From Cartoony to Realistic
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Thread: From Cartoony to Realistic

  1. #1

    Default From Cartoony to Realistic

    Hi all,
    I've been a long time reader on the site and have painted off and on for about 7 years now but have never posted. I got started by painting large armies for Warhammer tabletop but have gotten to the point where I enjoy painting individual models with much higher quality more than vast quantities. I feel that my tabletop painting technique is pretty solid but I'm very inspired by so many of artists on this site that make their models looks like real flesh and blood (or bone/metal/everything else).

    My biggest question at this point is: what do you feel is the biggest factor or change of technique that would help someone who paints like every Games Workshop paint job and creates something that looks much more realistic? I don't want super green, video game-looking orcs. I want to paint an orc to look like how they might in real life.
    How do you go from:
    http://www.games-workshop.com/en-US/...ith-Big-Choppa

    to
    http://www.coolminiornot.com/207522?browseid=9936989

  2. #2

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    Desaturated colors, LOTS of thin glazes, and some exploration of a color wheel to name a few.
    "Remember, you can't spell paint without a little pain."

    Blog: almostperftec.blogspot.ca
    Instagram: almost_zab
    DeviantArt Handle: AlmostZab
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  3. #3
    Superfreak!!! Dragonsreach's Avatar
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    Consider looking at another manufacturers paints to see what range of greens the have different to GW as a start.
    That way you can look to seeing what variation strikes you as "to your liking".

    You can of course mix another colour into the base green (e.g a tough of Brown or Purple or Red ) to get a tone all of your own.
    {Damn must do an Orc sometime soon}
    I believe in Karma, what you give, is what you get returned. Affirmation; Savage Garden
    Oh look my IQ results came in:-
    , and proud of it.

  4. #4

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    generally: use more dull colors, not the pure in-da-face strong ones GW uses.
    Also walking away from edge highlights to blends help a lot too.
    Third that I think help a lot is to use the zenithal-highlighting, not the GW's "what's higher on the surface is lighter even if it faces down".

    But more importantly: instead of always painting the 'described' way (color, wash, drybrush, edge) experiment with colors / techniques and try to mimic objects like they are in the real world (use reference photos from reality instead of painting-guides)

    and because you showed orks as examples a good video about painting an ork the not-gw way : http://www.paintingbuddha.com/blogs/...rna-boy-part-i

  5. #5

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    Hi everyone,
    Thanks for the speedy feedback!

    @Zab-thanks, this is basically what I was thinking. I wasn't sure if there were a few key elements/techniques that differ between painting both styles. In general it seems that desaturation and using many layers tends to allow for more intricate color.

    @Dragonsreach-thanks, I've only used GW paints up to this point but have considered picking up either Reaper or Vallejo. I do mix and blend my paints though so it seems to me that it's less about having the color on-hand as it is identifying which colors would look more realistic. What do you think?

    @MAXXxxx-thanks as well. You bring up a good point about lighting. I think I've really only painted with your described "GW way of lighting" but I guess it would make more sense to be highlighting based on how light actually behaves. Thanks for the orcky link too!

  6. #6
    Superfreak!!! Dragonsreach's Avatar
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    Well I'm tempted to aim for VMC's Olive green grouping with tonal glazes. BUT that's just my take on it.
    Eventually it's down to what colours you like the most in terms of "Realism".

    BUT here's a thought.......who said orcs have to be green? The D&D description (IIRC) has them running from deep reddish brown through green and up to black. Remember these are FANTASY miniatures we paint, not portraits!
    I believe in Karma, what you give, is what you get returned. Affirmation; Savage Garden
    Oh look my IQ results came in:-
    , and proud of it.

  7. #7

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    A lot of good suggestions already, especially about doing well executed zenithal lighting and nice blending. Color variation can also help. Take this one for example from ten ball. See how he's worked in some blue around the eyes and some oranges/browns in the knuckles, ears, and a few other places. You can look at normal human skin and it's not just a single shade. You'll see some reds, blues, etc in different spots. Some subtle variations in tone can help make it seem more life-like. Avoid blacklining, that can emphasize the cartoony look. Also consider using pigments for weathering.

  8. #8

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    Hey Dragonsreach,
    I've perused their paint selection and I like what I see so far. Just a side note, I used an orc as an example but quest for realism isn't limited to just orcs. I have plenty of humans and demons to paint too! I completely agree with you that the color is ultimately up to us but say I switch from the traditional "green" orc to a more reddish brown skinned orc. I have the feeling that if I did that with the way I currently paint that I'd end up with an equally cartoony looking reddish orc that's still not realistic. From what I can tell it seems that less color saturation and more natural hues tend to make things more realistic. Thoughts?

    (And thanks for your input!)

  9. #9

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    @Bailey03-Thanks, that's a really good point as well. The subtle reds and blues definitely help to tone down the richer green on that one. I'll have to experiment with that a little bit more to see what gives a more organic feel. Btw, I love your "Lost in the Dark" display. Digging the OSL.

  10. #10

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    Hi Rodagab,

    Look at plenty of reference. Easy for human skin, not so much for an orc. But I'm sure you can find some photos on the web that would serve (plants, lizards etc.).
    Start to look closer at everything and imagine what colours you have that you could mix to get that/those shade(s) of red you see. How does the light play off that cars makers badge. And start painting what you see.

  11. #11

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    I'd say think through your paintjob before you apply anything to it. Some of the best stuff I've done has been very simple to do but hard to figure out techniques. I haven't been into the hobby for that long but
    I have gathered a huge source of information here and elsewhere and it really comes to to this. Think through your primer and basecoat, they have a huge impact on your paintjob.
    Try different primers along with the same paints and you will notice a huge difference.

    onto orks as I was in the same situation - Your basecoat can still be "Goblin green" and end up like something else. It's an easy colour to glaze into something else.
    Try not to overshade your mini, What I mean is don't add deep shadows in all the cracks and crevises in the skin.

    it gives high contrast for your average tabletop warrior and makes it pop but it makes it look cartoony.

    Here's my favourite ork skins see if you find some inspiration:

    http://www.coolminiornot.com/362499?browseid=9949618
    http://www.coolminiornot.com/364048?browseid=9949658
    http://www.coolminiornot.com/360750?browseid=9949658

  12. #12

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    Desatated colours that leen closer to a greyish-brown than the pure saturated equivalents, a lot of dirt and weathering with as many colours as possible in very small amounts on the model would be my idea.

    looking at how people paint figures in an AFV modelling community would be a place to start.

  13. #13

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    http://www.coolminiornot.com/308319?browseid=9962185 Here's a good reference, I think the painter has worked from GW's foundation paint knarloc green.. looks very good along with the yellow.

    My best tip would be to grab a can or two of GW's Lahmian medium, it works wonders for highlighting and shading!

  14. #14

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    Since your "realistic" orc was painted by SkelettetS, i woul recommend taking an afternoon and reading through his wip on the cmon forumn. It will inspire and perhaps enlighten on the gritty realism.

  15. #15

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    Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback so far. It's very helpful to hear other people's thoughts on this, most of which help to confirm what I've been thinking. KruleBear, SkelettetS orc WIP was what originally inspired me to want to paint like this so I've poured over it many a time. Any other painters with a similar style?
    Thanks all!

  16. #16

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    Not the same style, but Bailey's wip is super realistic. He does a lot of historicals as well. Milosh's Napolean bust wip isa must read in my mind. If you are ok with nmm then the number of awesome artist on this site really opens up.

  17. #17

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    I think you quickly grasped the answer here. Of all the advice offered, all of which was good, you filtered through it an immediately recognized the best! And that, my friend, is the sign of a superb student. The advice that I am referring to is to use desaturated colors. I believe Zab first mentioned it, and others built upon it, but you saw it for what it was; the best answer. Someone else said to use tiny bits of many different colors. Do this when shading and highlighting. this is another part of realistic painting. Something people like Skel and Bailey do is put the oddest of colors together for a result you would never have predicted.

    But again, your ability to discern the best answer is an indicator to me that you will find success in this.
    ​You are ranked 1 out of 9149 artists.
    BloodFather's Axis of Chaos http://www.coolminiornot.com/forums/...f-Chaos/page17

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodagab View Post
    Any other painters with a similar style?
    If you haven't already, take a look through Sproket's WIP thread. About halfway through you'll find his 'Squarg the Frog Rider', now there's some ridiculous levels of realism for a fantasy piece. You can also take a look at Karol Rudyk's work in the gallery. There's a fantastic albino orc in his 'The Hunting' piece which might give you some interesting ideas. Sadly no WIP thread here, but he does post some WIP pictures over on Facebook.

    As Krule mentioned (thanks, Krule!), I do a lot of historical stuff so I attempt to get a more realistic look from my work even when I do the occasional fantasy or sci-fi piece. You can be the judge on whether or not I'm successful. Milosh's thread is another great source for inspiration, with perhaps a more even mix of historical and fantasy/sci-fi.

    BFK, thanks for grouping me with Skel when it comes to colors. I wish I had his mastery of them. I tend to experiment and hope it works out. If it's any help, my latest take on green involved shading with dark purple and then adding light/medium grey into my roughly 2/3 green and 1/3 dark purple in order to create my highlights. The result is a nice dark green with desaturated highlights. If I were to do that for an orc skin, I'd go one step further and add red, blue, and yellow glazes in different spots to get some tonal variations. I also might pick more of an olive green to start with... but then again, I was painting a coat and not an orc!

    http://www.coolminiornot.com/forums/...l=1#post744368

  19. #19

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    ^^^Overly humble^^^

    Bailey is probably among the best in the world when it comes to historical busts and 54mm figures. And I laughed internally when he mentioned that jacket-it was this very coat I had in mind when I was thinking about how he has a mastery of color.

    So we mentioned desaturation and adding different colors. This is called hue. Giving a particular color a nice range of hue is EQUALLY important to finding contrast (whether subtle or dramatic) in shadows and highlights. Rust isn't just dark red. It is red-brown, red-orange, light orange, etc. Hue!
    ​You are ranked 1 out of 9149 artists.
    BloodFather's Axis of Chaos http://www.coolminiornot.com/forums/...f-Chaos/page17

  20. #20

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    @Bloodfather-thanks so much for the kind words (that's a lot of faith to put in someone who hasn't posted any results yet!). I've always tried to do my research and learn a technique as much as possible. I definitely agree with you on Bailey's work, colors are great. What I still find challenging at this point is looking at a picture of a real object and being able to identify the different actual colors of either the shadows or the highlights. I understand the painting theory of this but knowing what color to blend to make a skin tone shadow based on real life shadows is hard to identify. My brain sees a shadow and identifies it as simply a difference in light, not specifically a different color. Working on this though!

    @Bailey-thanks for the leads! I checked out each of those artists and there's some really inspirational stuff. Speaking of inspirational, I have to agree with BFK on your colors as well. I checked out your WIP and photos and I'm particularly impressed by both your skin tones as well as the super clean, accurate shading. Really amazing stuff. I've never ventured into historical but looking at your work makes me want to give it a try.

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