Alternate Face Painting Method: A look at the Vallejo Face paint line.

It wasn’t too long ago that I shared what I consider to be a real easy way to add some realism into your face painting projects by simply using inks to transition over your base skin tones, and eventually end up with a finished product. If you haven’t seen it, or want to see it, that article is linked here: How I Paint Faces: Glazing tricks anyone can use.

In this article I want to go over a very different method created from a more involved process, but the skin tones have what I would call an almost… ‘oil painted’ appearance.

I decided to try out the Vallejo Game Air products for this project and specifically here’s what I used:

Vallejo face series

Vallejo Game Air products I used for this project.

First off I know there’s a lot of colour theory and where you should put what colour, and when. After years of working in the comic industry I can tell you that people can get away with some really funky, unrealistic stuff if it simply looks ‘good’. What I love about this colour range is the consistency, and the ability to pull off that ‘Oil Painting’ look I referred to before.

So after doing a few models, and dabbling in the deep purple hues with my gold experiments, I just found this was something I wanted to go strongly into with the skin tones. I think if you like this look, Vallejo Game Air makes this really easy to do. All I used was the colours above, and a lot of patience.

So the order goes to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly because once you’ve laid the foundation, you’re going to play it by feel and look until you like what you see.

And here’s the very basics of the colour theory:

colour theory for faces Vallego

You spend 10,000 years fighting for the emperor and you end up with the odd worry line on your face. Botox technology was lost with the STC’s!

Above is the blueprint:

  • Purple lines represent the deepest recesses caused by bone structure and muscles. Here’s were Terracota and Purple mix to give your a warm depth.
  • Red is where we see shadows transitioning into lighter skin tones. We’re simply adding more light flesh tones to our mix.
  • Pink lines represent the light sources most often. Skin can appear lighter for lots of reasons, but on this scale skin ‘shine’ is a great way of showing the tops of larger bone structures, wrinkles etc.

Notice I’ve circled two areas. Circle one is where most of the dark tones went on top of my base colour. Circle two is where a lot of wild blending makes those purples into pinks. A lot of it looks extreme, but you have to go back and forth until you’re happy.

I wish I had taken a picture of my palette. It really does look crazy after a good 20 minutes of doing this. The base above is a very minor example of the amount of mixing that  goes on.

Here’s a few WIP’s to show you what went for in the end for skin tone:

DW limited Cap face striations

Even this blown up, you can see the Deathwatch Captain has some strong striation work in his face. He’s been around…seen some stuff.

The Deathwatch Captain has added striations in his face. This is a hold over from my comic book drawing days. Every hero has an immense amount of jaw exaggeration. The colour is not all about the bone structure. Feel free to exaggerate blood flow, bruising, blemishes, scars, etc. A good example of this is I show more ‘blood flow’ in the temples and cheeks of my faces. I like the emotion this brings to the figure.

DW limited Cap face striations close

A Closer look shows a fairly unrealistic, but warm transition to the underlying muscle structure of the face.

My Deathwatch captain shows rage, and hopefully some maturity in his face. With Trajann Valoris I went for a more ragged, aged, ‘been there, done that’ sort of look.

new Trajann face

This is hopefully showing Valoris at nearly real size.

There’s a ton of colour variation going on here. I wanted a combination of age, scarring, and battle experience worn on his face.


Super close up we can see why you should definitely wear sunscreen in the 41st Millennium.

You can see I’ve gone for a bolder transition here on valoris. There’s nothing too subtle about his war torn appearance. I think this is also an important consideration when you are painting an army that is largely mono-chromatic… Deathwatch, Custodes, Grey Knights, etc.

A few parting pieces of advice:

  • Start with your medium colour, ‘cut’ in the dark lines, then work back to light, and lighter yet.
  • Go backwards to the start. Push the mid tones back in between your lowlights/highlights. Are they too subtle? Are they too bland? Keep going until you like it.
  • Why Airbrush paint? It’s pre-thinned. When I’m painting faces,  I can’t have drying paint giving me problems, and thinning on the go, especially on a wet pallet is a pain.
  • Don’t be afraid to create you’re own ‘look’. A great comic artist once told me ‘style’ comes from intentionally making mistakes. They have to look intentional mind you. In my case I wanted a ‘blockish’ pattern that cut into the transitions. It reminds me of those old 70’s  comics.
  • If you don’t like where it’s going, take a break. I can bang out a face paint in 20 minutes, but when character is at stake, I’ve often taken a week of small sessions here, and there to get it right.
  • Glue the heads on to something easy to hold. Don’t make the mistake I did with Allarus Terminators as an example. I couldn’t get finished painted heads into the model and damaged a few!
  • Finally, and most importantly.. KEEP IT THIN. I’m not joking when I say Valoris probably has about 30ish shades on him. That’s the beauty of the Game Air line if you don’t want to thin your own paints.

That’s about it for this segment. I hope this gives you something to try out on your own. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading.


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