In the final part of this epic tutorial I’ll cover the steps I took to finish off the Dark Sword commission. Part 1 of this tutorial is here. Part 2 is here.
Step 7: Red cloth
I left the armour at this point and started working on the cloth. I wanted to get the remaining colour in place so I could see if anything would need adjusting, and it made more sense to finish working on the armour at the same time as the non metallic metal steel.
In the picture above I have basecoated with mephiston red (citadel) and then applied a highlight of 1:1 wildrider red (citadel) and white. As with the armour painting, I like to get the contrast established quite quickly and then go back and increase the colour saturation and smooth the transitions with glazing.
The technique I use varies a bit depending on the nature of the surface. For large flat areas of cloth I will use the approach I described in part 2 of this tutorial for the armour highlighting: an application of thick paint, smoothing the edges with a damp brush. There weren’t really any suitable areas for this technique on this mini though, so I just applied the highlights along the creases with the paint thinned enough that it took 2-3 passes to build up full opacity.
I then shaded the recesses by adding black to the mephiston red. Again this is thin enough that it takes a few coats for complete coverage. I shaded in two stages: once with a little black added to the base coat and once with a mix of something like 2:1 black:red. You can see that I have applied much less shade to the chest area than the cloth below the waist. I wanted to keep this area relatively light partly for the overall composition and partly because I knew I would be doing a small freehand in black so wanted to boost the contrast for this.
Even though I have applied the same highlight colour to the upper and lower parts of the robe, the shading on the lower part makes the highlight seem brighter. I think it’s just an optical illusion though.
Here’s how the robe looks after the application of the second highlight. Here I’ve used white with just a small amount of wildrider added. As with the armour, I am deliberately over highlighting a little because I know that the glaze will knock the contrast back a bit.
I’ve now glazed with evil sunz scarlet and mephiston red. I nearly always use strong mid tones when glazing in order to build up the intensity of the colour. I reapplied the second highlight very sparingly after glazing – just the most extreme edges get this.
In this picture I’ve also put the basecoat down for the skin, as this is the next element I’ll be painting. Here I’ve used rosy skin from reaper.
Step 8: Sword and finishing the armour
Because of the helmet, this miniature isn’t a very good one to illustrate face painting so I’ll aim to return to this subject in a future tutorial.
In brief I highlighted with fair highlight (reaper) and shaded with a mix of dark flesh (citadel), rosy skin and cloudy grey, then added black for the very deepest recesses. I wanted to use dark flesh since I already used it in shading the gold but it’s a bit too intense so it was always mixed with another paint to desaturate it a bit here. For the final very small highlights I added white to fair highlight.
In these pictures you can see how I painted the sword and the little areas of chainmail in the armpits. The technique is the same as for the armour, consisting of two highlight steps and two shading steps.
I took a bit of artistic licence with the placement of the highlights on the sword. The light sources I imagined in the previous part of this tutorial wouldn’t really create the highlights you see here. In general I find it’s a good idea to have a highlight placed at the tip of the sword to emphasize the point. Here the blade was long enough that it made sense to place another highlight further down to make it more visually interesting. For non metallic metal it’s a good idea to try and place regions of extreme contrast opposite each other, so you can see that I’ve elected to place the ground reflection on the lower side of the blade opposite the region that is shaded very dark on the upper side.
The base coat for the steel parts is cloudy grey (reaper). The upper highlights have temple guard blue (citadel) mixed in: since they will be reflecting the sky, it makes sense to add some blue (plus I already used a similar colour on the armour). The first highlight is a mix of temple guard, rainy grey (reaper) and white, approximately 1:1:2. The second highlight is a small amount of this mix added to white. On the underside of the blade I left out the blue, so the first highlight is just 1:1 grey and white.
When painting steel I often like to add some warmth to the shades to contrast against the cold highlights. Here I have shaded with a mix of cloudy grey, black and mephiston red, about 1:2:1 and then with more black. I also use pure black, but extremely sparingly.
Normally I’d glaze the highlights to smooth them out and adjust the colour but on the blue highlights I was satisfied with how it looked, so added small pure white spot highlights and moved on.
Finally here you have the steel and the black armour finished with the addition of a glaze of 1:1 dark flesh and rainy grey on the highlights that represent the reflections from the ground. I built this up gradually and stopped when I was satisfied with the colour intensity. I didn’t want it too strong in this case, but nonetheless I think it makes quite big difference to the overall look.
I also painted the leather parts before taking this picture (boots, gloves, straps). Basecoat was gorthor brown (citadel), highlighted with yellowed bone (reaper) and shaded with dark flesh and black.
Step 9: Finishing up
The finished piece! As I mentioned in part 1, the client wanted a freehand of the House Targaryen sigil. Unfortunately this is rather an elaborate design and because this is a 28 mm mini, the space available was extremely limited!
As with face painting, I think freehand would probably be best served by a future tutorial, but I’ll give a few general thoughts here. The point on the brush is very important, so I only use my newest shiniest brushes. It’s a mistake to go down to a very small size though, as the brush will only hold a very small amount of paint and this will dry too quickly for a good result. Initially I used a size 0 to get the outline down, switching to a 2/0 to sharpen up the details (more on brushes here). I used a mix of black paint and black ink (Windsor & Newton), around 1:1.
Apart from the freehand I spent some time going round the miniature and tidying up anything I wasn’t happy with. I glazed a bit more red into the cloth, tidied up the gold and glazed sparingly with golden yellow (citadel). I also put some more dark shades into some areas of the base (dark flesh mixed with black). Finally there were a few tiny gems to paint.
Well, another miniature finished. It didn’t seem right to end without giving a few final thoughts, so here we go:
This was the first time I’d handled anything from Dark Sword and unfortunately I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the quality of the casts I received. Originally the client had wanted me to paint a different piece from this line but after spending a fair amount of time trying to prep it for painting I came to the conclusion that I was never going to be happy with it (there was a fairly severe mould line and significant roughness in a region that was very difficult to access). Even with this piece I had to spend a long time on the clean up (see part 1) and recreate some of the details that hadn’t cast with greenstuff.
Leaving aside the casting issues, I think many of the details are simply too small to allow for an enjoyable painting experience (although to be fair with accurately scaled 28 mm that is the nature of the beast). And I’m not a fan of the integrated bases! I know I’m a hopeless GW fanboy, but every time I have dealings with miniatures from other companies I find that I miss my heroic proportions and lovely smooth plastic!
Of course, the most important thing is that the client was happy with the finished piece. And hopefully this step by step will be illuminating for my fellow miniature painters. Please let me know if this kind of thing is useful to you, and if it is then I’ll try to do more of it in the future.