Pingo

Random painting questions

17 posts in this topic

So. I used to be a mini painter back when I was a kid.

 

I have been playing tabletop rpgs steadily for over 30 years, but haven't done minis for the last 20.

 

I did, however, get my art degree and became a pro artist in the meanwhile, so I know some technae.

 

However, my understanding of mini painting is stuck at kid level, when I used acrylics but did not speak with anyone else or know the terminology or (to be honest) paint very well.

 

Now I'm working as a beginner again, here to learn, but since I also have an art background I find myself wondering about certain aspects of mini painting.

 

For example, why is dry brushing considered a quick and dirty method of highlighting? I understand it as a way to do some very subtle blending (on the macro scale, anyway). What would be the more careful version of painting that it is a substitute for?

 

I also have questions about how people understand the terminology.

 

For example, I've noticed regular use of the term "glaze," which seems to be understood as a wash of a darker color over a lighter one to increase its intensity or, especially in the case of minis, to bring out its texture. Mini painting seems to use only the wet sense of "glaze" (but then, to be fair, so do most fine artists). But "glaze" can also be used to mean dry brushing with a transparent darker color over a lighter one, which can generate some very interesting effects.

 

I have not seen use of the counterpart to "glaze," which is "scumble." "Scumbling" is the same as "glazing," but using a lighter, semi-opaque color over a darker one. It's very good for pearly, moonlit effects and fog and atmospherics.

 

Do people use this technique? And if so, what do they call it?

 

I'm sure I'll think of other questions as I go along, but that's it for starters.

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I don't use the term glaze myself b/c honestly, it is really easy to get confused as to what a mini painter's intent is when they use certain terms.

 

I paint miniatures by painting a 'medium' shade of the color I intend to go for eventually. I then shade darker and lighter areas using what I call 'wet blending'. I basically lighten or darken my initial shade and water it down to try and create smooth transitions for as realistic a look as possible. I fail to water paints down regularly enough such that some transitions are a little rougher than others, but that's part of the learning process.

 

Using this method, I'm able to put several layers of watered down paint over the base shade to transition it as gradually as I want. Then I just progressively lighten to highlights, and darken to the shadowy areas of the mini that receive less light. This process means each mini I paint takes an egregious amount of time to paint as compared to 'table top' quality.

 

It's great to have you here!

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Dry brushing is only considered a bad way to highlight by those that are competition level. You can see the difference with those that are willing to spend 10+ hours painting every strain of fur on something, if they're good enough to actually do a full blend on something that small, but I think it's more a matter of pride\ego then anything ("look what I did"). I've seen some wonderfully dry brushed stuff before but I think the main reason people tell others to avoid it is Dry Brushing is often used as crutch to paint things that are intimidating (hair, metal) instead of actually learning how to paint them.

 

Glazing in miniatures is the same thing artists call juicing (in French anyway), it's just a layering technique and it doesn't mattter if you're going from light to dark or visa-versa for miniatures. It's used a lot with a blending technique called feathering to smooth out a blend or to gradually stain the color underneath it. We in this hobby tend to adopt terms and overly simplify their meaning, such as wet blending, and this is one of them.

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I think the problem with dry brushing is that it's often done very heavily, so that the effect is not a "subtle blending" but a gloppy mess. Also, if it's worked too much you can develop a rough texture with the built up half-dry paint (and sometimes brush bristles) that looks really bad.

 

Dry brushing is a perfectly acceptable technique in "Army Painting" where you may have to get hundreds of similar figures on the table in a short period of time. The object is to get quick brushes of color on and create figures that look good en masse at arm's length.

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Pingo,

 

Dry brushing is a technique like any other. It has its place. However, many people use the technique as a “quick and dirty” way to highlight. Let me ask you a question: If you were going to use a drybrush technique on a macro scale, would you use a wisk broom? Or a corn husk broom? Most likely, you wouldn’t, because the bristles are far too big and won’t deposit the paint the way you want, right? Remember that at this scale, even the fine hairs of a sable brush are kinda the same diameter as a bristle on a broom. Totally not acceptable for subtle realistic highlights. Real light doesn’t leave streaks.

 

So yes, when applied incorrectly, drybrushing is quick and dirty, because people do it quick and it leaves a dirty-looking miniature (and not in a good way).

 

But drybrushing is appropriate for things like sculpted fur, feathers, chainmail, rocky ground. Anyplace where the sculpt is heavily textured. Large expanses of smooth areas (like, say, a cloak)? No. It’ll produce a chalky look that you don’t want. Drybrushing hair? Hair doesn't look drybrushed, so I don't use that technique. (Note I use it as a very final step to pick out a few individual strands at the maximum highlight value.)

 

Before I continue, realize that most miniature painters aren't professional artists, and don't have fine arts degrees. Therefore, you will see a lot of difference between what I say is a glaze and what someone else says is a glaze. I'm using my experience as a painter for 25 years, talking with many professional mini painters, and my limited fine art knowledge to explain this stuff. I believe "YMMV" is the internet lingo.

 

On to glazes: A glaze is a thinned mixture of paint and diluent, used as paint. It is painted over an area, not allowing the liquid to pool in recesses. It is usually used to blend graduations of color, or to provide a tint of some sort. So, a green tunic may be painted Light Green / Green / Dark Green. But to reduce the glaring transition between the three tones, the mid green may be glazed on. This smooths out the transition, creating smoother paint jobs.

 

Or, a flesh color may be tinted with another color to provide a specific effect. I like to use green, purple, or blue glazes to provide a color that is more lifelike than straight bottled color. Or, I can use a glaze of dark grey on a male figure’s face to simulate stubble.

 

One-source-lighting effects are produced using glazes, since you want the underlying color of the model to show through, although you want a tint of the light color over it (glowing eyes, or spell effects).

 

So, glazes are transparent. Yes, they can be darker than the original color (purple glaze over flesh, for instance).

 

A wash is a diluted paint mixture that is allowed to pool in the recesses of a miniature, thus picking out and defining texture. This is often used as a shading technique. It is much more opaque in the recesses, because it is allowed to pool there, providing more coverage. But they can be transparent. For example, the technique called “dipping” uses a wash of some sort to provide shadows over the entire miniature. (Dipping is traditionally used by dipping the entire miniature into the wash solution, and then shaking the mini to remove excess; thus the name.)

 

On scrumbling: You probably don’t see this often in mini painting because we work at such a small scale. There isn’t texture to the miniature paints because we put them on so thin. If I want a moonlit effect, I can paint that. Fog effects don’t work well because, usually, you need more “terrain” surrounding a miniature to show that effect. In the real world, 5’ of fog isn’t going to show up (I use 5’ because the scale we’re painting at is about 1” = 5’, and a typical gaming base is somewhere around a square inch in surface area).

 

Hope that helps.

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As you can see, even we can't agree on terms.

 

I have a third definition of a glaze: it's thin like a wash, but not put on heavy. It's a very lightly applied layer (I usually use my midtone). It makes a good overcoat layer if your highlights are too drastic, to blend them all together.

 

We're a confusing lot, really.

 

Drybrushing is best on something that can take rough texture - like skeletons, stone, stuff like that. Not so good for cloth or skin.

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As you can see, even we can't agree on terms.

 

I have a third definition of a glaze: it's thin like a wash, but not put on heavy. It's a very lightly applied layer (I usually use my midtone). It makes a good overcoat layer if your highlights are too drastic, to blend them all together.

 

We're a confusing lot, really.

 

Drybrushing is best on something that can take rough texture - like skeletons, stone, stuff like that. Not so good for cloth or skin.

 

Leave it to a goblin to say what I said, only in fewer words.

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You know what, I'm so tired I don't even remember saying anything. But I guess I done good.

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Dry brushing can come up chalky or clumpy in extreme close-up photography. It is a mainstay of tabletop, speed, and army painting.

 

Tabletop encompasses anything intended for gaming, so is a little imprecise. Usually it means "this looks good or even excellent in-hand or on the table". Speed is the fastest possible job- again, an imprecise definition. Army is usually speed painting with particular attention to visual unity so as to look impressive as squads or armies on the tabletop. Competition painting means stuff that will display and showcase technical skill when viewed in extreme close-up photography.

 

For example, I've noticed regular use of the term "glaze," which seems to be understood as a wash of a darker color over a lighter one to increase its intensity or, especially in the case of minis, to bring out its texture. Mini painting seems to use only the wet sense of "glaze" (but then, to be fair, so do most fine artists). But "glaze" can also be used to mean dry brushing with a transparent darker color over a lighter one, which can generate some very interesting effects.

 

Usually glaze is any transparency that isn't a wash. Usually a wash is the term when accentuating texture. So, when you expect the paint to stay where you put it in regards to the miniature's topography, that's a glaze. When you expect it to sink into the valleys it's a wash. If it sits it's a glaze, if it flows it's a wash.

 

I have not seen use of the counterpart to "glaze," which is "scumble." "Scumbling" is the same as "glazing," but using a lighter, semi-opaque color over a darker one. It's very good for pearly, moonlit effects and fog and atmospherics.

 

Yeah, we usually just call that a glaze or sometimes a layer. Usually we tend to name things for what we want the paint's physical properties or action to be, because what the paint does once it leaves the brush is so vital, then we'd describe the effect we intended.

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A couple of things have really pushed miniature painting techniques and what people expect to see in a well-painted miniature in the time since you were last painting figures. One is the internet. Where back in the day someone was very lucky to have a friend who could teach them or to find the occasional magazine article and such, now people have all these places like Reaper forums to share techniques and ideas. A lot of that has also involved people raiding ideas from the fine arts world, like the practice of painting metal items to look metallic by using regular matte paints and art techniques and theory instead of only using paint with metallic flakes in it.

 

The other change is the increasing access to digital macro photography. What once required a professional camera and lighting rig to do is now accessible (if perhaps still not easy to perfect!) to many an average person. The increase in the size and quality of photographs puts more and more focus on very fine detail painting. Miniatures are now regularly displayed at several times their actual size. Even the most skillfully done drybrushing on smooth surfaces (and I've seen Laszlo do cloak fold drybrushing that looks far nicer than I ever imagined it could in his Hot Lead video) is unlikely to stand up to the scrutiny that kind of photography allows.

 

I expect the increasing access to better quality video is going to have an interesting effect on the community, or perhaps only amplify the other two factors. I started painting about 10 years ago. There were a couple of videos/DVDs at most. They were hard to find, and had very short snippets of information. People got super excited about a 5 minute how to paint a cockpit window video that someone posted free on the net a couple of years later. Now you can easily buy DVDs or downloads with a dozen or more hours of high quality, close-up video, and there are all kinds of free tutorials on YouTube that are the quality of the stuff you used to have to buy.

 

Miniatures themselves have increased in size over the last 20 years. If you've got some of your old ones, compare them to a newer figure and you'll probably see a pretty notable difference. I've painted a few smaller, older figures and they took less time and were a bit less demanding for perfection of technique.

 

There is some universality in the meaning of glaze that I've seen - just about everyone who uses it means very thin paint, and also paint that is applied more deliberately than a wash.

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Yeah, a lot has changed all right! Nothing I paint has a shot at winning an award in a mini contest these days unless the competition is incredibly weak, but 25 years ago? I might have been doing my WIPs as magazine articles. People would have talked about Buglips's subtle shading, and fine linework, and how he can make faces so expressive . . . instead of today, when half my work makes people make strange faces (or suffer temporary blindness).

 

I don't care. I can still paint better than most of what's on the back of Ral Partha boxed sets. That's trophy enough for me!

 

 

ETA: There is actually a "mini contest" locally I could win. It's a side offering of the annual IPMS show, and the competition is usually . . . not so advanced. But, well, that sort of feels a bit like cheating somehow. If I'm going to compete, I'm going to compete against equal or better.

 

So instead I enter stuff as display only, and if the other painters like what I brought then I tell them some tips, give them some websites, and tell them to buy Reaper learn to paint kits.

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I would compete even if it was rigged in my favor due to lack of skill if it got me more painting product. :P

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Yeah, a lot has changed all right! Nothing I paint has a shot at winning an award in a mini contest these days unless the competition is incredibly weak, but 25 years ago? I might have been doing my WIPs as magazine articles. People would have talked about Buglips's subtle shading, and fine linework, and how he can make faces so expressive . . . instead of today, when half my work makes people make strange faces (or suffer temporary blindness).

 

I don't care. I can still paint better than most of what's on the back of Ral Partha boxed sets. That's trophy enough for me!

 

 

That's why I like the judging system on my current contests (Halloween one is an exception) because we're less about critiquing all these aspects of a miniature and instead just allowing people to vote for what strikes them the most when they first see it.

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There is some universality in the meaning of glaze that I've seen - just about everyone who uses it means very thin paint, and also paint that is applied more deliberately than a wash.

 

This

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That's why I like the judging system on my current contests (Halloween one is an exception) because we're less about critiquing all these aspects of a miniature and instead just allowing people to vote for what strikes them the most when they first see it.

 

Judging from the winners of the recent one, I'd say that system works well.

 

The worst physically present contest I've ever been in I lost. It's not worst because I lost, but because the judge won.

 

Conflict of interest maybe? That was . . . that was something else, yeah. When I questioned it, I was told none of the other category judges were qualified to judge miniatures. Still didn't explain why the guy judging it was entered in it.

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