Design a site like this with
Get started

Are miniature companies in danger of becoming irrelevant?

This is an article that’s been at the tip of my fingers for several months. I have been considering if this thought of mine was worth airing or not, but as of today three very good friends of mine now have purchased resin 3D printers and none of them have any idea about, nor the inclination to learn 3D modelling or sculpting.

Ok, I’m going to open with a caveat. The miniatures I’m talking about here are not gaming miniatures. Game companies that produce their own miniatures will be affected by home 3D printing, but the miniatures themselves are not the sole reason people copy them and print their own. Gaming miniatures have rules attached to them and these rules are always changing and being updated so new miniatures are coming out all the time and with all the best will in the world people printing at home can’t compete with that kind of release schedule. This is a different conversation and won’t be covered here. This s is aimed at the producers of the larger scale miniatures, 54mm and up. So lets set the scene… 

FDM Printer

Over the last 3 years 3D printing has had some major advancements. Gone are the days when the only affordable way to 3D print at home was the self assembly Chinese FDM printer. Now you can pick up a LCD resin printer for less than £250 which, regardless of what some miniature manufactures may tell you, will produce miniatures to a very high quality that I doubt many would be able to tell the difference between a print done on a cheap resin printer and one done on a printer that costs ten times as much. This is a fact. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know a well produced mini from a bad one and I have a resin 3D printer and have seen the quality I can produce. Don’t let them tell you other wise. I bought into the home 3D printing a couple of years ago and picked up a self assembly FDM printer and I still think is a great piece of kit for certain things, but anyone who has one will tell you they are a constant work in progress.

LCD Resin Printer

I’ve upgraded parts to it and before every print I have to level the bed and get everything up to temperature which can take several minutes, before it prints the first 1mm of plastic. But my resin printer is a whole different thing. After the initial setup and bed levelling which you do when you get it, I can now turn it on and be printing within a minute. Print speed is quicker and the difference in quality is astounding. It’s a much more finished product. Printing resin at home still has its issues such as print clean up and handling the UV resin, but as long as you are careful and precise it won’t cause you any problems.

Next we have Coronavirus. Everyone should know that this has affected the miniature industry. Companies are still releasing very nice miniatures and busts, but not at the same rate as before. With the cancellation of all of the major miniature shows the release schedule has to be more spread out over the year or the company could be in danger. For now, the days of almost every mini producer saving three or four new releases for the next show seem a long way off and then we have Brexit. Project fear has become project here. I know of two UK companies who are no longer shipping to the EU and several EU based companies not shipping here to the UK. I don’t blame them, but I hope this issue gets sorted because one of the things Covid has taught me is how precious the mini painting hobby is to me and most of my favourite mini producers are in the EU.

So now I return to my very first point, the friends who have purchased 3D printers, but have no inclination of producing their own miniatures. This is because there are now enough new releases of STL’s (the 3D print file) to feed their hobby addiction. There are Kickstarters, Patreons and companies that sell STL’s. I see lots of them everyday on my Facebook feed, and the prices… £10 a month for a Patreon were I get 10 or more high quality miniatures that I can scale up to seventy five or even ninety millimetres. There are more than enough to satisfy my hobby need and not one of them is from the usual, well known miniature producers that I used to buy from. We’re even seeing a couple of companies release miniatures where the buyer has the option to purchase the resin cast of a mini, or the STL for a reduced rate. Regardless of the virus and the lack of shows, miniature hobbyists who have their own 3D resin printers are living in a golden age. UV Resin is cheap and getting cheaper; the choice of miniatures is getting better and the cost of the miniature is getting cheaper. Again, not one of the usual miniature companies who I used to buy from are in sight. This is why I have to ask, are they in danger of becoming irrelevant?

You can pick up a LCD resin printer for less than £250 which, regardless of what some miniature manufactures may tell you, will produce miniatures to a very high quality.

For years producers have been concerned about IP rights and the problem of recasting. Something I very much support them with, and due to a prolonged and on going campaign we have gotten to a place where it’s not completely stopped, but people are more aware of the long-term problems of buying recasts. So, I feel it’s not going to be much better than it is at the moment. And when speaking to people who buy recasts many of them claim the main reason they buy them is the price. Something which will only get worse in the UK due to the extra costs involved or inability to buy from mini producers in EU countries due to import fees and VAT.

As my friends have found out, for the price of four or five busts from any of the more popular producers from the EU they now have the ability to print their own busts, so why aren’t the well known producers giving them the option to buy from them? One of the reasons is probably the IP and recast problem, but I think home printing might actually curtail recasters even more. People will be less inclined to buy a cheaper, substandard product from a recaster when they can buy a cheaper, print at home, version of the miniature they want directly from the manufacturer. Another reason is that models master. I know some minis and busts are still sculpted traditionally, making them impossible to be sold digitally. But with the advancement of 3D printing there is also an advancement of 3D scanning. At the moment they are still pretty expensive, about the same price as one of those high end 3D printers I mentioned above, but there are lots of companies that offer 3D scanning as a service.

Another reason people buy recasts is because the model is no longer available. This comes from companies not wanting to over produce a miniature. But, imagine being able to bring back long out of production miniature without any of the hassle. Not having to worry about making a mould, how many to cast, having too many to store, or even worse, not enough. Just have a scanned version of the original model available to buy online. Another nail in the coffin of the recaster!

So why aren’t the popular miniature producers making STL’s available? I don’t know the answer but if they want to stay relevant and continue to be a big influence on the hobby they better wise up soon and start giving us that option.

If you have your own opinion about this article, we’d like to hear it so please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Links to the free issues of Figure Painter Magazine.


Google Drive

Thank you everyone who shared the original Facebook post and please feel free to share these links too.

If you’re having problems with the links it’s probably a bandwidth issue, just give it an hour and try again.

Stay home and Stay Safe!


As always, I primed my bases after prepping them and giving them a good wash with soap and water to get off any dust from the sanding and any chemicals or mold release agents that might still be lingering on the bases. The bases were primed in white.

Bases primed in white

This approach will be different than the majority of my primering work. Often I will do a dual primer technique to preshade the recesses and pick out the highlights. However, with these lava bases I will be essentially working in reverse, with the lighter colors in the recesses and the darker colors on top. For these pieces, the crust will be darker with the recessed flows being brighter. Lava, like all hot things, has a range of colors it goes through as it transitions from hot to cold. The hottest parts of the lava will be white, progressing to yellow, then orange, and finally red before cooling to black. References are very helpful here and I have included a few from the internet to give you some ideas how to approach the subject (Figures 3-6).

Lava Reference

Depending on what you are after, you can go for a predominately yellow/orange/red scheme for freshly erupted lava to something that is mostly black with a few areas of red if it is an area of that has cooled significantly. I opted for lava crust that has cooled significantly that it could support the weight of a creature, with adjacent actively flowing streams of lava. If you were wanting to do a fire elemental or some creature made from magma, then you could certainly keep the majority of the base brighter. The other interesting thing about lava is that it cools in different ways, which will create various shapes of rock. It is beyond the scope of this article, but if you are interested more information can be found on Wikipedia here:

Before I begin on the painting step by step properly, I would like to acknowledge Michael Klieman, as much of this approach is similar to what he does and I have borrowed heavily from his technique.

Once the primer is laid down, the next step is a generous coating of Yriel Yellow from Games Workshop. All of the fire colors for this project are from Games Workshop. They are very saturated warm colors, which I hope will translate into the appearance of intense heat. Yriel Yellow, which is a nicely saturated deep orange-yellow, will serve as the first layer of the lava under the crust (Figure 7).

Figure 7

The next step was to cover the majority of the Yriel Yellow with GW’s Fire Dragon Bright, which is again a very saturated intense orange color. Again I am working in a reverse fashion, leaving the deepest recesses yellow and “darkening” the raised portion of the crust with orange (Figure 8).

Figure 8

This process is again repeated with GW Mephiston Red. I opted to cover the majority of the flat surface where the actual model would stand this saturated red as it would be largely cooled enough to support the weight of the model (Figure 9).

Figure 9

For the yellow, orange and red, I was not tidy at all; the majority of this will be covered by the Brown Liner which the next step in the painting the crust.

Reaper Master Series (RMS) Brown Liner will be applied by “wetbrushing”. The concept is similar to drybrushing, but I am using more paint. I don’t want the paint to run. An important key here is to keep the paint relatively thick and to utilize a larger brush. Applying the paint with the side of the brush, the idea is to hit the raised surfaces of the base, allowing the brighter colors underneath to remain visible. If the paint is too thin, it has a tendency to run into the recessed portions of the base, either muting the colors or covering them up entirely which will ruin the glowing effect I am after (Figure 10).

Figure 10

Once the crust color was applied, I needed to go back and add some subtle object source lighting (OSL) to the crust where bits of the still molten lava were peeking through. Here I took some much more diluted paints (orange and red) and applied it around the cracks in the crust. The nice thing here is that the orange and red don’t tend to cover the dark brown of the Brown Liner well. This makes it fairly easy to build up a subtle glow on the crust. If I go too heavy on the lava colors, it is a simple matter to darken it again with some more Brown Liner (Figure 11).

Figure 11

Now that the crust is done, I go back to the molten lava streams and rebase any areas that I have accidentally hit with my darker colors. I use RMS Linen White for this for a couple of reasons. Linen white is a “warm white” and in my experience it covers dark colors every well. It also doesn’t have a tendency to get chalky (Figure 12).

Figure 12

Once the base is reestablished, the majority of the lava streams are covered with Vallejo Model Color Fluorescent Yellow. Any bright yellow would work, but I wanted an even more brightly saturated yellow than the Yriel Yellow and something that would be as “glowy” as possible. This was used to cover the majority of the lava. I kept some of the deeper recesses white as well as the tops of the bubbles. One word of warning on the Fluorescent Yellow; it has extremely poor coverage. It really is best used over white. Anything else and you will be spending a lot of time trying to get coverage. It even took a number of passes to clean up the any errant orange areas I wanted to blend in. It also has much different consistency than typical acrylic paints in my experience and was difficult to thin properly. However, because the coverage is so poor, I really did not have trouble with brush marks if it wasn’t thin (Figure 13).

Figure 13

The next several steps were very much a back and forth wet blending of the orange and red to get a relatively smooth blend as the lava cooled. On the bottom row, I added Yriel Yellow over the Fluorescent Yellow. The next row includes Fire Dragon Bright glazed over the Yriel Yellow and the top row adds the Mephiston Red as well as the red mixed with Brown Liner. The small little broken off pieces of crust increases the visual interest a bit more. I tried to be fairly smooth, but it is not integral to the base; wisps of hotter and cooler lava intermix randomly, so if there are areas of rougher transition, it doesn’t make too much difference. In fact, in some areas I even tried to add some wispy trails of different colored lava (Figures 14).

Figure 14

This set of bases really didn’t lend itself to any after effects; any foliage would be burned to ashes and any blood stains or water type effects would have evaporated or get lost with all the other visual interest items going on.

The last step was to recover the base rims with pure black and give them a shot of Dullcoat. Here is the final shot of the completed process (Figure 15).

Figure 15

I hope this was informative. Lava bases are a great way to introduce oneself to the concept of OSL and learning to paint items that serve as a light source. A similar approach could be used to paint radioactive, green glowing goo or even some sort of magical river or sludge in shades of saturated blue. Give it a try!


By Sean Fulton

Last year I decided to practice my object source lighting (OSL) on some of the Shattered Ritual bases from Secret Weapon Miniatures. These were masterfully sculpted by Chris Borer and are just the perfect base to practice OSL; is there any base that asks for the technique more than magic summoning circles? I didn’t think so either.

Figure 1.

I started with primering the base first with white, then undercoating the dirt area and skull with black (Figure 1). I had hoped the white would fill in the deep cracks of the base a little better than it did. I probably could have gone heavier with the white primering, but I didn’t want to lose too much detail. If I had to do it again, I probably would go with black primer, as I ended up painting in the white in the cracks anyway.

Figure 2.

My first step was to paint the dirt. My typical approach to this is going from dark to light. I used Reaper Master Series (RMS) Walnut Brown as a nice, very dark brown to cover all of dirt (Figure 2).

Figure 3.

The next step was to cover the majority of the dirt with RMS Muddy Brown, leaving only the deep recesses and and borders against the stone Walnut Brown (Figure 3).

Figure 4.
Figures 5 & 6.

I highlighted the dirt further with RMS Earth Brown (Figure 4), followed by a mixture of 50/50 Earth Brown and RMS Yellowed Bone (Figure 5) picking out raised areas of interest.I finished the dirt with picking out individual clumps with pure Yellowed Bone (Figure 6).

Figures 7, 8, 8 & 10.

The next piece of the base I addressed was the skull. The black basecoat serves as a nice dark undercoat for the texturing of the skull to follow (Figure 7). I thinned down some RMS Yellowed Bone and applied it fairly roughly to the entirety of the skull except within the eye sockets, nose, and along the edge of the dirt. There is no need to have a solid basecoat at this stage; the irregularity in coverage adds some interesting visual texture (Figure 8). The next step, in my opinion, is one of my favorite discoveries in recent years. I applied a generous wash of Army Painter’s (AP) Soft Tone over all the skull. This used straight from the dropper bottle and is not thinned at all. I don’t know what else is in the bottle besides the pigment, but the paint comes out slightly viscous and the pigment is not too dense. This viscosity allows the paint to layer out smoothly and I really like the way it tints the underlying Yellowed Bone, giving a nice worn and weathered appearance to the bone. I keep a second damp brush handy to wick away a little of the excess Soft Tone on raised portions of the bone, keeping some of the “highlighting” of the previous step (Figure 9). The Yellowed Bone was reapplied to further reclaim the highlights in select locations (Figure 10).

Figures 11 & 12.

Linen white was placed very selectively with a gentle dotting motion to pick out the top highlights (Figure 11). Finally, I took some ground pigment from Mig Productions to gently weather the bone. This can be done with paint as well, but I feel that the pigment gives a better look in the end (Figure 12).

Figure 13.

We are getting closer to the OSL! The next step was to lay down the base for the ruined stone. I wanted a very dark base so that the OSL would pop further. The first layer was a 50/50 mixture of RMS Black and RMS Shadowed Stone (Figure 13).

Figures 14 & 15.

Once again, I am working dark to light. I heavily apply pure Shadowed Stone (Figure 14), followed by a light initial drybrush of RMS Stone Grey (Figure 15). At this point, I left the stone, but will return at the end to pick out the top highlights.

Figure 16.

Now the OSL work begins in earnest. My first step is to apply white to the areas in the cracks and about a millimeter around each area where the OSL will emanate from and along the edges of nearby rocks and carvings (Figure 16).

Figure 17.

Red, as a general rule, does not have great coverage and it can take many layers to get good coverage over black or a dark grey. By applying the white first, I can save a good bit of time trying to get a brighter red. The next step is to undercoat the actual source of light with Golden’s Titanium White. This is applied straight from the bottle. Normally, having paint this thick runs the risk of filling in the details of the sculpture; but in this case, I want that happen. The carvings are sculpted deeply into the base and I need them to be filled in a little to allow the paint to not be lost inside the recesses. I had to make two or three passes to fill in the cracks, but not obliterate recesses. There is a good bit of prep work here, but once the foundation is laid, the rest of the process goes quite quickly (Figure 17).

Figures 18 & 19.

Now the OSL really begins to take shape. RMS Big Top Red is painted over the white and nearby grey areas of stone. As you can see, the red doesn’t cover well over the grey compared to the white, so provides a nice gradient for the OSL as it moves away from the source (Figure 18). The next step is a quick one to recapture the Titanium White that I accidentally covered up with the Big Top Red. This time, the Titanium White is thinned, as I just need to cover the small amount of red; I no longer need to fill in the cracks (Figure 19).

Figure 20.

The penultimate step is to cover the Titanium White with Daler Rowney Fluorescent Red ink. These inks are fantastic for glazing. They are very thin, but also densely pigmented. You will need to thin them considerably—a little goes a long way here. I applied it and would wick away a little at a time. It is ok if the coverage is uneven. This gives areas of relative “brightness” and “darkness” to your source light, which adds some visual interest (Figure 20). The final step is a thin glaze of Daler Rowney Crimson ink. This ink is darker and help to make the Big Top Red a little “redder”.

Now I am ready to finish up the base by touching up the small details. I added some RMS Leather White to pick out the edges of the broken stones (Figure 21). The final step is thinned down pure RMS White to pick out points. These are essentially dots on corners and edges. I also added some RMS Blue liner to give some additional cool contrast to the cracks and recesses on the base.

Figure 22.

The end result of the project is shown in figure 22. It was a great opportunity to experiment with OSL and I definitely learned some things along the way, which I hope you have found useful. Until next time!




When I was given the chance to write a skin tutorial for I took the opportunity to increase my own skill set by doing lots of research. There is a wealth of information on the internet and plenty of books on the subject by artists far more qualified than me.  What I can add to the subject is how I direct some of their wisdom towards my own miniature painting.

These are the products I used for this tutorial, I decided to create my own skin colours rather than use some of the pre-made skin tones. Some of the skin tones are excellent and most of the time I will use them as a starting point but creating your own skin tones is an instant way to crease harmony of your piece, especially if you use the same colours that are used elsewhere on the figure or bust.

The paints and products used in this tutorial were

  •  Jo Sonya heavy body acrylic paints.
  • A Nocturna models 1/12 Esthel bust
  • A size 2 W&N brush
  • Custom made bases from Pete Watson.
  • You will also need water and a clean paper towel.

I prefer to use a retarder mixed with distilled water but many find this unnecessary and produce amazing results without it by just using water.

Painting skin should be viewed as an organic process and that is to say that there is no single formula for skin. If we just added white to red this could be perfect if we were only wanted to paint Peppa pig!  

If this tutorial is successful then it won’t leave you with exact instructions or a step by step process. I would rather encourage you to experiment with creating your own unique skin tones. Your own style and preferences are equally important. There are helpful tips and hints but jumping in and having a play is the best way to learn what works and what suits your needs.

Tubes labelled skin colour do have their uses but painting skin in this way will increase your understanding of colour theory and it will also add interest and harmony to your project.

For this tutorial we are limited to 6 paints red, yellow, blue, white and black. Umber brown is also there but not strictly needed in the method I use but I will explain how it can be utilised later. Actually I should say we are unlimited to those colours because they will provide us with everything we need.

When we paint a miniature or bust we are concerned with the shapes, values, edges and in this tutorial the focus is on the hues or put simply colours and shades of colour.

When we are painting realistic skin on a smaller scale the idea is to emulate what we see in true scale so an understanding of anatomy, ethnicity’ environmental influences and narrative before you start are all useful tools.

Let me break that down with some simplified examples.

Anatomy- we know for example that blood pools in the cheeks and in contrast skin is stretched tightly across the bridge of the nose and therefore this area has less blood.

Ethnicity- we know that Asian skin has more yellow present while Olive skin with greenish undertones is more likely to come from Mediterranean or Mid – Europeans.

Environment – Skin is a reflective surface like any other and depending on the environmental influence we may see subtle colour variations or sharp contrast. You can easily experiment by holding different objects close to your skin.

These are just simple examples but keeping these things in mind before you start will allow you to consider the subtle nuances that change a nice skin tone to a realistic one.

A Tiny Amount of Colour Theory.

Most of us will have at least a basic understanding of colour theory but I was painting for some time before even considering anything barely theoretical so I will run through the very basics that will be useful for this tutorial without expanding into detail.

Red, yellow and blue are known as Primary colours. If we mix two of the primary colours we achieve a secondary colour.

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Yellow + Blue = Green
  • Blue + Red = Purple

These are our secondary colours and placed on a colour wheel Green sits opposite Red, Purple opposite Yellow and Orange opposite Blue.

These combinations are complimentary colours that used together can produce maximum contrast.

We know adding black or white to a colour can make it lighter of darker but another property or tool is that it also serves to de-saturate. B&W reduce the chroma of a hue is like saying they reduce the intensity of a colour (by increasing the amount of grey).

We can also do this by adding a colour to its complimentary colour on the wheel so for example adding a dot of red to a green palette will still leave you with green but a less intense green.

We can split the colours on the colour wheel into 2 sides warm and cool. Warm tones lean towards orange while cool tones lean towards blue.

Narrative – Think about the story for your miniature, if for example you are painting a zombie figure on a moonlit night you might consider a cool palette adding lots of blue or purple in the shadow areas and de-saturated yellow/ green in the lighter areas.

In this tutorial I wanted to paint natural lively skin tones on Esthel, I pictured her as a woodland elf in a well lit palace and thought of Lord of the rings Rivendell as my setting. Her skin would be healthy porcelain pale mid –European in complexion. The first thing I did was searched for subject material and downloaded a selection of characters that had a similar desired look and from these pictures I had an idea on the tonal scale I would need to create. A tonal scale can be simply a base tone, a shadow tone and a highlight tone. You can add further shadow tones or highlight tones as desired but for the purpose of this tutorial we start with 5 different tones. This will make sense later.

Preparation is Everything!

Start by cleaning your bust. Esthel fortunately happens to be beautifully cast but there is always a little work to be done. Very carefully remove moldlines using a scalpel or hobby knife. When you are happy they are completely removed, sand the area using very fine sandpaper or a sanding stick. Wash the miniature in warm soapy water, rinse in clean water and dry. This bust has no holes but occasionally you will find one and it will need to be filled with whatever putty or green stuff you prefer. Then just lightly sand the area and clean.

Mount the bust by measuring the bottom of the miniature and the top of the plinth. Place a dot in the centre of each. I have mounted onto a temporary plinth in this case as I started painting before the plinths arrived. Carefully drill holes where marked. I hold the bust in a tea towel when I do this to prevent damage to any delicate features. Once the holes are drilled I glue a 0.35mm rod into place. You may prefer a different size rod but I find this size offers all the stability needed. As a general preference I try and keep the amount of exposed rod limited to less the length of the miniature face. Any more than that and you risk the bust looking as though it’s been suspended in mid air.

I always keep a wide brush handy to give the miniature a brush down to remove any floating particles before painting. What starts off as a tiny hair can look like a new vein once paint starts to accumulate on it.

Priming your Miniature.

This is a stage that gets overlooked and depending on which artist you talk to, they will attach varying degrees of importance. For some priming is just about covering the miniature with a surface that is easy for paint to adhere to. For me it is the beginning of my paint process so I try to do this carefully.

You can do this with an air brush if you have one or with spray cans if you don’t. Ideally you will need a black, white and grey primer.

Think about where your miniature is in your narrative, where is the light coming from? I have used a ‘zenithal’ light source which is directly overhead of the point of her forehead that is most forward. Zenithal loosely means overhead light source and we often think of the sun or the moon as this light source.

It’s good to keep in mind that you can paint with more than one light source. If you look at some examples you will often see competing light sources that combine on the miniature as a canvas.

To achieve priming on my bust I spray my black from underneath or you can turn your miniature so long as you spray in the right direction. Then I spray across the face and the hair using grey ensuring the spray is parallel and finally I very lightly spray white from above the miniature. You should be left with a result similar to my picture but this part isn’t an exact science and if some areas need adjusting it is easy to do this during your paint process.

The Fun Begins.

There are different ways of achieving the colours and tones you need so before I create my range of value and tones I will show you a little experiment you can try yourself.

You can see I have all 6 colours in my palette, I will add yellow to 3 wells in a 2nd palette. Then I add small amounts of red, blue and finally red and blue together to each well.

You can instantly see how we now have 3 different skin tones. A cool, warm and mid- tone. I transfer the tones to another palette and add either black or white. These are very basic but you now have  3 varied 3 tone palettes and could easily use this type of tonal scale to quickly paint TT miniature faces considering you will have far less need for detail.

When you want to create a more advanced value or tonal scale there are different ways to get started. You can mix brown/grey by adding any primary colour to its complimentary colour in a 50/50 mix. So for example add blue to orange. Then consider this your starting tone. If you want it to be lighter or warmer add white and yellow. If you want it darker or cooler then add black and blue.

You can also start by mixing equal amounts of the 3 primary colours. If you want to achieve lighter skin tones you can add white and yellow. If you want mid-range tones you can add burnt umber to the mix and of course you can increase the umber and add black/blue for darker skin.

You could also start using the burnt umber and just add red, yellow or blue until it reaches a satisfying tone. Use white at any stage to check if it matches your desired taste.

Which ever method you prefer to use, you will likely meet the same problems. Your skin tone mix may be too green, orange or purple. To rectify this simply balance it by adding the opposite primary colour. For example if your tone is too orange just add small amounts of blue until you are happier with the mix.

Creating Esthel’s Palette.

When I create my skin tones I like to start off with a yellow base. For me its easier to see how red and blue effect the yellow and to work from there and also because the amount of blue or red needed to sharply achieve a visual change is much less than say adding yellow to blue.

To begin; I fill one well with yellow paint to around 8 parts water or medium. I add a small amount of blue which gives me a vivid olive colour.

I want my skin to be much warmer so I add red to the mix. This gives me a nice warm brown closer to the colour I am looking for. It’s a good tone but very dark so I add white to two more wells. A good tip is that anytime you want to judge how your mix is looking, separate a drop and add white to it. Also if I was doing black skin I might use this darker tone as my base but since I am doing mid-European skin in needs to be lighter.

First; I take one brush full of the red/brown mix and add it to the first white well.  This gives me a really satisfying skin tone and I decide this one will make a suitable base tone and it is closer to the colours I liked in my reference pictures. I then take a brush full of paint from the base tone and mix it in the next white paint well creating an even lighter tone. This creates a colour which will be perfect for my first highlighting stage. I still need an even lighter tone so I fill one more well with white to create a second highlight. Finally, I create a second shadow tone by adding a small amount of black to our original mix. This process has created 5 harmonic skin tones which will form the foundation stage of my skin painting.

I haven’t disregarded my starting palette of red, yellow and blue because I will still need this for nuances. These are little additions that will really bring the skin to life.

Useful Things to Note.

Ok so before I begin painting there are a couple of things to note. The first stages I would normally do with an airbrush but for the purpose of this tutorial everything is brush painted so that no one is excluded if they don’t own an airbrush.

The 2nd important point I would like to make is that even though you have mixed your paints, try not to think of it as a painting palette but I would rather you thought of it as a dipping palette. The reason for this is simple. I want you to get used to thinning your paint to the desired consistency each time you prepare to place paint on your figure. If you intend to have thick paint to create texture that’s fine but otherwise get used to feeling for the right consistency. As paint stands it quickly starts to thicken so paint you start off with has less surface tension than the same paint 30 minutes later.

Following on from the previous point, dipping into the tonal scale and the original RYB palette allows you to mix as them as required. You may not want to do this initially but as you gain experience and become more confident you will progress to this naturally.

Finally I use the wide brush I mentioned to sweep away any unwanted hairs or dust particles.

Let the Real Fun Begin!

To begin painting the miniature; I take some paint from the mid-tone and place in a space or empty well, add water or medium until you are happy that you have a milky consistency. Dip the brush in the prepared mix so that paint fills roughly two thirds of the barrel. You don’t want paint uncontrollably dripping on to your bust so wipe away the access paint with a couple of passes on your paper towel.

Start at the bottom of your miniature and work towards the top. Cover the whole of the skin area not forgetting obscured areas like inside the ears or under the eyebrows.

Try to execute steady even strokes and during this stage limit your strokes to one pass over each area. It’s important to not unintentionally move about paint you have just placed on your bust so only one pass and move on.

When bust has been fully covered give your brush a clean and then use a hairdryer to dry the first coat. You will notice the bust looks patchy but this is fine. You need to repeat this process another 4 or 5 times and each time you do you can see the transparency becoming less. After the final pass you should have a solid mid skin tone. It will start to bring the bust to life and the priming that you put in place will no longer be visible. What you will still see is tonal shifts between the light and dark areas. We will utilise these.

Out of the Shadows, into the Light!

At this stage you can choose to build up highlights and then shadows or start with shadows as I do. Starting with highlights makes sense because identifying the lightest areas helps you identify the darkest areas but for me I like the final visual impact of adding highlights so it’s like saving the best for last.

I take a small amount of the first shadow and mix it into the base tone. I thin to milky consistency and begin painting in the shadow areas. I paint the cheeks, inside the folds of the ears, under the brows, under the nose, the nose bridge, under the bottom lip, under the chin, the temples, behind the ears, under her breast and the neck. Try to think about the darkest part of each shadow area and push your brush strokes towards them. The idea is that you will deposit a stronger concentration of paint when you lift your brush which helps also to develop volume. Once dry I review the areas, they need a second pass but this time I just use the first shadow mix without the base tone.

Perhaps I should explain here that the idea when trying to retain harmonic skin is that each new layer should integrate with the previous layer. The previous layer had shadow 1 in it so no need to add the base tone this time. I focus on the previous shadow areas again pushing towards the darkest areas.

Ok so focusing only on the darkest of the shadow areas now so under the brow, under the nose, beneath the chin I now mix shadow 2 with shadow 1 and create stronger shadows. Finally I use shadow 2 mix on its own to touch very dark spots under the nose, the inner ear barrel and the deepest part of the brow.

If you stop and review now you will see that that you have created contrast without any highlighting at all but we need stronger highlights to simulate our light source.

Take a moment to reflect back on where your light source is coming from, where on your miniature is closest to the points of light and where which areas are most reflective.

Start by adding some highlight mix 1 to your base tone and start highlighting the raised areas which will reflect light so the upper part of the chin, the areas above the top lip which isn’t under the shadow of the nose, the upper part of the cheeks, the top of the ears, the top of the nose bridge, above the eyebrows and the forehead. Skin absorbs a lot of light so although we can have intense reflection, we can’t just drop a stark highlight without a gradual build up. As light is further away from the point of light it becomes more diffuse. We are creating this effect in reverse order.

The next pass is just highlight 1, we reduce the area we cover moving towards the strongest point of light. We mix highlight 1 with highlight 2 and follow the same process. Then with pure highlight 2 we touch only the strongest points of light. This isn’t the final highlight though and we will come back to it.

Before you continue are there any areas you need to adjust? Check the shadow areas and the highlights; make sure you are happy proceeding. Adjustments are easy at this stage

That Special Touch.

Ok returning to our RYB we can use the same colours for our nuances. Simply put nuances are the subtle changes in colour. These important shifts will help add personality to your bust. Perhaps as a useful way to remember what goes where on a face there is a general rule you might consider. That yellow represents warmer areas and parts affected by light, red represents the areas that will have the most blood like cheeks and the tip of your nose while blue represents colder areas or those in shadow, under the chin etc. Therefore nuances are likely to be upper third yellow, middle third red, lower third blue.

I start by painting the lips. I consider that there is a lot of yellow in my skin so adopting colour theory I mix red to blue and create purple and add purple to my base tone to give me my lip colour. I paint them using about 3 passes. I then take the mix and add more blue to one side and use this to paint the upper lip. The blue represents the upper lip angle creates more shadow. The lower lip I add a touch more white to lighten the mix.

To paint the cheeks I add red to the base tone and thin the mix. I want it thinner than the normal mixes and need to create a glaze. I just use the side of the palette but you can use an empty well too, the mix will be watery and should be at least 10 parts water to paint. When using a glaze, dip your brush into the mix and wipe away the access fluid on your paper towel. Then draw a line on the side of your palette, if this has been done correctly you will see a very faint transparent mark.

I use this to build up the blush on her cheeks by covering first a wide section across her cheeks structure. I push towards the shadow areas. A glaze dries very quickly as the thin mix is absorbed quickly. I add a touch of blue to the glaze and push towards the darker areas reducing the area of application each pass. I use this same mix to add colour to her breast keeping in mind that the blood sinks towards the bottom.

Then I return to the lighter areas of her cheeks and use the base tone and red glaze mix with added orange created using our yellow and red. This brings a little more warmth to the front upper cheeks.

I then add yellow to my mid tone mix and create a warm glaze. With this I cover the areas closest to my chosen light source. This includes the forehead, the top of the ears and a touch to the top of the nose.

Finally I add red to blue to create purple and add lots of white to create a final highlight. I thin this down to a glaze and touch the points I want the highlight to be most speculative. Again this utilizes colour theory. If you have done this correctly it won’t even be noticed by someone who is not an artist, all they will see is a harmonic natural looking skin.

Final Thoughts.

With the skin complete, I wanted to show you a finished product and painted the hair, eyes and clothing also using the only colours in this set. When we use only a certain number of colours we refer to this as a limited palette but its something everyone should experience. It frees your creativity.

Of course there are many variations in skin and painting it in this way is far more natural and interesting. Skin isn’t just pink, it’s a canvas that absorbs and reflects colour. Hopefully, this tutorial will encourage you to be brave and experiment. If you do, it will improve your painting in general.

It’s been good to indulge and learn during this thoroughly enjoyable process and hopefully it will encourage someone else to experiment. As a last thought, I would recommend investing a good colour theory book. I have only touched on theory here and while the foundations are basic the well runs so much deeper. I still have so much to learn and comprehend but I do know that grasping this understanding will profoundly impact our painting ability.

Thanks to Shane Rozzell for discussions around this tutorial.

Kind Regards and happy painting.

Terry Cowell (The Painting Ladder)

Product Bookmarks.


This article was fist published in FPM issue 51.

Recently, on social media there have been several high profile sculptors and painters publish some very passionate posts decrying that their products or paint works have been the subject of recasters; so you would be forgiven for thinking this was a new problem for our industry, but it’s not. It’s been around for a while and guess what? We’re all to blame!

Recasting is seriously damaging the hobby at the moment and its possible future if we don’t take some steps to change it.

The title of this article might sound melodramatic, and to most of you this issue only pops up on your news feed now and again, but to us in the miniature painting industry it’s an everyday occurrence, with conversations going on about a new site coming to our attention or this or that mini has now been added to that site. Recasting is seriously damaging the hobby at the moment and its possible future if we don’t take some steps to change it.

Miniature painting has been around for ages, but its current modern form, can be traced back to the early 70’s and the advent of Dungeons and Dragons. Back in the day, if the model maker couldn’t get something, he or she made it – either scratchbuilding it from raw materials, kitbashing or converting. And these practices are a staple of the hobby today, but they’re also the roots of recasting. From my own experience, I have been in a position where I have needed another weapon or another head for a model and gone down the route of making a press mould and casting it out of Greenstuff. Sculptors do similar everyday, so with that same mentality, it’s a short jump from doing it small scale for personal use to doing it large scale for commercial gain.

This article is also about Intellectual Property (IP) theft, but this is aimed at producers who make models based on another companies IP. Although IP theft is a separate issue, it does cross over with recasting and raises several questions for the companies that produce models based on an-others IP. The main being that if they have another model, or a model based on someone else IP being recast, do they have a legitimate claim against the recaster? This does have serious knock on affects that could become a problem several years down the line.

Last week, I was part of a conversation specifically about IP theft where producers stated that IP theft in the beginning was a good way to give a company a boost. We have seen several large producers do this in the past and so far, they have gotten away with it, but once they have crossed that line what happens if, one day, they manage to bring that recaster to court. As soon as this IP theft is mentioned any further case will be thrown out and that will have consequences for the next company that manages to bring a recaster to court. 

IP theft has several other ramifications. I think this is a serious problem that companies need to address and one that seems to keep our hobby small and from being taken seriously as a mainstream art form. Imagine the best sculptor and painter getting together to produce a fantastic bust of Spiderman; It’s still Stan Lee’s and Marvel Comics Spiderman, It’s not official, so there is no provenance and therefore has no collectability outside our small community of hobbyists. The other issue for me is stealing intellectual property is stifling creativity. Imagine what that great team mentioned above could create if they worked on something original? Chances are it would be a great model that we’d never see, because they were too busy making a quick buck off of Marvels IP.

There are several major antagonists who profit from large scale recasting, who over the last couple of years have made life hell for those who are getting their products recast. They’re mainly in Russia and China, but it’s not just countries that have different copyright laws, there are also recasters in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and the UK – and those are just the ones I know about, I’m sure there are others. Over the last couple of years companies have started communicating to each other and share small amounts of information about buyers who they are not sure about or if they’re making strange orders. Some head-way has been made when companies have worked together they have managed to get several products removed from recasters who are selling on popular market sites and in one instance had a recasters web shop closed down. The problem is they keep popping back up; regardless of the irritation and hassle caused by those pesky legitimate producers, so, it’s obviously worth their while. Which is why I decided to write this article. It stands to reason if the recasters think it’s worth all the hassle then they obviously see a big market. I think if the true damage and future threat recasters cause to our industry and hobby, miniature buyers will think twice about buying recast miniatures; don’t get me wrong, i’m not naive enough to think we can put an end to it, but if enough people stop using those illegitimate sellers, then the next time a producer does manage to get one closed down, it might stay down. Also, if the growth of recasting isn’t halted, then at some point miniature creators will stop producing unpainted kits and move into other markets.

This is the point in the conversation when some ill-informed person either blames it on the producer, for making their product too expensive, or for not being competitive enough. State that the product they want is now out of production, so who it it hurting? Or, another favourite is stating falsely that Games Workshop have done it in the past, so why can’t they. Those three arguments or versions of them are all they fall back on, so i will look at each claim one by one.

Producers kits are too expensive and are not competitive enough. This is a fair point, some kits are more expensive, but you have to look at what you get for that. More expensive kits usually are bigger, have been designed by a well known artist and sculpted by a famous sculptor. They have also been packaged nicely and usually come with extras like art cards, stickers or badges. Sometime we might have to pay a little bit more in postage, but again the producer is using this higher rate so the product gets to us in the best and safest way without damage. If a kit is expensive then chances are it warrants the price. It’s a falsehood to think that all miniature producers are raking money in off the backs of us hardworking hobbyists. If they were, in today’s modern age of social media, and with the accessibility we have to them, we’d know about it and they’d soon be out of business. What is a fact is the most producers work very hard and don’t make a lot of profit on a miniature and a portion of that goes into funding their next release. Like all things in life, You get what you pay for.

This model is out of production (OOP), so who is it hurting? My first response this is, well if you’d have supported the company by buying the miniature while it was in production then maybe it still would be… but none of us are blessed with foresight. By buying a recast of a miniature that is now OOP, you are also affecting its possible future. Recently we have seen some old IP’s resurrected. Over the last couple of years we have seen ranges resurrected like Rackhams Confrontation, but if there is no call for them to be resurrected, why would a company bother. Imagine the Confrontation guys pulling in the talent that made the miniatures popular in the first place, but expanding on that universe. If you love the models, why would you want to jeopardise that?

Companies must also take a little blame for this when they produce a kit as a limited edition. I know the reasons why they do it – the cost of production of a second run and fear of having dead stock lying around, but when a kit becomes popular and only has a limited run you are making a miniature that is prime for the recasters to get hold of it, you might cover the costs of your limited run with the number of copies that you sell, but the recasters, in the long run, will make more and double what you sell. So my advise to companies that do this is to get a better deal on your casting and distribution, so costs are not prohibitive for a second run and the miniature becomes easier to access by a wider audience. To those producers that make limited runs because they think they’re making a collectable, as soon as your model is recast that collectability goes out of the window. And, once paint is on the model, I defy anyone to tell the difference between a legitimate model and a recast.

Games Workshop did it in the past, so why can’t we? This to me is the dumbest of all the arguments that are used to equivocate buying a recast. It not only confuses IP theft with recasting, but from whet I can gather is stems from a false rumour that Games Workshop copyrighted the name Spacemarine. Firstly GW might have borrowed the term Spacemarine from a novel written back in the 70’s but when you register an intellectual property you are registering a concept backed up with images and linking it to a name. So while they own the rights to their space marines, they don’t own any rights to the term space marine in general. Nobody can copyright a phrase, they can trademark ideas around the phrase, but they can’t own it. One thing I will say is that GW have worked hard and produced some stunning artwork and models in the development and evolution of their games over the years and that is one of the reasons they’re the biggest producer of miniatures, but they have earned that status and have every right to protect it from illegal copying of their products.

Now, I’d like to highlight the effect recasters are having on the miniature industry, but to do this we have to gave a basic idea of the cost it takes to bring a miniature to the market place, these prices aren’t exact, but they are close enough. Let’s imagine we want to produce a bust.

Concept art or licensing IP

Ninety five percent of miniature producers are just like you and me, they got into miniature painting the same way we did, it was a hobby. Very few of them are trained or competent artists, so If your idea is an original one you’re going to need a concept artist. This could be the neighbours son or daughter, or that artist you’ve seen many times on social media. If you want to produce some art cards or added extras where the concept art is used it has to be good. Prices depend on the artist but as an average, let’s say £400.

If you’re going to be licensing an IP for your miniature, you have to pay the owner of the IP a percentage of each miniature sold, this is very difficult to quantify and in some cases might mean hiring the services of a lawyer to reach a deal with the holder of the IP.


As said earlier in this article, you get what you pay for, but let’s imagine we want a high profile sculptor who we know produces great work. Let’s say £800.

Optional 3D Printing

Most sculptors produce a physical sculpt, but more and more are turning to digital. This has several pro’s. It can be easily and quickly altered during the creation period if you don’t like something and you can choose to release the sculpt in more than one scale, but for our bust, let’s say £100.

Casting Cost

Again this is a difficult to quantify and depends a lot on the type of miniature, scale and number of parts and our initial run number, so for arguments sake let’s say we want thirty of our bust, this is a new venture and we’re not sure it’ll be as popular as we think it should be. Average casting costs for a bust is around £6 per copy, this is derived from the cost of the resin and the cost of moulding spread over our thirty copies. Let’s say £180.


So, we have 30 copies of our bust in our hands, it could be the best one ever produced, but if nobody knows about it, it won’t sell. For our imaginary bust, we’ve already said this is a new venture, so we can’t afford a big marketing campaign, so we opt for a week long Facebook advert at £5 a day. That’s £35.


Our advertising is working and people want to buy the bust, so we have to get it to them safely and without damage, so we need to buy some packaging. We can’t buy in bulk since this is our first bust so the packing is going to cost around £1.50 per copy. Let’s say £45.

The Final Cost

So we have a total of £1560, that means each bust has cost us £52 and that was without paying a high end painter for boxart, which could cost us anywhere between £300 to £500. We have to be competitive so we can’t charge a huge amount for it so we put it on sale for £60. Once all 30 have been sold, which can take a year, we make a not so massive £240 profit. That certainly isn’t going to found our holiday home in Monaco. If these prices sound a little steep to you, I will say I managed to pursued three producers to give me their costs and I averaged it out for this example. Producers do find little ways to lower production costs, in house concept, sculpting and casting or boxart painting, but not by a lot and these prices are pretty indicative.

Let’s now see what our bust costs a recasters to produce thirty copies. He buys the bust from us at £60. Next he casts it, but he’s not so bothered about quality, so he does it cheaper: £150. We’ve already advertised it, so he can use our images and description to put it up on his own website or market platform. Packaging, like his casting doesn’t matter too much to him, because if it arrives damaged what are you going to do — complain? So, let’s say he spends £.50 on a Jiffy bag; a total £15. This costs our recaster a grand total of £225. So each bust costs him £7.50. He can sell it for half what we can and still make more profit than we do.

So, apart from the obvious monetary affects recasting has on our industry there are other implications. The main one being that from that small amount of profit legitimate producers have to not only pay any staff that work fo them, they have to start to fund their next release. The recaster doesn’t have to do that, the producer is doing it for him. Also, if a creative is producing a miniature and then has to try and take a recaster to court to get them to take models off their site, that’s more time, money and effort that they are not using to creating new miniatures for the rest of us. So why would they bother eh? Especially when there are other industries where their talents are equally recognised and they could get the same, if not better money, without the all the hassle. That would be a major loss to us who support their legitimate releases and love painting their creations, because if all the best creatives leave this industry for calmer ones where would our hobby be then? From a personal point of view and as the owner and editor of FPM, that survives on the people who produce and paint these models losing them would be devastating. I have already had two conversations with producers who have decided not to release miniatures because of their fear of it being recast. To me, this is a sad state of affairs when fear of products being recast and the dread of the time and effort they would need to spend in removing miniatures that are being recast stops producers from releasing a miniature. If you don’t just want to take my word for it, read the comments by the sculptor, manufactures and resellers dotted around this article.

So, what do we do?

Well, firstly we have to stop buying from recasters. Sometimes their web shops look legitimate because they use the same images and text found on the producers site (of course, they not only steal the product, but it marketing as well), but the big giveaway is the price. If it’s a lot cheaper, then there is a strong chance it’s a recast. Sometimes they won’t use the correct name for the miniature because they falsely think this absolves them from any legal comeback. So, if the miniature of Batman is called ‘Dark Vigilante’, or Yoda is called ‘Green Goblin Knight’ again, there is a strong chance it’s not a legitimate model. In both of these cases a quick email to the IP owner will clear that up and if you’re alerting them to the theft for the first time, then you’re doing them a favour.

Another thing you can do is only buy your models from reputable sites. There are several in the UK and Europe and with this Google is your friend. If you’re still finding difficulty, drop us a line on the FPM facebook page, we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.

When you buy a miniature at a show make sure it comes in the proper packaging, if it doesn’t then ask the seller why and make sure the answer they give you is believable before you walk away with your model. Also take the sellers contact details, because if it later turns out to be false, you’ll be able to get in touch with them. You wouldn’t buy paint where the seller claimed it was Vallejo, but didn’t come in the correct dropper bottle, so why would you do this with a miniature or bust?

If you see a miniature for sale and you suspect it is a recast inform the producer, they’ll thank for it. If it’s on a market site like eBay, report it to them as well. it’s easy to do, every sale page has a link to report the item – choose IP theft. Also if you know of a recaster or someone who buys them call them out on it and be as public as you like, you might have spoken to them a few times at shows or on social media, but these people are really threatening the hobby you love. And remember, for every legitimate miniature you buy and they get cheap, you are subsiding their hobby.

Lastly, if you spot a mini that you suspect is a recast, but don’t know, or can’t get hold of the producer, then tell us, either by email or via our social media pages. We’ll get in touch with the producer and let you know if it’s a legitimate model or a fake.

If you have any questions or you own opinion on this, please leave a comment.


Happy new year to everyone! This is a quick and dirty (pun intended) tutorial on my approach to the hairspray weathering technique. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it had come up as a question in my local painting facebook group, so I took an evening and created this step by step tutorial. I hope you find it helpful.

Fig. 1

The painting supplies: Black primer, Reaper Master Series Walnut Brown (any dark brown will do), Vallejo Model Color Deck Tan and some weathering acrylic. (Fig. 1)

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

The chipping tools: A wooden toothpick, a stiff bristled toothbrush, and some other items for variation on the chipping. (Fig. 2)

The magic stuff: Run of the mill hairspray. This is what I have, but I think any brand will do. (Fig. 3)

Fig. 4

Some weathering pigments to take your piece up a notch. (Fig. 4)

Fig. 5

Prime the piece in black (or do a black undercoat over the primer of your choice). (Fig. 5)

Fig. 6

RMS Walnut Brown. This provided the undercoat that will be exposed when you begin chipping. After you have a solid coat of this, liberally apply the hairspray. The hairspray will help to protect this layer from the chipping to follow. (Fig. 6)

Fig. 7

Vallejo Model Color Deck Tan. The actual “paint” to be chipped. This is painted over the Walnut Brown after the hairspray has dried. (Fig. 7)

Fig. 8

The chipping begins. Generally, I apply straight water over the area to be chipped and let it sit for a few minutes and then add a bit more. It needs to be saturated. I prefer to use the wooden toothpick. I used the metal pieces as well, but as you will see, it takes a very light touch and with the metal instruments is easy to chip down to the plasticard. This step is more about the scratches and small linear dings. (Fig. 8.)

Fig. 9

Initial chipping. You can see where I was too aggressive and chipped down to the plasticard. We will remedy this later. (Fig. 9)

Fig. 10

For the next step I will use a fairly stiff bristle toothbrush and will repeatedly strike the area firmly with the bristles. I use this motion to try and break off larger pieces in an irregular pattern. (Fig. 10)

Fig. 11

Here is the combined results of the toothpick and toothbrush. As you can see, I managed to accidentally break off more of the undercoat and primer. (Fig. 11)

Fig. 12

It is a fairly simple matter to go back and reprimer and undercoat those previously bare areas. (Fig. 12)

Fig. 13

This step is entirely optional but will take the weathering to the next level. I used the Vallejo Fuel Stains to create a dripping effect. Any brown will do if you are looking for dirt stains. Alternatively, this is where I would go with rust colors or pigments for something that had been out in the rain for an extended period of time. I have also taken some of the Mig Productions Dark Mud and Black Smoke pigments and smudged them around to add some additional visual interest. (Fig. 13)

Fig. 14

Here is a close-up detail shot. I feel that this technique affords three primary benefits. The randomness of the pattern is nice for me, as I tend to have a problem with asymmetry when freehanding “randomness” and this helps to combat that. The second is the level of detail that can be created. It would be nearly impossible for me to freehand this degree of fine detail and punctate damage. Finally, the combination of the water and the damage from the toothbrush and toothpick creates some texturing/buckling of the paint that could not be done otherwise. Arguably, this will likely only be appreciated in photographs or under very close observation in hand. It will not be noticed at arm’s length on the table; that said I think it will catch the eye and cause the observer to pause and look a bit closer at the effect. (Fig. 14)

I hope you find this has been informative.  If you have any questions, let me know!


By Shane Rozzell

This tutorial first appeared in Figure Painter Magazine issue 33.

Over the years I have made lots of bases used to display my painted miniatures and have always enjoyed the prospect of scratch building items to help bring the miniature to life and convey a narrative to the display.

Recently I got the Mproyec 1:32nd scale Barbarella, Lord of Mussels sculpted by the fantastic Raúl García Latorre and the choice of base was obvious, a section of Pirate Ship. One of the things I wanted to incorporate was some of the paraphernalia associated with pirate ships. A wheel, some rigging and some barrels; however, once I chose an appropriate plinth for the scene and size of the miniature, I soon discovered that I wouldn’t have the room for some of the items I planned for. So, I asked a few of my friends what items they associated with ships of this type and one the things they all agreed with was some barrels.

I could have bought some but I wanted this to be completely scratch build so the task was, how to accomplish this. I wanted a YouTube video of how barrels are actually made and quickly understood this method was going to be impossible to do in miniature so I had to bluff…

Tools needed

  • Plasticard (.5mm and .25mm)
  • Modelboard (sometimes called Balsa Foam. This material is available in several densities and pictured above you can see the cream and brown types with the later being the hardest. For the barrel, I’ll be using a block of the softer cream verity)
  • Sandpaper (various grades from P80 to P1200)
  • Glue (Superglue and Liquid Poly Cement)
  • Various Tools (Scalpel, Drill and not pictured, some 6mm Masking Tape,  pinning wire and sculpting putty)
  • Optional (A friend who owns a casting company ☺)

Step one: Making the Basic Form

makeshift dremel lathe

The first step is to cut a block of the model board, then drill a hole through the centre and super glued a length of pinning wire through it, making sure we have a good 30mm of wire sticking out each end. Then, by clamping my Dremel extension to my worktable I made a quick and dirty home lathe. I secured the modelboard block into the Dremel and used a piece of wood the other side to stop the modelboard shooting off and hitting me. I suppose it’s prudent to make sure you wear some safety goggles and a mask at this stage and of course, you know I did…honest!

After turning the Dremel on I used a piece of sand paper to form the shape of the barrel.  This was trial and error, but I will say, take your time doing this, the Dremel is very fast and if you’re not careful it will bite you and ruin the shape of the barrel. I found it easier to do one side of the barrel, then turn it around in the Lathe and then do the second side using the first as a guide. After a few minutes I was happy with the result. Time to clear away all the dust.

Guides for the planks.

I snipped away the extruding wire from the barrel form and then, using some masking tape I began to segment the form so I had a guide for the planks that will later cover the sides. It’s a good idea to use the wire that can be seen at both ends as a start and end point for the tape, then with a felt tipped pen draw a straight line down the side of the tape.

Now it’s time to hide that wire at the top and bottom ends of the form. I mixed some greenstuff (other sculpting mediums are available), then, with some talc on the cutting mat to stop it sticking, I pressed it flat; then trimmed the edges to remove the excess putty.

Using a sculpting tool I made myself from a sewing needle and an old paintbrush I sculpt in a wooden plank texture into the two ends. I take care how I hold the form as I don’t want to accidently smudge my own work! Once done I put it aside for a few hours to let the putty cure.

step two: Making the Planks

As you can see in the illustration above the planks that will lace the side of the barrel cannot be made from straight pieces of plasticard because the middle of the plasticard is wider than the two ends. So using the guides that I drew on the side earlier I measure that the planks have to be 6mm in the middle and 3.5mm at each end.

After I cut 6mm wide strip of the .5mm thick platicard I cut it into segments and began to shape the ends using sand paper. I also rounded the sides of the facing edge that will form the separation of each plank when painting. Once I had enough I started to super glue them around the edges of the barrel form. I’ll be honest and mention that some needed extra shaping work once they were in place to make the fit nice a tight.  Once complete I brushed on some Liquid Poly Cement to seal all the planks together. The piece was then left for a few hours to dry completely.

When I next picked up the barrel I wasn’t happy that some of the planks kind of stuck out a bit more than other. This was due the angle they had been glued to the modelboard form. Oh well, easy to fix with some more sanding. This gave it a rounder feel.

step three: Texturing the planks

Now comes the surprisingly easy, but very effective part where the model really starts to look like what it is supposed to. I started by, with my scalpel, cutting some grooves and notches into some of the planks. These will add some character to the model and give me something to enhance when painting.

Using some very rough sandpaper (P80) I started to rough the surface up making sure I had all areas covered. This creates a nice wood grain texture, but leaves the surface bitty and not suitable for painting. So I then, using a wire brush start to clean the surface. You don’t have to be too careful at this stage as the scratches the brush makes just adds to the texture. Once done, it was better, but not perfect with stringy bits of plastic that will ruin anyone’s paintjob, so again I turned to the Liquid Poly Cement and brushed it all over the surface of the plasticard planks, then put it aside to dry over night.

The final step was to add the metal bands around the barrel. This was made with very thin (3mm) strips of the .25mm thick plasticard. I started by supergluing it to one plank the pulling it to the next, adding a spot of glue and pressing it into place. Then repeat until it goes all the way around the barrel. I cut it a couple of millimetres short then used a small blob of greenstuff to fill the gap.

step four: The Final Stage

Here you can see the completed barrel with all of the other parts and components to the base I made. Some unfortunately didn’t get used for reasons mentioned at the start of this article. I always wanted a stack of three barrels in my scene. No I had the choice of making two more but since there was a lot of trial and error in this process I knew I’d end up with three very different looking barrels, which wouldn’t do.

Because this master was going to be cast I had to make sure that all the overhangs and holes where filled or silicon rubber will seep into those spots and tear the mould when the master is removed and also cause the surface of the cast to break away from the bulk. This is called de-lamination. Once it was ready I sent it off to my best friend Martyn Dorey who owns Model Display Products and is a superb resin caster. A week or so later I received a nice little package in the post containing several barrels ready for paint ☺

In the final picture you can see the painted barrels. These are now available to buy from

I hope you find this guide useful and with a certain Kickstarter about to hit the streets where barrels could be very useful I hope you give making them yourself a go.

%d bloggers like this: