Paintlog: Jumping Scale

For the past several months, as I’ve been building my painting skills and getting more and more into pure display painting rather than simply painting stuff up for the tabletop, I’ve been thinking of jumping up to a larger scale. Most of the figures I’ve painted in the past have been about 30mm figures for games like Warmachine. It’s not a bad scale per se, but it feels like there are a lot of details that are lost at 30mm, and a lot of shortcuts you can end up taking as a result. For example, it can be prohibitive to do anything other than just a dot to represent the iris and pupil of an eye, whereas in a bigger scale, you can actually represent these different parts of the eye and how the ambient light reflects off the pupil.

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Yephima, next to one of my first miniatures, a 28mm scale wizard in Winnipeg Blue Bombers colours

I’ve had a bunch of the 1/12 scale Naughty Gears busts from Scale75 sitting in my stash, but these are a little expensive for a first stab at a larger scale. Fortunately, I found something in my stash of 28mm scale Reaper Bones which could suffice. Yephima, Female Cloud Giant (#77162) is a 28mm scale miniature, however she represents what looks to be a 20 foot tall giant. So, in a “world’s tallest hobbit” type situation, she actually appears to be a normal sized human in what looks to be perhaps a bit bigger than 75mm scale.

And as a bonus, she’s only about $7 on the Reaper website, so if I screw her up, it’s no big deal.

Anyways, the first thing you need to know about painting Reaper Bones is that they are made up of a weird material. Bones were designed with D&D and other role-playing games in mind, so they were designed with a material that is very durable and low-cost so your DM can afford a whole stash of them and so they don’t get damaged from being handled by clumsy, cheeto-fingered gamers.

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This material has some unique properties. First off, it is rather soft, so when you are cleaning mold lines, you will need a very sharp knife. You also may need to straighten out some bent bits using hot water to make it pliable, then cold water to shock it into shape.

The most important aspect of this material, however, is how it interacts with paint. So long as it is clean (and you should always wash your miniatures with soap and water before painting), Bones material is designed to take acrylic paint straight out of the box. However, the material is also somewhat hydrophobic, which means that water will bead up on the surface. This is a problem because “thin your paints” is one of the first things you learn when painting miniatures. If you try to thin your paints with water, you’re going to have a bad time.

Fortunately, there is a solution. A first coat of undiluted paint will act as a primer and stick to the surface of the miniature, and from there, you can paint over it using paints that are thinned to your heart’s content. This article on the Reaper forums is required reading before jumping into Bones, and will save you a lot of frustration as you start.

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My skin colour palette. One of these colours is not like the other…

So, with a coat of white paint to cover up all the bare material, I dragged her out to the aviation museum to get a start at the local IPMS build day. When I paint skin, I like to start in the shadows and work my way up, so I took out my nice, #2 Raphael 8404 and my wet palette and got to work, basecoating all the skin with Reaper Soft Blue. From there, I worked up into my base flesh tone of P3 Khardic Flesh (93057), and into P3 Ryn Flesh (93059) and Reaper Fair Skin (09047) for the highlights. If you’re painting along at home, you don’t have to use these exact colours, but the principle remains the same. Start with blue, because your deepest shadows and certain areas of the skin are going to have a blue tone to them, then figure out your light source and work your way up through to your highest highlight, using blending and feathering techniques to get smooth transitions, and taking advantage of the slightly translucent nature of hobby acrylic paints as you go. And remember, Airbrush Flow Improver is your friend.

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Upon finishing up the first crack at the flesh and taking a look at her in some more natural light in the museum’s cafeteria, I realized that she was looking way too pale for my tastes. In some areas, her skin looked almost lifeless. Fortunately, I had an idea to fix it. I figured if I whipped up a glaze in a more pinkish skin tone, I could breathe a little life into the skin and also maybe smooth out some of my blends. However, I knew I also wanted to practice some freehand tattoos on her, which meant that perhaps it would be best to wait until the end.

One of the tricks with tattoos is that when they are very fresh, they have a bit of a harsh look to them, however once the skin heals from getting stabbed with a needle thousands and thousands of times, the tattoo fades into the skin a bit. If I were to simply paint the tattoos onto her using pure black, they would end up with that harsh, unhealed look. So, the trick here is to not go for a pure black; try a sort of greyish blue-black instead to avoid going too harsh. Also, by saving the glaze that I was going to do anyways to get the skin tone right until after I painted the tattoos on, that would give it a bit of a skin coloured filter to them and make the tattoos look like she’s had them for a little while.

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Before and after the glaze

Speaking of the tattoos, I ended up wanting a lot of practice a lot of different designs, so she ended up being fairly heavily tattooed. After the glaze, though, I thought she could use a little more something on the legs, so I painted on a fishnet pattern on the right leg, below the little band around her upper leg. For this, I used my secret weapon; a 10/0 liner brush and did a simple criss-cross pattern over her leg.

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Hand-painted fishnets

I also knew that for this project, I wanted to do red hair and green eyes. My goal was for her hair to look vibrant, so I went for a shade of hair that while it may not be realistic, is still appropriate for a fantasy figure, starting with brown, adding a dark wash, and working up to a bright red with a touch of off-white mixed in in places.

From there, it is a lot of my usual techniques to finish off the clothes and the mace such as blending in some highlights and using desaturated blues to highlight the black. Finally, I saved some of the highlights on the metals for the end, knowing that there is no point in working to get the metallics perfect on a display quality model only to ruin them with dullcote. I used my usual TMM brass strategy of working up through various golds to Vallejo Bright Brass at the highest highlight, and went over the silver bits as well.

Oh, and the base? I managed to source that from a little-known hobby company, and it came free with a bottle of orange juice.

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Final thoughts

This model was in the weird place of starting out as just a practice model, but as I painted it, I kind of fell in love with the sculpt and the details, and I began really putting a little more effort into it. As such, there are perhaps a few imperfections from the initial stages when I figured “oh, this is just a practice piece; I don’t care if the mold lines are perfect” which may have showed through until the end. However, I think she turned out pretty well overall. I’m pleased with the skin tone; for a first attempt at this scale, it seems to be pretty solid. The hair could perhaps use some work, as this is the first time I’ve tried to do hair at this scale and also possibly the first time I’ve gone for the fantasy redhead look. However, I’m more or less pleased with the tattoos, and feel that they, and the fishnets, add some nice character to this model.

For any miniature painter who is starting to feel as though things are getting a touch rote, I would strongly recommend picking something up in a different scale and trying it out. Taking on new challenges is one of the enjoyable parts of the hobby, and painting up Yephima here really helped rekindle some of that for me.

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The finished product