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Painting Faces

Painting faces

by Gino Poppe


This is by no means THE way to paint faces. This is just the way I more or less like to paint them to a finish. I hope you can pick up a few tricks here.


For this I normally use Humbrol nį 121 Pale Stone, except when I want a tanned look. I then use Vallejoís Sunny Skin Tone (VA845).

It is very important to have a very smooth, well covered base to start working on. I therefor always dilute my paint very well, up to 90% dilution. I use turpentine for the Humbrol paint and demineralised water for the Vallejo type of paint.

I then apply the basecoat in two to five layers, depending on the covering strength of the paint. Make sure that each coat is completely dry before adding the next.

Now the eyes are painted. The base-colour is a mix of Titanium White (Old Holland) with a dab of Raw Umber (Winsor & Newton). When this is dry I paint the iris in a suitable colour. The top eyelash is painted Blue Black (W&N), the lower Mars Red (W&N). Donít worry if some is painted on the flesh, since it is only the base-coat you can easily correct it. With larger scale figures I paint the pupil Lamp Black (W&N) with a spot of Titanium White to simulate the reflection of the light. The eyes are then finished by applying a layer of gloss varnish.

I find it important to always start to paint the eye opposite to the hand you are using to paint it, this way your hand wonít block your view when aligning the eyes and a cross-eyed look is avoided. I normally use a 5/0 paint brush, although I have had good results in the past with sharpened toothpicks. Choose the one you feel comfortable with.

Oil-painting stage 1 : Blending wet-on-wet

I always mix my basic skintone. This way I have a slightly different variant for each figure, giving it some personality.

I start by mixing Titanium White to Mars Orange Red (OH) + a dab of Alizarin Crimson (W&N) and Cadmium Yellow (W&N). To this I often mix a fifth colour, depending on which effect I want to achieve.

Colours often used are: Indigo (Rembrandt), Mars Brown (OH), Mars Yellow (OH), Green Umber (OH), Raw Umber (W&N), Burnt Umber (W&N), etc...

This coat is applied as thinly and evenly as possible. Next I remove all excess with a dry, broad, flat brush. The cheeks and lower-lip now receive some Indian Red (W&N), which is blended in the base-coat. Be careful with this colour because a little will give a great effect. So be warned. Now the shading can start.

All shadows are painted Mars Brown which again has to be blended in the basecoat. I mix some Madder Brown (W&N) with Madder Purple Alizarin (W&N) to paint the dark shadows using the same technique as above.

Now for the highlights. Normally you will have some left from your basic flesh-colour. Add to this some Titanium White and a dab of Cadmium Yellow. For the high highlights I use Titanium White + a hint of the highlight colour. The same technique as for painting the shadows is used to paint all highlights too.

Painting a 5 Ďo clock shadow ainít that hard neither. Simply take your basic mix of flesh-colour and add some Blue Black (W&N). Add the Blue Black also to both your shadow and dark shadow colours. Paint and blend as for the rest of the face. No need to add Blue Black to your highlight colours as these will pick up enough Blue Black by blending.

Now, many modellers may like what they have now already and stop here. The rest, continue to read on to stage 2.

Oil-painting stage 2 : Blending wet-on-dry

By now our figure has dried for at least 3 to 5 days.

If you feel that the red on the cheeks isnít strong enough any more, now is the time to repaint them. Donít forget to blend it in with it surroundings. For this I use an old brush with short stiff hairs. The same is done with the darkest shadows and the highest highlights. For the dark shadows I mix some Madder Brown with Madder Purple Alizarin and a dab of Sepia (Rembrandt). The high highlight colour is simply pure Titanium White.

You may feel it necessary to repeat this a few times on some
areaís. Until a couple of figures ago hereís where I stopped. That was till I discovered the technique described in stage 3.

Oil-painting stage 3 : Glazing

The figure should have dried for another 3 to 5 days before you start with this step.

What I call glazing is essentially the same as a wash thatís being applied, but instead of covering the whole surface itís only painted on some selective spots. I start by mixing some Purple Alizarin with Sepia. As a dilution I use a mix of two parts turpentine to one part unbleached lineseed oil.

I now dilute the paint and apply it to all deep shadow areaís. By varying to paint to dilution ratio you can create different effects. For the highlights I use diluted Flake White (W&N), which is more transparent than Titanium White. Again it might be necessary to use several coats on some places. Thatís up to your personal taste. Your figure will now have a glossy appearance. Donít worry, this will disappear after a few day as the dilution starts to evaporate.

Voila, thatís all thereís to it. I hope at least one person has learnt something from my article.

Happy modelling,

Gino Poppe

About the Author

About Gino Poppe (violentg)

I also paint figures on comission. For more info, please e-mail me at: [email protected]


This is a good technique and one that I use, though not quite as well as Gino! This may be the best article here on Armorama so far. Steve
SEP 22, 2003 - 10:15 AM
225 readcounts in one single day.... I'm impressed....
SEP 23, 2003 - 05:15 AM