How I Paint

Recently it seems like I’ve “dinged” my painting skill; I’ve been getting more positive feedback and people have been asking questions as to technique and so forth. I’m also personally happier with how my models are coming out, so I must be doing something right.

Here is what works for me.

Disclaimer – I’ve never had any training in art, art theory or painting technique. I’m likely going to mis-use a lot of terms and make anyone with a half-way decent understanding of art cry. You have been warned.

Two-Brush Blending (2BB)

Learn it, practice it. This is one of two things I tried for the first time this year and is the single-biggest contributing factor to my satisfaction with my blends and where I am at right now with my painting. I took Arcane Paintworks‘ class in Jan 2014 and it has made the world of difference. Right now, I feel like I’m bastardising it (using one brush for small detail blending, not two) and getting closer to painting with glazes, but whatever it is that I do – it is working for me.

The basis for the technique is using a brush laden with mixing medium (your saliva) to push, pull and spread the paint around the model; getting it deeper into the recesses and blending the pigment across the surface. The brush will pick up the pigment as you work and transfer it as you go, letting you put down some very thin layers with very little effort. Building up the colour over a couple of layers is what creates the opaqueness and smooths the blends.

One good thing about 2BB is that the base coat is often the most labour-intensive part, if I can get past it then I know I’m going to enjoy the 2BB that comes after.


As I mentioned back in May, this article about painting with contrast has definitely changed how I paint. I still have issues with making highlights as light as they should be to maximise contrast, but I’m now going down to black or near black with my shading and black lining between areas to help pull them out.

The other part of this is temperature contrast (warm/cold). If I have a model that will be primarily “warm” (using browns, oranges, red, etc), then I have begun using a cold colour to add interest, and vice versa. For example, the blue cloak on this Una the Falconer. I guess similarly, the use of red on my minions to add a more saturated (??) colour into the mix.

Colour Theory

There are some great books out there, but I’ve not read them. I got a flavour of proper theory during Meg’s class, but have been too flat out and plain lazy to do my homework. Still, this P3 Mixing Chart is practically my bible; I’ve been using it for years, and only recently started to understand why it works.

I also draw on the painting guides that Privateer Press puts into their faction books and No Quarter – these are great cheat sheets for recipes for things (I use the leather from the Trollblood’s book a lot with my Minions). I wish PP would get these resources together and make them available in a more convenient format.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Paint Tired

This has been another change for me, and not one everyone can do. This year I pulled back massively on my commission work, and decided to only paint when I was in the mood to do it. If you don’t want to paint chances are you won’t do a very good job of it. There have been weeks where I’ve not picked up the brush once. The trick is to absolve yourself of the guilt. There have been occasions where I have made myself pick up the brush that I have ended up getting re-energised to paint.

For me, I rarely paint past 9pm as I know my concentration and focus is done and I’m more likely to put paint in the wrong places, requiring more work to fix it later.

Which leads me to …

Take Your Time

I’ve got two kids and not a hell of a lot of free time, and when I do I’m usually exhausted. On average I paint 4 nights a week, for about 40mins to an hour only. Or until I do one thing. Yep, that means my throughput is bloody slow, but its also manageable. One night I might just basecoat the flesh, or paint a coat/weapon/sock/whatever.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t help you if you need to paint to a deadline. I suggest you look up techniques for painting efficiently (speed is an output of efficiency).

That’s all I have right now. If there is something you’d like me to discuss, let me know in the comments.

How I Paint

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