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LO's Resident Time Lord
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3,270 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all:

I'm still plugging away at my marines (and switching to painting a Monolith for "fun" whenever the Wolf Grey frustration gets to me), and I thought I'd share something with the newbs out there.

Often I hear and read people talking about "layering," that is, the idea of putting down a base color, then using progressively and slightly lighter (or darker) versions painted over a smaller and smaller area to simulate a gradual change. I'm told the more layers, the better. Apparently Cheredanine's libby in his avatar got some 30-odd layers on the blue (looks great, BTW!).

Now, you experts may shrug and say, "Yeah, no big deal," but me, when I heard that I remember thinking "HECK, no! No way I'm gonna have the patience for that!"

Well, I'm here to tell you, I think I am FINALLY getting the concept down (still needs practice before I'm comfortable showing pics yet), and I'm discovering something I wish I'd known way back when: It's not nearly as hard or (and here's the key) time-consuming as you might think.

The thing to remember is you have to use THIN coats. This refers both to application on the model and the ratio of model to paint. Yes, you need to water/thin/glaze medium down the paint/ink/whatever significantly, but you also need to remember that, like washes, too much paint on the brush can ruin the look. Make sure you blot your brush quite a bit before you touch the model, which makes for an uber-thin coating, so thin you may not be able to see it beyond the "sheen" from the wet paint.

At that thickness, it won't take long to dry, meaning you can move on to the next layer pretty quickly, and this is what sold me on it. I realize it will still take a while to put close to a dozen layers on, say, an entire army, but I still think more than a mere 1-2 layers is doable, even on a lot of models, using this method, as you can measure the drying time between layers in minutes, not hours. This, of course, assumes you've already basecoated the model and given it time to dry.

It's also helpful to have a mixing "plan," meaning, know how you want to mix your "in between" colors and keep track of what you blended with what, and how much. It's a little anal-retentive, but it's the only way to make sure your whole army looks uniform. I find using Vallejo's dropper-tip bottles to be invaluable here. Right now, I'm mixing Sombre Grey with Wolf Grey and blending up to Wolf Grey. I start with a 4:1 mix of Wolf Grey to Sombre Grey, that is, four drops to one.

For each subsequent layer, I just add another drop of Wolf Grey, and occasionally a drop or two of thinner to make sure the paint flows well enough.

So yes, if you're a newbie painter and cower in fear at the "million layer" concept, fear not! This is a very doable thing, that takes far less work and time than you might think. I'm starting to get good results with it, and if I can ever get a model finished with this, I'll come back and post pics.

Good luck!
 

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things will change
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2,707 Posts
Good post Canew.
It's good to see people trying out these 'scary' techniques, especially when they realise they aren't actually scary, and then tell everyone else about them!

Something useful I came across recently was matte medium.
Basically, you use this as transparent paint.
Sounds pretty useless, right?
Wrong.

For a quick and simple way of layering, with very little 'scary' mixing involved, simply:
  • Basecoat the area you want to layer with a darkish version of the final colour.
  • Pick a colour that is a bit lighter than the previous one, and add in about one part matte medium for 6-7 parts paint. Then, paint this over the entire area, leaving the previous colour showing in the recesses.
  • Repeat, with 2-3 further colours.

Basically, the matte medium makes all your layers slightly transparent, so that the edges that may otherwise look very harsh should be much gentler upon the eye.

The medium does make the paint take longer to dry, however, so be aware of that if you are painting a single model.

-t.
 

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A bit of alright.
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675 Posts
Matte medium eh? I like the sound of that.
Personally I think that four layers is best; basecoat, hilight, hilight and shade It doesn't take too long and tricks the eye into seeing a good smooth transition. Naturally showy pieces get another layer or two (or twenty) but four is the important amount. The best thing about this method: it works for any miniature regardless of size so you don't have to spend as long thinking about colours.
 

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LO's Resident Time Lord
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3,270 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Good post Canew.
It's good to see people trying out these 'scary' techniques, especially when they realise they aren't actually scary, and then tell everyone else about them!

Something useful I came across recently was matte medium.
Basically, you use this as transparent paint.
Sounds pretty useless, right?
Wrong.

For a quick and simple way of layering, with very little 'scary' mixing involved, simply:
  • Basecoat the area you want to layer with a darkish version of the final colour.
  • Pick a colour that is a bit lighter than the previous one, and add in about one part matte medium for 6-7 parts paint. Then, paint this over the entire area, leaving the previous colour showing in the recesses.
  • Repeat, with 2-3 further colours.

Basically, the matte medium makes all your layers slightly transparent, so that the edges that may otherwise look very harsh should be much gentler upon the eye.

The medium does make the paint take longer to dry, however, so be aware of that if you are painting a single model.

-t.

Is there a reason not to use, say, glaze medium? I have both Vallejo glaze and matt medium.
 

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running
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1,274 Posts
I just started doing this and the results are a huge improvement for not much more time invested. For character models I spend more time and put a bunch of layers on, but for standard troop models I have a really simple system that works quickly and really makes the models look good.

After priming I pick my base color and highlight color (on my elves, it is Dark Angels Green for the base and Goblin Green for the highlight). I paint the base on first and cover the whole area I want to make green. Then I mix the base and the highlight in a 50/50 mix and put this on anything that is raised or might catch the light (avoid recesses and things that would be in shadows). A little extra time being neat here pays off huge. Finally, I take the highlight color and put very fine lines on the highest parts of the intermediate color. Again, neatness and patience pay off huge.

Just like Canew said, this sounds a lot scarier than it is. After trying it on a few models you'll get the hang of it and it becomes really quick and easy, and the difference in the quality of your models will be very noticeable.
 

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Nightlord
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1,795 Posts
Is there a reason not to use, say, glaze medium? I have both Vallejo glaze and matt medium.
I find it dilutes inks and paints very well and keeps them from drying. The longer it takes to dry the longer you have to work with both the paint on the model and on your mixing palette. Glaze medium won't end up making things shiny or matte like gloss or matte medium will as it sort of keeps the sheen of whatever it was mixed with.
 

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Registered
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121 Posts
I actually find this method to be far faster than whatever it was I was doing before hand. Not to mention it makes the army as a whole far more cohesive. If you want a nice looking army and have precious little time to spare this is the way to go.
 

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Fury of the Ages
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753 Posts
Matte medium can be used as a replacement for basically, water, when thinning, but it sort of helps to retain the consistency of the paint.

Its very good and useful when doing multiple glazing layers. ;Y

Anyway, good post Canew! Good to see you've got the hand of it! Now, basically the sky is the limit with smooth blending/layering.

Before I started doing this (thin layers/glazes) I remember talking to guys who would do upwards of 100 layers on a particular surface on a model, because it takes each layer only a few seconds to dry. You can really control the colour and tone doing it this way. If you think it needs a little bit of a greenish tinge, do a few layers of green!

The sky is really the limit...
 

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Registered
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89 Posts
I'm going to try this out having just got my simple highlight technique down. The only thing that worries me is getting subtle enough so as not to look stripey.

The end results i've seen on here are great inspiration for this.
 

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DING
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1,740 Posts
Rep for you Canew.

I have been slowly but surely experimenting with layer and the like over the last year or two and like you it can start out scary but is in actual fact a nice simple technique to grasp once you see it being applied.

I'm no where near where I want to be, but the most important thing is to take your time to enjoy the painting and learning process.

If and when you get your layering down you'll be surprised at the improvement in your models.
 

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LO's Resident Time Lord
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3,270 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Rep for you Canew.

I have been slowly but surely experimenting with layer and the like over the last year or two and like you it can start out scary but is in actual fact a nice simple technique to grasp once you see it being applied.

I'm no where near where I want to be, but the most important thing is to take your time to enjoy the painting and learning process.

If and when you get your layering down you'll be surprised at the improvement in your models.
Thanks for the rep!

Yeah, I think I'm going to have to paint up a sprue again to REALLY get it down, as I'm sick of experimenting on my guys (got enough ready for the Simple Green as it is!) but I think that now I have the hang of it, each painting session the practice will mean more and more, and as soon as I have the right blend, I think the ranks of completed men will begin to line up quickly!
 

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LO's Resident Time Lord
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3,270 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I'm going to try this out having just got my simple highlight technique down. The only thing that worries me is getting subtle enough so as not to look stripey.

The end results i've seen on here are great inspiration for this.
Sorry to double-post, but I missed this. I just wanted to add that I had been having, prior to this little epiphany, the EXACT same problem as you, that colors looked more like "stripes" or "two-tone" shading. As I said, it's MUCH easier when you can measure how much you add.

In the initial post, I said I started with a basecoat of 4:1 Wolf Grey/Sombre Grey, which produces a shaded-down version of Wolf Grey (the actual blue-grey color I want the armour to be).

Then, the process is, one drop of Wolf Grey, apply, wait 2 minutes, repeat. When I think I've gotten close enough to pure Wolf Grey, I just use that in one more application and call it done.

The thinned-down paint is part of the trick to avoid the "stripes." Especially if you use a glaze or matte medium (I'm not sure what the real difference is, at least in this application), you'll find the color does NOT go on strong. It will often look "translucent," which is why you build it up, painting each subsequent layer on smaller and smaller areas. The translucency "blurs" the lines that would otherwise define the "stripes" you refer to.

The other key is a subtle and gradual build-up of many, many layers. As I said, keeping the mixture thin and using VERY little paint on the brush ensures that each layer will go on smooth and dry very fast. This is why the "experts" say they can put dozens of layers on a model in one night and boast about it later.
 

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running
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There is something important to remember about those stripes: they only appear when you have the model close to your face or when you're taking close range photos. From a few feet away (i.e. when you're playing), all but the most stark layers fade into each other and look great.

The more layers you add, the closer you can get to the model before the illusion falls apart, but it also makes the painting process longer and more complex. I've also found that washing the model will help to blur the lines between layers.

This is a really great thread.
 

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Scenery Shogun
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917 Posts
yeah, watching a friend "layer" had me going " no way man....no way am I goingto do all that work on one mini.."

but then i decided to change up how I paint and stumbled into "layering"
...I now paint not each mini, but a whole unit at a time.

I paint the base colors down on one model, and then move off to the next, then the next etc. until all marines boots, gloves, shoes, codpieces, chests and back are done..by the time i get back to the first model, he's dry and I can see how well or not-so-well the paint appeared. then i'd hit it with another "LAYER" and race through the gauntlet of the unit until i got back to the first one again...
and then go over it more thoroughly..
(here's me, thinking "i'm so much smarter than my single mini painting friend who prides himself on his layering, and me not having to do it.."...but i ended up layering multiple models at once.)

This also helped in keeping the unit relatively the same color. i mix my colors, never using "right out the tube/can etc." and remixing 1/2 way through a squad when 2 guys are painted, one guy is 1/2 painted and two are left....makes the unit look non uniform.

so yeah i ended up learning to layer by moving from model to model...not painting one from basecoat to details..
 

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LO's Resident Time Lord
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3,270 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
yeah, watching a friend "layer" had me going " no way man....no way am I goingto do all that work on one mini.."

but then i decided to change up how I paint and stumbled into "layering"
...I now paint not each mini, but a whole unit at a time.

I paint the base colors down on one model, and then move off to the next, then the next etc. until all marines boots, gloves, shoes, codpieces, chests and back are done..by the time i get back to the first model, he's dry and I can see how well or not-so-well the paint appeared. then i'd hit it with another "LAYER" and race through the gauntlet of the unit until i got back to the first one again...
and then go over it more thoroughly..
(here's me, thinking "i'm so much smarter than my single mini painting friend who prides himself on his layering, and me not having to do it.."...but i ended up layering multiple models at once.)

This also helped in keeping the unit relatively the same color. i mix my colors, never using "right out the tube/can etc." and remixing 1/2 way through a squad when 2 guys are painted, one guy is 1/2 painted and two are left....makes the unit look non uniform.

so yeah i ended up learning to layer by moving from model to model...not painting one from basecoat to details..

Yeah, I suspect that 's how I'll eventually be doing it, too, once I get technique down.

So to you layering vets, let me ask this: If you want to blend from a dark to a light color, would you, when adding layers:

1) Take a version of the darker color and add a little light paint to the mix with each successive layer until it's bright enough, then just finish with a final layer of the final, "light" color

2) Just take the "light" color and add layer after layer of THAT color?
 

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things will change
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2,707 Posts
I generally decide on a very, very dark base colour, a middle colour, and a highlight.

I base with the dark colour, then mix in some of the medium colour (for 2-3 layers as a 'tabletop' standard, upwards for better quality), until it is about a 'layer' difference from the medium colour.

Then use the medium colour, adding in the highlight colour for a few more layers.
Finally (and if necessary), edge/extreme highlight with the pure highlight colour.

Any time you're painting a squad or regiment, it's always worth painting in 'bunches'. Time saving ftw.

-t.
 

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DING
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1,740 Posts
-t has described more or less what I do. Start with a dark basecoat, for the first layer add a drop of a lighter colour and paint, for the second layer add another drop of the lighter colour and paint and so on and so forth, Eventually you will reach a stage where you are painting more or less the lighter colour. For futher highlights add a drop of an even lighter colour for further highlights.

I recently bought this.......

Miniature Mentor - Miniature Painting Tutorials

and from what I've seen I would recommend it as it is very informative. For showcase models, a middle colour is picked as the basecoat and from there the shadows are layer on first, then followed by the layering of the highlights.

But that is for display models only, way too much work for tabletop standard
 

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A bit of alright.
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675 Posts
I go basecoat (mid shade) layer highlight 1 (base + kommando khaki) over most of it do a hilight on the edges (more khaki) and what not and add a shade last (base + black). Of course I am a strong supporter of kommando khaki, other colours work fine too.
 
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