When I first began painting, I always had a problem choosing what colors to use. How do you decide what looks ‘right’ when you start in on a figure? Thus, my figures were a random hodge-podge of colors (whatever I happened to have on hand), and tended to look awful. Solid blocks of color, badly jarring tones, and any technique I used was generally entirely by accident.
All that began to change when I started painting my first miniatures for RPGs. Here was something meant to represent a character who had a history, motives, and goals. I needed something that showed that, if only to myself. From that point on, deciding what looks right was simple if I kept one thing in mind: Miniatures tell stories.
Like any good story, you want to breathe life into your characters. Nothing brings characters to life like details. I don’t mean every little button on a miniature’s coat, or painting individual links on chainmail to create a pattern. The kind of details I’m talking about can be done very simply and easily with the right tools and paints.
That leads me to the subject of this installment: the Vallejo Special Effects Paint Set (VAL 72213) comes with seven paints and a bottle of Chipping Medium for use in putting those special touches on your miniatures. The set also comes with an excellent, illustrated fold-out guide showing how that set can be used to paint some great-looking undead.
Our use of the set isn’t going to be that extensive, however. We’re going to be using it to add some details to a miniature to help tell its story. The result is a figure that uses tricks to fool the eye and make the figure look good “at arm’s length”.
The subject for this installment will be a familiar figure from the first installment: The Ironfist Dwarf Berserker. You may recall that I said that the paint choices were made with an eye to adding details later. I’ll show you what I had in mind.
I started off with this project by taking the mostly completed miniature and considering what kind of story it was telling. Here was a dwarf who was focused on killing goblins, and wasn’t too preoccupied on the little things like maintaining his equipment or cleaning up. I needed effects to convey age and the aftermath of violence.
The first step in this was to take the Dried Rust paint, and water it down a bit. I used this to paint a thin layer over the dwarf’s iron fist and the chain connecting his hammer to his bracer. The highlights bleed through the thinned down paint, leaving the entire miniature with a dull, metallic feel of old iron, and the highlighted areas look more like rust.
I then added some wet rust in places on the gauntlet. Rust tends to run, forming streaks, even forming rusticles if left long enough, so I placed the wet rust color as if the arm was down. Slight streaks in areas where it ran down, or spots in low areas where the rust might pool.
Now it was time to start aging the bronze. I started by painting the chipping medium over the head of the hammer and toe caps of the boots.
The Verdigris paint is great for creating age effects, especially with any item that’s supposed to be copper or bronze. Verdigris is basically the color you get on those metals when oxidation sets in. Sort of their version of rust, though it tends to be patchy and doesn’t run like rust will. That’s where the chipping medium comes in.
Once it dried, I used water to thin out the Verdigris paint, as you don’t want it very thick at all for this technique. I applied the thinned paint to the areas that I had covered in the chipping medium, and let them set.
When the Verdigris was dried, it was on to the final aging step. Using a stiff bristle brush (like a hard toothbrush or small vegetable brush), I began scrubbing the Verdigris area. You can also use a stippling brush to the small areas, or a place with significant detail, which I did here. Doing this wears off the Verdigris paint on raised areas, and causes flaking in flat regions. This figure is fairly small, and doesn’t have much in the way of smooth areas, so you won’t see that as much with this one.
For the finishing touches I needed to perform a bit of basing work. I chose to use the Vallejo Light Brown Mud Texture (VAL 26810). My choice of this particular texture was due entirely to its color, as it would show the rest of the effect I planned more clearly. I used the texture to cover the base of the figure and to do some creative dirtying of the figure in general. Mud on the boots, splatter on the loincloth and chain, etc. After that dried, I tapped into the fresh blood color in the special effects set, and once more watered it down. I loaded copious amounts in a brush and applied them to the stump of the severed head to let the paint flow naturally down and out to create the blood pool in the base.
I finished by taking a soft bristle toothbrush and dipping it into the paint. Holding the brush carefully in front of the miniature, I ran my finger down the brush creating a misting spray that created a nice splatter effect. Like you might expect from that hammer being slammed into an enemy.
The end result tells a little story all by itself. Here you have a berserker who obviously focuses more on slaying his enemies than he does on keeping his gear pristine. He’s just finished off one foe, and taking a triumphant stand he’s calling out his next chosen opponent.
You don’t have to be a master class painter to have a satisfying miniature to tell your story. Using this, and various other paint sets, will allow you to do everything from quick, simple jobs that look good at arm’s-length, to high-end detail work.
One of the best parts about this set is how you can use it for almost any genre of miniature to garner the effect you want. I only used part of the set in this installment, but believe me, I use it for many things. The chipping medium, for example, is great for aging vehicles. You just paint some rust on the figure and cover with the chipping medium. Paint the entire vehicle like it’s pristine and use the brush to wear and chip off the areas you want to reveal any rust or primer underneath. Makes a vehicle look antiquated.
Overall, I highly recommend it for painters of any skill level that wants to add some great effects to their painting arsenal.