Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does Rotting Flesh tan, or just burn?

When finally painting the infantry models in my Vraksian Renegade Militia, I encountered a serious issue.  How was I going to paint gas masks, without turning the infantry into a bland mess?  Color recipes incoming!

While I really like the Forge World Vraksian Renegade Militia figures, I struggled with a color scheme for almost a month.  I did not really like the all brown scheme the books presented, and I couldn't find much online to view.  I knew how I was going to treat my metallic tones, so the shoulderplates, weapons and backpacks were all set.  I needed to pic colors for the actual clothing, and the leather straps and cuffs.  Most importantly, I needed to decide on how to paint the head of the model.

So long as the hands and heads of the models were painted in a bright and interesting way, I was ok with using a neutral tone on the clothing.  I knew that the ruddy red soil and khaki lichen on the bases would balance whatever brightness I put on the top half of the model.  I had the dark red of the soil to bounce off of, and I had the vehicle color scheme that I needed to be able to relate to.

I first tried painting the gas masks black, with several coats of Pledge acrylic gloss.  This gave the model a "fetish" look, but I didn't like it.  Your eye could not really find a good place to focus, so I scrapped it.  I next tried some P3 Underbelly Blue, in a reference to the pale blue skin of the villains from Voltron, a staple of my childhood Saturday mornings.  I did not really like the way the blue worked with the metallics, and it also seemed to get lost in the grey folds of the jumpsuits.

I had already decided to use thinned down Leviathan Purple to give my tanks some depth and shadow, so I tried to think of a color and tone that would work with the purple hints.  I eventually settled on a Rotting Flesh skin tone, shaded down to Asurman Blue with a tiny touch of Hawk Turquoise.  This pale pale green worked very well with both the deep red of the soil, as well as the faint purple suggestions in the vehicle shadows. 

I also had to focus on the faces, as I was going to be forcing a "painted conversion" on the model's heads.  I was going to be giving the impression that the gas mask itself ended just below the model's eyes.  If you can imagine Darth Vader with his helmet off, you won't be far from what I was going for.  If the rest of themodel's head would be painted as flesh, so this meant they would be lacking ears and noses.  While this would certainly dehumanize the models, perhaps this was an outcome that suited my aesthetics.  The final product would be infantry that had lenses implanted in their faces where their eyes would be, rebreather technology affixed to their mouths, and blank, featureless faces. Not too shabby for traitor IG!

Here is the run down:

Primed black, then all clothing drybrushed codex grey.  All leather belts and cuffs were painted vermin brown.  Then, all metallics were painted either boltgun metal, with tin bits on all decorative facets.  Grenades were drybrushed with a dark green, with boltgun metal pull-rings.  This base was then washed with devlan mud.  Once dry, all grey cloth was highlighted with straight codex grey, wherever light would fall, like on elbows and knees.  All boltgun metal surfaces were given an edging of more boltgun metal.  The scratches and bullet holes were touched with ogryn flesh.  The edges of the metallic rings on the eyes were touched with boltgun metal.  All tin bits areas were highlighted with tin bitz, then eventually tin bitz mixed with a touch of chainmail for highlights.  These areas of bronze eventually were given random spots of hawk turquoise, each containing a dot or smear of rotting flesh for depth.  This the kind of represented corrosion you might find on brass that has been exposed to the elements.

Next, I carefully painted the hands and face of each infantryman with rotting flesh.  I made sure to keep the wide-eyed lens look, and was also slow to delineate the location where each model's face vanished into his gear.  Next, I washed this flesh with asurman blue, twice, with a thin coating.  I made sure to manipulate the wash, and keep it in the recesses, preferably where the flesh met the gear.  After these washes were dry, I highlighted the ridges above the eye-lenses and the top of the skull with more rotting flesh.
 I then painted the inside of each lens skull white.  I layered on red gore, then a lower touch of blood red, then blood red mixed with blazing orange.  I then put a tiny touch of skull white at the top of each lense, to force a light glare.

I painted all hoses black at this point, then painted on two thin coats of acrylic Pledge onto all tubes, and the eye lenses.  This added the textural differentiation that I wanted, to break up the continuity of the models.

This recipe may sound very similar to how I described my approach to the vehicles, and there is a reason for that.  I was aiming for army-wide continuity, and I think I achieved that.

I do wonder if these recipes are helpful.  While I do not expect people to try and replicate my exact scheme, I hope that sharing my thought process and work regiment, offers some insight.

If you guys have any questions, be sure to fire away.


  1. Did you have spare models that you used for testing color schemes? If not, how did you remove or overcome the schemes you did not like?

  2. Are these recipes helpful? Hah!

    They're manuals of awesomeness.

    If you are anything like me you pick up ideas from your own work and the work of others. Rotting flesh is one of the best colours I have ever used. I actually use it as a base for many of my greys as it gives a more complex colour which doesn't feel as flat as the ol' black and white mix.

    These guys are really shaping up well and I don't mid admitting that I have saved a couple of these images locally as references.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Oh, and cross hatching the sand bags is genius. Was that your idea?

  4. Loq, I often do use either extra models for test runs, orneven some primed sprue bits. For the skin tone tests, honestly I just painted over each trial on one specific model. I figured that the possible loss of detail on ONE mode, would go unnoticed amongst the mobs of infantry...

    GDMNW, thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I certainly do look outwad for color ideas. I like museums and gardens to find tones and shades of pairings that work well together. As far as the cross-hatching on the sand bags, I can't take credit. I bought those bases from Dragonforge studios, and the trench set came with textured sandbags. The Forge World master class book mentions sculpting sand bags out of putty, and using cheesecloth to texture a cross-hatch pattern on them. I suspect Dragonforge did something like this.

  5. I think this is the firs time I have looked at your work and not realized the immediate intent Nyhil. Looking at it now I can see your idea of the gas mask being the 'Vader' style breather unit but initially the impression I got from the heads of the Guard was that the they were wearing the old style fabric pullover gas masks with goggle lenses rather than it being their actual flesh on display.

    However, armed with that knowledge, it does look like that for sure.

  6. Hex, I actually intended for the appearance to be ambiguous.

    While I was struggling to find a proper treatment for the models, I kept flip-flopping between painting the heads as flesh, or as cloth. I was also struggling with how the model's hands, would actually betray or define the skin color. Would a fabric pullover gas mask be the same color as gloves? The answer is unclear.

    I posted pics of my test models, and this exact discussion we are now engaged in, on forums. Unfortunately, I could not get a single response even with multiple postings on a significant number of forums.

    I took a break from painting this summer, and visited a Salvdor Dali art exhibit at the High museum, in Atlanta. Before anyone jumps the gun, I am in no way comparing myself to Dali! However, what I learned from the exhibit, was that ambiguity in art is not always a bad thing. By creating a work that can be viewed in multiple ways, the viewer is both drawn in and forced to interact.

    I had found my justification for painting the heads the way I had chosen. Again, I was fully aware of the strangeness; why would the Commander's face be articulated, when the troops are not? If the infantrymen had masks on, why are the masks the same color as the Commander's skin? If you read the fluff I wrote for the army, posted on my blog as "Addicted to Fluff", you will find that I tried to justify this ambiguity.

  7. Good article, but you are abusing Fluff!

    See here for more info -

    I look forward to more great articles!

  8. I just responded to your question about the recipes - yes, I do think you should post them and yes, they are helpful.

    More "tools in the toolbox" for me. Who knows when I might want to incorporate one of your elements, or perhaps incorporate pieces of it and make some minor changes. Without the recipe it is tough to do.

    I know it takes extra time and effort to put that level of detail in, but it is appreciated.

    Looking great man, can't wait for the next post.

  9. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog through a link on Dave Taylors and saw your beautifully painted miniatures and noticed..Hey those are my bases :))

    I sent you an to get some copies of pictures.