Step-by-Step: Painting Gemstones
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Whether set into the pommel of a sword, worn on a gaudy ring, holding prisoner the soul of a princess, or nestled into that plasma device from some alien dimension, gemstones have proven themselves a staple in fantasy roleplaying or scifi wargaming. Luckily, they're extremely easy to incorporate into your miniature painting routine! Follow along "flip-book" style to learn this basic technique.
Though aimed at beginners, the last step of this painting tutorial with examples of other gemstone types may prove inspirational for intermediate and expert painters.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm using the head of a pin to represent our gemstone. By the time of the photo, I have stuck the pin through a bit of cardboard and primed the whole thing white.
Colours used in this tutorial will predominately be Vallejo Game Colour Black, GW Jade Green, and GW Skull White. That's right -- that's all the colours you need to make excellent gems. It's not about the colour; it's about the highlighting.
This is a very simple step: I've painted the gemstone entirely black. I could have primed black if I'd wanted, but I prefer priming figures white for brighter colours. To get that good gemstone appearance, we'll need to start with a dark base and black fits the bill perfectly.
Alternately, you could use a dark shade of your base colour, but whatever the choice this stage needs to be the deepest and darkest of colours used.
The first hint of colour has arrived at this stage! Mix 50% black and 50% of your base colour (in this case, Jade Green) and apply it in a crescent moon shape on the bottom half of the gemstone.
Herein lies the trick to gemstones: it's all about the highlighting. Normally, highlights are applied to the top or outermost edges of a miniature. With gems, we do the exact opposite. The brightest colour will go along the bottom, simulating light passing through the translucent structure. You can't quite see it in this step, but trust me -- this sets the stage for later gemstone goodness.
Here, we refine the reverse highlighting with a thin glaze of the base colour of Jade Green. My goal here is a darker gem, so I'm applying it in very narrow, transparent bands.
Browsing through my galleries (or peeking at the main image here in this tutorial), you'll note that you can adjust the application of paint during this stage for various degrees of subtlety. Generally, the smaller the gemstone is, the more abrupt you need to make the transistions.
In this case, the head of the pin is quite large compared to your average 25mm or 28mm miniature -- nevermind the fact that I'm photographing this rather closely!
Up until now, the process has been essentially an exercise in mixing black with another colour at an extremely small scale. We'll change that now with a mix of 75% Jade Green and 25% Skull White, applied in a thin line along the very bottom edge of the gemstone.
As previously mentioned, this is to mimic the translucent quality of real gems, and at this stage the gemstone finally begins to look like a gemstone.
The final stage is the addition of a "hot spot" highlight. This is applied in the center of the darkest area of the gemstone and should be as small and round as possible.
With this final step, the gemstone is complete. If you've tried this for yourself, you've probably noticed how quick this process is, and for most gemstones this is all you'll ever really need. But of course, why stop there? There's still some room to explore ideas...
Remember, the gemstone process works for all colours, not just Jade Green! Note the group of semi-randomly selected colours, all created using varying intensities of highlighting and all using completely different colours.
Certainly the gemstone painting process is simple, but since it's all about the highlighting, you can still get inventive. The star gem was painted the same as the others, but had additional thin lines of highlighting applied to mimic a starburst. And the cat's eye gem was created by putting the highlighting in the center and then splitting it with a thin line of black (which also shows that gemstones make excellent eyes for large monsters).
So there you have it: Gemstones in a nutshell!
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