Reaper's Learn To Paint Kit #2 - Layer Up!
Honestly, between the two kits, this (#08907) was the one that I was really looking forward to. My early experiences with painting miniatures had already given me some sense of the very basic skills that the first kit was focused on, but the starkly painted look that the majority of my attempts at highlighting ended up with was a clear and blatant weakness that was holding back the quality of my work.
As before, I approached this kit with minimal ego, trying to follow the instructions as if I was a blank slate. Once again, this proved to be a good decision. I'd lamented before that I didn't have a good feel for judging what pigment density I should be aiming for when going through various steps of painting, and after repeating some of the basic front matter of the first kit, this one went right into talking about how to thin your paint for different applications.
The first miniature was #77068, Anirion, Wood Elf Wizard:
Right away, things were off to a better start since the miniatures in this kit didn't need to have any deformations fixed. I mean, yeah, there were still some deformed bits, but I think the curvature of the staff actually gave it a more interesting look than a perfectly straight shaft would've.
In any case, as before, the first model had very detailed step-by-step instructions, specifically working on the brighter red parts of the hood and cloak. Exhorting the virtues of patience and thin layering, it worked through how to put on a layer of shading in the shadowed areas and then further darkening the deepest parts of that. The effect was very subtle at first, but as I kept working at it, it was pretty cool to see the effect starting to develop and really put some depth on the model by my own hand rather than just relying on a wash.
Sensibly enough, that was followed by working through a highlight layer and then a further extreme highlight. Once again, it was a subtle transition, but having the shaded areas to contrast with made it more visible, and working the paint in raised areas rather than recesses made it easier to do from the perspective of simple mechanical access to the areas to be painted.
Let me take a step aside to praise the choice of model here, too. Similar to the skeleton archer in the first kit, something like 80% of the miniature is just one feature (the cloak, in this case), so you're given plenty of opportunity to practice the technique as you work over the whole of it. Perhaps it's an obvious thing that doesn't warrant its own paragraph, but an important part of learning is having enough practice to actually start refining what you're doing instead of just trying to follow the steps, and this miniature was an excellent choice for that.
Anyway, the next step of things was putting a glaze over it all to help lessen the contrast and smooth over the color transitions. This is one of those things that seems so obvious now, after having worked through it, but at the time, it was amazing to see how much of an effect it had.
Finally, it went over lining the borders of the red in order to create clear boundaries between areas. This actually looked pretty silly when I first did it, but after putting more colors on the model and seeing how much it helped to clean up the overall look, it was worthwhile. Along with glazing, this is one of those things that it's easy to dismiss as being just a little thing, but after seeing how much of a difference it made, it's definitely something that I'll be adding to my toolkit for future use.
Aside from the darker trim on the cloak, the rest of the painting was just done with base coats and washes, which was a nice way to avoid getting overloaded from the start. Overall, it was a very good introduction to the topic of layering.
Up next was #77167, Ingrid, Female Gnome:
This one was actually a lot of fun to work on. The cloak being a similar but darker version of the previous model's cloak helped ease the transition from having step-by-step directions to just having point form instructions. I even took it a step further than what was called for by putting a coat or two of glazing on it, since I wasn't entirely satisfied with the color transitions, and it came out better for it.
After that, it was time to do the flesh. I've got to say that I was surprised at how well it turned out in the end. I'd thought that highlighting all the way up to (nearly) white would've given it something of a cartoonish look, but I guess the translucency of the thinned paint helped to bring some of the underlying color through and give it a look that, while stylized and a touch more extreme than reality, was reasonable enough to look good.
I took a step aside from the exact instructions here to do the eyes and lips, since if I was going to risk needing to do tons of touch-ups on the flesh after screwing those up, I'd rather do it earlier than later. It turned out that my fears were mostly unfounded, though, because those details ended up coming together without too much headache.
Anyway, after that, it was just a matter of working through the rest of the areas one by one, more or less. The only thing worthy of noting here is how awful Reaper's metallic paints are compared to Vallejo's. I don't know if it's because of Reaper generally having thinner medium than the other major hobby paint brands or something else, but whatever the reason, all of the Reaper MSP metallic paints that I've used had absolutely shit coverage, ESPECIALLY when trying to use them directly on the Bones material.
Despite that annoyance, though, I had a really good time with this miniature. The wizard looked better, I think, but this one was more enjoyable to do, probably because of having more color variety and detailing.
The last miniature of the kit was #77134, Hajad, Pirate:
Honestly, by the time I got to this one, I was kind of ready to finish up with the kit and get back to working on my own miniatures again. It probably shows that my painting wasn't as clean as the previous two, or at least it looks that way to me.
Nevertheless, it was nice to be pushed to working through 7 shades from the darkest shadows up to the most extreme highlights on some of the major areas for this one. I probably used too much of the extreme shadow/highlight colors on the skin, and then I overreacted to seeing that by using too little of those on the vest, but in the pursuit of learning, it was a good challenge.
Speaking of learning, I tried putting a base of blue on the blades before painting on the blades on this one. The coverage of the silver was still as awful as ever, but at least I didn't have to worry about fighting that and the hydrophobic nature of the Bones material at the same time.
In the end, I came away with a very positive feeling about the whole experience. Frankly, for someone whose interest in miniature painting is for the artistic side of it rather than just trying to get some figurines painted for use in tabletop games, this kit was far and away the more useful of the two. This isn't to shit on the first kit entirely, since it's important to be comfortable with the fundamentals of doing something before trying to get into more advanced techniques. In the long run, though, if I was to somehow go back in time and allow myself to buy only one of the kits, this kit would be the one to go with.