Painting Demo Extra – Painting Faces

This time on Painting Demo Extra, Sue takes us through her process for painting faces!

When looking at miniatures, the face is often a focal point. In this article, I wanted to talk about the 4 different ways of painting eyes, the natural light and and shadows on a face, some differences between male and female faces, and using “makeup” to achieve different looks. We’ll also talk about painting eyebrows and lips.

When working on fine details like face details, I recommend using a Citadel Layer Small Brush, or even a Windsor & Newton brush. What you are looking for in a fine detail brush is a brush with a nice point at the end. Some people like to lick their brushes to make the bristles stick together for greater brush control, however, I have found that you can achieve this same idea by dipping your brush in a Contrast Paint (I usually use white) and twisting it into a point. Some, if not all, Contrast Paints are a little bit sticky. You’ll want to wash the Contrast Paint off the brush before adding your color.

(Note: I’ll be talking about washes and shades in this article, which are essentially the same thing, just called by different names depending on the brand.)

Painting Eyes

At the Sentry Box, there are 4 main ways we teach to paint eyes:

  • Using a brown shade in the eye recess
  • Painting cartoonishly large eyes and then drawing the eyelids overtop
  • Drawing a white line and a dot
  • Drawing a dark line with a white dot on either side of the eyeball

Using a Brown Shade

If the eyes on your model are quite small, or you don’t want to paint eyes, I strongly recommend using a brown wash in the eye recess rather than doing nothing at all. There is a natural shadow in the eye recess and adding this brown wash will make it your miniature look more natural.

I typically like to do the brown shade in the eyes before adding any Contrast Paint or flesh wash because it’s easier to fix if the wash ends up someplace you don’t want.

Making Cartoonishly Large Eyes First

In this method, you draw large white eyes with a black dot, and then you draw the top and bottom lid overtop, followed by cheeks and eyebrows if you like. Note that when you are drawing the eyelids overtop, you will want to use a darker color in between the white of the eye and the color of the skin. I typically like to use a Dryad Bark for a natural look or black for eyeliner. This will make your eyes stand out, and look more natural due to the natural shadow of the eye.

When I got Falirun of Scardale for D&D Onslaught his eyes were only painted to step 1 – paint cartoonishly large eyes, so I painted eyelids overtop.

Note: the eyeball is not perfectly centered between the top and bottom eyelid. Instead, it is slightly closer to the top eyelid. If your eyeballs are too close to the bottom lid, your miniature might look surprised.

Drawing a White Line with a Dot OR a Dark Line with Two White Dots

We’re going to look at the last two methods together as they are really quite similar and really come down to personal preference. For our illustration we have drawn the right eye with a white line and a dot and the other eye with the two white dots so you can see how they look. Whichever method you choose, you will want to have a dark line underneath to make the eyes stand out and look more natural. Again, I like to use Dryad Bark or a black, but you may choose a slightly lighter color if the Dryad Bark is too dark for you.

I used Dryad Bark and white for Luke’s eyes here.

Painting Warpaint, Tattoos, etc.

I also like to do any funky make up, tattoos, warpaint, birth marks, or anything else on the skin before adding the Contrast Paint or wash. I have used the line and dot technique for this Githzarai monk, but I also painted his spots before adding the yellow Contrast Paint for his skin.

Painting Eyebrows

I typically like to paint eyebrows before adding the Contrast Paint or wash so that I can correct any mistakes at this stage where they are much easier to correct. I want to make sure the eyebrow color is dark enough that it will stand out against the flesh color, even if that means the eyebrows on my models have to be a darker shade than the hair.

Men’s eyebrows and women’s eyebrows are typically slightly different in shape. When painting male eyebrows, I typically like to have a consistent thickness throughout the brow.

However, when painting female eyebrows, I like to start off thicker towards the center of the face and get thinner towards the edge of the face.

When painting the eyebrows of an older miniature, you may want to leave your eyebrows grey, or you may want to try going back over them with a white once the Contrast Paint or flesh wash is dry on your face.

I left his eyebrows grey.
I painted dark grey eyebrows before adding the Guilliman Flesh Contrast Paint to his face and drew white eyebrows overtop after the Contrast Paint had dried.

Painting Lips

Painting lips is pretty straightforward. The goal is obviously to get the paint where the lips are. However, when looking at the natural light and shadow on lips, the top lip usually appears darker and the bottom lip usually appears lighter. Once you’re feeling more confident with your brush control, once you’ve drawn the lips, simply painting a straight line over the lower lip in a lighter color makes your lips really pop. I typically do this stage before doing the Contrast Paint or wash/shade stage so that I can fix it if I make a mistake. Sometimes I might need to try a couple of times to get that highlight just so. I’ll often mix the lip color I’ve chosen with white to make that lighter color for the bottom lip highlight. Sometimes I even just use white, so that when I add the flesh wash or flesh colored Contrast Paint the lip highlight will be a similar color to the skin.

If you’re looking for a more natural looking lip, I like Bugman’s glow. It matches colors like Kislev Flesh or Guilliman Flesh but dark enough that it’ll stand out even after a wash or a Contrast Paint. If you’re painting darker skin, you’ll probably want to choose a color that is about 2 shades darker than your skin color so that it will stand out. If you’re looking for a natural look, you’ll want to choose other flesh colors (just darker) when painting your lips.

If you’re looking for a bolder look, for example; for a sorceress or a sci-fi model, you might be thinking about red lipstick. I like a darker red like a Gal Vorbak Red or a Khorne Red. Even though colors like Wild Rider Red and Evil Sunz Scarlet are great all purpose reds, I typically like to stay away from orangeish reds like these when painting lipstick.

I gave Asajj Ventriss head tattoos and I used Gal Vorbak for her lipstick. If you’re interested in learning more about painting this model, please check out my separate article on how to paint her.

You can always get creative when choosing a lipstick color as well. You might want black lipstick for an evil sorcerer or priest, or you might want blue lipstick for an ice witch. When painting cyberpunk models, you also may want to try fun lipstick colors like blue, green, purple, or even a dark silver. Whichever color you choose, you always want to try to pick something that is at least a couple of shades darker than your skin color so that it noticeably stands out against the skin.

I gave this Twilek blue lipstick.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re new to painting faces, I recommend getting a few models to practice on. Some Games Workshop Box Sets have lots of heads and are a great opportunity to practice painting faces. Alternatively, the Dungeons & Dragons minis are inexpensive, so you can pick up a few to practice on. If you buy the D&D minis, just double check the size of the heads of the models you are picking up as some of them are quite small, and may be too small to be really be great to practice on.

Hopefully some of these techniques will resonate with you as an artist. I have found that you can really have fun painting faces if you have the brush and technique that works best for you. I hope that you have fun painting faces and making lots of interesting characters!