About driving and contrasts in miniature painting

What can driving teach you about painting miniatures and improving contrast in your paintjobs? Let me tell you about an interesting experiment that I read about:

The experiment

Drivers were asked to drive at a constant speed of, let’s say, 60 km/h. Then they were supposed to speed up quite much – to 150 km/h, and then to slow down to 60 km/h again but without looking at the dashboard. Now what was the result?

About driving and contrast

Most drivers slowed down only to 80-90 km/h, yet they felt they were driving at 60 km/h already. Their senses got so accustomed to higher speeds, that their perceived level of “normal speed” increased.

I had a very similar feeling today. After driving fast for some time I had to slow down to 50 km/h and when I checked the dials of my car, I noticed it was not 50 but 70 km/h. You must know the feeling too…

But how to apply it to miniature painting?

The common complaint

When you browse dozens and hundreds of miniatures presented by painters looking for feedback, you will surely notice that a common problem is that their paintjobs look boring, monotoneous. So the commonly offered piece of advice is “more contrast!”. But what you hear in return is “the paintjob is contrasted enough already”.

So what’s the deal? Is it that the painter doesn’t want to hear criticism and advice, or maybe they cannot see what’s wrong?
Usually it’s the latter. But there’s an easy trick to make them see!

Pandadosmares’ story

You surely recognize Pandadosmares from our miniature painting forum. This Portuguese painter kept receiving the same advice and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t get it right. And then he came to Poland to Hussar 2010. This gave him a chance to see works of other miniature painters and what he realized was that regardless of his previous convictions, the contrast of his works was still insufficient.

This live demonstration allowed him to make progress in his hobby again, after some time of experiencing a problem with making any improvements. One of his repeating comments after the contest was that he was surprised how strong contrasts were used by better painters. And the kind of contrast we mean here is not using contrasting colors, but strong chiaroscuro – deep shadows and strong highlights. And no, the contrast doesn’t have to be abrupt, it can be smooth – it just helps emphasize the sculpt.

Sculpting with light

One phrase I picked up from Ana is that painting is a lot like sculpting with light. And this is true: miniatures are small, so natural chiaroscuro is not very intense. If you exaggerate it a bit with your painting of lights and shadows, you will make the miniature more dramatic, more interesting and more eye catching.

Now think, which version of this paintjob looks more eye catching? Not realistic, but more interesting:

How to increase contrast
No, these are not to different paintjobs on the same model. It’s a digital simulation only, but it gives some idea, doesn’t it?

I used a picture of one of my older works. Now imagine you see them both on a gaming tabletop or in a display cabinet. Which one catches your attention easier? And on the second look, you pay attention for quality of the paintjob, but that’s another story…

So you want to do a little exercise?

Speed up and then slow down!

Remember the experiment from the beginning of this article? After driving at high speed for some time, drivers had altered perception of what normal speed was. When they slowed down, they thought they were actually driving slower than they really did. Why not try it with miniature painting?

So do it in a few simple steps:

  1. Assume that the level of contrast you actually use is your normal contrast level.
  2. Take a new miniature. Not necessarily a valuable one, it can be something as common as a simple plastic goblin. It’s just a subject for the exercise.
  3. Now paint it with extreme contrast, and by saying extreme I really mean it. When shading – shade to black. When highlighting – go up to white. As I said before, no need to do it abruptly – if you enjoy smooth blending, keep your style. Just be extreme with your highlighting and shading.
  4. The miniature is painted. It looks exaggerated and cartoonish, doesn’t it? Probably not very realistic, but when placed in a display cabinet it would attract attention, at least from distance, wouldn’t it? Now you’re driving at high speed, so to say…
  5. Do you feel comfortable with the “speed” already? If you do, move on to the next step. If not – maybe you should practise a bit more, paint another miniature this way? You’re not doing this exercise for us, but for yourself!
  6. Now slow down and return to your normal speed. Oh wait, I didn’t really mean driving but painting 😉 I meant returning to your normal level of contrast. Paint a miniature with your normal level of contrast now.

And what do you think? Did your perceived level of contrast you were comfortable with shift, just like the level of speed shifted for the drivers?

How to increase contrast
And again I used my old paintjob to depict what the whole exercise is about…

The exercise can be repeated once in a while. Whenever you feel you would like to push yourself a bit further – give it another go.

Results? Shifted “normal” contrast level

I am curious if this method worked for you. Why don’t you share your results with us and discuss the method in the comments or on our forum?

No, we’re not saying you should be only painting exaggerated highly contrasted paintjobs now, not really. It was only a tool to solve the situation of being unable to push your contrast that one step further and becoming comfortable with it. Just another tool in your miniature painting toolbox.

I hope this post was helpful or at least inspiring for you. 🙂

— Mahon

How to make a ‘Scavvy bunker’ photography background

Hello all!
It’s been a while since I managed to prepare something worthy publishing but sadly when life issues strike – there’s no other way than face them. Fortunately I had a short break from the life recently during which I managed to slap paint over some minis, play some Necromunda matches and of course: write this short walkthrough explaining how to build a Scavvy bunker which I use as my photography background.

Crucial question: What for?

The first question about the project should be: what for?
After ~15 years in the miniature wargaming I realised that although fancy studio pictures of miniatures are very nice what REALLY makes me want to get some new toys is watching the precious models in the action. Nicely painted models placed on nicely prepared battlefield is something just stunning. I still can see beautiful Warhammer Fantasy armies from the battle book and Warzone corporations from Mutant Chronicles zine.

Therefore last year I started building modular gaming board worthy of our miniatures (and Necromunda campaign of course) but because my hobby time is limited and the table is rather big (work in progress aerial pic below) the decision was made to prepare small piece of terrain and paint it the way I want to see the battlefield one day. I was bored using printed backgrounds for taking photos so this small display piece should fix my problem.

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Preparations

The base was planned big enough for about dozen miniatures. I grabbed thick PVC sheet and cut ~5″ x 11″ sheet. As for the back wall – it’s height was determined by size of the gate (about 4″) and spare space in my glass case.

The gate

It was cast using Hirst Arts molds – instead of recommended clay I used resin with solid amount of filler. This stuff makes casts “crunchy” and much more fragile (bad idea for mass production) but also easier to work with when it comes do sandpapering or drilling. Of course using clay will also work – just there’ll be a bit more mess on the hobby station.

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And here’s the assembled gate. All the edges were treated with sandpaper so it’s easier to install into the frame.

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Once again I used molds to cast the frame – not much more to write about here.
The green slime is test of colors I was going to use for tox bombs – never let Scavvy boss out into the combat zone without supply of this nastiness!

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And here’s the gate confronted with the back wall. As you can see there’s another frame around the gate. If I remember correctly all these cool parts can be found in the single sci – fi mold.

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The entrance is done and inserted into the hole cut in the wall. The excessive bottom will be cut off and smoothed so it can be pinned and attached to the base.

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And here’s the general idea of some bits to be added: some floor tiles and some vents (made of headphones broken by one of my cats – thanks a lot Cruiser, you bastard…)

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More bits!

The tiles have been placed into the prepared holes (don’t worry: wallpaper knife deals very easy with PCV sheet, almost as easy as blessed chainsword with heretic’s throat) and also some windows were added. To make the job as easy as possible I simply cut long rectangle shaped hole, covered it with thin PVC frame simulating windows (2mm PVC can be cut with scissors) and added some nails so I can paint rust around them in later stage. Bright rust should work as nice eye catcher especially on dark metallics.

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Another step was adding mesh into the windows – I really like such additions especially it looks really decent even if only slightly drybrushed and hit with some brown washes. The mesh was pain in the ass to work with and I had to use special shears to get desired shape. Hobby clippers definitely weren’t enough.

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Some more bits added to the junkyard.
Also I attached another sheet of PVC to the back so you cannot see through the windows. Some metallics were painted as well (boltgun + black) – do it as fast and easy as you can, it’s just terrain piece so doesn’t need as much attention as models.

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And more bits – this time it’s the final re-arranging.

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Rusting!!! I meant painting…

Like I wrote the piece was made to fit the battlefield concept: the gaming board is desert area (something inspired by Necromunda Ash Wastes) with some ruins and abandoned, corroded installations. This brings my fav way of painting (easy and effective that is): painting sand is almost pure drybrush while with a bit of practice you can paint huge chunks of rust really fast.

The natural decision was to start with the rust because I didn’t want to see the mess on the sand. After whole metallics were painted I simply glazed them with different colors: browns, sepia, orange. Once the paints dried some chipped paint was added and also some shading. Details will be added later.

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The desert

Base was covered with white glue (the stuff you use for wood or static grass) and sprinkled with sand and some gravel. I use the same sand and gravel on bases of my gangers so everything fits nicely. As for the colors – once again I decided to make my life as easy as possible. Sand was glazed with some heavily diluted brown / sepia just to give it some hue and enhance shadows. After that there was a bleached bone / white drybrush and some chalks for the final. I sprayed varnish over the base to attach chalk to the base. Turps also works fine but it’s pretty stinky and flammable so be careful with that stuff!

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The material I used to cover the back wall was the filler which I used for casting. It’s something like very fine sand. I didn’t use the same sand as for the base because I wanted to achieve different texture: more like concrete than sand or rock. Again: layer of white glue, layer of filler and voila!

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Painting the Scavvy bunker

Painting wall was similar to painting base: glaze, drybrush and pigments. Also color choice was similar to keep whole thing coherent.

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Some scale shot – still work in progress…

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And the final: PVC edges were painted black, some more details added: turrets lenses, rust here and there, arch-villain posters, oil leaking from the barrels, blood splats. It’s a piece of battlefield, not some sort of Xmas tree so try not to get carried away.

Finished photography background

I must say I am really satisfied how the thing came out – I used similar colors on the Scavvies so these nasty bastards fit the base just fine. And if I ever get bored but this scenery I will just paint some oldie sci fi models (like Cartel agents from good ol’ Warzone), pin them into the base and put in the proper shelf in the display case.

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Hope you like it. For more of my stuff – just visit my blog or wait pariently for another text to be spawned.

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Cheers!
— Demi_morgana

Snow base in 10 simple steps – Tutorial

Snow on bases! Yes, it’s great idea… but wait, I don’t have any “modeling snow” or anything like that. It’s not a problem for us. We can make a simple snow base in only 10 steps. Let’s go!

What do we need?

  • cork
  • base
  • static grass
  • baking soda
  • vicol glue (PVA glue)
  • super glue
  • water
  • paints: Black (VGC), Wolf Grey (VGC), Skull White (GW)
  • old brush

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Step 1

Glue a piece of cork to your base using super glue.

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Step 2

Paint the whole cork Black. I used a brush for painting this one, but if you want to make more bases you can use an airbrush.

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Step 3

Use the old brush.

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Drybrush your base with Wolf Grey.

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Step 4

Drybrush your base with Skull White.

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Step 5

Use static grass and glue it with super glue.

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Step 6

Now we have to make the snow. Put some vicol (PVA) glue on the plastic pad.

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Step 7

Add a few drops of water and mix it. You should have something with consistency of sour cream.

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Step 8

Add some baking soda and mix it. If you are not satisfied, you can add more baking soda. Now you should have consistency of porridge for children. Add some skull white to gain brighter snow.

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Step 9

Put your snow on the base.

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Step 10

Wait until the snow is dry. You can put the base under a source of light, for example a lamp on the desk. After a few minutes the snow is dry and you can put a mini on your snow base.

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Finished snow base

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Simple, wasn’t it? And how do you make snow for your bases? Do you have any tips you would like to share in comments?

— Rentall

How to make lava splashes – Tutorial

While working on my latest commission, I had to find out how to make lava for the model’s base.

Introduction

I already did several lava bases. So in order to avoid boredom I had to come up with a new idea or end up with boring and uninspired results.

So I returned to browsing the internet for photos of lava:

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Now this is something I haven’t done before! 😀

What we need to make lava

How to make lava that is boiling and splashing? We will need:

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  • sheet of plastic (I used a thick plastic sleeve)
  • scissors
  • source of heat (I used a candle)
  • filler putty (I used a modeling putty for plastic models)
  • Vallejo Water Effect
  • hygroscopic balls (you will find them in a new wallet or handbag, where they’re supposed to absorb moisture)
  • Maskol
  • foam
  • airbrush (you can do without it, but I used mine)
  • paintbrush
  • paints: white, black, Vallejo MC 952 Lemon Yellow, Vallejo Ink Skin Wash, Winsor & Newton Orange Ink, Vallejo MA Mahogany, Reaper Red Brick 09001, and saturated red of your choice.
  • retarder (because regular Vallejo paints tend to clog my airbrush)

So how to make lava like that?

I pulled, stretched and bent stripes of plastic over fire:

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I made a test application of the lava surface on a sheet of metal. The consistence of my putty made it a suitable material to imitate lava:

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I ruffled the fresh putty with a toothpick and added the splashes I formed from plastic:

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When the putty was dry, I finished the rest of my lava base with Vallejo Water Effect. Its thickness is similar to that of mayonaise, so it feels perfect for the task. If you want to make finer splashes of lava than mine, you can apply some water effect on a piece of thin wire:

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Painting lava

I left the base to dry overnight and in the morning I started with priming the base. Then I used my airbrush to apply several layers of paint to build up colors of lava:

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I checked if it fits to the scenic base:

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I could see I was going in the right direction. Now I only needed more contrast, so I returned to painting.

I highlighted the hottest parts once more with Vallejo MC 952 Lemon Yellow. Once more I applied Winsor&Newton Orange to increase saturation. I glazed some parts with my red. And then with the side of a paintbrush I painted cooled cracks with Reaper Red Brick 09001 and black:

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Finished lava base

Finishing touches were done later, when the model for which the base was made was ready. Now you should know how to make lava splashes for your minis and see the finished thing here:

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I hope this tutorial was helpful to you. If you have any hints or tips, feel free to let me know about them or discuss this technique in the comments below.

— Ańa

Painting Malifaux Seamus the Mad Hatter – Tutorial

This will be a little walkthrough / tutorial on how I painted my Malifaux Seamus the Mad Hatter from Wyrd Miniatures. This Mad Hatter tutorial is also the first one I ever wrote. 😉

Seamus the Mad Hatter – tutorial

For priming I used a combination of black and white primer.

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Generally I use a basecoat color, 3-4 shadows and 3-4 highlights for one part/detail. So I end up with a total of 7-9 colors which I use to create the transition from the deepest shadow to the brightest highlight.

Paint mixing ratios

All my paint ratios in this Mad Hatter tutorial represent my drop count (I have all my GW paints refilled in empty Vallejo-like dropper bottles which makes it easier for me when mixing colors) – for example:

GW Tallarn Flesh : VMC Dark Flesh #019 (3:1)
3 drops GW Tallarn Flesh : 1 drop VMC Dark Flesh #019
GW = Games Workshop / Citadel
VMC = Vallejo Model Colour

Dilution

Dilution of my paints is about 50% paint to 50% water for glazing (highlights and shadows) and my basecoat is a little bit thicker so about 70% paint to 30% water.

Ok, let’s get started with painting the Malifaux Seamus the Mad Hatter miniature. 🙂

1. Face, eyes and skin:

It’s good for all the readers of my Seamus the Mad Hatter tutorial to know that I always start with the head/face of a mini and then move to the next part. I only paint one part at a time and pretty much finish it before I move to the next one. For the skin I used GW Tallarn Flesh as a basecoat color and applied 2-3 thin layers until I had nice even coverage.

  • Basecoat: GW Tallarn Flesh

[inset side=right]I always start with the head/face of a mini and then move to the next part. I only paint one part at a time and pretty much finish it before I move to the next one.[/inset]

After the skin was basecoated I painted the eyes:

  1. First I painted the eye-socket white.
  2. Next I thinned down some VMC Black #169 (about 20% paint : 80% water) and used it to outline the eye-socket by letting the paint flow into the recesses by itself.
  3. Usually I mess up the white eye-socket a bit or my outline will end up being to intense/thick. Therefore I carefully repaint the eye-socket white and correct the black outline a bit.
  4. Next I painted black dots for the pupils with a less diluted paint (70-80% paint : 30-20% water).

Once the eyes were done I switched back to his skin and started with the shadows.

I applied the first shadow always moving the brush towards the deepest parts which will later receive the darkest color and using many layers always leaving a bit of the previous brush stroke untouched to build up the first shadow. Then I applied the second and third shadow also leaving a bit of the previous shadow untouched to build a transition towards the darkest shadow. Colors I used for the shadows:

  • Shadow I: GW Tallarn Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (6:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Tallarn Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (3:1)
  • Shadow III: GW Tallarn Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (1:1)

The last shadow color (Shadow IV) was used for the deepest recesses like his mouth and facial wrinkles.

  • Shadow IV: GW Scorched Brown

Then I started painting highlights. It’s pretty much the same as with shadows – moving the brush towards the highest parts which will receive most of the light, always leaving a bit of the previous highlight untouched to build a transition from the basecoat to my last highlight. The method presented here, in this Mad Hatter tutorial, is the one I usually use. Colors used for the highlights:

  • Highlight I: GW Tallarn Flesh : VMC Dark Flesh #019 (3:1)
  • Highlight II: GW Tallarn Flesh : VMC Dark Flesh #019 (1:1)
  • Highlight III: GW Tallarn Flesh : VMC Dark Flesh #019 : GW Skull White (1:1:2)

I used the last highlight (Highlight IV) only for a few bright-spots.

  • Highlight IV: GW Tallarn Flesh : VMC Dark Flesh #019 : GW Skull White (1:1:4)

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2. Hair:

I basecoated his hair with the following mix:

  • Basecoat: GW Shadow Grey : VMC Black #169 (2:1)

Then highlighted it getting brighter towards the outside with the following colors:

  • Highlight I: GW Codex Grey (1:1 water)
  • Highlight II: GW Codex Grey : GW Skull White (2:1:3 water)

3. Coat, tuxedo and hat

I did some preshading and highlighting here that’s not something I usually do it sometimes just happens. 😉

Malifaux: Seamus the Mad Hatter - tutorial (3)

After this was done I messed around with mix-ratios until I was satisfied with the colors and came out with the following mixes:

  • Highlight IV: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : GW Space Wolves Grey (2:1:9) + some GW Skull White
  • Highlight III: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : GW Space Wolves Grey (2:1:9)
  • Highlight II: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : GW Space Wolves Grey (2:1:6)
  • Highlight I: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : GW Space Wolves Grey (2:1:3)
  • Basecoat: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise (2:1)
  • Shadow I: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : VMC Black #169 (2:1:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : VMC Black #169 (2:1:2)
  • Shadow III: GW Enchanted Blue : GW Hawk Turquoise : VMC Black #169 (2:1:3)

I painted highlights and shadows like described in the face part always moving the brush towards the deepest shadows and brightest highlights, using many thin layers and slowly building up the color.

The last highlight (Highlight IV) was only used on the upper parts as a last “popping” highlight like on the folds on his arm or his collar.

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4. Belt-thing on his hat

  • Highlight III: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:3)
  • Highlight II: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:2)
  • Highlight I: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:1)
  • Basecoat: GW Bestial Brown
  • Shadow I: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Black #169 (3:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Black #169 (3:2)

5. Pants

I paint every part as described above (first I apply the basecoat with 2-3 layers and then paint the shadows and highlights) so for the next few parts of my Mad Hatter tutorial I will only post the colors I used. 🙂

  • Highlight III: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : VMC Yellow Ochre #121 (2:1:3)
  • Highlight II: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : VMC Yellow Ochre #121 (2:1:2)
  • Highlight I: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : VMC Yellow Ochre #121 (2:1:1)
  • Basecoat: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth (2:1)
  • Shadow I: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:2)
  • Shadow III: GW Bestial Brown : GW Graveyard Earth : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:3)

6. Weapon – wood

  • Basecoat: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Dark Flesh (2:1)
  • Shadow I: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Dark Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Dark Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:2)
  • Shadow III: GW Bestial Brown : VMC Dark Flesh : GW Scorched Brown (2:1:3)

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7. NMM

Some of you may be checking this Mad Hatter tutorial in search for my NMM recipe. When I painted the NMM parts like his blade I tried to to push the highlights up to pure white and the shadows to a dark almost black tone. The colors I used for the silver NMM parts were:

Silver NMM

  • Highlight IV: GW Skull White (pure)
  • Highlight III: GW Codex Grey : GW Skull White (1:3)
  • Highlight II: GW Codex Grey : GW Skull White (1:2)
  • Highlight I: GW Codex Grey : GW Skull White (1:1)
  • Basecoat: GW Codex Grey
  • Shadow I: GW Codex Grey + VMC Black #169 (3:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Codex Grey + VMC Black #169 (2:1)
  • Shadow III: GW Codex Grey + VMC Black #169 (2:2)
  • Shadow IV: GW Codex Grey + VMC Black #169 (2:3)

To increase the last shadow a bit on the silver NMM parts I used some very diluted black (like a wash it was mostly “black water”) and carefully glazed this mix at the very end (bottom) of the last shadow.

Gold NMM

All Gold NMM parts were painted with the following colors:

  • Highlight III: GW Skull White (pure)
  • Highlight II: GW Snakebite Leather : GW Bubonic Brown : GW Skull White (1:1:3)
  • Highlight I: GW Snakebite Leather : GW Bubonic Brown : GW Skull White (1:1:1)
  • Basecoat: GW Snakebite Leather : GW Bubonic Brown (1:1)
  • Shadow I: GW Snakebite Leather : GW Bubonic Brown : GW Scorched Brown (1:1:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Snakebite Leather : GW Bubonic Brown : GW Scorched Brown (1:1:2)
  • Shadow III: GW Scorched Brown (pure)
  • Shadow IV: GW Scorched Brown : VMC Black #169 (2:1)

When painting small details like the gold NMM stuff on his bag or the belt buckle on his hat I usually don’t use the complete range of mixes. I basecoat the area as usual, use the first shadow/highlight but then I leave the second mix out and jump to the third shadow/highlight.

For large surfaces it’s the same procedure as with the other parts.

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8. Bag & accessories

The NMM parts were painted with the colors described above in an earlier part of this Mad Hatter tutorial and for the bag I used the following mixes:

  • Glaze: VMC Yellow Ochre #121 (80% water) — only glazed over the highlights to get a bit of a yellow in there
  • Highlight III: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:3)
  • Highlight II: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:2)
  • Highlight I: GW Bestial Brown : GW Bleached Bone (2:1)
  • Basecoat: GW Bestial Brown
  • Shadow I: GW Bestial Brown : GW Scorched Brown (2:1)
  • Shadow II: GW Bestial Brown : GW Scorched Brown (2:2)
  • Shadow III: GW Bestial Brown : GW Scorched Brown (2:3)

Ok that’s pretty much it. I hope you enjoyed reading this little walkthrough and found something interesting.

Done!

And here are some final pictures of the miniature. If you recreated the steps presented in my Seamus the Mad Hatter tutorial, you should achieve similar results:

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— P1per