Light Miniatures

Never be afraid to paint outside the lines

Category: Workbench (page 1 of 2)

Works in progress

Value Sketch: Steamthing

A couple of months ago I took a class with Matt DiPietro of Contrast Miniatures (formerly of Privateer Press) on the use of value sketches in miniature painting, as a first step to establish contrasts before adding color. While the class mostly focused on tabletop-quality miniatures, and I painted a board game figure in the class as practice, I also started working on Patrick Masson’s “Steamthing” bust, as a bit of an experiment to see how this style would work for me in display quality.

Here is the finished value sketch. In the sketch, I focused mostly on the mechanical arms and the head, letting the “zenithal priming” create most of the sketch in the other areas. I’m not sure how well the textures will translate with color over the top; I may need to re-create them at the step where I add color.

One of the things that made me first fall in love with this sculpt is how expressive the face is, despite being just a burlap bag with some stitching and goggles. Patrick, and his brother Thierry who did the concept, managed to instill a lot of emotion in this little robot-thing.

When I first saw it on CoolMiniOrNot (way back in 2009, when it was posted), I knew I wanted one, and was very disappointed when the sculptor said in the comments it would not be cast. It seems a lot of people were interested though, and convinced him to rework some things (like the bottle attachment in back) in order to enable casting. When I rediscovered Steamthing in Patrick’s Putty & Paint gallery and learned casts were available, I immediately asked for one. If you want your own, you should contact Patrick.

I’m excited to start adding color!

Lighting study for Abalám


This is a very nice bust from It’s supposed to be a prince of hell, so red lighting from below seems fitting.

From the workbench: St. Mark on Dragon, part 3

I reached an important milestone since part 2. There’s no more primer showing! There’s still lots of work to be done, but all of the main elements are now in place, so you can see how it all looks together.


I can’t decide which side is the front of this mini. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I think it’s good. There’s a lot of energy moving in several different directions, which I think is one of the things that drew me to the mini originally.


The most obvious change since the last post is the rider of course. Originally, I painted his cloak and pants pink rather than orange. The color worked okay in the color scheme, I think, but I couldn’t get over my societal hangups about pink.


Fortunately a thin glaze with yellow ink was enough to change the color completely without destroying all of the highlighting and shading, and my careful texturing work.


The other main change is the addition of pigments to the base. I don’t think it photographs as well now, but it looks way better in person and that’s the main thing. Pigments create a wonderful dusty effect which makes the base look much more realistic as dirt and stone.


The pigments I used are mostly from the Secret Weapon “wet earth” set, which is somewhat ironic since I created a dry dusty effect using the pigments. Just goes to show you never to take names too seriously, since at the end of the day they are just colors. I used terracotta as the main color for the lit areas and violet (which is an awesome color!) in the shadows, with a few spots of red brick to provide variety.


I screwed up when I added the pigments, since I added the pigments first, then sprayed the whole mini with dullcoat (which it needed to kill the shine from the inks I used). Unfortunately the dullcoat ruined the lovely dusty effect. I added another layer of pigment, but that pretty much obliterated the highlighting and shading I had done before. So I had to re-paint the highlights and shadows over the pigment, and then add pigments a final time. Oy.

At least thick paint is not much of an issue for the rocks and dirt. But next time it’s definitely dullcoat first, then pigments, rather than the other way around.

From the workbench: St. Mark on Dragon, part 2


There’s been a lot of progress since part 1. The dragon body is nearly finished, and I’ve built out the base a bit.


I haven’t really put any paint on the rider yet, but I converted his arm holding a pistol into binoculars, which involved a fair amount of resculpting.


The round resin plinth he’s sitting on is only temporary, for holding him while I paint. I’m planning on putting him on a larger wood plinth eventually.


I’m not sure about the highlighting I did on the back leg in this shot. It doesn’t really make sense from a physics standpoint, but it also provides a sense of energy and motion which I like (and which was inspired by something Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes said in a class I took from him). I’m going to leave it for now, and see how I feel about it when the rest of the mini is closer to finished.


On to the rider! I’m off to Google some fabric reference for his clothing, since I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with it. I’m thinking about doing something inspired from West Asian or South Asian fabric patterns. I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London a couple of weeks ago while traveling for work, and there was a show on the Fabrics of India which got me thinking along those lines.

From the workbench: St. Mark on Dragon, part 1

I saw this Dark Age figure at Gen Con, and just had to have it.


It’s a lovely resin figure, which makes me very happy. Unfortunately the pieces don’t fit together quite as nicely as some of the resin figures I’ve had the pleasure of working with, so I had to do a bit of green-stuff work to hide the joins.


The blue metals on the one side are close to finished, but everything else is (obviously) still very WIP. I’m really happy with how the metals are coming out. I’ve been shading my blues with red a lot lately. It’s only barely visible in these photos, but in real life I think it adds a lot of energy to them. I usually start by adding black to the mix to desaturate the blues, which aids the transition, and then add red or glaze with pure red in the deepest shadows. The result is clearly blue shaded with red this way, rather than looking purple.

According to traditional color theory, blue and orange are complements, as are red and green, but according to more modern color theory, cyan and red are complements. Since my blue hue is close to cyan, and I’m countering it with a primary red, this color scheme is more in line with modern than traditional color theory. Maybe.

From the workbench: Negative Space

My final Gen Con project nears completion!


I’m calling it “Negative Space” because, in addition to the obvious art reference,  it sounds like some kind of spatial anomaly – very appropriate for a sci-fi scene. The figures are 90% finished; the base still needs to be painted. The main base components are from a laptop optical drive and heat sink mounted on a secret weapon resin block (they make really nice handles for display bases), with your basic plasticard/wire/putty and a Micro Art Studio terminal.

Also, I wanted to apologize for being so quiet of late. I’ve been hard at work getting ready for Gen Con, but I’m holding off on posting my finished entries as I didn’t want to give up the element of surprise. Also, it’s always more fun to wow people in person. Sorry I’m such a tease. I promise to post lots of picture afterwards. You can probably guess what I’m entering: it’s basically everything from the workbench minus what I’ve already shown finished.

This will be my last post before Gen Con. I’m super excited, and I hope to see some of my blog readers either in the competition, in my classes, or just around the convention! I’ll also be doing some demos and volunteering a bit around the MHE area, so please come by and say “hi” if you’re there!

From the workbench: Tribe Chief Morrow, part 2

I’ve been having a ton of fun painting Tribe Chief Morrow. He paints up super quickly, so I only had time for a few sets of photos before he was finished. When I left off in part 1, I had just finished the skin and leathers. Next I tackled the metals.

Tribe Chief Morrow - tackling the metals

Tribe Chief Morrow - metals (left)

Tribe Chief Morrow - metals (right)

Tribe Chief Morrow - metals (back)

A lot of the takes on this miniature have extremely corroded metalwork, but for mine I wanted it nice and clean, to really show the beaten metalwork texture. I’m really happy with how it came out.

Tribe Chief Morrow - final WIP

At this point he’s pretty much finished. I want to clean up the hair around the breastplate a bit, and I need to obtain a base. Luckily on the second count I have a friend who makes marvelous wooden miniature bases, so I’m looking forward to what he comes up with. I’m still thinking about tweaking some things, so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

From the workbench: Tribe Chief Morrow, part 1

Last weekend I received a nifty little package from Germany. Inside was Forged Monkey’s Tribe Chief Morrow bust, a sweet little gorilla bust sculpted by Raffaele Picca, who is a great sculptor in addition to being one of my favorite painters. The cast was amazingly clean, with only one small bubble and almost no mold lines. Cleanup took only ~15 minutes, and I have very high standards for cleaning a cast before I start painting. I was so excited I started painting at once.

Tribe Chief Morrow - starting with the face

This is the first mini I’ve primed black in a long time, but given the black gorilla skin and many metal areas, it seemed convenient. I started with the face, as that’s the most important thing to get right on any figure, but especially a bust. I always like to find relevant reference material before I start painting, and for this bust, I was inspired by this adorable baby gorilla.

Tribe Chief Morrow, step 2 (right)

I originally went with red for the leathers, but wasn’t happy with how it looked and switched to yellow. It still looks a bit odd, but I think that once the metals are painted it will fit much better, and provide a nice warmth contrasted with the black. Of course, this was when I started kicking myself for priming black, but a few coats of menoth white highlight provided a good base for the yellow.

Tribe Chief Morrow, step 2 (front)

Zebra-skin provides striking patterns, and seemed appropriate for a gorilla chieftain. The larger stripes are how most of the body looks, and the finer stripes underneath are from the zebra’s head. No Zebras were harmed in the production of this blog post.

Tribe Chief Morrow, step 2 (left)

This guy is incredibly fun and quick to paint. I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself!

From the workbench: “2084”, part 2

Yes, that’s a 10mm tall portrait of Edward Snowden.


I imagine Lisbeth inhabiting a dystopian future with constant worldwide surveillance. I decided to cover the concrete blocks she’s flying over with graffiti protesting that situation.  The front says “Snowden ‘never forget'”, “You call this democracy?” and “The NSA is watching.”


On the back you can read “Always use Tor” (with the Tor logo), “Don’t drone me bro,” and “xfmro77i3lixucja.onion,” which is an onion address for the Imperial Library of Trantor. In addition to being a reference to Asimov’s Foundation series, the Library of Trantor is an online collection of DRM-free digital books. (I really wanted to use an address for Wikileaks instead, but sadly they don’t seem to have a functional onion address right now.)

This graffiti was partially inspired by the graffiti Turkish citizens used to evade the DNS block Turkey placed on Twitter last spring. I imagine citizens in a future Orwellian society using Tor to keep websites up and available despite state attempts to take them down, and using graffiti to tell each other how to access them.


The sign says, “No privacy by order of the National Surveillance Agency”. Originally I painted the sign as “No entry by order of the National Security Agency”, and then painted over “entry” and “Security” as if someone had graffitied over an official sign.


The portrait of Snowden was the most time-consuming part of the graffiti. I copied Laura Poitras’ well-known portrait of the whistleblower. (Used under CC-BY license.)


I think I made a pretty good likeness, although when I put them side-by-side like this, I see a few details I need to fix.


Parachute pants!

I’m super excited about my current project, which will be titled “2084” for reasons which shall soon become apparent. The figure is Lisbeth, by Studio McVey. This is the second time I’ve painted this figure. She’s a total kick to paint—I love the gigantic parachute pants, and there are lots of surfaces which just scream for freehand. Plus, I gave my first copy away, so I wanted a second to keep.



Starting with the prep work. My cast had a bit of an offset running between the folds in her pants, which was a bit of a pain to clean up.



I also decided to do some minor conversion work. Lisbeth comes with a backless tube-top-like-thing which I don’t much like, so I turned it into a full (if short) shirt. I also reshaped her hover-board into something a bit more snowboard and less surfboard.



I added a sign to the base, and started penciling in the graffiti I plan to paint. I smudged some of it with my thumb, but the face you see if going to be a portrait of a guy with a goatee and glasses.






The red is a lot more vibrant than it looks in these photos. I’ll try to come up with some better ones, later.



Old concrete usually has different colored stains, which I’ve tried to simulate here. It won’t be terribly visible once the graffiti is added, but will help the whole thing be a bit more realistic.




At this point you can probably guess who the portrait is, and why the title is “2084”.

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