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.

Underpainting Grayscale Example: Barglemore and Camille

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Underpainting is using an initial layer of paint to establish some element(s) of a paint job. Zenithal priming is a great example of this – it establishes the direction of the light falling on the figure.  Zenithal priming is just one of many types of underpainting that we can use to improve our painting, however! For the pair of miniatures in this article I used a more traditional greyscale (grisaille) sketch underpainting technique. I think this approach can be much more helpful to creating (and understanding) the necessary contrast on a miniature figure than zenithal priming alone. Another benefit is that it does not require any supplies other than a brush and paint.

Zombie servants front full

Barglemore the zombie butler and Camille the zombie maid are great subjects for the technique. Their clothing is sculpted to resemble the traditional/stereotypical butler and maid uniforms, which are black, white, and shades of grey, and I wanted to paint them that way as well. I wasn’t able to find any freely useable reference images to include in this article, but you will find plenty of examples if you do an image search on ‘butler’ and ‘French maid’. Note that this greyscale sketching technique absolutely works with more colourful figures, I just think the more subdued colour schemes on these zombie servants help demonstrate the principle and application of the technique more clearly.

Value scale bw

Value refers to how light or dark a colour is. Value contrast is the most fundamental type of contrast we can use. Miniature painters tend to think of value contrast as referring to the contrast between the darkest shadows and the lightest highlights. Shadow/highlight contrast is crucial to making miniature figures look fully three dimensional, but there is another type of very useful value contrast – contrast between the values of adjacent areas. This is a strong tool we can use to make figures easier to read for the viewer, especially from a distance. It’s also a valuable tool to creating focus, mood, and conveying story/character. Note that every colour has a value scale, such as navy blue to baby blue. A full value range for blue and yellow would include black and white on the extreme ends of the value scales below.

Valuescale combo

When we are actively painting it is very challenging to juggle all of the elements we need to think about at the same time – choosing colours, selecting the appropriate value for each of those colours, painting sufficient shadow/highlight contrast, depicting the light source correctly – all while trying to create smooth blends or texture strokes with our brushes and paints. To try to do all of that at once is expecting a lot of ourselves, and it’s no wonder we often fail to get all of that right! In my study of traditional art I have found that traditional artists often break these tasks up into separate steps. This allows them to focus on one or two challenges at a time, which makes it more likely to achieve a successful piece. I think adopting a similar approach in miniature painting would be helpful to most of us.

The purpose of starting with an underpainting layer is to separate out a few of our tasks. For example, a zenithal prime underpainting establishes the overall direction of the light and creates areas of light and shadow so we don’t have to constantly stop to visualize where those should be. The greyscale sketch underpainting approach that I use here also establishes the direction of light and the rough range of contrast between shadows and highlights. The difference is that it also establishes the overall value of each area on the figure in comparison to each other area. So on the butler below, each area has some shadows and highlights applied with the direction of the light source in mind, but it also defines the value contrast between areas: the head is very light, the coat is very dark, the pants are somewhere in the middle, and so on. I think of this as mapping out my values over the surface of the figure, so I often refer to it as value mapping. The term value sketch would also apply.

11a sophie18 barglemore blockin frontThe underpainting stage on Barglemore the zombie butler.

I combined my underpainting step with my priming step by using Reaper’s brush-on primers. They’re available in white, black, and gray. I usually mix one or two more shades of grey so I have a value scale of four or five steps including black to white. These are metal figures, so it is necessary to prime them for the paint to adhere well. I live in a fairly humid climate, so I often use brush-on primer instead of spray cans. But if you’ve already spray-primed your figure or you’re working with a Bones plastic figure that doesn’t need priming, you can do this same step with black, white, and grey paints instead of primer.

Maid blockin front 400The underpainting stage on Camille the zombie maid and her ‘feather’ duster.

The underpainting looks rough, and that’s okay! My goal is to establish the big picture of the figure by answering a few questions. Which areas are darker, lighter, or in between? What is the value range between the highlights and the shadows on each area? Where should the main highlights and shadows be placed to establish the light direction I have chosen for the figure? I completely ignore all detail elements like the eyes, buttons on the butler’s vest, edge highlights like around the rips in the cloth, the crevices in between the tiles on the floor, and so on. I just want to make the overall big picture decisions so I don’t have to think about those when I am concentrating to paint tiny details, refine blending, or add textures. It’s easier to get more elements correct if you are only concentrating on one or two at a time.

That said, it may be that some of you look at those photos and feel that my underpainting is actually pretty detailed. Or you might be wondering if you have to address all of those factors at once with underpainting. It is a flexible technique. Just blocking in your basecoats for each area is a form of underpainting that lets you assess your colour and value choices for the figure as a whole. You could rough in just the direction of light and the main areas for highlights and shadows. You don’t even need to try to paint smoothly at all! In the example below, I used only three colours – black, grey, and white. The grey represented the midtone for each area. I painted black in the location of shadows, and white in the location of highlights. When I applied colour paint over the value map I applied it in a similar way. I applied highlight colours over the areas of white, shadow colours over the areas of black, and midtone colours over the areas of grey. (This is kind of a brush painted version of zenithal priming.)

Tara map final front crThis underpainting example does not include establishing values between areas or being at all smooth. It was still helpful to achieving the end result. You can see more steps of how I painted this figure and other forms of underpainting.

Since the next step involves applying paint over the value map, I recommend taking some pictures of your figure at this stage so you can refer back to your value map stage if you need to. You don’t need a fancy camera set up like I use for many of my pictures. Most cellphones made in the past few years take good photos. Pose the figure against a plain background if your camera has trouble focusing, and try to take the picture in a well-lit area.

Butler cellThis cellphone picture is blurry and a little overexposed, but since the value map is not about details, it gives me all the information I need.

 

My next step is to apply coloured paint. Even though these figures are dressed in shades of black, grey, and white, I still painted over the primer with opaque paint colours. Black and white primers are not as dark or light as black and white paints, and they sometimes have a different finish than matte paints. I also wanted greys that were not true neutral greys for the butler’s vest and pants. Both are warmer greys, and the vest has just a hint of purple in the shadows.

For each area I created mixes of paint similar in value to the primer mixes, with a few additional mix steps to allow me to make smoother transitions. When applying the paint, I used the underpainting as a road map for where to apply the various value mixes of the colour. Let’s look at the knee on Barglemore’s left leg as an example. I applied a lighter mix on the top of the knee, and a dark value underneath that, then smoothed the transition line between the two sections as necessary with midtone value mixes.

11 sophie barglemore front combo cr

Once I establish the main highlights and shadows and smooth the blending between them, then at that point I work on the details. For these figures that stage included such tasks as adding highlighting to the edges of the cloth tears and deep shadows within the recesses of the tears, lining around the buttons and other areas, adding detail to the facial features, and painting highlights and shadows into the smaller details of folds and wrinkles on the cloth.

12 sophie camille face combo cr

The front side of Camille demonstrates how the value mapping stage can help – if you remember to follow your map! When working with the black, white, and grey paint/primer colours, the only thing I need to think about is where areas of the figure should look darker or lighter based on my imagined light source. For this figure I pictured the light as coming from the upper right corner and slightly in front of the figure. If you look at the value mapping stage, you can see some nice highlights on the stomach area of the bodice that evoke that light. Unfortunately, I did not follow the map that I had laid down when I applied the final paint colours on top of the primer. I did highlight some wrinkles on the cloth in that area, but in a way that was less interesting and less true to the light source I was trying to evoke.

12 sophie camille front circle

It is also possible to make mistakes during the underpainting stage, or to change your mind about some of the decisions you made. My underpainting of the back side of Barglemore was really quite dull. When I started applying paint over it, I decided I needed to increase the value of the highlights on the folds of cloth to better accentuate the deformity of the shoulder and to just generally add more visual interest. The areas of shadow should probably be a little larger/darker in my final version, but I felt it was better to sacrifice the light direction and dark ambiance a little in this area to better bring out all the lovely sculpted details on the figure.

13 sophie barglemore back cr

Think of an underpainting is a useful road map, not a cage locking you in. You can reinterpret and enhance your vision as necessary when painting your colour paint over the underpainting. The rear view of Camille shows a mix of following the value road map from the underpainting and also making some changes. Overall the values are pretty true to my initial value map – look at the location of the highlights and shadow in the hair, and the bright spots on the elbow and side of the hand on the arm to the right, which are present in both the underpainting stage and the final painted version.

 

 

14 sophie camille back combo cr

I did make two major changes, however. During the painting stage I decided I wanted the skirt to look like more of a gauzy type of fabric, so I painted it as grey instead of black, and applied the highlights with vertical brush strokes to indicate ruffles in order to try to convey that texture. I think the colour switch and additional texture adds a spot of interest that the underpainted sketch lacked. I had painted the stockings more grey than black in the underpainting, and switched to black with hints of transparency during the painting stage. I think this helps keep more focus on the top half of the figure and breaks up the areas in a more visually interesting way.

Related Articles

My article about painting ReaperCon Sophie 2018 provides another example of this process with a more vibrant colour scheme. I used both greyscale and colour value mapping on this Christmas dragon.

The Contrast Series links to all of articles about contrast available on this site, some of which use different methods than that demonstrated here to help you achieve more contrast on your figures.

The How to Paint Faster article explores the idea of starting with a rough colour block-in or sketch to get paint on the figure faster.

My testing colour schemes article is an example of a way to separate out the task of choosing and composing colours before you begin painting, which traditional artists would call doing colour studies.

This short video from Zumikito Miniatures demonstrates three different methods of value sketching and how to proceed from the initial point to a fully painted figure.

 

History and Variations of Underpainting in Miniature Painting and Traditional Art

The underpainting technique that I demonstrated here is the process of blocking in the major areas of dark, light, and midtone using greyscale. This is similar to longstanding traditional art concepts. Value studies and thumbnails are common methods traditional artists use to determine the value composition of a piece as a whole, and they are often done in greyscale.

Traditional underpainting can be fairly roughly applied in order to figure out the big picture values, similar to what I have done on my figures in this article. This type of underpainting is not done only in greyscale (grisaille), however! Artists may use brunaille (browns) or verdaccio (greens), or any other colour. An initial rough sketch layer can also be done in the colours intended for the final piece. Miniature painters often refer to this as sketching. Benjamin Kantor has a video demonstrating greyscale sketching and another demonstrating colour sketching on a bust.

Sergio sketch comboThis is an example of making the initial sketch of hue and value choices and then refining the blending and textures once the painter is satisfied with the colour composition. This figure was painted by Sergio Calvo Rubio during a painting class.

Traditional underpainting, particular grisaille, can also be applied in a much more detailed and complete fashion. Detailed grisaille painting is sometimes also called the dead layer. Painters then glaze transparent colour on top of that, adding additional opaque highlights and making other tweaks as necessary.

Zenithal priming is a form of underpainting popular amongst miniature painters. It can be done with either an airbrush or spray can primers. You begin by priming/painting the entire figure black. Then you spray white from the direction of your light source. Adding a step between the black and white by spraying grey from a roughly 90 degrees can give a more refined result. Alternatively, you might used white paint to smooth areas and paint on the very brightest highlights. The painter Matt DiPietro popularized using the term sketch style for this slightly refined version of zenithal underpainting, though as I mentioned above, some miniature painters have been using the concept and the term sketching for a while now to refer to underpainting in colour and greyscale.

I mention the terms above so that if you’re interested in more information on the traditional use of underpainting or the way miniature painters are incorporating it into their process, you have some starting points for web search terms.

Zombie servants back full

 

Barglemore and Camille Paint Colour Guide

Barglemore and Camille are available in metal. All paints are from Reaper Miniatures. Some of the paints listed may be discontinued or special edition colours and not currently available on the Reaper Miniatures site. The dirt and stains were added with weathering powders.

Skin
Midtones: Ghoul Skin + Tanned Highlight
Highlights: Bloodless Skin + Tanned Highlight, Bloodless Skin, Pure White
Shadows: Ghoul Skin, Twilight Blue, Midnight Blue
Glazes painted in selective areas of skin shadows: 9602 Bruised Purple, 9667 Rattlesnake Leather, Icy Violet + Nightsky Indigo – experiment with dull purples, greens, and blues on zombie skin!

Barglemore’s Black Coat and Camille’s Black Corset
Midtone: Solid Black
Highlights: Dusky Skin Triad
Shadows: Blue Liner

Camille’s Skirt
Midtone: Dusky Skin
Highlights: Dusky Skin Highlight, with a dab of white added to it for brightest highlights
Shadows: Dusky Skin, Dusky Skin Shadow, Solid Black

Barglemore’s Vest
Midtone: Vampiric Shadow
Highlights: Vampiric Skin, Vampiric Highlight, Pure White
Shadows: Stone Grey, Shadowed Stone, Grey Liner

Barglemore’s Pants
Midtone: Stone Grey
Highlights: Vampiric Shadow, Vampiric Skin, Vampiric Highlight
Shadows: Shadowed Stone, Grey Liner

Camille’s Hair
Midtone: Shield Brown
Highlights: Driftwood Brown, Terran Khaki
Shadows: Woodstain Brown, then add a touch of Blue Liner for final highlights

White Accessories (Barglemore’s Ascot, Camille’s Apron and Hat)
Midtone: Creamy Ivory
Highlight: Pure White
Shadow: Terran Khaki

Metal Tray and Buttons
Midtone: Honed Steel
Highlight: Polished Silver
Shadows: Midnight Blue, Blue Liner

Brain
Midtone: Sunburn Flesh
Highlight: Tanned Highlight, Bloodless Skin Highlight, Pure White
Shadows: Bruised Purple

Floor Tiles
Midtone: Chestnut Gold
Highlights: Burnt Orange, Creamy Ivory
Shadows: Woodstain Brown, add Blue Liner for darker shadows

Chicken
Same colours as the floor, with a bit of white mixed into highlight colours.

Floor Marbling
Streaks of colours used on the figures include Ghoul Skin, Sunburn Flesh, Bruised Purple, Twilight Blue, and Midnight Blue

Halloween Fun from Reaper Miniatures

The Patron PDF copy of this post includes a few bonus work-in-progress pictures.

I think most miniatures fans love Halloween, and I’m certainly no exception! Reaper Miniatures has some Halloween treats available, including some special edition Bonesylvanians. I painted many of these when they first came out, so I thought I would share photos with additional angles, and also share my notes on the paint colours that I used to paint them. If you enjoy video, I talked about the Reaper Halloween promotions and showed these figures on a recent Beyond the Kit stream.

Bonesylvanians 2021 jpg 6bf372782423166c233dc0c0989da4c1The roster of special edition Bonesylvanians available in October 2021. I didn’t paint all of them, but I painted a lot of them!

If you decide to buy any of these from the Reaper store, keep the Halloween promotions in mind. Any purchase whose packaging allows will receive a free bottle of one of two variations of Breast Cancer Awareness Pink. Purchases over $20 will receive a free Graveyard Doorway. (All of the Halloween promotions are while supplies last, and one per order per day, Ghoulie Bag supplies have run out.) Each $40 of purchase also receives the usual monthly gift with purchase as well.

IMG 2016The Halloween 2021 promotions from Reaper Miniatures.

I have a confession. When Reaper first came out with these figures and asked if I wanted to paint some of them, I was pretty nervous about the idea. I hadn’t really painted many chibi or cartoony type characters, and I wasn’t sure if my painting style would fit with that type of character. I was especially nervous about painting the eyes. My friend and fantastic painter Elizabeth Beckley had painted a lot of them, so I asked her for advice. She shared several video tutorials that she had made. I’m linking to these here, but since interest in chibi and cartoon characters and painting styles has been growing over the years, I’m sure you can also find some additional videos on YouTube if you’d like to see how other people approach it. (Video 1, video 2, video 3, and video 4.) And if you like Elizabeth’s teaching style, she is one half of the Miniature Monthly team along with Aaron Lovejoy.

Ghostbride face 400Is this spectral bride as friendly and harmless as she looks?

Ghostbride back 400Betty the Bonesylvanian was sculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

Ghostbride palettePainting in a monochromatic colour scheme can be both quick and educational. Most of these paints are no longer available, but I’ve worked out some alternate colours that I plan to share in another post.

I was particularly intimidated by the idea of painting the eyes on this type of figure. I found it helpful to do a web search for chibi eyes and study the various styles people had used. I mulled over my options and came up with the above as a general style for the more human figures. I then worked on variations for the more monstrous ones, with rolling crazy eyes like Jake, or filmed over dead eyes like Elsa and Boris (below), as well as eyes based on reptilian or fantastic creatures, like these pictures of Mary the Mermaid.

Mermaid front 300I wouldn’t mess with Mary’s pearls if I were you!

Mermaid back 300Mary the Bonesylvanian was sculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

Mermaid side 300

IMG 1993These are the paint colours I used to paint Mary.

Once I got over my initial qualms and sat down to paint some Bonesylvanians, I had a ton of fun! The larger, simpler surfaces were a great way to relax and get expressive with my painting. The eyes were particularly enjoyable! Lots of space to add a few details. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut painting the same old thing, I highly recommend taking a break with something completely different, like this style of figure. I think they’re also a great choice to introduce newcomers and children to the hobby. (For that situation you might prefer the sturdier and inexpensive Bones plastic options.)

Valen pair front1 500The couple that scares together, cares together.

Boris and Elsa are sold individually, but Bob Ridolfi designed them to be posed as if holding hands. I had a lot of fun working on nuances of the skin tones with these two.

Valen pair front2 500Boris and Elsa were sculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

Valen pair back 500

IMG 1984

IMG 1985The colours I used to paint the figures are listed above.

These are also the kinds of figures that make great gifts for friends and family who aren’t in the hobby. They’re a little larger scale and thus easier to see when displayed on a curio shelf or mantlepiece. Some of the limited edition figures shown on this page, as well as many of the Bones plastic versions, can be painted to portray characters from classic films, books, and tales that are more recognizable to people at large than many of our hobby characters are.

Hocky front 300Jake may remind you of someone you’ve seen before. He’s looking for someone who enjoys Halloween movies as much as he does.

Jason side 300Jake the Bonesylvanian was sculpted by Bob Ridolfi.

Jason back 300

IMG 2002The paint colours I used to paint Jake.

Reaper first released some creepy-cute Bonesylvanians for October 2014, which was followed up by the Valentines pair and then more Halloween figures in 2015. Many of the Bonesylvanians were later released in Bones plastic, but not all of them were converted to that material. The figures I’m showing here today have not been available since 2014-2015.

Deepone face 300Howie’s fish doesn’t seem to want to play anymore, so he’s looking for a new friend. 

Deepone fishface 300Howie the Bonesylvanian (and friend) were sculpted by Julie Guthrie.

Deepone back 300

IMG 1996The colours I used to paint Howie.

If you haven’t painted metal figures previously, these are a great place to start. They’re all single piece figures, so there’s no assembly required. If you want to remove mouldlines, you can use files or a hobby knife. Just as with plastic figures, I recommend washing them with dish soap and water. The one thing you will need to do is apply a coat of primer before you begin painting. Reaper makes brush-on primers in white, grey, and black. The colour is personal preference, but you need primer to help the paint adhere well to the metal surface. I have more tips for how to make your paint jobs sturdy on both metal and plastic figures. I demonstrated some metal mini prep on a recent Beyond the Kit stream video.

Medusa front 300Maddie just wants to get a really good look at you.

Medusa side 300Maddie the Bonesylvanian was sculpted by Julie Guthrie.

Medusa back 300

IMG 2001The colours I used to paint Maddie.

I hope you’re enjoying the Halloween season, and playing and painting some spooky themed stuff!

Brown and Sooty: Painting Romag Davl

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NOTE: There are many more WIP pictures in the Patron PDF version of this article.

Romag Davl was an interesting figure to paint as he presented an opportunity to work out how to do an effect I hadn’t done before. This miniature is also a great example of a dilemma we face in miniature painting that I suspect causes people a lot of frustration. In this post I’m going to talk through my thoughts about that, as well as the paint colours I used, and talk a bit about weathering powders.

Romag bl front

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The Brief and Pre-Painting Thoughts

Romag Davl is an updated version of a classic figure – modern proportions and quality, but with a nice old school vibe. Bobby Jackson did a wonderful job capturing the essential elements of the original. I like clean, simple figures like this a lot, and strongly recommend them for those just learning to paint or when practicing new techniques. Romag is part of Reaper’s Bones USA plastic line. (The copy I painted was a 3D print as production copies were not yet available.)

30004 comparison

Then and now! Enjoy more classic Dungeon Dwellers at https://ddwzrd.com

I painted this for Reaper, and Ron Hawkins, the art director, had some parameters for what he wanted to see in the paint scheme. Romag is a dungeon-delving rogue type of character, dressed in dark browns to better hide in the shadows. Ron also requested that he be a bit grimy from his adventures, and even a bit sooty from the torches the party would have to carry for its human members to see their way in the dangerous depths. 

Romag bl face

The dark-clothed skulking rogue is a classic character concept. And one that is largely at odds with the things we need to do to paint a visually effective miniature. People are drawn to look at vivid colours and high contrast between colours and between values. Most of us have been in the position of entering a contest or posting something online for feedback and being told that we need to make it pop, we need more contrast, we need to add/increase blacklining and edging to more clearly define the different areas of the figure. And most of us have also been in the position of being annoyed about that feedback because we felt that the story or personality of the figure that we were trying to convey demanded dull colours, or dark colours, or low contrast. 

There are lots of character types subject to these kinds of issues – assassins, thieves, soldiers in camouflage, animals with colouring that blends into their surroundings, and many more. You can run into similar problems with the opposite kind of characters, too – fair maidens and light airy angels, for example. I discussed that with an example of how Cindarella has been portrayed in a recent article.

Thinking about the nature and personality of the miniature and how to express that with colour and technique choices is a vital thing to do. However, it is also important to remember that the miniature as an object has a function apart from representing a specific character: a miniature figure is an object intended to be looked at. Whether you’re plunking the figure down on a tabletop, displaying it on a shelf, or entering it in a contest, the goal is for people to look at it. To paint a visually effective miniature you need to make choices that draw the eye and make people want to look at it. Sometimes that may mean tweaking or shifting elements to be less ‘realistic’ but more interesting to look at.

Romag bl back

Of course, you are always free to paint these kinds of characters exactly as dark and dreary as you think they should be! But if you choose to do that, you then need to accept that a lot of people aren’t going to be drawn to look at them. They’re going to fade into the background on a display shelf or when scrolling through Facebook/Discord/Instagram. If they do get feedback, it’ll likely be comments about needing more contrast or pop. What draws people to look at things happens on a visceral, subconscious level, long before they get to consciously thinking that this character is a rogue/assassin/camouflaged so of course it makes sense that it fades into the background.

So how did I decide to handle this with Romag? I’ll get into colour choices and such below, but one decision that I made is that my primary goal was to paint to fit my client’s brief. It was also helpful to accept that I was primarily painting for a stand-alone photograph. If I take this figure to ReaperCon and put it out on my artist desk or enter it in the Master Series Open, I don’t expect it to get a lot of attention from people. It is not going to stand out when surrounded by colourful and highly contrasted figures. It’s a decently painted figure and I’m proud of it, but it’s not a showstopper that will grab a lot of attention. So in a sense I adjusted my expectations as much as I adjusted how I painted the figure.

For more on constraints like painting for photographs or the competing goals of character/story vs what people want to look at, check out this recent article.

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Lighting Choices

After Ron mentioned soot from torches, I thought one way to try to add a little visual oomph to the fade in the shadows character type was to play with the light that would be casting those shadows. I decided to envision him as standing just behind another party member who is carrying a torch. I visualized the light as coming toward his face and upturned arm. In essence I wanted to try to paint OSL without a source light on the figure. Another way to put is that I wanted to paint directional light rather than zenithal or ambient light. I have talked about this approach, more than once, and it’s an excellent way to add a little more visual punch to a paint job.

I envisioned a scene with a bit of light from other torches bouncing around to create a dim ambient light, not one that was complete darkness illuminated by only the one torch. That kind of dramatic lighting can be very visually effective and is a good choice to consider for adding visual impact to fade into the shadows character types. In this particular situation, I was painting a catalog miniature, and I don’t typically feel comfortable going too extreme with OSL on catalog miniatures. Shoppers need to be able to see the figure as a whole and what all the bits are to determine if it fits their needs. I am also aware that people often use studio paint jobs as guidance when painting themselves.

Since I had a strong directional light in mind, it made sense to start with airbrushing in the big picture of light and shadow. So I broke out my Vex and some black and white primer to do that.

Romag wip1 combo

And then I thought about the fact that the bulk of my miniature would be painted brown and thought maybe I should start with brown, so I broke out the Vex again and this time loaded it up with brown paint. ;-> (I would have needed to do a separate priming stage anyway, so this wasn’t a complete waste of time, just sort of funny.)

Romag wip2 combo

The colours I used were 9137 Blackened Brown, 9307 Red Liner, 9161 Shield Brown, and 29105 Skysmog. It’s not super significant that you have those exact colours if you wish to try this technique, since all of this foundation layer was painted over by the end. So just about any dark/medium/light brown combo would have done the job. This was just to help me keep track of where things should be lighter and darker as I painted. A sort of roadmap, which you do not need an airbrush to do. In fact there are some things you can do creating a roadmap with a brush that you can’t do with an airbrush. 

I do think I should have done a final highlight layer with white or a light cream on the airbrush roadmap. The sense of light is much stronger in the black and white one than the brown one. That issue carries through to the final version of the figure. I don’t think I pushed the highlights high enough to evoke the idea of source lighting. I would have needed to lighten the highlights a fair bit along the edge of the hood and the folds of the raised arm. Particularly since I planned to come back in with weathering powders that would tone things down a little.

Below is a comparison of the actual figure versus a digitally edited version that shows what it might have looked like had I used some warmer and lighter colours in small areas to push the idea that Romag is being lit by a torch carried just out of frame. Probably still not enough to compete with a shelf full of high contrast, brightly saturated figures, but it does help it pop a little more while still keeping the idea that it’s overall pretty dark.

This is also an example to keep in mind when you get advice to make things pop or push contrast. You don’t have to make everything brighter and/or lighter. If everything’s brighter or lighter, that’s not really contrast. Keeping your brightest highlights to small tight areas is often the most visually effective approach and a method for having a darker overall look that still pops. The analysis of the Death Dealer painting and miniature versions in this post has additional visual examples of using small, bright highlights to add visual impact to an overall dark colour scheme. Which granted can be challenging to do on a paint application level! But it helps to begin with an understanding of how to fit concepts of painting with high contrast into darker, moodier colour schemes.

Romag osl cr

I was actually a little closer to the goal before I applied the weathering. I did not plan enough for how the weathering powders would likely mute the contrast of the paint. I needed to paint the contrast a fair bit higher than I wanted to get an end result that would be where I wanted it. Below is a comparison of Romag from before (left) and after I added the weathering powders.

Romag soot combo

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Colour Choices

My brief specified brown, and I did consider doing a 50 Shades of Brown type of approach and using only browns. In the end I decided that if I needed to keep the colours as dark as possible, I had better use a little contrast between colours to separate some areas of the figure. In particular, I wanted to paint the inside of the cloak a different colour to work as a ‘frame’ for the main body of the character. I decided to go with a very dull blue for that, with the idea of creating colour contrast between the blue and the yellow and orange tones in the browns of the armour and skin. I used various values of this blue on the clothing and non-metallic metal as well.

I also chose what shades of browns to use with an eye to creating contrast. The colours I chose for the cloak were based on a colour combo I had used years ago and had long meant to explore some more. Since those browns incorporated some purple and blue tones, I picked more yellow-based browns for the leather armour and boots. That creates some colour contrast between the two types of browns.

Apart from that the main consideration I made for colour choices was trying to use some paints from Reaper Virtual Expo that I haven’t gotten to paint with before!

IMG 0684

The colours on my palette (above) give you an idea of how dark and how brown the paints were that I used. The two lighter spots of blue to the right and the small dots of bright blue and green were for glazes used on the dagger. The small dots of yellow and off-white were for painting the eyes.

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Paint Application

I applied the initial coats of paint over my roadmap using rough wetblending. I mixed up my shadow, midtone, and highlight colours and painted the appropriate value over the areas of my airbrushed roadmap. You can do a similar thing with rough layering. The roadmap is just a guide, I consider ways that I might need or want to tweak it as I paint, like adding highlight details like on small folds and wrinkles, or making the shadows deeper in the folds on the back of the cloak.

Here’s an example from when I was painting the cloak. The area of the upturned arm has had colours roughly applied. From this stage I use my paint mixes and a gentle touch to soften the hasher edge transitions between the highlights, midtones and shadows. I also tweak to lighten or darken areas if I see places that need it. The right side of the cloak has had some smoothing and tweaking completed. The hood is still just the airbrushed brown stage.

Romag wip6 back

Here’s what that area looks like on the finished piece. If I were painting a different sort of material for the cloak, I might have smoothed it even further.

Romag gr soot

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Weathering and Colour Variation

I often use thin glazes of paint to introduce some colour variation and add weathering. On Romag, I only used glazes on the dagger, to add just a hint of blue to it. Instead I chose to use weathering powders. I am by no means an expert in using these types of products, as I typically work with paint. I’m going to share an overview of things I do know about them, but I’m sure you can find videos and articles from more experienced users if you’re interested in more information.

Weathering pigments are pigments in powder form. The instructions that came with my set say they’re mixed with dry adhesive that is activated with friction. You use a somewhat stiff brush to rub them into the areas of the miniature where you wish to apply them and they stick pretty well. It also says that this works best on a matte surface, so if you use glossy paint or sealer on your figure you’ll need to apply some matte sealer over that before applying pigments. You can also use a damp brush with them or mix in some water or acrylic medium for more of a muddy look or dried streaks and similar effects, but I did not do anything like that on Romag. When used dry, you can remove errant applications with a damp brush, so pigments can be a bit more low pressure to use than glazes and washes that cannot be removed once they are dry. 

I purchased my set at my local HobbyTown years ago. These days there are several companies catering to the miniature hobby that offer weathering products. You’ll also find these from vendors that cater to model kit and model train enthusiasts. Many are sold individually, but you may be able to find kits with a selection of colours. They usually come in small plastic tubs rather than the bags of my set (which came in a small plastic organizer.)

Pigment powdersSome of the pigments from my kit, and the instructions. I use a piece of index card to tap excess powder off my brush. I did not use any of the green, but used all of the other colours shown here. There are additional colours in my kit as well.

Before I had this set I also made my own by sanding dry pastel or Conte sticks that I purchased at the art store. You may be able to find these sold singly so you can buy only the colours you want. These will not have any sort of adhesive like the purpose made pigment powders, so will likely not stick as well to your figure. You may be able to make the application more durable by applying spray sealer over them. Purpose made weathering pigments are more durable, but I don’t know if they can stand up to heavy gaming use. Even if they did wear off a little you could just reapply more later. 

SAFETY NOTE: The particles of weathering pigments and soft pastels are small and light. They can easily be inhaled. I recommend wearing an N95 mask or similar protection when working with any kind of particulate. Particulates are very tough on your lungs. Airbrushing also creates aerosolized particles. I wore a mask when doing the airbrushing and weathering on Romag, and recommend you do the same.

I began by applying some of the powders to the hem of the cloak and the boots. I started with my darkest dirt colour and worked up from there. Some pigments fell on the base, but that was okay! That allowed me to add some browns into my base and tie the figure and base together a little more. Pigment powders are a nice way to add a little colour variation as well as weathering. When there was more pigment than I wanted or the location wasn’t quite right, I wiped it off with a damp brush and allowed the area to dry and then tried again.

Zombie servants front 800I used a mix of glazes and weathering powders to add the colour variation and stains to Barglemore and Camille.

Now it was time to see whether I could get an effect of soot and ash. What I really wanted was the pigments to appear just as they did when I dropped them on the figure, rather than how they looked after scrubbing them in like on the hem. So I tried dropping bits of pigment on the surface and then tapping rather than scrubbing with my brush. That worked really well with the lighter ash colour. It wasn’t quite as successful with the darkest colour, though I did get it working in a few spots on the hood. It’s possible that other areas where I was applying it needed a bit more matte of a surface. I suspect this will not hold up to heavy handling, but that’s not really the fate of this figure, so it should be okay. Trying to make the darker soot effect work is the stage where I ended up covering up too much of my highlights.

The company I purchased my set from has a website, but it looks like it hasn’t been updated for a while and they’re operating by mail order. So if you’re interested in trying out pigment powders you may want to ask around on your favourite forums or Discord channels or similar to get recommendations from people for other brands. 

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Paint Colours Used to Paint Romag Davl

I was painting fast and in the zone for much of this, so I wasn’t as precise in tracking my colours as I usually am. The key colours should be correct, but I might have swapped a shadow or highlight mix colour here and there.

Initial Brown Airbrush Stage
9137 Blackened Brown, 9307 Red Liner, 9161 Shield Brown, and 29105 Skysmog

Skin
9301 Red Liner, 9491 Minotaur Hide, 9494 Gnome Flesh, 9487 Yellow Mold

Blue (Inside of Cloak, Clothes under the Armour)
9066 Blue Liner + Red Liner, 29109 Hardsuit Blue, Yellow Mold

Leather Armour
Blue Liner, Blackened Brown, 9491 Minotaur Brown, 9429 Rich Leather, Skysmog

Cloak
Blue Liner, 9136 Walnut Brown, Blackened Brown, 29114 Roogtarki Flesh, 9428 Saddle Brown, 9260 Bronzed Skin

Base Stones
Walnut Brown, 9085 Shadowed Stone, 9500 Brinewind Brown, 9087 Weathered Stone

Dagger
Blue Liner, Shadowed Stone, 9086 Stone Grey, Weathered Stone, glazes with teal mixed from clear paints

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Figures Shown in this Post

Romag Davl is the Reaper Bones USA gift with purchase miniature of the month for April 2021. You will receive a copy of Romag Davl for each qualifying purchase of $40 USD (or equivalent) from the Reaper webstore throughout April. You can also buy copies, and he will continue on sale going into the future.

Barglemore and Camille are available as a set in metal.