Light Miniatures

Never be afraid to paint outside the lines

Category: Tutorials

Step-by-step and how-to articles

Tutorial: Object Source Lighting (OSL) and Other Lighting Effects

One of my favorite effects in miniature painting is when the artist uses paint to create the illusion of a light source which is not actually there. These lighting effects can be extremely fun and eye-catching, but they can also be very tricky to pull off. In this tutorial I will outline a set of rules which, when followed, will make your depictions of light sources much more believable and impactful. I will also show a step-by-step painting process which is one way you can follow these rules and achieve a good result.

A quick note on terminology and history.
Object-source lighting, or OSL, refers to when one of the light sources depicted by your painting is an actual object on the figure or its base, such as a torch, lamp, or glowing sword. Lighting effects is a more general term I use to cover any use of paint to suggest a light source which is present in the scene, but may be “off camera” rather than being depicted on the miniature.

The miniature painting community was introduced to OSL by Slayer-Sword-winning painter Victoria Lamb, whose creations The Rescue of Sister Joan and Firey Angel are two of the best examples of this effect.

To the extent that miniature painting is a genre of art, there are no hard-and-fast rules. However, when painting a miniature to simulate the behavior of a light source, you are trying to create an illusion of something which is not really there—the light that you imagine being cast on your miniature, from an object it is holding or from its environment. In order to create a convincing illusion, you must follow the same physical laws that govern how light behaves, or you risk spoiling the illusion because something will look “off” to the viewer. These rules about how light behaves are part of how you understand the world, but are often instinctive and subconscious. By taking these rules and making them explicit, it becomes easier to see when a lighting-effect illusion is not working, understand why it is not working, and fix it.

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Tutorial: True Metallic Metals

tmm-bane-thrall-teaser

In the miniature painting community, there are two broad types of approaches to representing metallic surfaces, “non-metallic metal” (nmm) and “true metallic metal” (tmm). In non-metallic metal, the painter represents a metallic surface without using metallic paints by painting the reflections by hand, in the manner of 2-dimensional art. True metallic metal, in contrast, involves the use of metallic paint, which contains little bits of mica or other reflective material to gain a metallic look. I have no interest in debating which is “better”; the two techniques have very different aesthetics and lend themselves to different styles, but both can look amazing when done well. Personally, I have used both in my work [tmm, nmm], although generally I think I get better results when using metallic paints.

In this article I will share my standard technique for painting metals with metallic paints, by painting all of the metals on a bane thrall from start to finish. (Why do all of my tutorials seem to be on Cryx minis?)

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Step-by-step: clockwork base

clockwork_base_closeup

When I painted Commander-Adept Nemo, I was inspired by Natalya “Alexi-Z” Melnik’s amazing version of Nemo from the previous Gen Con. I really liked the non-metallic metal armor and the elaborate base she used, so I decided to do something similar for my version. It’s a fair bit different from hers, but I really liked her idea of putting Nemo on a raised platform with technological elements. For my version, I wanted to create a clockwork mechanism you could see into, like a skeleton watch.

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Tutorial: Object-Source Lighting

This tutorial is quite old. Please check out my new one instead!

Really! The new one is much better!


One of the most eye-catching effects in miniature painting is source lighting, where a glowing object casts light on the rest of the miniature. Especially in the fantasy and science-fiction genres, it’s a great way to show that a sword is imbued with magical energy, or a plasma cannon is charged and ready to fire. Let’s face it: glowing weapons are just cool. This technique is often called “object-source lighting” (OSL) by figure painters, as the source of the light is represented on the miniature (an “object-source”).

Pulling off believable glow effects is tricky, however, and there are many examples of poorly done lighting effects on the internet. In this article, I will show a step-by-step sequence of how I paint source lighting effects, using a Cryxian Slayer by Privateer Press as the demo mini. I’ll also provide plenty of tips and additional examples to help you give your models that eye-catching glow.

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Tutorial: Painting Battle Damage

damage

We all love tabletop wargames, and our miniatures often see many battles. As hobbyists, we want our miniatures to look it! Well-done battle damage effects can make miniatures look more realistic on the battlefield, and also more fun to look at. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate a couple different techniques for giving your models that battle-hardened appearance. The miniature I’ve chosen to demonstrate them on is a Deathripper, a Cryxian bonejack from Privateer Press.

 

Realistic Chipped Paint

The first technique I’m going to demonstrate is called the blister-foam technique. Its purpose is to give the appearance of chipped paint. A warrior or war machine in the field is going to be scraping against the terrain and other combatants, not to mention getting pelted with gunfire and hacked with melee weapons, and its paint will not remain intact long. That is the effect this technique will achieve.

You will need a small piece of foam, like the “blister-foam” that comes packaged with most miniatures.

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