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Painting techniques

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I will preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert painter.  I just haven't put the hours in behind all the techniques that will be outlined below to master them.  I have done quite a lot of research into the various techniques over the years as I've tried to learn and develop new skills and improve my painting though.  This is a distillation of that experience and research in one place that I hope will help other hobbyists.


There are a wide range of painting techniques that can be used to achieve different effects.  You don't need to be a pro painter to try out these various methods, but you do need to keep practicing them in order to improve and get the techniques perfected.  As with all skills it takes regular practice to improve.  Something that is handy to get to grips with for developing your painting is colour theory (which will help with colour choices, mixing colours etc), but that is a separate topic in itself.

To start some basic terms

Base coat - this is the initial colour(s) you place on the model.  As you try different techniques, you'll likely find you are using more colours to get the initial base coat done.

Shading - this is the term used for making areas on a model darker

Highlighting - this is the term used for making areas on the model lighter

Ferrule - This is the metal piece between the handle of the brush and the bristles.  It's what keeps all the bristles in place.  It's important to keep paint out of the ferrule, as once paint gets in there and dries up, it's a sure fire way to ruin your brush, no matter how cheap or expensive the brush is!

Brush Belly - The belly of the brush refers to the volume of the hairs of the brush. Different brands / series of brushes have different bellies.  The belly of the brush is what helps store paint in the brush, while you are painting.  As a general rule, the larger the belly, the fewer times you will need to go back to the paint to add more to the brush.



Drybrushing - This technique is a fairly easy one to get to grips with, but as mentioned, the more you use it, the more you'll realise and develop new ways of doing it that will change how you use it.  Drybrushing is commonly used to apply highlights to raised elements / edges on a model. The first thing to make sure is that he brush you are using is completely dry. The brush you use should probably be an older brush or a brush that was created specifically for drybrushing as the process can be pretty harsh on a brush.

To do drybrushing, you get some paint on your brush, then wipe off most of it on a piece of paper towel or similar.  This should leave a little it of paint on the brush.  You then drag the brush tip lightly back and forth perpendicularly to the edge (s) you want to highlight.  This should then pick out the edges as the paint in the brush catches on them to develop a highlight on those edges. 

One thing you can try is to only drag the brush in one direction to simulate light coming from a single source.  This can be used as part of other techniques like Object Source Lighting (OSL) or a Zenithal technique.

Edge Highligting - Edge highlighting is used to add a lighter tone to the (generally sharp) edges of surfaces.  This effect is easier to achieve on sharp edges like the joint of armour panels on a vehicle for example, but with the right paint consistency and a decent brush can be done easily on any edge.

There are two main ways to do edge highlighting:  

- The first is to get the paint on your brush and simply draw the brush along the edge you wish to highlight.  This requires some level of brush control in order to keep a reasonably consistent thickness to the edge highlight and to follow any contours etc.

- The second method is to thin the paint a little, so that the belly of the brush soaks it up and then drag the edge of the brush along the edge you wish to highlight.  This will produce a much finer / sharper highlight than the previous method, however this method does need a suitable brush as not all brushes will have hairs that will bend in a manner that keeps the bristles together.

Zenithal - This technique is often referred to as zenithal priming and and most effectively achieved using an airbrush.  This method is used to generate a gradient transition of shade to highlight on your model (most commonly from directly above, but you can always adjust the "high point" of the model by adjusting where the angles hit the model).

To do this method, you need to pick 3 colours.  A shade colour, a mid tone and a highlight colour.  The most common colours used are a dark grey or black for the shade, a mid tone grey for the mid tone and white for the highlight.  That being said, you can use any colours you want as long as you have that gradient of colours from dark to light.

To do a zenithal effect, you can either put the shade layer down first, then at a roughly 45 degree downward angle, spray the mid tone down on the model.  Then finally from a top down angle, spray the highlight colour.

The effect of this technique will show you where the shade, mid and highlight tones should go when painting your model.  Or, if you use the glazing technique, can be used to help create a quick gradient undertone that you can glaze over to get a good colour transition effect relatively easily.

Glazing - Glazing is a technique that a lot of people probably consider to be a more advanced one.  Realistically, the hardest part of glazing is getting the right paint consistency rather than the actual application of the paint.  Glazing is most often used to help blend transitions between sharp edges of colour or over a zenithal base layer.

To glaze, you need to thin your paint down quite a bit.  You can use water or some kind of flow improver or branded paint thinner depending on your preference and the type of paint you're working with. you want to get the paint thinned to the point where it is transluscent.  The idea being that it will adjust the tone / saturation of the paints underneath it without obscuring it.  So you're letting the paint under the paint you apply still come through the layer(s) you put over them.

To apply a glaze, let your brush soak up the thinned down paint into the belly of the brush, then touch the brush to a paper towel / tissue a few times to draw out the excess water / thinning medium, but leaving the paint behind. Then, you need to draw the brush across the area you want to apply the colour to.  However, there's a trick to it.  When you are applying the glaze to help blur the transition between two colours (e.g. between the mid tone and the highlight) it will depend on which colour you're using to do the glaze.  If you re using the darker of the two colours, you want to draw the brush down from the lighter area towards the darker area.  If you're using the highlight colour, the reverse is true.  This is because the most pigment will be deposited by the brush at the end of the stroke.

When applying a glaze over a zenithal underlayer, you generally want to draw down from the highlight to the shade.

It's important to note that because the paint you're using is very thin, it will very likely take multiple layers to get to the end result / colour you want.  Just make sure you let the previous layer dry before applying a subsequent one.



This is a work in progress and I will be adding other techniques or adjusting the ones already here based on feedback or my own experience.

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15 minutes ago, Magos Kasen said:

Make sure you lick your brushes.

I've been painting while on a video call with friends who were freaked out when I did that.  Never Again shall I paint on video.

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