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How to blend by olliekickflip

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For years I studied those crazy European painters wondering just how they did such fantastic blending? How their models looked so realistic? How they got all those 9's on cool mini or not!?!? Not to mention the speed at which they did it! I kept close tabs on the greats such as Jeremie Bonamant, Sebastian Archer and Vincent Hudon. How did these guys do it...they talk about glazes and washes and "juices". There were lots of tutorials clearly ment for someone else because I just couldn't understand what the hell they were talking about. In the past year and a half or so, I have made some personal breakthroughs. Some things I learned from paying my dues...painting until the wee hours of the night and observing what I had done. Others, were because some one cared enough to show me how to do it. Once equipped with the tools, I have been able to far exceed anything I thought possible before. I am not an artist. Nothing has come easy for me. I practice all the time, I try really really hard, and I fail a whole lot more than I succeed! The key was I just kept coming back for more. More abuse from the painting gods!


So anyways, here is what I have learned so far. I didn't make any of this up myself. Most of what I know is taken off the net and from a crazy Frenchman named Jeremie. (whom I will quote numerous times throught this text!) Take from it what you may. If there is anything I have learned, it is that nothing is ever set in stone. A week from now I may paint differently then how I paint today. The fundamentals however will still be the same. The Key is control. What can you control, what can you not control.


Lets start with the model itself.

It doesn't matter if its plastic, resin, metal or cow dung...your model needs to be prepped before you put on that gorgeous paintjob! I start by cleaning off all the mold lines (or at least trying to!). I use a knife and file to do the initial scraping and grinding. If there is a conversion or the model needs to be assembled, I also start preping for that as well. Before assembly, I go over the model with a 400 grit steel pad that I got at Home Depot as well as 600 grit sandpaper. Try to get the model sanded as best you can. We want as smooth a surface as possible without taking off detail. The next step is to give it a sanding with my dremel tool. I use a bit that looks like a bit of steel whool is attached to it. It doesn't take off detail but does sand out some of the smaller cracks and such. My last step is to use 0000 grade steel wool. I give the model a vigerous wooling and that shines up the model pretty well. The last step in this process is to clean the pieces. I use my sons current toothbrush (honestly, he really doesn't know the difference...just that every once in a while, his toothbrush is a little dirtier looking than normal!) No really, I use a spare toothbrush and a bit of soap and wash the model thoroughly. Ok, ready to paint? Not quite! Next step is to mix up a wee bit of Milliput ( <a href="http://www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.asp?M...ct&ID=81004" target="_blank">http://www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.asp?M...ct&ID=81004</a> ) Do not get the Fine grade, it turns to absolute mush with water which defeats the purpose. Mix up your blob of Milliput and then add a couple drops of water. Mush it up until it becomes a paste that you can paint onto your model. Paint the Milliput onto your model in areas where there are still scratches and or pot marks in the metal (pewter often times has little imperfections in the metal. This will muck up a perfetly good robe or piece of armor. You want to fix these imperfections because the way I will show you how to paint, it has a tendency to draw pigment to these areas and then your screwed!!! After this step, I usually give the milliput a day to dry real good so I can come back and do a light sanding to smooth everything out one last time. I wash the model again and I'm ready to prime! Once the model is free from any water residue, I prime it white. I prime using short burst of spray. Basically I am just giving the model a light even coat of primer. You will still be able to see metal or plastic showing through the primer coat but this is ok. You do not want a solid primer coat as this will actually create a barrier to which your subsiquent coats of paint will not adhere as well to.

Now before we start, let me just say that this is how I paint. This is how I get the results that I do. You are not obligated to paint like me. Nor do you have to believe anything that I say. I'm sure my painting style will go against much of what you already know. You may try my techinque and say ollie's on crack! I tried his technique and it didn't work. To that I say....TRY IT AGAIN...THEN AGAIN...THEN AGAIN. Try it until it does work for you! Add your own spin to it and make it your own technique! I guarantee you smoother blends and quicker paint times! You will find yourself happier and will probably live longer! (well, I'm not quite sure about that last statement but hey!)


Ok, lets get to business!

I start by preparing my wet pallet:

<a href="http://www.reapermini.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=31964" target="_blank">http://www.reapermini.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=31964</a>

As far as colors go, they really don't matter at this point. Pick whatever you want, what matters now is technique!

When I choose the color I want to paint with I take out my intermediary color (the color the object is going to be in real life), a light beige or white color to add for my highlight and then a darker color for my shadows. Often times it will be a nice shade of navy blue. In this case, I am using P3 colors (again the brand does not matter. Reaper, GW and P3 all make fine paints...use what you got!)

My Intermediary color is Trollblood Base

I highlight with Menoth White Base up to Underbelly blue and then just a smidgen of white.\

For shadows, I added Exile Blue, Sanguine Base (this is a deep wine color), Coal Black (a tealish black) and a very little bit of black.

The paintbrush I use is an 8404 Raphael size 0 paintbrush. It is a very nice brush and is comperable to the WN series 7 brushes. <a href="http://www.dickblick.com/zz050/48/" target="_blank">http://www.dickblick.com/zz050/48/</a>

I only add water to my paints. Nothing else. If done properly you will not need any of the other "paint aids". You can acheive perfect blends without the help of anything other than water!

I find that it is much harder to do highlights than it is to do shadows so I start my base coat at about 70% of what my final highlight color will be. In this case it is a 60/40 mix of Menoth White Base and Trollblood Base. To that I add probably a 5 to 1 ratio of paint to water. I want this stuff to be really watery.


I apply it as a first coat very quckly and very wet. Be sure to cover the entire area you want to paint. Then with either a clean brush or clean the brush your using, blot up all the excess paint. You dont want there to be any pools or excess paint in the cracks. You want to go for a perfectly smooth layer of paint. Be diligent about this as subsiquent layers of paint will be screwed up if you don't!


After the first coat is dry, I apply the second coat agian making sure it goes on even and does not pool in cracks or basically anywhere!


When the paint is dry is should have a very "dry" look to it. If it starts to look shiny, you have put too much pigment on the model. Acrylic paints tend to start sealing themselves off at a certain point. They get a plastic look to them and they actually start to repel subsiquent layers. Its not to say that paint wont still stick to itself, but it sticks much better when it is not "sealed". It has taken me a while to figure this one out, in fact, this ogre is the first model that I have not gone overboard with paint and ended up with the "plastic" look.

At this point, I started adding in some of my intermediary color to the "base" color. Again it is watered down about the same as the base coat. In this case though I am not slopping it all over the model. I am putting it where I want color to be. This is something that either you have a natural ability to judge or you have painted way to many models and just figured it out. Personally, I'm still figuring it out! I apply this paint by "pushing it to the area I want it to go. In this case it is from light to dark. Notice the area on the right leg and foot. there is just a hint of color.


When you "push" the paint, I usually take my brush, load a bit of paint on it and then unload most of it onto a paper towel. Then I apply the brush to the model with a bit of pressure and slowly ease off of that pressure when I near the end of my brush stroke. This tends to let far less pigment off the brush at the start of the stroke and more at the end of the stroke...ah the starting of a blend!



So for the ogre, I started my brush strokes on top of the leg at about the midpoint and stroked donwards towards his leggings. For the underside of the leg, I started midway down the side of the leg and stroked under the leg. For step two and sometimes three, you use the same exact color!!! Just re-apply the color to add to the richness of the color. I usually start a bit lower with the blend though to create more depth. Notice that the leg and foot are a bit darker than the first step and that the blend is staying smooth! This is just two hits of the same color and we are already getting results. With the speed at which your paints dry, you can literally just sit there with the same color and add and add and add until you heart is content! I hope your excited, because I am!!! Yes, I am a dork! At least my girlfriend already knows and accepts this!


Also, please note that when you are applying color, make sure it is as thin a layer as you possibly can. The more you paint looks like a drop of water on your model, the better your chances of a jacked up blend are! Here is an example of paint thickness. Notice that the horizontal navy blue and dark red streaks are at full strength (right out of the pot) and the light blue and red streaks above them are at "blending" strength. The amount of water you use will also vary. You just need to to tests to see what works best for you. I tend to use all different amounts of water during painting. It really just depends on what I need to do at that time. Do I need more pigement? Less? Its just a matter of adding more or less water to the mix. this is something you will just have to get the "feel" for as you gain more experience!



OK, this is a good start for now. I will add more tomorrow!

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OK...so where were we. Oh yes! Before we go any further...and no doubt you have tried to do what I have described and think I am full of....well...er....really smelly stuff! Lets go over a little water theory or at least how it applies to me and putting pigment on a model. I use plain ol tap water from California...when I was visiting my girlfriend in Texas, we used plain ol tap water from Denton. As long as the water is clean and doesn't dry with any residue you should be fine. I do not add anything else. When I have a water/paint mix, I have the most control that I will be able to achieve while painting. Once I start adding other things to the mix, I lose control. Plus most of that stuff tastes really bad and probably isn't very healthy to be putting in your mouth to begin with! Now, how do I mix my paint. I usually start by taking a brushfull of paint or maybe two (this is not a lot of paint but with your wet pallet, it should last a while). I then start by cleaning my brush and then dipping it into my water and basically take a brushfull of water and add it to my brushfull of paint.


When I do my basecoats I usually go 60 to 70% with my water to paint mix. I want it thin but not too thin.

When blending I go 40 to 50% with my mix.

Many times I also do an 80% mix as a really light tinting mix that I apply to the entire area Highlights and shadows about every 5 layers. This slowly adds richness to the color and helps tie my blends together. I only do this with my darker (shading) colors.

That being said and all the percentages aside, it is really up to you to watch your paint and decide how much or how little water to add. If you see you are controlling your blends with a higher pigment count (less water) well, thats great...you will build up your blends much quicker. I find that when I am doing my final blends in my shadow areas I will only thin my paint with a "tip" full of water.


Here is a picture of P3's Coal Black (my favorite shading color). I start at 100% strait out of the can and add one brushfull of water per strip. Also note the concentration of color at the bottom of each strip. That is as I let off on the pressure of the brush and it let more pigment out. This is an important observation you need to make as you paint...you want to control how much pigment is coming out of your brush or better yet, staying in your brush!


Now you have your paint diluted with water...how to get it on the model without the dreaded water marks. You know that little outline of darker pigment that often times you dont see until its too late. Pigment has a tendency to want to go to the outer edges of its watery host. As you can see in the # 1 diagram of this picture, the pigments are floating around in the water and move towards the outer edges and then down. This is what causes the water marks. In the second diagram you see there is less water but it still has some of the same effects just minimized a bit . In the third diagram, the water level is very low. So low in fact that the pigment only has one option. Straight down. Now you have control over your pigment!


Here is my brush after soaking up some of my diluted paint. You can see it is full and if I put this on my model, all hell will break loose!


As you can see, there was quite a bit of water loaded onto the brush


So what I do is drain my brush onto a paper towel. Sometimes two, three even four swipes to get most of it out.


Now I am ready to paint.


This is how much paint was left in my brush...PERFECT!


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You just did the whole American Idol thing with the "And we will find out....right after this." Not that I watch that stuff.....my wife makes me. On a more serious note, Your technique makes a lot of sense but I have always had trouble with getting the ratio of water vs. paint right. Your models look awesome but it looks like something you would have to get used to or get the "feel" for. keep it going though because I am gonna try this stuff out very soon. Thanks, Aaron, for doing this for us.

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WOW :blink:


So... much... information. Can't... process... it all.


Seriously, as stated by antnol, thanks a lot for doing this. This is hands down the best explanation of wet-blending I've ever seen. At long last it makes sense, and I immediatly see where I've gone wrong in the past. I've been doing everything right except that I'm putting my layers on too heavy (pools and inconsistant color). I've known that I'm too impatatiant with my painting, but this seems like it will fix some of those problems.


I'm anxious to see how color highlights work into this equation.


Anyway, thanks again man. REALLY great stuff. ::D:

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Sweet tutorial. I look forward to seeing the rest.


I only have on question though ... if you end up with the most pigment at the end of the brush stroke .. wouldn't you want end the brush stroke where you want the most pigment.


For example .. if I'm highlight .. start the brush stroke at the shade area, and end it where the highlight is? and vice versa for shading .. start at the highlight and end where the shade is?





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OK, I will quickly answer a couple of questions and then move on with the tutorial.


First off, if you think you are going to read this tutorial or any other tutorial out there and suddenly be an uberlicious painter who gets 9.8's on cmon and wins all the painting contests...well, you will be dissapointed. This tutorial as well as all the other terrific tutorial on the net are absolutely useless without you putting a tremendous amount of effort behind it! Just remember, just because you have the fastest engine does not mean that you will win the race. It take a good driver, with years of experience to outdrive everyone else and win the race. So my little words of wisdom to you are..."run the race to win!" Give your all, no matter what your doing in life and you may not always "win" but you WILL be successful!


@antnol: YES, this is definately a "touch" thing. You HAVE to practice to get the feel for it and to really get good at it. Kind of like everything else in life. I encourage everyone to try this out on some random models at first. Thats what I did at, I have a shelf full of partially painted models, just for practice. It is nice beause you dont have to worry about messing up...as you don't really care about the model!


@quicksil: YES You paint towards the area that you want to deposit the paint. There is another technique that I call a color float in which you start with your most connsintrated pigment and then let off on pressure as you complete your brush stroke which actually puts less pigment down and creates a blend that way. This way is much more difficult and I really only use it on long sword blades where I want a long faded blend. But like I said it is much harder to do and requires more skill than what I am teaching here and honestly, I'd rather do it the easy way!


So I guess we're ready to finish this up!

Oh and just a quick note...I forgot to start taking the first few steps of photos till I was almost done with the upper body so for most of these first shots, just look at the right leg and foot. At a certain point when the photos get big again, thats where I caught up with the rest of the figure.


Now to add more depth to the shadow, I get to the fun part. The part where I start adding more color to the equasion and really make the paintjob come alive. You will be amazed at the colors you can achieve just by adding other colors to the mix. Since my median color is Trollblood Base, I then put Sanguine Base (its a deep wine color which creates my initial shade as you can see in the picture below.) I then add in various amounts of the following colors as I get deeper and deeper shadows. I also wanted the hands and arms to be a darker, almost black color so these colors were used in heavier doses than on the other parts of the model. Beaten Purple (any nice rich purple color will do), Exile Blue (any navy blue), Coal Black (its like black with teal mixed in...very dark), and black (the black will by used just barely...I try not to use very much black when I'm painting these days). Also, acheiving color depth without using black will teach you how to use color!!! Very nice!


So for the next layer, I am pretty much 100% Trollblood Base. as you can see from this picture, there is definitly more color but it is not as dark as say the underside of the belly which clearly has some of the shading colors added in to it.


In this fourth layer, I have started to add the Sanguine base to the mix. If you find that you are not getting a smooth blend, either practice more! or maybe you have your shadow too dark. Also if you find that nothing is happening (thats what used to always happen to me, I would put layer upon layer on the model and there would be no change. This could be that your paints are too thin or, you need more of a difference in color) Another thing I find myself doing is multiple brush strokes on the same area. Since there is so little paint on the brush it drys very quickly on the model so you can do one, two, three strokes in the same spot and be amazed as you watch the pigment build up right before your eyes!


As you can see I am adding some depth of color to the rest of the model as well. I will also take an even more thinned down mix of the same color and basically push it into the cracks where I wanted better definition between colors. For example the rope around his waist. I also did this same technique on the toes. I find that the watery paint has a tendency to want to go down in cracks so I can get away with darker colors painted right nest to light colors as the crack sucks the darker paint down into it. Of course this is another one of the "feel" techniques so just practice and remember watch what your paint does...it will really help you in the end. Watch how it drys. Try putting a little paint on and then move it to another section of the model before it dries...watch how it reacts. Can you put a little bit of thinned down paint at say the top of a robe and then push it to the bottom part of the robe, maybe where there is a crease? Get comfortable with moving the pigment around on the model. The more comfortable you are with this, the easier and faster it will be to blend! Also as you move the paint down the robe, let off on the pressure a little...now all the way. What happens? Where is the most concentration of pigment at? It should be at the bottom of the stoke. If it is, your starting to do it right! Now can you put paint on and then move it to another section with out letting any pigment out (or at least very little) this is call CONTROL. The more of it you have over your pigment...the better!!!

In step 5 I have added even more Sanguine base to the mix as well as introducing some of the purple and navy blue colors. Also note that my shadows are starting to have different intencities. My shadows and tonal hues are starting to get darker the further down the model they get. I try not to have the same highlights and same shade of shadows on the entire model. This gives it a much more realistic look. Well at least I think so! Plus it just makes painting that more interesting!!! Also note that I have not touched the highlights!!!!!! The added depth has really made the highlight areas pop!


In the next step, I have added some of my final shadows as well as done a couple really really thinned down glazes. It is about an 80% water to paint mix and I use my median color. I apply it to the entire area, highlights and shadows. This further helps tie in all the blending and get rid of some not so well blended areas. Make sure this glaze is thin. You dont want it to change the colors but to enhance them. Really you should feel like your just painting water onto the model. Oh and don't forget, paint in a different direction than your other layers.


So now you have seen how to apply a number of glazes to a model to achieve the shadowy areas and it really wasn't that many steps now was it! I was able to get some very deep, very rich colors very quickly. Of course this is the point of the story where I didn't take as many pictures of the following steps. In this next picture I have obviously done quite a bit more to the model in finishing other areas, but I have also applied the highlights which was really not that difficult at all. I already had my brightest areas at about 70 to80% of the final highlight color so I only had to go a wee bit higher! Basically I took my original mix of Trollblood base and Menoth White base and added a bit of white to it. Applied a layer using the same technique as the shadows just pushing the paint towards the brightest parts. After two or three layers, and adding a bit more white to the mix, I had my final highlights! Also note, I did the same thing with the highlights as I did with the shadows...the higher the highlight is on the model, the brighter it will be. Now if you find that your highlights get a bit choppy and leave some unwanted marks, you can always come back with your median color at about a 50/50 mix and glaze the area inbetween the highlight and shadow areas. This usually helps tie the colors together. Also just remember that you wont be perfect the first time or even the 10th time, but keep at it and I guarantee you that you will be a much happier and better painter in the end!!


Anyways, thanks for all your time that I have waisted!!! If you have questions, please feel free to ask. There are not dumb questions except for the ones not asked so fire away. Oh, and stay tuned, I will have finished pics in the gallery soon!









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