Like a Pro
Four: Shading and Highlighting Basics
month's "Paint like
a Pro," we started to look at the practicalities of painting
your miniatures --how to hold the miniature and apply the paint. When
you first start out, one of the most important things to concentrate on
is neatness: getting a good, even coat of paint onto the right areas without
overlapping or patchy colors. This month, we're going to move on and show
how to add a little more depth and realism to your miniatures.
you look at someone's clothing, you see that where light hits the surface
the colors are lighter, and the areas that are in shade (such as creases
and folds) are naturally darker. Because miniatures are so small, the
effects of natural lighting are minimal. The areas in question simply
aren't large enough to cast any real shadows; the result is rather flat-looking
colors. So we artificially paint these lighting differences onto the model
-- in simple terms, you paint lighter colors onto the areas that would
catch the light, and deeper colors into the folds and creases. These steps
are called highlighting and shading, and are without doubt
the most important techniques to master.
apply the base coat: the flat color over which the highlight and shading
colors will be applied. The base coat should be approximately the color
that you want to achieve; the addition of highlighting and shading should
just add the illusion of depth without altering the color. (If you add
too much shading over the base coat, the overall effect darkens the color,
while too much highlighting lightens the overall color.) For example,
if you are painting the skin on a hobgoblin fighter, the base coat should
be roughly the color you want the skin to look -- in this case, a rich
Shade and Highlight Colors
are adding shade and highlight colors to an area, it means you will need
three degrees of the same color: the base coat, the highlight tone, and
the shade tone. Select a deeper tone than the base coat for shading, a
lighter tone for highlights. In the case of the hobgoblin fighter above,
a deep brown would work well for the shading, with a dull orange for the
highlights. When all of these colors are painted on, the overall effect
should be the same brick red that you used for the base coat -- but it
will have far more depth and realism to it than a flat color.
way to get three versions of the same color is to mix them yourself. For
example, if I was painting a cloak blue, I could get the highlight color
by adding white to the base color. Just put a bit of the base color on
your palette and mix in a little white until you achieve a lighter shade
of blue. (Take care to wash all the blue out of your brush before putting
it in the white pot!) Most colors can be lightened with white, or in the
case of warm colors, yellow.
shade colors presents more of a challenge. Shade colors are deeper tones
of the base color, rather than darker colors, and these can be very hard
to mix. You could just add black to the base coat color, but in most cases
it makes the tone muddy and unattractive, and in some cases the result
is disastrous! So in the case of the blue cloak, you need to add a deeper
blue to the base color to produce a shading tone.
Thalos Wizard is a great example of
how highlight and shade colors are applied.
Look how the coat has been shaded with
a deeper blue, and the tops of the creases
have been picked out with a lighter shade.
shade colors are applied to the recesses and crevices of a model -- the
areas that would be in shadow if they were on a real object. I work on
the assumption that the deeper the fold or crease, the deeper the shade
color. A good rule of thumb for miniature painting is to paint the most
inaccessible parts first. So when the base coat is dry, start with the
shading. Mix up your shade color and carefully apply it to the recesses
of the area you are painting. This will immediately start to create some
depth. Use a mid-size brush; I find a 0 ideal. When the paint is dry you
can use the base color to tidy up the shading by painting over it where
very easy, way to add shading to a miniature is to use a black undercoat.
This creates fairly basic, but sometimes very effective, shading. Simply
leave a little of the undercoat showing in the very deepest areas of the
miniature. This trick really works only when used between different areas
of the miniature -- for example, where a tunic meets a cloak or the edges
of a belt. A thin line of the undercoat left showing in these areas creates
far greater contrast between them, achieving a real feeling of depth.
a black undercoat works well to create contrast between different areas,
but not to achieve a subtle shading effect on a larger area. There are
lots of different ways to apply more subtle shading -- one of which, washing,
we will discuss next month. But when you first start out, the best thing
to do is simply paint the deeper tones on with a fine brush.
is painted in the same way as any
other surface. The warm gray skin tones
of this Orc Berserker have been given
depth and realism with the addition of
subtle shading and highlighting.
light hits a surface, it naturally catches on the most prominent areas
-- such as the tops of folds and creases and the edges of belts and straps.
We represent this effect on miniatures by accenting these areas in a slightly
lighter tone of the base color. It's really just the opposite of adding
the shading: Mix up a lighter tone of the base color and apply it to the
raised surfaces of the area you are painting. As with so many aspects
of miniature painting, there are no hard and fast rules -- it's really
a matter of judgment where to apply the highlights, or how light the color
needs to be. Again, highlights can be tidied up with a little of the base
color if your brush strays. Always remember to make sure the colors are
dry before applying more paint.
and shading are simple techniques but require lots of practice to master.
In this article I have talked about the process in its most basic form
-- using just one highlight and one shade color. You can create far more
subtle results with additional intermediate shades, to achieve a subtle
gradation of color from deep to light that gives the illusion of depth.
Several different techniques can be used on different parts of the miniature
to create more realistic effects. We'll look at some of these, such as
drybrushing and washes, in next month's article.
what are you going to paint?
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