Guants Complete Guide For the Novice Painter
After introducing several people into the table top figure gaming world, I have come to realize that a major preconception is that painting is easy. Many a person I have seen look at my extremely well painted figures and then expect themselves to be able to recreate the same level of detail on their first try. This creates a lot of frustration as many of the techniques that I and other experiences painters employ are abstract to new painters. So the following is an explanation of how to paint your figures to a high and easily reached table top standard.
*There is a difference between tabletop and display standards. Tabletop means that everything on the figure is painted and based. This creates an army that looks good and is a lot more fun to play against. Display painting is a lot more time consuming and usually doesn’t involve the painting of an entire army. Display pieces are usually center pieces that reflect the painter’s entire painting career. DON’T EXPECT TO PAINT AT DISPLAY LEVEL QUALITY YOUR FIRST TIME.
Supplies The first thing a lot of people have trouble with is the paint and brushes needed. There are a lot of brands on the market and only a few are good for figure painting. First off games-workshop (GW) paints are not the definitive paints on the market. In fact GW paints lack in a lot of areas where lesser quality paints out perform them (more on that later).
Paint quality depends on two things, the amount of water and additives in the paint and the amount of pigments. The more pigments and less water, the better the coverage of the paint; however too much pigment results in a thick paint that’s hard to manipulate with a brush. All of the paints Ill discuss can easily be purchased at either Wal-Mart or Michaels Crafts with the exception of GW paints which can be purchased at any hobby store. I suggest Michael’s because the selection they offer is much greater then Wal-Mart or any other bargain bin store. Delta Ceramcoat is the best paint on the market and for that you will have to pay. At roughly $1.15 a 2oz.(59ml for all you Euro people) bottle this paint will last you a long time. I have been painting for over 7 years and not a single paint bottle has run dry.
This paint is excellent in every way, out performing GW’s paints in both coverage and price. The color selection is mind boggling but this is the same for just about every paint supplier on the market. Americana is a less expensive and lower quality brand of paint, however it very useful. At $0.71 cents for a bottle it is your best bet as you start your paint collection. There are fewer pigments in this brand of paint and some batches of the paint tend to be very watery. This makes it a great paint for making shadows and washes which will be explained later in this guide, but not the best paint for making a base coat.
GW makes two different versions of its paint. The regular paint is a good quality product but it is VERY expensive. $2.50 a pot (which is a lot less then the 2ox. bottle of Delta Ceramcoat or Americana) will leave a hole in your wallet and that’s less money to spend on models if you know what I mean. The exception here is the metallic paints that GW makes. These are by far the best on the market and are worth every penny. BoltGun metal, Tin Bitz, and Mithral are very good metal paints that cover good and keep there metallic sheen after they have dried. GW also makes the Foundation paint series. These paints are super saturated with pigment and are designed for making basecoats. They are good for what they are made for. A solid base coat is very important and these paints are probably the best on the market for only that job. Again GW paints are expensive but these are worth if you are going to become a serous painter.
Brushes are you new tools of creation. What the hobby knife and the model glue where to you in building your figures, the brush will now take their place. You will need several types and sizes of brushes, but that’s what I’m here for. For your first few projects you will find it best to have the following sized brushes at hand. One detailing brush at a 10/0 size, one broad brush at a 3/0 size, and one brush somewhere in between those two. I find that the American Painter series of brushes at Michaels work the best, if your looking for them they have a lavender colored handle. Brushes aren’t cheap and will be the most expensive thing you buy, each brush will be anywhere from $3-$7 a piece. But a good quality brush will last you many months of painting.
Brush care is very important to prolonging the life and usefulness of your brushes. Here’s some tips on keeping them in good condition for the longest time:
1) Never cover the entire brush in paint when you dip it into your paint. This allows paint to be drawn up under the medal that holds the bristles in place and can cause the brush to disfigure its shape. Over time this paint will build up onto the brush and start to glue the bristles into place.
2) Don’t kill your brushes with heavy stroking. Choose one brush that will always be used as your dry brushing brush(more on that later) and always use it for this purpose. Prolonged heavy usage with the small brushes will lead to bent bristles and misshaping of the brush head.
3) Always clean your brushes good in-between usages and when you finish your painting session. Have a small water tub handy at all time and try to never let paint dry on the brush. Wash the brush by swishing it around in the water and gently rubbing it against the sides of the water tub to help draw out the paint deep in the bristles. After that dry it on a piece of paper towel. If when you dry it you can see a color streak then your brush is not clean enough.
4) Use different sized brushes accordingly. Little brushes are for details so don’t use them to paint a large area, its puts unnecessary usage on the more expensive small brushes. Think about what you are doing as you do it.
Paint Techniques and Terminology
The following are several different terms and techniques that many painters use. A good understanding of these will help with understand other how to guides and advice given by other members of the hobby.
Priming- This refers to a special surface treatment given to all model before they are painted. Primers come in sprays and paints. In this case the GW primer is very good, not so cheap but one of the best qualities on the market. Primer attaches itself onto the model and provides a better surface for the paints to adhere to. NEVER paint without priming your figures, it will result in figures that have entire layers of paint flake off. When priming you are looking for a simple coating where even an uneven coating will be ok. Always prime in a well ventilated area, preferable outside. You can always have to little primer but mo much will ruin your model. Spray lightly and let it dry in-between coats if you feel a second coat is necessary. Primers come in Black, Grey, and White; choose a color that coincides with your paint scheme.
Base Coat- The base coat is the first coat of paint that goes on your model after it is primed. This coat is use to hide the primer color and establish a good medium for the rest of your paint to applied to. Base coats should always be the darkest colors on the model. For example when painting a light green cloak, you would start off with a base coat of medium or hunters green.
Highlights- These are layers of brighter colors that are used to create depth onto of a basecoat. Most highlighting represents where light would hit a model and make their clothing, armor, weapons, ect. Glow around the edges.
Dry brushing- This is perhaps one of the most important techniques to learn. Dry brushing is very simple, take your brush with paint on it and brush most of the paint off on your paper towel until just a little remains. Now when you brush over the model paint will only lightly cover raised areas. This is the primary way to create highlights. Its very hard to master, but very easy to learn.
Washing/Inking- These two terms apply to the same technique but with different mediums. Inking involves taking inks and watering them down. Figures that have base coats on them are then dropped into the inks. The inks which are usually darker colors sink into all the nooks and crannies on the model and give it depth. The color of the base coat is also changed slightly. Washing is the same idea, take some of your paint thought and water it down so that is it almost see through. Then with a brush direct where you want the dark colored wash to go and bring out all the details on your model. This is kinda the opposite of highlighting as it brings out all the lowered areas but making them darker.
The Work Area
It is best to have an organized work area. Put down a piece of newspaper or magazine so that if (and you will) spill paints they don’t damage your table. The paper will also provide you with a suitable surface to mix paints on and to take paint off your brush when you are dry brushing. Have all your brushes at hand as well as a small water tub. A plastic mixing tray is also someone nice to have around though it is not necessary. Then around your painting area line up all the different paints that you will be using. I keep all of mine in three wooden Clementine boxes(yes I have over 200 different colors) for storage and they work perfectly. Have the boxes handy just incase you need to find a color you don’t have out. Also have some paper towels ready for drying your brush and spills that might happen. When painting it is best to simply unscrew the top of the bottle after shaking it up and use the paint that is in the top. This allows you a lot of control with how much paint your getting on your brush.
Step by Step Painting
Finally we get to painting some figures. For this demonstration Ill be painting an entire squad of 10 Imperial Guardsmen from the Warhammer 40,000 game step by step to table top standards. If I was painting without stopping to take pictures this would take me about two days of painting, about an hour, hour and half a day. Again I’m a veteran to painting, so take your time and remember your in no rush.
With you figures assembled the first thing you need to do is decide on a color scheme. This is a critical and many times over looked step of painting with will only result in headaches later. Take on figure from your army and experiment on how different colors look on him . Get a color wheel and try to use colors that look good together like red and green or orange and purple. Remember black and white are hard colors to use and grey is a neutral tone that goes with everything. For my unit I’m using a simple yellow and brown color scheme as followed:
- Armor- American Mississippi Mud
- Clothing- GW dessert Yellow
- Boots- American Bittersweet Chocolate(Dark brown)
- Flesh- Delta Ceramcoat Medium Flesh
- Wood and belt- Delta Ceramcoat Autumn Brown
- Weapon- American Neutral Grey(Perhaps the most used and useful color by my book)
Extra Paints you’ll need:
- Americana Sand
- GW Boltgun metal
- Red, optional
- Hunters Green, optional
All of those colors are changed and enhanced by highlighting and washes but those are the base colors. After priming black, start off by painting all of the cloth with dessert yellow. This may require two coats since it is a yellow going over black. Lighter colors are always hard to paint over black so multiple coats are something to get used to. Paint the armor Mississippi mud and paint the flesh and stock of the gun Autumn Brown. Yes that’s right paint the flesh brown for now, don’t worry flesh comes at a later time. The gun should be grey and the boots dark brown. Once these are dry make sure that everything is evenly covered; again the base coat is very important so take time to do back and make a second coat if necessary.
Next comes your first step towards becoming a master painter. Using a lighter tan, sand or yellow color(I used Americana Sand) dry brush some highlights on top of all the exposed clothing. Don’t worry if you go to heavy in some places, this is going to be a single model amid an entire army so complete perfection is not required. Also this is your first model, painting takes time and practice.
Now take some of the dark brown and water it down to a wash. Paint this watery mix over the clothing areas that you just dry brushed. Wait for the dry brushed color to completely dry before you apply the wash or the colors will blend and look muddy. Allow this coat to collect in the fold of the clothing and around the armor, yes you have to wait a few minutes while the water evaporates but it will leave an awesome shading effect on the model. This wash style will be used again later so become familiar with technique.
Now where are getting closer to getting that OMFG model look. This step is another tricky one that will require some tie to master but is crucial to becoming a great painter. We are now going to highlight the armor. This effect is to simulate light hitting the armor and making it look lighter around the edges. To do this use a lighter color then the armor or what ever you are highlighting. I used a color called Butternut Squash randomly mixed in with some of the base color(Mississippi mud). Once you have a color you like then take your 10/0 brush and paint small lines around the outside of the armor on the shoulders. Paint opposite corners on the shoulders, dry brush the color on the helmet, and finally highlight the bottom of the flak armor on the chest. Refer to the picture as what this should look like. The stock of the gun just needs to be dry brushed with a sand/brown paint mixture to make it look like wood.
You are now almost finished with your model. The last few things that need to be painted are the fleshy parts, weapons, and the shoes. Shoes just need a simple dry brushing of a lighter brown. The weapon only needs the medal of the barrel and the power clip to be painted in. If your feeling confidant enough paint the small buttons red or green to add some much needed detail to the weapon. For flesh buy medium flesh (GW’s Elf flesh is to light in my opinion). Dry brush this over the brown so that it covers mostly everything leaving the sunken parts dark. If you paint them flesh by mistake don’t worry about, that will be fixed in the last step. Go light with the paint as facial details are very small and can easily be filled in and ruined with to much paint. Finally lightly brush sand over any of the eagle with wing symbols located on the chest plate, helmet, and weapon. Don’t use white, its to bright and will look out of place. Again be very careful not to get to much paint into the details.
For the last step make a large batch of the watery dark brown. Wash is over just about everything. On the gun it will tone down the metal and give the grey some shadows. On the face it will make the eyes look full and on the hands it will make the fingers visible. On the eagle symbols it will really give it a 3D look. Any areas that are to heavily covered can always be highlighted again.
And that’s it. You’ve painted your first model. Time consuming, kinda, rewarding, hell yeah. The trick is to paint your ten man squads in assembly line order. Paint all of the steps on all of the models at a time. When you are finished you can always go back and fix any thing or add more details as you see fit. The model below is one I put a little extra time into but used the same processes. It all about details in the pong run. This one really shows what the washes and highlighting can achieve when used properly.
One point I cant stress enough is the squad idea. These are single figures in an ARMY. They don have to be painted greatly as you can see from some of my pictures. If the face isn’t perfect or the armor is a little sloppy no one will ever notice. To show you this the 10 man squad is below and there will always be mistakes even when great painters like myself are painting. Unless you are very experienced and willing to devote 3 to 6 hours into a single figure don’t worry about super detailing and getting things perfect.
You never know what the figure is going to look like so take a chance and your time and have fun; this is a hobby first and foremost. Fun is the most important.
Basing is perhaps the make or break point. Models that have a base will look a hundred times better then the same exact model that doesn’t have a base. Basing can be simple as painting and will make everything come together. For your basic base just grab some dirt from out side. Spread this dirt out on a cookie tray and bake it in the over at 400 for 10 minutes. This will kill anything that was living in the dirt and stop it from inhabiting your models. Take some Elmer’s glue and spread it around on the base with a crappy paintbrush. Dip the base into the dirt and shake off the excess. DONE. You can always paint the sand once it dries or add bushes made of model railroad foam and the likes. Anything can be done as you can see I paint my bases with dark brown and then add snow on top of that.
This is just the beginning and not a definitive guide. Think of this as just a starting point. Everyone has different styles and likes, over time you even develop your own style. Take what you can from this tutorial and ignore what you want. Happy painting and feel free to Pm or post any questions or comments. Till then,
Fox aka Guant