How I Paint Faces: Glazing tricks anyone can use.

I was just asked this week about the skin tonal quality of the faces I do. I was telling someone locally about the glazing tricks I prefer to use and the look on his face was like I was a mad man.

So I thought since this comes up enough I’m going to put the basics right here because I think it’s something very easy to do and just takes a ‘feel’ for the tonal quality of the face you’re doing. I’m no expert, but if I’m painting a Death Guard face, or Eldar face, or Custodes face, I will want them all to have VERY different moods, and warmth to them.

Let’s cut to the chase; as I try to finish my Custodes Allarus project, I decided to do a fairly quick face for the Shield-Captain. (Unfortunately the head never fit into the Allarus armour so it was destroyed in the process, but that’s my frustration to deal with…)

Here is how most of my heads start:

It starts with deep tones and detail wash

I may look like an eraser tip now, but you try fighting Chaos for 10,000 years and let’s see your complexion!

  • Even though I lightly scraped the head of mould lines, I miss some -everytime-. The initial step starts with the darkest tones (watered down, flesh paint is often quite chalky… Water it down big time!)
  • Adding a light dose if Reikland fleshshade does two things: 1- it shows me how the sculptor decided to show mood, expression and bone structure, and 2- it exposes DETAILS. These are nearly impossible to see otherwise. I think you do yourself a favour by exposing the expression and detail early, before deciding colour base.
  • It may not be obvious but Mr.Allarus above had more mould lines on the side of his head that I missed, so I scraped them off at this early stage (note the grey ‘scars’).
my palette with glazes red and blue and green

No I did not murder a nurgling on this GW paletter paper. This is honestly what my palette looks like when I paint heads.

I wanted to show this picture because I don’t think people believe me sometimes when I say I will throw blues, purples, reds, etc into my skin tones.

  • After starting with the base (Cadia), it’s fairly watered down. I mean nearly a glaze of paint.
  • I wish I had shown this, but if you see that blob of green, that’s Vallejo Green Ink. I love it for making my base skin tones lately. Use this to diffuse the ‘pinkish’ look you see on some figures.
  • Gradually add other colours ,keep it super THIN. You can see the pinks/reds on the right side of the palette….virtually a thin glaze.
Allarus destroyed head

I’m not angry, Prot painted me this way!

This is the finished product. This is a fairly quick job. The skin is pretty much done here, I think I went back with extreme edge highlights (through some white into the palette).

So breaking it down, all of those colours are in here, in overlapping quantities. What I mean by that is you never, ever go into a brand new colour. The “trick” here if there is one, is to keep overlapping your colours and glazes so they are never too stark, and transition well. Reds become warm, blues become cool. Place them in the appropriate places, tie them together with the neutral green/flesh mix. And always keep it thin! This allows you to go back and forth, and back and forth as much as you need without losing detail.

Just a closer look… super blown up for clarity on the colour placement:

Close up skin tones

So blown up by quite a bit, we can see the colours really exposed.

  • Blues skin tones on deep recesses. Under the eyes, the inner ears, the deep cheek recesses.
  • Pinks, reds, sit on vascular parts, fleshy areas. The cheeks look slightly flush. Blood flows to the temples, the blood flow and skin colour on the forehead, and lower lip is accented.
  • Light tones, adding more white, and the thinnest paint sits on the nose, forehead ridge, chin, ears, etc.

So it’s really that easy. Go crazy with the colours. You can diffuse the base colour with almost anything. Right now I’m using a lot of green, but it can be blues, etc. It’s really just a matter of overlapping the colours and seeing what you can come up with. The trick is all in the glazing!


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