Monday, May 14, 2012

Painting Miniatures Declassified - Prime/Basecoat/Shade/Hilite

You might have noticed a change in the name of the Tutorials....didn't want to run afoul of any copyright issues with the "Joy of Painting" crew...and this new title is a little more military so is in keeping with the theme of the objects we paint and is also fitting because my main goal is to help expose some of the deep dark secrets that only a few select people have been able to devine from the dark book Paintonomicron.  If I do my job right you will see that this isn't REALLY that hard and is another enjoyable part of the miniatures wargaming hobby.

In an earlier post (Process Post) I laid out the process I use when I paint a unit.  Now what do I mean about those terms...Basecoat....Shade...Hilite? 

The easiest definition is:

Basecoat:  A color that provides broad coverage for an area and is the "base" color your shades and hi-lites are built up (or down) from. 

Shade (or Shadow):  This is the color for the deeper recesses in an area. This could be the folds in a uniform...the section lines between parts of a gun...etc...  It takes the base color and makes it darker as it goes into the recess.

Hi-lite:  This is the color for the tops of a recess in a certain area. Again, this could be the folds in a uniform...the section lines between parts of a gun...etc... but focuses on the upper levels.  It takes the base color and makes it lighter as it goes up to the top of the recess. 

Super Hilite:  This is the very top edge of the fold and simulates the light hitting the fold.  For 15mm this is totally optional, but some models just have nicely sculpted detail that you want to put a little light to bring that edge out a little more.  The Cartoony Style makes a lot of use of this contrasting hilite, but a Realist can use it too...sparingly.

 "That's nice...but what does it MEAN?"

 Ahhhhhhh...the ultimate question.  And one that took me a while to figure out. I looked at all the stuff Battlefront put out in the "The Art ofWar" series of books and other sites, but the descriptions from the Vallejo pamphlet at (Vallejo Pamphlet) helped me see the light.  They have a nice little breakdown that helped me start to see what everyone meant by basecoat/shade/hilite. 

Simply put, you have a color you want to paint an area...if there are any recesses you want the deeper areas to be a darker shade and the upper areas to be a lighter shade.  If you do multiple coats in a layer, you HAVE to make sure the paint is thinned out.  Multiple coats of a thinned paint are translucent (you can see through them) and they build on one another to get the shade you want. 

Note: I apologize for the quality of the graphics in advance but I think they get the point across. 

What a multiple layer approach looks like:

 A single layer approach:

You can do the same thing for a flat area....the areas farther from the center/light source the darker they are...and the closer to the center/light they are, the brighter they are. If you don't thin the paint, the recesses become.

What? You didn't think about a light source?  Let's save that for a future installment.  Suffice it to say that if you have a light source you can add depth to a flat surface. And make a figure really pop.  It can be used  at 15mm, but you can safely do without in most cases. I only look at it when I have large smooth flat surface...or a light source on the the muzzle blast from a gun or a vehicle on fire and I would use that to determine how the light shined on the model.

 "Well,...How do you do a basecoat?"  The ultimate thickness of your basecoat REALLY depends on the depth of the color you are trying to achieve and how many layers of that color you are willing to do to get the coverage you want without obscuring detail.  The post on expectations plays a HUGE role here. If I was doing a 28mm figure I would do several layers of the basecoat and build up that basecoat to the top points. For 15mm I use a 1:1 (maybe 2:1) of paint to water.  I try to get good, smooth coverage over the area I am trying to paint.  If there are recesses and I used a black primer, I try to go lightly in the depths of the recess.  This allows me to have a little of the base color there, but by keeping the base color light I can get a deeper shadow...shade...color later.

"But what about shading?" The shade is typically a darker color (maybe 2-3 shades darker) and cut with more water so it runs into the recesses.  I use a 1:8 paint:water mix for the shade color starting deep and then bringing it up higher on the sides each coat.. This is usually enough to build up in the depths and only change the basecoat a little.  You might have heard of "Magic Washes" or "Magic Sauce".  These are a blend of water, paint, and typically Future Wax (a clear acrylic).  These are best used if the area is covered by a gloss finish which allows the wash/sauce to sink deep into the crevice and minimize any change to the overall color.  I don't use these when painting infantry as the 1:8 shade gives me the depth I need.  I save the Magic Wash/Sauce for vehicles and Guns were there is a lot of detail that needs to be brought out.  More on that later.

 "and Hi-liting?"  The Hi-lite is just the opposite of shading....start high and going down the sides a little further each coat.  Here I use a 1:5 ratio of paint to water...dab off most of the paint and then drybrush the color across the edges.  Sometimes I will do a "Super Hi-lite" drybrush of a lighter color (maybe even just white) just on the top edge where the light would catch that angle.  The Super hi-lite is more a 28mm process, but never say never to using it in never know.

OK, that's the basics of painting by using words.  I am in the process of putting together some videos that show this process and the different techniques, so please stay with me as I try to get this videos together to a quality where they will be a benefit to you.

And Happy Painting y'all!

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