When I was asked to write this article, I was so happy to do it - what an honour it is for me to offer something small to the Spanish miniature painting community! I chose to paint Viraë, a Rackham miniature, because at the moment my Rackham minis seem to be the most well liked, and I also very much enjoy painting them. Furthermore, there are so many metallic masters in Spain, that I thought it might be fun to provide something a little different, with the non-metallic metal (NMM) used for Rackham miniatures.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: basecoat, armour shading and cleanup.|
The first stage of the painting process was the base coating the main areas of colour, by thinning the paint a little, and making several passes to obtain a smooth, flat and opaque surface. Several thin coats are preferable to one or two thick coats, because it provides a smooth surface without any build-up of paint obscuring detail. The basecoat of the armour was VMC dark seagreen for the lower areas, moving to VMC bronze green in the upper areas of the miniature for a slightly warmer green tone. The robes were painted with a mixture of VMC orange brown and VMC cadmium maroon, with a gradual transition from a warmer orange colour towards the inner side by adding VMC goldbrown, to a colder tone on the outer side by adding VMC violet. With this colour scheme, I was intending to have a blue-green armour colour, balanced by the opposite orange-red colours of the robes, but I changed my mind about these colours midway through painting - I will explain more about this later. The skin was painted with a mix of VMC brown rose, VMC silvergrey, VMC burnt umber, VMC middlestone, VMC cadmium maroon and black - I am not sure of the exact proportions, I was just mixing on my palette, adding various colours until I achieved a tone with which I was satisfied.
After the base coating, I moved on to the shading of the armour. I mixed black with the armour base colours, and using very dilute paint - probably a ratio of at least 1:6 paint:water - I made several passes over the miniature, concentrating painting in the recesses and shadowed areas, gradually building up the colour until it was almost black in the darkest parts. When shading this way, it is important not to load the brush with too much paint; it is not a wash where the miniature is flooded with paint, but rather a series of controlled glazes where the paint is physically placed in the correct areas, and the build-up of colour is provided by multiple layers. When the shading was complete, I clean up any mistakes or rough areas with the base colour, in preparation for highlighting.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: armour highlights.|
After shading, I proceeded to the first highlights for the armour. For both of these highlight stages, dilute paint was used, and the colour was gradually built up in layers, using the transparency of the paint in order to achieve smooth transitions between colours. Mixing VMC medium grey with dark sea green for the lower parts of the armour, and adding bronze green for the upper areas, the first highlight was painted in a fairly general manner, with a lot of the armour surface lightened slightly in preparation for further highlights. For the second stage of highlights, silvergrey was added to the mix to make a much lighter tone, and a much more focussed highlight was painted in order to more clearly define the light areas of the armour, where subsequent highlights and points of light would later be placed. It is also important not to lighten too much of the armour with these initial highlights, because the metallic look of the NMM technique relies on high contrast between dark and light areas of the metal. I determined the placement of the highlights based on the zenithal highlighting technique, where the light source is imagined as directly above the miniature. This is how I like to paint my NMM; there are other methods of placing the light points, but I prefer a duller look to the metal rather than a shinier, chrome-like finish which can look a little unrealistic or cartoon-ish. I will explain more about placing these light points later. At this stage I left the armour before it became too advanced, so that any mistakes made while painting other areas of the mini would not be difficult to correct.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: flesh shading 1, 2, and cleanup.|
Next I moved on to shading the flesh. I wanted the flesh to look quite healthy, as Viraë is one of the Kelt Sessairs, who are an outdoors, virile, natural people who follow the ways of light. Therefore, I used healthy orange-brown tones for the shading. For the first stage of shading I used a mix of burnt umber, VMC basalt grey, middlestone, a little cadmium maroon and black, very dilute and painted in a series of controlled glazes to establish the shadows. For the second stage of shading, I added a little dark blue to the mix, and some more black, then concentrated the painting on the darkest crevasses and shadows.
After the shading, I cleaned up the mistakes, and smoothed out the grainy effect that can sometimes occur when shading, with a darker version of the base colour - a mix of brown rose, beige red, burnt umber, silvergrey and black. By using very dilute paint, I was able to paint thin layers over the surface while retaining the shading underneath due to the paint's transparency.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: flesh highlights and robes colour change.|
Then I began the flesh highlights, by progressively adding white to the clean-up colour, along with a little beige red and brown rose to provide some pink and orange tones so that the colour did not become too washed out. I went through four stages of gradually highlighting the flesh, adding more white each time - with the beige red and brown rose - to make a lighter tone, and always using dilute paint to ensure smooth transitions. I used four different stages of gradually lightening the colour because I wanted the highlights to be quite subdued and smooth, and at no stage was there a drastic difference in colour or sharp highlight.
At this point in the process I changed my mind about the overall colour scheme of the miniature. The robes were to be a dark purple-red, fading through red to orange or yellow-orange, but I decided that this colouring would bring out a more dark, sinister aspect to Viraë. Although I often enjoy bringing out a darker aspect in minis (I love the dark side!), I did not want to in this case. Furthermore, some of you may realise that I was actually copying the colours from the amazing Viraë painted by Emanuele Giovagnoni (poupee canope), so I thought it would also be better to try something a little more original for my own version! Therefore, I swapped the colouring of the robes to the opposite side of the colour wheel: instead of purple-red-orange-yellow I decided to use blue-green-yellow-orange, creating a lighter atmosphere. I re-basecoated the robes on the outer side with VMC dark sea blue, mixed with a little GW regal blue and a touch of VMC silvergrey, on the inner side of the robe with VMC cadmium maroon mixed with VMC orange brown, again with a touch of silvergrey, and I mixed the two colours together to paint the middle section of the robe, also adding a little bronze green.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: robes, shading and highlighting.|
I left the flesh at this point, and continued with the robes. For the shading, again I used a series of layers with dilute paint to slowly darken the colours in the recesses and down-facing, shadowed areas. I mixed black with dark sea blue and regal blue for the first shading of the outer part of the robes, and then did some more shading in the darkest parts by adding even more black, almost pure. For the middle sections, I used a mix of dark sea blue, orange brown, bronze green and black, again adding even more black for a second round of shading in the deepest recesses. For the inner part of the robes, I used orange brown mixed with a greater amount of cadmium maroon, and adding some of a dark purple-brown colour that I have mixed for myself - it is something like GW scorched brown mixed with liche purple, a dark red and black. Then I added more of this colour to shade the darkest areas.
I continued with the robes, moving on to highlighting. For the first stage of highlights, to maintain the transition from blue to yellow-orange along the robes, I used four different colours: VMC dark sea blue mixed with GW regal blue and a little VMC silvergrey for the outer part; moving to VMC bronze green with a little VMC dark sea blue and VMC silvergrey; next to this, VMC dark sea blue mixed with VMC goldbrown; and on the inner part of the robes, VMC orange brown mixed with VMC cadmium maroon, and a little VMC goldbrown. Using dilute paint, these four colours were painted in multiple thin layers to build up the colour. Also, by using very thin paint, I was able to blur the transitions between colour by painting layers of the bordering colours over each other, the transparency of the paint providing the in-between tones. I continued with a second stage of highlights, adding more silvergrey to the outer blue colour, adding VMC dark sand to the in-between greenish tones, and adding more goldbrown to the inner orange colour, and painting on the highlights in the same way, with multiple layers of thin paint. Then I painted a third stage of highlights, adding more VMC dark sand and a touch of silvergrey to all the colours. To finish, I painted a series of very thin glazes - a ration of at least 1:10 paint:water - over everything, to smooth the transitions of the highlights and bind the colours together. For the glazes, I used the original base colours, minus the silvergrey.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: armour reshade, highlights, oxidation.|
It was now time to continue painting the armour, and I decided to change the colouring a little to fit better with the new colour scheme I had adopted with the robes. I had originally intended the armour to be quite light, a silvery metal with cold, quite strong blue and green tones. However, now that the robes were so vibrant and colourful, I thought that the armour needed to be a little darker and more neutral in colour, to offset this vibrancy. I did still want some colouring in the armour though, but rather than the blue and green colours, I decided to settle with a dark greyish bronze green, becoming warmer with the introduction of some dark, warm brown tones. Another important reason I chose to emphasise the green was because green forms the central colour of the spectrum displayed in the colouring of the robes, and greenish bronze armour would link with this and therefore balance the overall colour scheme of the miniature more than, say, blue, which is at the end of the robes' colour spectrum and would therefore unbalance the miniature's colouring by sending it too far towards colder blue colours. Moving a colour scheme towards colder or warmer colouring can often be useful in obtaining a certain atmosphere, but in this case I wanted to achieve a balance, because this suits Viraë's character as a high priestess.
In order to achieve this new colouring for the armour, I decided to bring out a more bronze aspect by re-shading with some glazes of VMC german cam. black brown. By using very dilute paint in a series of thin layers/glazes, I gradually tinted the armour to give a slightly warmer feel, especially concentrating on the recesses and darker areas to create richer brown tones. At this stage, I also painted the horns on the helmet, and the metal parts on the weapon, with a basecoat of a gold colour made from a mix of VMC middlestone, VMC medium grey and VMC gunship green.
Then I continued working on the armour, with two more stages of highlighting. This highlighting used much lighter tones, to strongly define the placement of the points of light, and begin providing the strong contrast which is essential to obtain a metallic aspect when using the NMM technique. For the first highlight I used pure VMC silvergrey, very dilute and painted in a series of layers, using the transparency of the thin paint to create smooth transitions and blending. I concentrated the colour on the highest points of the armour, and the parts that are facing upwards, where the light - imagined as coming from directly above - would fall. The more upwards facing a surface, the more light it would have falling directly upon it, and so the lighter it should be in colour. The second highlight was made by adding white to the silvergrey, again using dilute paint to blend through transparency, and again focussing on areas of strongest light.
Before the final armour highlights were painted, it was time to bring out more green tones in the armour with some oxidation. I was considering the metal as a sort of silver-bronze, and therefore a green verdigris, rather than red-orange rust, was the appropriate oxidation colour. I used a series of very thin glazes, concentrating on the recesses, as this is where water, and hence the oxidation, would collect. I began with a few layers of VMC bronze green, then adding GW jade green for another few layers, and even more jade green added for a few passes in the deepest cracks of the miniature. After I had done this, I felt that the brown tones needed to be emphasised just a little more, so I used some more thing glazes of german cam. black brown, and also a mix of german cam. black brown, beige red and brown rose, making a pinkish brown, to tint the lighter areas of the armour making a more bronze colour.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: weapons & horns - shade, highlight, green nuances.|
Next, I shaded the gold areas on the weapon and the horns, using a mix of VMC middlestone, GW bestial brown and black in a series of glazes on the shadowed areas and recesses, and then with a dark mix of GW bestial brown and black, concentrating on the deepest recesses and the base of the horns. I also painted the shaft of the weapon with a basecoat of VMC hull red.
Continuing with the gold areas, I moved on to the highlights. The first highlight was painted with some silvergrey added to the base colour, and then another highlight was painted with pure silvergrey. As always, the paint was dilute and applied in a series of thin layers so as to blend through transparency. At this stage, I also faded the red of the weapon shaft to a blue tone towards the head of the weapon, using thin layers of cadmium maroon mixed with VMC violet and dark sea blue, and then a few thin layers of pure dark sea blue at the end of the shaft.
Next, I added some greenish nuances to the gold on the weapon and horns, using some very thin green glazes made up of VMC golden olive, VMC gunship green, and GW jade green, with the addition of some VMC bronze green and VMC dark sea blue for the darker areas. I also gave the gold some dark orange-brown nuances in certain areas, with a thin mix of bestial brown with a little black. I highlighted the upper face of the weapon shaft by adding silvergrey to the cadmium maroon for the reddish end of the shaft, and adding silvergrey to the purplish blue colours at the other end of the shaft. The final highlight was made with pure, but very dilute, silvergrey.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stage: robe patterns guide lines.|
At this point, I was starting to near the end of the painting, so it was time to begin the more detailed work. The robes were looking a little plain, so I decided to add some patterning to give the miniature a little more interest. I practised some shapes and designs with a pencil on some paper, to try to work out some appropriate shapes - this is an important step, as I think it is much easier to paint freehand designs when one is clear about exactly what to paint, and when there is a guide such as a pencil sketch to follow. When I had worked out my design, I used the base colours of the robes mixed with silvergrey, very dilute, to carefully and slowly paint on rough, thin lines to establish the shapes and positioning of the pattern.
Then, using these guide lines, I carefully filled out the design, trying to ensure smooth, straight lines or curves. I also had the background colours of the robes mixed on my palette, so that I could neaten the edges and shapes, and correct mistakes as I painted. When I was satisfied with the shape of the design, I mixed more silvergrey with the pattern colour to make a lighter tone, and painted some highlights on the pattern, where it lay on the outer folds and raised sections of the robes. Then I painted another highlight, adding white to the colour. To finish, I painted a few glazes over the top of everything with the base background colours of the robes, using extremely dilute paint. This serves to merge the freehand patterning a little with the robes, and make it seem less artificial. Finally, I painted a border around the bottom edge of the robes with VMC middlestone mixed with medium grey and burnt umber, shaded by adding more burnt umber and a little german cam. black brown to the mix, and highlighted by adding silvergrey.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: details, armour final highlights.|
Continuing with the details, I next painted all the straps, buckles and belt, with a base coat of VMC german cam. black brown. They were shaded with a dilute mixture of dark blue and black, then highlighted by adding GW terracotta to the base colour, then adding VMC medium sea grey for another highlight. The buckles were painted with VMC basalt grey, shaded with black, then highlighted by adding silvergrey to the base colour, then another highlight with pure silvergrey, and a final tiny point of pure white. The fingernails and toenails were painted with a mix of german cam. black brown, cadmium maroon and violet, adding brown rose for highlights. Her lips were painted with the same base colour, but adding beige red for the first highlights, and adding a little white for the final highlight. The plume on the top of her helmet was given some more shading with a mix of black brown and black, then the first highlights were made with cadmium maroon mixed with violet on the bottom parts, going up through cadmium maroon, cadmium maroon mixed with orange brown, and orange brown mixed with goldbrown at the top, or base of the plume. Silvergrey was added to these tones for further highlights.
Nearly at the end of the painting, the time had now come for the final highlights on the armour. I painted two more stages of highlights, first using a mix of silvergrey and white, then pure white for the final points of light. This final highlight with white is very important when using the NMM technique, because it provides the final 'sparkle' of extreme contrast that gives the illusion of reflective metal, providing the metallic look. It is also important not to use too much pure white; just tiny amounts or points of white are sufficient, otherwise the armour becomes too light and the effect is lessened.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge. Stages: details, armour final highlights.|
For the final step of painting, I added just a little weathering to give a slightly more realistic look to the miniature, by breaking the cleanness or newness of some surfaces with some imperfections. I painted some stains and dirt round the bottom of the robes, using very dilute browns such as VMC brown violet, burnt umber, german cam. black brown, and a little medium grey, just messily dabbing the brush or stippling randomly on the surface, or making quick, abrupt strokes in random directions. I also added a few trompe l'oeil scratches on the armour, and some tears round the bottom edge of the robes, by painting some thin dark brown lines, with pure black at the top edge of the scratch, and very thin pure white lines on the bottom edge to representing highlight. I painted her eyes with dark sea blue, mixing with GW hawk turquoise to lighten towards the middle, then pure white points in the centre.
|Click on thumbnail to enlarge.|
The base was made from some broken up cork to make the rock sections, covered in parts with some sand - I actually use gravel I crushed up with a hammer haha - and then some broken wooden planks just with balsa wood that I cut in small strips and ripped at with a knife to give texture. I constructed the base before starting the painting, to make sure of the positioning and fit of the mini onto the base without danger to the paintjob. The base was painted with a series of browns and greys, and some modelling grass and birch seed parts for small plants to give some interest. The small creek at the front of the base was painted as normal dirt underneath, then the water was built up a little with a few thick layers of white wood/craft glue mixed with some green and brown inks, followed by some layers of gloss varnish to give the shiny, wet effect.
Viraë on her base.