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The Process of Painting Skeleton Spearman

I'd doubted it a bit at first, but the eyes turned out pretty awesome

I was fortunate enough to get a bonus stocking of gifts with my order from Reaper in December, which came with a few skeletons (among other free miniatures, but the skeletons in particular are simple enough that I don't have any discomfort about using them as practice pieces). Seeing as a skeleton was also the first thing that I painted with the Learn to Paint Kits, I thought it'd be interesting to try doing another one as a comparison piece to judge both how I've improved and how the techniques that I use now compare with those basic ones.

That being the case, I wanted to stick with using the same colors that I did for that original skeleton, which was facilitated by the kit's instructions calling them out. However, since I like to try to challenge myself in some way with each miniature that I paint in order to keep improving, I wanted to try doing some extra freehand work. In that vein, I set two goals for myself: making another attempt at doing glowing eyes (with a simpler layering-based approach, rather than trying for glazing as I did for the Dark Elf Warrior, since painting into sunken eye sockets would be more difficult that painting on raised eyeballs) and doing some kind of freehand detail on the shield. For the latter, I’d initially thought of trying to do something like an Eye of Sauron emblem, but the few details that the shield had seemed like they’d interfere with that, so I decided to go for some writing instead. There was a D&D campaign that I ran a long time ago which had a necromancer called the Blood King as a villain, so trying to write “King of Blood” in Japanese seemed like a decent goal (admittedly, it helped that I actually knew how to do that, even with my limited Japanese knowledge).

Since the eyes were likely to take me a few tries to get right and make some mess along the way, I started with them. First, I filled in the sockets with a base coat of the bright red that’d serve as the midtone for the glow.

Reaper's Brilliant Red lives up to its brand name

After that, I made a dot of an orange/yellow in the middle of each eye socket and trimmed around the edges of it with a dark red, trying to leave about equal amounts of each color in terms of radial distance. It took a few attempts to get everything looking how I wanted it, but I think I managed to do a nice job of it eventually.

That crimson mask is exactly why I wanted to do the eyes before the bones

With the eyes done, the next step was to paint in the bones. There was also a bit of the shield's back that looked like it'd be a pain in the ass to reach later on, so I dealt with that at the same time, too. The wash that I was going to apply to the bones was going to be a dark grey, as opposed to a dark brown for the wood parts, which I thought would work well to make it seem more shadowed/recessed in the long run, anyway, so painting it in now would save me from having to clean up any mistakes on finished bone areas later.

Exciting base coating action!

You can see that recessed bit of the shield here

I stuck with using a dark grey wash to do the shading on bones (as done on the skeleton archer) for simplicity's sake. However, rather than drybrushing afterwards, I reapplied the midtone and did the highlighting using layering and sidebrushing.

Looking pretty good so far!

Since this was a pretty simple miniature, I did the wooden parts and the "grass" base at the same time, starting with base coating.

The difference in the brightness of the bones from the previous picture is from a shift in lighting, not redoing the paint job

And here you can see the highlighting on the back

For the base, again, going with a wash for the shading seemed like a sensible choice. For the spear shaft and shield, there wasn't much wood grain texturing on the miniature itself, but I still figured that shading them with a wash and doing some blended streaks for the highlighting would give a nice final look. As usual, while waiting for the washes to dry, I filled in some time by doing the next base coat, which was the metallic parts in this case.

Getting my shine on

Since a fairly rank-and-file skeleton minion in the Blood King's forces was unlikely to have the best equipment, I wanted to kill most of the shine on the metallic areas. To achieve that, I gave them a heavy coating of the requisite black wash, and I just did some fine highlighting with the base coat color on the spots that I thought would catch the most shine, omitting going with a brighter silver. I also did some lining with black where it seemed appropriate; filled in black on the blob where the pelvis, shield, and left hand are all kind of merged together due to fabrication limitations; and did the writing on the shield.

Here are the end results:

I'd doubted it a bit at first, but the eyes turned out pretty awesome

The back is far less interesting on this miniature

For comparison purposes, here's a side-by-side shot with both skeletons:

Stupid spear head being impossible to focus at this angle

Looking at that, here are my thoughts:

  • The simple base coat/wash/drybrush approach of the archer did give a decent result, but I prefer the more focused highlighting on the spearman, because the abundance of the white highlight on the archer makes it look much cleaner/newer, which isn't something that I want in this case.

  • Similarly, the highlighting on the archer's bow is way too bright for my desired final appearance.

  • In both miniatures, the wash didn't add enough darkness to the gap areas, such as between the ribs or between the bones of the forearms and lower legs. Hitting those with a focused grey or black layer would've probably given a better final result.

  • The base of the spearman is clearly superior, if only because it doesn't look quite so much like plastic. I still stand by what I said in my post about the kit, that I think it's foolish to try to pass that texturing off as grass.

  • Blacklining around the hand holding the weapon makes things look much better.

  • On that note, I should've blacklined the border between the spearhead and the spear shaft. Oops.

  • Neither miniature ended up with good results for the teeth. I think the grooves between them are just too shallow to have an easy time of avoiding painting over them while highlighting at my current skill level. For the next skeleton that I do, I might want to cut in some deeper grooves with my knife to see if that helps.

  • Filling in black for the nose socket of the spearman improved that feature a lot.

  • Despite my ugly freehand, the writing on the shield and the glowing eyes make the spearman a far more interesting model than the archer.

All in all, it's nice to see how I've improved. The archer isn't bad, really, but the spearman shows some real progress towards being able to paint at a display-quality level. I've still got more work to do to get there, but at least I am making some headway towards it.

Up next: more practice with random free miniatures, I think. Maybe I should do another of the skeletons to try out some of those ideas from my thoughts above.

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