Model Behavior: Painting Portraits

One daunting aspect of modelmaking is the painting of figure heads and portraits. To get over our fear of ruining a sculpture, we mold and cast a batch of heads to work on. Kayte and Norm each take a sculpt and paint them in quick succession, learning from each practice attempt and refining their workflow.

Comments (5)

5 thoughts on “Model Behavior: Painting Portraits

  1. That video looks like a great learning experience. It’s been a few years since I painted miniatures, but here are a couple tips that seem to work well.
    1. Pick a good reference photo as your hero image. Put it into a photo processing program and blur a copy of the face, and use the eyedropper tool to sample what seems to be most typical flesh tone and hair color. Use the brush tool to make swatches of those two colors on the side of the ref photo to give you a mixing target for your base coats. Then using a sharp image sample the hair highlights and shadows, and make little swatches next to the hair base color. Do the same with the face, trying to capture some of the variations. The hero photo with sharp face, blurred face, and swatches gives you your color regions, color palette and mixing guide.
    2. Think about viewing distance and lighting story. From a few inches away the whites of the eyes look quite white(ish). But as you move back to a more comfortable viewing distance the “whites” look more like a lighter version of the flesh tone. Same is true with the lips–unless they are wearing lipstick, the lips look best as a darker and pinker version of the flesh tone. The eye brows look like a mix between the flesh tone and the hair color.
    3. Big details first, then medium, then fine, then blend it harmoniously together. Start with base coats for flesh and hair, being sure to paint some flesh into the hairline. Then (using the principles of stage makeup) block out the variations of facial and hair tone (t-zone, cheeks, stubble, under eyes, etc.). When you get to fine details like the eyes and lips keep in mind that it can be easier to paint from “outside-in” rather than “inside-out.” Lay down the almond shape of the whites of the eyes as background, then paint the iris as a vertical stripe. Refine the iris by using the “white” paint again to get the outer edge and flesh to delineate the lids. Unless the character has seen a ghost the iris won’t be circular; usually it’s a barrel shape eclipsed by the upper and lower eyelids. Most characters are looking at something off to the side a little, or converging; don’t give then a thousand-mile stare. If you can do it make one eye squint a little–actors and the characters they play never have symmetrical faces. Use your ref images.
    4. Think of your emotion story, too. You might want to tweak the color mood of your palette cooler or warmer depending on the action and setting. Experiment with the color balance sliders on the ref image.

  2. There are many problems with trying to mix paint based on something you see on an uncalibrated transmissive source like a computer monitor in a room that is likely not illuminated consistently, but I think the main thing that I’d want to impart is that the people who genuinely excel at this sort of thing are rarely able to rely on reference photos. I’ve seen several of them paint out an extremely elaborate vascular system as an undercoat before even beginning to tackle the final appearance of the character.

  3. Interesting!
    I might try this next time. I am repainting a figurine that I didn’t like. It looks a bit better but indeed the face was really hard to get right. Especially since I have no airbrush. I work in thin coats but it’s still not so easy.

  4. Great video. I was so glad to see you pick up the airbrush and get results, Norm. I know you and it have had issues in the past. It was great to see the progress and discovery. It reminded me of the Creepy Fig and other Frank projects, where he put down the capillary beds etc, under the “skin” coats. Nice to see it come together in the small scale also.

  5. Kayte is a great modeler and she’s got some amazing tips. Definitely like whenever she is featured.

    17:53 did she use a high gloss white primer to get his skin that realistic looking shine?

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