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  • Ujahu: part II - painting the figure

    Ujahu: part II - painting the figure

    For this article, I decided not to go into too much detail about the specific colours used and technical aspects of the paintwork, but more just document the basic process, and try to give some more broad insights into the general painting method.

    Stage 1: Just a quick pic of the mini after preparation, and ready for undercoating. As I have mentioned in other articles, I always spend some real time preparing figures properly: after removing mould lines with a scalpel, and gently using files to smooth out any resulting rough areas, I then use fine sandpaper (about 600 grade for metal figures) to sand as much of the mini as possible, ensuring a smooth surface. Then I use washes of milliput (standard yellow-grey) mixed with water and applied over the surface, filling in small cracks, pits or irregularities. Once dry, this can be gently sanded again if needed. After all this, I scrub the mini with a toothbrush in hot, soapy water. They come out gleaming!
    You can also see that I decided to sculpt a face for the figure – usually this figure has no face, just a smooth, rounded surface, but I felt like giving him a bit more personality.

    I realised too late that I should have taken a photo of the undercoat stage, because I wanted to show a certain technique one can use to obtain a quick sense of the lighting on a figure. So you'll just have to imagine! It's fairly straightforward though: first off, the figure is undercoated with a mid-to-dark colour; I find that a dark grey (say, something like GW codex grey or perhaps a little darker) works better than black, because it creates a less stark transition with the white used in the next step.
    Next, a direction is chosen for the lighting on the figure. The most simple and oft-used direction is straight down – that is, an imagined light source directly above the figure. This is commonly called zenithal lighting, because it imagines the light falling on the figure from the 'zenith' – but you can choose other directions for a more dramatic or specific effects. Once the lighting direction has been decided, white spray undercoat is applied to the figure, spraying only from the direction chosen – straight above, in this case. The spray mimics the effect of the light, with white paint falling primarily on the areas of the figure that would receive the most light, and conversely, missing the areas that would receive little light, leaving them dark to create shadows. This is a quick way to create some rudimentary lighting on a figure before you begin the painting proper, and it can speed up the painting process greatly. As always, be careful not to be too heavy-handed with the undercoat – thin, light layers work best.

    Stage 2: This stage shows some base coats applied, using dilute paint in order to preserve the sense of light and shadow already existing underneath, from the 'zenithal undercoat'. I used very neutral greys and browns for the base colours, this time, because I wanted to experiment a little with the painting process. Instead of painting strongly coloured sections from the start, I wanted to try painting a fairly neutral surface at first, applying stronger colours later as 'nuances' in the surface, with glazes to stain and colour various parts of the figure. I thought this might give a bit more of an ethereal or slightly phantasmal result, which could suit the figure.
    I also decided not to use metallics, for the same reason – I thought the softer look of a sort of semi-NMM might suit the feel of the figure this time, rather than the harsh reality of metallic paints.

    Stage 3: Here I have added some more shading, emphasising the shadowed areas with some blue-green colouring. I concentrated the blue-green colour on the lower areas of the tattered robes, because I wanted the colour to change and transform in different areas, to make the result more interesting. I also planned to balance the cold blue-green lower robes by painting the hair a fairly strong blue-green colour.

    Stage 4: I tidied things up a little at this stage, using some darker colour for the shading, and also some neutral mid tones echoing the base colours in order to smooth out the transitions. By painting thin glazes of a mid-tone colour over areas where shading has been applied, a lot of the roughness that often results from the shading process can be blurred and alleviated. I have also used some warmer brown colours to shade the mid-sections of the tattered clothing, to start creating some colour contrast against the cold blue-green lower areas.

    Stage 5: Next some highlights were applied, using a light, neutral grey colour for the blue-green parts (like GW fortress grey), and a slightly warmer, cream/bone colour for the warmer mid-sections of the clothing (like bleached bone + desert yellow or P3 Menoth white base).
    For the sword and shoulder plates, I moved the colour colder in the highlights, adding a touch of light blue to the light greys I used. In the darker parts, I introduced a touch of very dark red-brown or purple-brown, for contrast against the highlight colour.

    Stage 6: The next stage was to apply further highlights, using very light grey (like VMC silvergrey) for the cold-coloured areas of clothing, and a more vibrant, very light cream for the warmer parts (like P3 Menoth white highlight). You might also notice that I decided to give certain parts of the clothing a slightly yellow-green aspect – I felt like a third colour was needed, although it is more gentle and subtle than the red and aqua.
    The metal parts were given further, sharper highlight with a very light blue-white, and the darker areas were treated more with dark brown-red.
    Red was also chosen for the little bottle hanging in the front, to try to break up the dominant cold colouring of the lower clothing even further, and to balance the strong reds I was planning to use on the upper sections of the figure. This was also the reason behind my choice of dark red-brown, warm tones on the leg strapping, and a touch of red on the front of the shoes also.

    Stage 7: At this stage, it was time to pay attention to lots of little details here and there. Bits and pieces like the red hanging bottle, the straps, hands/rings, details on the sword hilt, and so on.
    A lot more work has been done on the sword and shoulder pads, also. Sharp highlights have been applied, using almost pure white, and the reddish tones of the darker parts have been emphasised even further. I used some pigment powders to create some of the red colouring – some gentle layers with purple, dark red and bright red powders, which were then fixed in place with white spirit. It gives a nice, slightly textured effect which works well to give the appearance of a sort of magical oxidation.
    Part of the reason for using such a vibrant red colour on the sword and shoulders was to create a strong contrast against the cold highlights; but a more important reason stems from the positioning of the metal areas on the figure. If you look at the figure from the front, you can see that the face is surrounded and 'framed' by the right shoulder pad, and the sword. By using a strong red colour in these areas, my plan was to create an area of emphasis and focus around the face – I tried to emphasise the area even further with the green-blue colouring of the hair, to create a zone of high teal-red colour contrast, hopefully leading the eye of the viewer to the face. As a final little effort to make the face stand out, I used absolutely no colour at all in the flesh tones – mixes of pure black and white paint only, coupled with very extreme lighting. I was hoping that this might be a more elegant solution to the problem of making the face stand out against the vibrant colours surrounding it, rather than trying to use another strong colour.

    Stage 8: The finished figure! There are a few little touches and adjustments: some stronger highlights to make things stand out, including the pure white 'points of light' on the sword and armour; some even stronger red colouring on the sword and armour, also (again mainly achieved with pigment powders); some extra yellow-green colouring on parts of the clothing (the robes sticking out to his left side, the bracers, shoes); stronger blue-green touches also in areas. A lot of extra emphasis on the colour at this final stage, which is something I enjoy!

    So, there you have it! I realise that I have not gone into a lot of detail about the specific colours or techniques used, but as I said at the start, I did not mean this to be a comprehensive, step-by-step, this-is-how-to-create-something-exactly-the-same sort of article (there are plenty of those around), but rather a more general look at the painting process. I hope it might give you some ideas, at least.

    Visit my site for more pics!

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