The Formula

by Alex Castro

 The Formula forPainting Miniatures

Most of the techniques taught and used today were for two dimensional canvas work and panels, not three-dimensional figures! The instructions that come with most kits produce an average model or figure. In general, every kit is unique and may require a different painting strategy.

The order or sequence of how the paint is applied is just as important as the paint used! In this section, I am revealing  my formula for flesh tones, which I call GUM #1, 2, 3, & 4 (the higher the value, the more vermillion the flesh tone has; the lower the value the lighter the flesh tone). The reason I call it gum is because I derived it from a mixture I made from a GUM base color I used in the mouth, tongue and around the teeth area.

By adding flesh it gave me unique flesh tone values that provided a realistic flesh tone variation that I enjoyed! This combination provided me with a symbiosis of flesh tones that are used to paint the face and figures, for touch ups and fine tuning the figure. There are three exceptions. The first is that I use a color I call soot on flesh, a separator. Secondly, to touch up character lines I use an accentor, mixture of flesh and gray in equal amounts that produce a greenish flesh color that blends seamlessly into the gum colors. To darken the lines in and around the face I use gray tone, flesh, gray mixture and soot, consecutively. Thirdly, I use brown only to flavor my flesh tone, as an accent and to create ethnic types.

 My figures are painted mostly with acrylics and enamels. With my techniques, I have been able to mimic most of the results that can be obtained with oils. Most people are bewildered of the dynamics results achieved. I also use oils and enamels when the figure warrants it. In addition, another positive characteristic of acrylics is that they dry quickly.Oils have a tendency of staying mixable for a long period of time. Although this may be good, at times oils can become over blended becoming muddy and transparent, losing their opacity. Since the airbrush dominates my techniques to the extent I couldn’t think of painting a figure, in any scale without it, acrylics provided this option. The use of oils was not a viable option. I do not exclude oils but see them as playing smaller role or a supportive one rather than a primary role in painting figures.

 To create my skin tones, I use three basic colors: flesh, yellow and red. My preference is Tamiya Acrylics, however there are many companies that produce similar products that are just as good. The combination of these basic colors produces my gum base. Furthermore, the addition of flesh to this gum base provides the wide range of flesh tones I use on my figures. First I take five (5) empty jars (I usually save my Tamiya paint jars and wash them off) to store the gum colors I make. Gum Base = XF15 Tamiya Flat Flesh+XF3 Tamiya Flat Yellow+XF7 Tamiya Flat Red Formula for Gum Base – made of 3 colors of equal parts Tamiya XF 15 Flesh Tamiya XF 3 Yellow Tamiya XF 7 Red XF15 + XF3 + XF 7 = Gum Base (closer to red than yellow) Gum #4 = ½ Gum base + ½ XF 15 Gum #3 = ½ Gum #4 + ½ XF 15 Gum #2 = ½ Gum #3 + ½ XF15 Gum #1 = ½ Gum #2 + ½ XF15 Taking the gum base you created divide it in 1/2. Take Flesh XF15 and fill the other half of the jar that has the gum color. Shake it thoroughly. This gives you a Gum # 4, the deepest Vermillion color and is primarily used to distinguish the darker areas. Take Gum #4 and put half in an empty jar and fill the rest of the jar with XF 15 flesh. This gives you gum #3. To make Gum #2, take ½ of Gum # 3 and add ½ of XF15. To make Gum #1, take ½ of Gum #2 and add ½ of XF15.

This system involves making the gum base first and then reducing it by adding flesh to make the other four colors. Note it is very important that you mix a big enough batch of Gum colors to paint your figure. Once the colors are mixed it is very difficult to obtain the same color batch. Remember to make enough to paint your figure. Always ensure you have extra paint in case you need to repair the figure. Label each of your jars with the name and date. Discard after a year. In conclusion, painting figures is a challenge. The use of the aforementioned concepts and techniques will assist you in painting a more dynamic realistic figure, but like everything else it requires work and practice.

You can see the process in my book entitled The Art of Painting  Miniatures: Faces & Figures, produced by Compendium Publishers, Written by Alex Castro

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous September 10, 2008 at 7:03 am

Hi Fred,

Sorry for the delayed response. As it stands now there is no book. I need a publisher who will be willing to pick up the tab for the book, which I had envisioned years ago on Fantasy Females of various scales.

Several years ago, I had asked my dear friends Luca Marchetti from Pegaso Miniatures and Alex from JJ Models to provide some pieces for the book. I was ready to go but the the publisher felt there was not enough money to produce this type of book and suggested that unless I could not get someone like Frazetta on board they would not sponsor the book. The publishers at that time felt the market was not there. I disagree, but I personally do not have the money or the time to self-publish or to pay some of these great fantasy artists like Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta licensing fees to produce work for me or top sculptors like Clayburn Moore and Steve West.

It also seems that the industry would rather take some dated miniature females off the shelf to promote the same people and dated techniques. In addition, there are companies publishing their own books on how to paint females that have nothing else to offer other than promoting their products.

Unless I have a sponsor willing to financially support this book, I’m afraid that “The Art of Painting Fantasy Female Figures” will not be realized.

Fred. if you like I will add you on to my friends list so that you can get my works in progress via email. I’m currently working on “Kull of Atlantic ” which will be on the cover of Fantasy Realm magazine. The other piece I will be working on next is “Conan the Conqueror .”

Best regards,


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