Friday, March 27, 2015

Figure Painting

As I've mentioned before I prefer painting things that are simple block colours, although I am now happy with my approach to painting weathered wood. Painting figures to look realistic is something I'm still not entirely happy with though.

Over the years I've actually painted quite a lot of figures, but these have been the slightly larger Warhammer miniatures from Games Workshop and I focused on painting Orcs and Goblins. While I learnt a number of useful techniques they don't necessarily help with painting human figures. Fortunately there are a myriad of tutorials on the web which I've now read through to come up with an approach that is fairly easy and seems to work reasonably well.

The main point many of the tutorials stress is that you are aiming for something that looks right from a sensible viewing distance, rather than something that looks good in a close up photo. This means that you can often leave out details such as eyes and lips etc. as they would be so small as to be invisible. This is very different from when I painted orcs and goblins where I deliberately painted large eyes to add that slightly demented look I was after. So as you can see the close up photo does make the painting look rather crude but when viewed from even just a foot or so away the effect seems to work. The main idea is to use block colours and then a brown wash (not black interestingly) to add shadows and some dry brushing for highlights.

For this specific model I went with a blue overalls effect and used Model Color acrylics throughout, except for his shoes which were painted with RailMatch weathered black (#2412). I started by painting the whole figure black (#70.950) I then painted the overalls with flat blue (#70.962), the shirt ivory (#70.918) and the exposed skin was painted with dark flesh (#70.927). I then made a thin wash of burnt umber (#70.941) and ran this over the entire model to help add shadows. I then tried lightly dry brushing with dark sand (#70.847), which is a creamy colour, to add some highlights but I felt this looked a bit unnatural so touched some bits back in with their original colours and then applied another wash of burnt umber. Once dry a light wafting of matt varnish sealed everything nicely.

As I said before the close up photo is very unflattering but when viewed from a sensible distance I think he looks quite good. Now I just have to paint a locomotive for him to drive around in.


  1. Figure painting is really tricky, and one little thing that can make or break a model. Your man looks good, nice muted colours. Painting techniques have come a long way in recent times, probably due to fantasy figure painting crossing over to railway modelling. But you do need decent figures to paint in the first place, a lot of those aimed at us fall short.
    I enjoy figure painting and always keep a few figures handy ready for when the mood takes. There's some half-finished 1:72 Ninjas behind me along with the usual Airfix/Dapol workmen, which are superb mouldings although I don't like those in 'action' poses. Unlike yourself I use white for undercoat, not wanting to overly darken the top coats. I should try black undercoat one day. I try to add highlights by lightening the top coat and drybrushing, sometimes it works well.
    I don't seem to have much joy with washes, but that's probably down to practice.

    Take a good look through Mikkel's Farthing blog, he's a wonderfull figure painter, even go so far as to research and add era appropiate facial hair. There's a link on my blog page.

    1. Thanks for pointing me at Mikkel's blog. I read his new posts but hadn't gone digging in the archive so had missed the useful articles on painting/mutilating figures. Interestingly he came to the conclusion that the Monty's models figures are probably the best at the moment, which was what a brief hunt lead me to believe. Shame no one produces figures as detailed as the Games Workshop ones for us.