Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Freehand Banner Painting

This post will show you the process that I go through when doing freehand banner work. I will also discuss some basic techniques.

This kind of freehand work greatly enhances not only the model it's on, but the overall army. It gives you a place to show off your skill, and in many tournaments will earn you a few extra paint points.

Step 1: Determine what you want to freehand paint onto the banner. I have a skull theme going for my Beastmen army, and that will be carried over into my Bull Ogres. To find new and interesting skulls I go to Google images, do a search, and then scan the results (sometimes 100's of them!).
This pic is of a camel skull. It is what I decided to use for this latest banner, since it was rather unique compared to the skulls I've done before.

Step 2: Basecoat the banner with whatever color that you would normally basecoat your banner with. I used the Vallejo Regal Blue equivalent here. After that, paint an outline of your freehand image onto the banner.
The reason for this step is so that you don't have to waste a bunch of time highlighting parts of the banner that you will later be doing freehand work over.

Step 3: Highlight the banner. The colors that I used here are the same as were used on my other Beastmen blues. Blended layers starting with the Vallejo Regal Blue equivalent, through the old Citadel Enchanted Blue, and on up to the Vallejo Ice Blue equivalent. There were many mixed shades in between those colors.
I ended up highlighting this banner twice, as I wasn't very happy with it the first time. That is why there ended up being so much blue over the Scorched Brown outline of the skull.
Thankfully, I was plenty happy with it the second time around.

Step 3: Re-outline your freehand art.
It still looks woefully out of place on there, but stick with it. You'll note that I added enlarged front teeth to the skull. That was to make it a bit scarier looking.

Step 4: Start highlighting the freehand image. This is a matter of looking closely at your stock art/photo, and trying to match it on the banner. I used Citadel Bestial Brown for this first highlight layer. You have to use much water with the paint, in order to get the smooth transitions between the dark and light browns.
This step still doesn't look like much, but you can really start to see it coming together.

You often have to improvise a bit from the original artwork, for whatever reason. Perhaps the detail on the original art is too fine. Perhaps you simply cannot make it look right with brush and paint. Whatever the case, be aware that you may have to be a bit inventive to get it to look just right. There's nothing that says that you absolutely have to stick to your stock art without change.

Step 5: Add the next highlight layer to the freehand art. For this layer I used Citadel Bleached Bone, and a lot of water. The water is absolutely key to get the transitions to look right.
It takes practice to get used to how much water to use. Typically I start with a mix of 75% paint, 25% water. Every single brush of paint gets lightly dipped into water again though, sometimes multiple times. It depends on how thoroughly I need to water it down; which depends on how seamless I want my blends to be.

Step 6: Continue highlighting until done. The final highlight for me was next. I used Vallejo Model Color White here, as that's the only white paint that I have left. Again, it was significantly watered down by the time it touched the model.
To get the blends smooth, you end up painting heavily watered down paint over the same parts of the artwork many times.

Patience is a real virtue when trying to pull off something like this. The starker the contrast between two highlight colors, the more effort (and therefore time) it takes to make the transitions look good.

You'll note that I had to make the top of the skull a bit shorter than the original artwork depicted. It was just too difficult to try to paint behind the skull that I attached to the top of the banner pole.

I'll post a few pics of the minotaur that this banner is attached to when he's all done. That'll give you an idea of what it looks like when the model is all finished, and how this freehand work ties into the completed model.

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