More Painting Tips

Drybrush 101
First, the most often question I'm asked is to expand on just what I mean by "drybrushing".

Take a look at the objects around you. The world does not come in solid colors. If nothing else, a part of an object that is in shadow appears darker. Then there are more natural objects, like trees and wood and fur. These are made of various shades and values of different colors. You don't have to be a professional artist to get a pretty realistic paint job on your model.

To add depth to your paint job, you need to reproduce this effect, it will bring out details and just look more natural. In most cases you can get by with three values of the color, starting with the darkest and working your way to the lightest. First, take your primary color and add black or brown to darken it, then apply the first coat. I've even used straight black for the base coat, such as in Frankenstein's skin.

Next comes the "dry" part. Keep the paint slightly on the thick side, and use a flat brush. If you don't have one, make your own by pinching the metal part flat and trim the ends a little. Load this brush with the lighter color, then scrape it all back off. Then take an additional swipe on a paper towel. You say you're now holding an empty brush? You'll be surprised at the paint left as you take and lightly drag the side of this brush over the model. The object is to not cover the areas in the creases that would normally show up darker. You have to take your time, and continue going over and over the area until you're satisfied with the second coat. For the highlights, you simply go to the next higher shade and lightly hit the high spots, the areas that would have more of a shine to them. It really is easier than it appears.

Additional tips:

People are often thrown by the challenge of getting realistic looking skin. Due to my color blindness, I can't mix my own, but fortunately there's skintone paint sold already mixed. Keep the acrylic thinned down and use a lot of coats and blend it around a little on the figure, and you'll end up with a great job. Use a final coat of clear flat or satin acrylic to get a smooth finish.

People also run into problems with the paint (being too gritty/too thin/not sticking to the model) even though they've followed my directions. Sometimes I just have to conclude it's the particular bottle of paint you're using. Acrylic paint can spoil in the bottle just from age, even if it doesn't dry out. You don't know how long the paint has sat in the store, or if it sat in a very hot warehouse or something. In the end, you might just have to try getting a new bottle. As far as the paint not wanting to stick to the model, some plastic just seems to be more slippery than normal. Clear parts and glow-in-the-dark are always presenting this problem. In that case, you really just need normal primer for a base coat.

People also ask me what brands of paint I use. I use whatever's on sale, unless I need a special color. There are differences between brands of acrylic paint. Some that are labeled "flat" are actually more of a satin finish. I highly suggest you get some of the acrylic craft paint that comes in a squeeze bottle, I find it works great and is especially useful for the simple flat black and white you're always using. Experiment with different brands and pick the ones you like best.

There are also differences between brands of brushes, even if they're both labeled red sable. This is mostly in the quality and amount of bristles, but there's also a big difference in the construction. A new brush will have a few of the bristles come loose, but if you have to constantly stop and remove hairs the brush is leaving behind, you might look for a more expensive brush. Anyone who's painted for a while has one "favorite" in the jar that tends to get picked up first for a particular job. A good brush makes the paint job easier, while a bad brush can make it impossible.

Some color tips: Silver paint can give you a steel or even iron look by just mixing in some black. Gold paint becomes copper with a little red, and bronze by adding a small amount of black.

An obvious tip: Use a hairblower to speed the drying time of your paint job from a few minutes to nothing. Just remember to aim it away from your workbench, so you don't blow your little model parts off the table.

Needless to say, I am not a professional artist. Some modelers like to work in oil so they can have more time to blend the paint, and mix their own colors from the various tubes. Due to a slight color blindness I need to be able to see the color such as "forest green" printed on the bottle, I couldn't mix my own if my life depended on it. Remember, use the materials and methods that you find comfortable and give you an acceptable result. But don't forget to experiment a little, too.

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