Tutorial: Basics – Back in Black: Painting Black Armour
I’m baa-aack! With an appropriately named tutorial to boot. It’s been what, a month since I did an ‘official’ tutorial for Hand Cannon?? Not counting the previews of course. I hope you all enjoy, good readers!
This is another in my Basics series of tutorials, that covers some of the fundamental techniques in miniature painting. A lot of novice (and experienced!) painters have trouble with painting blacks. This proves to be a colour that is just a problematic for some as painting white. In this article I will cover the basic techniques for painting black; specifically, black armour plating. In addition to this, since it’s a very short article, and easy technique to master, I’ll cover making snow for your miniatures bases as well.
All paints used in this tutorial are Formula P3, unless stated otherwise.
For this tutorial, I’m using a commissioned model from one of my regular clients; the character Warjack that released in Warmachine: Wrath for Khador – Black Ivan.
I’ve already covered painting black, using several tints of highlight, which was for cloth: Painting Cloth and Highlighting Black, in which I go over proper techniques for thinning your paint, and several colors that can be used for highlighting black cloth. These methods work fine for clothing, and if the surface is rounded, and organic. But the techniques are less applicable to flat armor plates.
This tutorial also uses extensively, Two-Brush Blending. Familiarize yourself with this technique, and practice it over and over as much as you can. It becomes invaluable when painting larger models like Warjacks, and flat, featureless surfaces. You will need a smooth graduation of color to get this method to work, and look it’s best.
The most basic rule to follow when painting black armour;
If you want a surface to appear black, then 50% or more of that surface must remain pure, untouched black.
I call this the 50-50 Rule.
If you’re wondering why your models don’t appear black when you finish highlighting them, this is 99% likely the reason; too much of the surface is painted with highlight colors.
When painting Warjacks, I usually paint all the pistons and innards first. As per my standard means of applying paint – work from the inside out. Anything that is difficult to access, or hard to reach will get paint first. I always completely paint an area before moving onto the next. In this case, however, I left the final glaze on the reds until the very end. This was to enable a more consistent colour overall, and keep the reds coherent across the entire model.
Once the preliminary painting is complete, I base coated all of the black armor plates with Thamar Black.
I then highlighted 50% of each plate with pure Coal Black, and blended the bottom edge out with a second brush. This is going to be difficult to see in the first photo, as it’s very subtle in the bright light of my lightbox. After this first photo, I took the pictures directly on my painting table, as it’s much clearer and easier to see what’s happening.
Treat every armor plate as a separate surface, with its own lighting for the best effect.
There are several colors you can use to lighten Coal Black, and the P3 color chart suggests Menoth White Base. I don’t.
Coal Black has a fair bit of green in it, and Menoth White Base, having such a yellow tint, accentuates this. I find it makes the Coal Black turn into a sickly green, and not a blue-ish black I assume it’s supposed to be.
You can use Underbelly Blue, Frostbite, Arcane Blue, and Morrow White, depending on what tint you want. Don’t use Menoth White Highlight, as the creamy white will again emphasize the greenish tint of the Coal Black, leaving you with an undesirable highlight. Well, unless you want your blacks highlighted a sickly green (Cryx!).
For this tutorial, I used Frostbite, and it’s usually my go-to color for lightening Coal Black.
I used roughly a 5:1 ratio of Coal Black to Frostbite for the second highlight. This was applied to the top 50% of the first, Coal Black highlight, and the bottom edge was again blended out with a second brush.
The next stage (I went for 6 layers of highlight, since I wanted a nice smooth gradation of color, and the areas kept getting 50% smaller with each layer of highlight, you can apply this many layers very quickly.) uses about 4:1 Coal Black to Frostbite, and covers the top 50% of the second highlight.
You see what’s happening here yet? Highlight half the surface of the armour plate, and then highlight half of the previous highlight. Rinse, and Repeat.
Covering only 50% of each previous layer of highlight will ensure that the 50% pure black remains visible. Even though the top edge, and uppermost highlights look blue, the eye will still register black. Regardless of what tint you use for your black highlights, remain true to the 50-50 Rule.
The next layer is roughly 3:1 Coal Black to Frostbite, and again, we follow the 50-50 Rule. Blend out the lower edge with a second brush, and we’re starting to see some results.
Keep going, increasing the amount of Frostbite to your Coal Black. I usually mix just a small amount of highlight, as when painting Warjacks, I use a W&N #2. This brush has a huge belly, and will hold enough paint to highlight the entire ‘jack without dipping back into the palette.
This highlight was roughly 2:1 Coal Black to Frostbite. Only the upper edges of each armor plate, and the top-most area of the rounded plates received this highlight. Use the edge of your brush for the corners and edges, just use a light touch. This is much easier than trying to paint with the tip, and you’ll end up getting much straighter lines with very little practice.
The final highlight used a mix of 1:1 Coal Black to Frostbite, and this was applied very sparingly on just the corners of each of the armor plates.
And that is how you paint black!
Easy, isn’t it?
Now, I’ll show you how I make my snow, since I get questioned about it fairly frequently. It’s easy, and looks great.
I use Gale Force 9 Snow Flock, but just about any brand will do.
Don’t use Baking Soda! It yellows over time, and with the amount of products specifically made for this, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting hold of any. It’ll cost about 2 bucks more than a box of baking soda, and if you’re worried about spending 2 bucks in this hobby; you’re in the wrong hobby!
I mixed equal amounts of white glue, and snow flock on a old blister with a sculpting tool. Make sure it’s a thick paste. You should be able to pick it up with your tool, and it should drop off slowly, and retain its shape for the most part. If you need to use a bit of water to thin it down, this is perfectly acceptable.
Scoop some of the paste up with your sculpting tool, and glob it onto the base.