Wargaming Tradecraft: Painting Glowing Eyes


Painting Glowing Eyes

 When painting my Ghoul Army, I decided to add a splash of colour to what was going to be strictly black and white. This ended up being a good decision to get a little contrast on the field.

I used this as an opportunity to write up a little tutorial on creating glows and to try out a new supply from Games Workshop, which I'll talk about too.
Optical Illusions and the "Halo" Effect

So a couple comments came up regarding the glow seeming to "curl" around the face.

  • Strictly speaking, a more realistic glow is probably to just paint the eye sockets. You'll see examples of that lower.
  • Consider it's not specifically about the light curling around the face so much as how we perceive the face looking through the glow. What I mean is if you stare at a bright light, there can be an aura you have to look through to see objects behind it. So we see the object with a layer of light in front of it that can change how we perceive the object, even if the light isn't actually hitting the object. Environmental effects like fog make this all the more apparent.

  • Then, as Tim Marsh suggested, there is the "rule of cool." A nice big glow effect is striking and attractive.
  • In the fantasy realm, who's to say magical glowing eyes don't emit a larger glow?
  • There are plenty of things we paint that aren't real but look better in our minds eye for it. (I'm slowly collecting some examples so I can speak to this at greater length.)
  • There is also ambiance like fog, rain, snow or other environmental and natural reflections that bounce light back towards their source. Think how much your cars lights light up the hood at night or how driving through the elements reflects back into your eyes.

Games Workshop Air - White Scar
(For Painting)

Games Workshop's Air paints are thinned to a consistency that works for both airbrushing and painting while still retaining the strength of pigment I've come to prefer in the Games Workshop line of paints compared to competition like P3. (OK, sure, I used P3 Beaten Purple on these eyes, I'm still working through some inventory.)

Painting Glowing Eyes

What I'll be demonstrating below are the key steps to creating the glowing blend.
  1. Tint Shadows (Optional)
  2. Eyes
  3. Base Coat
  4. Blend Inside to Light
  5. Blend Outside to Face
  6. Eyes
It's important that you leave definition around the eyes. An easy mistake is to wash them out completely while being able to see the form around the eye socket is more aesthetically pleasing.

This is also a sinister glow effect. You'll see a few other examples below with a more natural approach where the entire eye gets painted white (No shadows around the pupil / eye socket.) and a more natural coverage of the object source lighting. The larger glow on this face helps to demonstrate the concept though.

Shadow Wash (Optional)

I begin by tinting the shadows off-black. It's hard to tell, but I've painted a purple wash into all the shadows around the eyes so the shadows will blend a little closer to the glow.

Paint the Eyes, first?

I often suggest painting the eyes first. It was an easy step on this ghoul to "dot" his pupils white afterward because they're so pronounced. As I cover in my Flesh Tutorial, it can be easier for some people to paint the eyes first, then clean up where you painted out of the lines by painting the face's skin second.


In the next steps, I'm Mixing Paints Together using the Purple and White shown above. Starting with mostly purple and only a little bit of white, I paint all the areas around the eyes, including the pupils.

1. Base Layer

Mix mostly Purple, some White. Paint everywhere around the eyes. The brows, cheeks, nose, etc. Paint a little down the side of the face as well.

2. Blend Inside to Highlight

Using as many steps as you feel like, mix more and more white in to the purple. As you do, pull the highlight in, getting closer to the eyes and in small places.

3. Blend Outside to Face

Next, blend the glow into the skin colour of your miniature.

I've used a wash to blend the other edges of the glow into the rest of the face, shadows, etc. If any of the highlights look rough or to bright in some places, you can also use this step to wash/blend/darken them a bit.

For Lighter Skin

You'll want to mix the outer colour of the glow with the skin colour of the miniature to create the blend as the glow fades away.

I was going for a yellow glow at first, then changed my mind.

4. Eyes (Final Highlight)

Paint the eyes last, or do a final bright highlight if you painted them first so you're not painting the eyes again if you overwash or make a mistake. (Up to you.)

If I'd wanted to make the glow stronger, I could have added a little white to the facial glow as well.



Here are a few other examples of how to approach glowing eyes...

Quick and Dirty / Bright

You can also take an easy route:

  1. Paint the eyes white.
  2. Mix a bright colour with some water.
  3. Wash the "glow" on thick.
If you choose to extend the glow, you can paint a little of the colour you used around. That's demonstrated below on my Troll Champion Hero tutorial.


If you don't paint the eyes, but you do paint the glow, you can end up with an unearthly evil / hollow look.

Smaller / Pinpoint Glow

You don't have to go all out. Restrict the glow to the eye socket and paint some of the blending colours in the eye itself to make a smaller intense point of glow that doesn't impact your model's face like I did in the tutorial on my Doomshaper model.

I have a more detailed description on my Forsaken Fennblade WIP, but the photo below gives you a quick overview.


Just wanting to show that the glow doesn't have to be large and obvious or have intense outlining of the eyes to be effective.

Layering / Adding Depth

When I created the flames on my Pyre Troll, I also layered some gel in his eyes. In retrospect, I think I needed a little more definition (Why I suggest outlining eyes) or gone to a bright white to start with.

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