At our February 2016 IPMS Toronto meeting we will be honoured to receive yet another fantastic seminar by member Ying Louie. This seminar will cover the topic of figure painting and will be in a similar format to his fantastic diorama presentation of last year.
In preparation for this seminar, we’re posting Ying’s notes so you can review in advance and prepare some of your own questions for Ying.
The question asked is how do you paint figures? There are two most common methods being paints in oil and acrylics. The talk about painting will include the discussion of tools and importantly the care/use of the paintbrushes. The other areas that require thought are in the perceptions of painting. The main point in any painting of figures is that we look at the figures “HEAD” first, and this is the feature in any figure painting that stands out, so we strive our best in this area.
Many years we are impressed on painting figures. First we have to remember this is for fun. There is no right or wrong way going about it. What ever your method is great for you as long as it works to your taste. First thing about our choices is the figures, scale, and the quality. I wish to tell all that if a figure is poor in quality, don’t get it, and that it will affect your desire to like painting. BAD IS BAD.
QUALITY is the first thing about figures.
The detail dictates how well it paints.
If it is poor in detail, it will show how bad that will paint.
Plastic, resin, and white metal are the most common available. The best I’ve seen are most in the areas of resin and metal.
The most important to see is the quality of the head.
Imperfect sculpting is also a sign of poor figures.
When in doubt always have a known quality figure scale to compare.
SCALE is important especially if the figures are included in display with others.
Be careful with scale many manufacturers are claiming the correct scale, but get mixed ie. 1/35 really 1/32? Proportions are easy seen by the eye. The best comparisons are these figures placed next to a plastic figure.
SEAMS & CLEANING Using the right tools will bring the manufacturing of seams and gaps away. This will show and detract from your painting. Files, sanding, scraping, buffing, and using gap fillers to hide these areas will help improve the look of your figures.
PRIMER Why is it important? For figures this is very important due to the fact figures are handled frequently! Paint needs to adhere and primer is your assistant. Choose the primer, it is a matter of taste either black, red, grey, or white. Please remember that if your using a spray can please shake it thoroughly to blend the paint. Smooth and flat is the finish you should desire.
It is truly in this subject that we make the transition from modeller to artist. All the other common hobby paint and tools are exchanged for those use by a fine artist. I will state here that there is no easy or short cut methods. Using these tools are a set method and tried true tested by time. Get to know your paint and tools.
Assembly is to clean your figures of any imperfections. Using your sand paper, x-acto knife, steel wool, files. Mould lines are the main area to remove common. Always be aware of your health while cleaning figures, white metal may have lead, resin will have resin dust and vapour when warmed by sanding. It is wise to wash your figures in soap and water. Pliers, razor saw, 5 min epoxy, pin vies, primer automotive brand, a magnifying glass or reading glasses also help to see closely to the fine work involved.
Using 5 min Epoxy is best to apply cementing your figures either white metal or resin. Epoxy is best for it’s lasting and durable strength. Heavy items and large figures requires you to drill and pin the parts for better security. Allow your figure to dry 24hrs. Inspect your assembly and cleaning. It is wise to drill and hole into the figures boot and pin it to have a place to hold your figure while painting.
Primer is usually from a spray can for me. Either automotive or hobby paint. Shake it thoroughly for best results, and allow to dry for 24hrs. Inspect your figures at every start of a new phase for dust, hair, or specks of dirt. This will show in your paint. Block in colours, all figures have a foundation of base colours. Flesh paint for faces, red paint for tunics. These base colours are either acrylic or enamel paints. Always safe to allow your work 24hrs to dry.
Always remember if painting in acrylics, then use an enamel base paint. If painting in oil use an acrylic based paint.
Brushes for fine work should be your best investment. Red Sable/Kolinsky Sable round brushes 0-1 size are best suited for the painting being there is enough hairs to keep the shape and point. Sizes 00-0000 are small and tend to lose their shape soon. All this will be based on your preference. Broad work and feathering you will find suitable in the brush sizes 1-4 series flats. Invest in at least 4 brushes of the same size each. Use primarily real hair brushes, for they will have the most resilience to last. Synthetic tends to “hook” in the hairs. Please avoid jabbing with your brushes as well that causes the hook in the brush. With oil paint it is best to use one and drop it for another especially when feathering oils. Grumbacher artist medium one is an artist medium that helps the flow and blending of the oil.
Look at your figure and understand your painting with the direction of light 3/4 above either to the left or right 10 or 2 o-clock. This will dictate your shade and shadow process.
To paint or not! Depends on the size of the figure, and whether or not it’s face is squinting! Smaller than 1/35 or 54mm looking at a real person that far away to match the size is such the eyes are in shadow.. Larger than 1/35 we have more area to paint eyes. Looking at eyes and images you will note that the whites of the eyes are not truly white rather an off white mixed in with flesh tones. Paint the upper eye lids darker than the lower remember shadow. It is usually a red mixed with flesh tone. Same applies to the lips outline the shadows of the hairline next to the face and where flesh meets the clothing. When painting eyes it is wise to paint the eyes upside down. Getting the flesh tone right is the key to the whole figure. It is where we all look at first. Of course it is the hardest part of the figure
Acrylic retarder is for acrylic paints to help spread the paint and slow the working time of the paint.
A water based paint quick drying. Most have heard the name Vallejo, and Tamiya. Vallejo comes in many colours and VallejoAir airbrush brands. For me I find Vallejo is delicate in handling and tends to rub off. VallejoAir is very finicky with low air pressure. Tamiya has had some chemical changes lately and have become more lacquer based. There are the new artist brands like that of Windsor Newton, Stephensons, Golden, and ComArt brands these are all great brands that I haven’t tried on figures yet except that of Vallejo.
Like all paints, shades and shadows are applied through washes. Highlights are performed in methods of strategic blocking tints, some call it glazing.
The basic method is by applying the base colour then wash in progressive darker tints into the shadow just like traditional artists. After all the paint is done and you are happy with the look it is wise to allow 24hrs to set. To conclude paint finish should be sealed and protected with a clear coat finish. Use a blow dryer it will help speed the finish to dry. I find acrylic paints work best from 1/35 scale and smaller. Larger figures I find is harder to blend in the acrylic methods.
Timeless Traditional Oil
Return to the era of the masters! Some of the best canvas painters and figure painters render in oil. Unlike washes in acrylic to blend colours, oil comes in a natural paste that blends well itself. The oil paint quality is subjective to the user based on Student/Artist quality.
Student quality oil
Is a paint more in oil and less pigment. To add the paint tends to colour fade sooner over the years. For me I haven’t seen much change over the years. Price point is more affordable than artist quality brands. What we need to do is to work with what we have.
Artist quality oil
Richer in pigment, minimal oil, permanence in colour, and smoother blend paint. The price point is the part that is hardest to accept that rich cadmium colours are well over $60 and higher for each colour.
Painting with oil is the process of painting dark colours to light. It is the opposite of painting acrylics. To add oil paint is a translucent paint that allows the under layers to show and provide the viewer with dimensional depth of colour. Oil will take up to 5 days to completely dry. If allowed to dry in it’s natural state, the finish will have a gloss shiny sheen. It is that sheen that provides depth of colour, that brilliance and vibrant look that makes a figure stand out as a painting.. Unfortunately that figures in the miniature world aren’t shiny so we have to surrender to the dull coat clear spray. Another method to dry oil paint is to bake the figure in the oven or a crock pot carefully not to melt it. The temperature should be that of a warm hot summer day.
With a figure blocked with colour we use the paint mediums acrylic/oil to shade and shadow, highlight the base colour.
We brush on small amounts of paint with a fine brush, and we feather away the colour with a broad brush. With acrylic we use slightly darker progressive tints of wash to create the shadows. Highlights are brushed in as well and blended with oil and progressive brighter tints with acrylic. Do not jab or dab with your fine pointed brushes it will cause your brush point to hook. Hooks can ruin the effectiveness of losing your brush point.
Cleaning your brushes use White mineral spirits, odourless turpentine to clean your oil paint from your brushes. Soap and water is common for acrylic paints. When cleaning your best to blot your brush, and minimize wiping that will tend to lose hairs from your ferrule. After cleaning out the paint it is wise to dip your brushes into Windsor Newton brush cleaner this will remove any left over paint and use soap and water to conclude your brush cleaning. Wet your brush into the soap to preserve and store your brush into a point.
My absolute favourite cleaner is Windsor Newton brush cleaner. It’s qualities are how well it cleans including your airbrush.. Be warned! This cleaner will damage plastic including plastic paint containers.
My last words are please remember that we do this art-form not for an award. That we should not gauge our art to that of others expectations rather like Lester Plaskit states “It was the joy of journey finishing your latest art!”