Welcome. Let's begin with a completely unpainted figure. Most figures are made of pewter or lead and come in a plastic blister pack. Some are sets (like the Warhammer army sets) and made of plastic for building vast armies. The figure I am going to use is a plastic High Elf Archer from Warhammer. As you can see, they come plain (except for the slight redness around the face due to too much time outside and not enough painting) and will probably need some trimming, sanding, filling and other manipulation before starting. There is nothing worse than just about finishing a mini and noticing the flash that you thought was part of the belt. Shading will reveal a multitude of manufacturing sins.
Anyways, we start but carefully removing excess flash (where the mold halves join and the modelling material has seaped slightly) and sanding down any seam lines that are left.
Next we will attach a stout piece of cardboard to the base with some glue so that you can have a good grip on the figure without rubbing paint off by constantly handling it during the painting process. This will take a small amount of time to dry so you can decide what sort of base coat you would like to use.
Base Coating and Color Scheming
Base coating is important for several reasons. First, a good base will allow further layers of paint to stay put on the miniature. Secondly, the overall brightness of the figure can be altered depending on the base coat you use. For a darker, villainous character, I will usually use black for the base. This means that all of my shading will be done to lighten and enhance areas of the mini. This is good for a really sharp contrast or just a plain dark color. Otherwise (and like this demonstration), I will use white or light grey (US light Ghost Grey for the military enthusiasts works well). This will mean that generally, the character will be brighter and more "heroic" looking. Since this is a dandelion-eating fancy-pants high Elf archer, I use the white. Naturally, you will want to get a good even coat so that some areas are not brighter than others. You may also decide to leave the armor and blade bits out and paint them silver as a base (if you are actually going to have silver armor) though I tend to base the entire mini.
Next, one must decide on the coloring. Keep in mind that contrasting colors such as red and green, blue and orange etc. will work really well together as they bring each other out nicely. Painting a miniature all red for instance (because he is Rakhir the Red Archer) is cool, but you may have to have different shades of red and definately contrasting things such as gems, broaches and equipment to keep the interest of a viewer.
Remember to take careful thought at this point because changing your mind later could have disastrous results!!!
I have decided to paint my archer red with green equipment (as a color contrast). He will have normal metal armor and some blue gems to draw the eye. At this point, I will paint the entire mini with the base colors I want. I use an assortment of paints, mainly Polly Scale Fantasy and military colors, some Citadel paints, some assorted inks, Humbrol acrylics and Humbrol Aluminum metal cote (the only oil based paint I use).
I begin by painting the deepest areas of the figure first. I paint the flesh with a nice light flesh color, the armor silver, the robes red, the gauntlets dark green, the gems blue, the gem mountings and other jewels gold and belts, boots and various other things different browns.I will outline some things with white (like the armor trim).
Next is a relatively easy way to apply some instant shading, though your first impulse will be to groan in horror!!!
Shadows, Mid-Tones and Drybrushing
At this point, I will wash almost the entire figure with various inks. The ink is thin and will run into all of the recesses and chinks and will produce a nice blending medium for the brighter clothing later. For all of the silver metal and green stuff, I wash with black ink. Carefully apply the ink as it will stain the color if you put it in the wrong place. I use a dark brown ink for all of the red,flesh, brown and gold. The white can be lined or washed with almost anything, depending on what sort of white you want. I like mainly greys though I've started using blue. Now your miniature will be very dark. This is great though as all you can do is go brighter now. Notice how I left out the extreme tips of the red and green things since they will be much brighter by the end.
Now that the "shadows" are all in place and the recesses nicely darkened, we can start "dry-brushing" the same base colors back where you originally had them.
Drybrushing is a technique where you get a small amount of paint on the brush, carefully brush it back and forth on your workboard or a napkin until almost no paint visibly comes off and then you lightly brush it across the raised surfaces of the area to be colored. Be patient as only experience will let you get the right amount. It may take many passes to bring the color out but the key is to not blotch too much on.
At this point, I also re-paint the gem mountings and other gold things, carefully avoiding filling in the recesses. This saves time later when doing little details and lining.
Notice how the original colors come back as you apply more and more "dustings" and yet the recesses remain shaded. This can produce really nice looking miniatures, and even hiliting can be drybrushed. However, drybrushing can leave a "flaky" appearance to your miniature (since the brush is all but dry) so to get really nice results, you should attempt to use a technique known as blending for doing all of the shading.
Blending, Hilighting and Detailing
Blending is a technique that I am just becoming familiar with and through practice, I hope to master. As opposed to drybrushing, where the brush is almost dry and you are applying "flakes" of paint to the raised areas, blending involves applying watered-down shades to the raised areas while the paint on the brush is wet. Mixing paint can be a messy hassle but can produce nice results when done right. For example, the red robe used a mix of about 1/3 red, 1/3 white and 1/3 water. This produces a watery pink (though it is really the same red, just lightened). Do not get too much of this on the brush (it will suck it up) as it will run into the recesses. Now paint along the raised areas to be shaded instead of across them. Since the paint is thinned down, it will be barely visible. This is good as you can start with wider areas and slowly apply smaller amounts as the surface raises. Further lightening by adding more white will eventually complete the highlited area. Sometimes, an orange or yellow could be used with red to blend though using the same base color makes the blending easier.
Some really sharp contrasts can be achieved this way, like on the bow, where I went from the near black brown inking to the light brown shading. I used a different shade of green for the equipment and yellow can work nice for that too.
The face is blended with the light flesh color and raised areas are lightened. Eyes are tricky, especially on poorly molded minis but generally, paint the eye white, line the lids with ink or brown and carefully put small black dots for the pupils. If you are feeling really comfortable, a tiny glint spot can be added.
I have a special way of doing the metal and armor that involves using th Humbrol Aluminum cote. Remember that this sort of paint is oil based so proper cleaning measures should be taken. It will also generally take more time to dry. I now go along the edges of the metal plates with the aluminum, and put some in the center of metal areas. It can then be carefully spread towards the darkened edges to give a real nice shine and contrast.
I get a little lazy with the gems, but I start with a mid tone (blue in the example) for the entire gem. Next I will wash some dark around the bottom edge and about the top 1/3 of the gem. Some blending is done to get hilites on the lower half and around the top edge and finally a tiny white spot fot reflection is applied in the darkest area.
Now the final details and touch-ups have to be made. Any mountings may need to be touched up after doing the gems and some areas may have to be seperated with thin lines of black (or another dark color) to make them stand out more.
The base can be adorned many ways. It can be painted, (say black), covered with a substance (such as sand, tiny gravel, pepper, or that green sponge-like stuff (crushed up of course) that you put fake flowers in or dry-brushed if it is textured. The options are almost limitless.
Once this is done, you want to protect your miniature from handling, dust and other accidents. This is achieved by sealing the painted figure with some sort of varnish or laquer. This can be applied with a brush or sprayed on with various brands of clear-cote. I generally use Testors gloss-cote spray and sometimes dull-cote if the figure appears to shiny. Please note that if you have flocked your base with material, be sure to get all of the loose bits off before you spray your mini!
Now you have a sharp looking archer to put in you display!!!!