Category Archives: Privateer Press

Speed Painting Two Ways

Painting fast is something I struggle with. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and always have been. My mom loves to tell stories of my art projects back in grade school where she told me, “It’s great, be done, and get to bed!” and I would push for a little bit more, a little extra time to make it just right. Unsurprising then that 20 or so years later I end up painting minis the same way, only no one is telling me “Stop. It’s good enough.”

I’ve taken a few speed painting classes, but inevitably fall back into my familiar habits and style of painting if I feel like the speed techniques don’t live up to the quality I want. Recently I’ve been following two different miniature artists who do incredible things at incredible speeds; Raffaele Picca from Massive Voodoo, and Matt DiPietro from Contrast Miniatures. I was able to take a ‘Speed Painting Display Quality Miniatures’ class with Raffaele at Adepticon 2017, and I hope to be able to take Matt’s weekend class on his ‘Sketch Style’ sometime in the future. As an experiment, I decided to try both styles on identical models, and see how they worked in my hands.

Raffaele’s speed concept is all about creating focus on the model. As he says, no one is taking time to look at the feet (which is funny because my dad always used to say the same thing about shoes). Time is better spent painting the important areas and letting the rest fade into the background. He accomplishes this by using desaturated colors to start, and building up brighter colors and details only around the focus area, usually the face.

I started with a primed model, the Tharn Ravager Whitemane by Privateer Press, and then airbrushed an undercoat of P3 Battlefield Brown since this model has lots of leather tones. It’s a cool, dark brown color that is perfect for a desaturated, muted look. From there I used the airbrush to highlight the upper portions of the model with Gun Corps Brown, and a final highlight of Hammerfall Khaki around the face and shoulders.

Primed Whitemane, left, Desaturated Browns, right

From here the base colors are glazed on to get the overall midtone base tints. Once the main colors are on (ignoring the metals for now) a dark brown wash is used in the shadows, and wiped away from the higher highlights. When the wash is dry, airbrush a very transparent white layer on the face and upper shoulders to bring back the highlight and really solidify the focal point on the model.

Glazed midtone colors, left; White highlight for focus, right

Next I used Army Painter Dark Tone wash on the lower half of the model, again wiping the wash away from anywhere that should be highlighted. From here, it’s highlights only, focusing on the upper half of the model, adding in details only around the face, shoulders, and upper arms. The metals got done right at the end with a simple basecoat, wash for shadows, and a bright highlight. The finished Whitemane has a strong focus on the face and shoulders, and the rest sort of fades from view.

Finished Whitemane


Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style has been super intriguing, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the articles and models he’s been putting out there. That said, a lot of what is going on with this technique is just me guessing until I have the opportunity to take his class. The Whitemane starts out with zenithal priming through the airbrush. This gives a good grayscale base for the next step.

Zenithal primed Whitemane

Using the primer as a kind of map, the next step uses P3 Thamar Black, Morrow White, and a Golden artist’s acrylic Titanium White to create a value ‘sketch’ on the model. The titanium white is the brightest, most pigment rich white and should only be used on the highest highlights. The value sketch refines the shadows and highlights, and basically creates a black and white version of the model.

Whitemane value sketch

From here, the midtones are thinly glazed on over the value sketch, allowing the grayscale to show through. The value sketch does almost all of the work with the shadows and highlights as long as the colors aren’t applied too thickly.

Colors glazed over value sketch

To finish the sketch style Whitemane I basically just added a couple details, a few higher highlights here and there, and some tone adjustment of the leather armor with brown ink. The metals I did the same as the previous model with a quick basecoat, wash, and bright highlight. The finished model has a high level of contrast throughout, and makes a very engaging looking model on the table.

Finished sketch style Whitemane

Since the goal of this whole thing is eventually to have some good looking models with less time spent, I kept careful track of how long each method took. I was doing both of these techniques for the first time (and also stopping for photos and looking at notes) and both ended up taking about the same amount of time, around 5 hours total. With some more practice I don’t doubt that I’d get even faster. I did a side by side comparison and I still can’t figure out which one I like better, so I think that’s a win!

Take a look! Raffaele Picca’s what I’m calling Focus Style on the left side, and Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style on the right.

Megalith Step-by-Step

This blog was first featured as a guest post over at the Privateer Press website, here’s the original! Guest Hobby Blog: Stone and Gems with Griffon’s Roost Painting

Step 1: Prep and Prime

Megalith was assembled, cleaned, and the mold lines were removed with a sharp hobby knife. Prime with P3 Black Primer in a couple light coats.


Step 2: Gray Granite Stone

Base coat the stone with Bastion Gray. After this I would usually do shadows first followed by highlights, but in order to get a granite look, this time the order has to be reversed. Highlight first by two-brush blending with a 50/50 mix of Bastion Gray and Trollblood Highlight, and then do a second highlight with straight Trollblood Highlight.

Base coat, left; Full highlights, right

I wanted to make my Megalith look like he was fashioned from granite, since it is one of the hardest and most durable of the naturally-occurring stones. Granite has a sort of speckled appearance, and to get an approximation of that look on a miniature you have to get a little messy! Grab an old toothbrush, get it wet and dip it in some Thamar Black paint. Holding the model about 4-6 inches away from the toothbrush, run a finger over the brush and flick the paint, trying to get a fine spray. This was repeated with Underbelly Blue and Menoth White Highlight, separately, for additional variation in the speckled stone.

Gray granite example, left; Megalith speckled, right
Gray granite example, left; Megalith speckled, right

The final step of making a gray granite is adding in the shadows. This step was saved until after creating the speckled effect because fine details like that visually disappear in dark shadows. To start the shadows, make a 50/50 mix of Cryx Bane Base and Greatcoat Gray and apply it using two-brush blending on the model wherever the shadows would naturally occur. Use this mix to lightly outline the hard edges of the stone to add some further definition. Add a little Thamar Black to the shadow mix and apply to the deepest recesses and underneath overhanging areas.


Step 3: Wood

Base coat the wood with Gun Corps Brown, and any of the exposed core areas with Hammerfall Khaki.


Shade the wood first with Umbral Umber, painting in as much of the wood grain texture as possible. Then add a little Thamar Black to the Umbral Umber and use this to shade the deep crevices and outline the main elements of the wood. Shade the cores with Guns Corps Brown.


Highlight the wood by focusing on the texture of the wood grain and painting it with Hammerfall Khaki. For the highest highlights use a mixture of 50/50 Hammerfall Khaki and ‘Jack Bone with a little Menoth White Highlight added in. Focus this color on the upper branches as well as anywhere that would catch a significant amount of light. Go for a really high level of contrast as the next step will tone down the colors significantly. Highlight the wood cores with the mixture just previously used for the highest highlights on the wood, focusing on accentuating the rings.


Make a mixture of 2 drops Brown Ink, 1 drop of Turquoise Ink, and 1 drop of water and glaze this over the wood in two thin coats, letting each coat dry completely in between. Do not use any of the ink mixture on the wood cores. The ink glaze helps the wood grain look more natural and less stark.


Step 4: Ropes

Base coat the ropes with Rucksack Tan. Getting a good, solid coat can take 2-3 thin layers over black primer. Then shade the ropes with a wash of Guns Corps Brown.

Ropes basecoat, left; Ropes shadowed, right
Ropes basecoat, left; Ropes shadowed, right

Now the fun part… To highlight the ropes make a mix of 50/50 Rucksack Tan and Hammerfall Khaki and pick out each coil, except for where the rope would be in darkest shadow. Then take straight Hammerfall Khaki and highlight further where the ropes would catch the light, particularly on the front parts of the legs and arms. It’s painstaking, but in the end I usually feel like the precision is worth the frustration.


Step 5: Glowing Runes

To start the runes, thin down some Menoth White Highlight and paint them all white, without letting any flow over the sides. I might have gotten a little carried away and almost forgotten to take a picture, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea. Next make a mixture of 2 drops Green Ink, 1 drop Yellow Ink, and one drop Turquoise Ink and glaze this over the white. Try not to let any ink pool in the corners. A good trick to prevent this is to dab some ink out of the paintbrush on a paper towel before going at the runes.


Now go back with the thinned Menoth White Highlight and and lighten the bottom parts of the linear runes. With the more open areas, like around the gems and in the shoulders, use the white to lighten the center as if the glow were radiating outward. The Menoth White Highlight was thinned down and blended outward with a second brush to get a smooth transition. Next make a mix of 2 drops Yellow Ink and 1 drop Green Ink, and glaze this mixture only where you lightened the runes. This will gives the runes a more lively appearance.


The final step for the runes is taking some straight green ink and glazing it into the top parts of each linear rune, and the outsides of the larger areas of the shoulders and around the gems. This gives an illusion that the glow is fading out towards the edges.


Step 6: Gems

Base coat the gems with Thamar Black. Then take Gnarls Green and blend it up from the bottom of the gem, leaving the top third black. The smoother the blend you can get for these, the better. I like two-brush blending for just about everything, but go with what makes you comfortable. Now my camera couldn’t quite seem to get a good shot without a slight glare due to the dark colors and satin finish of the paint, but I think things are still mostly visible.


Next, in the bottom third of the gem, blend up Iosan Green into the Gnarls Green. The brighter colors are focused in the lower part of each gem because of the way light passes through the translucent stone and hits the inside. For the final highlight blend Wurm Green into the lowest half of the Iosan Green.


Next take some Green Ink and, in thin layers, glaze over the entire gem. Make sure to build up enough layers so that even the black appears to be a very deep green. Finally take a brush with a very fine point and use Menoth White Highlight to make a few reflective dots on the top of the gem. I’ve used a red arrow to point out where they should be as the glare from my painting lamp slightly overlaps.


Step 7: Finishing Touches

To finish off the model, I painted in the few bunches of leaves, and touched up the stone where any of my glow might have gotten a little carried away. The model was then sealed with Testors Dullcote to kill any shiny spots from the inks on the wood and the glow, and to help protect it as I’m sure it will be finding its way onto the table soon. Once that was completely dry, I took an old brush and some paint on gloss varnish and gave the gems a good coat for an extra dose of realism. Megalith got based with a bunch of forest foliage, including some ivy and a fern, and he’s all done!

megalith1 megalith3

Una the Skyhunter

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.

Skin tone basecoat

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: 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!

Una with 6-Step Eyes

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.

Warm Shadows on Face

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.

Cool Shadows on Face

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.

Ryn Flesh Highlights

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.

Final Highlights with Menoth White Highlight

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.

Lip Color

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.

Block in Colors Around the Face

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.

Face Map Front
Face Map Profile

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.

Cloth and Leather

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!