Winging it, or ‘Painting without a plan’

Experimental. This is the word I would probably choose to describe this post.

After the black tutorial did so well (thanks to everyone who read and shared it!), it became a question of what to follow it with. There have been many suggestions, all of which will be used at some point or another.

I decided that its all very well me showing you how to do things step by step, but how do you apply these techniques and thinking to your own models?

So in-between normal tutorials which will cover things like how to paint textured leather, and the perennial subject of skintones, I’m going to paint without having a real plan of what to do, so you can have an insight into the decision making process, and what happens when things go horribly wrong (which they will do, it happens to all of us at some point).

The model I’m using today is ‘Alas’ by BrokenToad resin cast, A lovely bust that I’ve been dying to paint since it came out. In particular I’ll be painting the cloth sections of it, with today focusing on the sleeves.

I had already painted the face before I decided to do this tutorial, and had also splashed about a bit of paint in places to try and see what colours I wanted.

(Please note, the face has had some work done after the first two photos, I just got too into the intricacies of getting really smooth blends and didn’t take any step by step photos)


Pretty hideous I’m sure you’ll agree. I just wasn’t sure where to go with the piece and had tried out a few different colours.

First things first if you’re stuck, have a look at some examples online, whether its real life or similar figures. Even if you don’t find any sparks of inspiration, it might at least narrow the search and you’ll know what colours you don’t want.

For me, I found a couple of images that were ok, but none were quite gothic enough. So I decided to start with the nicest colour I could see on the examples, a satin red, and just go from there.

With that in mind I picked out a nice dark red (vallejo black red) and painted all the clothes. Sadly though it looked too dark and desaturated.

“Get your phone out, open the image or photo gallery and edit a photo, there should be a slider or an option for ‘saturation’ in there somewhere, slide it backwards and forwards to see what it does. Clever right? It basically controls the intensity of the colours, and if you desaturate, you’re just pulling colour out, and slowing turning your object or painting into black & white. In terms of figure painting, where pulling colour out isn’t really something you can do, you achieve the same affect by adding varying amounts of grey pigment”

I found a slightly brighter red to work with (Vallejo cadmium red) and basecoated the sleeves as these are the bits I knew I wanted to work on.

Cadmium Red on the sleeves

After looking at some reference of red satin I knew that the blends need to be really smooth but they didn’t quite go up to pure white in most cases. So I decided to take it up to a fairly bright highlight and then glaze over the highlights to bring back the vibrant red colour.

One of my favourite reds is Mephiston red by Games Workshop, its a lovely paint that goes on smoothly, covers well and dries exceptionally matte in most situations. I used a really thin coat on the top surfaces of the sleeve, about 3 or 4 parts water to paint. Use a tissue to most of the paint off the brush beforehand to stop paint pooling and gently paint on the parts of the cloth that would get hit by light from above.

Mephiston Red

you’ll need 3 or 4 thin coats to build up the vibrancy of the Mephiston red, you could go further with a few more coats but i left it at that.

From here it was a decision to either start adding a paler colour to mephiston red or to swap to another colour entirely. I felt that going straight into white and red would be too harsh so I plumped for Evil sunz scarlet instead, again doing several super thin coats to build it up.

Evil Sunz Scarlet

Now, normally I wouldn’t suggest highlighting red with a red/white mix as it does go pink, however as I was fully intent on glazing over the highlights later, I wanted a fairly neutral base to glaze over, whether this is the correct course of action remains to be seen (and as always please remember there are loads of different ways to achieve everything mentioned in this tutorial, this is just the way I’m currently approaching it)

The highlights below are Mephiston red plus a tiny bit of white (just gently dip the tip of your brush into the white, don’t go overboard otherwise the transition between the highlights will be difficult to fix.

Mehpiston Red plus a small amount of white

Try not to cover all of the previous highlights with this new layer, just leave a bit showing and push the paint towards the centre of the arm as that where the brightest points will be (you’ll need to work from the left to the centre, and from the right to the centre to position the brightest points, and this does all depend on your lighting, but I’m purely looking at what looks good at the moment).

Have your brush perpendicular to the green arrows and push the pigment to the brightest points

The next two photos show how i’ve added more white to the mix in stages,  theres no need to make big jumps, just add the white in small amounts and take it slow.

More white
eeek, starting to get chalky!

 Now as you can see, my main problem is the white is starting to look chalky and rough, despite being careful and using super thin layers with very little paint on the brush.  I fixed this by glazing a small amount of Mephiston red where the red starts to transition into bright pink. I avoided the brightest parts, however with a thin enough glaze going over all the highlights is a viable solution. It also occurs to me that the evil sunz scarlet layer was probably not needed, but it’s a minor detail.

Mephiston red glaze to fix the chalkiness

At this point I realised i’d not done any shades, so using Vallejo black red, with a small amount of pure black I made a glaze (roughly 5 parts water to 1 part paint) and applied it in the creases and folds to create shadows. two or three passes should do the trick, but don’t put it on like a wash, take most of the paint off on a tissue first.

Push the paint towards the darkest areas this time as this is where you want the most pigment

Once I had smoothed out the transitions, I went in with what I would describe as a slightly tinted white (here we go, nagging again, but keep those paints thin!)

11 11a

So, we have shades and highlights and it doesn’t look too bad, but its not the satin I was after. I had initially decided to use glazes of mephiston red to counteract the pink hue, but after a quick rummage through my paint draw I found an old GW red ink which I thought would work well. Its not something I would normally use, but in the spirit of winging it, it was time to have a go!

Inks are quite strong colours generally so I mixed equal parts of water and ink, got a brushful, dabbed most of it onto a piece of tissue (There’s a pattern here i’m sure of it) and gave the entire arm a really thin coat.  If it starts to pool, you have too much on the brush, but if you’re quick you can wipe the brush on tissue and brush over the pool to remove it before it starts to dry and form a tide mark.

21 22

 There you have it, it definitely needs a spray of dullcote to kill the shine, but we have something approximating satin!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk-through, Next week we’ll have a tutorial on leather and then later part two of Winging It, where I’ll paint the frilly parts of the dress on Alas and maybe even add some freehand!

If you want to get your hands on a copy of Alas you can find it at the BrokenToad store HERE

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