The Painting Process

by Alex Castro

Advancement in technology in areas such as airbrushes, paints, mediums, and materials for models, has taken figure painting into a different dimension. Certainly this can be seen vividly in related areas such as wax museum, taxidermy, FX-special effects in the fields of sci-fi horror that have spilled into traditional figure painting. The high level off quality that can be obtained is greater than anything before it.

Painting miniature is much more complex and involves all types of mediums such as brass, lead, resin, plastic or vinyl. Therefore, your skills and techniques must enable you to apply paint to all these mediums seamlessly.

Often times I’ve been asked why regular hardware paint can’t be used and what is the difference between regular paint and scale paint for miniatures. Paint is made up of three components: pigment, thinner or solvent. Pigment is finely granulated color particles for the purpose coloring and protecting the surface; resin is gum like, soluble with the purpose of binding; and the thinner or solvent is a combination of liquids which brings together pigment and resin making paint.

In his book, Painting Miniatures, Harald Rosenlund, Floquil Products, Inc. states that the molecular level of the regular paint is simply too large to use on miniatures and he mathematically illustrates it. Miniature painting requires a paint of its own. If the scale of paint is too large for the relieve, it clogs the relieve areas and obscures the details. If you try thinning out the paint too much, it would break it down to the point that it would lose its adhesive property and would easily flake off.

Therefore paints have to be of a certain molecular structure to match the scale of miniatures. Paints are as different as the manufacturers that produce them. Some work better than others on different mediums. For example, enamels work better on painting precious metals, teeth, etc. For materials and flats and opaque things, acrylics work better. In some instances the use of oils to bring a more dynamic vibrant color would be more appropriate for areas such as the hair. EXPERIMENT, don’t limit yourself.

Just as important as paints are to miniatures so is the too you use. The type of airbrush and brush you use is very important. The very nature of miniature painting is extremely rough on the brushes as oppose to painting on canvas or paper. In painting miniatures you press hard to achieve certain dry stroke affects. Some people have two sets of brushes to use with oil, enamels and acrylics. Solvents can also be very hard on the brushes. My approach to painting miniatures is somewhat different to the traditional way.

The traditional way relies heavily on the brush and the airbrush plays a supportive role. In my technique the airbrush play the primary role and the brush a supportive one. This is because the scale of the miniature may be too small, there are accessories and tiny parts, or there is a certain intricate pattern I want to achieve. I delegate the brush to line work, detail work and washes.
There is a misconception in the use of brushes. Some people assume that when you paint you get a straight line. You do this by pushing the point forward. The best way to do line work is by moving the brush backwards and using the sides of the brush not the point. When you use the point you are basically detailing things and you are in the writing mode.

Washes play an important role in miniature painting. It is very important to use a good brush when you are doing this. The better brushes can load better (amount of water or pigment that it holds). Washes when apply correctly have a dramatic impact in changing the tone value.

I recommend the Kolinsky #7 series brushes by Windsor & Newton. I usually keep at least one of each size. I believe they have some of the best flutes that have a double crimp that holds the brush hairs in place. These brushes also are short handle, which allows you to work with the miniatures easier than long handle brushes, which have a tendency of getting in the way. For example they interfere with lamps. These brushes also have one of the finest points in the industry. These brushes are expensive but in the long run turn out to be cheaper because they last longer and you get RESULTS.

I am not promoting the product, just indicating to you what has worked for me in my years of experience. By all means use the brushes that you feel most comfortable with and bring you results.Bristle brushes are usually made of pig fiber, acrylic or synthetic fibers. I fine the pig fibers work the best. I use them primarily for dry stroking and special effects. Keep a wide variety of sizes. If possible keep two of each size of the flats and rounds. I must stress the importance of having the proper equipment. This plays an important role in conjunction with your concept and technique application.

Written by Alex Castro

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