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Painting Leather on Miniatures – Case Studies.

Over the years, I have painted many different types of leather. I would like to share a few miniature paintings that I have done, focusing on the leather elements.
This will not be a step-by-step guide. Instead, I can give you insight into the thought process behind each piece and the colours I used.

This bust is basically covered in fur pelt, not much else. The inner side of the pelt, visible around Warrior’s neck and at the back, is painted as I would paint suede. Warm in colours to contrast with the colder colour of the fur itself.

I started painting it with a sandy colour to keep the tone warm. Most likely, it is the Vallejo Model Cooler Dark Sand 70847. I used ‘Jack Bone and Menoth White, both from P3, for highlights. They have been my go-to bone/leather colours for years now. Both are cool and yellowish, working perfectly with all the leather I’ve painted so far.

For shadows, I used some Graveyard Earth (back when it was still available at GW). The closest replacement right now would be Steel Legion Drab. It is a good match, but not perfect. The old colour is a bit more yellow in the undertone. It suits the leather better, in my opinion. I’ll check if adding dark sand will fix it, but I’m not overly optimistic.
I really love this colour. I might cry when it runs out.

The other colours used for shading were GW washes: Gryphon Sepia and small amounts of Agrax Earthshade in the darkest recesses. Because this side of the pelt is relatively light in colour, I didn’t want to go too dark with the shadows.
Some extra thin lines were added with ‘Jack Bone or Menoth White in strategic places to mimic scratches, and the hide was ready.

This is one of my most recent busts. At least one recently finished. It sat on my bench for years, lost in a sad painting limbo, waiting for better times.
The leather of the hat is dark and cold in tone, with very little yellow in it.

I was sure I painted it with Graveyard Earth as a base and then shaded it to almost black in the shadow areas. But judging by the photos, at least at some point, it was painted very dark brown, nearly black. From that, I started lightening the areas that would be in the light. I used many thin, uneven layers, building up texture in the process. First, I worked mainly with Graveyard Earth, then mixed it with ‘Jack Bone. For shadows, initially, I used thin layers of Agrax Earthshade to tone down the warmth of the browns. Then, I used thinned-down black and small amounts of deep sea blue and greens to keep the shadows cool and interesting. I also mainly used diluted regular paints, not the washes.

To build up back the highlights, I used Graveyard Earth first. Then, I started mixing in some ‘Jack Bone to push them further. The ‘Jack Bone was used very sparingly, though. I added some extra damage to make it look like scratches and breaks in the leather. The thin light lines with black ones right next to them make things more 3 dimensional.

The whole hat lacks the coarseness I usually paint on the leather. It looks softer, but there is enough texture to make it eye-catching.
I painted the belt using the same method. To add edge damage typical to belts, I painted many thin perpendicular light lines. I also added a few washes of warmer colours in the lights to keep it different from the hat.

The hat on this little fella is painted as Vachetta Leather would look if it was not adequately cared for. I started with Graveyard Earth as a base, then added a generous amount of ‘Jack Bone for highlights. Then, I applied a lot of different washes of Seraphim Sepia, Agrax Earthshade, and Reikland Fleshshade. I used Burnt Umber, black and small amounts of other colours to get the darkest shadows how I wanted them. I used Dark Sea Blue (Vallejo Model Colours), Burgundy Wine (Reaper Master Series), and some dark green.

From the first photo to the last, you can see I added quite a bit of shine to the leather in the shadows. I did it on purpose, imagining him in some sort of workshop with greasy spills and stuff. Why not the same level of weathering on the clothing? Cloth is easier to clean than leather.

I painted the leather coat on this miniature in a completely different way.
Like with most of the busts, I started it on a light grey primer, so I had a nice light canvas for painting his face.
The coat had a lovely texture, so I decided to try something new here. I wanted to paint it all with washes. So, using GW washes Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade, I started building the shadows. I added nuances in colour by adding Seraphim Sepia and Reikland Fleshshade to the lighter parts of the coat. I also added small amounts of Biel-Tan Green in the deepest shadows. I did it to contrast shadows with warmer tones in the lighter areas.

Kinda like working with watercolours; I was careful to leave the highlight clear. In the end, it turned out that the grey in the lights didn’t look like I wanted, so I gave it a light, dry brush with ‘Jack Bone. I focused on the areas on his shoulders and where the leather would fold repeatedly.

I’m happy with the result. The colours look rich enough, with enough coarseness of the texture shining through. I definitely will be using this method when it suits the model.

I’m not crazy happy with how I did leathers on this bust. Well, except for the bit under his chin. The leather there would be soft to mould better under his face. So, I painted it relatively smooth, without too much contrast. But I made sure every crease was clearly visible.
Colours I used would be ‘Jack bone, Graveyard Earth and Seraphim Sepia and a touch of Agrax Earthshade.

As you can see, painting leather can be a very creative process with various approaches. By combining different colours, highlights, shadows, textures, and damage, you can achieve a realistic leather look for your miniatures. Feel free to experiment with various colours and techniques so each leather element you paint has a unique look.
Thank you for reading the article. If you enjoyed it, please let me know your thoughts, and I’ll cover more miniatures in the future.

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