Like a Pro
Part Five: Enhancing Different Surfaces
By Mike McVey
fur on this gnoll was built up with successively lighter drybrushes
to pick up the texture sculpted onto the miniature.
previous article of
this series, we started to look at highlighting and shading: techniques
that add depth and realism to your miniatures. These techniques work by
exaggerating the lighting effects on the surface of a miniature, so higher
surfaces that would naturally catch the light are painted in a lighter
tone, and the areas that would be in shadow are painted in a deeper tones.
We discussed these methods in general terms last month, but now we're
going to examine how to apply them to specific areas and types of surface
found on your miniatures.
miniatures are sculpted, a great deal of thought goes into how each of
the different parts of the model will be represented -- for example, the
fur of a gnoll will have a far heavier texture than the hide of an ogre.
When you first examine a miniature, all these different surfaces and textures
may seem a little daunting. But in fact, by using certain techniques,
you can turn them to your advantage and produce some really great effects
quickly and easily. Drybrushing and washing are two such
processes; they work especially well on heavily textures surfaces such
as fur and chainmail.
is the best way to paint chainmail. If the paint starts to "fill
in" any of the detail, apply a dark wash to return definition.
is the easiest and quickest way to produce highlighting effects on textured
surfaces. As the name suggests, most of the paint is removed from the
brush so that the bristles are fairly dry -- you then gently flick the
tip of the brush across the textured surface so that the paint adheres
to only the most prominent areas. Drybrushing is a pretty easy technique
to learn, and once you've mastered it you can produce some great and rapid
results. There are a few things that you will need to watch for, and we'll
go over those in a minute, but first I'll take you through the technique
stage by stage. For this example, imagine you are painting a chainmail
shirt on a dwarf. Chainmail (and some other types of armor) provide the
ideal surface for drybrushing: heavily defined texture.
- Before you start
drybrushing, paint the chainmail with a base coat of black. Most of
this will be covered by the drybrushed highlights, but it will show
in the recesses to provide shading. Make sure the base coat is dry
- Load-up a mid-size
brush (I generally use a 1 for drybrushing) with a fairly dark silver
metallic color. Either mix straight silver with black to get this or
use a ready-mixed color such as "chainmail" or "gunmetal."
Don't put too much paint on the brush, just enough to cover the bristles
to about halfway up. Then wipe most of the paint back off again! I know
it sounds a bit weird, but trust me on this -- wipe the brush back and
forth on a paper towel until the paint leaves no easily visible trace.
You want to remove nearly all of the liquid and just leave a trace on
Now carefully flick
the tip of the brush back and forth across the surface of the chainmail
shirt several times. The chainmail pattern will start to get picked
out in silver, but only the top surface takes the color.
the bristles of your brush across a paper towel to remove nearly
all the liquid paint.
- Next, lighten your
metallic color by adding a little silver and repeat the process.
- Continue lightening
the metallic color and drybrushing onto the model, but each time use
lighter brushstrokes so that in the end you are drybrushing with pure
silver and only just touching the surface of the miniature with the
tip of the brush.
whole aim of the process is to build up the highlights gradually to produce
a subtle highlighting effect. Drybrushing can be applied to most textured
surfaces on a miniature -- just follow the example above but substitute
appropriate colors. So if you are painting a gnoll's fur, base coat with
a deep brown and drybrush with progressively lighter tones.
drybrushing process builds up highlights gradually. The tip of the
bristles are gently flicked across the surface of the miniature
so that raised detail picks up the paint.
factors can affect the finished result. Most important, you need to have
the right amount of paint left on the brush. As with so many other areas
of miniature painting, developing a feel for the "right amount"
really comes down to practice and patience. Also, drybrushing can be a
fairly messy process -- it's quite hard to keep the brush off surrounding
areas. It's best to do all the drybrushing on a miniature first so as
not to spoil areas you've already painted.
is in many ways the other side of drybrushing. Drybrushing is used to
highlight; washing is used to shade. In drybrushing the paint is practically
dry; in washing it is extremely liquid. Washing is an incredibly handy
technique, and has more uses than drybrushing.
an area, thin the paint considerably -- so much so that when it is applied
to a heavily textured surface it runs off the raised areas and into the
recesses to provide shading. It really is as easy as that! Don't completely
flood the miniature with paint; if you wash too much color over an area,
you'll just fill in the detail and end up with a mess. Of course, the
more you practice, the better you'll become at the technique. As with
drybrushing, it's something you need to perfect through practice.
are one of the most effective places you can add a wash. Base coat with
a fairly light flesh tone first, and be sure to let it dry thoroughly
before proceeding. Then mix up a red-brown wash color (ideally with artist's
inks -- see below) and apply it to the whole area. The color shouldn't
be too strong, so thin it out with water before applying. The thinner
color will run into the recesses and you'll be amazed at how well the
features emerge. The same mix can be applied to all of the skin regions
and works particularly well on areas such as hands.
fur on this abyssal ravager first received a deep brown wash over
a light base color to pick out the detail. Then highlights were
and drybrushing go together really well, as they both enhance heavily
textured surfaces. The two techniques can be combined, for example, to
paint the fur on a gnoll:
- Paint all of the
fur a mid-brown base color. Let it dry thoroughly -- if you apply
a wash over a wet base, you won't believe the mess you end up with!
- Next, apply a
rich brown ink wash over the whole surface and leave the miniature to
dry again. This may take some time; a hair dryer can speed things up.
- When the wash has
totally dried, drybrush over the surface using the mid-brown base color.
- Further lighten
the highlights by lightening the base color and drybrushing onto the
surface. Do this as many times as you like to build up the effect.
- Should the highlights
become too light and the overall effect too pale, apply a thinned-down
wash to put a little depth back into the surface. Just add more water
to the original wash color so it's not quite so strong.
main trouble with using acrylic paint for washing is that the
more you thin the paint, the weaker the color becomes -- creating
patchy results. Artist's inks already have a thin consistency
and contain quite intense pigments, so they are absolutely ideal
for washing. The colors are really strong if used neat, but can
be further thinned to lessen their intensity. Make sure you use
ink that is watertight when dry or you will rewet it with any
additional colors you use.
inks are fairly pricey, but the colors are so strong that they
last for ages -- I'm still using inks I bought ten years ago.
You can also combine inks with paints to achieve all sorts of
effects. I like to add a little paint to a wash color to give
it some body and stop the wash from forming into puddles so readily.
what are you going to paint?
Check out the
latest selection of D&D miniatures in our online
to the D&D
main news page for more articles and news about the new D&D
or check out
message boards for a lively discussion of all
aspects of the D&D game.