Patchwork Clothing & Stitching
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All you really need for this effect is a steady hand and a good brush with a small tip (Winsor & Newton Series 233 size 000 works perfectly).
When it comes to miniatures, the real "wow" factor is all about visual interest. A quick and easy method to snap some of that interest into your figures is painting on stitches and patchwork.
The first thing that might come to mind is a lich or an orc wearing heavily stitched outfits. Certainly that can work well, but as with most elements of visual interest, patches and stitches work best as accents where appropriate. Still, many more figures than you would at first realize can make use of this technique. Imagine a Halfling with a knee patch, an Imperial Guardsman with a wound, or an Elf Druid with embroidery.
The technique is very straight forward: contrast of colour, black stitches, highlight those stitches. I'll walk you through the process of adding a painted-on patch to a cloak.
Patches are simple business. The first step is to paint the cloth (or leather, or flesh, etc) as you would normally. Do all your standard highlighting and shading, then decide the best place to put your stitches and patchwork.
One of the best things about patches is that you can use them in places where more complex patterns would simply be too much (or too difficult due to the figures shape, size, etc). A miniature needs to have an overall cohesiveness, so patches can be a perfect way of bringing in splashes of colour without being overwhelming. They can be any size, shape, or colour as needed.
Stitching is considerably more subtle, but can even be used to hide those annoying mold lines that everyone forgets when preparing a miniature.
As you can see, I put the paint on a little too thick in my rush to photograph for this tutorial. I also shifted the block of colour to flow with the robes more than I'd originally outlined.
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