Introduction to painting figures etc.

Read the Shadows theory page before this one if you haven't already. The sub-headings above show the areas covered in this section. This page goes through some of the equipment needed and some basic techniques I use. The same principles apply to painting all sorts of things besides figures.The O figures page shows how I paint a 1:43 scale figure and should be read next. HO figures discusses some of the changes needed for the smaller scale. Structures etc shows some examples of the same principles applied to this area. The PhotoGallery shows some more results of my technique.
Painting set up
The painting set up is quite simple. I need artist tube acrylics, a few small good quality brushes, a palette and some water. Look for starter sets to provide the basic colours at a reasonable price. Good lighting is a definite plus. Note how clearly the HO figures can be seen even at this small size.
Click on this or any image to see a larger version and some comments.
Artist quality tube acrylics are water soluble and user friendly. Even when diluted they have excellent covering opacity. The tubes are not cheap but starter sets of about 5 tubes can be found in stores at affordable prices. This is all that is needed and even a non-artist should be able to mix up usable colours.
Paint sets
The method I use to apply the paint initially over the black base is a dry brush one. This means the paint on the brush is almost dry. To achieve this I start off with a thickish paint mix. The paint squeezed out of a tube of artists acrylic paint is perfect. I put some paint on my brush and then work it back and forth on a piece of card until the paint just sticks. Then I apply the brush to the figure or whatever. Some people find this easy to learn whilst others have to practice a lot. Persevere. It is a valuable technique to learn. The first few images on painting the O scale figure should show how this works
Brushes Like nearly all the images on this site, if you click on this one it will take you to a larger image that shows the sort of brushes I use for my painting . It also shows what dry brushing means using a piece of emery paper as something to work on.
The paint I use must stay where I put it and not run over edges and kill that important Type A shadow effect. I always tell people you can make a thick paint thin but not a thin one thick. After I have established where the high spots are, and displayed the main edge shadows, I thin the paint down a bit and go over the high areas slowly building up a solid layer of the colour. This applies to all scales. For HO figures
When I started using my technique I was using oil based enamels made by Humbrol. The B shadows on my figures were black and stark. Thinning down the enamel resulted in loss of opacity and I could not tone down the Bs to my satisfaction. Artist acrylics can be thinned and maintain their opacity. I can now make a wash and run it over the Bs to tone them down. Again, practice makes perfect.
Because I paint over a black base I add quite a bit of white to whatever colour(s) I am using initially. I can always reduce the percentage of white in later coats to beef up the colour. Again, experiment yourself.
Here in Canada we have "Windex with Ammonia" for cleaning glass. This will also dissolve acrylic paint so I can easily get my figure back to it's raw state. Great for cleaning up the brushes as well.
When all is finished I apply a coat of Testors DULLCOTE. Artist acrylics have a pretty dull finish. Dullcote gives a slightly duller look and hardens the surface a bit. It also subtly fills in some of the uneveness that I often get from building up the paint layers. Some of my demo figures have been abused on their travels and still look good. If Dullcote is not available where you are find a good thin flat enamel, preferably in a spray can.
2 children from front
2 children from back
When you first try this method out on a figure you will probably think the figure looks awful. Look at it from the distance you would normally view your layout and I am sure you will be pleased with the result.
|| Introduction || O figures | HO figures | Structures etc. |
If you have any questions, or feedback, feel free to email me through