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Painting Figures - Adding Details

Mark Bannerman

Here are a few small tips on detailing your figure's face.

Lips:  Only the lower lip should be painted. Generally, the  best combination is to take your base flesh colour (i.e.  Gold Ochre, White and Burnt Sienna) and mix in a dash of Alizarin Crimson oils at a 50/50 ratio. Apply the colour to the lower lip with either a toothpick or a fine brush. Once this is dry, add a tiny dot of pure white oil paint in the centre of the lip. This provides for a slight  shine.

Beard Growth: I prefer using a combination of Paynes Grey with Burnt Umber and applying it very lightly, almost a drybrush stippling motion to the area you want covered. It has to be very subtle. Some will use pastels, or acrylic paints. Pastels do work, but unfortunately, one little pastel spec of dust can easily find itself on the cheek or nose and it is virtually impossible to remove without leaving a darker shade. I have never used acrylics for this so I  cannot comment - but I suspect that the fast drying time will not make it easy to alter if it either too heavy or the wrong shade.

Cheeks:  Rosy cheeks is quite easily duplicated by adding Humbrol 50 with Burnt Sienna (50/50) to your flesh base and lightly applying to the cheeks area. It is best to apply this when the base flesh tone used for the face is still wet so that you can blend the two together. However, I tend to apply this last and directly on top of the dry flesh paint. If it looks too rosy, add a little of your mix of flesh to it and blend it in. Another neat trick which I saw done recently was to very lightly wash your figure`s head with Burnt Sienna when the face paint was dry. Surprisingly, it added not only another shadow shade but stained the flesh tone to a reddish tone. It is very subtle and truly effective.

Eyes: The eye ball is not really white at all. A good combination is to mix in white with Humbrol flesh 50/50 and apply to the eye sockets. The irises are then applied in either Burnt Umber, Sepia or a dark blue colour. I don't generally apply a catch light, but will add a drop of gloss cote to the irises to make them slightly shiny. The catch light is difficult because it has to be that much smaller than the irises and they have to be lined up exactly.

Eyebrows:  I rarely paint these - but in some instances where these are necessary, use a toothpick splinter and apply dotted  line of Raw Umber across the eyebrow area.

Hair:  I have found a good colour for hair is Humbrol 110 with a light wash of Burnt Sienna and another wash of Raw Umber. I then pick out highlights with Humbrol 110 mixed with white. I have never painted anything but brown hair. Beards and mustaches can be treated similarly. Another effective colour match is to paint the hair dark brown and apply a light grey for the highlights to depict an aged figure.

Hands:  I treat hands similarly to the face. However, the Raw Umber wash could a be a little heavier to ensure that the recesses between the fingers are well accentuated. Another wash of Burnt Sienna will shade those areas between the deep shadows and high points on the hand. A neat trick after this all dries is to add little specs of white oil on  the knuckles and joints. Once the white dots are in place, draw a wide brush across the hand and the white oil paint will blend out. This could either be done wet on wet or right over the dry paint.

Liquin: I occasionally add Liquin to my flesh base (Gold Ochre, Burnet Sienna and White) for several reasons. It adds  transparency and sheen to the flesh, improves the flow of oil colours consequently removing brush strokes and it will speed up the drying time of oils.

Sheen: If you don`t have Liquin, acrylic gloss coat is just as good. Generally, I will apply a combination of rubbing alcohol to gloss coat and carefully apply it to high points on the face - above eyebrows, on cheek bone, nose  bridge and nostrils, tips of ears, and in the middle of lower lip. This will accentuate your highlights even more resulting in greater depth of your flesh.

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