Tutorial: Painting Red
Step-by-Step: Painting Red
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Red has been known as a notoriously difficult colour to paint well. It can be a daunting colour to get rich and bright -- too much white in your highlights and it turns pink, too much yellow and it turns orange. What to do?
I've tried a lot of different methods for painting red before finally coming up with this solution. I don't claim that this is the end-all, be all of "how to paint red," but it works for me and results in deep, rich red.
After cleaning and basic assembly, the figure was primed with Citadel White. As always, for painting, I mounted it temporarily on a wooden block with a hot glue gun. The figure for this tutorial is the female sweeper from Reaper Miniatures' Townsfolk 2825 "Commoners."
Colours used in this tutorial will predominately be Vallejo Game Colour Black, Vallejo Model Colour #859 Cadmium Maroon, GW Scab Red, GW Blood Red, and Vallejo Model Colour Transparent Red (or Tamiya Colour Clear Red, or GW Magenta Ink). Optionally, we'll also use a tiny touch of Reaper Master Fire Orange (mixed in with another colour).
In what might be a tradition of the miniature painting world, painters have always been encouraged to paint red over a white base coat for brightness. True, this does make the midtones quite bright and cheerful, but it also means that highlighting has to go beyond GW Blood Red -- and that is where we encounter the danger of red becoming "too pink" or "too yellow."
To avoid this highlighting problem, we have to go in the other direction. We make GW Blood Red our uppermost highlight and shade down. Many other painters have discovered this, using dark browns and even deep greens. In this tutorial, I'll use black as the base coat. Yes, black!
But don't worry as we won't be leaving it black for long. Immediately in the next step, we add a 50/50 mix of black and VMC Cadmium Maroon. This is applied just about everywhere except the deepest folds. Keep the coverage smooth and even.
Alternately, if you're only using Games Workshop colours, we would use a 75/25 mix of black and GW Scab Red. Note the difference in mix: Cadmium Maroon is deeper than Scab Red, so we have to mix in more black for the same effect.
The next stage is likely predictable: a thin, smooth layer of straight Vallejo Cadmium Maroon, covering a smaller area than the previous coat(s) covered.
Using only GW paints, this layer would be a mix of 50/50 black and GW Scab Red.
After the Cadmium Maroon, we begin glazing a thin layer of GW Scab Red to bring up the midtones.
I've tried to apply the highlights consistently in the direction of the cloth (in this case, from top to bottom). Try to keep the coverage smooth and even, but don't worry if the layers appear slightly streaked at this stage -- later steps will compensate for this.
Mix a small amount of GW Blood Red with GW Scab Red, just enough to lighten it from the previous layer. Even though we've begun mixing in some of our topmost highlight colour, we are actually still only working on our midtones, so apply this layer with that in mind.
By this step we're using pure GW Blood Red, but we're not applying it as a final highlight. When everything is done, this will be our uppermost midtones. You'll also note that with this highest colour why it's important to keep the brushstrokes in line with the positioning of the cloth.
Bang! Zoom! You don't have to say that at this stage, but I find it fun to do so. Here we've taken our favourite deep red wash (either GW Magenta Ink, Vallejo Transparent Red, or Tamiya Clear Red) and covered everywhere. Even in the shadows.
This does several things. First, it tones down our strong highlight colour. Second, it smooths out our transistions. Third, it lends a red tone to our deep black shadows. Any time the transistions become too apparent or obvious in later stages, thin down some of the ink or glaze and apply again.
Now we officially move into working on the highlights. We'll start by setting the stage with a little GW Scab Red, applied thin so as not to overwhelm previous layers. Focus this colour on the uppermost areas of the figure, places where highlights would naturally fall.
I also line the edges of cuffs, dresses, shirts, etc, to strength the outline of the red area. A small amount of GW Blood Red mixed in helps this effect. As mentioned previously, a thinned application of our ink/glaze colour may be necessary.
Ah, finally the upper highlight colour applied as a highlight! Keep the GW Blood Red thin -- we don't want to ruin all our carefully built up colours -- and highlight normally.
Notice how drastically the change has been: we still have a very deep, almost black red in the recesses, yet we've got that sharp blood red colour on the highlights, and the transistions flow well thanks to thin layers. Depending on your brush work, you may want to apply a thin coat of our ink/glaze.
This stage is purely optional. To sharpen highlights, edge them with a 75/25 mix of GW Blood Red and Reaper Master Series Fire Orange, or thin down the orange heavily and apply it directly. I use a fairly small brush for this, as we want to avoid the "orange look." It may not be necessary to do this as GW Blood Red has a lot of orange in it already.
I choose to do this because the figure is otherwise rather plain and I wanted a little more sharpness in the highlights. For the sake of comparison, I did not do this for the Samurai or the axe-chick in the main image.
Here's how the red looks with the other colours. Pretty nifty, huh?
There is, however, another purely optional step. After finishing the figure, you may want to further define the areas of red from the rest of the miniature. I've done this with a thinned down mix of black and GW Goblin Green, applied as blacklining (that is to say, only along the edges of colour). You can see this effect especially around her waist.
May you never fear red again!
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