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The following will be comprised of a series of articles on the way I paint and how to go about it.I hope that you all will learn somthing from this page.


Brush Tips by Bob Bowling Part 1:


Why listen to me? Well, I have been painting figures commercially for twenty years. The proof is in my mail box - I keep getting advertisements from companies wanting to sell me items to commemorate the anniversary of my twenty years in business, and I keep getting painting orders from customers.

I actually learned the painting method I use from Dave Hoppock of Rockford, Illinois, twenty years ago. At that time, Dave was the artist who painted most of the figures used in the box art for Ral Partha products. Dave had a homemade chart of colors based on the Partha line of paints back then that looked a whole lot like Foundry's Paint System does now. He didn't have a fancy full color flyer, he charted the various shades by hand. I spent many hours watching him paint and painting with him.

The basic paint technique is layering from dark to light. I learned to paint at least three color layers to show shading, highlights, and detail on the figures. Along with the techniques I learned from Dave, my working experience as a full time figure painter has taught me some practical things about volume painting, commercial painting, and specialty painting. If you'll continue reading, I'd like to share some of my acquired knowledge.

1. A good prep job is basic to a well-painted figure. The first step in figure painting is always cleaning the figure. A good Exacto blade and some small files will be handy for this task Almost all figures have flash and mold lines. Flash is the extra metal still attached to your figure that is a result of the molds wearing a bit. Most flash can be cut away with your Exacto knife. Mold lines are seams showing where the mold fit together. They vary from faint to pronounced and distracting, but they can be cleaned up.. Use a small file to smooth out your figures mold lines.

2. Mount the figure to give you some thing to hold onto while you paint. This also keeps the oil from your fingers away from the figure. This makes a difference in how the paint adheres to the surface you are painting. When I first started, I used the little plastic containers that 35mm film comes in with mounting tape to hold the figure to the container. I also used empty thread spools (wooden, plastic are too light weight). These items were great for holding and painting one figure at a time. I now use blocks of oak, 2 ½ inches by 2 inches by ¾ inch. I mount the figures (3 per block) on the 2-½ inch width using 527 craft glue. The blocks will sit on the table without falling over. I normally paint 30 to 40 figures a day, from priming to completion. Using the blocks are one of the reasons for my productivity.

3. Primer colors. The most frequent questions I am asked are "What should I use to prime my figures?" or "What do you use to prime your figures?" The answer to these questions is: "It depends." It depends on your style of painting, what it is you are painting, and the look you wish to achieve. I've heard and read debates about the merits of black vs. white primer. I use both, and in fact, I use other colors as well, depending on what I am painting. Here is a short list to give you a better idea of what I use and why: 1. Black I spray almost every thing with black primer these days. 2. White Generally I use this for animals and shields. 3. Dark gray Works for white uniforms (think Austrians).

4. Just about any dark primary color for any thing. Black primer is great for layer painting, or shading. The black primer makes block painting easier, because it does not reflect as much light and allows you to see the small details on the figure better. (If you are getting older like me that counts.) Black primer is a must when dealing with chain mail and other types of armor that are best done by dry brushing. The use of black primer can eliminate the need for black lining of belts and equipment on your figures. Using black primer as your base also provides depth to your figures when they are done. Another benefit is that if you miss a spot, a black base coat will make it less obvious.

5.White primer was what I used exclusively when I started painting miniatures, it was the primer my mentor, Dave, always used. The biggest advantage to using white primer is that the paint colors look brighter and the white doesn't bleed through with some light colors. White is great when you are painting faces and other fleshy bits, it make the flesh tones lighter and more lifelike. These days I use white as a base when I am painting animals with washes. White primer showing through the paint layers sure lets you know when you miss something. The disadvantage of white primer is mainly a speed issue. Belts and other black items have to be outlined in black, which is an extra step. If the figure is primed with black those areas don't need a second coat of paint.

6.Dark Earth or Dark Gray primer There are primer colors I use for resin buildings, depending on the building and what material it is represents. Dark earth for adobe or limestone Dark gray for stone or cement masonry These colors make great bases for dry brushing your lighter colors. Dark gray is also great for any figures that are to end up in white uniforms or fur. Some things are done for speed alone, and this is one of them, because the paints are layered from dark to light. Using the dark layer as primer reduces one step in the painting process. Other colors. Most modeling spray paint can be used as a primer. For instance, if you are painting WWII German tanks, Testors makes an Afrika Mustard spray that's a great place to start a late war color scheme when using acrylic paint. Another choise would be olive drab for U.S. vehicles.

7. Don't fall into the trap of thinking in terms of only black or white. Every primer has its advantages and disadvantages. Try them all out and see what works for you. Which paint to use. You don't have to go out and buy brand named primer. The companies that make primer specifically for miniatures make a good product. I see nothing wrong with using them. But there are alternatives. I prefer to go to my local home improvement store or hardware store and buy the cheapest can of flat black or flat white. Rustoleum Painters Touch Flat Black and Krylon Flat White work well for me. I also use a lot of Testors Model Master spray paint as primer. Practical tip: Read the instructions on the spray paint can and make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. Its not too hard to make a small spray booth with fan for your home work shop. They can be purchased and installed also.

There will be more to come next we will do a step by step how to paint a figure. And if you have any suggestions on topics for this page just email bob@rlbps.com .