Painting Guide

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Painting seems so simple, yet I have seen many-a-model that have been ruined by improper use of certain techniques. It seems so simple, and it really can be that simple if you only just do things the right way.
There are 4 main techniques I'm going to cover in this: Applying, Drybrushing, Highlighting, and Shading. First I will do a brief summary of each of them, and then later on I will go more in depth.
Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you (think) you know what the 4 techniques are.
Applying the paints is the simplest of them all, to me, but also seems to be the one where most people don't get it right. What I mean by applying the paints is everything from getting the paint onto a pallet, to watering it down, and to painting it onto the model in a smooth and good way.
Drybrushing is another fairly simple technique, that can be done by wiping off most of the paint on your brush and lightly going over areas, where the highest raised parts will receive the most paint and become the brightest. It is best for doing things like hair and skin, but generally I try to not do Drybrushing because it tends to give the model a more dirty and sloppy look.
Highlighting is slightly more advanced than the last two. Basically, it is applying lighter shades of the main color onto to raised surfaces and edges of the armor. Now, you might think that Highlighting and Drybrushing do the same thing - which, generally, they do - but highlighting is a much finer and cleaner way to go about it (if a bit harder and quite more time consuming).
Shading is often the most difficult to do, and isn't always completely necessary if you have a black undercoat and you apply your paints well. However, it is still a nice touch to add, and is usually applying a very watered down paint (ink) onto your model, where the ink will quickly sink into the deeper edges and simulate shadows.

Applying Your Paints
Applying your paints well is the single most important thing on your road to miniature painting. If you are unable to apply your paints well, then none of the following, more advanced techniques would work well at all, and the whole mini would end up very bad.
First, and most importantly, water down your paints!!! Oh, so many people think that "No, it's pointless, the more I water down my paints, the more layers I'll have to do! And the more layers, the thicker the paint!" Wrong, wrong, WRONG! If you listen to anything at all I say in this, listen to that. WATER THEM DOWN.
I usually use a ratio of 25:75 Water : Paint, but use what you like the best. Generally, you should apply 3 or more layers of each color. If you only need one or two layers to get a bold color, then your paints are too thick, and you need to water them down more. If you end up doing 6 or more layers then generally your paints are too thin, and you should water them down less*.
"Why should I water down my paints?"
Watering down your paints thins it out, and makes it look a lot less chunky when you apply it to the model. Patience is virtue, and although it takes longer when you do layers (since you should wait for each layer to dry completely before doing another) it is completely worth it.
"I find that when I water my paints, it goes into the cracks of my armor. Why?"
You are watering down too much. I'd half the amount of water you're using if this happens to you.
"Even though I water down my paints, a lot of the time the details on my models go away!"
This is because either:
1) You aren't watering down enough. Double the amount of water you're using.
2) You are applying too much paint. You should only use a small amount of paint on your brush at any given time! Do NOT allow paint to get up into the metal part of the brush - this ruins the brush and also is a sign you're using WAY too much paint.

*With brighter colors like white, more layers are needed, and I sometimes find myself doing countless layers before I get a good strong color.

Drybrushing is pretty simple. I use it when I want to quickly paint bumpy areas such as hair, muscle, or chainmail. USE AN OLD BRUSH, since the brush is most likely to be ruined, and also, the more beat up your brush is the better you will be able to get a good look. You do everything normally - water down your paints, get a small amount on your brush, etc. - except, before you apply the paint, wipe your brush off heavily onto a paper towel. Then apply the paint, brushing quickly over the area you want drybrushed. It should pick out the bumps and high surfaces with the lighter colors while leaving the recesses dark.
"When I drybrush, everything gets painted!"
Wipe off your brush more, or else you might as well paint it on normally.
"Oh no! My $20 brush has been ruined by drybrushing!"
As I said before, USE AN OLD BRUSH! If you don't have an old, beat up brush, then get a cheap, $2 one at your local hobby store. Be sure to mess it up a bit (stab it into a wall or something - great stress relief too) before you start drybrushing.

This is where it gets fun. Highlighting is picking out the raised edges of a miniature and painting them a lighter color. Unlike drybrushing, highlighting is usually applied around the edges of flat surfaces, like on a plate of armor. Every single model should be highlighted - there is always something to highlight - be it a gun, piece of armor, helmet, or what-not.
Most people highlight like this:
1) Add some white to the main color
2) Apply it to the edges.
Sure, this does the trick, but it's not good enough. If you really are short on time, then do that, but if you want your mini to turn out well, consider the following:
Hold your mini under a lamp positioned where you want the light source to be coming from. Note how the light is displayed across the miniature, and where the most light is collected.
1) Add some bleached bone to the base color. I usually use about 2:1, Main color : bleached bone.
2) Apply this graciously onto all of the edges and corners of the model.
3) Add some more bleached bone to your mix. I usually do another 2:1, Mix : bleached bone.
4) Apply this in a finer line across the edges, and only onto some edges and corners (remember the light thing? Only apply it to places where the light hit it pretty brightly)
5) Add some more bleached bone - I usually either do 1:1 Mix : Bleached Bone or straight bleached bone.
6) Apply this only to the center of your highlights, in a very fine line.
This should give you good looking and smooth highlights. I use bleached bone instead of skull white to lighten my color because I have found that skull white distorts the color terribly. This can still be done with skull white, but I recommend bleached bone.

Last, but not least, comes shading. Shading is applying darker colors into the recesses of your model to simulate shadows. Most people shade by using inks - paint with a lot of water added to it. You can buy inks individually, or make them, by adding about 10:1 Water : Paint. With your ink, lightly go over the model. The ink should travel to the recesses and color those. Simple as that - effective shading in a heartbeat.
Another thing you might consider is the small cracks between armor joints. Inks work with these too, but can look rather sloppy. What I prefer to do is take a toothpick (or very fine brush) and go over these cracks with black, creating an easy and effective shading effect.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this and that this helped your painting somewhat! Here's a brief summary:

Article image
Drybrushing was probably used in order to get the dirt and grime on their clothes - see how it creates a messy, splatter effect?

Good luck with your painting!

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