Painting the Batsuit on Knight Miniature’s Batman
As much as I dislike this sort of thing I have to give a disclaimer for my paint job on this miniature. This model didn’t turn out as well as I planned and while significant blame can be placed on my skills as a painter I found the glossiness of the paint made it really difficult to judge the quality of my blends and highlights. I really enjoy every other characteristic of the Golden High Flow Acrylic paints that I’ve been using but the high gloss of the paint, especially when it is brushed on, really interferes with my ability to see the surface. Golden makes an additive which should kill the gloss but I haven’t been able to find it locally. Not that it matters as I didn’t realize how difficult the gloss was making things until after I finished painting another miniature.
To make things easier to describe I’m going to define a few terms I use to describe my process. At some point I should create a glossary page to reference, but this will have to do for now.
- Painting a base colour on each surface of the miniature to designate colour separation and to begin plotting colour and value contrasts. This colour will be covered later and doesn’t have to be exactly the finished colour.
- Adding highlights and shades to a colour in order to enhance depth and contrast.
- Acrylic paint dries quickly compared to oils. An acrylic paint that is open is one which is still wet and workable.
A Note on Colour
I could not tell you what colours I used in what ratios when I painted this miniature. I am an advocate of keeping a painting diary, a habit I have been neglecting lately, but since I am only using 11 paints I’m counting on familiarity with my colours to recreate any specific hue I need. Here is a list of the colours in my palette, although not all of them have been used.
- Burnt Sienna
- Carbon Black
- Quinacridone Magenta
- Hansa Yellow Medium
- Quinacridone/Nickel Azo Gold
- Naphthol Red Light
- Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
- Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
- Ultramarine Blue
- Titanium White
- Neutral Grey
When I start my rendering process I will mix five variations of my colour, starting with my base. I added white and yellow to warm up the highlights. Cloth feels like it would have a yellow tinge and Batman stalks the night where the primary sources of illumination are yellow streetlights. I use a palette with paint wells instead of a flat palette so that my mixed paints would stay open longer. I’ve experimented with wet palettes but I haven’t found them useful for this style of painting.
Sketching the First Shadow
I like to start with my first shade colour when I begin to render my paintjob. This is a colour between my darkest shade and my base. I apply it quickly knowing that I will be coming back with the base colour to fix any overlaps. The important thing is to start defining any surfaces that are turned away from the light. If a surface is completely vertical I’ll throw the shade on there anyways just to be sure. I’ll throw paint in any areas of small detail as well to give them some definition.
When I’m painting this stage I try to consider the miniature as a whole and try to decide where it would cast shadows on itself. When I first learned to paint I was taught to put shadows in crevices and highlights on raised areas like some kind of contour map.
Adding Deeper Shadows
Here I’ve deepened the shadows with my darkest shade. Again, I am overlapping into the previous shade a little. I try to keep in mind how shadows work and concentrate on the deeper folds and downwards facing surfaces. Normally I avoid black in my shadows but since the suit is grey it makes an appropriate shadow here.
Adding the Highlights
I don’t have a picture of this stage. As predicted when I started this article I became too engrossed in the painting process to remember to take pictures. The process is the same as the shadows, however, where I start with the highlight closer to the base, then the lightest highlight, overlapping my existing colours slightly. Although I don’t always take my own advice this is not the time for edge highlighting. Edge highlighting is my last step and if I paint any now they’ll have to be fixed after blending.
Bringing Back the Midtone
After my highlights and shades have all been sketched and I’m happy with their placement and contrast I’ll paint my midtone for the first time. Assuming it isn’t too far off from the flatting colour I’ll thin this coat a little to start the blending process. It’s at this stage where I get rid of any highlights and shadows that have strayed too far from their proper place.
Once I am fully satisfied with how the light falls on the miniature I begin the blending process. I find I used to focus too much on the mechanics of blending when looking at other people’s work. Of the entire rendering process the blending is actually the least important. These Batman miniatures are a departure from my normal policy of painting wargame figures in a quick style and saving my best painting for display models. When I do paint quickly I spend all my time placing the highlights and shadows and don’t blend them at all, or very simply. Because the edges of my highlights and shadows fall at the natural edges of light the lack of blending is camoflaged and the eye registers only that the shadows and highlights are in the right place. After all, in a hard light there isn’t a soft transition between light and shadow.
Unfortunately this is the last image I took. I am part way through the blending process in this stage. At this stage of the blending process I was really struggling to see contrast and how smooth my transitions were due to the amount of gloss in the paint. I’m also repositioning my highlights and shadows slightly. The legs especially, being large, mostly vertical, cylinders can’t show much contrast between light and dark since no surface is really facing towards or away from the light.
I used two stages of blending in this miniature. My colour mixes are arranged from light to dark and I will mix two adjacent colours to start breaking up the sharpest transitions. I do this until I can’t eyeball the right mix to smooth things any further. This technique is basically painting two colours side by side, mixing them in the brush and painting that in the middle. I mix this colour with one of the others and paint that between those two. I also work quickly and don’t clean my brush very often so there is an element of wet blending are play as well. Once I am satisfied that I’ve eliminated the major transitions I move to the next stage.
The second stage of blending is creating glazes out of my five colours and using them to smooth any remaining transitions. I like to take a small brushload of each colour into a new paint well and then adding water and matte medium to create the transparency I want. I like having the undiluted colours if I want to quickly strengthen an area, plus it would take a lot of water and matte medium to thin it out sufficiently.
This whole process doesn’t take much time at all. Generally when I paint I finish rendering a single colour in an hour or two. The process is much faster than trying to build shadows and highlights with glazes alone and is more controllable than either glazing or wet blending. To me glazing and wet blending feels like trying to write a sentence that is exactly as wide as your piece of paper. Your never sure how big to make it and you usually end up shrinking your letters and bending your line to get it all to fit. I was always more of a glazer than a wet blender and as I rendered the shadows and highlights they wouldn’t really be in the right places.
Here is the finished model. It is easier to see the blending after matte varnish has been applied. Unfortunately the paint job did not turn out as well as I had hoped, falling somewhere between my quick army style and what I know I am capable of. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article the glossy finish of the paint made it nearly impossible to see where to place my highlights and the end result came out a little flat. I’m looking forward to getting some matting agent and painting my next miniature.
Please leave a comment if you have any questions about my process. Also please let me know if you want me to keep trying to make tutorials. Once I cut the gloss of my paint they should improve in both the quality of the painted miniature and the legibility of the photographs. You can also find me on Twitter and Google Plus. Don’t forget to subscribe if you are interested in more tutorials.
The miniature I painted is Frank Miller Batman for Knight Models Batman Miniature Game. Batman is a character from DC Comics, created by Bob Kane and is a Trademark and Copyright of DC Entertainment 2015.