Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Face Tutorial

By popular demand here's a brief tutorial on how I approach painting faces. For the tutorial I have selected a converted figure using the head from the Perry Ansar set with added cloth cap and hair.

These heads have very expressive faces which I thought were perfect for this tutorial. Other than the washed shade colour I have not completed the rest of the figure so that the face stands out.

The image above is the finished result at a reasonable level of magnification and what follows are extreme close ups which I hope my painting stands up to !

I use Pro Arte Prolene Plus brushes and Wargames Foundry paints. I shall mention the colours and brush sizes as I go. If you use other paints the process I describe will hopefully still be of some use.

Step 1, black undercoat. I was an early convert to the black undercoat as it really suits my painting style, specifically the wash process.

Step 2, shade colour. Using a size 2 brush the whole figure is painted in the shade tone of the palette used, for the face this is Flesh Shade 5A.

Step 3, wash. Using a size 2 brush the face is washed with a mix of 1 part Scarlet Shade 38A, 1 part Bay Brown Shade 42A and half to 1 part water, you don't want it to be too liquid, a few practises will get it right; try it and if its too thick just brush the face with water whilst it's still wet, dab with a tissue then start again.

The wash in this example is fairly dark, in fact it's a bit darker than I usually go as I wanted to emphasise the tonal process. But the formula is the way I like to work as it really makes the face stand out on the finished model.

You'll soon establish a wash shade that you're happy with. Once I've washed the flesh I then add a little more Bay Brown Shade and Leather Wash Brown 47B and some water to the mix and wash the remainder of the figure.

Step 4, first highlight. Using a size 1 brush re-apply Flesh Shade 5A carefully, (the wash colour has effectively become the shade tone and the shade colour is now the mid-tone).

You want to achieve definition between each area, I paint in the following order; bulb of the nose, bridge of the nose, nostrils, upper lip left and right, chin left and right, top eye-lids, forehead above left eyelid then right, lower eyelid, crows feet, cheek bones, connecting line from just above the nostril down to the chin on each side, left and right jaw.

Step 5, second highlight. Using a size 1 or 0 brush apply Flesh 5B to the bulb, nostrils and bridge of the nose, upper eyelid, upper brow, cheek bones, upper lip, chin, jaw and aforementioned connecting bit.

Paint the lower lip in Madder Red Shade 60A. Be careful to leave the previous colour showing through, you are not simply painting over the last layer but highlighting it. Leaving some of the previous colour will add definition.

Step 6 third highlight. Using a size 0 or smaller apply Flesh 5C to the bulb and bridge of the nose, the upper brow, chin and jaw line.

Again remember that you are highlighting the previous colour and not overlaying it. Here's a side view so you can see how important the definition on the cheeks and jaw-line are in building the face.

Here's the completed face prior to the rest of the figure being complete. It has a lived-in and slightly dirty look to it, you can lessen this by varying the amount of water to the wash mix and indeed the composition of the colours in the wash. I've added a final touch of Flesh shade to the area beneath the cheek bone to bring it out a bit.

The shadow below the cheek bone is what pulls this all together and that's where the wash does its job. You may prefer this to be quite dark and heavy as in this example or vary it with lighter tones, it just needs to be darker than the Flesh shade colour. If it's too dark that's not necessarily an issue as you can re-touch it as I have here. You may also wish the wash to cover almost all of the cheek as in the preliminary stages here or much less, it depends on what the model and your preference presents.

Here are a few examples of finished figures where varieties of the above wash formula have been applied;

I hope that is useful and that I've explained it well, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

P.S. yes I am indeed working on yet another unit of archers !

All the best



  1. Great work Stuart! You exceeded my skill set with adding a cloth cap and hair, but loads of good info that I can dumb down to my level. I've dabbled in black priming but went back to white. I also use layers of washes but nothing as sophisticated as what you're achieving.

  2. It's a great technique, as your faces really pop.

  3. Thank You. Very useful article

  4. Very useful tutorial and the results definitely speak for themselves!

  5. Wonderful figures, impressive faces and great paint brush!

  6. Thanks Stuart,
    Ive now just got to give it a go.

  7. Great tutorial - i need to borrow your eyes now I think to see the detail, so i can paint it!

  8. Interesting and informative post, can't see me achieving this but nice to know how you do it!
    Best Iain

  9. Really useful, a great tutorial. And as impressive as ever. Thanks