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Epicenter

Thinning Paint and Layering

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Hello, first post here. :)

 

This evening, I was attempting to muddle through the mysteries of NMM, as I have been for a while now. I've tried countless methods and none of them work. No doubt everyone is thinking about now, "Oh no, it's another of those NMM whiners."

 

Don't worry, I'm not. Here's the truth I can't really escape:

 

"Hello, my name is Epicenter and I can't do NMM because ... I s*ck at blending."

 

You can't NMM if you can't blend.

 

Okay, now that my confession is over, I'd like to ask the advice of some of the experienced painters regarding what I'm doing wrong and how I can change it. See, I used to do highlights and they were pretty stark and ugly - like how the "noob painting guide" in White Dwarf might look these days. I wasn't really satisified with that. I wanted to improve to a more natural difference in gradients. So I was told that I should be thinning my paints even more and use like 10-15 different gradients (say for NMM, ranging from the darkest hue but always to white in range of 15 gradients).

 

The problems start when I'm given wildly varying amounts "average" ratios for layering (highlighting or shadowing). I've heard numbers quoted from 1:5 ~ 1:6 to like 1:10 ~ 1:12. I can appreciate that different paints should be thinned to different amounts and that there's no universal golden rule as most hobby paints aren't made to exacting standards and vary even from batch to batch and whatever other stuff you're using to thin your paints. So I'm not really here for mix ratios but instead some practical advice.

 

Here's the typical conversation:

 

Me: "Okay, I've just put the color on and I honestly don't see a difference at all."

 

Advisor: "Oh, that's normal, you don't see a difference. It'll build up."

 

I've tried it this way for some time now. Occasionally I get decent results, but most of the time my highlights and shadows turn out extremely flat or so stark as I might as well hadn't tried layering at all. Have I been following bad advice? I'm clearly doing something wrong as it seems very hit-and-miss and I'm not sensing any improvement in my skill.

 

So here's my questions:

 

1) Enough is Enough: How many coats of one thinned color should I have to apply before I see a difference in the color in an area for an area? Once? Twice? Five times? Seven times? Ten times? More? My gut feeling is that it should be once. But those I've spoken told me if I can see a difference in a single coat, then the paint is too thick. Yet, I find the application of multiple coats of the same color is sloppy - the thinned paint tends to spread no matter how careful I am simply because I keep running a brush over the same areas over and over again. As well, by the time I put on my fifth layer or whatever, I find some parts of my highlight look very intensely different in hue from other parts, even though it's same color of thinned paint because it's difficult to these super-subtle difference in gradient.

 

2) How can I tell where to paint if there's no difference in hue? This sounds like a silly question, but bear with me. If I can't tell the color there's no boundary to the layers. I know that blending should involve smaller and smaller areas of lighter or darker color. But how can you tell what to make smaller if you can't see the previous gradient? After like ten layers of the same paint, I tend to end up with one big and uneven spotch - I find I tend to keep going over the same place over and over again with successively lighter hues and the end result looks like I didn't bother layering at all.

 

3) How many gradients should I really be using? How many gradients do most people use, not just for NMM. I'm guessing due to the constraints of smaller areas (and the fact the viewer doesn't really notice small areas as much you can be sloppier with gradients in tiny areas), but it still makes me wonder: How many gradients should I be using for shirt-sized area of standard "flat" cloth (like non-satin/non-silk but like just plain cotton or wool)? How many for a shirt of satiny cloth? A dagger? A sword?

 

Thanks in advance for any insights on this.

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1) Enough is Enough: How many coats of one thinned color should I have to apply before I see a difference in the color in an area for an area?

 

As many as it takes and it's almost NEVER just one--even basecoats take me 2 or 3 times for good coverage on the best day.

The guage to paint thickness is "not" how much difference you can tell in the paint on the miniature. The guages to paint thickness are:

a--thin/thick enough to do the job at hand

b--thin/thick enough that you're comfortable working with it

 

Point is, some folks can lay down ultra smooth gradients using thicker paint than most and do so in less gradients. Some folks can't. The place to start is with the thinning/ratio guidelines that are everywhere on the web---including the craft section of the Reaper site. Or, just take the approach "the consistency of skim milk". Regardless, until you *see* and *FEEL* the proper paint consistency, it's tough to explain exactly what is needed here.

 

 

 

How can I tell where to paint if there's no difference in hue? This sounds like a silly question, but bear with me. If I can't tell the color there's no boundary to the layers. I know that blending should involve smaller and smaller areas of lighter or darker color. But how can you tell what to make smaller if you can't see the previous gradient?

Simple, at this point in your painting career, you should not start painting the next gradient until you can see the desired effect of the previous one.

 

After like ten layers of the same paint, I tend to end up with one big and uneven spotch - I find I tend to keep going over the same place over and over again with successively lighter hues and the end result looks like I didn't bother layering at all.

This is typical of working paint that is *too* thin. But I can't speak to the specifics of your case. It could be, too, that some of your problems are caused by you consistently dipping your brush too far in the paint----It would take me watching you paint to determine for sure.

 

3) How many gradients should I really be using?

I recommend this to beginners----the "stop sign" method takes 5 distinct gradients--so you use 5. Eventually you can add gradient to smooth things out more, but here is what I recommend--

Use Reaper Triads--

Basetone

50/50 Basetone/Shade

Shade

50/50 Basetone/Highlight

Highlight

(optional)--highlight plus a little ivory.

--and do the different gradients in the order I've specified.

 

You can add 75/25 mixes at the appropriate points to smooth gradients from base to shade or base to highlight as you see fit. I wouldn't do this as a beginner. Stick to 5 with maybe the ivory+highlight, and follow the stop sign approach. This helps the thought processes.

How many gradients do most people use, not just for NMM. I'm guessing due to the constraints of smaller areas (and the fact the viewer doesn't really notice small areas as much you can be sloppier with gradients in tiny areas), but it still makes me wonder: How many gradients should I be using for shirt-sized area of standard "flat" cloth (like non-satin/non-silk but like just plain cotton or wool)? How many for a shirt of satiny cloth? A dagger? A sword?

As many as it takes.

 

That help at all?,

Kev

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Heh, well, a disclaimer: I can only speak for myself, and we all do this differently. My primary advice to you is to stop listening to other people at some near-future point and just experiment with layering until you find something that works, using all the knowledge and approaches that you've absorbed from others. ::): Given that, here's my take on it:

 

1. Enough is Enough: One. You are looking for a paint consistancy which will result in the beginning of your brush stroke being darn near transparent, but when you pull up the brush at the end of your brush stroke you should leave a little puddle of paint which you can actually see--thus resulting in a gradient. You may need to do a couple of coats to build up your layer to the color of the paint, since it is pretty thin, but you should always be able to see your layer at the *end* of the brush stroke. If you end up seeing your layer at the beginning of the brush stroke as well as the end, thin your paint a bit. Or, you layer it all and then glaze--you apply a very very thin coat of paint over the top of all layers to smooth out transitions. Anyhoo, if you can get your hands on a Warlord rulebook, take a look at the painting guide; it shows smear tests where I've dragged paint over a tile, and it's a good guide to what your paint should look like for decent layering.

 

2. You should always be able to tell there's a difference in hue; the trick is in the brush and the stroke (see above). Note that you've got to be using good brushes for this, so if you're trying layering and you're not using a Kolinsky sable, you should probably go out and buy yourself a spiffy new brush! ::):

 

3) How many gradiants: On small areas like faces, I usually pull off really nice results with five layers. On larger areas like broad cloak folds, I'll go up to nine or ten. With glazes and on competition-level pieces, all bets are off; up to twenty layers and even beyond with all the glazing, adjusting, re-highlighting, etc. ::):

 

Rodnik is perfectly right, it's all about finding that sweet spot in the paint and getting a real feel for how it should look and act to give you the results you want, and that just takes painting. ::): Eventually, fear not, you *will* get a feel for it. Also, a note--if you're coming to Indianapolis for GenCon, come seek me out at the Paint 'n' Take, and I'll demonstrate anything you need. ::):

 

--Anne

p.s. tell me what brand of paints you use and I can probably set you up with ratios that work for a good general guideline--as tested by myself anyhoo. ::):

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Yet, I find the application of multiple coats of the same color is sloppy - the thinned paint tends to spread no matter how careful I am simply because I keep running a brush over the same areas over and over again.

 

I have the same problem.

a) I have to keep reminding myself to let previous coats dry (if you don't, you'll "tear" the previous layer). Also, like waterpainting, previously wet areas tend to wick in paint...now I usually use this to my advantage (I frequently pre-wash areas with "gunk" and then apply a thin coat of paint, helps it spread to where I want it to go).

b) I have to look at the piece under good lighting (2 Otts is what I use) close up and step back a bit. Sometimes I need to take the piece into another room and look at it under different lights...my eyes seem to get all blurry and everything starts to look blended if I stare at something too long under the same lighting conditions. It might help distinguish slight color shifts.

c) Brush stroke direction is important. I like to think of paintbrushes like markers. If you draw a marker across a page, you always end up with a really strong concentration of color at the end of a stroke (unless you lightly lift up at the end of a stroke). Paintbrushes do the same. They leave higher concentrations of color at the end of the stroke. So, remember to paint into the direction of the color on the brush :blink: . If you have a highlight color on the brush, you want to paint from shadow into light (valley to hill), if you have a shadow color, move the brush from highlight to shadow. A little overlap is good as this helps the blending.

 

As well, by the time I put on my fifth layer or whatever, I find some parts of my highlight look very intensely different in hue from other parts, even though it's same color of thinned paint because it's difficult to these super-subtle difference in gradient.

 

When you see this, now you know where to concentrate on blending. ::D: Use glazes or short brush strokes to smooth out the demarcation between the two areas.

 

2) How can I tell where to paint if there's no difference in hue? This sounds like a silly question, but bear with me. If I can't tell the color there's no boundary to the layers. I know that blending should involve smaller and smaller areas of lighter or darker color. But how can you tell what to make smaller if you can't see the previous gradient?

 

Remember to paint to the figure. What I mean is, the folds and sculpture should be telling you where to paint highlights and shadows. If you can maybe divorce yourself from reliance on color boundaries (I can't...yet), it might help.

 

After like ten layers of the same paint, I tend to end up with one big and uneven spotch - I find I tend to keep going over the same place over and over again with successively lighter hues and the end result looks like I didn't bother layering at all.

 

Yep, me too. I recently read some good step by steps with pictures. Guess what, same thing. The initial layering can be quite crude, but then, with some careful washes and attention to stark contrast areas, the surface smooths out. Not to say this is the only way or correct way, but it is a way. It works. Some pictures of your work would help.

 

3) How many gradients should I really be using?

 

What Rodnik said. He knows of what he speaks!

 

Thanks

AWhang

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Lots of TLDR up there, so I'm just guessing that all of this has already been covered.

 

I can't blend either. At all. It's all because of my climate.

 

 

Having said that, I do fairly well at NMM. So yes, you can do NMM without blending. You just need to work on your layering.

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Just a note of support for you: I know how frustrating it is, I spent a long time working out the same things that you are now working out. One thing that will help you a lot (it helped me) is to sit down with a good painter and see how s/he does things. I read all over the net about how the paint has to be a "skim-milk consistancy" but could never really figure out what the heck that meant. Actually, I still don't! But when I was able to see in person what the consistancy was like and how it was used, I started to learn and be able to predict what the paint will do under certain conditions. I actually found that for some applications I was over thinning my paint.

 

Of course I'm still learning tons, and have tons more to learn, but I'm finally feeling like I am able to control and manipulate the paint in the way that I want--it just took time and practice and lots of looking over people's shoulders. So stick with it! :)

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I cannot always see a difference between the hues I use for a gradient. what I know is what color I have at each extreme of it, and that roughly a third of the gradient area is a mix of 50/50 of those extreme hues. Then I start adding more of each color to the middle hue and do geometrically thin strips along the parts where the previous colors meet until it all looks like a continuous shift in color. Not sure if it makes sense to you.

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Thanks for all of the replies, everyone.

 

Rodnik -

 

Yes, I suspect that I'm overly-thinning. For the most part, I dip the brush then wick the brush on a paper towel and bleed off most of the paint before using it on the mini.

 

The typical issue I run into that I run the brush over a place and don't really a see a difference. I let it dry, then give it another brushing over, still no visible difference. Without any way to judge how much effect the first highlight has, I keep repeating until I see something. Then I start working on the second (lighter) highlight - here's where the problem really begins. It's impossible to tell the difference between the first highlight and the second at first so I'm left guessing as to where I applied the first coat of the new highlight color. The same with the second, until like the 5th or 6th time I repeat when I start to see a difference. By then the brush has pretty much covered the entire first highlight instead of being slightly smaller.

 

Vaitalla -

 

I wish I had the money to make it out to GenCon, perhaps in the future - the same for the Warlord rulebook. I'll keep it in mind if I come into that kind of "free" money, but right now I can't justify shelling out money for a rulebook for a game I don't play for painting advice.

 

As for brushes, how have people's experiences been with buying them online? I've frankly never been able to find a local store that sells the vaunted W&N Series 7 brushes. Being an art major* I've always been leery of buying them online because I've always been afraid that online retailers will simply stuff brushes in a box and send them to you and you'll get brushes with the fishtailing, split ends, bent and loose bristles, and all that other stuff of reject brushes that are left over when the flesh and blood customers are done shopping (you know, the last few brushes you always see at art stores - or most of the brushes at hobby shops).

 

As for paints, I use a pretty eccletic mix right now - Vallejo, Reaper Pro Paints, several different iterations of Citadel, and Vallejo. My primary paints are Vallejos right now - split between Game Colors and Model Colors. I'm generally happy with Vallejo (certainly better than newer Citadel), though I've noticed that the Vallejos seem to have this issue with consistency - the word 'wildly' comes to mind and these are new paints. My Vallejo white is thicker that the Elmer's glue on my table (thinned, it works just fine), while some of the Game Colors seem downright liquid, even after pulling the stopper and stirring it around a bit to get the sedimented paint stirred in they still flow more like thinned paints.

 

I feel I should say that I am curious about Reaper Master Series paints but again, there's not a single game store in my area that carries RMS (the store that carried RPPs decided not to stock RMS because RPPs didn't move at all). A friend recently ordered some RMS paints online and has been pretty happy with them, so I plan to take the plunge and try a few RMS colors out soon.

 

(* Yeah, how pathetic is that, an art major who can't layer on a mini? I can do all this stuff on canvas, paper , the wall of a building without a problem. A mini? Nope.)

 

Awong -

 

Good points, thanks. As for the camera thing, I'm working on it (now if I could just get rid of this "bills" thing...). The digital cam I have right now is an elder model without any capacity for photographing minis effectively (and to think I paid $1500 for it when it was new).

 

Flynn -

 

I'm really just trying to get to the bottom of this layering thing - it's one of the skills I figure is really the key to doing anything more advanced than slinging paint at a figure and hoping for the best. I keep calling it blending, which unfortunately is associated with wet-blending - which is not what I'm trying to do, durr.

 

Mclimbin -

 

We all have to start somewhere, eh? Admitting I'm bad at this is the beginning I figure. Getting better will be a challenge. I'm sort of set in my ways of treating colors from using pencils, pastels, and airbrushes. Mini painting is an entirely different beast.

 

Errex -

 

Yeah, I was looking at an NMM guide I saw on the Rackham boards and he seems to use the method you describe:

 

http://www3.sympatico.ca/jleblanc012/etape-nmm.jpg

 

Something like that is the method you're describing? It seems like fitting in all those gradients in ever so thin lines around what you've already done would require extraordinary skill with handling an excellent brush superbly mixed paints - skills that'd mean I think almost any method would work for you? Do you use wet-blending?

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Epicenter, my advice is in three parts--

 

First---sometimes it isn't your skills but your tools that hold you back, and most of the time that is definitely your brush. Make sure you have a good one.

 

Second---The next layer should be more of a color difference from the one beneath it if you aren't seeing an effect and it's frustrating you. There is a learning curve and it takes practice and experience with working the paint. Don't focus so much on exact ratios, exact number of layers and colors, but do what works for you. As you get better, then you push yourself further and you'll have the skills built up to do even better, such as knowing when to glaze, how thin your paint needs to be to do what you want it to do at each point, and just when you've pit on enough layers so it looks right to your eye.

 

Third---pictures of what you have achieved would help us know more about what trouble you're having, but know that there is something called the a$$ point of a miniature--the point where it looks horrible, but keep going and it will get better as you go along. Patience in all things.

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...but know that there is something called the a$$ point of a miniature--the point where it looks horrible, but keep going and it will get better as you go along...

 

My signiture should read...

 

AWhang

Permanently stranded at the @$$ point! ::D:

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I don't do wetblending conciously. I always describe what I do as layering, but I find that as I approach the results I'm shooting for, my technique shifts to what you might call wet-layering, but really is just an effort to smooth the transitions by applying small glazes of the color mixes involved.

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...but know that there is something called the a$$ point of a miniature--the point where it looks horrible, but keep going and it will get better as you go along...

 

My signiture should read...

 

AWhang

Permanently stranded at the @$$ point! ::D:

 

I'll kick you at Gen Con out of that point! ;-P

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Many of my figures get stranded at the a$$ point. Until I throw them in the trash.

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Many of my figures get stranded at the a$$ point. Until I throw them in the trash.

 

Flynn,

You're always welcome to throw in my direction anytime!

 

Sue,

Kick, but not at my @$$ point...that's sore already ::D: Looking forward to some tutor time!!

 

Thanks

AWhang

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Sue,

Kick, but not at my @$$ point...that's sore already ::D: Looking forward to some tutor time!!

 

Thanks

AWhang

 

OOOOOO OOOOOO OOOOOO!!! Do I get to kick you too? I'll be there!!

 

--Anne--Good thing she's really more masochistic than sadistic, folks. :;):

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