Painting figures

I have a few more figures to paint and I didn't see where anyone has ever done a thread on this subject so here we go.

I use a technique that I picked up on one of the military modeler forums to paint my figures. They tend to blend things together with an airbrush at the end which I do not have so all painting is done with a brush.

Start by preparing the figure. Remove as much flash as possible and mount (I use toothpicks). Spray paint black. Dark primer makes it easier to see highlights on the casting and will cause some shadowing in the crevices which we want.

This casting has been primed and the face has been given 2 washes of base color...I almost always use a wash instead of full-strength paint to reduce brush stroke marks on the casting. Unless otherwise specified all colors are Model Color. This wash is 1:1 Cork Brown and airbrush thinner. The arms have been left off for now. They will be attached once the overalls are done. I plan on blue denim overalls with a light gray shirt on this guy.

Please excuse in advance my poor photography skills. I can never get a very high resolution close up.


  • I put a first coat of paint on. Heather Blue overalls, SW Light Gray shirt, Ger. Fieldgray hat, and Black Brown shoes. At this point there is some "out of line" paint. No problem. We let this dry and add a second coat of the base colors before start weathering.IMG_0234
  • Bryan,

    Thanks for this tutorial on figure painting.

    Are you using water soluble paints from Brett's Reaper Series Craftsman Paint set or enamels? Any preference or recommendations regarding brush sizes?

    Thanks, Dave S. Tucson, AZ
  • edited November 2018
    Dave, paints are all acrylics. Mostly Model Color brand because that's what I have the most of. Some Reaper and some SW. The SW colors were specifically chosen by Brett for doing dioramas and a lot of the colors I want for figures just aren't there. The brush I have been using is a round 5/0. It is small enough for everything so far. Will need a 3/0 for some finer details later such as the buckles on his suspenders and eyebrows.

    Ed, funny you say its a skill of its own. I was at a friend's house recently for an op session and there was a show and tell to open things up. I brought my unfinished O'Neills, one guy brought a scratchbuilt boxcar, one guy is working on a Gn30 pizza layout, one guy is using a Cricut machine to build paper structures, and the host is in to accurate operations on a Maine 20" RR. It was mentioned there that there are so many different areas within this hobby to find your personal niche.

    The base coats are on and fully covering the figure. We proceed with one area at a time adding shadows and light on the figures. By having a base coat only, we can touch up any early mistakes easily...late mistakes are harder to fix. I added a touch of black/brown to the eye here. It doesn't have to be perfect, we have 2 skin tone shades to add that will make it look right. It's important not to add the eye detail at the end because it just doesn't look right. Also add a first coat on the hair at this point. IMG_0237
  • edited November 2018
    Shadows and highlights should be subtle. Giving a wash of IA followed by drybrushing looks great on our "hardscape" castings, but are a bit harsh for clothing. I take a drop of the base color and a drop of a darker color in the same color family along with a drop of airbrush thinner and mix in some darker color a little at a time until I get my shadow color. I used a 3/0 brush to add thinned shadow color to the folds in the clothing. Do the same for the highlights. This should produce a nice subtle variation of color.

    It is better to add layers if you want it darker or lighter than to try to add too dark or light paint...these tend to look like painted lines. If you mess up, hit the area with your base color and try again.

  • I agree a great tutorial on an often overlooked critical detail, one that needs to be done well to pull off effectively and you have done that in fine style!
  • edited November 2018
    Thanks Ken. You are right, good looking figures add to a scene and bad ones take away.

    Guys who excell in figure painting would scrap my work here, but when not in extreme close-up this guy is starting to look real nice.

    First pic adds Medium Flesh over the Cork Brown. Thin the paint to make it slightly translucent to allow the shadow of the cork to show through. Second pic adds Flat Flesh. Thin and apply as before. When slightly dry, add full strength Flat Flesh to nose, cheekbone, jaw, etc to highlight. Add a slight pink tone to lips if desired. The eyes are not quite aligned, but when not in extreme close up they look good. Let this dry and add some eyebrows.

    I plan to add the arms next and shadow/highlight the shirt and call this bad boy done...except for some "work dirt". Hit with Dulcote if necessary. Some of these paints add latex which can add a shine.IMG_0260
  • What scale is this figure???

  • Jerry, he is 1:43. In O scale he is 6'3"
  • He's all in 1 piece now. Done for now with the acrylics. I'll let him dry and will do some final weathering. Dust on the boots and pant legs, and some oil stains on the front of the overalls. Probably will use enamels but might use pigments set with odorless spirits. Definitely don't use alcohol at this point.

    I noticed some mold lines that I didn't get cleaned up enough. Overall a satisfying project. And once again, an inhabitant not a worker.

    Thanks Ed.

    How about those Buckeyes?

  • It's easy to paint several at the same time since you use the same techniques and a lot of the same colors.IMG_0286
  • Bryan. They look great each one with their own look, Well done............Carl...........
  • Thanks Carl.

    Final update on this 1 day project. Our figure in question has been placed in his assigned "work" location.

    Also, here we see that we can put details on details where figures are concerned. I do enjoy humor in scenes and the smoker will be standing between 2 "no smoking" and "acetylene" signs. IMG_0293
  • Thanks Bryan. Who makes them??
    Your doing a fine job on these guys!

  • Here you can find them. It's a French company. They have some real nice figures, some are less proportion wise.. I have them on my Om 1/43,5 layout. Check them out.
  • I went to the site for the figures, they are awesome, the best I have ever seen. It would be nice if they were in HO scale.
  • Fantastic work Bryan, so great to see you treating and finishing the figures as excellently as you do the other details, they are going to fit in perfectly.

  • Karl, that's the only way to do this kit justice. Use the best add-ons you can find and do the best work you can do.
  • Thanks Bryan for a great tutorial. Nicely done.
  • i'm registered at that site with an active wish list. ho ho ho.......
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