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Friday, August 17, 2012

Face painting is not just for kids...

Why Bother?
Flames of War is played on a table top where infantry are seen from three feet away and so you might ask yourself "Why you would bother with detailing a soldier's face?" Firstly I would like to confirm your thoughts and remark straight away that you don't have to. In fact I have found that it's with normal highlighting and shading that you can get the most "pop" out of a soldier's face on the table top. However, I really enjoy the modelling aspect of this hobby and so when it comes time to painting infantry, I go all out. This doesn't mean you should do the same for every soldier, however there may be that one character, general, or commander that you feel deserves the royal treatment.

In this article, I will endeavour to document the techniques I used as well as the the paints involved in each step in order to provide some guidance so that you can give it a shot. I preempt this with a warning that the following descriptions are quite verbose in order to provide as much detail as possible. This will makes it easier for you to replicate each step. However, I will be clear and succinct at all times with handy reference photos that show each step as it is being applied.

Tools for the Task
Firstly you will need your favourite small brush. By favourite, I mean the brush that you feel most comfortable with using for fine detail. This does not necessarily mean your smallest brush in your kit. It is the brush that you feel in the most control of. It will consistently hold it's shape and put out a measurable amount of paint during each stroke. This will become most important during the latter stages where control is paramount.
As an example, the brush that I am most comfortable with is a Kolinsky "Raphael" 2/0 sable brush, it is not the smallest brush in my arsenal, but I know how to get the best out of it.

Next, you will need a paint palette where you can easily control the consistency of the paint. I use a wet palette however a porcelain plate will suffice. In this tutorial I use water to thin the paints so have two sources of water nearby, one source for cleaning the brush, the other is used solely for thinning the paint.

A good white light source that you can move around is a must. A good desk lamp with a white light globe should serve this purpose.

Finally, you will need some means of holding and controlling the miniature that you are painting. You will need something attached to the miniature that you can manipulate and manoeuvre easily to change angles without touching the figure. I can recommend blu-tacking the figure to a nail with a large head. Other alternatives attachments include a golf tee or a pencil.

On a side note, I do not use any sort of magnification setup. My work is straight eye to brush, however I know of various pieces of visual enhancing equipment that may aid you in doing this work. I would highly recommend these if they work for you, I have found for some reason they really distort my vision and makes me nauseous.

The Face
The area that we are painting is very small, a twitch, a tremor, a deep breath can all cause mistakes. Be prepared to make corrections without getting too dismayed. My advice to begin with is to get into the most comfortable and stable position possible at your painting location. Stabilise your arms and elbows to minimise shake and have the figure poised close to your face. Have plenty of light on the face of the miniature so that you can see the paint being applied and view your progress.

Depending on your preparation process you may do the following a little different. I start with airbrushing a primer (Vallejo Surface Primer) onto all of my already prepared infantry. Then I do a thin base coat for every colour that goes on the soldier, except the helmet. The base layer of paint that I use for all flesh is Vallejo Basic Skintone. This is what I first start with:

First, I apply another thin coat of Vallejo Basic Skintone 
The next layer of paint I put on is Vallejo Flesh Base thinned 50 % Water / 50% paint. I paint this around the frame of the face - in this case where the face meets the helmet and the helmet strap. The eye sockets are marked out, they are obvious recesses on each side of the nose. I line both sides of the nose and continue with a line across the bottom of the nose. Then I paint down around the mouth forming a frame around the area of the mouth. These lines will become your guide to the layout of the face itself. Don't be too worried if this stage appears messy, it becomes one of many layers.

For the next layer, I use Citadel Ogryn Flesh Wash. I repeat the process detailed above. This wash is already thin enough for our needs and so I just use it straight from the paint pot. You should be able to just see the previous layer at the edges. What I am trying to achieve is shading with depth. Don't overload the brush with wash otherwise it will spread.

For the next layer, I use Vallejo Flat Flesh thinned 50% water / 50% paint. This colour becomes my mid tone for the face. I hit up the cheeks, spanning from the outside framing to in close to either side of the nose. The other sections that I apply this colour to is the forehead, the top of the nose, and the chin span. It does look strange at this point but this layer is important as it will be the middle transition tone between the depth shading and the lighter portions of the face.
Now I take my original base colour of Vallejo Basic Skintone thinned to 75% water/ 25% paint and I begin to pick out the highlights and create bright areas to draw the eye to the various facial details. These details are the nose, the mouth and the eyes. Be very careful to draw off a lot of the paint from the paintbrush as it is very runny, I use toilet paper (or my fingers) to lightly dab off the excess paint on the brush. This is very important so that the paint doesn't become a wash and flow into all of the recesses of the face. You will need to maintain good control of the paint at this point as you are painting raised areas with a runny mixture. There is a fine line between loading up the brush too much and not having enough, in this case it is better to err on the side of being too dry. Slowly and gently paint the tip and bridge of the nose, the tops of the cheeks and around the eye socket. Continue down the front of the cheeks by the nose, and around the chin. Use this layer to reduce the shade lines down to the level that you want. I reduce the shading down to a quite a fine line, be sure to concentrate on the framing of the mouth. The reason for this paint mix to be so thin is so that you create a nice transition effect from the mid tone to the highlight. You can will see this process start taking place in this phase.


Next up is the mouth detail and the 'rosing' of the cheeks. For the mouth I use a paint mix of 50% Vallejo Old Rose / 50% Vallejo Basic Skintone. I take this mixture and thin it, 60% water / 40% mix. Inside the mouth shade framing I paint roughly an oval shape to represent the mouth and lips. Don't worry if you go over the shading, this can be reapplied with just the Citadel Ogryn Flesh Wash later. Then I use a mix of Vallejo Flat Brown (75%) with some Vallejo Black (25%), thinned with 75% water and then concentrate on painting a very very thin line to define the lips. I try to keep my lips thin and small, not much wider than the nose. This is a judgement call that will vary from face to face so I don't have an exact formula for you. If your inside lip defining line is too thick use the lip colour to adjust the line. If your lips are too thick then use the Citadel Ogryn Flash Wash to bring in the confines (framing) of the mouth. After you are satisfied with the lips use the base colour Vallejo Basic Skintone to go back again and tidy up all of the excess outside shade framing until you get a fine line again. 

For the 'rosing' of the cheeks I take the previous lip mix and then I thin it so that it is 90% water and 10% lip mix. This mix becomes a filter that will accentuate the 'pink' of the cheek without becoming the primary colour. Apply this very wet mix to upper portions of the cheeks (where the cheek bones would be) and a little in the centre of the cheek. Make sure that you have thinned this mix sufficiently so that you can just see a hint of the pink on the cheek while still retaining the original colour, you don't want this colour to dominate. If you find that either the mid tone or the cheek 'rosing' has become too dominant in the face then it can be corrected with a filter mix of 95% Water / 5% Vallejo Basic Skintone. Apply it lightly in a few coats working from the the centre of the face outward until you get the transition tones that you want. In this example I have used one coat of the aforementioned filter to lighten and unify the colours in the cheeks.

At this point you can stop and be happy with the result and skip the next two steps and go to the last stage of 'tweaking'. I understand that eyes are not for every person's taste and the faces look great without them. I add them because I feel that in doing so I create a character. 

If you wish to continue then if you thought that the lips were fun then the next part will really open your eyes (pun intended).Really thin down some Vallejo White to 75% Water / 25% paint. Take your brush and spin it at an angle lightly in the mix. It is important that when you apply this colour you have the finest tip possible and the spinning action encourages this. Then offload a lot of the mix from the brush so that just the tip is wet with paint. Deciding on the correct amount comes from your experience but a guide would be enough so that only tiny amount of wet paint is applied upon stroking. Depending on the size of your paintbrush reservoir the paint may dry on the tip before you can apply the paint (which can be frustrating, persevere and find to find that sweet spot of paintbrush loading). Then slowly, but confidently stroke from the bridge of the nose, through the middle of the eye socket to it's outer edge. The paint has to be thin, so it may require more than one layer of white to define the eye. Afterwards you can tidy up the eye shape using Vallejo Flesh Base thinned 75% water / 25%, paint underneath the eye socket working outwards from the nose to the outer side of the eye socket working up. For the top of the eye, use Citadel Ogryn Flesh Wash starting from the nose to the outer side of the eye socket working down. Do not go beat yourself up if you are repeatedly making mistakes at this point, this is where I make many mistakes. Sometimes if you are making repeated errors here take a step away from the painting desk and refocus your eyes elsewhere for a while. Come back, relax and give it another attempt. Be confident in knowing that you have a process that you can keep falling back to in order to correct the mistakes. The paint ratios are very thin and so they are quite forgiving, the paint will not clog up the eye socket, even after a decent number of attempts. What you want to achieve in the end is a very thin whitish area for the eye that is contained within the eye socket depression.

Hmm, the next part is can sometimes test your patience in the extreme. After you have created your wonderful eye line you now have to spoil it by painting over a portion of it to represent the iris and pupil. Using a very thinned Vallejo Black 75% Water / 25% Paint proceed to paint the 'eye' in the centre of the white area. Spin your brush at an angle in the mix, unload most of the paint from the brush (explained previously) and then carefully, calmly dot the eye. Slow breathing and a very stable platform is invaluable at this point. If a mistake is made it can be corrected by applying the white around the sides, or by utilising the previous top and bottom eye socket shading colours to work down an excess amount of black. This can be extremely tough and challenging to get the 'right' amount, once again it is a judgement call. I try to aim for a bit over a third of the eye being black. There are times when get it perfect on the first attempt, and then there are the many many other times when I am persistently utilising my corrective techniques to get it right.

The last stage is where I do some tweaking and adjustments. I check to make sure the high points are highlighted, that the transitions between the tones are fairly smooth, and that the shading looks nice and defined. I use the filter mix of 95% water / 5% Vallejo Basic Skintone to get nice transitions on the cheeks and lips so that the colours blend nicely and that no area is too stark. I also use this last step to add eyebrows, as you can see this is a blond haired soldier so the effect is very subtle.

Here are some other examples of completed faces painted using this process.
Thinking of home, a world away
Don't these Russians ever stop?
Who goes there?
Halt, I will shoot!

I hope that this tutorial has provided you with some helpful pointers on painting faces. Perhaps you won't use them on an entire army, however it may be just the thing to make your favourite character stand out on the base, objective, or tank.  

MinutiaeofWar is a model painter with an avid interest in history and Flames of War. More of his work can be found on his blog The Minutiae of War and in posts on the WWPD forums.

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