RVE Paint Swatches and Swag Boxes

Reaper Virtual Expo has started! Events continue March 6 and 7, 2021. If you aren’t sure what RVE is or why you might be interested, skip down below for more information. (And more information on free paint classes I’m teaching during the event!)

I received the Mega Bundle swag box, and I filmed a video unboxing each of the three RVE swag boxes within it. Some of the items require assembly, I put those together and showed how they work in the video as well.

IMG 0602The Mega Bundle includes three swag boxes, an extra, and bonus with purchase items for purchasing from the Reaper webstore. Soda can for scale.

You can purchase the swag boxes or Mega Bundle currently. Most individual items will go up for sale at some point, but quantities may be limited, particularly for the items that Reaper does not produce in-house (anything other than paint and figures.) Two of the paint sets are packaged in Fast Palette boxes, which are also outside production. Sadie the paint wizard recently said that theFast Palette Cyber boxes may run out. If they do, it is likely the sets would go up for sale again at some future point when they get more packages.

Paint Colour Swatches

I put together a video swatching out all 27 of the RVE paint colours, plus some of the February promo colours. Half of the video was filmed during a live Twitch stream, where I answered questions, and I share some general paint information throughout the process of making the swatches.  

I’m including scans of my paint swatches here for the reference of anyone interested. My scanner is pretty true to colour, although of course slight differences may occur due to differences in our screens and so on.

The first is a scan of the 12 colours included in the Reaper Virtual Expo Commemorative set, currently available in the Hobby Box.

Rve paint commemorative

These six colours are from the Cyber Gangs box. Each is associated with one of the factions of Reaper Virtual Expo. This set of paints is currently available in the Punk Box.

Rve paint gang

The next six colours are from the Cyber Metal box. These are metallic paints. The still scan does not capture their shimmer. You would need to check out the video for a more complete look at these. This set is currently available in the Punk set.

Rve paint metal

The Plasma triad is currently available in the Expo Box, and is a great triad of vivid colours.

Rve paint plastma

Last up are swatches of some of the February sample colours. You cannot order sample colours, they are occasional gifts bestowed on orders made on the Reaper webstore. Usually they are colours from an error in paint mixing, but I suspect these were mixed up special for February. There is a fifth pink colour, and I received a bottle of it, but it was the one casualty of my packages getting stuck in the cold snap the hit the US. You can look at a picture of what a cold-damaged paint looks like to get an idea of the colour. I only lost one out of 58 paints, so exposure to cold isn’t an automatic death sentence for all paint!

Rve paint vday sampleNOTE: VDAY 3 is a metallic/shimmer paint also best appreciated in video.

Reaper Virtual Expo

Reaper Virtual Expo is an online event on March 5-7 202 that includes miniature hobby classes, games, panels, painting challenges, and more. The classes include painting, basing, sculpting topics, and others. Even if you’re not a Reaper product fan, you’re likely to find something of interest. I’m going to highlight my classes and the other events I’m participating in, but for check out the Reaper Virtual Expo page for all the information. 

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

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

A panel discussion with a number of miniature painters, including Michael Proctor, Aaron Lovejoy, Derek Schubert, Jen Greenwald, and myself. There’s a section to suggest questions in the Reaper Virtual Expo Discord. 

The Crow’s Nest sculptors’ panel took place today. Go to minute 3:06:00 in this video to watch that. It will also be uploaded to YouTube at some point. 10 different sculptors participated and answered questions!

Snake rust rve

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

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

IMG 6146Some of the products I’ll be discussing in my class.

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

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

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

Reaper is recording the classes and will be putting them up on their YouTube channel, though that make take a month or so to happen.  If you’re really excited about a particular class I recommend trying to attend live so you can ask questions, and in the very rare event of technical difficulties. 

Coming Soon

My apologies to those who aren’t interested in Reaper Virtual Expo or associated items. This should be my last post on the topic for a while! I’m putting the finishing touches on a post about painting Finn Greenwell, and working on some other content for this coming month as well. Thank you for your patience!

Lep bl faceFinn Greenwell, adorable leprechaun

Cold Temperatures versus Miniature Paints

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

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

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

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

IMG 0569Example of FastPalette packaging.

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

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

Frozen paint1 cr

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

Frozen paint2 cr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Snowflake photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Paint Along Video Learn to Paint Kit Classes!

Dear mini painting friends – I need you! I need you to help us discover new mini painting friends!

ReaperCon Online is a fun event for miniature enthusiasts. It’s also a unique opportunity to reach out to future miniature enthusiasts – people I couldn’t easily connect with at a traditional convention. To take advantage of that opportunity, I will be teaching free live paint along classes for both of the Reaper learn to paint kits – Core Skills and Layer Up. This is a great opportunity to get started with miniature painting for those who might prefer video instruction, or who are nervous to paint for the first time on their own.

Cover combo

The problem is, how do I reach these new potential miniature painters when my audience is established miniature painters? My answer is to ask all of you for help! I’ve noticed a lot of people mentioning giving the learn to paint kits to others as gifts. If you gifted someone a kit or know someone who purchased one for themselves but hasn’t started painting yet, please send them the link to this page in case they’re interested in attending an event.

If you’d prefer to share on Facebook, here’s a Facebook event for Core Skills, and another for Layer Up.

If you or your friend have already used the kit, you are still very welcome to attend! You can just watch to get extra tips,  work along with us to touch up your original figure, or get a second copy from Reaper to paint along using your other kit supplies. Link to buy a Skeleton Archer (or a Warrior Skeleton Archer), link to buy Anirion the Wizard.

If you or your friend haven’t bought a kit because you already own all or most of the contents, you are still welcome to join us to paint along! A contents list for each kit is available, so you can check if you’re missing anything. The only item you cannot purchase separately is the instruction booklet. (Reaper has said they will not make that available for separate purchase, sorry.) Check the class descriptions below for a short list of common household items you also need to paint along in the class.

NOTE: The Skeleton Archer that is normally included in the Core Skills kit is temporarily out of stock. When this happens Reaper fulfills the kits with this Skeleton Warrior Archer. I will demonstrate with copies of both figures in the online class.

NOTE: The synthetic brushes included in both of the kits are also temporarily out of stock. Feel free to use your preferred brushes. For Core Skills you’d need a general painting brush and a smaller flat for drybrushing. For Layer Up you’d need a general painting brush and any brush you like to use for more detailed painting.

Which Kit First? 

The two kits are designed to work individually, but also work together as one large master kit with no duplication of tools, colours, or figures. You do not need to finish the Core Skills kit or class to attend the Layer Up class (or use that kit), but if you are completely new to painting and can choose only one, I recommend Core Skills first.

Kid Friendly?

The classes are probably a little too structured for younger or more energetic children to really enjoy, and even some older ones might find it a bit dull. I will be doing my best to make the paint along classes as easy to follow as possible, but I’m not a parent or particularly practiced at working with children, and most of the audience that I’ll be working with will be teens and adults. If you do want to try one of the classes with your your child, I recommend Core Skills. I also recommend that you sit with your child and be available to help them if they have trouble with any of the steps during the class.

Tish Wolter is a parent and has had experience teaching children. She is teaching two classes for younger painters during ReaperCon Online, one for beginners and one for kids who’ve had some experience painting. Go to the registration page and select the name Tish Wolter in the drop down menu on the right to easily find these classes. They’re also free!

Skeleton combo

Core Skills Learn to Paint Kit Paint Along

Saturday, September 5, 2020
14:00 – 16:00 Central time

Registration link – it’s free!
(Use the drop down menus on the right and select the name Rhonda Bender to find the class more quickly.)

Link to buy a kit or check the contents list.

If you’ve got a copy of the Core Skills learn to paint kit but you’ve never gotten around to using it because you’d prefer video rather than text instructions, now’s your chance! Rhonda Bender, the author of the kit, is hosting a paint along class. She will take you through the process of painting the skeleton figure, and demonstrate the techniques of painting base coats, washes, and drybrushing.

If you want to paint along during the class, you will need the paints and brushes provided with your kit, and the skeleton miniature. (If you already painted that one you can swap in another skeleton figure you might have lying around or order another copy of 77018 Skeleton Archer.) If you can, prior to the class scrub your skeleton with some dish soap and rinse well, or dip it in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean it off and help the paint adhere better.

You also need:
* An old mug or plastic cup filled with water to rinse out your brushes.
* Some paper towels.
* A plastic or foam plate, clean plastic lid, or piece of sturdy parchment/baking paper to use as a palette.

These items are not required but you’ll find them helpful:
* An empty paint bottle (item 8702 Master Series Squeeze Bottles on the store.)
* A holder for your figure. (See page 6 of the booklet for ideas.)
* A hairdryer in case your paint is drying too slowly to keep up with the class.
* If you can, an extra lamp or two to make sure you can see well.
* A piece of printer paper with text on it, or paper junk mail. (Plain not shiny paper.)

Wizard combo

Layer Up Learn to Paint Kit Paint Along

Sunday, September 6, 2020
18:00 – 20:00 Central time

Registration link – it’s free!
(Use the drop down menus on the right and select the name Rhonda Bender to find the class more quickly.)

Link to buy a kit or check the contents list.

If you’ve got a copy of the Layer Up! learn to paint kit but you’ve never gotten around to using it because you’d prefer video rather than text instructions, now’s your chance! Rhonda Bender, the author of the kit, is hosting a Layer Up! paint along class. She will take you through the process of painting the wizard figure, and demonstrate the techniques of painting base coats, layering, lining, and glazes.

If you want to paint along during the class, you will need the paints and brushes provided with your kit, and the wizard miniature. (If you already painted that one you can swap in another figure you might have lying around that is wearing a cloth robe or cloak with rounded folds like in the picture above, or order another copy of 77068 Anirion the Elf Wizard.) If you can, prior to the class scrub your wizard with some dish soap and rinse well, or dip it in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean it off and help the paint adhere better.

You also need:
* An old mug or plastic cup filled with water to rinse out your brushes.
* Some paper towels.
* A plastic or foam plate or clean plastic lid to use as a palette.

These items are not required but you’ll find them helpful:
* A holder for your figure. (See page 6 of the booklet for ideas.)
* A hairdryer in case your paint is drying too slowly to keep up with the class.
* If you can, an extra lamp or two to make sure you can see well.
* A piece of printer paper with text on it, or paper junk mail. (Plain not shiny paper.)

Miniature Paint Care and Maintenance

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It’s paint maintenance time for me, and that is a good opportunity for me to share some pictures and tips to help you maintain your own stash of miniature paints.

The most important tip is: Never let your paint freeze! Miniature paint will ‘curdle’ if it freezes. There is no way to restore paint that has been frozen to a correct and useable consistency.

Helpful tip: If you have hard water or any other water issues, use distilled water rather than tap water to add to paint bottles.

Helpful tip: This is the messiest job in miniature painting! Wear old clothes and protect surfaces with table cloths and drop cloths. Trust me on this! You will need much more paper towel or cloth than usual to clean brushes and wipe up spills.

Paint maintenance day setup

Two common issues that paint experiences over time are thickening up as water evaporates from inside the bottle, and paint separating into thick gloppy pigment at the bottom of the bottle, with watery components of the mix floating on top. Both of these issues can be remedied if caught quickly enough. Note that metallic, satin, and other texture effect paints are more likely to experience these issues, and to experience them after shorter periods of disuse.

To best preserve the quality of your miniature paints, do a maintenance check every 1-2 years. Shake the paint as you would for normal use. Dispense a drop of the paint and check its consistency. I use index cards for my paint drop tests. After dispensing the drop, I run an old paint brush through the drop to check consistency. Remove dropper bottle nipples to observe the paint within the container if you have any doubts. Add distilled water to paint that is thickening and shake. You will have to STIR, and then shake paint that is separating or is very thick in consistency. I’ll go over the method and possible issues in more detail below.

Examples of separated paint

Paint stored in containers that are not moved or shaken for long periods of time can start to separate. The heavier pigments and binder elements sink to the bottom and lighter elements of the binder float to the top. You can see an extreme example of the issue very clearly above in a screw top paint bottle that doesn’t have a label on the side. It can be much harder to spot in containers made of more opaque plastic or which have large obscuring labels.

Example of binder separated from paint

One reason I suggest dispensing a sample drop of paint for dropper bottle maintenance is to detect paint separation issues. You will see something like the above – a very watery mix of paint. Usually the colour looks quite pale or faint as well. If I see this, I pop off the nipple of the dropper bottle. I try to pick up this watery mix with a brush and add it back to the bottle, but it’s not a big issue if you lose a drop or two. 

Clumpy paint

If paint has separated to this degree, you will need to STIR it to repair the issue. You cannot guarantee redistributing the watery binder elements and chunkier pigment bits with any amount of shaking alone. Not even with a vortex mixer, not even with agitators in the bottle. I took the picture above AFTER agitating the paint pot (which contains a pewter agitator) on a vortex mixer. The paint looked mixed, but when I checked it with a toothpick, there was sludge stuck to the bottom and sides of the container. Also note the number of bubbles, which is another sign that the fluid portion is still more binder than pigment.

Click to see the vortex mixer in action on a couple of paints. Note that paint in the second half of the video is the same one in the previous picture. I had to stir well and then mix to return it to useable condition.

You will need to use a tool long enough to reach the bottom and sides of the container to get the sludge moving. With squat jars a toothpick works. You’ll need a plastic swizzle stick or old paint brush for taller dropper bottles. Once you’ve got the sludge moving, shaking should work to finish mixing everything back together. Then check the consistency again and add some additional water if needed. Eventually you should reach a consistency like the picture below. Note that there are far fewer bubbles now.

Mixed paint

Paint can thicken up over time due to water evaporation, without experiencing separation issues. Few containers are completely air tight. It can take years, but water does evaporate through plastic bottles and jars. Sometimes this happens more quickly than you would expect. You can have a set of paints that you purchased at the same time where some bottles are fine and some have experienced more evaporation, so you need to check each paint individually. Below you can see an example of what paint that has thickened up but not separated looks like. Kind of like frosting. (Don’t eat the paint-frosting!)

Thickened paint example

This can happen with dropper bottles, as well. Dropper bottles also often exhibit a similar but slightly different problem. When you dispense a drop of paint and find that it is very thick, you need to pull out the dropper nipple to check on the paint. You will often find thickening paint clogged up in the nipple tip and/or neck of the bottle, as in the examples below.

Paint thickening in bottle necks

Usually there is a separate pool of paint at the bottom of the bottle that may or may not be experiencing thickening as well. Use a toothpick or paint brush to poke the paint down into the bottle, moving it from the nipple to the main area of the bottle. I recommend stirring this bottle neck paint into the paint in the body of the bottle. Shaking may not be enough to intermix the thicker paint into the rest of the paint. Add a few drops of water, and mix thoroughly. Then check the consistency again. If it is still a bit on the thick side, add more water and shake again.

I have been experimenting with something I think helps reduce the incidence of paint getting trapped in the neck of the bottles. Before I recap a paint, I check to make sure that the dropper hole is clear of paint. Paint bubbling or oozing up through the dropper hole when a bottle is opened or after you poke the dropper hole open is another sign that some paint may be stuck in the nipple or neck of the bottle. I use a pokey tool to open up the dropper hole until it stays clear. Other options to open clogged dropper holes are a T-pin, hat pin, or unfolded paper clip. 

Dropper tip

The paints in the following picture were all discontinued in 2010, so I can verify that they’re old paints. Because I’ve taken the trouble to maintain them every few years, they’re all still in useable condition so I can continue enjoying these no-longer-made colours.

Old paints

Metallic and Silk/Satin Paints

Paints with metallic flake and similar agents seem more prone to experiencing issues with separation and thickening more quickly than standard paints. They also seem to reach the point of no return more quickly. I recommend doing maintenance on those kinds of paints at least yearly. If you do not maintain these well, accept that they will become unusable more quickly than standard paints.

Mixing Machines and Agitators

Some paints are harder to mix than others. The more viscous a paint, the more it will need an agitator and heavy shaking or even stirring to mix well. Different binder mixes may also affect how much mixing a brand or colour of paint needs. Some paint brands ship with an agitator in the bottle. All paints produced by Reaper Miniatures do. If you wish to add agitators to your paints, keep in mind that you need to use a non-reactive material. Many materials can rust or oxidize when stored in a liquid paint for long periods of time, even if they would not in other circumstances. Safe materials include pewter and glass beads. Although you will often see them recommended in online chats/forums, I do not recommend adding lead or stainless steel agitators to paint pots.

There are a few paint mixer gadgets on the market, and you may also come across ideas for homemade versions on various social media platforms and forums. I’ve seen electric stirrers, and single bottle shakers. Some people have adapted nail polish shakers to this purpose. Many people purchase second-hand laboratory vortex mixers on eBay and other sites to use for mixing paint. (Do a search for ‘vortex mixer’.) Artis Opus has developed a similar product specifically for miniature painters. (It’s more aesthetically pleasing and new, but I think the concept is pretty much the same.)

If you have a small collection of paint that hand-mixes fairly easily, like Reaper paints, you may not need any such tools. I purchased a used Vortex Genie 2 lab mixer on eBay a few years ago. Although it was a fairly expensive purchase, I have never regretted it, and it gets more use than many of my other bespoke hobby tools do. I have hand and wrist issues, and a pretty sizeable collection of paint. Paint maintenance was very tough on my hands, even spread over several days. Paint maintenance and day-to-day mixing are much less annoying for me with the mixer. 

Can I See the Light (to Paint)

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I’d like to share some general thoughts on how to tackle projects that are ambitious or intimidate you, as well as a few tips on painting object source lighting (OSL). These are based on my recent experience in painting the Ghost of Christmas Past. Check the end of the post for information on how to get this miniature as a free gift with purchase.

Ghost of Christmas Past with OSL effectThe Ghost of Christmas Past sculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

If this short article isn’t enough information on the subject of OSL, I will be teaching a class on object source lighting at AdeptiCon in 2020 where I will dive into it in a lot more depth. I will also be teaching classes on a quick and easy blending method, and understanding common critique terms and issues. Dozens of other terrific painters and hobbyists will be teaching classes on a wealth of topics. AdeptiCon is a great convention to attend if you want to skill up, and if you enjoy playing games with your figures. AdeptiCon passes and class and event tickets go on sale December 8, 2019. You can check out all the classes and other events by going to this link and selecting the Event List option from the left side menu.

Study and Research

When trying something outside of your comfort zone, it can be very helpful to study some video and/or text tutorials by more experienced painters. Oftentimes there are some guidelines or approaches that you just might not have thought of.

Since I teach a class on it, I had already done a fair amount of study into elements that can contribute to more successfully creating the illusion of reflected light on a miniature. And that study is why I had trepidation about painting this figure. The character in the book A Christmas Carol is described as wearing a white robe. I advise people not to use white on the clothing/hair/etc. of a figure painted with OSL. We can’t paint a glow or nimbus of light around a light source the way someone could on a two dimensional painting. So it is advisable to reserve bright white for use only on the light source, and maybe just a touch for highlights on areas of reflected light right next to the light source. 

OSL Mages ComparisonThe mage on the left was my first attempt at OSL. I studied what worked and what didn’t (almost everything) and tried to do a more effective version with the figure on the right. If I painted this figure again today there are yet more changes I would make.

Another recommendation I make for painting effective OSL is to reserve highly saturated colours for use only on the light source and the reflected light, and to use less saturated colours for the clothing and equipment of the figure. As with using white on the light source, this technique helps further the illusion that the light source is brighter and lighter than the rest of the scene. The Christmas Past miniature sculpt also includes holly leaves and berries, which are typically fairly saturated green and red in colour, so that would be a second guideline I’d be breaking to paint it.

So why did I decide to paint this figure with an OSL effect? Since I am preparing to teach a class on the subject in a few months, I was intrigued by the challenge of whether I could pull it off! If you are newer to painting OSL, I recommend that you follow the guidelines I’ve suggested for the use of white and saturated colours, at least on your first few experiments.

Plan and Experiment

Study is helpful, but a lot of us have the tendency to put off the intimidating project by burying ourselves in videos and tutorials. It is far more helpful to dive in and get some practical experience.

One way to more actively study is to look at specific figures. Pick out some that you feel do a good job of the effect or technique you’re trying, and also some that are less successful. Including your past attempts, if any. Study both groups with an analytical eye. Dissect the colour choices in detail. Evaluate where areas are lighter and darker. Try to come to some conclusions about concrete things you can do to improve your chance of success when you try.

Test colour scheme ideas on paper or on a test figure. Look up reference photos for materials and textures. Not just how other people have painted them, but looking at the materials themselves. Think about how you’d replicate that in miniature and test some of your ideas.

One of the things I do to prepare to paint a single point light source figure is to make my own reference photos for where areas will appear darker and lighter. I use a mini Maglite bulb to simulate the light source. I primed Christmas Past with Reaper’s white, black, and grey brush-on primers. This allowed me to prime areas of the miniature at roughly the same value as the colours I intended to paint them – white robe, light grey skin, black hair, and dark grey on the red and green areas. (Both colours tend to be darker than you’d think.) You could also do basecoats of your midtones and then take a reference picture to really get a good idea of how the light affects the various colours and values.

Christmas Past light referenceYou can make your own reference photos for less extreme lighting, too.

Just Do It!

The most important element is to get your butt into the chair and do it. Don’t procrastinate too long or psych yourself out of even trying. This is not life and death stuff. It’s not the end of the world if you mess up. You never have to show anyone if you don’t like how it came out. It’s just paint, and you can always paint over it and try again. Whether it’s a rousing success or not at all what you hoped for, you can study your end result to learn more to apply to your next attempt.

Problem Solving

I am trying to learn to do a better job of finding and solving problems during the painting process, and as I have with a few other figures, I will share my experience with that on the Ghost of Christmas Past.

In this first WIP picture, I’ve completed painting the skin, the hair, the base, and the accessories. (Or so I thought.) The robe and candle are still only primer.

The first thing I painted was the skin, and it was a frustrating experience. I kept feeling like it looked wrong and kinda rough. And I think that’s something that happens to a lot of people when they’re trying more advanced techniques. A lot of effects and some techniques do not really look good until the final stages. Some don’t even look right until the painting on the figure as a whole is almost finished. Non-metallic metal doesn’t really start to ‘shine’ and look good until you have your darkest and lightest values painted on. Initial passes of a texture can look rough and unconvincing. The first few stages of how I paint transparent cloth look almost silly.

Some types of painting techniques and effects start to look good pretty quickly, and you can assess whether there are issues you need to fix as you go along. Drybrushing or sidebrushing texture is an example. With many other effects, it can be very difficult to tell in the early and middle stages. When you try techniques like this, you need to take a leap of faith and follow through until the end. And then finish the figure. Only then can you take a step back and get an idea of whether or not you’ve been successful. If you try to judge and adjust a lot in the beginning and middle stages, you are making your life more difficult and might even be undoing things that would look better in the end if left as they were. 

My frustration in painting the skin was related to this. The figure I was holding was being lit by my room lights, which cast highlights and shadows on that big expanse of dress that match the zenithal lighting approach we usually use when painting miniatures. I was painting shadows and highlights on small areas of the figure to match the lighting in my reference photo. The location of those lights and shadows contradicted both years of habit for where to visualize and place light and shadow, and what my own eyes were telling me based on the room light. I had to just have faith that it would all come together as more of the miniature got painted and resist the urge to dial back or alter the effect.

Xpast wip1 front 600

In this next WIP picture, I had finally gotten colour on most of the miniature. My concern was getting everything in the right place and working on the right level of contrast within the light area and within the shadow area. If I started with trying to soften the edges I’d probably have had to do it over a few times while fiddling with one of those other aspects.

This is where I left off in painting the night before Thanksgiving. We were hosting people in our home, so I just put her up on a shelf and studied her now and then when passing through the room. I felt like things were coming together and working more than in the beginning stages, but I also felt like something just wasn’t quite right. I had to step away and then study the figure a bit more to figure out what. As eager as I was to finish since I was cutting pretty close to the deadline, the break ended up being helpful for getting a little distance and being able to solve the problem.

Christmas Past WIP 2

Late Thanksgiving night I realized what was bothering me – there wasn’t much value difference between the lit areas and the shadow areas on the far arm and skirt of the dress. If I squinted, the whole right side looked pretty much the same in value. I was trying to create the illusion that the light was much brighter closer to the source and fell off in brightness as it moved away from the source, but had I gone too far?

As you can tell from the photo below, yep, I had gone too far. There is virtually no difference in value between the light and shadow on the right side and bottom of the skirt on the left side. I had a warmer colour and a cooler colour, but they were the same value of grey, so couldn’t really create an impression of light and shadow.

Christmas Past WIP 2 in grayscaleConverting your photo to grayscale by desaturating it is a good way to check whether or not you’re actually painting the appearance of reflected light.

Since the shadow areas were already pretty dark, I felt the best remedy for the issue was to lighten up the areas reflecting the candle light. I did that over all of the sections of the figure – skin, hair, dress, and accessories.

Christmas Past WIP 3 Colour

Christmas Past WIP 3 grayscale

The final steps were to paint the buttons, candle, candle flame and candle holder, and to soften the transition edge between the areas of shadow and areas of light. Oh, and to add in the colour of the light. You might not have noticed it, but I didn’t really paint in the colour of the light as I went along. I used warm colours for the lit areas – more yellow in the greens and reds, and a tan colour for the shading of the white. I mixed a dark purple into the light area colours to create darker, cooler, and more muted colours for the various areas of the shadow side. For the shadow areas of the dress I just used pure neutral greys since I have a spectrum of those pre-mixed for easy blending, and then added the purple via a glaze at the end.

This is what everything looked like prior to painting on the light and shadow colour, painting the flame, and softening the edge transitions.

Christmas Past WIP 4

I thinned some red and yellow paint way, way, way down and painted glazes of the colours over the areas of light. I thinned down the dark purple I used in the shadow areas in the same way and painted it over the neutral grey parts of the dress to integrate them in with the rest of the shadows. I used the brightest white paint I have to paint the base of the candle flame. Here’s what the finished figure looks like on the same flat gray background I used for my WIP pictures.

Christmas Past on Grey Background

Below is a picture of the palette I used to paint the dress and glaze in the colours on the light side. The lit areas of the dress were painted with the top row of colours. The shadow areas were painted using the darker greys mostly on the bottom row of the palette. The red and yellow pools were my glaze colours. The colours in the centre of the second row were the mixes I used to soften the edges between the lit areas and the shadowed sections. (Which literally were mixes of the neutral and warm greys in various values.)

Christmas Past Palette

I used a wet palette for the majority of the painting, but I wanted to be able to preserve my paint mixes for the dress to be able to do touchups and alterations. I preserved the paint by placing almost dripping wet sponges on top of the ceramic palette when it was not in use. I’ll post more about that trick another time.

And here are a few more pictures of the completed figure, along with her compatriots from A Christmas Carol.

Christmas Past Back

Christmas Past Left

Christmas Past Right

Christmas Ghosts Front

Figures Featured in this Post

The three Christmas Ghosts are available until December 13, 2019. You can choose from one of these figures or another nine holiday options as a gift with $50 (or in other currencies) purchase from the Reaper website. For each $50 worth of your purchase(s) during the promotional period, you’ll be able to choose one of the 12 Days of Reaper figures for this year. If your purchase is over $60, you will also receive a sampler bag that includes a couple of festive paint colours, a Christmas ornament, and a few Bones miniatures. Each $40 of qualifying purchase throughout the month of December also receives a free Bones Black figure that you likewise choose from a selection of options.

The mage casting magical lightning is based on a classic piece of Larry Elmore art, and is available from Dark Sword Miniatures. I’ve used this figure in the past for my OSL classes, but this year’s class at AdeptiCon is going to mix it up and use another fun Dark Sword figure. They have a lot of miniatures that would make for great OSL practice – I had a hard time choosing the figure for this class!