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Anyone have any advice on how to paint scales? I have a smaller dragon figure and I'm trying to paint the scales. However, it's not looking all that great... So some advice would be great!!!

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Depends on your experience level.

 

Beginner - drybrush.

 

Advanced - basecoat, then shade and highlight each individual scale. (See Mizuchi in my index post for an example of this method.)

 

If the scales are exceptionally tiny, I might just drybrush them anyway.

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 One thing to remember, when doing small stuff like scales or chainmail, is to pay close attention to how the light is hitting each individual object - the placement of the highlights and shadows is what really makes it "pop"... 

(When drawing two-dimensional images - especially when such details are too small to be accurately illustrated - rather than actually drawing each individual scale/chainmail link/other small repetitive detail on something it's often just done using a pattern of alternating black, grey and white dots to represent the highlights and shadows, using the contrast between them to define the shapes of the objects.)

 

Personally, I usually start out by basecoating the figure a slightly darker color than I want the mid-tone to be, then wash it heavily with a very dark shadow color (optionally taking the time to line all the scales if I'm painting for display rather than tabletop)... After that, I take my mid-tone, thin it down a bit, and paint about two thirds of each scale (again, depending on how much light is hitting it and from which direction), then do a second layer of that color over about half of it before moving on to the highlights.

 

Your brightest highlight will always be along the outside edge of the scale, and usually along the top, unless the scales are on the bottom or undersides of the creature.

 

If the scales are completely in shadow, you're going to make them darker than the parts that are in the light, and then "highlight" only up to your base color...

 

Remember that the scales are three-dimensional, so don't forget to paint the thin edges as well as the flat surface, leaving just enough of a dark line inbetween each scale and the one beneath it to make it look good.

Edited by Mad Jack
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If we're talking about heavily overlapped scales, I would:

 

Take a base-coat of the darkest of a given triad (let's say red).  Make sure you get in and under each overlapping scale.

 

Then take red ink, do a 50/50 mix, and wash that sucker, get some good shadows on him, make sure every nook and cranny gets a drink!

 

Dry brush a highlight of your middle color.

 

Dry brush a highlight of your lightest color.

 

If you want more highlights, do a 50/50 mix of pure white + lightest color and dry brush that on.  You can keep going up, with lighter and lighter dry-brushings, until finally you're at or near pure white, then call it done.

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If you're feeling particularly lazy, metallic colors pretty much highlight themselves. Metallic whatever-color, and then a dark wash to bring out the scale boundaries, is a quick and dirty way of doing it.

 

Otherwise, yes, painting each individual scale is the way to go.

 

Put a minor color gradient into the basecoat, like black lightening to purple from snout to tail, or something like olive to forest green. Also, you might as well do some base lighting at this point. Lighten up the top, darken the bottom, and it'll make it look more dynamic as a whole.

 

Make sure painting scales doesn't get too routine; make sure that each scale is highlighted and shaded according to the light source, instead of painting each scale the same way.

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If we're talking about heavily overlapped scales, I would:

 

Take a base-coat of the darkest of a given triad (let's say red).  Make sure you get in and under each overlapping scale.

 

Then take red ink, do a 50/50 mix, and wash that sucker, get some good shadows on him, make sure every nook and cranny gets a drink!

 

Dry brush a highlight of your middle color.

 

Dry brush a highlight of your lightest color.

 

If you want more highlights, do a 50/50 mix of pure white + lightest color and dry brush that on.  You can keep going up, with lighter and lighter dry-brushings, until finally you're at or near pure white, then call it done.

 

This is how I do it, too. If you are not painting for competitions or something work-related: This is the way to do it. You can continue this process way past tabletop quality, or just do a single draft to get a mini ready for play. 

Edited by Jaws
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If we're talking about heavily overlapped scales, I would:

 

Take a base-coat of the darkest of a given triad (let's say red).  Make sure you get in and under each overlapping scale.

 

Then take red ink, do a 50/50 mix, and wash that sucker, get some good shadows on him, make sure every nook and cranny gets a drink!

 

Dry brush a highlight of your middle color.

 

Dry brush a highlight of your lightest color.

 

If you want more highlights, do a 50/50 mix of pure white + lightest color and dry brush that on.  You can keep going up, with lighter and lighter dry-brushings, until finally you're at or near pure white, then call it done.

 

This is how I do it, too. If you are not painting for competitions or something work-related: This is the way to do it. You can continue this process way past tabletop quality, or just do a single draft to get a mini ready for play. 

 

 

It's basically how I paint now and for tabletop it's the best.  Base dark, ink-wash, highlight-highlight-highlight done.

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