Recently, I decided to complete my Troll army and decided on a yellow(ish) for the skin all-around. I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how I pulled off the colors, so I thought it would be good to do a short walk-through of the process. All paints are our very own Pro Acryl through an Iwata Neo TRN-1. Enjoy!
Basecoat – I used Mahogany as a base over the black primer to give a good solid shadow color. I tend to want my base shadows to have some deep coloring, rather than simply using the black undercoat, and Mahogany gives a really rich brownish red to root the final colors. This is an all-over coat that I mixed 2 to 1 airbrush thinner to paint. I don’t leave any solid black from the primer coat uncovered.
Shadow Blend – My second step is to take a color that will transition from the shadow color of Mahogany and throw us toward the final color a bit. I chose Burnt Red here and mixed it 2 to 1 again so that I can feather it on and get a solid blend between the deepest shadows and the area that will start moving toward yellows. I cover about 80% of the model, starting just outside the deepest shadows and covering the rest.
Skin Base – Next comes the true base for the skin tone – Burnt Orange. This is one of the colors coming to our Pro Acryl range in the next release (soon!). Oranges and browns do wonders for basing yellows, so this was an easy go-to. I’m still mixing 2 to 1 thinner to paint, but now I start hitting the model mostly from above with the airbrush, and I avoid the shadows altogether. I imagine the airbrush as my light source (the sun in this case) and only aim at the model from directions that the light would hit it. Once I’ve covered the top parts of the model, I go in and feather a light bit of the color right at the point where the shadows hit my first pass to make sure I don’t get any hard transitions from dark to light.
First Highlight – Funny to call the first real yellow color a highlight, but that’s what it is! This time I take Yellow Ochre (the second of our new colors on this model), and continue with the “airbrush as light source” method to only put color on the areas that the “sun” would actually hit. I start getting closer to the model with the airbrush for this layer – about 2-3″ so I don’t extend color too far out of my intended target. This time, I don’t worry about feathering into the shadows, as I’ll begin losing the orange from the last coat if I do so. I really want those reddish brown shadows to pull through in the end.
Second Highlight – Rather than choosing a brighter yellow here, I start adding Ivory to the Yellow Ochre to achieve my highlights. For this layer, I’m mixing about 50/50 (1:1) Yellow Ochre and Ivory. Same thinning as before and starting to pull the focus in more, so that I don’t cover the tops of all the areas that light would hit. I call this “painting myself into a corner” – I keep pulling my paint placement into smaller locations on the same parts of the model as before. To do this, I start working the airbrush closer to the model – about an inch away in most cases. This color wants to only live in the “V” formed from the model’s shoulders to its crotch. Arms get included as necessary, based on their placement on the sculpt (high or low), but the real focus is the head, shoulders, pecs, and other upper-body parts that stick into the light. I keep my brighter colors away from the lower body to avoid unbalancing the darkness on the piece. On this model, I’ll have more highlighting on the back than on the chest, due to how he’s hunched over.
Final Highlight – The endpoint for the airbrushing is to go with a little more Ivory in the mix. I’ll say 2:1 Ivory to Yellow Ochre for this brightest color. I get really close in – about a half inch from the surface – and really start easing my trigger pull to get just the smallest bit of color on the very tops of muscles and knuckles. I don’t put any of this color lower than the waist of the model to make sure I keep a good overall value from head to toe.
That’s all there is to it! This is the method I use when airbrushing skin on pretty much every model. Very little hassle and quick to get to a solid overall color. You can see in the “final” pics how all the colors really come together to get a great combo of shadow and base / highlight. Next up will be the brush texturing and final detailing, but that will have to wait until all the other bits are based and started as well. I always try to bring all the parts of the model to a similar completion level prior to “finishing” any one part. Helps you make sure you don’t overdo anything, or get carried away. Until next time – Keep on paintin’!
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