+ inload: Painting white +

+ Painting the White Scars +


+ The Legionary above, Dawasrung, who we saw in an earlier inload [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], will fight as part of my shattered Legion project, May You Live Forever, a force themed around the battle of Dwell and mostly made up of Iron Hands. For obvious reasons, he's quite a change of pace from painting the black scheme of the Tenth Legion [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]. +

+ Perhaps surprisingly, many of the lessons learned in painting black apply equally to painting white – After all, they're both example of working at extremes of the tonal scale. Black is at one extreme of the tonal scale, while white is at the other. In painting either, you find yourself restricted at one extreme, either in shading or in highlighting, as you struggle to find tones darker than black or lighter than white. This is the fundamental challenge of painting at the extremes of tone. +

+ I've touched on the similarities between painting black and white here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], but have never had a largely white example model to show. This should kill two birds with one stone, then – here's how I went about painting the armour on the White Scar Legionary above. + 

+ Painting white: Theoretical +

+ Getting a successful white requires us to start with a base coat that is not at an extreme of the tonal range – i.e. not pure white. By using a light grey, we have access to the tonal range for both shading (with darker tones) and highlighting (with lighter tints and pure white). +

+ As with any other colour, I like to start from a midtone. This is then shaded and highlighted in turn. Rather than starting with white, which would leave us nowhere to go for highlights, we therefore use grey as the midtone. The only complicated part of this is that our midtone needs to be relatively light in tone. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but the principle is simple: it's one of key. +
Key: This is a term that describes the overall tone of the artwork (the figure, in this case). A 'high key' paint scheme uses tones that are all relatively lighter than a 'low key' paint scheme, giving a lighter overall effect.
+ The figure on the left uses a lower key scheme than the one on the right +
+ When painting anything, using a full range (gamut) of tonal values – from light to dark – will create the most impact. In a balanced key, this will run the gamut from black as the darkest to white as the lightest; but in a high key painting, you might only go down to a mid grey (or blue, or red) as the darkest tone. Similarly, in a low key work, you might only highlight up to a middling tone in absolute terms. +

+ The Blood Angel below is an example of a 'standard' key. The full gamut of tones, from pure white to pure black is used. However, because the majority of the figure is a midtoned (red), the extreme values are used only sparingly. +

+ The difference between absolute tone and relative tone within the scheme is the important bit. In the low-key example Iron Hand below, the majority of the figure sits near the very darkest tones. As a result, there's not much 'room' to shade, and similarly working up to pure white highlights would appear jarring (as in the too-bright Hand symbol on his chest). So, instead of highlighting up to pure white (at the absolute extreme of tone), we use a lower key palette where the lightest highlight is mid-grey in absolute terms. This would be lost on the balanced key example above, but works to highlight here because the mid-grey is relatively much lighter in tone than the black. In effect, in a low key model we're restricting ourselves to the bottom half of the absolute tonal gamut. +

+ Painting white is similar, but coming from the other direction. So, when painting white armour, we can use a high-key palette and work within the top half of the absolute tonal gamut. We won't shade right down to black, but instead work to a dark grey as the darkest tone. +

+ Painting white: Practical +

 1_ Having primed the model grey, establish the main tonal areas: paint the areas that will be dark using Abaddon Black, then paint the areas that will be white using a light grey mix of Charadon Granite and Vallejo white – the proportions aren't critical, but I used something like 1:10.

This is the base coat.
 2_ Mix Leviathan Purple and Seraphim Sepia together. These are complementary colours (opposite each other on the colour wheel), so when mixed, they produce an interesting chromatic grey.

Unlike painting black or other dark-toned colours, where washes can be applied liberally, when painting white you need to err on the side of caution. Splotches and blotches are jarringly obvious. Touch the mix  into the recesses only – work as cleanly as you can.
 3_ Dilute Charadon Granite with both water and flow enhancing medium until it is very meagre and thin. Wash this over the figure section by section, quickly rinsing and drying your brush and wiping it away from raised areas, leaving it just in the recesses.

This is the shading stage. In contrast with a standard key figure, where the deep shadows would be near-black, the shading on white is only really a mid-grey in absolute terms.
4_ Make a very light grey glazing mix of Vallejo white, Charadon Granite – something like 10:1 – then use flow enhancer to dilute it. You can use water, but it may split. Flow enhancer helps to keep things smooth and prevent things going blotchy. Working panel by panel, and area by area, build up the colour on the white areas with glazes, aiming for smoothness. This will take a number of layers: make sure they have time to dry between and, as you add each layer, think about the lighting. Don't aim for a flat effect – the parts nearer the light source should be lighter than those further away.

The trick is to bear in mind the key of the painting. Don't be tricked into thinking that the shadows won't be light grey – they will, because they're not absolutely dark, but relatively dark; and we're going to highlight the areas in the light further in a minute.
5_ Continue building up the layers of paint. The more you add, the cleaner and smoother the effect will be. Work slowly and gradually, but not obsessively. Trying to work out exactly how many layers to add will distract you from keeping the light source in mind. Instead of counting layers, practise getting your artistic eye in, and simply recognising when an area looks 'right'.

Look at the legs here – they don't look right in terms of tone yet. Even though we know they should be slightly darker than the parts in the light, they're too dark. Continue building up the layers here.

6_ Continue building up the tone. Here,the upper legs have been built up to look correct: compare the tones of the forward thigh with the trailing thigh. Even though the trailing thigh is in shadow compared with the advancing leg, it's still light in absolute terms: it's the contrast between light and very light that makes the effect work.

[APPENDNOTE: Really wish I hadn't used legs with studs for this demonstration – they were a pig!]

 7_ Continue working until you are happy with the white. At this stage, I consider the armour plate complete. Further glazes will simply bring the tones of the different areas closer together, resulting in a flat effect, which we want to avoid.

Note that the recesses remain the mid-grey shading built up in stage 3. It is important that you retain the shadows in order to provide the tonal contrast, and doing so is really the skill of handling the paint and brush. There aren't any shortcuts, but knowledge and practise will get you there!

Note also that in order to avoid these shadows being too stark, you need to work down to them from the midtone gradually – which is what the previous stages are about. Remember that you can always apply more glazing layers to adjust if necessary, but it's harder to reinstate the grey.

+ This completes the white armour, so you can paint the rest of the figure as you wish. Be careful not to accidentally work over your carefully layered white, however. This image shows quite clearly the perils of poor preparatory work – white is unforgiving and shows up the slight miscast/mouldline on the leg. One for me to bear in mind in future... +

+ Dirtying white +

+ As a bit of an extra bonus, I thought I'd add a way to warm and add interest to the white. The instructions above will give you a very clean result, but it's – to my mind at least – stark and antispectic. I much prefer a bit of grit and dirt on models, as it helps suggest a story and character. +

+ It's very easy to go overboard with dirt, and it's particularly noticeable on high-key figures because of the tendency to use the same tones of mud and dirt as you'd use on figures with a standard key. As we discussed above, it's the contrast between tones that makes things stand out, so if you're working in a high key, the weathering needs to be shifted up the tonal scale to avoid being too obvious. I'd also suggest that you need apply less in general – it's much more obvious than on figures painted with lower-key palettes, so a little goes a long way. +

+ A really neat way I've found of adding instant interest to white without picking out individual cuts and marks is with spot glazes of Vallejo's Smoke, which is a wonderful warm granulating sepia when thinned-down with water:

Spot Glaze: Unlike a normal glaze, which is applied evenly all over, a spot glaze (also called a pin wash) is applied topically. 
+ The figure above was  painted with very, very thinned-down Smoke. While it remained wet, I used a clean dry brush to lift the Smoke glaze away from raised areas, leaving it to warm and strengthen the shadows. +


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