Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Head Shot

The figure is looking pretty good.
I was not looking forward to painting the head of this action figure.  The way I saw it, heads means details.  Details like eyes and eyebrows and irises and hairlines and all that good stuff that you need pretty good technique to handle.  And until a few hours ago, I didn't really think I had the skill to do any of that stuff.

The good news is, I should have had more faith.

But I didn't know that when I started out this evening, so I avoided work on the face by doing touch up work on all the other parts- used the tiny brushes to really get the lines down on the rest of the pieces to get my ready to work on the head.  When everything else looked pretty good (and there was really nothing else left to do... at all...) I decided it was time to attack that face. 

Hair is Folk Art 479 Pure Black by Plaid.
Skin in Elf Flesh by Citadel.
The first thing I did was give the face two good thin coats of Elf Flesh paint, from Citadel.  It was recommended to me by Mythic on Hisstank.com when I asked if anyone had any suggestions for skin tones to use for Japanese characters.  Mythic is an *amazing* customs artist and I think the advice turned out well.  The skin tone was great for what I was looking for.  Painting the skin and carefully edging between the hair and the skin wasn't too bad.  That mean it was time to work... on the eyes.

Time to man up and get to it.

Eyes over painted!
I had read a really good post on painting eyes somewhere that I can no longer remember* [update: I found the reference.  This is discussed on page 35 of the free MiniWarGaming ebook that I discussed here. - Dave] that recommended over-painting details on the face such as lips and eyes, and then covering the excess up with the skin tone again.  That seemed like an easier approach than just trying to get the eyes painted just right, so I completely over-painted the eye area with white paint using my two smallest brushes.  I used a second new technique here as well; instead of using short, smooth brush strokes over the eye area, I just tapped the area with the very tip of the brush almost like I was tapping in Morse Code.  I used just a dab of white on the brush in order to paint from landing anywhere I did not want it to go.  Using this 'tapping' technique was really nice, because it made hitting spots I wanted to hit easy, and made putting the paint where I wanted it much easier than it would have been if I just wiped the paint on with my normal brushing technique.

Eyes cleaned up.
 Next I went over the edges of the white that had spilled over the actual eyes themselves with the skin tone again.  And again, I used the 'tapping' technique to put the brush exactly where I wanted it. It worked great, and in very little time, I had two pretty well shaped eyes.  I liked how things were going; the eyes, which I thought were going to be a pain, were going well.  It had a lot to do with the techniques I had picked up from watching plenty of you tube 'how to' videos and advice I received from folks online, but I should give myself a little credit too.  Even with the advice, I didn't think I would be able to hold my brush steady enough to paint the face, but it was actually much easier to accomplish than I thought it would be.  Next would be the real challenge though- painting the irises.
The face is looking not too horrible.

I tried using the 'tap' technique to get the dark spots in the middle of the eyes a few times, but I just was not getting enough paint exactly where I wanted it to make much of a mark on the eyes using my paint brushes.  The dots were very, very light.  Over the white eye paint, they looked like faint grey spots that practically blended in with the rest of the eye I didn't want to tap the brush too hard, because I thought it would end up making a black spot on the face which would undo everything I had just accomplished.  But then I got an idea- how about putting paint on the end of an unbent paper clip?  I grabbed a paperclip out of my desk, pulled it straight, and popped it into the paint.

Guess what?

Paper clips make excellent iris painting tools.

Hobby tool of the day: the light up magnifier.
For the rest of the face, I ended up using a tool I picked up at a hobby shot a few months ago but had not used until today.  It was a folding 2x magnifier with built in LED lights, and made painting the eyebrows and soul patch a breeze.   Again, I used the tapping method, which took a lot longer to do on the eyebrows that I thought it would, but minimal touch up was required. And hey, whatever works.

So where I am now is this figure is pretty close to done.  I want to get some rest and take a look at it tomorrow to see what touching up may need to be done, and then I need to reassemble the figure.  But for my first try, I think this thing looks great.   Sure it could be better- I could have come up with some additional colors for the face and done some layering.  I may also do a dark wash to add some shadows, but I'm not sure.  I'm so happy with how things look at the moment I think I may decide to quit while I'm ahead and try those techniques on the next figure painting project.  You'll see what I decide soon.

Until next time,

David D.


  1. I'll have to give the Citadel flesh tones a try. Having used Model Masters and Tamiya, I've found a need to mix them with other elements to get anything close to realistic tones. Add that to the consistent problems I have with the Model Masters jars. The color names and numbers fade all to quickly and those caps love to seal shut. I've actually had one shatter in my hand when trying to open it. That tickled for a bit.

    As far as the use of the paperclip, nice solution to use in a pinch. At the recommendation of someone some time ago (don't recall who now), I had picked up one of those 100 count packs of fancy toothpicks (the round kind) for situations such as this. It seems to work well enough. The issues I have instead are more in the vein of the steadying of hand. The tapping method would likely help, but I can't help but worry a bit about my aim. To say the least, I completely relate to the apprehension you so eloquently illustrated.

    I have tried using a magnifier similar to the one you used before and found trouble adjusting my movement/perception to the magnification. I've not heard of anyone else having this issue, but I haven't actively asked anyone about it either. I am wondering, since you said this is the first time you used it, if you found any difficulties such as this initially.

    Only just recently having found this blog I have some catching up to do, but for the now, great work. Thank you for posting this!


  2. Dak-

    Thanks for your comments. I can't take credit for the choice of Elf Flesh paint; I got the advice from Mystic, over at HissTank.com. It was his suggestion, and it was a really good one. My only beef with Citadel paints is they are crazy expensive considering how much you get compared to Plaid. Citadel paints are about $3.50 for a pretty tiny container, about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a regular tube of Plaid paints, which are $0.99 each.

    On the other hand, Elf Flesh ended up being the skin tone I was looking for.

    As for using the magnification, it wasn't too bad. The magnification glass was 2x, so it wasn't a huge difference, and I was using the "poke poke poke" method to paint, which is to say, just tapping the pieces with the tip of the brush, which I think is actually a good way to make sure the paint gets on to various parts of the figure accurately, but at the same time, it isn't a good way to paint large sections of the figure. I never used regular brush strokes while using the magnifying glass. That may have helped.

    Thanks for checking in and posting your comments! I appreciate your compliments and hope to hear from you again.


  3. The head is looking fantastic. I really suck at painting tiny details and I'm going to have to try that paperclip method. I used toothpicks, but my results were never that good. Not due to the toothpick method, I mean, but due to my own clumsiness and whatnot.

  4. The quality may very well have been due to beginners luck. I've seen your work, amigo- its fantastic. :-) I think painting eyes is probably the most difficult part of painting a figure, simply due to the exactness required.

    I found a post somewhere where a guy was saying 'eyes for action figures should never just be black; they need to have a colored iris, a black pupil, and have a bit of shine on them...' and I was all, 'dude, yeah no'. I'll probably never be at that level. Or at least not for a very, very, very long time.