Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Paint-in #2: the eyes

Posted by Martin on January 23, 2013

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

If you ask most people which part of painting figures they hate the most, you can be sure of a fair smattering of answers involving eyes. So much so, that there are many who simply don’t bother with them. So that’s the issue I’m going to tackle in this second paint-in.

Before we begin, here’s a cheklist of the paint and equipment I used for this session:

I always begin every painting session by using the pipette to dispense some of my paint diluting mixture into one of the wells of the palette and mixing a little X-21 Flat Base into it – see my video review of X-21.

The first paint we’re going to use is the white, so put a small amount on the palette and dilute it a little with the cocktail of filtered water, flow improver and X-21 to achieve a thin but not runny consistency. Use the 00000 brush to paint the eye sockets white on all four figures. It’s best to use a thin coat of paint; by the time you’ve done the fourth figure, the first one will probably be dry enough for a second coat. At this stage there’s no need to get stressed about accuracy because it doesn’t matter if white paint gets on to other parts of the faces.

Now wash your brush in the jar of water and washing-up liquid and dry it off gently on the kitchen towel. Looking after your brushes as you work is one of the secrets of getting a good long working life out of them and is well worth the effort if you use expensive Kolinsky sable brushes like I do.

The next colour is burnt umber which we’re going to use to basecoat the faces of all the figures and the hair of most of them – I’ve decided one chap will have grey hair, so he won’t get his basecoated with burnt umber. Prepare some paint as before and apply it with the 000 brush, starting with areas of the face well away from the eyes. This way you can get attuned to how both paint and brush are behaving before attempting the more delicate business of painting around the whites of the eyes. As before, don’t worry too much if some burnt umber strays off the faces onto collars or headwear. That’s easily tidied up later.

Now paint as close up to the whites of the eyes as you are comfortable doing with the 000 brush. Some of you might be able to do all of this step with the 000 brush, while others may prefer to switch to the 00000 brush. Either way, you are aiming for narrow almond-shaped whites of the eyes. To avoid that goggle-eyed effect, these almonds need to be thinner than you think. As before, be prepared to apply paint in two or more thin layers rather than one thick one. You’ll get a smoother finish that way as long as you let each layer dry before applying the next. With four figures to work round, drying times shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. We all make them and I had to make a number of corrections as I went along to get the results shown here. Just let the burnt umber mistakes dry before going back over them with white and repeating the above steps until you have eye shapes you’re satisfied with. Don’t forget to keep cleaning your brushes as you go along.

Next it’s the pupils of the eyes and we’re going to use black for these. Prepare a small amount of black paint on the palette and load the 00000 brush with only a little paint. Now go for one confident thin vertical stripe down the middle of an eye. Notice how I’m not suggesting that you dot the pupil. To do that successfully requires a much steadier hand and risks spoiling the work you’ve done so far if you misjudge how firmly you press the brush tip on to the eye. The vertical stripe technique is much easier to master and delivers equally good results at this scale. Now all you have to do is repeat it another seven times!

The only drawback of this method is that your black lines will probably extend beyond the eyes and on to the burnt umber basecoat. So one final round of tidying up with burnt umber will be required to finish the job. That’s all for this time. In the next session I’ll move on to finishing off the faces and maybe even starting on the headwear.

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3 Responses to “Paint-in #2: the eyes”

  1. Burkhard said

    Funny you start here… Eyes are always the last thing I paint. I feel this breathes life into a mini and should therefore be the last thing to do… animating the Golem! đŸ˜›

  2. Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes!

    I rarely paint the whites of eyes on figures smaller than 30 MM. On the gaming table painted eyes make a unit look google-eyed! Or, scared s**t-less… The eye sockets would be in shadow and indistinct at the smaller scales. I’ve seen very few painted eyes on small figures which look well formed.
    Just my two-cents worth.
    A note on brush cleaning. Gently wipe the excess paint from the brush on the paper towel before cleaning in the water. Clean your brushes with brush cleaner after a painting session to restore the bristles as acrylics are hard on the bristles.

  3. Phil said

    Nice. I didn’t realize the X-21 works with acrylic also.

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