Thursday, September 24, 2015

Painting Hands

I've been away from the painting table, but I thought I'd post something anyway.  I figured hands would be a good subject to say a few words on.  Like the face, hands can have a lot of character and many find them difficult to paint.  They're a complex shape and one that can change a lot based on the pose.  In the simplest variant, an open hand can be thought of as a flattened cube with cylinders as the fingers.  But start to grip something or gesture and that flat back of the hand starts to become rounded and the inside of the hand turns into a mix of shapes.  The fingers are somewhat cylindrical, but can also be more flattened and rectangular, with sharp corners as they are bent.  That is why, as I approach that hands, I'm thinking about how shading looks on several basic shapes: boxes, cylinders, and spheres.

The next thing I'm thinking about is those fine level features.  As the fingers bend you begin to get creases on the underside.  The palm has all sorts of lines running across it.  A trick here is to vary the intensity of those lines.  If the hand is mostly open, you'll see some residual creases but they are subtle.  You get that mostly flat line running horizontally under the base of the fingers (just above the middle of the palm) and that semicircle tracing out the base of the them.  If the hand is open, DON'T make these dark!  I'd stick with the mid tone or lighter for the lines and then use highlights to define them.  Now, if the thumb is pulled in or the hand starts to cup, then yes, these lines can and should be quite dark.  Use your own as a guide and vary the intensity as needed for the pose.  When it comes to the back of the hands, I like to add subtle lines to show the separation of the knuckles and the tendons running down the back of the hand.  Again, I'm not adding shadows so much as varying the amount of highlight.  These are not major features so you don't want to paint them too strongly.

Finally, just like in the face, we need to add some color variation.  For faces it can be broken down into thirds (yellow tint for the top third, red tint for the middle third, and blue tint for the bottom third).  It's not quite so simple on the hands.  But in general a bit of red around the knuckles is a good call.  I might add some into the palm as well.  Could you add some red to the tips?  Sure.  Take a look at reference images (or your own hand) and go from there.  Some blue or purple can work well in the shadows too.  If you feel up to it, you can also add a slightly different color on the tips to indicate the fingernails.

Okay, so how does all of that work in practice?  Well here are some close up images from the Northumbrian figure.  First is his hand holding the spear.  On the left is a base coat of Rosy Shadow.  In the middle I've done the shading (Rosy Shadow + Chestnut and Mahogany Brown) and the highlighting (Rosy Shadow into Fair Skin and then Fair Highlight).  The image on the right shows the hand after I've done the glazing.  I've got some red in the palm and the knuckles.  I've taken some blues and purples to reinforce the shadows around the base of the hand and on the back.  Because of the cold feel I've probably gone a bit stronger with the blues than normal, but I think it all still works.
Also notice the lines and creases.  You can see the subtle lines where the hand meets the wrist.  The line at the base of the thumb is a bit stronger as the thumb is moved in to grip the spear.  On the back of the hand, the way it's flicked up forms a crease which I've shaded.  Notice that the knuckles are developed more through highlighting and shading.  There are also some very subtle vertical lines down from each knuckle visible in the middle and right images.

Below is a look at his other hand in a different pose.  The approach is the same, but the shading and highlighting follow this alternative shape.  The top/back of the hand is most flat and pointed upward so it is mostly highlight.  Again I've hinted at the separation of the knuckles and the tendons with some subtle lines.  There different here is between low level highlights and the brightest highlights.  If I'd used actual shadow tone the result would look very off.  The first section of the index is angled up so it's lit.  The next section is down and is quite dark.  The remaining figures are also angled downward so they are in shadow (of varying degrees).  Again I've gone back in with glazes to add color.  Pink it put around the knuckles and blue/purple is used to exaggerate the shadows on the lower part of the hand.

I'll close by saying the sculpt also plays a role in how easy or difficult it is to paint the hands.  I find larger figures easier as the sculpt tends to have more detail in a 54mm (like this one) or 75mm than a 28mm figure will.  And the skill of the sculptor is also at play.  There are plenty of poorly sculpted hands where the shapes are overly simplified or the poses are uninteresting.  You can fix somethings with the paint, but it can only do so much.  As you look for display and competition figures, obviously pay attention to the faces, but also look to see how well the hands are sculpted.  While not as critical as the face, they can contain a lot of character and expression.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Northumbrian Part 7

Just a little bit of progress to share.  I did some minor tweaks to the horn and rope.  I also applied some glazes to the hands.  A bit of pink to warm up the knuckles and the right palm, then some bluish purple to cool down the shadows.

I think I've finally settled on a shield design that I'm happy with.  Thanks to a suggestion from Maenas over at CMoN, I'm doing the celtic pattern radially on the shield.  This will add that extra detail I was looking for without fighting against the existing pattern on the shield.  I haven't decided if I'll do it on all the dark sections.  I'm going to start with four and see how it looks, then decide whether or not to do the rest.
 When I finish the design, I'll do some glazing to blend it in and reinforce the shadows.  After that I'll add chipping and general weathering to the shield.

With this figure almost finished, it's time to start prepping the next project.  I've gone back and forth a lot on what I want to use as my 'big' project for Crystal Brush, but right now I'm leaning heavily towards a 90mm samurai archer from Pegaso.  It's a beautiful piece with a lot of opportunities to work with freehand designs and plenty of color.  This will definitely be a multi stage project.  I've assembly most of the body but, because of the design work I'll have to do on the clothing, most of the armor panels will need to be attached later.  There's also a bunch of equipment that will go on over those (sword, quiver, etc) but that will have to wait until after I do the detailing on the armor.  Definitely a big project and one that has a lot of potential, but also one that is going to take a lot of time.  I'd love to get in done in time for the contest but no promises yet.  We'll see how it goes.  Anyway, here's a look at the figure partially assembled.  I included the Northumbrian for a sense of scale.  It's definitely a big jump going from 54mm to 90mm.

Quick update on the shield...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Northumbrian Part 6

Made a bit more progress on the Northumbrian figure.  I finished up some detailing on his legs (the straps and shoes.  Then I turned to the shield.  Last time I'd only roughed in the basic colors.  Now I've cleaned up and shaded the alternating blue sections.  I had this whole thing planned out... but now I'm starting to rethink that.  My original idea was to do a white circular design on top of the alternating blue sections.  It would be similar to the one on the tunic, but ending in a pair of serpent or dragon heads (based on the helmet metal work).  However, now I'm starting to worry if the shield will be too busy with that design there.  I'd still like to do something... but I'm not sure what.

So, while I weight my options, I decided to add the final piece to the figure, the horn in his left hand.  This was a piece from my bits box that I thought would be an interesting addition to this scene.  Once I make a decision on the shield, I'll finish that up and then start weathering the figure before finally getting started on the winter base.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Northumbrian Part 5

After finishing up his tunic, I turned to his accessories.  I was still undecided on my plan for the shield, so I started with his spears.  I wanted to do a dull brown, so the shadow is a mix of Ritterlich Blue and Brown Liner.  Then the midtone is a mix of Basic Dirt and Dusky Skin to take it into more of a brown grey.  The highlight is that mixed with Vampiric Shadow.  Since they're basically just horizontal cylinders the normal shading isn't that interesting.  So I put in a gradient getting lighter towards the tips for a little more interest.

The hands were next.  As with the face I mixed in a bit of Ritterlich Blue to the Chestnut Brown and Rosy Shadow mix.  Normally I'd go from there up to pure Rosy Shadow and then mix in Fair Skin for the highlight.  In this case, I went to maybe 70/30 Rosy Shadow and Chestnut Brown (+ blue) and then started to mix in Fair Skin.  I wanted to keep the hands a bit paler and not as pink.  I still need to go in with glazes, but these I'll keep to purple and blue.

I approached the pants the same way as the tunic.  I used a lot of the same colors to help tie it all together.  The shadow tones are 50/50 Brown Liner and Ritterlich Blue (which has been used in numerous places).  The midtone is 50/25/25 Basic Dirt, Dark Elf Skin, and Heather Blue.  The highlight is 50/50 Vampiric Skin and Dark Elf Highlight with just a touch of Basic Dirt mixed in.

I did base coat the shield, but nothing beyond that.  I decided to do the alternating sections in light and dark blues (rather than introducing a new color).  On top of that I will do some sort of design too.  The outer section of the shield and the middle will be metal, I've just laid down a dark blue to work over.  Jason Martin has been working on the same figure and posted a nice shield step by step, so I'm planning to refer to that as I go.