airbrushing, model building, painting, paints, Uncategorized

Painting Faces!

Okay, I’ll admit right now as I have in the past, that painting human faces on figure kits is not my favorite. Making them look realistic takes a great deal of time and it’s mainly because I do not have the time to paint several hours each day, that I cannot get a leg up on this. If I did, I’m sure I’d improve greatly as it’s like anything else we do in life. The more time you pour into something, the better the results. It’s always interesting watching people like Bill Craft, David Fisher, Tom Gilliland and others paint faces. They’ve been doing it so long and on so many models that they probably do it in their sleep without thinking about it.

We went out to California recently for my wife’s 40th high school reunion. While there, I was fortunate enough to get together with an old modeling buddy of mine – Dave Bengal from Skyhook Models. Dave would not claim to be a master modeler as far as painting faces goes either, but for my money, I learn a great deal from him every time we get together. In fact, I’m always impressed with the quality of his painting. His version of Moebius Models’ Adam West/Batman is looking really nice. He actually takes the time to create mixes of paint on a separate index type of card to determine which is the best color for the cape, the cowl, the gray areas, etc. I appreciate the thought and work he puts into things and it shows in his results.

Robin, after Cork Flesh is applied, is getting highlights with the 80/20 mix of Light Flesh.

As we worked away in his modeling room inside his house (it was over 100 degrees outside, so the garage was not an option), we took to the task of painting Robin’s and Grandpa’s faces. Dave went over with me how he was now doing faces and I have to say I like it. It’s really a work in progress though because again, as a modeler spends more time working on the art of painting faces, he/she will learn the nuances that are needed to make faces come alive. At the same time, it really depends upon the racial make-up of the particular modeling character. You can’t simply paint them all the same, even if they’re Caucasian. Variations will occur from one model to the next.

We started with the acrylic Vallejo Paints, specifically Cork Flesh as the base coat; airbrushed on for a very smooth undercoat. This was followed by a mix of 80/20 (paint/water) of Light Flesh. The thinned mix allowed the paints to flow onto the face in the highlighted areas. Once the paint was thinned, dip the brush into the mix then wipe off most of the paint. It’s almost like drybrushing over the base coat of flesh, but a bit heavier. More paint is left on the brush here than in drybrushing.

After I returned home, Dave did more experimentation and determined that thinning the paints down a bit more is better. Each modeler will have to decide what’s best for their particular approach. There’s no one way to do this. It’s what works best for the individual modeler and what they’re attempting to achieve.

The third paint used is Beige Red, which is applied to the lips. Again, this will vary from model to model and certainly to female models kits where the lips could be painted a number of colors depending on the character.

Eyes are very difficult for me. As I’ve gotten older and don’t model as much as I used to, I noticed my hands are not as steady as they used to be. I recall sitting in Tom Gilliland’s studio one day watching him paint the Wolfman’s face. It was a joy to watch. For the eyes, he used Horizon’s Black and with a small brush, dabbed on the eye as perfect circles. Because the Horizon paints were thicker, they tended to stay where put.

Of course, I painted the eye area an off-white first, then after it dried, went in for the eyes. I basically took a toothpick, cut off the end, sanded it smooth, then dipped the end in Vallejo Black Paint and carefully dabbed it onto what was to become the eye. You still have to be careful in lining up the eyes so that they don’t look crossed or anything else. You also need to be sure that the eye itself does not look too big or too small for the face. It took some experimentation to get the right size of the end of the toothpick and seeing it on a scrap piece of paper, but once I did, I was comfortable with how the eyes look. The hole above Robin’s nose in the photo above is where his mask attaches.

The same principles apply to painting Grandpa Munster’s face as can be seen in the photo. You’ll note that the creases, etc., are a bit darker where the Cork Flesh shows through. Neither Robin or Grandpa are done yet. I hope to get to them one day soon. Even though I’m retired, I feel as though I’m busier than I was when I was working it seems, though maybe that’s simply my perception.

I really like building models, but I’m finding out that I enjoy modeling dioramas more than painting figures. In fact, if I had to do it all over again as far as the magazine, Modeler’s Resource is concerned, I would have emphasized diorama building mainly because it applies to all genres of modeling.

Along those lines, Dave showed me the work he recently did for related to the Psycho House. He designed and built the master for the Bates Motel and the base/hill for the Psycho House. You can see the base here and the Bates Motel here.

I’m amazed at the amount of model-related things that are still being produced. Certainly, there appears to be a market for it and that’s great!

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