Work-In-Progress: The Shieldmaiden (90% complete)
I’m not a professional or an expert at painting miniatures. I’ve not attended a single class in any sort of Art, short of those from pre-high school. Even so, I have an interest in painting as a hobby, though I rarely have time for proper pieces these days, whether on canvas, paper or miniature. What I do know is learnt by myself, mostly through experimentation and observation of the physical world. Indeed, I’m told that my Art isn’t bad at all. Well, qualified or not, here’s a little painting tutorial that certain people have been bugging me to do for some time…
Caveat: This is strictly amateur hour. It may be of help to those who are new to painting, but for what it’s worth, it probably won’t turn ordinary people into Golden Demon winners overnight, so don’t expect too much! Also, techniques and terms described here are mostly discovered on my own or coined by me; they may differ from whatever the ‘experts’ recommend or term.
This tutorial has 2 main parts: the first deals with things you need to know to paint NMM; and the second is a step-by-step guide to how I painted The Shieldmaiden’s shield with NMM.
Introduction to Non-Metallic (NMM) Painting
This is a technique of painting in which non-metallic paints are used to achieve a metal effect in miniature painting. It is essentially painting 2-D artwork onto a 3-D object (ie the miniature) to simulate a metal appearance.
Some pointers before we start, just to debunk widely-held concerns regarding NMM:
1. NMM is too hard; it’s for experts only! Actually, understanding a few simple principles is all you need to produce a reasonably good NMM effect. You don’t need years of painting experience before attempting NMM!
2. NMM is too time-consuming! Not at all, if you know what you’re doing. There isn’t much fine detail painting involved, compared to say, doing an elaborate banner. And you only use a few colours, usually just for shading of the base colour!
3. I can’t do it; my hands are too big! That’s just an excuse. Seen any tiny Golden Demon winners lately? The brush used is the same size, whether your hands are big or small! Probably easier if they are bigger, in fact!
The Most Important Step: Planning
Before you set paint to miniature, you must plan how your NMM 2D artwork will look on the miniature. This is the single MOST IMPORTANT STEP in the entire process. If you planned it wrongly, your finished miniature won’t look right. And normally, whatever you mentally envisioned in your original planning will NOT be exceeded by the actual work produced; it will often fall short. By how much depends on painting skill. So it’s essential that you make the best possible plan from the onset.
It’s actually not hard. Just follow these simple guidelines:
Light Source(s) Determine where light will be falling on your miniature. There may be several sources, but if you’re a first-timer, have only one major light source from above slightly to the side, and one minor source elsewhere. Shading and highlight will follow the light… of course.
Earth-Sky Delineation If the surface is large enough, the pre-dominant feature will be what I like to call the ‘Earth-Sky Delineation’. This is the commonly seen effect on polished metal surfaces, for example, the dark line in the gold of the ‘White Dwarf’ lettering below:
Preview/Sample purposes only, no appropriation of IP intended
Depending on your primary light source, draw the ‘Earth-Sky’ partition. The line should be at where direct light as you envision just can’t reach (ie from that point onwards, it hits at an angle instead of directly); if the surface is curved, follow the curve. The line should be a little ‘bumpy’, not too straight or uniform, or it’ll look unnnatural.
Shading and Highlight If there is an Earth-Sky Delineation, the part nearer the light source (ie ‘Sky’) should be brightest from the line and getting darker as it moves NEARER the light, ie upwards if light is coming from above (see ‘White Dwarf’ example above). The other half (ie ‘Earth’) should be dark at the line and going slightly lighter as it goes down. However, the edges should be highlighted, especially nearest the light source, and less at the opposite edge from that.
Reflection Absent from the ‘White Dwarf’ example is the presense of ‘Reflection’. This greatly enhances the believability of the NMM, which is essentially a forced optical illusion. What this means is that you are painting in some artwork that simulates a reflection. For example, if your NMM surface is close to a prominent green object, there should be a corresponding warped green image in the NMM surface. This is by no means a must-do, but this separates the little leaguers from the Big Boys. You should do this if the metal is to look highly polished, and especially if the surface is large.
Light Globes/Trail Put in Sprinklings of light globes / trails (follow the curve of the miniature) to enhance the overall ‘reflective’ nature of metal. This is just a simple highlight in the form of bright coloured dots or soft lines, strategically placed on the NMM artwork. For instance, look at the shining star on the ‘F’ in the White Dwarf example above.
Now that you have a mental image, sketch with pencil and paper an approximation of how the NMM artwork should look like on the miniature, so that you can follow this when you actually paint. As you work, you may improvise beyond the original plan when appropriate. Inspiration sometimes strikes only at the very end!
Here’s a the simple sketch that I did for the helm of The Shieldmaiden shown at the beginning of this post:
As can be seen, planning NMM need not be complicated!
What kind of paints are available? There 2 main types, when it comes to miniatures. The first is the ready-to-paint-from-the-bottle type. Citadel Paints are of this type. The paint is watery, and you can paint directly from the bottle after wetting your brush. Even the bottle, with its flip cap and mini-dish, is designed to facilitate this. The downside is that mixing and blending is not easy, because acryllics dry quickly, and the paint is too watery to use a wet palette effectively. A wet palette is a surface that has a wet sponge underneath, from which moisture is continually fed to the paint deposited on the palette, to prevent it from drying up.
The second type is the paste or semi -paste type. Vallejo Paints are of this type. You squeeze some out on a wet palette to facilitate easy mixing and blending. The downside is that you will not have the speed of painting straight from the bottle when applying solid unmixed colours and perhaps, when glazing. But you have greater control over the hue and tone of your colours.
In NMM painting, both blending and glazing are important, and used in tandem for the smoothest finish. Blending is a method of transitioning from one colour or pitch/tone to another by incrementally mixing one paint into another and painting the gradual change at each stage of mix. Glazing is the method of painting semi-transparent (ie watered-down) layers of paint onto an existing coloured surface. The gradual build-up of ‘glazes’ also result in a transition of one colour or pitch/tone to another.
Both types of paint can be used for NMM, with advantages and disadvantages as noted above. For newbys however, it may be advisable to use the paint-from-bottle type, for ease of use. As you’ll see in the step-by-step guide, if you have the right colours, no advanced techniques are required to achieve a reasonably good NMM effect!
Colour Palettes. Here are the paints you should have to do NMM for the 2 common metals in miniature painting (in Citadel Paint colours):
For Gold: Chaos Black, Calthan Brown, Snakebite Leather, Sunburst Yellow, Bleached Bone, Skull White and Optional – Dark Flesh, Leviathan Purple
For Silver: Chaos Black, Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, Skull White and Optional – Regal Blue, Snakebite Leather
Some tips on general painting:
Extreme Contrast For best results, your darkest parts should be pitch black and your brightest parts should be pure white, regardless of what the base colour for your NMM is. Blend/glaze your base colour to black or white to achieve ultra high contrast typical of metals.
Line Definition Define objects in your painting by painting edges with a highlight and a dark line next to each other, in order to make it pop out.
Shield of the Shieldmaiden, NMM Example, Step-By-Step Guide
This Guide is made with the newby in mind. Only Citadel Paints were used, to be applied from the bottle, with only a bit of watering down of paint for simple glazes, or dragging of the brush accross waste paper (to skim excess paint and sharpen brush point) required. You do not need a wet palette, or any advance techniques to complete. Remember to load your brush with a little water before dipping into the paint bottle!
After I had sketched a simple drawing of the NMM plan, I began by undercoating with Chaos Black.
I then painted the NMM part with solid Codex Grey. The Omega motif was then painted on in Chaos Black.
Next I drew the Earth-Sky line with tiny bumps (as discussed in the first section of this post) and shaded in the the dark tones by applying simple glazes of watered down Chaos Black. A good way to ensure a smooth finish is to apply only thin watered down paint that is almost dry on the brush; make repeated applications to build up pigment slowly, so that you can observe the gradual darkenning and control its strength. Glazing with black is considered easy, because black is the all dominant colour that can eclipse all other colours.
I then painted in the base colour of the Omega Motif (Iyanden Darksun). I used a founddation paint so that I only needed to make a single pass. Notice that I left a black outline showing – this helps to bring out the Omega icon from the ‘silver’ background, which would otherwise look a little ‘drab’. I also tightened the shading of the background a bit.
The light tones were added. First I layered on some Fortress Grey near the ‘sky’ side of the Earth -Sky line, and then just a little Skull White as highlight. I also painted on a headless triangle of Fortress Grey at the top, showing the direction of the light source. As reflection, I washed a bit of watered down Regal blue over the top left corner, as reflection of the blue sky. For the bottom, I used Bestial Brown as reflected ground.
I strengthened the shading and highlights for the background. For the Omega icon, I used Snakebite Leather and watered down black to shade, and bleached bone to highlight. A thin white line was drawn at the light junctures to contrast with the black outline.
More touching -up, and soft light trails were added to the top left corner and also around the outer edged of the NMM part of the shield. Some Snakebite Leather was added to parts of the Bestial Brown, and twirly black outlines were drawn around them. The non-metallic part of the shield were painted on.
And the final look of the NMM shield, with Omega icon…
It took me just an hour to do this shield, including taking pics (this post took far longer!). I did it through breakfast this morning, before going off to the office! Which means that NMM isn’t hard and doesn’t really take very long to do!
The helmet was painted NMM gold, and the sword was polished silver…
I’ve yet to complete the model to my own satisfaction. Some more touch-up is required. Once I’m done, I’ll post The Shieldmaiden with proper pics as her own entry in the Archangels Army Gallery.