Miniature Painting Tutorials

On the Miniature Realm tutorial pages you’ll find helpful articles and tutorials for miniature painting, conversion, and basing. Are you an artist or roleplaying guru and would like to share your knowledge? contact me and lets talk about how you could contribute to the site and have your information added to the Contributor/Artist page.

 

Miniature Painting Tutorial: How to Improve (Basics)

So you want to improve your painting skills . . . now what? I can guarantee you that the best artists out there didn’t become that way just from picking up a brush. Okay, there may be a very small handful with natural talent and who were able to see their skill improve much quicker than we non-super human folks; but, the majority of the top painters have spent many hours improving their skills.

    1. Equipment is key. Without the proper tools, improving can be very difficult. Some essential items include:
    1. Proper lighting – Have at least two desktop lamps. My preference is to have one with a daylight bulb as my primary lighting source and another with a regular household bulb sitting on a shelf shining down over the entirety of my work area.
    2. Mini Files and super fine grit sand paper – To get a clean smooth paint job, you need a smooth surface.  Mini files come in various shapes from round to flat to curved.  If you’re considering competition level painting, cleaning up the mold lines and uneven surfaces is a must.  Fine grit sandpaper (300+ grit) will help smooth out uneven surfaces and give a nice shiny finish to apply primer. On a side note: Fine grain milliput can be applied in thin layers with a wet brush to fill in any pits formed during casting.  A dremel with a brass brush wheel can also be used to smooth the surface of pewter miniatures, but when trying this for the first time, use an old mini so that you can get the feel for how it will affect the surface.
    3. Good quality primer – Spray primers are an industry favorite but you have to be careful to use them ONLY under the recommended conditions.  By this I mean in the right weather and at the right temperature. Using them in humid or cold conditions can cause the primer to create a lumpy texture which can be a real pain after taking so much time in smoothing and sanding a miniature.  If it’s cold outsite, I stick with the Reaper brush on primer.  Side note: Brush on primer comes in very handy for touch ups.  More than once I’ve accidentally bumped a mini into my lamp and chipped the paint/primer.  With brush on primer I can just touch up the chipped area.
    4. Proper brushes – I have yet to purchase a brush from the local hobby store that is of high enough quality to use in miniature painting. The Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniature Brushes are made specifically for miniature artists. My preference is to use a size 2 for the majority of my painting and size 000 for fine details such as eyes. Try different brands until you find one that works well with your painting style.
    5. Good quality paints – You can have the best technique around, but if you are using low quality paints you will never be able to produce high quality results. There are quite a few different brands available to miniature painters; from Reaper, to Games Workshop, to Vallejo; the paint you choose will have a direct impact on the quality of your work. My strongest suggestion on paints is to buy paints made for miniature painting, NOT the cheapo .79 craft paints.
    6. Magnifying headset – You may look like a dork wearing it, but a magnifying headset can make a world of difference. You can’t imagine all the little details the natural eye will miss. My recommendation is to get a headset that allows for different magnification. Mine has lenses that can be adjusted out depending on the amount of magnification needed.
    7. Ceramic pallet – This isn’t a necessity but it is much easier to work with than the tin pallets found at local hobby shops and a lot less expensive since you can just rinse and reuse.
  1. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Is there a particular painter that you just love the style of? Well, don’t just look at their photos, really study them . . . then emulate them. If at first you don’t succeed try again, and again, and again. However many times it takes keep trying. And don’t limit yourself to just one artist. There are as many talented artists out there as there are styles and as you practice the different styles you’ll find that your own style will emerge.
  2. Maintain a painting journal – This will be the lifeline to reproducing your fabulous results. Some things to include in your journal are: Miniature name, colors/mixtures used, techniques used, freehand designs – anything that you may need to reference in the future.
  3. Give it a rest. So you’re finished painting and ready to apply sealer. Don’t be so sure about that. Once you feel that you completed the mini or even a section of the mini, give it a rest. By that I mean, let it sit for at least 24 hours before doing any more work on it. As your eyes adjust to details in the individual areas, you may lose sight of the overall quality. Letting it sit overnight allows your eyes (and mind) time to refresh and literally look at it with fresh eyes. It’s been my experience many times after doing this that I may have not blended as well as I thought or that I have one eye with a larger pupil than the other. With fresh eyes I can go in and touch up the necessary areas before committing to sealer.
  4. Lights, camera, action – If you have a digital camera that can do macro photography . . . use it! Even when using the magnifying headset and taking a 24 hour break, it seems like the camera can always find flaws that you never noticed. Now, getting great photos is a tutorial for another day. So for now, just focus on using the photos to improve your work.  This photo is of a work in progress where I’ve indicated things that didn’t jump out at me until I looked at the photo.
  5. That leads me to the most important step in improving your miniature painting skills – practice, practice, practice. The top artists sometimes spend upwards of a hundred hours or more on one single miniature. Granted, it would most likely be for a competition piece, but the point is they put in the hours. No matter what you do in life, very few of us have a natural ability. Improving takes time and effort. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
Good luck and happy painting!

Blending Tutorial: Part 1 by Yvonne (Vhaidra)

(This tutorial is courtesy of Yvonne, a wonderful German artist.  For part two see Miniature Painting Tutorial: Blending Part 2). Thanks Yvonne for sharing!  Yvonne’s works can be seen at CMON)

Introduction

I decided myself to write a tutorial about one of the most important questions for a painter: “How do I get a nice and smooth blending?”.  To be honest: “There are many ways.”. I will only describe the most common ways of how to paint blendings here and of course my own special way of painting blendings.

I just want to inspire you and show you a couple of ways.   Means: “I don`t say that the tutorial is the entirely truth of painting.”  It is just a bit experience I wanna give to you and share with you.

This first part of the tutorial is basic knowledge about acrylics and how they can be used in miniature painting.  Important knowledge for beginners but maybe interesting for the advanced painter too.
I will also introduce you a special tool that I use for painting.  I call it the “Ice Palette”. Further information and details about different painting techniques will be content of the next 2 parts of the tutorial. Here I talk about basically findings.

To understand blending

First we have to ask: What is a blending? A blending is a stageless transition between two colours.
One colour blends into the other and between the both extremes there is a line of midtones to connect the both extremes with each other and we see a fine transition called blending.  If we paint a blending between black and white then the midtones would be different bright/dark greys.
The closer to black the darker, the closer to white the brighter.

A blending with acrylics can be painted with wet blending which means to mix the wet colours on the miniature into each other.  Or it can be painted in a lot of transparency layers where one overlaps the next, this is called layering or glazing.

If we want to paint a blending at a miniature first there are 2 questions:

  • How many colours do I need?
  • Which colours do i need?

Through the last years I made my experiences and found a way that works well for me.  Years ago Darkstar has taught me the basic technique behind my way of painting.  He is a fantastic American painter and a very good friend of me.   Greetings at this opportunity 🙂

He recommended at least 7 different tones (colours) for to paint a blending.  The more midtones are used, the more easy is it to paint a really smooth and deep blending.

I found out that the number of tones also depends on the size of the detail that you want to paint.  For very small details 3 – 4 tones are enough, for medium sized details 5 – 6 tones and for larger details 7 – 8.  If you use 4 – 7 tones the most challenges will be mastered.  It depends also a bit on the size of the sculpt how many tones you will need.

If you just want slight depth at the transition it works already good with few tones (3 – 5), but if you want much depth and high contrast at your transition there will be more tones necessary (5 – 8). You have to try it and found out how many tones you will need in a certain case by yourself.  It is easy to recognize if some midtones are missing if you work the way I tell it here.  Because you get good results already with 5 – 7 tones the most examples here are done with this amount of tones.

For to find out how many colours and which I divide the blending on the first picture into 7 single tones.

It isn’t necessary to buy black, white and 5 different greys.  Black and white is enough. You can mix all the greys with the black and white.

The interruptions at the transition are pretty obviously.  I used an opacity of 100% and it would look like that if I would apply the paint not diluted on the miniature.  Because the interruptions are to obviously even for a very first coat, I thin my paints for the first coat.  Opacity would be approximately 70%.

But for making the theory behind more vivid, let`s see how many single tones we would need to paint a finer blending with opaque paints if we would put more tones beside each other:

10 tones beside each other with 100% opaque paint would be a „relatively“ smooth blending.  At least if both extremes are black and white.  The interruptions become less obviously if you use more tones.

Because there is not never ending space on a miniature it isn’t very recommendable to use to many tones.
That is why opaque paints are seldom used in miniature painting.  If you use diluted paints you can work with less tones.  7 – 8 are enough for such a extremely deep transition from pure black to pure white.
So you can imagine that for the most other transitions (with less depth) you just need 5 – 7 tones.

Transparent and opaque layers

Acrylics can be used thinned for to apply the paint in transparency layers or they can be used in a thicker consistency for more opaque layers. It depends on what you want to do.   For to smooth out the blending, thinned, transparency paints are best, but for getting good depth quickly it is necessary to use thicker and more opaque paints.

I can explain it with the following images:

At this image I used an opacity of 100%.
Means: I used successful covering opaque paint.

You can see clearly the interruptions at the transition.

If I use a lower opacity the interruptions are less obviously but also the contrast, the depth of the transition becomes fewer.   Especially the light colours are very hard to see now.

The conclusion is:

  • Thicker more opaque paints are good for to reach depth quickly, but they also make ugly interruptions at the transition.
  • Thinner, more transparency paints means: Less interruptions at the transition, but only few depth.
  • A medium consistency is relatively opaque, works relatively good for getting quickly good depth and the interruptions at the transition are at least acceptable.

So it would be clever to use each consistency for painting.   We can use the properties of each consistency to our advantage.
There is no right or wrong consistency.
There is only: The right consistency used wrong.
Each consistency has it`s pros and cons and can be used for a certain purpose.   Which purposes exactly I will try to explain bit by bit.

Depth

What is depth and why is it important for painting and blending?

Maximum depth is reached at a transition from pure black to pure white.  Nothing is darker than black and nothing is brighter than white.

If I remove one or two extremes at the end of the transition the depth will change.

Without the black:

Blendings with few depth are much more easy to paint than the ones with much depth. That is good to know for the beginner in painting. A beginner should start to understand and practise first a blending with fewer depth. At least that would be my recommendation.

If I pick out the single tones from the last blending and use a opacity of 100% it would look like this:

This leads to an additional conclusion, which is important to know:

  • The fewer depth is aimed, the fewer tones are necessary to paint a smooth blending.
  • But this also means: The more depth is aimed, the more single tones are necessary for to paint a smooth transition.

The images here intentionally doesn’t show smooth transitions because the reader shall understand that a blending is nothing but a lot of tones next to each other.

But there are certain conditions for the tones which must be meet for the success of the project “painting a blending”.

This conditions are:

For a blending that shows the changing of lightness at highlighting and shading (one and the same colour changes from dark to bright):

  • Each tone has to be slightly brighter than the previous and slightly darker than the next.
  • All tones need a similar grade of saturation or at least a connection to the directly next tones.
  • Each tone has to be connected with the previous one and the next one.
  • There should be a homogeneously transition on your palette. Even on the palette there shouldn’t be to hard and abrupt differences between the tones. Not in brightness, not in saturation and not in colour.

For a blending between 2 different colours, a colour swift (red turns to green for example).

  • Each tone has to be connected with the previous one and the following one.
  • Mix into the base colour (for example red) more and more of the second colour (for example green).
  • Mix in more and more green the closer you get to the pure green in the end.
With interruptions for a better awareness of the single tones.
It should look like this on your palette, when you use actually this 7 tones for blending (I guess 6 tones would be also okay in this case):So you can paint simple transitions easier by using more than 3 or 4 colours if you mix them well.Back to the question why painting much contrast (depth) when it is so much easier to paint more flat transitions? It is simply up to you.  If you prefer lower depth you can take less colours, you will have less work and you will finish your paint jobs more quickly.  If you prefer much depth you have to take more colours, you will have more work and it will takes longer to finish a paint job.  It is alone your decision and a question of taste and motivation.Common mistakesNot well mixed paints:

I told somebody about this method and this guy mixed a transition with 5 tones for a blending on his palette and it looks this way on his palette.

The fault is at the third colour. All other colours are connected with each other.
Colour 1 is connected with colour 2 but colour 2 is not connected with colour 3 and colour 3 is also not connected with colour 4. Colour 4 is connected with colour 5.

Colour 3 is pure khaki and it doesn’t fit in the line. That is why we won`t get a nice transition from dark green to light green in this case. Or you mix in the khaki to desaturate the colours.You could start to mix it into the highlighting colours and also a little bit at the midtones and the shading colours.

There are so many possibilities for variants, there are almost no borders. You just may not overacting and you have to care about that all colours are possible to mix with each other for a stageless blending.

More complicated transitions are not that easy to do or to explain. Blendings for OSL (object source lighting) or very artistic work with multicoloured shades and so on are not to manage only with just one line of colours. But it is a good basic for continuities work at the transition for example: Working with glazes or additional colours. But that is not the point at this tutorial. Maybe I can write additional tutorials about more complicated blendings in the future.

For this tutorial my goal is to explain the normal, simple blending how you need it for painting a transition between shadow and light or colour switches.

Skin, fabric, non metallic metal (nmm), hair, leather and bases for all those details you only need simple blendings. If you are creative and if you have fun with doing experiments just do it. You can use as many tones (colours) as you like and mix in whatever you want. The main point is the connection among the tones.

If you comprehend the principle once you can really mix what you want. You will see the limits by yourself. Well mixed paints are determining and not only negligibility.

Chalky highlights:

Chalky highlights are a mistake which is especially often done by inexperienced painter and the cause for it is exactly the using of to few tones. If a beginner paints his first blendings he normally doesn’t use more than 3 – 4 tones (colours).

Not bad. A smooth, stageless transition but not much depth.  Now the beginner gets feedback (at forums for example) that he shall paint stronger highlights, more contrast is often demanded and the beginner starts to brighten up his highlighting colour.

An interruption at the transition appears. At the miniature it looks chalky.  Well known and dreaded as chalky highlights, grrrrrrrr, lol.   The connection to the other tones is missing.  So the beginner always get forced to paint stronger highlights but nobody tells him that he also needs to take more tones then. At least I seldom read that.

A good mixture for a nice transition from dark blue to light blue with good depth (6 tones).

Dominance of dark colours:
Dark colours are dominant over light colours. Not really a new fact.
But in miniature painting with acrylics, where especially transparency and semi transparency layers are often used, it is a very important fact.

The most painter aim for high contrast in miniature painting but if they use diluted paints and don`t make differences in consistency between dark and light colours there will be a problem:

Here I take a dark and a light colour. Both have got the same opacity.  First 100% and then 30%. Both paints are applied only one times.  In the midst where both paints lie over each other (like it is when you do layering) you can clearly see the dominance of the dark colour.

So it is relatively exhausting to try to highlight with the same consistency you use for shading.
For to covering only one layer of a dark colour you have to apply approximately 5 layers of the bright colour.

Here I had to paint 5 layers of the bright colour with an opacity of 30% for to cover the dark colour successfully.

So it is good to use darker colours more thinned and brighter colours can be used in a thicker consistency.

To mix dark with light colours:
You also have to care about the dominance of dark colours when it comes to mixing colours. If you want to mix a dark and a bright colour and you want the exactly midtone between both, you always have to mix in more of the bright colour to reach your goal.

  • For to darken bright colours you need less dark paint than you need brighter paints for to lighten up dark colours. If you keep that in mind it will saves up paints for mixing.

The Ice Palette

After I talked so much about mixing paints, you probably ask yourself how this mixing colours will work and what palette is best for it.

I will introduce you a tool which isn’t very common, because it is part of my own, special way of painting. I call it the Ice Palette. It is a metal palette with dimples and it lies over an icepack. The ice makes the paints stay wet for a longer time and so it is almost the same effect you have by using a wet palette.

Ice Palette vs. Wet Palette:
The advantage of the ice palette over the wet palette are the dimples.
I can mix the whole transition on the palette and don`t need to be afraid the the paints could flow into each other on the palette.  I can stir the paints and don`t have problems with the fat on the backing paper which is often used for wet palettes.

I have got maximum control over the brightness of my tones because they lie in front of me and I do know that tone 3 is brighter than tone 2 and darker than tone 4.  When acrylics are still wet they are brighter than they look after they are dried.  This is the cause for a lot of painting accidents.
You think you have got a brighter colour on your brush (than it really is) and you apply it and after it is dried you see an ugly interruption at your blending.

So it is very helpful to have all the tones in the right order in front of you.  With thicker paints the wet palette works too but with thinner paints you have got the problem that the paints flow into each other without the dimples the ice palette got.

Apart from that I can „feel“ the consistency of the paints much better on the ice palette.  I guess the cause for that is that I use the ice palette since many years and almost exclusively so I guess that I can work especially good with it.

Wet Palette vs. Ice Palette:
Of course, the principle works as well at the wet palette.  The advantage of the wet palette over the ice palette is the time the paint keep its wished consistency without changing.  This point is really the failing of the ice palette. You have often mix in new water to keep the paints liquid at the ice palette.

At the wet palette you don`t need to do this often. At the wet palette the consistency of the paints stay same way long time. Not at the ice palette, there the consistency is changing always.
In winter, when it is cold outside you have to mix in more water in summer when it is hot outside the ice is melting much faster and you get to much water on your palette.

So there are even pros and cons in the palette question.  The best is to use both so you have one for each purpose.  If you wanna work with much diluted paints, take the ice palette. If you work with thicker paints trust the wet palette.

Wrap around some aluminium foil so you never have to clean the palette, you just have to change the aluminium foil from time to time.

Now we are at the end of the first part of the Tutorial.

At the next part I will explain how to mix the paints, how to work with the ice palette.
I will talk about layering and I will share and write down what I think what is important and helpful to know.  I explained things very extensive at this tutorial and I did this because I want that even the bloodiest beginner can follow and understand all.

@All: Don`t be shy to ask if you don`t understand all and give feedback what you wish to know about blending for the 2nd part of the tutorial because I didn’t write any sentence until now and if you tell me now in what exactly you are interested, I can do my best to explain it at the 2nd part at least as far as I know it. Oh and sorry for English mistakes if there are some. I won`t be offended if someone would tell me because I`m always willing to improve my English.

@For the Germans: For all those of you who have problems with the English language there will be a German version of the tutorial at Das Bemalforum soon. Guess I will get it until the end of the week (at least I hope) just look out for it 🙂 Cheers Yvonne happy blending 🙂

Blending Tutorial: Part Two by Yvonne

(This is another tutorial graciously provided by Vhaidra.  For part one see Miniature Painting Tutorial: Blending Part 1).  This second installment of her blending tutorial)

Introduction: This is the continuation of the first part of my Blending Tutorial which describes some general basics: Link zu teil 1

Special Thanks to my good old friend Darkstar who helped me out of this “english disaster” because he checked out the text and corrected faults and made it all sound a bit more natural. Many, many thanks for that.

This part includes my very first painting deos so excuse the very bad quality. The quality is good enough for getting at least an idea of what is going on there but not much more. I will try to improve this and if it works I will post some better videos in addition here, sooner or later.

I will go on to talk about mixing paints and how to turn all the knowledge of part 1 into practice. In part 1 I started with a simple transition, because these kinds of transitions are the easiest ones. Easy/Simple means: The same color is changed from a very dark version (shadow), over a midtone to a very bright version (highlights). In other words: Shadow is a very dark blue (dark blue mixed with a bit black), midtone is a medium blue (dark blue mixed with a bit white) and highlights are light blue (dark blue mixed with more white).

If you mix all those colors in the right order (as stage less as it is possible with 7 tones depending on the depth you wish) on your palette without hard interruptions between tones and you have the whole palette right in front of you, then you can apply all the colors directly in the right order on the miniature and you already have a first rough blending like you see on your palette.

Elementary for success is that the 5 tones (for beginners, not so much depth) or 7 tones (for advanced painter, much depth) are mixed as well as possible. If there is an interruption in tone on your palette there will be the same interruption for sure at the painted transition on the miniature. The better you mix your paints, the better the first sketch of your basic transition will be.

Mixing paints in action:

One fact we may not forget when it comes to mixing paints is the dominance of the dark colors. If you want to darken a bright color, just mix in very carefully a small amount of a dark color. As an example I show how to mix a simple blue transition:

The way I paint starts with thicker paints. If the consistency of the paint is right (means: Creamy), then wet blending is easier because the paints need a bit more time for getting dry than they would need in a thinner consistency.

On smaller surfaces like we find on miniatures, the wet blending technique doesn`t work sometimes. For smaller surfaces the brush needs to be wiped over a kitchen towel in front of you. Because if you don`t wipe the brush over the kitchen towel, you would have way too much paint on your brush. Details about wet blending will be described in the 3rd Part of the Blending Tutorial where I only will talk about wet blending. All who are not able to do wet blending (yet) because they are not fast and sure enough, have another possibility to paint the basic transition. In practice it works but the paint has to be thinner. It should be only half as thick as the paint I used for wet blending. Maybe even thinner.

The reason for that is: If you used the paints as thick as I use them for wet blending, you would apply the paint slowly so that it dries and the paint wouldn`t blend into the previously applied thick paint, then some ugly interruptions would appear at your transition unless you change the consistency (by dilution).

For the slow painters and the beginners: Apply the paint medium diluted, meaning: Not as thick as I use it for wet blending but also not as thin as you use it for a glaze or a wash, but something in between. Consistency should be like thick milk or thin cream. There is no certain consistency. You only have to know: The thinner the paints – the less interruptions at the transition, but also less opacity and more layers are necessary for getting good depth. The thicker the paints – the faster opacity and depth, but also harder interruptions at the transition, at least if you use thick paints for layering and not for wet blending. For wet blending thick paints work fine. I have written a lot about consistency in part 1 of the blending tutorial.

The way for painters who are not able to do wet blending (yet) is to look for the best compromise of getting quick depth and acceptable results without too harsh of blends between tones.

With Wet Blending:

When I finished my basic transition, which is done after 3-5 layers of wet blending, then I start to work it out. 3-5 Layers means: I wait until the first layer is dried and then I apply the next all over the whole area, which means I paint the whole transition again over the first and cover it completely with the new layer. The more often one does this the more depth can be reached and the transition will become more and more even and opaque. While I am doing this (applying my layers again and again) I work also on the highlighting and even change it sometimes. Meaning: I place it a bit differently or correct it when I do the next layer.

Without Wet Blending:

All this also works without wet blending too if you use a thinner consistency but it takes much more time. If you use thinner paints you do the same: You put on layer over layer, highlights over highlights, midtones over midtones, shadows over shadows. I`m also working crossover and overlapping, meaning: I place midtones over shadows to lighten them up again a bit or I use the midtones to darken the highlights or I use the shadow color to darken the midtones and so on. In this way you can work out the depth and the highlighting more and more with each new layer. Your eye and artistic sense should tell you where to place which color and how much of it.

When you think it is enough and when you are satisfied with the depth of the blending and also with your highlighting then you can start to work out the transition, but then with much thinner paints. You can place them as transparent filters between two tones to paint a connection. With each additional layer the depth becomes deeper and the transition becomes smoother and smoother. That is the reason why high-end level miniatures need so much time to be painted. There are a lot of thicker, medium and very thin layers necessary to work out the depth and the smoothness of the transition/blending. So you can spend a lot of time in endless blending sessions to get the best result.

So wet blending is really a great way to speed up the process, but a painter needs maximum brush control to master this technique and so beginners often fail when they try to do wet blending. But please if you are beginner try this way of painting, because it works easier with 7, respectively 3-5 tones (I will explain why in the 3rd part of the blending tutorial), because you don`t have to blend 2 extremes (very light and very dark color) on the miniature (like wet blending normally works) into each other for a smooth transition. No matter how you build up your basic transition, by wet blending or with thinner layers.

To work out the blending:

Something you have to keep in mind while you build up the basic transition is:

– Start with the thickest possible consistency (for quick depth). If you use the wet blending technique you can use very thick paints but for layering or putting the tones beside each other you need to use a medium consistency.

– Go on with medium to thin consistency to get the transition a bit smoother than before. Consistency should be like thick milk or thin cream.

– Then use a thinner consistency like you would use for a glaze or a wash. It should be transparent and well saturated but very liquid (like water).

– For the very final touches you can even thin the paint a bit more but I wouldn`t recommend to thin the paints more because after this there only comes a consistency which is like slightly colored water and that is to thin, it will only look glossy when applied. It is better to use more tones than to thin down the paints so extremely.

The right order is from thick over medium to thin and thinner. This way you will get a smooth Blending. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to use thicker paints too while you work out the transition because it is great for quickly covering mistakes or if you want to darken or lighten up a certain area more quickly and/or to build up your blending again. For example:

Working out and the dominance of dark colors:

Some very important information which may not be missed here and all success is depending on it. How I already described at Part 1: The dark colors are dominant over light colors. So if you thin down a very dark and a very bright color to the same consistency, you will have to apply the light color approximately 5 times more for getting the same opacity as the dark color has with just one layer.

This means:

– Either you use the light colors in thicker consistency than the darker ones (but then please pay attention to the midtones because of the danger of interruptions). I often use the first two highlighting colors in thicker consistency, the lightest midtone slightly thinner and the shadow colors are very diluted (transparent).

– Or you paint a lot more layers with thin light paint than layers with dark paint which means: Care much more about highlighting than shading. If you don`t care about this advice it will be very hard, tedious and nearly impossible to reach really good depth in the transition.

Common mistakes:

– Missing Midtones: You don`t keep in mind the dominance of dark colors and you tend to shade too much. What happens then is that the midtones become too dark and the connection to the highlights gets lost. An interruption at the transition appears, chalky highlights, and curved details don’t look round but flat, because all the midtones which make a curved surface look curved/round are missing.

  • Solution: Thin your shading color more, use a brighter shadow color or a dark midtone and work out consistently the midtones again and again after shading.

– Chalky Highlights: They appear if the connection from the highlights to the light midtones is missing.

  • Solution: Mix your paints better or mix up an additional midtone between the both highlighting colours.

– Paint doesn`t stick anymore: This happens if you paint too many layers of very diluted paints. The surface gets polished because of the consistency (like water) and then the new layer doesn`t stick and the paint slides off.

  • Solution: Sounds hard but either you give up or you paint a new layer with a bit thicker paints (but still slightly transparent because you don`t want to damage your already painted blending entirely) and then you can work out again the transition on the new layer of paint because the new layer of thicker paints will be a bit roughened so that the paint will stick on it again. But don’t overdo it; stop when just enough of the very thin paint has been applied.

-Paint is out of control: This is a common mistake among beginners. It is because they don`t know just how little paint is needed for miniature painting. The result of too much paint is: Stains, stripes and paint that flows everywhere but not where you want it and it damages already nicely painted areas.

  • Solution: Just use less paint. Wipe the brush all the time over a kitchen towel. If you use a brush size 0, you may need to wipe it 3 times over the kitchen towel before you put the brush to the mini. Everybody has to find out through practice by themselves how often it is necessary to wipe the brush over the kitchen towel because it is also an individual preference. One thing is for sure: It’s absolutely necessary to wipe the excess paint off of the brush with every new application of paint. Best thing for a beginner is to learn this right from the beginning.

-Paints dry too fast (during wet blending): There are moments when it seems that the paint dries in split seconds.

  • Solution: Maybe it is too hot inside the room where you are working or the humidity of the room is too low or you have to try another consistency. Try a thicker or thinner consistency. In the meantime I`m able to do wet blending with each consistency even with glazes. This means: It is possible to do wet blending with each consistency, but there are 3 consistencies which work exceptionally well and each of these 3 can be described as: thick.

– Generally: It is not necessary to use a drying retarder for successful wet blending. I say this in advance because I suppose that the question concerning drying retarder will arise. I only use pure acrylics and apply them. This works because of the consistency and the amount of paint and it is as easy as how it looks because you have your paint already well mixed on your palette. That`s the whole the secret. No additives and no drying retarder.

– Personal experiences: Once I tried a drying retarder, but wet blending didn`t work with the retarder. I think the retarder makes the paints like gel and I find them hard to control then, but maybe it was because the retarder I used wasn`t the best, I don`t know. But the wet blending technique immediately worked when Jarhead showed me at his workshop and he didn`t use retarder.

– The depth becomes less when you smooth out the blending: Oh well that just happens. If you smooth out the blending and try to make the tones more and more similar, mostly the shadow and midtone areas becomes larger and the highlights become darker and darker while trying to get all the tones connected to each other without interruptions. This happens as a matter of course. Often the painter doesn`t recognize it while painting, but when paints dry you will see that the transition has lost depth.

  • Solution: Either you paint more depth into your basic blending until you think that you have reached maximum depth in your basic blending or you just add more layers of diluted paints to work out the light tones again.

– Perfectionism: A disease I am suffering from very badly and this point is among the “common mistakes” because many painters suffer from it. You can spend a lot of time trying to get a blending smoother and smoother during a lot of hours of tedious work just to think: “Oh well, 3 hours ago it didn’t look much worse.” I just want to say: One can carry perfectionism to excess. Other things like atmosphere, base work, creativity, a nice theme, a message and especially a lot of fun are at least just as important as perfectly smooth blending.

There is a certain moment when the blending is done, when it is finished according to the current skills of the painter. The painter should recognize this moment and declare the blending as finished although it doesn`t look perfect yet.

Miniature painter`s skills develop slowly by experience and practice. You shouldn`t rush something but wait patiently for your own development. Your blending technique will become better and better by itself. If you force yourself too much, you will lose joy in painting and then painting will lose sense. Be hard working (but not too hard), be willing to learn, take critique but don`t be too stubborn and take your time for your own development. This is the most comfortable and promising way.

To be relaxed is essential for miniature painting. Creativity only comes to a relaxed mind and the brush seems to move by itself if you are in a good and relaxed mood. In this state of mind also learning is much easier and you will make better progress then. I also want to especially mention the value of honest, constructive critique which you should face as relaxed as you should be for painting. Our critics are our best teacher because they tell us where we can still develop.

Solution: Stretch things a bit 😉

Miniature Painting – Ice Pallet Tutorial: Part 1 by Yvonne (Vhaidra)

(This tutorial is courtesy of Yvonne, a wonderful German artist. Thanks Yvonne for sharing! Yvonne’s works can be seen at CMON)

The Ice Palette
After I talked so much about mixing paints, you probably ask yourself how this mixing colours will work and what palette is best for it.

I will introduce you a tool which isn’t very common, because it is part of my own, special way of painting. I call it the Ice Palette. It is a metal palette with dimples and it lies over an icepack. The ice makes the paints stay wet for a longer time and so it is almost the same effect you have by using a wet palette.

Ice Palette vs. Wet Palette:

The advantage of the ice palette over the wet palette are the dimples.

I can mix the whole transition on the palette and don`t need to be afraid the the paints could flow into each other on the palette. I can stir the paints and don`t have problems with the fat on the backing paper which is often used for wet palettes.

I have got maximum control over the brightness of my tones because they lie in front of me and I do know that tone 3 is brighter than tone 2 and darker than tone 4. When acrylics are still wet they are brighter than they look after they are dried. This is the cause for a lot of painting accidents.

You think you have got a brighter colour on your brush (than it really is) and you apply it and after it is dried you see an ugly interruption at your blending.

So it is very helpful to have all the tones in the right order in front of you. With thicker paints the wet palette works too but with thinner paints you have got the problem that the paints flow into each other without the dimples the ice palette got.

Apart from that I can „feel“ the consistency of the paints much better on the ice palette. I guess the cause for that is that I use the ice palette since many years and almost exclusively so I guess that I can work especially good with it.

Wet Palette vs. Ice Palette:

Of course, the principle works as well at the wet palette. The advantage of the wet palette over the ice palette is the time the paint keep its wished consistency without changing. This point is really the failing of the ice palette. You have often mix in new water to keep the paints liquid at the ice palette.

At the wet palette you don`t need to do this often. At the wet palette the consistency of the paints stay same way long time. Not at the ice palette, there the consistency is changing always.

In winter, when it is cold outside you have to mix in more water in summer when it is hot outside the ice is melting much faster and you get to much water on your palette.

So there are even pros and cons in the palette question. The best is to use both so you have one for each purpose. If you wanna work with much diluted paints, take the ice palette. If you work with thicker paints trust the wet palette.

Wrap around some aluminium foil so you never have to clean the palette, you just have to change the aluminium foil from time to time.

I guess it would be a good idea to tell you some general advice about the icepalette.

  • Before you place the icepack below the metal palette you should forcefully push the icepack from all sides because sometimes the plastic of the icepack sticks on the ice and when it is melting it often does it with a loud bang. So imagine you are painting eyes on a miniature and the ice is melting and a big bang scares you to death. You can avoid this if you push the icepack before you use it.
  • I start with a lot of paint and each 20 min. I add a brushload (size 0) of water to the paints. They dry more slowly on the icepalette but they dry. Each time I dilute my paints more they become a little bit thinner. This can be an advantage if I’m currently using thinner paints to smooth out the blending. But keep in mind the first layers of wetblending need more paint and so after approximatly 2 hours there isn`t much useable paint left on my palette because the paints become much too scarce and/or too thin after 2 hours or so. So I mix a new transition on my palette or by coincedence I just so happen to need this very thin paint right at this moment to smooth out the transition.
  • From time to time you should stir the paints with your mixing brush to keep them from separating on the palette. You will see why.
  • Cleaning the palette is very easy: Take a damp kitchen towel and just wipe off the paints. If the aluminium foil gets damaged one day, you can use a new one.
  • A big icepack is useful for approximately 1 to two and a half hours depending on the temperature of the environment. Put a second icepack in your freezer so you`ll always have reserves.

 

Wet Blending (Coming Soon)
There are two primary methods of blending; wet blending and layering.  This tutorial focuses on the wet blending method using a feathering technique.  Wet blending requires a quick touch which newer painters sometimes find challenging in the beginning, but once mastered it is a much quicker process than layering.

 

Layered Blending (Coming Soon)

 

Realistic Skin Tones (Coming Soon)