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My Works-in-Progress: Bones on a Budget (Craft Paint)


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I'm enjoying seeing the threads from the folks who are showing off what they are doing with the bones - it's a great way to see new techniques and different ideas for painting or converting these minis. So, I'm adding my own here, I hope it's useful :)


First, I've posted this before in a thread dedicated to The Good, The Bad, The Craft Paint, but I wanted to demonstrate what I've been doing:




Painting progress using my collection of cheap craft paints, cheap brushes, mediocre skill hampered by almost a quarter century of neglect, shaky hands, and bad eyesight:

Getting started, I used 25mm round bases from Proxie Models - these look quite close to the plain round bases used by commercial pre-painted tabletop minis (D&D Miniatures and Pathfinder Battles), which is exactly what I was looking for. Any cuts for conversions were made with some small side-clippers I had bought from Games Workshop to assemble some plastic Warhammer minis once, and an exacto knife (the long sword was swapped from another sword-wielding Bones Orc). Assembly was done using a cheap Krazy-Glue rip-off from Walmart ("Super Glue" is apparently the brand name,)

Primed with Apple Barrel brand Black, using the larger of the three main brushes I use (a cheap Plaid brand #10 flat brush found in the craft section of Walmart).

After this step, I generally use the finer of the three main brushes (Plaid #0 pointed) unless I'm drybrushing a fairly large, flat surface where I don't need to be very careful (in those cases, a Plaid #3 pointed is used - this brush was only used for plate armor and swords on this Orc).

Lowest layer: skin, an "undercoat" of dark Pewter Grey craft paint dry-brushed onto most of the skin surface. I did, actually, forget to paint his hands!

Lowest layer: skin, highlights in lighter Country Grey craft paint, drybrushed onto the higher parts of the skin. (Also, playing catch-up on the hands I forgot in the prvious step - they still need to be highlighted.) The eyes and gums and teeth are touched up with Apple Barrel black; it's OK to get outside the lines with the Black here. Apple Barrel black was carefully painted at the edges of any clothing, armor, or gear, to help give a 3D shadow effect.

Touching up the face, by adding Bright Red eyes, and drybrushed Ivory teeth. Finally, I carefully drybrushed light Country Grey over the very top of the lips, nose, and eyebrows, and then drybrushed Country Grey again so that the paint looks a little lighter, and stands out a little lighter than the surrounding features. Nutmeg Brown is drybrushed onto all leather, hide, fur, and wood - this dries a fairly dark brown, not very visible yet. Nutmeg Brown is not a very intuitive paint for me to use, but looks fine after it dries, especially when highlighted with lighter browns.

Fur highlighted lightly in Territorial Beige. FolkArt Antique Copper drybrushed onto the short sword hilt, buckle on shoulder strap, jewelry, and a couple other places. A light, Country Tan dry-brushed in light, rough, close, vertical streaks onto the handle of the long sword to simulate a grain to the wood or bone handle, followed by light, close vertical streaks of Ivory (a similar process was performed on a horn trumpet strapped to the Orc's back, not visible in this picture). Apple Barrel black was carefully painted at the edges of any outer-layer clothing, armor, or gear, to help give a 3D shadow effect.

I forgot to take photos for the next couple steps! He looks a bit shiny, because he's still wet from the black paint wash. These steps followed one after the other fairly quickly - I think I did about 20 minutes of work before realizing I forgot to snap photos a couple times. FolkArt Sequin Black (a very, very dark metallic black) was drybrushed over the chainmail, platemail chest plates, boots, and bracer, followed by highlights in Sterlng Silver - for the swords and plate armor, a #3 pointed brush with the bristles cut to a flat surface were used to roughly dab silver onto the flat surfaces, leaving a rough, grainy, eroded look to the metal surfaces. The jewel at the neck was highlighted in FolkArt Sterling Silver over the Antique Copper, giving it a somewhat antiqued, tarnished look. The gemstone in the jewel was painted first in an almost painfully bright, Bella brand Lime Green, then dabbed in Bella Star Dust glitter paint (a sort of translucent, pearly paint with multi-colored bright metallic glitter suspended in it), then painted over that with a little translucent green suncatcher paint - the result looks like a green gemstone (like an emerald). I did a little touching up at any points where I got a little sloppy, edging things in Apple Barrel Black, and drybrushing highlight colors again where needed. Finally, I used a mix of one drop of Apple Barrel brand Black, with four or five drops of the water I wash my brushes in (now a dark, muddy, slightly earthy black), washing down the entire Orc, and photographed before he dried.

Dried Orc, from the back.

I'm a monster - RAWR! A close-up for detail. I was afraid the gemstone wouldn't photograph very well, but it seems to glitter quite nicely here :) Thanks to the close-up, those of you with sharper eyes might see some places where I got a little wild with the Sterling Silver when highlighting armor, and I could touch it up, but it's not very noticeable to me and good enough for tabletop use so I can live with it.

An Orc fashion show! An older (c. 2004) WotC D&D Miniatures Orc on the left, a newer (c. 2013) WotC Dungeon Command Orc in the middle, and one of my Bones Craft Paint Orc on the right. The two pre-painted Orcs on the left are my minimum standard: if my painted minis look at least as good as Wizards of the Coast's prepainted work, I'm happy - I think the Craft Paint worked out better than it should have.

For those interested in that sort of thing, here's some of my homework:

With a couple dozen craft-painted Bones behind me now, I find the craft paints easier and easier to work with - I'm quite happy with the results, which should serve just fine for tabletop use. Actual work on this took a lot less than an hour, but ended up more like an hour and a half, due to delays while photographing, and distraction while watching television or stopping to cook some dinner.

I believe that even below-average painters can get about the same results I did, which, I feel, look a little better than professionally-painted mass-marked pre-painted plastic miniatures. I believe the cheap paints should work quite adequately for anyone on a budget.


The TL;DR version:


I've just taken this hobby back up after about 25 years away from it, and I've been mostly dry-brushing, using cheap craft paint, cheap brushes, and cheap glue, for tabletop RPG use. I guess I'm more or less "speed painting" these, I spend two or three hours a night painting a couple up, at the rate of about one an hour. I'm hoping to achieve a level of quality as good as, or better, than normal for mass-market pre-painted plastic minis like D&D Miniatures.


Criticism, complaints, questions, or feedback are quite welcome, and I hope there's something here that interests or helps someone :)



(typos corrected)

Edited by YronimosW
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And, here are some Caesar Miniatures 1/72 trolls:

Two Caesar Miniatures 1/72 plastic trolls, with a D&D Miniatures troll in the middle for comparison. The rest of the 1/72 guys in Caesar's fantasy miniatures line are really fairly small (almost pixie-sized), but these trolls are just the right size for use alongside 28mm Heroic scale miniatures.

One of the trolls hanging out with a gang of Pathfinder goblins.

A close-up of the face.

These were very quick and easy to paint up (about a half hour for both, while distracted), and I think they make fine miniatures to start painting with.

I first covered these with black Apple Barrel paint, and then drybrushed a dark and then a light Daler Rowney green paint, packaged in plastic squeeze tubes, on top, added some grey or khaki claws to the fingers and toes, washed a bit of Apple Barrel black paint at about 1:5 paint to water mix, and then added the glowing eyes after the wash dried. The craft paint seems to stick fairly well to the plastic, and seems to have survived being dropped a couple times and shaken in a box of other plastic minis: I would have to imagine that the paintability of the plastics used in 1/72 soft plastic miniatures has come a long way over the last 30 years. I prefer Bonesium, but the Caesar plastic was nowhere near being as bad as I'd feared.

I added some 50mm Proxie Models circular bases to the trolls using cheap Walmart Super Glue - this glue seems to work very well with this plastic. The trolls came with barely any base at all, aside from some tiny flat tabs on the sides of the feet to help him stand up straight (they don't do a very good job). The tabs trimmed off easily enough, though, and the new bases work very well. I don't think I'd enjoy modding this type of plastic very much, but it's not the worst I've ever tried to work with.


I wasn't too sure about the big bunny ears when I first saw these guys, but the sculpts grew on me - they look much better painted than they did in the original dark grey plastic, and the angry troll faces are kind of creepy.


They ship as part of a roughly US$10 package containing about 8 or so 1/72 scale fantasy adventurers in a variety of rather old-fashioned outfits and poses, which I rather enjoy, but unfortunately, compared to Bones miniatures, Caesar's adventurers are a bit small to be anything but Haflings or Pixies! It's a cool package anyway, and I'm sure I'll find a use for the tiny adventurers :) Given a choice, I favor Bones miniatures, but I think the Trolls fit right in well among Bones Goblins and Orcs.

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And Pathfinder Goblins - some of my favorites :)

A large group picture:


(Yes, I did get the fire backwards... doh! It's a hard habit to break, shading from darker to lighter colours like that.)

A large close-up of one of my Bones goblins.


A mix of pre-painted Pathfinder Battles "We Be Goblins" miniatures, and their Bones counterparts. I think they work quite well alongside each other.

Close-up of one of my Bones gobbies, along with a handful of pre-painted Pathfinder Battles "We Be Goblins" minis.

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Mr. Bones:


Mr. Bones alongside a random pre-painted MageKnight ghoul or lich of some sort. (I think I will have to repaint the Mageknight guy some time, I never did care for the quality of the pre-paint on those minis.)


I guess the only notable thing about Mr. Bones is the shovel: I dry-brushed it in FolkArt brand Sterling Silver metallic paint, and then stabbed some very dry rust paint I made up from a mix of brown (Daler Rowney, with iron oxide pigment, which is basically rust), red, black, and FolkArt Antique Copper. The handle is a mix of Country Grey, Ivory, and Country Tan, to give it the look that heavily weathered barns or garden tools seem to get. I'm not 100% satisfied with my dry-brushing on the belt, but I suppose I can live with it (looks fine on a game table).


(corrected typos)

Edited by YronimosW
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Very nice. I've done the same thing with the flames loads of times. It's easy to do if you are in a non-thinking painting mode (which I often am since I love listening to audiobooks while I paint).


I might suggest thinning your paints with a bit of water when you paint - it will get rid of the brush strokes. I learned this at my first ReaperCon and it has made a world of difference in my painting.


Keep up the great work!

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Thank you very much for the tips and encouragement, everyone! I'l definitely try thinning the paint and adding more highlights to see what happens.


Night time with moonlight is pretty much the effect I would hope to get - I think it works at least for the monsters, though maybe not for more heroic types (I'll cross that bridge when I get to it later on.) Later tonight I'll try uploading soe pctures of the undead, and the one or two others I have already finished, and then I'll start adding a few more WIP photos for stuff I haven't started yet.


Thank you again! :)

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Good work!


I'm hoping to achieve a level of quality as good as, or better, than normal for mass-market pre-painted plastic minis like D&D Miniatures.

If you're doing any sort of shading and highlighting, you're already light years ahead of pre-painted WotC minis.

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Thank you everyone :)


The Caesar trolls really grew on me - they use a fairly simple sculpt, and there's not a lot of fine detail to them, which makes them a fairly blank canvas to work with. There are just enough raised areas, especially in the face and musculature, to make them work well for highlighting. They're simple, nothing fancy, and can be finished with a half-dozen colours and only a few steps needed for a minimalist painting. That, combined with a larger size, makes them nice candidates, I think, for new painters to work with (and maybe sculpters to experiment with, too). And, with so many large areas of flat, exposed skin, I've been wondering what it might look like to use a fine-tipped brush and a steady hand to paint tribal tattoos or designs in war-paint all over them: not too many miniatures invite that sort of work (if I were about 20 years younger, I'd jump right into that - sadly, my hands aren't so steady anymore...)


WotC are doing something on their minis, because there is a bit of a stab at adding some sort of illusion of depth to them, with shadows in the deeper parts of the sculpts and all. After a couple days of lurking in the speed-painting forum, I'm guessing now that it's the result of some sort of dip over flat colours. It's adequate for what it is - a way to get pre-painted minis out the door quickly and cheaply while still looking like something, so I won't grudge them on that. However, that would explain that typical "murky" look that they seem to get: flat colours dashed onto black plastic, and dipped in a thin, muddy goop, are bound to get that effect. My real complaint, though, is the amount of detail that gets skipped by WotC's poor factory drudges, especially on newer miniatures - for example, some of the WotC pre-painted minis I included in the screenshots for comparison has a rather obvious leather strap that is the same green as the shirt, and the handle of his mace is the same grey as the hand holding it. In any case, for a minimum standard, it works: if I can tell myself "well, at least it's not as bad as the mass-market pre-painted professionals' work", I can sleep at night :)


If you're interested, Cranky, I've got one last Orc to paint up, and I'll see if I can get some detailed photos of his axe in progress to demo how I got the eroded look. I blame poor Bob Ross: it's a bit of a mutation of what I half remember of seeing on 1980's public TV his Stippling Brush technique for painting happy little bushes and patches of grass (it's probably a good time to break out the cheap brushes, as I sort of tap a flat-tipped brush straight down onto the flat surfaces, and it seems like it might be a bit rough on a good brush), to just dot the metallic paints unevenly onto the sword... "so just load your brush, let some of the paint go here on your palette, and then tap, tap some swords onto these happy little Orcs... tap tap tap... they're living right here in your cold dark cave, below your happy little trees, whispering tales of blood and gore... isn't that nice? You can do it... anything you like, it's your little world!" Here's a video of an artist doing something very close, to paint grass in a landscape: (

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Zombies! Two Pathfinder Battles zombies are shown at the ends for comparison.

Skeletons. I converted the noodle spears into short swords for a couple of the Bones skeletons. (Useless Bones fact #97: noodle spears require the Exotic Weapons feat to use effectively.) I also painted up a couple Caesar Miniatures 1/72 scale skeletons with minor modifications (weapon swap to axes and shields) - 1/72 scale is a bit smaller than 28mm Heroic (or whatever Bones uses), so the Caesar skeletons are wee little Dwarf Skeletons now!

Edited by YronimosW
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Painting the Orc Chieftain:



Sketched some tattoos into place with a fine-tipped brush.

Added a couple more tattoos. Dabbed Berry Red paint to the Axe; some of this red will show through under the stippled metallic paint, with an effect that I hope would give the axe a sort of rusty look. (I've never tried this before.) Painted all wood and leather with some dark brown.

Dabbed over patchwork leather armor in motley colours of forest greens, mustard yellows, brick reds, and cobalt blues.

Stippled a bit of a mix of Sequin Black and Sterling Silver onto metals. This stippling is not an even coat - I basically tap/stab a rough brush straight down onto the flat areas a few times, leaving the underlying colours visible between raised dots of fresh paint.

Stippled Sterling Silver onto the axe, chainmail, and blate armor bits; Antique Gold onto the medallion; Antique Copper on rivets and shield spikes, touched up black lining. Added details to shield (not very visible).

Washed everything over in Black/dirty brush water (1:4 ratio of paint to water) a couple times. This wash tends to settle in between the stippling on the flat armor and weapons, which helps to bring out the eroded, grainy look to these elements. Touched up some things that lost brightness with the wash, such as the eyes, lips, brow, nose, etc. (After these pictures were taken, I touched up a little more, adding black to the cracks in the axe, for example.)

Some details of the shield, and tattoos. (Some bits would get touch-ups after this photo was taken.)

From the back, the motley leather armor is more visible. (The chainmail, tatoos, and other bits got touched up later.)

Orc Chieftain (a bit of my sketch-paper dropcloth is visible behind him - I regularly smear paint off onto it for dry drybrushing, and clean brushes on it.)

Orc War-Band

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Detail from an evil warrior's new sword (weapon swap from an Iron Golem). The gemstone is Bella "Star Dust" craft paint (multi-coloured glitter suspended in a pearlescent whitish paint), coated over with a mix of blue and green sun-catcher "stained glass" stain. Unfortunately, the picture makes the "flash" around the edges of the sword look much worse than it really is, but now I wish I'd trimmed it better.


Perhaps surprisingly, the Shoggoths were one of the toughest things to paint so far.



In truth, the unpainted Shoggoth doesn't look like much: a sphere sitting in the middle of amorphous goop... so, the trick is to make something that doesn't look like anything, look like something convincing.

I found as I studied the unpainted model for a while that that central sphere was something of a mystery... what is it, and what do I do with it?

I decided to cheat, and run an image search to see how other people painted their Shoggoths. Sadly, there's not much out there, so I guess I'm not the only one who found this to be an intimidating piece to start painting!

It seems that with other painters' work, the Shoggoths that are painted, mostly have a giant eyeball painted onto the sphere. I decided to be different, and decided instead to paint up some sort of internal organs floating in a fluid-filled membrane, and used a human brain as a rough model for that.

So, I painted this the same way as the minis in earlier postings: black base, covered in three increasingly brighter green dry-brushings. Then, I dabbed in a dark band between two hemispheres of the central sphere, and then branched off from that some convolutions in rough mirror-images of each other.

The eyes were trickier to paint, and I had to re-paint them a couple times: I started out with something fancy, based on some tricks I found online for painting gemstones, but it didn't quite look right after I coated them in glossy, translucent, red suncatcher stain. After a couple more tries, I finally settled on simple uneven dab of ivory craft paint for the eyeballs, topped with flat black pupils, painted over the red stain with some red still visible, and then I "washed" it over with thinned-down blackish-brown paint. Finally, I coated the whole thing in orange suncatcher stain, to give it that leprous, slimy, membranous, look it finished with; the orange stain is somewhat subtle and dries a somewhat light, cream colour which looks great over greens, browns, and ivory.


I feared that the sloppy work on the eyes, with the red still visible, would be disastrous, but instead it turned out unexpectedly well with a very blood-shot look, which is somewhat what I'd hoped for, but it looked far better in practice than I expected, with its own detail showing through completely by accident (I don't quite know how I did it, and I have no idea whether I can duplicate it).


Edited by YronimosW
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