Painting Large Scale Heads Part 1

Mark Bannerman

While I have restricted myself to painting 1/35th scale figures over the past four or five years, I decided to take the plunge and attempt a larger scale figure. I was somewhat hesitant for two reasons - on small scale figures, you can get away with many more errors, and secondly, you have a whole lot less area to cover. Anyhow this was going to be an experiment of sorts and I was looking forward to trying it out.

I purchased one of Tamiya's 1/16th scale releases of a German in a winter outfit. I never looked at large scale figures in any great detail in the past and quite frankly, these were never of any interest to me. But I was truly amazed at the detail of this figure and could not wait to give it a go.

In this article, I will share with you how I approached painting a large scale face and hopefully provide some useful tips that will aid those who have a preference for larger scale figures. I used Rob Plas' "Painting Large Scale Figures" article in this site as a source of reference and a few articles I clipped out of Military Modelling. Rob's article is a very good source of information. For anyone who has not read this, I recommend it highly

There is always the paramount question whether the approach is or should be any different on large scale faces as it is for small scale faces. I soon found out that, in my case, there is no difference. Lynn Kessler has been saying this for a long time - but I never believed him :) I used the very same methodology which I use on 54mm figures. The only difference is in providing for sharper detail in the eyes and the need for far less "exaggerated" highlights and shadows. These are the only differences which I could find.

I painted the head in oils using the same approach per my article on "Painting Faces in 1/35th and 54mm Scale" - that is, primed in Tamiya acrylics and the rest in oils. I spent an entire morning getting the head painted and I was very pleased with the outcome. I added two series of highlights and two series of shadows and it turned out remarkably well. I let the head sit for three days to allow the oils to thoroughly dry before I put the final touch of a few squirts of Semi-Gloss coat. Alas, in my final step of spraying gloss coat straight from a Testors can, I accidentally sprayed Matt White and completely obliterated the face ! I was mortified - my first attempt on a large head gone down the drain! This will teach me a valuable lesson - put the correct cap back on the spray cans when finished.

I sat down and contemplated my next move - strip ? paint over ? Give up the hobby entirely ? After much deliberation, I decided to paint over the Testors' White "over prime", but this time using Humbrol paints. Knowing the quick drying time of Humbrols (20 minutes or so), and the problems associated with blending enamels, I prepared myself for a solid couple of hours of painting and doing the face entirely in one sitting.

My first step was to follow Bill Horan's method of mixing Humbrol Flesh (50%), White (40%) and Natural Wood #110 (10%) to a light peachy colour. I applied two thin cotes over the entire face including eye sockets. I mixed in Natural Wood (10%) in the flesh base (that is,Flesh+White+Natural Wood) and placed in shadows areas - deeps of the

cheeks, nose, eyes, and forehead. I repeated this step again by adding a bit of Chocolate Brown (15%) with flesh base and adding into selective shadow areas, particularly around the nose and eye sockets.

While this dried, I added a minute amount of Humbrol Brick Red (10%) with some thinner to the base Flesh tone and applied to cheek areas in a square pattern. I drew out the reddish colour outwards and stippled it into the semi-wet flesh base. I added a bit more Brick Red (10%), with a touch of Crimson Red (5%) cut with thinner and applied to cheeks and again drew out using same stippling and jabbing motion.

For the deep shadows, I applied very thin lines of Raw Umber oil paint around the nostrils, between lips, under nose, chin, and in the eye sockets. This was applied using a "Liner" paint brush recommended to me by several fellow modellers. I honestly cannot do without this brush since this discovery. Make certain to keep the Raw Umber very thin.

For the highlights, I added Humbrol Flesh (40%) with white (60%) mixed with a drop of thinner and applied the mix in selective places - nose bridge, forehead, above brows, on cheek bones, on nostrils and tip of chin. I then resorted to using the "micro-dot" approach of Titanium White oils and selectively applying these to high points on the face.

Eyes were next - this was far easier than painting 54mm eyes ! I applied an off-white Humbrol colour (I think it's called Humbrol Linen), and applied two thin lines in and across the socket with my trusty liner brush. I then mixed some blue and grey and applied the pupils with a brush. In the centre of this, I applied two minuscule dots of a black/brown mix with a toothpick splinter.

Lips were painted in a German Purple (Humbrol) and Flesh mix - nice colour and perfect for lip tones. Beard growth was applied using a mix of Humbrol Flesh and Payne's Grey oil dabbled on in minute amounts and drawn out as much as possible. This has to be very thin. Eyebrows were painted with Natural Wood (#110) and repainted with Raw Umber.


The attached photos was the result up to this point. I don't think I will need to gloss cote the face as there is enough sheen to it as is. (The sheen was the result of adding small amounts of Liquin to my enamel mixes to slow the drying period time). I will, however, add a spec of gloss to the irises to give the eyes a little life. The helmet was primed black and the scarf was primed Humbrol Dark grey and will be dealt with later on. That completes the painting of a large scale head with Humbrols enamels.

Using Humbrol paint was considerably different from using oils in that the drying and working time is drastically shortened. The above was done in about one and half hours with no bathroom or drink breaks. I do prefer oils as I can walk away for a day and return to blend, feather, remove, add, modify etc... With Humbrols, you have no other choice but to do it in one sitting. Moreover, Humbrol paint does not provide for very smooth surfaces. Under high magnification (and you might see it on the close up photo), the face looks pitted with a series of minuscule clumps. This is a probably a typical property of enamels when they are blended while semi-wet. This is not be noticeable at normal viewing distance, keeping in mind the head is only about the size of your thumb nail.

One advantage to large scale is that shadows and highlights need not be as pronounced as 54mm figures. Natural light will shed enough shadows and highlights to provide realism. I did apply some highlights and shadows but no where near the amount or the extremes I would ordinarily apply on a small scale figure. Incidentally, one trick which helped me enormously was adding Liquin to the enamels to make the paint dry slower. The enamels still dry quickly but a small amount of Liquin will provide an added 10-15 minutes of "wet-time". Liquin will also give that very desirable egg-shell sheen which gives the face a bit of life.

I attempted to take at least one very close-up photo so that you can see the transition on the face between highlights and shadows. You will note those little clumps I mention above.

Overall, a beautiful figure by Tamiya. An enjoyable project though I will admit I much prefer working at my own pace ! My next article (Part II) will be the painting of the body and accessories attached to this head.