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Adding Blood Effects To Miniatures

Miniature painting market has undergone significant changes in the past few decades. Right now, a wide variety of genres and models are available to suit everyone’s interests. We can choose between historical, fantasy, contemporary and futuristic subjects. Still, quite a lot of our miniatures and figures are warrior types. Many of them are depicted in poses, suggesting that they are in the midst of a fight or right after. This brings us to the topic of this article, which is blood on miniatures.

This article is a heavily remastered repost from my old blog Twistedbrushes.

Let’s talk about creating realistic-looking blood and gore for your projects to add more realism and dramatic flare.
To illustrate my thought process, I will use two of my miniatures that are heavily covered in blood.
The first will be Menhom the Dark Shadow from Andrea Miniatures. The second one is Templar Knight from Pegaso Models.
This article will be a combination of a short step-by-step and a more theoretical approach.

First, let’s look at how to create a blood-like substance that we can use later on the model. 
I guess there are a number of paints and products you can use to make blood. As always, I worked with what I had at hand.
For this project, I used a mixture of:

  • Tamiya Clear Red (X-27),
  • Nuln Oil – old Badab black – (GW wash),
  • Druhii Violet – old Leviathan Purple – (GW wash),
  • Smoke (70939 VMC).

The last one is to get a more opaque look. After all, blood is not a very transparent fluid, even when fresh. Leviathan purple is bringing back some redness to the otherwise brownish mix.
You can try using red ink if you don’t have Tamiya Clear Red. For example, you can go for Deep Red from Winsor and Newton, Pyrolle Red from Liquitex, or any other clear red.

I made a few samples while trying to get the colours right. The photos below show the mixes I used and the results I achieved with them. I was almost happy with the Tamiya, Agrax Earthshade and Smoke combination, but it was slightly too brown in real life. The next combination just works better.

As you can see in the last picture, I added some UHU glue, attempting to add more volume and some stickiness. But the result is far from expected. My UHU glue (UHU Power, to be exact) is not the best for the task; it simply didn’t mix properly with the paints. Instead, it’s giving me something that looks like bits of coagulated blood and tissue. It’s not something I can use in this project, as I’m going for fresh blood, but I will definitely save it for the future.

After getting the right colour and consistency for my blood-like mixture, I made a bigger batch. I wanted to mix enough for all the work I had planned to do with Menhom. Then, I began applying it to the miniature, paying close attention to the crucial areas.

The way he keeps his right hand reminds me of the bird’s claw or him getting ready to rip someone’s guts out. This, and the fact that I wasn’t thrilled with the paint job here, pushed the narrative here. I decided that he was using his hand in combat. Ripping enemies’ throats and tearing their hearts out with great vigour.

So, it’s only natural that his hand is completely covered in blood. Some of it even drips on the ground. In this case, I coated it with a relatively thick layer of bloody goo. I used a hair glued to one of the fingers to do the hanging droplet, with a little blob of paint at the end. Then I covered that with paint to hide the hair. I used gloss varnish on the top because I wanted the blood to be freshly spilt.

The small shield attached just above his wrist received similar treatment. The proximity to the hand didn’t leave me any other choice. It wouldn’t look natural if it was left clean.

First, before applying the blood to the blade, I had to make the metal a bit brighter. This way, dark blood would stand out better. I applied a few layers of thinned Chainmail (GW). I focused on highlights and midtones, making sure I left the shadow parts unaffected.
I looked for pictures showing how the blood on a sword should be placed to make it reliable. For the sake of realism, I even watched one episode of Spartacus (the only show I knew was full of blood, gore, and swords). At some point, I considered using dried blood with some gross bits and bobs of ‘stuff’. Finally, I decided against it, going for fresh blood. “Fresh’ in the case of blood means runny and without any clots.
But then, after all this research and thinking, I simply went crazy with the gore on the sword. You can see the result in the pictures below. Menhom’s right hand suggests that he spilt a lot of blood recently and with a very much ‘hands-on’ approach. The sword being bathed in blood is very justified.

First, I did a few drops on the ground under his hand. I would do the same under the sword, but it hangs outside the base, so there was no way to do that. I did these drops with the brush because they’re not splashes from a hit or something.

Then, I had to decide what to use for more dynamic splashes on the robe. Yes, I know red on red doesn’t look that impressive here, but that’s a different shade of red. Besides, a clean robe without any splashes would look weird. It also allowed me to hide a bit of this awful head in the middle of his trophy chain.
After a few tests, I used a flat and rather stiff brush and a toothpick and then added a few more spots with the brush.

The results are in the pictures below.
Here are the overall pictures before and after. I’m not entirely sure if I made Menhom look better, but at least it is different. I managed to cover a few weaker elements with blood, so my changes should benefit him.
Besides, I learned something new, and that’s always good. I’m happy that I tried a new technique, and for the first time, Menhom’s looking pretty decent, isn’t he?

I used the same method when painting Templar Knight, 90mm in scale, from Pegaso Models.
He is clearly in a very dynamic fighting pose. The arrows in his shield strongly suggest he’s in the heat of battle, so the blood splatters suit him very well.
I used the blood more sparingly here than when painting Menhom. My goal here was to enhance the model, not cover issues.

The photos show that I focused on the blood splatters in the areas that make the most sense in his story. I covered mainly his sword, shield, and the front of his tunic. Of course, there is also quite a lot of blood on the ground and some on the bottom of his cloak.
There is also quite a bit of gash on his left temple. With blood flowing from the wound down his face, into the ear, and down the neck under his armour. I am pretty sure I did this to cover some imperfection in the painting of the side of his head. It does suit the figure, though, so it’s a win.

You can compare him with and without blood in the photos below.
I hope you’ll agree that it adds a lot of realism to the whole piece.

To sum up, adding blood effects to your miniature can be a great way to enhance its realism and add an extra level of drama where appropriate.
I hope you found this brief guide on creating blood effects helpful and inspiring. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to share them below. Happy painting!

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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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Checking Contrast in Miniature Painting: A Practical Guide.

Have you ever finished painting a miniature and thought that something was off? Yet you couldn’t quite put your finger on it? It’s possible that the issue lies with the contrast. Contrast is one of the most critical elements responsible for our tiny figures’ readability. It is also an element that is often quite difficult to judge.

In this article, I will demonstrate a simple exercise that you can use to check the contrast on your models. I will delve deeper into contrast types in a future article. For now, I will give you a practical tool to quickly assess contrast. This method is an efficient way to evaluate the contrast in your miniatures. It also helps you identify areas that may need improvement.

I want to keep this information separate from the rest of the article. It should stand out and not get lost, among other details. Separating it will also help you to use it right away.

For this to work, I need you to trust that I know what I’m talking about here. A well-painted miniature will look good in colour and grey scale.
That is the foundation of this method. It is also very much true:)

So yeah, the well-painted miniature will look good when turned to grayscale. You will still be able to see it clearly, and all elements will be well-defined. Every element will be visible and 3 dimensional on its own, and they will look good and be easy to read together. Nothing will be lost in the sea of grey.

Take a photo of the miniature you want to check, and turn it into greyscale. By doing that, we will remove the colour information. We will focus on the brightness and readability of the elements. On top of that, we will see if the colour scheme we’ve chosen works well together.

The quickest way to check the contrast in black and white is to turn off the colours on your phone while looking at the photo. Or, turn down the saturation in the photo editor on the phone. You will have the added bonus of looking at a smaller picture of your model. So, all parts blending together will be more apparent. But I’d say it’s a first-glance method.

Working on a computer in graphic software will give you more options, though. You will see all the small details that could be done better. You will also have the option to modify the photo to see if it makes a change in the right direction. Then you’ll know what to do with the brush later.
The software I’m using is Adobe Photoshop, but I’m sure others also give you that option.

Let’s look at some examples to better explain what I am talking about.

Below, you can see Alfonso (Sad Pirate from Latorre) and the Pilot (JMD Miniatures). Both pieces are examples of sound contrast, if I may say so myself.
Both are easy to read in greyscale, with faces clearly the focal point of the whole piece. All elements are dynamic and work well together. The colours I used don’t blend into each other in greyscale.

Here, we have Landsknecht (SK Miniatures) and Veteran (Medieval Knight JMD Miniatures) – both paint jobs, even if still pretty nice, have some issues in the contrast area.

The main issue I can see when looking at Landsknecht’s paint job is how red and black look almost the same in the photo. To be fair, all the details on the lover part of the bust, under the beard, blend together too much. To fix that, I could darken the black. It’s highlighted too much, turning almost blue. I could also add some green into the shadows in the red. Maybe I could increase the highlights further as well.
I still very much like how his face looks, both in colour and black and white. I could add red to the nose area, but I’m nitpicking now.

The Veteran is pretty much a mess in greyscale. The greens and leathers look almost the same. The face is heavily fragmented and disappears in the beard and chainmail. To be fair, the face actually has an issue that is opposite to the rest of the model. It has too much contrast. Looking at it now, I pushed the contrast on the face a tad too much and added dark lines separating the planes of the face. It is slightly less obvious in the colour version, where the colour itself helps read this as one element. It should be painted more as a whole, not separate elements. The beard could also benefit from more general light and shadow. This can be done on top of the separation of the hair strands.

Frankie (FeR Miniatures) and Shroom Troll (Figone). I’m on the fence when it comes to these two models. There are no grave errors here. They have some nice contrast in certain areas, but I feel it could be better.

Frankie is still clearly readable in greyscale. However, I’m losing the red-green contrast on the face. Maybe if I used a different kind of red, I’d be able to contrast those colours better. Still decent work, and I’m pleased with all the small details of the face being visible.

Shroom Troll looks clear in greyscale. However, the contrast between blue and yellowish green is wholly lost. The cold pinkish? Red under the eyes and in the ears is lost, too. I’m not sure how to fish it, and I’ve not decided I should.

Of course, you can use this method on your work in progress. You’ll quickly reassess if you are going in the right direction.

Reichdoctor (Large scale model from Smart Max).
Even though this is still an early WIP, I can already see that the skin looks quite, and the coat has nice tonal changes. This is partially due to the scale of the model, of course, but no one said we couldn’t take advantage of this.

Bad Santa.
This miniature is still a WIP, but looking at it in greyscale, I can see that the red and green don’t work right now. Both of them look flat and almost identical in greyscale. If I ever decide to finish the guy, I will have to do something about it.

In conclusion, checking the contrast of your miniatures in greyscale is a quick and easy way to assess the effectiveness of your painting. This method is a valuable tool that can help you enhance the contrast of your minis. Whether working on a computer or using your phone, this method is useful. It can help you manage your miniatures’ contrast better. Remember, a well-painted miniature will look good in colour and greyscale. So, don’t forget to step back and check
your work in black and white.

And don’t forget to check my other articles and tutorials.

Happy painting!

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Theory of Painting Realistic Leather

When it comes to miniature painting, leather is undoubtedly one of the most common materials to use. It is right after iron or steel for weapons, of course. You can find leather elements on almost every miniature across all genres and periods. From medieval knights to futuristic space marines, leather is a material that can be found in abundance.

This article is a heavily remastered repost from my old blog twistedbrushes.

Leather’s texture and details make it a great opportunity for painters to show off their skills and create realistic pieces of art. So, painting beautiful leather is one of the most crucial skills for a miniature painter.

Before I start talking about painting, let’s take a look at various types of leather. I will focus on those you most likely will encounter and try to reproduce on a miniature

I could write an entire in-depth article about types of leather, how they age, and how they look when old and worn out. But you don’t need to be a leatherwork expert to paint it convincingly. For miniature painting, it’s enough if you remember the most common types of leather.

There are many types of leather in use at this moment. Full grain, top grain, genuine leather, split leather, suede, nubuck, Vachetta leather. … Plus all the more exotic ones.
They all differ in how they are made, how durable they are and how much they cost.

But this article is about painting miniatures, not leatherworking. I don’t want to bore you to death with this theoretical part. You can always do your own deep dive into the subject later.
For this article, I can divide them into 3 main categories. I’m focusing on how the leather looks, how it ages, and how to paint it. I know I’m oversimplifying things here, but I’m talking about appearances and painting.

Here, we can throw full grain, top grain, and everything else that looks like it has a solid layer on top and visible texture. Think high-end biker jackets, shoes, belts and wallets.

The top layer of this kind of leather protects it from elements. It makes it more durable, and with reasonable care, it prevents a lot of wear and tear from happening. Over time, the natural oils, waxes, water, and other elements darken the leather. The texture becomes softer, with creases forming in places where it bends the most.

Depending on the colour, signs of ageing might be less visible. When the top layer is scratched, or breaks from use, the layer below is usually lighter and matt.

Vachhe leather, russet leather and everything that looks like it might have a layer on top but no visible texture.
Look at high-end natural-coloured bags and suitcases. Backpacks that look beige and matt when sold darken with age.
Google defines vachetta leather as a vegetable-tanned, minimally greased full-grain leather from thin cowhides.
It is usually light beige at the beginning (natural coloured). It’s not too shiny, especially if untreated. It can be treated and dyed to have more shine, but the texture is always almost non-existent.
It stains easily, darkens in sunlight, and absorbs all the grease and water it comes in contact with. It’s especially visible if used for bag handles.
Due to the contact with oils, water, and dirt, it darkens and gets more shiny with use. The surface is less durable than grain leather. It is easier to scratch, and the scratches are usually lighter and more matt than the rest of the surface. It’s evident in the more weathered areas.
The thinner the leather, the more creases and wrinkles form from use. But even the thickest one will eventually create severe creases in the areas it bends the most.

Nubuck, buckskin, and everything else that looks soft matt and feels a bit like velvet.
Due to its nature, this type of leather is very matte and soft and behaves more like cloth than leather. It also gets dirty, more like cloth than leather. The lack of a top layer makes the dirt stick between looser fibres.
The most typical signs of wear and tear are stains, darkening and slight shine. It happens especially when the leather is pressed together by repetitive motion. Then, the shiny parts start behaving more like vachetta leather. They are not as tough, though, and it’s way easier to scratch the shiner surface.
That’s not all leather types; just the most common these days. You should do more research if you’re trying to paint some less common types of leather. There is a kangaroo, snake, crocodile, or fish leather. Yes, fish leather does exist, and it looks pretty cool).

Leather comes in various colours, from light beige to dark brown and black. The colour you choose should match your miniature’s theme and colour palette.
Contemporary leather can be dyed in any colour you can imagine. So when you paint modern or s-f miniatures, choose whatever suits your colour scheme.
With historical pieces, I’d rather go with natural shades of brown, grey and black. I have no idea which colours were available back in the past. If you are curious about that, feel free to do deep research on the subject. I’ll just go with natural browns. This way, it’s safer. I won’t have to explain to people that, according to some old and dusty books, this shade of colour was available on leather at that time.

When painting leather, I usually start with relatively light colours. I’m using beige, light brown, ochre, and yellowish shades of brown for a base. Then, I slowly build up darker parts with washes and thin, uneven layers. For this part, I use various browns, black and reddish browns, and even green and blue if I go for colder shades. I’m not worried the surface is getting glossier in the process. Leather often has some sheen to it. And if it gets too shiny, I can mute it in the deepest shadows with some matte medium added to the paint.
I don’t paint too neatly. I use quick, random brush movements, stippling, and uneven layers. This helps me to mix and layer various colours.
To add a more worn look, I go over the glazes with the base colour or darker shades of brown. I add some extra highlights when I’m more or less happy with the lights and shadows. I wash them lightly in the process to make them blend better. If the highlights get a slightly chalky look, it’s even better. Damaged leather often loses its shine.

Leather can be smooth or rough, and the texture will determine how you apply your paint. For example, if you paint a smooth, soft leather jacket, you will want to apply your paint in thin layers to avoid creating brush strokes.
To create a nice texture of more rough leather, add lots of washes and paint layers applied unevenly to the surface. It helps me to build a dimensional texture of the leather. To add more texture and mimic rougher leather, you can use an almost dry brush with a bit of colour. Make sure the brush isn’t too wet, and dab it in the surface where you want that particular colour and roughness. This technique is simple but effective on leather. It looks particularly good on bigger-scale models, where it looks very natural.

Typically, leather gets darker when used (due to contact with oil, water, and other stuff). But if we disturb that top layer, we can often see the lighter colour showing beneath. To recreate that effect, we can ensure that the whole surface shows signs of wear and tear.

I create this kind of damage by uneven application of paint. I’m not neat while I’m painting shadows. But if that is not enough, you can add some more wear and tear. Take an almost dry brush with a small amount of bright beige and dab the leather to create random spots. Just concentrate on the places most likely exposed to that kind of damage.
This is also a place where you can use dry brushing to add more variety of colours. It will also add some additional roughness to the texture.

To create damaged and worn-out edges, I’m adding lighter paint on the edges of the leather element. Then, I’m adding some thin light lines going roughly perpendicular to the edge to add more wear and tear. I’m focusing on the areas that would naturally get more use.
After that, I’m adding some glaze with one of the darker colours to get a more unified look.
If I add a dark, thin line right beneath the light one, it gives me the illusion of a cut/break in the surface.
I use that method mostly on belts and straps or on the edges of bigger surfaces if that looks believable.
You can also add thin lines of damage in the middle of leather elements. But be reasonable while doing it. Only add the type of damage you can justify by the item’s usage. People usually take care of their things. Especially if their life depends on it, so adding too much wear and tear can look unrealistic.

The process of painting leather is a relatively simple technique, as you can see. It only requires some practice and research on the type of leather you want to recreate. Unfortunately, I don’t have any step-by-step pictures to share. The process involves a lot of back and forth, making it difficult to document properly. However, I have gathered some photos that display different stages of the process. I hope they will give you a better understanding of what I’m doing.

I hope my tutorial has helped you learn how to paint leather elements for your miniatures. Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep experimenting with different techniques and colours, and find what works best for you.
If you want to learn more about miniature painting, check out my other articles on painting leather and other materials. With a little bit of practice and patience, you’ll be creating amazing miniatures in no time!