How to paint faces – Tutorial
Painting faces is one of the crucial parts in miniature painting hobby. Unfortunately many people give up before even trying to master this skill. This tutorial explains how to paint faces, but in fact it’s much more than that. It also teaches how to use colors for shaping your miniatures, how to create sense of depth with colors, how to make skintones interesting, and how to play with color nuances on your miniatures. To put it shortly: it’s a must-read for every aspiring miniature painter.Well, with this I believe that the subject of the faces is complete. In this tutorial I address location of lights and shadows, midtones and tones to heighten and to disguise volumes. In addition it’s expanded with color palettes and tones for different surroundings, specially focused to the four seasons.
PalettesFirst of all, painting a face is thinking about the palette of colors that im going to use. A very common mistake between painters is to be accustomed to a mixture and to use it for all type of skins. They finish doing monotoneous and little realistic works when they paint faces in particular circustamces. This can be minis under a strong light, bronzed by the sun or when trying to represent figures of different ethnic groups in the same diorama.
In the picture below it’s possible to observe some palettes that I have created for the occasion. One is a generic palette of brown neutral, very similar to the one I use for base colors, accompanied by other four sets of tones. Two primary pallettes (Warm and Cold) and 2 mixed. The intention is that mixing the palette of generic with the suitable palette of tones we pruned to give the atmosphere that we wish to surround our miniature.
Later we have the palette of warm colors.
In the opposite side we have the palette of colds.
So how to paint faces with these palettes?We can see a compared example of both palettes in this digital painting recreation (miniature was only digitally painted).
The spring palette that I have taken is this:
Finally the autumn palette, that is the following one:
Once we selected the color palette to use, there is another aspect to consider. On many occasions the “flesh” colors are colors very saturated to represent the average tones and it’s better to grey them a little to obtain a greater realism. (It is not the case of the miniature that I painted, since the gray tone is present as much in average tones as extreme.)
Here I put an example in a figure by Vincenti for you (that’s realism):
Placing highlights and shadowsIn the miniature where the positioning of lights and shades will be explained (Space Marine). I decided to grey all the face and then to heighten the volume giving tones. For the base I used the second base of the Andrea’s flesh paint set who has an intense orange brown color. I toned the color down by adding azur that is approximately the complementary color. Once applied the base it is the moment for adding the lights and the shades. Each face is different but more or less there are certain elements that all have in common. There are zones that always will be in shade and zones which always will be in light and this with some practice you will learn to see it automatically. The light focus is very advisable, for aesthetic reasons, to turn it a little to give more realism and to personalize the face. Its convenient before establishing the incidence of the light to locate the main view of the figure to adequate the light focus to that view.
Manipulating volumeThe theory is that the warm colors tend to heighten a volume, to say it somehow, to push it towards outside. On the contrary the cold colors give to sensation of depth and/or concavity. If we have this in mind its easy applying glazes of cold and warm colors to heighten the reliefs of the figure. Here you have a small example.
The perfect example is the figure of Lyssete, 28mm of Reaper Miniatures. It is a precious miniature that aside from having the typical Werner Klocke face has a noticeable cheekbone. I’ve selected a few photos so that you can see it for yourselves.
Later the challenge is in being able to disguise volume that it leaves downwards from cheekbone and that it is so ugly in a feminine face. In this case I need to “sink” the zone but I cannot use blue or green colors since probably they would give a sensation of a beard. I decided to use fucsia color to cool it. This tone does the function to me of cold tone and a similar color with the one of a feminine cheek with slight make up. Therefore using it to make up the eyelids will give me coherence to these tones.
Here you can see the result.