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  • Painting Precious Stones

    Painting Precious Stones
    Yes, my prrrreccciouses... Ahem.. Oh.. How long have you been there? Crud. Anyhoo, you may wonder about the name of this article because it's basically an article about painting gems. Why didn't I call it "Painting Gems", then? Several reasons: others have made tons of articles about painting gems and I didn't want to confuse people, secondly: while this article DOES teach how to paint gems, I count "gems" as fully or semi transparent and this article covers several stones that are opaque. Thus, precious stones is a better name, but even THAT gets confusing, as pearl is counted as a precious stone and it's not really a stone as we think of it.. Well, that aside, let's get on with it!

    Round Gems

    As I said before, I count gems as transparent. When combined with the fact many gems on minis are seen as tumbled or polished, it can get a little weird. I could just say "do this and it looks real" but I'd rather try and explain how it happens, so you can make your own judgements for individual cases. Well, transparent gems when polished and set in an oval or round shape have the distinct feature of acting like a kind of lens. This distorts light, and with any lens, it turns the image around. If you've ever looked through a marble, you'll see how weird the image can get. Below I show how this works:

    When light hits a gems, it is usually set in a setting (real scientific name these jewelers gave it, huh?) and this creates a kind of shadow, because the light it hitting the other edge of the gem and not the one on the surface. The light is also flipped because of this, and so any time you paint a transparent gem, the highlight is in the opposite direction of the light source.. the reflected light that is on the outer surface is then in the direction of the light source, as is the shadow.

    Step By Step Gems:

    Below I did some examples of these transparent gems. Notice that since the light source is usually above the figure (the sun), the highlight is towards the bottom:

    1. I started by making an oval shape on a peice of paper, but of course you'll be doing this on a small gem, but I just wanted it to be visible. Also note that I made an elongated half moon shape with black. You could start out by painting in the whole thing black, but I prefer this method, as it makes your bright colors lighter where you need them.
    2.Next, I used Vallejo Game Color Night Blue to blend in between the black and the light, overlapping so hat they came together better.
    3.Then I blended in Vallejo Dark Blue nearer to the base, but not all the way there yet.
    4. Then I used Andrea Blue more towards the bottom side.
    5. Though you can't see it too well from the previous pic, Deep Sky Blue was added to the very bottom, along with a thin line of White.
    6.I then made the reflected light with Sky Blue, note how it looks uneven.. this is what putting a light color over black will do! Anyways, this stage is for softening the highlight, and giving it a bit of color, since this is supposed to be a colored gem anyways...Some people prefer leaving the reflected light as a color, in that case you can skip the next step and either use your highlight color, or a lighter shade of the color the gem is supposed to be.
    7.White was then applied inside the Sky Blue, leaving a bit of an edge to give a hint of color.

    You'll notice I kept the painting within the oval. If you're doing a gem you may either want to go back and black line, or simply avoid painting to the edge to give a sense the gem is in a setting and to make it stand out more.

    Painting tiny gems is about the same, but you don't have to blend as well. If you try to, you'll get so many headaches and you will go mad... like I did, trying to paint gems on rings one time.. The horror... the horror.... :P Well, anyways, below you get a run down of how I'd do a brownish yellow gem like Tiger's Eye or something like that.:

    1. I applied a basecoat of Vallejo Game Color Beasty Brown. Note that this is something like 1000x the size you'll be working on.
    2. I went over the edge with Goldbrown. Again, blending is not a bit factor but if you're still concerned, water down your paint just a bit.
    3. Flat Yellow was used for the highlight.
    4. Then White was applied to the area opposite the highlight, just like above.

    In the lower right hand corner, you get a sense of how small things work with you to fool your eye into thinking it's blended together. Even at this size, the gem is around 5x larger than it might appear on a miniature. This technique for smaller gems can be applied to lenses, eyeglasses and even drops of water if you think you can pull it off! All you need to do is change your colors accordingly. If the gem is mid way between size, you could add black opposite the highlight and gain more contrast between the black and white.
    Amethyst is the most widely used crystal type in the miniature world and it is considered to be a stone of value, but get this: it's just quartz! That's right, simple silicon and oxygen with impurities that make it purplish. Anyways, some people (myself at one time) get frustrated with Amethyst because it's just a purple stone, but look below:

    Notice that amethyst gets darker farther away from its base and it s not totally purple, it's slightly magenta. That's what gives it an eerie quality to it. Now, here's how I did some Amethyst I made out of sprues:

    1. I primed White, as I usually do for things that are going to be more than half white or bright colors.

    2. I then worked a bit backwards, as I made up a mix of Vallejo Blue Violet and Sunset Red, but that was too dark, so I added white in stages so that I got a significantly lighter color. The key to making this look like amethyst is the Sunset Red, which is a Magenta, and most lines don't have a Magenta Purple. You could use GW's Warlock Purple and Liche Purple and add white for the same effect. Whatever you do, keep your paints until the end, that's when you're going to need them for detailing!

    3. This time, there's less white and the color looks a bit darker on the tips.

    4. Same thing here, this is all some of the smaller ones will receive, as the bigger they get, the more darker the tips... which can also be put that the smaller they are, the lighter they get! :P

    5. This time I added Vallejo Violet to the Blue Violet/Sunset Red mix that made #4 in about a 50/50 mix and painted closer to the tips.

    6. Now I used straight Vallejo Purple, since it's a bit darker than GE Lice Purple, you may want to add a bit of Chaos black to it, which helps in the next step. I didn't wanna add any Magenta, as the tips are supposed to be dark and not bright.

    7. I did the very tips in Black.. Usually real amethyst only get a very dark purple tinge to it, but in the miniature world, we need to emphasize contrast which helps make it look a lot better after step 8.

    8. Next step I kinda did a few things together. I painted the highlights on every edge with the mix from step 1 and then went over it again with the mix from step #2, then added striations to the bottom with the mix from step #1.

    9. This was a bit of an experiment that came to me whilst painting. I mixed Vallejo Metal Medium with their Gloss Varnish to make a reflective surface on all the facets. This does dull the darker color a bit if you don't add enough varnish, but then again crystals are usually cloudy and get lighter where they are chipped and broken. Alternatively, you could just use gloss varnish and call it a day!

    Here's a bigger view from another angle, I think it looks like natural crystal, but maybe that's my elite photography skills.. (He says, glad something that could've screwed up looks good ):

    Now note that I messed with the color settings on these as my camera always makes things look too yellow, but feel free to add a bit more magenta than I did, it makes the crystal look evil, like in the movie "The Dark Crystal"..

    Usually, when you're faced with two options with angular gems or crystals: you can paint all the surfaces equally and use a gloss coat, or attempt to show that every facet has it's own shine. The first is easier, but if done correctly, the second method look better as it takes on the light source of your choice, thus making it ideal if light sourcing or NMM are used.. To do this, however, one color is not applied and mixed and blended on all surfaces. Instead, the faces towards the light source are lighter in color, and the ones in the back are darker reflective light in the back near the darker areas does not apply as it does in NMM. Another thing is that these areas will not be the same unless they face the same way with the same kind of angle or they are in equal but opposite angles.. Confusing, yes, but take a look below:

    In this one we see a top of a geode, or a cut emerald which ever you please. Notice the lightest face, the two faces to either side are the same colors. The same goes for the next two and the next two, until you hit the darkest face. This is what helps make the gem "sparkly" when it is angled. Note that this does not apply to smooth gems, as they have no angles on them! Below we see a different view, from the side:

    Notice how the edges closest to the light source blend together. This is to simulate that both of them are reflecting the light the most, that's why there is no white space on the edges that would usually get. In all fairness, with this method you don't even have to paint the edges, the faces are so different that you might not need to contrast, but it helps with something as small as miniatures. The top is pointed upwards, so they usually are lighter than the faces perpendicular to the ground.

    Step By Step:

    I, of course, had a step by step example ready, but I though it looked really ugly, so I'll have to do it over again in the near future.. But you get the basic idea from above..

    Crystal Clear

    Crystal clear is actually a misnomer, as Calcite is actually the most transparent crystal and "Crystal" in the glass sense is not crystal, it's amorphous (meaning it was heated up, shaped and cooled down, kinda like magma). Anyways, my point being is that if you want to paint some crystal like it was transparent, you would not see everything behind it 100%, it would be blurred. Another way of making crystals clear would simply to make them out of clear resin, but that is costly and you need to know what you're doing, so unless you're already doing it, the only other way would be to use thick clear plastic and cut it.. Anyhoo, the best use of this is for making a sword look like ice, like I did with my Grom the Relentless:

    Notice where I used blue is the clear part, the background just helps emphasize this. Also note that the inside of the faces are darker with the cloak color and the edges get lighter until you're outlining them with pure white. I also added some snow flock to give a sense of "chill". Angela Imrie also used this technique on her elf adventurer:

    I think she did a much better job than me, but if you ask her, she admits she got the original idea from me, so.. Anyways, the same thing is seen here: light blue for the clear part, and for more sense of clarity, she made the color of the boots lighter so it looks like you're seeing through something.

    Now, like I stated before, this is a good technique for swords, especially ones held close to the body and over something that you can see behind it. If the sword was up in the air, it would just be all light blue and this might get it confused for a blue sword.. I also recommend only doing this for single things, as you would have to make a lot of images for more complicated structures. You also have to take into account that if you did something that was big and round, the effect is destroyed because you could only see it from one angle. But if you use the technique of different faces above with this, and you don't try to painting something behind it, you could get a nice effect of depth in a semi-clear crystal.

    Other Precious Stones:

    Remember how I said some stones are opaque and not clear? There's a lot of them that fit into this category: Jasper, Tiger's Eye, Apache's Tears, Jade, Pearls, moonstone, heck even Marble is considered rare, but it's not incorporated into jewelry... Anyways, the thing to remember about these is they function exactly like anything else opaque you're painting: the shadow is opposite the light source, the highlight is in the direction of the light source. Here I've compared two gems of the same color, if one was clear and the other was opaque and the light source was the upper right hand corner:

    As you can see, there is a big difference between them. The clear gem is darker than the opaque one, and it's highlight and has more contrast. The opaque on, on the other hand, looks "softer" in color contrast and the shadow is more at an angle, since it faces away from the light source more. Also note that these two are distinct: you could not turn the clear one around and make it look opaque, the shadow is just too dark.

    Star Sapphires

    One of the best known opaque gems is the star sapphire, which is very recognizable to anyone who's seen one before. This makes it ideal in making it a gem for miniatures. Tiger's eye is also recognizable, but the striations are not the same with every piece, just like in Turquoise of Apache's Tears. Anyways, this is very easy to make, and in my opinion looks better than a clear gem in some places.

    Step By Step

    1.I first made a gem with Vallejo Dark Blue. Star sapphires are usually blue, but can be red, gray and off white. The same procedure would follow, just with the different paint color mixed with the base.
    2. I made the star with Andrea Blue. It's important to know there's only 6 "spokes" on a sapphire star, and the middle one is the longest.
    3. I went over it with Deep Sky Blue, keeping a bit more towards the center.
    4. Same thing with Sky Blue, but even tighter to the center.
    5. Finally, I placed a dot of pure White in the center, this helps the star "flair" like it does in real life. This technique can also be used for (guess what?) Stars on a cloak or to show a flair of light in a freehand banner!

    Well, that's about it for now, I promise more articles in the future, just give me a bit more time!

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