Painting Gokan (aka Slaine) Step by Step

Note: This tutorial is a work in progress.  As I paint the figure I will continue to add to this tutorial until it covers the figure from start to finish.

This tutorial will cover the painting of a 54mm figure from Olivier Bouchet, Gokan, the Guardian.  If you are interested in the figure you can follow the link to the sculptor's website and order it directly from him.  At the time I'm writing this there is a painting competition / paint along for this figure at CMON.  It's a friendly competition and, depending on when you are reading this, I invite you to join in!

The sculpt (either intentionally or unintentionally) looks a lot like a comic book character, Slaine.  I'm not especially familiar with the comic, but once I saw the similarity I decided to paint the figure as Slaine.

After cleaning up a little bit of flash and gently washing the figure with soap and water (to remove any mold release still on the figure), I attached the left arm but not the right.  There is a lot of detail in the sculpt of the hair and the sword makes painting some of that more difficult.  It's a trade off, this will making painting the hair easier, but I'll have to deal with small gaps when I do attach the arm.  It's certainly a fine choice to fully assemble the figure, I just chose to do it another way.  I gave the figure a light coat of white primer and then proceeded to base coat the figure.  As usual I'm working on a wet palette with Reaper Master Series acrylics (and later Scale75 for the metallics).  The paint should not be too thick, so the base coat required 2 to 3 layers for complete coverage.
For the skin I used Rosy Shadow, Pure Black for his hair, Dusky Skin Shadow for the fur on his shoulder, Brown Liner for all of the leather armor and metallic parts, Oiled Leather (that orange brown) for his kilt, Olive Skin Shadow for his shoes and pouch, and finally Bone Shadow for the cloth on the back of his calves.

Painting Skin

I like to begin with the skin and, more specifically, the face.  The image series below shows the various stages.  The first image is just the base coat of Rosy Shadow.  I like to sketch on the shadows, image two.  For this I use reddish browns mixed with a bit of my skin tone, so Chestnut Brown and Mahogany Brown, both with ~25% Rosy Shadow.  Deepest shadows are around the eyes, in the mouth, under the cheeks, and under the chin.  The lesser shadows extend further around the cheeks, in the brow and temples, and around the mouth and nose.  You can be a bit sloppy here but just don't let the paint get too thick.

With the shadows in place around the eyes, I go in and add those details.  For the whites I use off-white, in this case Weathered Stone.  The result is just too bright if you use pure white and the figure will look cartoony.  For the irises I start with a dark color (in this case black) and then add a touch of a lighter color, like a light blue.  Back with black for the pupil and then just a touch of pure white for the catch light.  It's fine for the catch light to be bright pure white and the contrast with the duller 'whites' of the eyes helps make it pop.  After the eyes are finished I return to the skin and blend from the shadows up to the mid tone (third image).  I start dark and slowly mix in more Rosy Shadow, lightening up each layer.  As you can see the rather harsh shadows in image two have become much more subtle in image three.

The highlights, image four, are done the same way.  Starting with pure Rosy Shadow I gradually add in Fair Skin until I'm at pure Fair Skin.  The up to Fair Highlight.  I focus on the highlights on the tops of the cheeks (notice the lower part is essentially unchanged from image three), the nose, forehead, and around the mouth.  The brightest highlights are places on the very tops of the cheeks, top of the forehead, and tip of the nose.  For just a little more pop to the top highlights I worked in a bit of Linen White into the Fair Highlight.  For the lower lip I mixed Rosy Shadow with Violet Red and the added Fair Skin to create the highlights.  I also took a bit of pure black and drew in the eye brows.  For this I used a lot of short angled strokes so they have a jagged appearance.

Now we get into the final details for the face.  In most of the images of Slaine I've seen he has red paint on his face.  I took Violet Red and mixed in some Redstone Highlight to dull it.  I mixed in a bit of Rosy Shadow for the midtone, Mahogany Brown for the shadow, and Fair Skin for the highlight.  When repainting around the eyes I made sure to do a shadow above the cheek but under the eye and then a quick transition to highlight along the upper edge of the lower eyelid (image five).  The final step was to go back in with a variety of glazes to add more color variation to the face.  Here I used some of the GW glazes although you can create your own.  In each case I further thinned them with at least 50% water so the effect was subtle and could be built up over several layers.  I used GW's Bloodletter red glaze on the cheeks, top of the nose, bottom of the ear, and a bit in the temples and creases of the forehead.  I used Guilliman blue on the lower jaw and around the mouth to create the 5 o'clock shadow.  Then I mixed the two to create a purple glaze.  This was used to deepen the shadows under the cheeks and around the eyes.

Here are the basic colors for the skin:
Here are the paints for the eyes, markings, and skin glazes:

Painting the rest of the body followed the same approach as the face.  I could have done all of the skin at the same time, however I prefer to focus on smaller sections.  So just the face, then the torso, and then the arms and legs.  We've already seen the plain base coat, so the first image shows the sketched on shadows.  Image two shows the shadows blended in.  The darker shadows remain under the arms, but the details on the chest are more subtle.  Image three shows the placement of the highlights.  The major muscles and neck get deeper shadows while the smaller muscles have midtone or midtone plus a bit of highlight for their shadows.  The fourth image shows the body after I applied the same glazes as on the face.  The red glaze hit some of the major muscles, elbows, and knuckles.  Purple was used to emphasize some of the major shadows on the sides and back.  Blue was used sparingly, just a bit on the sides.

Notice the placement of shadows on the back.  The figure is positioned so that his chest is angled up and his back is angled down.  That curve in his back means the top will be lit and the lower part will be in shadow.  So as you place your highlights focus on the upper 3rd of the back.  On the lower portion just use the midtone to highlight and bring out the shape.

The Hair

I find painting hair to be more of a struggle than a regular step by step process.  I keep fighting with it until it looks right.  For Gokan there's both his regular hair and the fur pelt under his shoulder armor.  In keeping with the Slaine color scheme, I planned to paint his hair black.  I needed to do something different with the fur pelt (black next to black would cause some visual confusion, I don't want people thinking it's supposed to be the same hair).  I could have done brown but there's already a lot of brown or there will be by the end, so I opted for a light grey as a good contrast next to his black hair.

At this scale and level of detail dry brushing is not that effective.  So I'm painting individual hairs, starting darker at the roots, lighter at the tops, and trying to leave the lines between them as the dark base coat.  For his hair I start with a base of Pure Black, then Dusky Skin Shadow on the hairs, blending up to Dusky Skin at the tips (more or less, you still do some variations for normal highlighting).  The pelt began with Dusky Skin and then blended up to Dusky Skin Highlight and then Weathered Stone.  To help fix the blends and reinforce the dark lines between the hairs I create a glaze/wash using black and another using dusky skin shadow.  I take~50/50 paint and glaze medium then add water until it's a nice thin glaze consistency.  Make sure you use a paper towel to remove the excess paint, you need a lot of control so it doesn't go everywhere and mess up the face.  Start near the tips and push the paint towards the roots.  Try to get the darker glaze more in the spaces between the hair.  Following that I go back with several of the brighter highlight mixes to bring back up those lights knocked back down by the glazes where needed.  I also take black and carefully paint in the spaces between the hair.  Not all of them, just the ones that need more definition.  There's a lot of back and forth.  Picking out details, using glazes to fix blends, and back to details.


In the Slaine examples he's typically wearing a tartan.  The pattern seems to vary, so there's no official Slaine tartan.  His tartans typically include orange and brown so I found a suitable historical example, the MacIver tartan.  This is the ancient color scheme, lighter shades that have aged.  In the modern version the colors would be red and black. 
The tartan was previously base coated with the background color, Oiled Leather (an orange brown).  I ignore the more finer level details and start with the 2nd major color (the thick stripe), Blackened Brown. The tartan is a combination of vertical and horizontal threads (or stripes).  When they are the same color, that color is at it's full value.  When they are different colors, the shade becomes a combination of the two.  So, where the brown stripes cross it's pure Blackened Brown.  Otherwise they are a mix of Blackened Brown and Oiled Leather.  In the first step I just paint this mixed color.  I began with the horizontal stripes.  The lower edge of his clothing is jagged, so I don't need the stripe to follow it exactly.  Instead I look to the belt and use that as my initial guide.  Keep the spacing consistent between the stripes.  Keep them mostly horizontal but follow the shape of the clothing, folds, etc.  From there I add in the vertical stripes.
Use the background color to clean up the stripes.  I'll do more clean up later when I add the shading, so just fix any big mistakes.  Then I paint in the pure Blackened Brown squares wherever the stripes cross. 
With the main colors in place, I go back and do my shading and highlighting.  Again I start with the background color, then the stripes, and then the squares.  This is where I'll clean up the lines, corners, etc.  
Now I repeat the process as I layer on the finer level pattern details.  Work your way down to smaller and smaller details.  Each of the main brown stripes has a thin brown stripe on either side.  The placement is easier as I can use the main stripes as a guide.  Again, just try to keep the spacing consistent.  Where these stripes cross the other brown stripes (or each other) I use pure Blackened Brown.
The next level of detail are thin white horizontal stripes and thin yellow vertical stripes.  These are mixed with either the orange brown or the blackened brown depending on which part of the pattern they are crossing.
After each step go back and clean up the lines as needed.  You can wait until the end, but then the task can be very daunting.  If you do it a little at a time it helps keep things manageable.  And remember, it doesn't matter how complex the pattern is, just take it one stripe at a time and build it up slowly.  If you can paint stripes, you can paint a tartan.

At this point I may go back in with some shades and glazes to reinforce some of the shadows.  I might also up some of the highlights.

Leather Armor

Initially I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the armor.  Metal would be interesting but the sculpted texture just didn't seem right for metallic to me.  So I opted for a leather armor.  Painting leather is as much about mimicking the texture as it is about highlight and shading.  I start out dark, a base of Brown Liner followed by a pretty thorough coat of Blackened Brown.  As I start to mix in some Leather Brown (a yellow brown), my strokes become less even and more about dabbing on the color.  In this case I really don't want everything to be nice and smooth.  My application is a bit more random to create an uneven texture to the piece.  At roughly 3 or 4 parts Leather Brown to 1 part Blackened Brown I start to mix in Khaki Highlight instead.  The top highlights are maybe 50% Khaki Highlight and 50% Leather/Blackened Brown.

It's a balance of slowly changing the color mixes so the dabbing creates a subtle texture, but one that doesn't look spotted with transitions that are too stark.  If that is the case, use some glazes to help smooth things out.  Blackened Brown, a little bit of Leather Brown, then some Glaze Medium and water should help with the transitions.

More to come...


  1. Nice work on the tartan.
    Thanks for sharing the step by step. :)

  2. Very helpful and intuitive. I've never painted tartan and this makes me want to try.