Recently on my hobby desk I picked out the Hill Giant Tyrant Ogi Skullcrusher from the Lost Adventures Volume 1 Kickstarter to paint. This was largely before I decided to dive into my Frostgrave series and I decided to attempt to work towards paining some of the models that I have printed. I refuse to call it a pile of shame but rather a collection of opportunity since I am really proud of my printed model collection. 2022 I’m looking at you as a major shift towards painting my backlog (already thinking of next years goals).
One of the things I wanted to do and focus on with this model was to set a baseline for myself and figure out what kind of questions I had when painting skin on models. You see in the past I have almost only used a flesh skintone paint and a wash in the past and call it done. This results in a glossy dirty finish of my miniatures. You can see the image below of some of my past painted models (2018-2021). Some of these represent models that I’ve painted perhaps only 20 miniatures ago (took a long break in 2019-2020) this does not include any of the terrain and building painting.
This collection showcases two 3D printed models and 3 figures from Reaper Bones. Other than the lack of depth of expression, and in the case of the bugbear on the far right any facial features painted what so ever. You can see I have quite a long way to go for improvement.
Other observations I can draw from these are a few things.
- Even though I have painted very few models I feel as if my skill has grown tremendously
- The skill sets and tools I have at my disposal for painting miniatures have grown.
So it is the perfect time to attempt to gauge my current baseline of skill for painting skintones. As I want to document my growth in the hobby more and current understanding to watch my growth of long period of time these baselines are incredibly helpful. I also attempted to dig more into contrast paints, how to use them and expectations of the paint but there is enough there that I am going to release a contrast paint deep dive part 1 from this model next Monday!
Around the time I really wanted to do more research around painting skin I was listening to a fantastic miniature painting podcast. I love to listen to and highly recommend: Paint Bravely the Podcast. In their July 5th episode “The Best Primer is NOT Black, White, or Grey” they discuss that using a red brown primer on models is great on showing the blood flowing through the figure. It is incredibly rare not to see a red or rosy hue on people of skins somewhere.
I also watch Squidmar Miniatures youtube and keep going back to one of his “Professional Painting Secrets – Squidmar Masterclass”. I have continuously watched the first 20 minutes of him painting the muscles of the bust. I really appreciate him breaking out into photoshop and explaining more about muscles. However in some ways I am still confused (more of that to come).
Regardless, this is a great spring board for me starting to do more.
Now that I have more knowledge as to the mentality of painting skintones the second thing I struggle with is what colors to use. However as I was going through the Shadowfey Kickstarter updates for my Frostgrave buildings I noticed that they included a painting guide for the giants they released. I used their guide as the initial color reference and found paint similar in my collection although not perfect (thats ok).
Paint In Progress
Using the Printable Scenery guide as a starting point I used paint conversion charts online to attempt to get as close as I could. The largest challenge for me is that I did not get a large chunk of time to paint and constantly had to remix the same tone since my workspace can dry out my wet pallete if i’m not careful and its been incredibly dry lately. This is when my paint journal came in really handy, I would commonly paint small squares next to my “official” mix to see how it compared before placing on the model. If you don’t keep a paint journal I highly recommend it. You can actually see all my “test” mixes next to the original as tiny dots clustered around a main one. I really struggled with my mix when I started using Elf Skintone.
For the very first base layer I used Citadel’s Deathclaw Brown, Terracota & Scarlet Red from Vallejo Game Color. I attempted to mix it so that way it had a strong red brown tone and after painting it on the model I actually really loved it. It felt like I already had great variable of the skin tone and a color I really appreciate.
I then used this layer and mixed in more Deathclaw brown to lighten it up and painted on top. This was the beginning of my first area of confusion. Watching the Squidmar master class it showed that I was supposed to paint the lighter tone into the muscle recesses and use the dark I believe only for the underside of the muscle. This is what I attempted here but do think it was the beginning of just “dark in the recesses” painting behavior.
I began to then continue building up and attempt to slowly paint less and less on the model to give it a better transition. This time my mix included the Vallejo Game Color Elf Skintone
I then built up two more layers and the 5th layer was barely applied.
At the end of the skin I was torn on using a wash and for the sake of this experiment I decided against using a wash. Perhaps it would have lent itself to more depth? I have been attempting to improve my skills with layering and am finding myself using washes less on my paint jobs. I will definitely need to back to using shades and washes and attempt to use them in more sophisticated ways.
There was definitely a small bit of painting fatigue due to the number of painting sessions this took, getting large chunks of time to paint is really hard with small kids. While I would have liked to put more time on his skin I was happy. Also the six foot rule for how it would look on a game table told me it looks awesome enough to play with. The one benefit there is that the more definite and darker muscle is visible across the table and showcases him well.
One thing I made for future reference was a handy quick reference of my layers, its overall transition, and ratios of paint mixed in my painting journal. I actually really loved how it came out and let me know if this would be useful for you and if I should continue to include my reference guides.
Painting After Skin
After I finished painting his skin I still felt the need to experiment. The first experiment that I did was to see how I felt about using a blue linen or leather on his waist.
After throwing on some paint I realized it was absolutely not what I wanted on my model. Also thanks for the conversations and ideas from the 3D Printed Tabletop Discord.
I decided to revert back and paint his clothes a classic leather color. I wanted to showcase two colors of cloth with a reddish fur. So instead of trying a new color I decided to try some of my contrast paints which I do not have as much experience with. However II think a conversation about my obversions and questions around contrast paints deserve their own separate discussion, stay tune for next week on that!
Areas of Improvement
As for the skin there are definitely areas where I feel like the darker recesses on the model are too thick and transitions too short. I feel as if I should have had more visible transitions. Several of my middle layers such as #2 and #3 are not nearly as visible.
The lighter color paint and layers definitely overpower the red hue of rich living flesh I was going for. While I did end up with a Caucasian skintone it was not as rosy or red hue as I wanted. This made me remember at the very end that I should have used more of a glaze of thinner consistency which would help the transistions as well.
Lastly I realized I have no idea how some muscles of the human body actually work. For example I had no idea how to appropriately paint his back and hands. You can see that the transitions in muscles are very thick, not as well definite and look kind of goofy.
While I do admit I need to take more photos of this guy I am extremely happy with his final result. Check it out and let me know what you think. Biggest highlight is that these are probably the best eyes I’ve ever painted.
I definitely want to continue focusing on improving my knowledge and experiment a whole lot more with different skin tone colors and also increase the amount of diversity in my models. Learning more about the skin of different people around the globe is going to be a ton of fun and I want to see if I can truly capture peoples heritage in color.
Next step in this experiment is my testing of different base colors for undead flesh before I paint models for the Necromancer Warband.
As always Happy Hobbying.
~ Carrie the Crazy Mad Scientist