Wargaming Tradecraft: Back to Basics - Skin and Hair


Back to Basics - Skin and Hair

Ron of From the Warp
And now we come to the completion of Ron's and My series on Back to Basics. It's been a good run, there's been some excellent feedback, and you can bet that I won't forget the newer artists out there and will return to looks at ways to help you out.

This week we look at skin and hair, so naturally I have chosen a dwarven trollslayer. Head on over to From the Warp and take a look at Ron's mini for this week. He doesn't have a lot of skin, but he's done an incredible job of showing more cloth and leather painting using a simple pattern of layering washes to really bring out the detail.

As I'll be working with light and bright colours, I base the dwarf white. There's still a bunch of metallic places, which means I'll have to paint them black first when I get around to them.

Another reason not to base with black is that skin tones should be more blended rather than stark contrasts. Letting a wash flow around all the skin areas, muscles, crevices, etc will create a range of shades.
I'm going to be looking at his skin/face and hair first.

I use a darker Kommando Khaki for his skin and Blazing Orange for his hair.

Things to note is to not lay the flesh colour down too thick, because with all the open area, it'll streak. Painting his hair is like painting chain mail - there's a lot of cracks and crevices, making it easy to end up with the paint making bubbles, leaving white areas beneath - Thin the paint down with some water so it flows better and paint in the same direction his hair flows.
Both his skin and hair get a liberal helping of Ogryn Flesh. If it's not dark enough for your liking, give it a couple layers. Just avoid pools of wash, because it will dry thick.
Now it's the dry-brush stage, using the same colours we based with. This won't be the last step for skin, which benefits from another layer or so to look more natural.

For the hair, focus on areas that wouldn't be in shadow, adding more layers for the places most in the open.

For his skin, dry-brush everything but the recesses. This will give a good overall tone and blend into the wash's darker areas.

Use a smaller bad brush to dry-brush, one where the bristles haven't separated completely. This will give you more control over where your paint goes - Then you won't have to do touch-ups.
Finally, I use a combination of line and area highlighting to add Bleached Bone to the dwarf's skin. Instead of applying it to edges, however, I focus on raised and prominent areas. I'm talking knuckles, elbows, lips, foreheads, etc.

So, I always take two pictures of each step, and it would seem both were blurry of the first step here. His eyes and teeth are first painted with P3 White and tongue with Warlock Purple.

I then use Necron Abyss as pupils and a mix of Warlock Purple and White to highlight his tongue. I finish by spreading some Ogryn Flesh wash around his eyes and teeth to soften the strong white.

Watch when you paint his pupils that they're both pointing in the same direction.
Next we move on to the leathers, cloths and wood. His pants are Vomit Brown, the axe handle is Dark Flesh, and everything else is Snakebite Leather.

If you're worried about getting paint on his hands while painting the axe handle, paint it first.
Because of how dark the Dark Flesh axe handle is, a wash won't do much. Instead I mix some with White and throw in some highlights.

The rest of the leather and cloth is covered in Devlan Mud.

Then I decide to have some fun - to make his hair pop, I add contrast by throwing Devlan Mud into the shadows of his hair.
Again a simple highlight by lining and edging with the same colours as I based with.
The metallic areas need to be based, so they all get the Chaos Black treatment.

His axe's dragon emblem is washed with Badab Black to make it lighter and stand out.
Next is a quick dry-brushing stage.

Boltgun Metal on the axe, Mithril Silver on the dragon and bracelets, Shining Gold on his jewelry.
I'm making blue the accent colour, so I wash the dragon with Asurmen Blue, then his earrings and rings are painted metallic blue.
To add a special touch, I've gelled some of the areas on him. I haven't used Gold Mica before, and it ended up looking nice. Lava gel has a glossy black flecked look.

I use a dentist pick to carefully place gold flecks on all the raised areas of his jewelry and silver bands. His base then gets indiscriminately covered in lava.

The gold flecks dried looking really nice - very gold "treasure" like. Lava gel, layered thick, ends up looking sludgy and similar to tar.

And that brings Back to Basics to a close, with an angry axe swinging dwarf. Just look at the insane look on his face! Nothing really new introduced here:

  • Add an extra layer of colour to make flesh look more natural.
  • Use line/edge and area highlights to paint muscles, just concentrate on raised areas instead.
  • Paint hair along the grain and thin the paint to make it flow better.
  • Highlight hair with a dry-brush and wash to add optional contrast.
  • Wash your skin-tone around the eyes and teeth so whites don't stand out so strong.

Don't forget to come back on Friday for a special announcement!


  1. I like the tips on the gold flakes and lava gel. Are you going to paint the base a different color or leave it black? It looks like some nice nasty goopy mud that he's running through.

  2. Just leaving it like that because I like the goopy/tar look.

    I'll be covering gels eventually as I used them a lot, but I want the time to properly discuss them.

  3. It looks good like that in the black color. I'll definitely have to read that article when you write it.

  4. Dave, you could not have picked a better model for skin and hair. I wish I'd picked something as good as your's.

    Nice work.
    Ron, From the Warp


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