“OK, Finn. We need you to paint a sexy Goth pirate girl with big horns and a sword.”
“Really. Oh yeah, and a gun.”
Well, maybe the conversation didn’t go exactly like that. In fact, it was a brief email that specified “pale skin, dark clothing, and try Vallejo Bronze for the metal bits” but the end result was the same. I got to paint a sexy Goth pirate girl with big horns and a sword (oh yeah, and a gun), and it made me very, very happy. So happy, in fact, that I decided to document the process for other aspiring Goth pirate girl painters. Enjoy…
Part one: prep
This model was a pretty clean casting, so I didn’t have much filing to do—it took all of two or three minutes.
The Satyxis raider comes with her right arm as a separate piece. It was obvious that without pinning, the arm would easily snap off.
Fortunately, the sculptor included a little nub and divot where the arm was supposed to attach. This obviated the need for me to mark my pin. I simply filed the top of the nub flat and drilled into it a couple of millimeters. It’s sometimes hard to tell how deep your drill bit is going. On a small piece like the arm, you don’t want to drill straight through to the other side! Check your drill depth using your fingernail, as shown in the photos below. With the bit all the way in, snug your fingernail up to the model. Then pull the bit out without removing your fingernail from it. Presto, instant depth gauge.
With the arm successfully drilled, I bored a couple of millimeters into the center of the divot. I then glued a short length of wire into the arm, and the whole apparatus onto the body. That arm isn’t coming off anytime soon.
A light scrubbing with water and dish detergent, followed (when dry) by a thin coat of black GW spray primer, and we’re ready to paint.
Part two: face & skin tones
It was clear to me from the outset that the skin was going to make or break this model. For one thing, there’s plenty of it showing. For another, the skin tone was my primary means of showing the Satyxis’ inhuman origins. Furthermore, an expressive face is the best way to bring a model to life.
I had my work cut out for me. The cowl made it somewhat difficult to get a good brush angle on the face. The eyes were deeply buried. There wasn’t as much definition in the cheekbones as I would have liked, and the contours of her upper lip weren’t quite right. None of these problems were insurmountable, but I picked up my brush with some trepidation.
The eyes were the place to start. As the most difficult part of the face to reach, I wanted to get them finished first. Using a size 0 Kolinsky Sable detail brush, I laid a thin but opaque splotch of white into each of the eye cavities. I didn’t bother keeping the edges neat—my goal here w
as merely coverage of the eyeball. The white paint (besides laying the foundation for the eyeball) made it easier to see the sculpted eyelids. I then went in with black and made a large spot in the center of the model’s left eye. I was careful to avoid the bug-eyed look by making this spot overlap the top and bottom eyelid quite a bit. The model’s right eye is so obscured by the cowl that no iris was necessary. From there, I cleaned up around the eyelids with black paint. The result is below, on the left.
With the eyes completed, I moved on to complete the face. I liked the look of Alison’s previously painted Nyss Sorceress, so I set out to achieve a similar skin tone. I mixed up a 1:1:1 blend of Adikolor Scroll (a very light grey-brown), Adikolor Blade (a light pastel purple), and Adikolor Umber (a very dark yellow-brown). Working with thin paint (2:1 water:paint ratio with Adikolor—it has a similar consistency to Vallejo Model Color), I put down a base coat on the face. This is shown at the above right.
“Hey!” I hear you saying. “That looks like crap!” Right you are. It’s streaky, it’s splotchy, and it really shows how little contour there is to the sculpt. Not to worry—light colors over black primer always start this way. By the time we’ve blended in our highlights and shadows, we’ll have nice smooth colors. Read on.
I wanted the model to have more sharply defined cheekbones, so I began to paint them in next. I mixed a darker shade of the starting skin tone, using a 1:2:1 mix of Scroll, Umber, and Adikolor Torment Blue (a dark purply blue). I used this color to line in the desired contours, as shown below on the left. I am keeping my paint thin and a little translucent, so the edges of these lines are slightly blurred.
At this point, she’s gone from mud mask to scary, 3 a.m. post-club makeup. We’ll fix that in short order. With the base color and the shadow color in adjacent palette wells, I set about wet-blending the two colors together. The shadow color defines the shape of the face, exaggerating the existing contours and creating a few of my own. Because the surface area of the face is so small and my paint so thin, I was quickly able to achieve the look at the above right. Note that I used straight black paint to define the lips, right down to the cupid’s bow on her top lip. This black lipstick effect is a key component of the “sexy Goth girl” look, and offers a good contrast to the pale skin.
Here’s a side-by-side of the first picture and the fourth. Note how much was accomplished by the paint itself: the lips are fuller (and now have a cupid’s bow), the cheekbones sharper, and the nose more angular. The whole face looks slightly longer and thinner.
From here, I moved on to the rest of the skin. I used the same colors and techniques to highlight and shadow the other skin areas. Most of it wasn’t very exciting, but I used the “shadow trick” again with good results on her midriff.
In the sculpt, her stomach is very flat with only a thin groove defining the area between her abdominal muscles. I thought she’d look more alluring with a few more pounds on her, so I deepened the shadows between stomach and hips and left her navel completely black. I also downplayed the sculpted contour in favor of a more rounded stomach area.
Part three: clothing
With pale skin completed, it was time to think about the color scheme for the rest of the model. I knew I wanted the skirt in a contrasting color. This would provide a central focal point, compositionally grounding the piece. I also knew I’d be working with bronze-hued metals, which contain a lot of green. My art direction was “dark”, but I didn’t want to use too much black. I settled on green as the main color, with red as a contrast. By staying to a dark olive green and deep red I figured I’d avoid looking too Xmas-y. Doing the straps and accessories in warm browns would help steer the model in the right direction as well.
Color decisions made, I proceeded to basecoat the skirt. Since I wanted to keep the clothing nice and dark, I mixed a deep red color to work up from. There’s a lot of brown in it. Even though this area is supposed to provide contrast, we don’t want it to look totally out of place. The browns help tie the red to the olive greens and yellow-browns on the rest of the model, as well as the browns in the skin.
My initial mix was 1:1:1:2:2 Black : Adikolor Apocalypse (a dark red-brown) : Vallejo Matte Medium (to offset the shine of the ink) : GW Red Ink : Adikolor Martyr Red (a very bright, pure red). Thinned down, it took three coats to achieve a solid color.
I kept with the brown-tinted red for my highlights, a mix of 1:1:1:2 Apocalypse : Red Ink : Matte Medium : Martyr Red. This was painted over the previous color in a series of translucent layers, five or six in all. Final highlights of 1:1 Adikolor Clay (a medium orange-brown) : Martyr Red were then layered on the areas that would receive the most natural light.
Note that I used layering on this section rather than my customary wet-blending. Red covers so poorly that it lends itself well to a layering technique. Since I had to put on five or six coats to get a nice solid red highlight, why not make the translucency work for me? As you paint, keep an eye out for opportunities like this to use the physical characteristics of your materials to your advantage. It also helps to practice many techniques so that you can pick the right one for each situation.
The greens were fairly straightforward after all the red layering and complex color mixing. I started with a 1:1 mix of Adikolor Plague (a midtone olive green) and Vallejo Model Color German Grey (a very dark cold grey). As you can see from the leftmost photos, the green is so dark as to be almost black. The close-ups on the right show the contrast better, but it was clear that I’d have very deep shadows on these areas of the model.
I mixed up a 1:2:1 blend of Adikolor Spectral Grey (a light neutral grey) : Plague : German Grey for the next layer of highlights and blended it down into the basecoat.
Finally, I added a little white to the previous mix and brightened up the areas that caught the most light.
I noticed at this point that as the colored areas were painted in, the skin was losing some of its paleness. I’d have to go back and lighten up the skin tones once I got the rest of the model done. Don’t worry if you have to make on-the-fly adjustments like this. It happens all the time.
Part four: metals
True to the art direction, I used Vallejo Model Color Bronze as a foundation for my metallic areas. This really brightened up the model on the first pass, so I mixed in a little FW Acrylic Sepia Ink for the second coat to tone it down.
Metallics are tricky to highlight and shade. Since they’re so shiny, it’s hard to see how your colors are blending. It’s also tempting to under-shade metallics, but they need as much contrast as non-metallic areas do. I went to work with thinned-down Sepia Ink for lining the grooves in the armor and reinforcing the natural shade areas. I also blended in a few highlights of GW Shining Gold to enhance the natural areas of shine.
A few more layers of Sepia Ink and Polished Gold later, I had a nice, weathered bronze. At this point I stopped to Dullcote the model. Dullcote is a fantastic sealer, and I knew I’d be putting a few coats on the final model before I sent it back to Seattle. Better to Dullcote now and fix any problems with the metallic blending than to have to fix them later.
I used exactly the same techniques on her sword blade, but with Vallejo Model Color Natural Steel (a midtone silver with rainbow metallic flecks) as a basecoat, GW Black Ink as a shade, and Daler-Rowney Pearlescent Silver Ink (a bright silver with rainbow metallic flecks) as a highlight.
Part five: horns
Almost done! We’ve got her, um, great rack to paint next. I wanted to keep with a naturalistic look on the horns, and stick to yellow-browns to match my color scheme. I knew the horns would go through several rapid gradients, so I striped them in first. The colors are, from dark to light: Black, GW Scorched Brown, Adikolor Scortea, and Vallejo Game Color Bonewhite. As you can see in the left-hand picture, the first layer wasn’t very opaque. It took two more layers before I got the solid stripes on the right. This is an important thing to remember, so I’ll keep repeating it: if your paint is the right consistency, the first coat almost always looks like crap. Take your time, build up a couple of thin layers, and you’ll achieve a smooth color without obscuring detail.
Once my colors were solid, I could blend them together. Wet-blending in this small area using standard colors went quickly. I used a size 1 brush for this area, a step up from my usual 0. If your paint is thin, a larger brush makes small, straight blends like this almost automatic! My fellow Brushthrall Arkentyre uses flats for this kind of work. I haven’t tried them myself but I’ve watched him work and they have much the same effect as a large Kolinsky sable round. Try both and use whichever one you like.
I then used thin layers of Scorched Brown to add in some shadowing to the horns’ natural contours. I didn’t want to get too heavy-handed here, just reinforce the natural light.
Part six: finishing up
Once all the major areas of the model were complete, it took another hour or two to finish up all the detail. I painted the leather areas with a 2:1 mix of Adikolor Umber and Vallejo Model Color German Grey. Adikolor Scortea and Adikolor Scroll were added to this mix for highlights. The gun was painted with Adikolor Charred Brown and highlighted with Vallejo Game Color Bonewhite.
I also had to lighten up the skin with some translucent layers of Adikolor Scroll to bring it back to its initial paleness. I painted a little red ink and Adikolor Terra Cotta (a dusty rose pink) in the open mouth and added a spot of Adikolor Scroll to give the lips a glossy look. The rock was drybrushed with GW Scorched Brown, GW Bestial Brown, and GW Bleached Bone. Since the model would be removed from its painting base and sent back to PPS without a base, I didn’t do any further basing work.
After all the painting was complete, I carefully blacklined each transition on the model with thinned black paint to make the model look clean and neat. On a lighter-toned model, I might have used a dark brown but I didn’t think it would give enough contrast on this piece.
I had a blast painting this model—just the right amount of detail, lots of character, and a great color palette. I hope you have as much fun with her as I did. Mmm, Goth pirate girl.
Until next time—