I started on Una the Skyhunter almost immediately after her release at Warmachine Weekend 2016. It’s an awesome event that I highly recommend, and we were able to snag her and another of the new warlocks at the Privateer Press booth. Overall, after getting her put together, I think she’s one of the better models of the group. I’m also a much bigger fan of this version over her journeyman model, which has just too many things going on for a model that size.
Anyway, I frequently get asked to explain how I do skin, particularly faces, so I thought I would do a short step-by-step tutorial on Una, followed by a few intermediate progress pictures on the rest of the model. I almost exclusively use P3 paints because they work the best with how I paint, so the colors that I mention are all in their range.
I prefer to use a light gray primer on most of my models these days, as it doesn’t mute the bright colors as much as black primer does, and I seem to have a hard time with white primers having separated into chunks and watery medium no matter how hard I shake. I prime with my airbrush because it’s hard to nail down decent weather for spray can primer in the Midwest that doesn’t change drastically from day to day. So that covers primer, on to the paint!
For Caucasian female skin I start with a basecoat of a 50/50 mix of Midlund Flesh and Ryn Flesh with a teeny tiny dab of Thamar Black added in to desaturate the somewhat orange tone of the flesh colors. This helps it look more like real skin.
Immediately after doing the basecoat of the face I tackle the eyes. Here’s a secret… I used to HATE painting eyes, they were always crooked, and no matter what I tried I messed up my finished face. Then I took a class with Meg Maples, a former Privateer Press studio painter, and boy did she open my eyes (wink wink) on how to tackle this tricky subject! She has written a superb article that takes you through the exact process I used for Una, which you can find here, linked with permission: http://www.arcanepaintworks.com/blog-1/2016/6/9/6-step-eyes The best secret I learned was to do the eyes first and then clean up around them when they were finished. No more mess ups on finished faces!
Now I start with the shadows on the face. Regardless of skin tone I always do one warm shadow color and one cool shadow color. By “warm” and “cool” I’m referring to some basic color theory that warm colors are generally red, orange, yellow and cool colors are blue, green, violet. Warm colors pop forward to the eye and cool colors visually recede. For more on color theory and color mixing, I super recommend the book “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” by Michael Wilcox.
The warm tone helps bring some life to the model. As humans we’re used to seeing blood flowing under the skin which creates a warm, reddish hue. So the warm tone, used in the cheeks and around the ears, gives the illusion that the model also has some blood flowing under the skin. I make a mix of the base skin color and add a small amount of Sanguine Base, just enough to tint the base a little red.
To give the face some depth and definition I go to the cool shadows next. My go-to color to achieve this is Coal Black, and it is hands down my favorite color in the whole P3 paint range. I add just a touch to the base skin color, enough to achieve a slightly blue tint. This is not mixed at all with the previous shadows color, otherwise it gets too purple and we lose the pure cool effect of the blue.
For the first highlight I use pure Ryn Flesh and focus on placing it where the light would naturally hit. Areas to focus on are the tops of the cheekbones, the forehead, the bridge of the nose, the skin over the upper lip, and the top of the chin. Try not to completely lose your midtone (the basecoat) leaving some to transition into the shadows. I frequently have to go back with the midtone color and make sure to redefine it as usually either one shadow or the highlights get a little over-zealous.
For a final highlight I mix the Ryn Flesh with a good amount of Menoth White Highlight (about two-thirds and one-third, respectively). Menoth White Highlight is a nice warm white, almost a cream/linen color and will help the final highlights pop not only with light, but with warmth. This should be placed inside the first highlight where the light would hit the very most. It’s generally a pretty small highlight, but very important for the full definition of the face.
As a final step for the face, I gave Una some lip color using Sanguine Base and Sanguine Highlight. The darker color goes on the upper lip because it’s in shadow, and lighter on the bottom. I add a very small highlight on the lower lip by mixing the Sanguine Highlight with some Ryn Flesh to give the lip a fuller feeling.
In order to make sure everything looks good before I move on to the rest of the model, I block in the colors around the face. So I did a quick base coat of the hair, the hood, and the shirt by her neck. This serves as a good check on whether or not I’ve achieved a decent level of contrast on the skin tones, and helps me see what the face is going to look like in the context of the rest of the model.
Since the model I’m working with here is pretty small, work-in-progress photos with even my good camera are less than perfectly detailed. I’ve drawn a simple diagram of how I place my shadows and highlights on a face given a sort of ambient, overhead lighting, like what you would find if they were outside on a sunny afternoon. Placement of shadows and highlights can change drastically under different or more dramatic lighting situations, but given a model you’re going to play with on the table, those usually don’t apply. The colors are a little exaggerated for effect and clarity in understanding the “zones” of the face.
Now that the face is done I tackle the model from the inside out, moving on to the fabrics, and then the armor, and then all the little details afterwards.
And then after a hundred feathers, we have the finished model!
I hope this is helpful in showing exactly how I tackle faces on models. Even when they’re small in scale like Una, the face is where we’re programmed as humans to look first. It’s worth spending the extra time and practice on getting it right! Until next time, Happy Gaming!