Tutorial: Streak Painting

Painting via Small Brush Streaking
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First layers of German Blue to block in the basic highlight locations.Additional layers to achieve a pseudo-non-metal look.
With continued streak layers of VMC #816 German Blue, the non-metallic metal effect slowly begins to form. Note the difference in the final panel, due to a thin layer of GW Codex Grey.
he next stages continue the layered streak effect.

Aside from the previously mentioned reverse highlighting, the procedure here is likely very familiar to the average miniature painter. The gradual addition of lighter shades progresses, either with seperate colours or by adding more and more of the lightest colour to the darkest (I'm doing the latter by adding VMC Ivory to the German Grey).

You should be able to see more clearly now how the streaks are focused on the lower edges of the weapon. To add some visual interest, I'm also creating a wide highlight right around the middle of the blade to represent a strong reflection. All of this is done with repeated light strokes of thin paint. I'm also leaving bands of the darkest colour visible though it would be just as easy to re-painting them with thinned black later on.

Of course, as more layers are added, the streaks become more prominent. For a tabletop quality paintjob this is perhaps no problem at all, but we want to do better. A thin wash of a very neutral grey will blend those streaks into a coherent piece of steel. In this case, I've used GW Codex Grey. This makes the strokes less prominent and more representative of the texture of steel. Apply a wash such as this any time the strokes are too obvious.

Though grey wash stages are quite important and can be used to correct some sloppiness, don't rely on them to conceal poor brushwork. It's far better to apply the streaks as thinly and uniformly as possible so that the grey wash enhances the look instead of being used as a correction.

Case in point -- after the grey wash, we go right back to the streak method to add further highlights.

In these stages, we are refining the areas of reflection, either by adding more and more ivory or by deepening the dark colours. Both of these are done to enhance the contrast between light and dark, and both can quickly and easily be handled with the streaking method. In addition, progressively lighter or progressively darker layers are added more towards the center of the previous layer, leaving bands of the previous layers visible on either side of a particular reflection.

Final highlights are picked out with ivory (or pure white for true contrast). These last highlights would be applied to all edges as well as the very center of large reflection areas.

Pretty spiffy, huh? Sounds like a lot of work, too, if you just read along with all those wordy explanations. However, I can assure it's not a lot of work at all. Streak painting is very fast for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the smaller streaks will dry quite quickly, even if thinned, letting you move through layers relatively rapidly. The method of application -- small, quick strokes of the brush -- is fast. It's also easy to control, reducing the amount of time spent making corrections.

There's also an abstract quality of the streak method. We're not really painting precision highlights or textures as much as we're implying their presence. I know, I know. It sounds like psycho-babble, but look at the end result: a sword with a steel like texture and yet we didn't paint a texture as much as sketch it. Think of the streak method as a shorthand way of painting. It works.

In Conclusion
As I approach the end of my tutorials, I always like to encourage folks to experiment and take the learned techniques to new levels. Personally, I use this technique a lot, ranging from the natural patterns for which I believe it was originally intended to the Non-metallic metal is the technique of using non-metallic paints to create the illusion of a metallic surface. It relies heavily on the proper placement of highlights rather than 'real life' shine. It's very commonly used -- just look at the logo on your average White Dwarf magazine.NMM method outlined above. And the main reason I like using this method is because it's fast.

But just because this is a fast painting method does not make it one that can not be used for high quality pieces. In fact, I've found the exact opposite is true. In combination with other techniques, especially washes and glazes, it's an excellent way to create patterns on otherwise flat surfaces.

Take, for example, the jeans on my Ork Madkowz Boss. Combining the streak method with a few light glazes and applying it in a cross-hatch pattern, a surprisingly nice jeans texture was created. Nevermind the cow, whose hide -- including the black spots -- was painted almost entirely with streaks for a more fuzzy appearance!

One could also go in entirely the opposite direction. Much like a thousand pixels combine to create an image, or how an artist draws in the blocky shapes of an ink drawing with a pencil, the streak method can be used as the basis for strong blending. Since each individual streak is small, a painter can sketch out highlights quickly and accurately using this method, and then wash and glaze those streaks into a smooth transistion. An example of this is the gold lapel moons on the Confrontation figure in the upper right corner of the accompanying photo. These were streak highlighted and then blended with washes. Very fast, and very effective.

With all that said, I'm hopeful that this exercise will as useful to the old experts as it will be to beginning painters, or as a useful alternative for those that struggle with achieving a glassy-smooth blend. Now get out in the world and go streaking!

Aw, c'mon! Like you didn't see that comment coming from the very beginning of the tutorial.


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