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+ Part I of this painting guide can be found here +
+ Theoretical +
+ At this point, we've got the Ultramarine painted a mid blue that fades to a deeper blue-purple in the recesses. As you can see in the small picture to the left (the stage we left them at last night), the figures are pretty dull to look at – nothing much catches the eye. To fix this, we need to highlight the figure. +
+ The aim with any highlighting or shading is to create a contrast in tones; and the reason for this is that the eye is drawn to areas of visual impact. Strong changes in tone are one of the key things to concentrate upon if you want an eye-catching model, whatever your personal style. +
|+ Trompe l'oeil is an ecumenical matter +|
+ It's also worth noting that the other aspect of tonal contrast is to increase visual complexity. Essentially, we're aiming to creating the illusion that the figure is large and far away, rather than small and close-to. +
+ In order to do this, we need to make it look as though the large surfaces are catching more light, and that the areas in shadow are deeply recessed – or in other words, alter the tone of the local colour (the main midtone – Mordian Blue in this example) in the appropriate areas on the figure. This requires you to decide upon a light source for the figure. Typically, this is above the figure, as we're used to seeing people in daylight, with the sun acting as the light source. +
+ As a general rule, you should pick a light source and stick with it. All the highlights should point towards the light source, and the areas that are blocked from it – whether by an intervening object or simply by being on the bottom of an area should be in shadow. +
+ The shoulder pad to the left shows the lightest tint at the top (nearest the light source), fading into the midtone local colour, and down to the darkest shade at the bottom. Note the highlighting on the scratches follows the opposite rule – the light tone beneath the scratch and the shadow above it. That's because the scratch is meant to look like a dent in the surface. The top edge thus casts a shadow, and the bottom edge catches the light. +
+ My typical approach when painting is to lay in a midtone, then add shading, and then highlight. That's because deeper shades are more forgiving than light tints, and because shaded areas tend to be 'within' the figure – it's physically easier to get the brush to the raised areas than the recesses; so painting the highlights afterwards means less chance of a stray brushstroke getting paitn where you don't want it. +
+ Practical +VI_ My highlighting is done with a combination of blending – for smoothness – and edge highlighting, for tabletop impact and to add crispness. I'm not a particularly neat painter, but some finer lines helps direct the eye and delineate shapes that might otherwise look soft. Mix Mordian Blue with Fenris Grey (a cool blue-toned grey) and dilute with a little flow enhancer. Pick an area and add a spot of paint on the area nearest the light source – for example the part of the shoulder pad pointing straight upwards; (usually the top, but this will depend on the pose) – then rinse your brush, dry it, and make small circular movements around the edge of the spot, drawing the paint outwards. If the paint is thin enough, you'll see that some of the underlying local colour shows through. This is the essence of blending. +
VII_ Repeat on all of the other plates. The skill here is not so much in applying the paint as it is working out how each area catches the light. Exposed directly to the light source, the shoulder pads and helmet will be relatively lighter than the lower legs, which are sheltered somewhat from the light. Both are catching more light that the undersides and recesses – such as under the marine's arms or between the foot and greave. You need to apply the paint intelligently – if you get stuck, just picture the light source and try and draw a line straight to the area. Can the light fall flat on the surface? If so, highlight strongly. Does it hit it only obliquely? Work closer to the midtone. Is it obscured? Leave it unhighlighted.
+APPENDNOTE: This is a bit of a simplification: light doesn't just fall straight down. It will bounce off nearby surfaces, creating a secondary light source of reflected light. For this reason, you might need to add some subtle highlighting bouncing off nearby armour plates, the floor, or other areas. Just remember that reflected light is always less intense than direct light; so you should never highlight parts lit by reflected light with tints as light as those used for those under the direct light. +VII_ With the soft blending done, you can – if you choose – add some edge highlighting. This is essentially the lightest tint you've mixed, added in fine lines to areas under direct light. You'll see these on the tops of the pauldrons, outer edges of the feet and greaves, top of the torsos and so on.
+ Edge highlighting is a shortcut – if you spend more time blending and work cleanly, you'll simply not need them as you'll create the effect naturally. However, there's a balance between speed, effect and enjoyment – find a balance that suits the way you like to work. I don't believe painting should be a chore; though if you're aiming for competition standard, you'll need to practise blending far more, as it's the dominant style that judges like. Of course, if you're going for competition standard, you're best off taking technical advice from better painters than me! Artists like the Massive Voodoo crew [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] are a great place to start: friendly and expert advice there. +VIII_ The next thing to work on is the focal point. In the marines here, I want the heads to be the focal point. On the bare-headed Sergeant Tulian Aquila, it's simple enough – the changes in tone, texture and hue used for the skin and features immediately draw the eye from the mass of blue armour. For Brother Septival, the chap with the rotor cannon, it's a bit harder to draw the eye. You can add a contrasting tone – helmet stripes are a good idea – but I've decided to simply go with bright orange eye lenses for the moment. Orange is opposite blue on the colour wheel, making it the complementary hue. As a result, the two colours interact strongly, creating maximum contrast – and thus creating visual interest.
+ That's all I got done last night – I was getting a bit impatient and decided that I'd rather look at the figures in daylight to assess them before going any further. +
+ Looking at your figures under artificial light and daylight really hits home the difference. Compare the picture below, taken in the dawn light, to that above, taken under a daylight bulb last night. +