Bugbear: Before and After Touchup

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Most of us actively seek out feedback on our miniatures to discover what people like about them and what we could do to improve our work. But often we are reluctant to repaint or do touchups on the figure that receives feedback, which makes it difficult to visualize what our figure might look like if we addressed the feedback issues. To help encourage people to give it a try, and to provide an apples to apples comparison, I did a critique and then touchup on this bugbear miniature to provide a visual example of feedback in action. I have previously done a similar exercise with a human blacksmith figure, and also a digital touchup comparison.

Bugbear ba front crLeft: The miniature I critiqued.
Right: The same figure revised to address some of the critique issues.

If you prefer video, you’re in luck! I did the critique and paint touchups on a couple of live streams of my Beyond the Kit show on the Reaper Twitch channel. During the streams I also used some other figures to show examples of common issues with contest entries, and I have additional blog entries on that topic as well. (Currently the video links are to Twitch, I will update these to YouTube links when they become available.) This article includes a summary of the critique and what I revised, as well as before and after pictures for you to compare.

As with the blacksmith, one of my goals with this exercise is to encourage people to be less afraid of doing touchups and revisions to completed figures. If you are nervous about trying it on an important figure you’ve received feedback on, you can still take the general ideas from that feedback and try to apply them to an older figure or something you painted quickly for a game to get more comfortable with the process. 

Bugbear ba back crLeft: The miniature I critiqued.
Right: The same figure revised to address some of the critique issues.

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 The Critique

My first step was to critique the original miniature. I identified several common issues that experienced instructors or contest judges see when they assess a figure. Bear in mind that this is actually a more thorough review than you are likely to receive in social media comments or after a contest. I had plenty of time to assess the miniature carefully and consider how best the issues might be addressed, whereas a busy contest judge or instructor might have only a few moments to spend talking with you about your figure. This is one of the reasons I encourage you to work to improve your visual eye and critical thinking skills. You are the person in the best position and with the most time to help you improve.

Bugbear before crThe before version.

Below is a summary of the main issues I found with the bugbear. If you prefer, you can watch the video to see the figure in the round and watch me point at the specific areas in question for each topic.

Paint Job Damage
It’s hard to see in the photo, but there are a few chips on the leather straps and kilt. I can’t speak for all judges, but I tend to assume a one or two isolated areas of damage could have happened during the trip to the event, and I don’t penalize entrants for that. 

Areas that are unpainted or partially painted or extensive damage are a different issue than minor damage, however. That kind of issue reflects on the general workmanship of the figure, which is definitely a factor that contest judges consider! Although this bugbear was stored in my completed game figures case, when I started to look at it I saw several incomplete or outright unpainted areas: the strap on the shield, the rivets on the leg guard and shoulder strap, the claws/nails, and the facial details like eyes and teeth. This is an extreme example, but it’s actually pretty common to forget to finish (or even start) a part of a figure. I often take a couple of photographs before I’m completely done with something and make a checklist of issues to address while I’m doing the final touches on a figure. (I have an example of doing that in this article on Tara the Silent.)

Assembly and Presentation
Paint is not the only element that affects how viewers (and particularly contest judges) assess your figure. Assembly, basing, mould line removal, and other hobby skills are also important. On this bugbear, the straps and hand are a separate piece from the shield. They were not attached well at the factory. This breaks the illusion that the bugbear is really holding the shield. My Tips for Contest Entries Part 1 article has examples of other common hobby skill issues.

This miniature has a pretty solid foundation of colour and value choices. Those give it a good level of definition and make it readable to the viewer – it’s easy to tell at a glance and from a distance what the various areas of the figure are, and the general nature of the character. The shiny metallic areas stand out well from the more matte skin, cloth, and leather areas. The lighter skin stands out from the darker leather, fur, and cloth. The skin, cloth, and the bags are more saturated colours than the rest of the gear. This contrast between areas is a different kind of contrast than miniature painters usually talk about, but one which is just as important. You can read more about the importance of definition and the arm’s length view in Tips for Contest Entries Part 2

I scaled the photos down to simulate seeing the figure from a distance or in a thumbnail. Try to view these photos about 2” or 5cm tall. You can see that the stronger contrast between areas, the increased shadow/highlight contrast, and the added lining make the revised figure more ‘legible’ to the viewer at a smaller size/from a greater distance.

Bugbear before smBefore

Bugbear after smAfter

Face and Skin
The main issue with the face is that it lacks detail and interest. The eyes and teeth aren’t really painted as separate areas. If a figure has a visible face, that is a very important part of the miniature, and should be painted as the main focal point unless the story of your piece dictates otherwise. The skin overall is pretty good and has a decent level of contrast. But it could have more contrast, and more importantly, more depth and interest.

The shadow/highlight contrast level isn’t bad, but there are areas that would benefit from more – the fur of the figure, the fur trim on the weapon, and the kilt are the primary ones.

Colour Cohesion
While the overall colour choices work in terms of visual definition, it doesn’t quite gel together as a coherent colour scheme. It also lacks some  cohesion. In particular, the blue and green bags on the back are a little random. Those colours are not present elsewhere on the figure, and they don’t really fit the type of character. The base colours don’t conflict with the rest of the figure, but they also doesn’t mesh with it, either.

Detail and Visual Interest
Apart from the unfinished bits everything is painted to a decent standard, but there’s not much detail or visual interest. This kind of figure provides opportunities for weathering and wear and tear that could help with that.

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Prepping the Figure

I did this part prior to the stream. I dusted the figure off with canned air and brushed it with a large brush. Then I mixed a solution of water with 91% isopropyl alcohol and brushed that over the figure. My goal was to remove any dust and also skin oils that might be on it from handling in game play. Acrylic paint adheres well to acrylic paint, but not as well to grease floating on top of acrylic paint. Painting over dusty miniatures could result in a rough bumpy looking surface.

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The Touchups

I used to be very nervous to do touchups on a miniature, or even just to go back over an area I had thought was finished to increase the contrast or make other tweaks. Eventually I found that if I kept notes of the colours I used used and if I kept mixes to only two colours I wasn’t likely to have problems. Now I don’t even worry about that. If you stay even roughly in the same colour family, the key is to try to match value. Value is how dark or light a colour is. If you’re working on adding more highlights, aim to start  by beginning with a paint colour that is roughly the same value as your current highlights. Then lighten it up and add a bit more and paint on some more highlights to create additional contrast. Or the reverse with shadows – start close to the current shadow level and then add darker colours.

That is what I did on the figure below. I matched the actual colours pretty well on the skin and the teal part. I did not match the colour as well on the purple part, but because the colour I did use was in the same colour family and I started with similar values, the end result is a slightly different colour, but nothing looks ‘messed up’. (An article with larger pictures is available.)

Vic1 wip combo crFrom left to right: 
The starting point
Added contrast to the skin.
Added contrast to the dress.
Added contrast to the teal areas (cloak, underskirt, and ribbons).

It might be best to start experimenting with some older figures you wouldn’t be upset to mess up a little. It can take time to improve your eye for matching value, and improving your eye will help your overall painting, not just this kind of revision. Also keep in mind that acrylic paint doesn’t really dry immediately. If you make a mistake, just grab a damp brush and scrub it off. Then let it dry, adjust your paint mix, and try again. I cut the bristles short on an old worn out flat brush and it works particularly well as an ‘eraser’ on recently applied paint. And even if you don’t see the mistake right away or you have trouble scrubbing it off, remember that you can paint over mistakes with fresh paint.

To demonstrate my belief that you don’t need to use the exact same colours to do touchups, most of the paints I used were brand new colours that weren’t on the market when I first painted the bugbear. I used colours from the ReaperCon 2020 and 2021 swag boxes, and those that had just released as part of the Bones 5 Kickstarter fulfillment. I added a few additional colours because that collection of paints didn’t include any standard steel and gold metallics or a dark brown. I didn’t keep track of the colours as I was painting, but I think I mention them as I use them in the videos.

Bugbear after frontFront view of the revised version.

Below is an outline of my changes. 

I used a thin strip of plastic to apply glue between the straps and the shield and held the two parts together until the superglue set. It would be ideal to do this before starting to paint, but sometimes we don’t notice things or we have to make repairs to damaged painted figures. There was one strap that didn’t want to stay glued, and for the fix to really look seamless I would have needed to fill some gaps. Painting the straps dark and using dark shading on that section of the shield helps divert the eye from looking around there much. You can see a little spot of light colour in the above photo where the strap pulled away that I should have covered with darker paint to conceal.

The most important paint task was to get paint on the parts I missed the first time! I painted the shield straps, the rivets on the shoulder strap and leg guard, the eyes, the teeth and tongue, and the claws. The eyes are fairly small, so I went with a simple all black eye and a small light reflection dot of white.

Colour Cohesion
I wanted to tweak the colours a little to be more visually interesting and to work together a little more. I decided to paint over the blue bag on the back. I kept the green bag, and worked it into the colour scheme by introducing green into other areas of the figure. I wanted to focus on a colour scheme of red and green. I glazed some additional red into his skin with very transparent paint. I added more saturated red into the midtone of the red kilt, and also added more highlights with a bit more saturated orange and yellow. I thinned down a dark green colour (Goggler Green) and painted it into the shadow areas of the skin and the red kilt. I also added some to the shadow areas of the weapon and shield, though that was offscreen. I repainted the base with browns and greens used on the figure to suggest either an outdoor setting or a dirt and moss covered cave floor, as that was another way to add some additional green and tie things together.

Bugbear after backBack view of the revised version.

Lining and Definition
I had done some lining when I first painted this, but there were areas where I needed to make it stronger or clean it up. I lined around the belt and shoulder rivets, and the design on the belt buckle. I darkened the lining at the base of the claws where they meet the fingers. I increased the lining between the various elements on the weapon and I think it looks more defined now. I added definition with both darker and lighter paint on some of the wood areas on the shield.

Increased Contrast
I deepened shadows and increased highlights on many areas of the figure. The fur was one I paid particular attention to. The fur on his body didn’t have enough contrast to fully indicate the shapes of his muscles on the back view. Increasing the highlights on the fur around the face also helps draw the viewer’s eye there a bit more. The fur trim on the weapon was defined, but was kind of boring to look at. I gave it some additional highlights to make it appear a little shinier and more interesting to look at. I increased the shading on many of the metal areas, and touched up highlights there as necessary as well. The gold in particular needed more highlights. Although I was pretty happy with the original painting on the green bag, I added a bit more contrast to that as well.

Wear and Tear
In addition to slightly increasing the contrast on the straps, I also tried to make the leather look a little more worn, though I didn’t go crazy with that. I accented the rips sculpted into the kilt fabric by applying darker paint to the depressions, and highlighting around the edges of holes and rips. I used reddish brown and orange colours to apply rust all over the metal areas. He is sculpted as someone who takes great care of his equipment, but to really make that apparent to the viewer requires reinforcing the damaged areas with paint.

Bugbear after faceFace angle of the revised version.

Off Stream
Much of the changes were painted during the two streams, but I did do some of it off-stream. I wasn’t sure I could paint the small details on stream. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to position the figure so I could see it and also keep it in frame so viewers could see it. I didn’t think about repainting the base until the end of the second stream. The initial layers of paint were still wet, so I worked on that more later. I also did a bit more work on the shading of the metallics and enhancing the texture of the shield off stream. I hadn’t really thought too much about the rust previously, but as I was working on finishing the changes to the metallics it seemed like a way to tie in some more orange and yellow, add some visual interest, and reflect the nature of the character.

It has been my experience that looking at painted figures in black and white can help people (including me) more easily see the effects of added contrast and lining, so I’ve converted the bugbear pictures to grayscale. While hue and saturation can add valuable contrast to our figures, they tend to look most visually effective if there is also some solid value contrast, both between the shadows and highlights, and between different areas of the figure. Taking a black and white picture of something you’re working on is a great way to get a different view of it. Looking at black and white pictures is also a great way to see if you really have as much contrast between your highlights and shadows as you think you do. Most cellphone cameras have a black and white mode or editing feature that allows you to convert photos to black and white so you can check your own figures while you’re painting.

If you’re having trouble spotting the specific differences that add up to the overall difference, another thing you can try is to compare individual parts. For example, look at the ear on the two figures below. The updated ear has a darker line of shadow under the upper ear ridge, and that helps you more clearly see the individual parts of the ear. If you compare the belt buckle, the darker lining in the crevices of the design and the additional highlights on the relief of the design help you better see the design, and make the belt buckle stand out more from the belt. Added highlights on the rivets on the belt also help those stand out more distinctly, even when viewed at smaller size. 

Both of these techniques are also useful if you’re doing some practice painting to try to match someone else’s work. For example, if you’re following a tutorial, pause after each major step and compare your work to what the demonstrator has painted at that stage. Convert pictures to black and white to better compare the values. Look at individual sections or areas within sections. Where have they made things darker/lighter, or put the texture, etc. 

Bugbear ba front cr bw

Bugbear ba back cr bw

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Other Comparison Studies

If you would like to see another comparison with a different figure (and also a comparison between two similar figures), I wrote an article with a digital repaint of the figure below.

Blibby before after cr

I also did a similar project with a human blacksmith.

Smith ba front cr

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Figures in this Post

The Bugbear is available in Bones plastic or metal.
The Blacksmith is available in Bones plastic or metal in a pack with two other townsfolk. The copy I’ve shown here is Bones.
The Victorian lady is available in a pack with a second Victorian lady in metal.
Beach Babe Libby is available in metal.

Blacksmith: Before and After Touchup

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Most of us love to get feedback on our miniatures. What did we do that worked well? What could we do to improve? When we get that feedback we are often reluctant to alter the original figure, for a variety of reasons. But without taking that step, many of us find it difficult to visualize what the figure would look like if it were tweaked to adopt some of the suggestions. I did a critique and repaint of a figure to provide a visual example.

Smith ba front crLeft: The before miniature that I critiqued.
Right: The miniature touched up to respond to some of the critique issues.

Conventions and shows are back on the calendar, and people are preparing miniatures to enter at ReaperCon and other events. I want to spend some time over the next few months addressing some common issues that come up in post-contest critiques to give people an opportunity to try to catch and address some of those before they enter their figures into a contest.

On the third episode of my Beyond the Kit Stream on Twitch, I talked about common issues in contest entries, gave critique on a miniature, and then did touchups to that miniature based on the issues mentioned in the critique. I used a blacksmith miniature I had painted for use in our home role-playing games. I’ve written this article as a summary of what I did in the video, and to share the before and after pictures for direct comparison.

My secondary goal with this project is to encourage you to try doing some touchups on your figures. You don’t have to begin experimenting with touchups on your entry or a special figure that you previously received feedback on. You can take the general ideas from that feedback and try them out on an older figure or something you painted quickly for game use to get more comfortable with the idea and the process. If you are working on an entry for a contest, I encourage you to work on it well in advance of the deadline. Once you think you’re finished, put it aside for a few weeks. Then come back and look at it with a critical eye. Is there as much contrast as you thought there was while painting? Do you need to tidy anything up? You will often be able to assess your figure more clearly if you take a break and return to it with fresh eyes.

The ReaperCon MSP Open (and most other contests that are organized under the show system) is open to painters (and sculptors/converters) of all levels and experience, as well as to figures from any manufacturer and in a variety of sizes and scales. Entries are judged against standard established for their category, and awarded Certificate, Bronze, Silver, or Gold accordingly. The number of awards at each level is not limited in any way, and entrants are competing only against the standard and their own previous placements, not against each other. Many of our entrants are newer to the hobby or people who prefer to paint for gaming, and those entrants are as interested in feedback as seasoned competitive painters. This figure was selected to demonstrate some of the issues that are often identified on Certificate and Bronze level entries. I often see these types of issues in online contest entries as well.

Smith ba back crLeft: The before miniature that I critiqued and then repainted.
Right: The miniature touched up to respond to some of the critique issues.

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The Critique

First I gave the figure a critique. I went over the issues that would likely come up if an experienced painter or contest judge were to review this figure. One of the best parts of ReaperCon is that painters and judges are available to give people feedback on their work, although this is certainly not the only venue for feedback!

Note that this is a very thorough review. I had more time to assess and consider the figure than most people offering critique will have. And since it was my own figure, I didn’t mind tearing into it a little! I wanted to try to cover as many of the more common feedback notes as I could so people who have received that note on their work in the past can get a better understanding of what it means than they might have been able to in a busy convention setting or a short comment on an Facebook/Instagram photo.

Smith before combo crThe before version.

I’m going to run over the main feedback topics here. You may also find it helpful to watch the video to get a view of the figure in the round. In the video you can also see me pointing to the specific parts I’m discussing.

Paint Job Damage
It’s hard to see in the photo, but there are a few chips on the bracer. I can’t speak for all judges, but if I see one or two isolated chips or scratches on a figure entered at a convention, I tend to assume those could have happened in transportation to the event, and I don’t ding entrants at all for that.

Metallic Paint on Apron
If you look just above the pocket, you can see a light line of paint. It’s actually metallic paint, so it’s even more noticeable when you’re moving the figure around because it looks shiny. Judges do prefer to see a clean and finished paint job where the painter has gone back and corrected and tidied up issues like this.

Visual Impact/Colour Scheme
These issues are more obvious if you look at the figure from a distance or scale down the size of the photographs. And if you think about it, scaled down is how a lot of people will first encounter your miniature – on a shelf or table at a distance, or in a thumbnail on a webpage. You need to catch their eye there to make them want to look closer and see all the detail work you’ve done. This figure reads decently from the back due to the red-green colour contrast and better alteration of lighter – darker areas on the figure. In the front view the apron and skin kind of blend together. The face doesn’t stand out much. The viewer’s eye is more likely to go to the higher contrast, saturation, and texture detail of the anvil and/or stump area. This is partly related to shadow/highlight contrast, but is more affected by colour and value choices for the main areas of the figure.

Smith before combo crI scaled the figure down to simulate seeing it from a distance or as a thumbnail.

You can review the Catalog of Contrast for an overview of the different kinds of contrast we can use to make our figures easier to ‘read’ and draw attention where we want it.

Head Poorly Defined
The face and head area do not command the attention they should. People are drawn to look at faces, so painters need to make them clear and interesting to look at. 

Of course it doesn’t have enough contrast! It’s the eternal struggle for all of us.

Generic not Specific
The apron and anvil on the figure are probably the best painted areas in terms of paint application technique. At the same time, they are also kind of generic and dull. We think we know what a lot of things look like, such as leather. But our mental images for objects are often amalgamations of all the individual examples we’ve seen, which tends to make them generic or symbolic. When you think of an apple, you probably think of something like a Red Delicious apple – uniformly red, fairly symmetrical in shape, etc. If you look at some individual apples next time you’re at the grocery store, you’ll find very few of them actually look like that! They’re all kinds of weird shapes and a mix of colours. When I looked up images of working blacksmiths to see what their aprons and tools looked like, they had details of texture and wear that my painted blacksmith did not.

Blacksmith working on the anvil 2000Look at that cool texture on the apron! And the anvil has some light rust with brown and orange in it. Photo from goodfreephotos.com.

Reality versus Exaggeration
This is a thorny issue for many miniature painters. We want to paint something that looks realistic. One issue is that we often don’t check in on reality before we make painting decisions. Like with the blacksmith’s apron. Rough and damaged is how a working blacksmith’s apron looks in reality, not the nice smooth blends I originally painted. The second issue is that we tend to be restrained in our depictions of textures and effects to try to be more realistic. I’ll come back to this in future articles, but during the stream we talked about the idea of going big and exaggerating effects – make OSL so bright viewers will need shades, contrast so extreme no one could ever say you need more, wet t-shirt rather than slightly transparent cloth etc. Partly I suggest this because the small size of miniatures means we need to exaggerate for people to see and understand the effect at all, and this is more important than super strict realism. I also suggest going to the extreme because even when it feels like you’re doing that, you probably aren’t. But you’re more likely to get to where you need to be more quickly if you push for the extreme than if you hesitantly increment up your level of contrast.

The Base
Entries in the Painters category at the MSP Open at ReaperCon are judged primarily on painting. Basing work and general construction and prep are a smaller part of what is considered. So the base on this figure would be judged for how it is painted, but would not be penalized for being an integral base glued on top of a round base without any additional groundwork. If I were entering this in a different style of contest I would definitely want to flesh out the base, however.

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Prepping the Figure

I did this part prior to the stream. I dusted the figure off with canned air and brushed it with a large brush. Then I mixed a solution of water with 91% isopropyl alcohol and brushed that over the figure. My goal was to remove any dust and also skin oils that might be on it from handling in game play. Acrylic paint adheres well to acrylic paint, but not as well to grease floating on top of acrylic paint. Painting over dusty miniatures could result in a rough bumpy looking surface.

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The Touchups

One of the things I wanted to demonstrate in the stream is that doing touchups might be less scary than you think. I was hesitant to do them for a long time in my earlier days of painting, and I regret that. I encourage you to learn from my mistakes and give it a try! You don’t have to try it on a cherished contest miniature, you can start to experiment on an older or speed painted figure that you don’t have a strong emotional attachment to.

It is less important to match exact colours than you would think. When I did contrast touchups on the figure below, I did not correctly remember the colours I had used on the dress. While I prefer the purples I originally used to the pinks of the revised version, the slight shift in colour did not ruin the underlying paint blending and the contrast is definitely much more effective in the revised version.

Vic1 combo face cr

The key to making this work is to concentrate on value. Value is how light or dark something is. So if you get a skin tone that is kinda sorta similar to your original one and you paint a shadow mix into the shadow area and the value of those shadows is pretty close, it should work fine. Then you add in some darker shadows and increase the contrast from there. 

If you put some paint down and the value is way off (it’s much lighter or darker than the area where you placed it), just grab a damp brush and scrub it off. Then tweak your mix and try again. Doing this value matching will get easier the more you practice like this, and practicing it will help your overall painting considerably, it’s not just useful for doing touchups. 

Vic1 wip combo back cr

If you study the teal areas in the above photo, I think you can get an idea of the process. If you look at the side of her hood to the right side of her head, it’s the same before and after. That was essentially the midtone, and I didn’t touch that area with new paint. I added darker shadows under the fold of the hood, and lighter highlights on the peaks of the folds and the top of the hood.

To prove the courage of my convictions about not needing to match colour, I used brand new paint colours to touch up the blacksmith. These colours had not been released when I first painted the figure. These included colours from the swag boxes for the upcoming ReaperCon 2021 (currently on preorder) and colours that are releasing as part of the Bones 5 Kickstarter fulfillment. I was sent preview copies of these. I’ll list the exact colours I used to touch up the blacksmith and include scans of swatches at the end of this post.

I added more contrast to the blacksmith in a similar way as to that Victorian lady above. I took the shadows of areas down a step or three darker than they started, and applied highlights a step or three lighter than where those started. So when working on the highlights, I started with a value pretty similar to what was there and applied that. Then I mixed a lighter value and applied that on top in a smaller area, and then a lighter value again in a smaller area on top of that. The areas I applied contrast with standard layering include the skin, the pants, the leather (boots and bracer) and the hair. With the hair and beard I used the side of the brush held perpendicular to the texture to keep paint out of the recesses between the strands.

Note that I did not push the contrast on the blacksmith to the extreme of what I personally would paint at this point in my hobby journey. I was trying to simulate what someone at an earlier stage of their painting journey might do if attempting to push to what they would feel is extreme contrast.

I wanted to add both contrast and texture to the apron and anvil. I used brushes designed for stippling to do this. These have stiffer bristles. One was cut flat, the other was more of a teardrop shape. As with drybrushing I used more opaque paint to keep the stipple texture visible.

Based on my reference photos I added stronger texture to the apron and more subtle texture and colour variation to the anvil. Adding texture to the anvil at all goes back to the point about exaggeration versus realism that I discussed above. If you scaled my blacksmith reference photos down to the size of a miniature, you probably would not detect much texture or even colour variation on the anvil. We had a couple of people with smithing experience on the stream who pointed out that a good smith would take good enough care of their tools to not have much visible rust. Adding a bit more visible rust to the miniature anyway makes the miniature more specific, more interesting, and more readable, and it doesn’t stretch reality to a ridiculous point.

Kovář při práci Velikonoční trhy na Václavském náměstí 055 2000This photo of a blacksmith shows a different colour of apron with similar wear, and more of the subtle variation of colours on an anvil. Photo by Matěj “Dědek” Baťha from Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Colour Variation and Unity
It is helpful to add some colour variation to miniatures to add visual interest so people enjoy looking at them more. Among other things, this mimics the effect of reflected light and colour casts in light that happens in reality. Using the same couple of colours to mix the deepest shadows and lightest highlights is another way to trying to create some colour unity and give the impression that everything is being lit by the same light source.

For the blacksmith, I thinned down Carnival Purple and added it into the shadows of most of the items on the figure. Even a little bit in his hair! I applied it to the darker areas of the apron, and the shadow areas of the skin and pants. Purple often works well applied over the shadows of many colours, or even mixed into your shadow colours. Adding some hints of rust colours on the anvil is another example of adding colour variation. I applied a thin glaze of red to the blacksmith’s cheeks and the tip of his nose.

Definition: Lining and Edging
There was a bit of definition on this miniature, but I added more. Definition is an issue that comes up a lot in ReaperCon critiques, and just in general critique. Techniques like lining and edging help define the different surfaces that make up a miniature and allow the viewer to more easily see what is what on the figure. It helps it stand out and get noticed on the table/shelf/thumbnail. I applied lining in several areas of the figure, and did edging around the edges of the apron.

Adding lining is probably the number one tip I would give a newer painter to improve their work. People often feel like it is unrealistic. And again I would say look at reality. You will often see a shadow line where one part of the body or an item of clothing overhangs another. Lining is based on that principle. So it’s not just something from cartoons and comics, it’s something from real life. Edging involves applying a lighter colour to the edge of a surface, like the hem of a cloak. These areas often do catch the eye a little more or look lighter due to greater wear and tear. 

For a more extensive discussion of the importance of definition and lining and for another before and after example, see this article.

I was not able to work on them on stream (they’re very small and inset), but after the stream I did try to improve the eyes over what I had originally painted. I also tried to add some additional shadows and highlights on the metallic areas after the stream, but I don’t feel like these made a lot of difference. 

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Arm’s Length View and Black and White Study

Compare the scaled down images of the before and after pictures. You can see more information in the small view of the touched up figure than you could on the original. That is due to having increased the contrast and adding definition through lining and edging. You can’t really see all  the sculpted texture of the stump and hair, or the painted texture on the apron from a distance. Nor can you see all of the subtle colour variations. The same is true of freehand or other details we often add to figures. But you need the effect of contrast and definition to make a figure readable at a distance and draw the viewer in to take a closer look at all of the details and subtlety you’ve added.

Smith ba front cr small

Smith ba back cr small

If you are viewing this on a mobile device, try to scale the above pictures down to the size of a miniature viewed at arm’s length to better compare the before and after. Areas where you can most strongly see the effect of contrast are the muscles of the back, the hair and beard, and the folds on the pants.

The last time I posted a before and after like this, some people commented that they couldn’t see much difference between the before and after. It can take some time and effort to develop our critical/artistic eye, just like it does to develop our brush handling dexterity. It may help to view the image converted to black and white so you can concentrate solely on the contrast and definition differences. Another trick you can try is comparing one small area at a time. Compare just the before left boot to the after right boot, and so on. Think of it like one of those spot the difference picture games.   You can also consider this an argument for why almost all critique includes the comment to increase contrast. The viewer always sees less of it than the painter does!

Smith ba front cr bw

Smith ba back cr bw

If you would like to see another comparison with a different figure (and also a comparison between two similar figures), I wrote an article with a digital repaint of the figure below.

Blibby before after cr

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The Colours

On episode two of Beyond the Kit I did a lot of colour swatching. Depending on the surface you use and the way you apply your swatches, swatching out colour can help you see some important and helpful information about a paint, including opacity, mass tone (the colour at full strength once dried), and undertone (what the colour looks like thinned down or with white added).

I used cheap watercolour paper to paint my example swatches. It’s possible to paint swatches on even printer paper, but thinner paper or paper that isn’t designed for wet media application is likely to curve and buckle a little, and very thin paper might be damaged by paint mixes with a lot of water. I’ve had decent results with index cards and drawing paper as well. I scanned the swatches as I think the colour reproduction of my scanner is pretty good. Though of course actual colours may vary slightly given that you’re seeing this on a different screen and so on!

One set of swatches below are colours included in the various pre-order swag boxes for ReaperCon 2021. There are an additional three colours that will be included in the onsite VIP swag bags. I was sent preview copies of many, though not all, of the ReaperCon preview colours. I’ll be adding the additional colours to my swatch sheets next week and will update these scans after that.

Swatch rm rc2021

The other set of paints that I swatched are the upcoming Kickstarter 5 paints. One pack of these are colours that are already part of the line, but were available at a discount via the Kickstarter. These are the Anne’s Favourites colours below. Anne Foerster recently shared some information about these colours and tips for using them on her Patreon

The other pack is a mix of colours that were previously available via special edition and brand new colours. Reaper adds a few new colours to the line in each Kickstarter. These will first be available to the Kickstarter backers, but eventually they will go into standard retail and be available for purchase to all.

I’m particularly excited about the Oxide Yellow, Oxide Red, and Oxide Brown. These are similar to earth colours like yellow ochre and burnt Sienna that are common in traditional painting and are very useful for mixing. I’ve been playing around with some of the other new colours as well and enjoying those. 

Swatch rm bones5

The specific paints I used to paint the touchups on the blacksmith, in no particular order:

9444 Tawny Flesh
9494 Gnome Flesh
9487 Yellow Mold
9333 Brown Oxide
29139 Grave Glome
29128 Goggler Green
29129 Drow Skin
9039 Pure White
9328 Black Indigo
29150 Rusted Anchor
9332 Oxide Red
9505 Chum Red
9331 Oxide Yellow
9507 Kraken Ink
9325 Carnival Purple
9452 Blade Steel
9673 Bright Silver

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Figures in this Post

The Blacksmith is available in Bones plastic or metal in a pack with two other townsfolk. The copy I’ve shown here is Bones.
The Victorian lady is available in a pack with a second Victorian lady in metal.
Beach Babe Libby is available in metal.