it will tell you to use the wrench just to hit everything, like you do with the hammer. 

The ability to look critically at your work and be willing to make changes as you paint is an indispensable tool for improving! But sometimes what you need to do most to learn is figure out how to mute or ignore your inner critic while you’re trying something new. Try to just follow the tutorial or the process or your new idea through to the end as you originally planned, and resist the impulses to deviate that spring to mind while you’re painting. Then once you’re done, go back and look at your result and review the process you used to get it, and consider how you feel about both. Actually, I recommend that you wait a few hours or even until the next day to do the assessment. You can usually see things much more clearly once you’ve had a break from painting. Then you are in a good position to make decisions about whether you didn’t get it quite right and how you might need to shift or change things.

Non-Metallic Gold Recipe

People often get quite caught up in trying to find the ‘perfect’ colour recipes for NMM colours. I think that’s a bit of a red herring. I recommend you not get too distracted by colour recipes. The perfect colour for something can vary quite a bit depending on the colours used elsewhere on the figure. The gold I painted on this dragon has a lot of reddish tones in the shadows. It looks good with the rich green and red colour scheme of Christmas colours. It would look overpowering next to the muted colours I used on the succubi. The colours on the pillow in this post are similar to the colours used for the NMM on the succubi. The pillow has more brown tones in the shadows, and weaker yellow colours than the dragon. I used some of these same paints in the gold NMM I painted on the Christmas dragon and on Ziba the Efreet, but the gold recipe for Ziba used purple in the darker shadows to tie into shadows used on the rest of the figure, as well as some different paints in the highlights. 

IMG 0201The gold on the dragon is more vibrant. It would draw attention away from the faces and skin if I had used this recipe on the succubi.

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Usually any issues with non-metallic metal not looking correct has to do with values and colour placement. In theory, you should be able to use neon pinks and paint something that looks shiny and reflective like metal, though it might not make you think of a knight’s armour. ;-> Successful NMM requires a large range of value, with areas of dark shadow and bright highlights. Where you place those values is also very important to the effect. Our eyes are more likely to perceive something as shiny if we see dark shadows adjacent or near to light highlights. Not all shapes reflect light in that way, of course. Rounded areas like the dragons wings and knees (or round helms and shoulder plates) reflect light differently than sharper planes like the scales on its back (or swords or armour plates). Shiny surfaces reflect light differently than less shiny ones, so to really pull off the effect well requires studying the light reflection and understanding how it works on different shapes. But you can get a pretty convincing and attractive look even without that understanding if you use value extremes and judgement about where you place those values.

IMG 0192The paint colours I used. I didn’t use the 9256 Blond Shadow on the dragon. The 9071 Chestnut Gold paint I used was recently discontinued. 9256 mixed with 9071 Chestnut Brown would work as a substitute for 9073 Chestnut Gold.

Gold nmm paintsThe paint mixes I used. Unnumbered mixes are a combination of the colours to their right and left. 9073 Chestnut Gold is discontinued. Beneath that section you can see a swatch of 9256 Blond Shadow and a mix of Blond Shadow and 9071 Chestnut Brown that I think would work as a substitute.

One of the paints I used in this recipe (and on Ziba) was recently discontinued. I just did a test with another colour that is still available. It’s not quite as rich, but I think it should give a pretty similar end result used in combination with the other colours, as you can see in the photos above.

Identifying the Gifts on the Base

Julie Guthrie did an amazing job cramming a lot of fantastic geek-approved gifts into a small space on this base! When I first started prepping the metal figure and even after priming, I had trouble identifying what some of the objects are. Certain things can look a little confusing if you’re looking at the wrong angle. To help you avoid that frustration, I’m including some pictures with a guide to what each object is to help you out when you’re painting your copy of this fun figure.

There are several toy animals on the base. I chose to paint the bat and the dragon as if they were pewter miniatures to go with the brushes and paints, but you could paint them in any number of ways. There were a few small things that I weren’t entirely sure what they were and chose to paint as holly leaves.

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1. A pair of socks, a very traditional Christmas gift.
2. A toy bat. I painted this one to look like a pewter miniature.
3. 3d6 (or toy blocks if you’d prefer, the numeral is painted not sculpted.)
4. A toy cat.
5. Several paint brushes in a box.
6. A sock monkey.

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1. 3d6, or toy blocks if you prefer.
2. Three paint bottles.
3. Two more paint brushes.

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1. The tops of the paint bottles.
2. A large sack. For dice, maybe?
3. A small sack. For smaller dice!
4. A Thingmaker Mini Dragon. This was one of Julie and Bob’s favourite toys when they were children. I painted it as a pewter dragon though.
5. A Mr. Bones stuffy!
6. Delicious candy canes.
7. The top of the sock monkey’s head.

Miniatures Shown in this Post

The Christmas Hugs dragon and the Ghost of Christmas Past are both limited availability holiday miniatures. They are part of Reaper Miniatures 12 Days of Reaper promotion, which is running until December 8, 2020. For each $40USD (or equivalent) you spend at the Reaper store, you can choose one of 12 different holiday figures, or a Reaper ornament. So if you spend $80 you can pick out two, and so on. This stacks with the usual monthly promotion, so you also pick out one of the monthly figures per $40 you spend, so you’re getting two free metal figures with every $40 purchase.

I shared a post with larger images and links to painting info for the 10 options I painted. After December 8th, the remaining stock of figures will go up for sale individually.

12Days 2020 2 copy

Starting December 1st, if you spend $60USD or more, you will also receive a Paint Your Krampus kit that I wrote, while supplies last. The kit includes four paints, detailed instructions, and a Bones USA Krampus figure produced in Texas.

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12 Days of Reaper 2020

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Yule, or just the annual bonanza of sales, the holiday season is upon us. As I’m sure is the case for many of you, some of my traditions are having to be put to the side in this unusual year. One tradition that has remained the same is my annual last minute crunch to paint some of the Reaper holiday miniatures. I’ve painted one or more of the holiday figures since 2015, and pulling out the red and green paints to paint as fast as I can genuinely is a part of my holiday season now! 

12Days 2020 2 copy

This year’s 12 Days promotion features a lot of the miniatures that I’ve painted over the years, as well as a couple of great new ones. I thought I would share photos of them in a single post to help people get a better view of the figures from different angles. I’m also hoping to write a couple of posts about the new figures with some insight on painting those that you might find useful in painting yours. 

The 12 Days promotion runs on Reaper’s site from November 27 to December 8, 2020. This year you can choose any of the 12 Days miniatures for each $40USD of purchase, or the ornament. This is cumulative, so you can choose two different figures (or two of the same) with an $80 purchase, and so on. It also stacks with the usual free figure of the month promotion, so you’re getting two free figures for each $40 of purchase. Remaining stock of the figures will go up for direct purchase after December 8th.

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This year I worked on an additional holiday project for Reaper! Starting December 1st and for as long as supplies last, each $60USD purchase will receive a Paint Your Krampus mini learn to paint kit that I wrote. You need to supply your own brushes and black and white paint, but everything else you need is included in the kit. The Krampus figure is made in Texas from the new Bones USA plastic.

But enough of all that, let’s get to pictures of the charming holiday figures!

First up one of the new figures this year – Christmas Hugs. I love Julie’s holiday dragons, and this one was extra fun to paint due to all the great geek gifts on the base. I’ll post in a day or three with a ‘map’ of the objects on the base to help make it easier for you to paint a copy of your own. In the meantime you can check this Facebook gallery for more views and info on the base.

Xdrag frontSculpted by the Dragon Lady herself, Julie Guthrie.

Xdrag back

The other figure that is brand new this year is the Mistletoe Goblin. Worn out shoes and a half eaten box of chocolates haven’t stopped this optimist from looking for love. More view angles available in my Facebook gallery.

Xgob frontI believe this was also sculpted by Julie Guthrie. If not it was her other half, Bob Ridolfi.

Xgob back

One of the first Christmas dragons, this one has a little hoard of presents that I wouldn’t mess with if I were you. I wrote a post describing how I painted the wrapping paper and with more views of the figure

Xmas dragon face fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie, of course!

Xmas dragon2 wings full

Tinker the Gnome is doing his best to get everything ready in Santa’s workshop. You can see some additional angles in my Facebook gallery.

Xgnome front fullSculpted by Bobby Jackson.

Xgnome back1 full

If dragons get into holiday mischief, imagine what cat dragons can get up to… I have a post with more pictures and some background on painting the figure.

Catdragon left fullSculpted by Julie Guthrie. And you can tell she’s lived with a few cats over the years!

Catdragon right full

This little Stocking Dragon is very excited about what treasures might be found in the stocking. I wrote a post describing how I used the sketching or blocking in style to paint this figure.

Xdrag face2 fullJulie Guthrie once again had the honours on this one.

Xdrag back full

A fun twist on classic Christmas characters – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. I have a post on how I painted the light effect on Christmas Past. I answered some questions on how I painted Christmas Future’s black dress. There are individual photos and more angles in my Facebook gallery.

Xm ghosts bk fullBob Ridolfi did a wonderful job sculpting these very characterful figures.

Xm ghosts bk back full

And one more cat dragon. Painted to resemble one of my cats. My cat doesn’t actually mess with the Christmas tree, but he gets himself into trouble in lots of other ways, so he was definitely the right cat for this modelling job. If you’d like to paint your cat dragon with a pattern, you might find this post on painting fur patterns handy. You can see more angles in my Facebook gallery.

Xm cat bl face fullJulie Guthrie sculpted this. I suspect Julie may have lived this.

Xm cat right2 full

And lastly, a couple of pictures of the Krampus I painted for the Paint Your Krampus kit. Ron Hawkins, the art director at Reaper, did a wonderful job laying everything out so it’s clear and easy to follow. The copy I painted was a metal master, but I have since seen the Bones USA version and it looks fantasy. A slotta-base version of this figure is available in metal if you’d prefer it in metal or the kits run out. This is a different Krampus sculpt to the one in the Bones 5 Kickstarter.

Krampus blue front fullKrampus was sculpted by Jason Wiebe.

Krampus blue back full

I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving recently enjoyed your holiday despite the changes and challenges, and I send my good wishes for holiday fun to come.