2003 Holiday Sophie (Special Edition 1408)
by Anne Foerster
Step one: Priming
Here we are, all cleaned and primed. Ooops, I can see where I missed a spot--guess I'll have to hit that with the brush-on primer! The only parts I am attaching to each other at the moment are Sophie and her snowflake base. To attach her arms would make her chest unreachable except at awkward angles; the sack of toys would obscure parts of her legs and the base; the sword obscures part of her leg and hip, and those wings would make painting her behind a total nightmare if they were attached! So, as a guideline, for showpiece-quality models you will usually want to avoid attaching anything that might block another area before painting.
Step two: Basecoat
This is the basecoat. I keep my basecoat paint fairly thin; as you can see on the wings, it's almost a heavy wash. This usually requires two coats for a solid base, but it comes out nice and smooth. Her skin is a 50/50 mix of Ruddy Flesh and Hill Giant Brown. The base for her reds is a 50/50 mix of Walnut and Aged Red Brick, with a touch of Imperial Purple added to give the color an interesting plum undertone. The parts which will be white or silver are undercoated with a 50/50 mix of Granite and Ash Grey, with just a touch of Night Sky-I want a cooler, blue-purple undertone, like evening shadows on snow. The blue tones will also complement the orangey browns and warm skin. I used Woodland Brown for Sophie's wings, hair, and belt. Keeping your basecoat neat will be to your advantage at this point in the painting, but if you're a little sloppy don't worry-you'll be able to sharpen things up at the next step!
Step three: Lining
Here I've gone in and dark-lined Sophie (I also lined everything else, but for now let's concentrate on the girl herself!). Lining helps to neaten up the model if your basecoat got a little out of control, and will also add a lot of depth to the overall appearance of the figure. I used thinned Walnut paint with flow improver added to help it flow more precisely off the brush, and a thin, fine liner brush with a very good point. You'll essentially be outlining details on the model to bring more definition to the paint job. By comparing pic two with this one, you can see what a difference this makes! Look especially at the face, where I've lined all around the skin where it meets the hair, filled in the eye sockets, added eyebrows, and outlined the curve of her mouth and the cupid's bow shape of her upper lip. The difference is also evident if you look at her stomach; the area where the straps crisscross is much clearer, and the buckles and details stand out more.
Step four: Highlighting
Now we're getting down to it! Here you start adding in highlights. In the following sections I'll cover each color on the mini separately: skin, black, red, white, hair, and brown. Usually when painting a model like this I will work on one color at a time, as many highlights will involve adding a little more Linen White to the previous layer's paint.
Skin: Add two drops Linen White to three drops Ruddy Flesh and three drops Hill Giant Brown. If you don't use dropper bottles, substitute "brushfulls" for drops. ;) Remember that when layering, you want your paint to be extremely thin, so add water and flow improver if you have it. You can also add extender or another blending medium to the mix, to keep it from drying out too fast on your palette. This will help it to stay at the right consistency, though you may need to mix a drop or two of water in from time to time, especially if you're working under bright, hot lights. When you have the right consistancy, apply this highlight to the raised areas of flesh, leaving the low areas between muscles the original, darker color. The effect should be very subtle; if it isn't, add more water to your layering mix. If it's too subtle (i.e. invisible...), add a little more paint in the appropriate ratios to your mix. Remember to use only a little paint on your brush; it should dry on the model almost as soon as you apply it.
Your second layer will involve a wash of Oiled Leather to smooth things out and to deepen the existing shadows on the skin. The wash should be very thin; you should be able to see your palette right through it. Still, it should discernably deepen the skin tone. Brush it evenly over the skin; don't use so much that you get pools of wash in the cracks of the mini.
For the third layer, add yet another drop or two of Linen White into your skin mix. It should be enough that the color of the mix becomes obviously lighter. Add a couple more drops of water to the mix and test this next highlight--if it's too strong, add more water. This highlight should be smaller than your previous layer.
You can either stop there, or continue this pattern (adding a little more Linen White each time and shrinking the hightlight area) until you are happy with the results. I went up around five layers total on my Sophie.
Red: Take the dark purply-red paint mix we started with for the basecoat and add a big brush full of it to a sizable puddle (four or five drops) of thinned Blood Red. Another layering tip: keep your brushstrokes light and remember to point the brush toward areas you want to keep in shadow and pull back toward where your strongest highlights will be. You'll only leave the dark maroon basecoat in the deepest shadows, like the folds of the Santa hat, crinkles in the boots, and the undersides of the breasts.
The next layer will be very, very thin (almost a wash, but not quite...) Bright Red. In fact, the next three layers will be that! You will be building up several very thin layers of the same color. You will still want to highlight a slightly smaller area every time, but the borders of the layers should be very close together. Building up the paint in this way will ensure an even, glowing coat of Bright Red.
The fifth layer will be a 50/50 mix of Bright Red and Bright Orange. Again, remember to add a lot of water and flow improver; orange is an extremely strong pigment and will not blend in easily unless it is very thin. You can stop here, or go all the way up to yellow, as I did; your yellow highlight should also be very, very thin.
White: Simple! The highlights here are Dragon White that has been watered down so much that it's semi-transparent. Every layer you put on over your grey mix will build up gradually toward pure white. If your first layer of thinned white only makes the grey basecoat look lighter grey, then you know your paint is the right consistancy! It took me three or four layers to make the highest part of the fur and detailing reach pure white.
Black: To five or six drops of Dragon Black, add a drop of Night Sky and a drop of Linen White. Again, the thinner your paint, the better your transitions will blend into each other. If the layers seem too abrupt, don't worry; we'll add a black wash in later to smooth them out. Remember to keep quite a bit of the pure black in the shadows; otherwise your blacks may start to look like greys! You only want to hit the raised areas with the highlights.
For your second layer, add another one or two drops of Linen White to your mix, with a couple drops of water. Apply this (remember, point your brush tip toward the shadow, and draw back toward the highlight) over the top of your previous coat, leaving a little bit of that darker layer sticking out from underneath. Your highlights should be getting quite small now; remember, most of the cloth should be black or near-black!
If you can see your layers too much or your highlights are too big and are making the cloth look grey, take a few drops of black and several brushes-full of water with flow improver, and make a medium-strength black wash. Apply this over the entire black surface. After it's dry, the highlights you already added should be subdued; take your last highlight and apply it again. Continue this pattern of adding Linen White and shrinking the area you are highlighting until you are satisfied with the results; I took the highlight almost up to pure Linen White on the edges of my Sophie's loincloth.
Silver: With the silver detailing on the buckles and sword, I put in shadows in Dragon Black and highlighted in Dragon White. With silver NMM (non-metallic metals) I tend to wet-blend, so the black and white were worked together with the grey basecoat mix, on the model while they were still wet. You could also layer this, usually painting in the shadows first, then adding the highlights. Remember with the NMM to first figure out where your brightest highlight would be (usually the light source on a mini is overhead, so the top part of any metallic bits will get the strongest light). Right under that will be an ultra-thin black shadow which will lighten to dark grey, then medium grey, then a very light grey as you work your way down the object. The underside is bright to simulate light reflecting from the ground and other areas around the mini.
Hair: Sophie has deep red-brown hair. Since my starting color was a basic brown, I applied a fairly strong wash of Aged Red Brick, which gives it a nice auburn hue. Then I decided I wanted the shadows just a little darker, so I applied a thin wash of Walnut over the top of that.
Several layers follow, all of them the same. Taking Hawkwood and thinning it down substantially with water and flow improver, I got a small amount of paint on the side of my brush and stroked it over the surface of the hair, with the brush perpendicular to the hairs. Make sure you have very little paint on the brush, so that it doesn't flow into the cracks; don't worry, the flow improver will make even a little bit come off on the hairs. I hit all the hair that wasn't in shadow (in deep creases). Then I applied a wash of Aged Red Brick to smooth the highlight in, tinting the Hawkwood strands red. Repeat this step twice more, each time hitting fewer hairs, focusing on the portions that stand out or are where the imagined light source would hit them strongest. The final highlight will be Hawkwood without the wash applied, again just hitting the portion of the hair that would naturally receive the strongest light.
Brown: I touched up any chips and rub-offs with white primer, and re-base-coated those edges. I applied a strong wash of Flesh Ink thinned with water and Reaper Ink Extender over the wings and belt. The ink left the wings slightly shiny, so I sprayed a layer of matte spray over them; this dulled the shine so I could see the minute details again (I can't stand painting over things that are shiny!). I then applied a layer of the original basecoat, leaving the deep creases and major recesses ink-darkened.
The first real highlight involved adding a few drops of Hawkwood to the Woodland Brown. As usual, go thin, use your additives, and keep very little paint on your brush. Hit all raised areas with this highlight, leaving the remnants of the previous layers in the shadows. The layer after that will be a half-and half mix of Hawkwood and your last highlight. The layer after that will be pure Hawkwood, and if you really wanted to go farther you could start adding Linen White to your Hawkwood!
Finally, I applied a few layers of my original skin tone, quite thin, to the bones of Sophie's wings, to make them stand out and look more like a part of her.
The claws on her wings were line-highlighted with a couple of layers of thinned Linen White. Her eyes were done with Oiled Leather irises, Dragon Black pupils and a very small Dragon White highlight spot. Lipstick and nail polish was Fairy Blush with some Blood Red and Bright Orange added--it matches that Coral-colored sample paint if any of you have that from placing mail orders earlier this year! The make-up was highlighted by adding Linen White to the base mix. The wrapping paper on Sophie's present was a basecoat of 50/50 Ash Grey and Night Sky, highlighted up with Linen White. A snowflake pattern was added to tie it in with the snowflake on her base, sketched out with thinned Linen White and then gone over with Dragon White. The ribbon is Elven Green highlighted up by adding small amounts of Sunlight yellow, with a stripe of Oiled Leather highlighted up with Desert Gold highlighted up with Dragon White.
Base: The basecoat for the snowflake started as the same 50/50 mix of Ash Grey and Night Sky that was used on the present wrapping paper (see "Finishing Touches" above), highlighted up with Dragon White toward the outer edges. A thin layer of Dragon White was brushed over the "ground" between the snowflake bits. Superglue was then carefully spread on the tip of a piece of brass rod, and snow flocking applied. The outer edges of the base were painted Dragon Black. Afterward, I decided to take the snowflake color a little more toward indigo, and re-did it in Night Sky highlighted up toward the edges with steadily increasing amounts of Linen White.
Sack of Toys: The Liriel doll's shirt was done in the same hues as the green on the present's ribbon. Her skin tone is the same as Sophie's. Her hair is Oiled Leather, inked with thin Flesh Ink and then highlighted with Hawkwood, 50/50 Desert Gold and Dragon White, and pure Dragon White. Her eyes are Dragon Blue. The ribbon on the purple present is the same colors as the gold striping on Sophie's present. The candy cane is highlighted exactly the same as all other reds and whites, except that I didn't go all the way up to yellow on the red. And, finally, the sack is done in the same colors as Sophie's wings and belt.
Because the join between Sophie's left upper arm and the lower arms holding the present is not disguised by anything, I did have to go in with greenstuff and fill in the gap after glueing her arms to her body. Be careful to smooth the putty as much as possible; any roughness will really show when you go to paint over and blend it in with the other paint. A flat spoon tool (only slightly convex) worked quite well for me. Touch up the epoxy ribbon with brush-on primer after it has cured and then paint it in the same way as you did the rest of the skin, above. Other than that, Sophie fit together well, though in retrospect you will want to make sure that you pay attention to where the wings and sword are going to be in relation to each other. You may also want to pin the sword onto her if you have access to ultra-fine drill bits and wire.
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this little write-up! If you have any questions about painting in general or this model in particular, please do peruse and post on our excellent Reaper Discussion Boards. Until the next tutorial, happy painting!