Painting Class: Part 1
Last weekend, I attended a painting class led by Meg Maples, a studio painter for PP. She covered some great painting techniques like: 2-brush blending, OSL (glowy bits) via layering and glazing, faces & hair, shading metallics and how to do leather. This post will focus on 2-brush blending, and the other subjects will be covered in later posts, so stay tuned!
All 9 of us in the class were painting the same model, pNemo 2010, because he has lots of cloth, armor, glowy bits, some crazy hair, etc. He’s a great model to learn on because of all the different textures, and has been chosen as a model for several painting competitions.
The day started off with lots of witty banter while we assembled and primed our models. Some folks primed white, others primed black. When we asked Meg what she does for primer, she said she usually primes black, unless the model is mostly flesh. Once my model was primed, I got organized and ready to paint.
Once we had all basecoated our models, Meg showed us 2-brush blending. The theory is fairly simple: Put a dot of your shade or highlight where it’ll be the darkest, then quickly switch to a brush loaded with spit and feather the wet dot of paint out, so it’s thinner and thinner. This creates the gradient effect, and creates a smooth blend between the colors.
There are several youtube videos that show the technique, but my favorites are the ones by McVey and Ghool.
Meg explained that there are several ways to do 2-brush blending, everyone has their own trick, or subtly different way to blend the paint. If you watch the McVey video, it shows you the basic technique at the beginning of the video: put down a spot and then “squizzle” it so it’s a smooth blend. The brush moves perpendicular to the direction of the blend – back and forth, leaving less and less paint behind. Ghool does essentially the same thing, but he does more pushing and pulling of the paint – moving the brush in the same direction as the gradient.
Meg does 2-brush blending like the McVey video, moving the brush side-to-side 90 degrees to the direction of the fade. That tid-bit didn’t click for me until I saw it in person. Once I had that in mind, I was far more successful with my blending.
I used GW Enchanted Blue as my mid-tone (the basecoat), and I started shading the blue with P3 Exile Blue. Nemo’s cloak was the best place to learn this, so that’s where I started.
Meg’s feedback was “more contrast!” This sparked a discussion about shading, and how to pick (or mix) a good shade color. This is a choice based entirely on your base coat color, but the go-to shade colors are Cryx Bane Base or Umbral Umber for a neutral, Coal Black for cool colors, and Sanguine Base for warm colors. Since Exile Blue is already pretty dark, she suggested adding some Umbral Umber to the Exile Blue. It certainly gave the shadows some needed depth. Meg discusses lots of this in her PP Insider, here.
To highlight up, the simple solution was to mix some Frostbite into the base color. A roughly 50/50 mix was used, but only on the armor. I was too scared to try to blend highlights into the cloak, and by putting the highlights only on the armor, it helped differentiate the cloth as a different material.
My Cygnar scheme has white accents, and the cloak border was perfect for this. I started with Menoth White Base, and wanted to shade down to Umbral Umber again. It’s a fantastically dark color that somehow maintains it’s richness despite being so dark. I at first tried blending straight from MWB to Bootstrap Leather, but was having some trouble. I just couldn’t get a smooth blend. After discussing the issue with Meg, it was decided that the jump in color was too strong, I needed an intermediary. Hammefall Khaki was perfect for this. I blended the Hammerfall Khaki into the MWB, then the used a 50/50mix of Bootstrap and Hammerfall to get all the way to pure Bootstrap. From there, I was able to get the deepest section of the fold to be pure Umbral Umber. It was quite a few steps, but I think it worked out great. I then highlighted the outermost edges of the folds with Menoth White Highlight.
Whew! The cloak border took almost as much work as the rest of the cloak!
The rest of the model uses different techniques, so that’s it for now. Be sure to check out the videos on 2-brush blending, and leave comments about your experiments with the technique!
Very nice work, I am jealous you have such a prestigious teacher! I am very much looking forward to seeing more!
It was a great class. We kept bombarding her with questions, and she was incredibly insightful.
I’m definitely looking forward to attending a class again if she does one next year.
I was very sorry I missed this class, I may have to try a step by step pnemo too, just to keep up my street cred!
Interesting that she characterized what you described as ‘two brush blending’ I always think of that as ‘one and a half-brush’ since there’s no second color, just spit/water on the second brush. I think of ‘two-brush’ as being ‘two-color’.
Model looks like it’s coming along well.
I believe blending with two-colors wet on the model at once is more commonly known as “wet-blending”.
Your double ended brush was the perfect blending brush. I could keep both ends wet, and I didn’t have to keep track of which way I put the brush in my mouth to hold it while applying the paint – both ends worked.
Thanks for the article – I want to see more!
One small niggle: I think the McVey in the video you link is Ali McVey, who is a woman! Unless I’m mistaken you might want to edit where you call her a “he”!
Michael: What’s the type of blending you’d call two-brush? I’ve never heard of blending with a brush with colour on it. The closest I can think of is wet blending by painting two colours adjacent on a model and blending them together with a brush wet with water.
Thanks for pointing that out, I made the references to the McVey video gender neutral so there’s no way I can be wrong!
The model’s done, so there’ll be lots coming up soon!
That’s a cunning plan, that is.
I’m jealous as well, just to make that clear, either good teaching or your own natural talent means you’re kicking ass at two-brush. Is this your first try?
I’d watched youtube videos, and I’d read about the basic idea, so I knew roughly what was *supposed* to be happening. Meg made a good point about each person having their own trick or way of looking at it. As I was trying to help some of the other folks in the class, I noticed I was explaining it 3 different ways.
Thanks, by the way, it’s nice to know it’s looking good. I’m no where as smooth as Meg is, but I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved on pNemo.
I had a blast during class! I agree, she really was pretty insightful and really took time to answer anyone’s questions and give color opinions (such as my purple coils). If I can afford it, I want to go again next year (assuming she comes again).
Hey, thanks for sharing what she taught you with us. I’ve had both Matt DiPietro and Ron Kruzie give me pointers of Two Brush blending (only the PP crowd call it that, everyone else calls it “Feathering”) in the past but never picked up on the moving your brush up and down slightly perpendicular to the fade before, will have to give that a try. All my previous success with the technique has come down to just the right consistency of thinned paint, medium, and saliva; and a crescent motion with my brush. Thanks again for sharing.
Crap, one more thing. I wanted to mention that when creating shade tones you can also mix a colors complementary color into it in small amounts to desaturate the color. This creates a more natural looking shade tone and helps with contrast. So for example, when I paint the reds on a Khador model, I use Skorne Red as my midtone or sometimes a mix of Skorne Red and Khador Red Base. I then mix Gnarls Green into the mid tone for the first shading pass, then adding a bit more into the previous mix for the final one. If I do not think the crevices are dark enough I usually add a drop of coal black to the mix for one more pass. For highlights, I use Heartfire mixed with the mid tone as it creates a peachier red as I don’t like the orangeness of Khador Red Highlight. You just mix more and more Heartfire into the previous mix till you are happy. I then usually apply a few glaze layers of red to bring all the layers tonally together.