Fun with Fluorescents

I’ve always loved fluorescent paints & pigments.  They’re the brightest!

I use them in a lot of different ways, and I thought I’d share a few of those ideas with you.


Two travelers (bound for the eponymous ToadChapel, a sprawling project that is still simmering in the back of my mind).


What’s this?! The woman is a sorceress!

The light in the room is only partially dark, so you’re only able to see the strong use of orange fuorescent paint on her robe.  I’m applying ultraviolet light with small LED here.

In the world/game for ToadChapel, different ‘special effects’ of painting have mechanical implications.  As you might expect, this exotic beauty is primarily a fire-weilding mage.

It might be difficult to see, but her ring & the dangly ball on her staff are actually purple, indicating access to a bit of eldritch magic as well.

The inconspicuous halfling does have a whiff of magic about him, too, but it’s harder to see.  Just as the hobbit is himself easily overlooked, his powers are not immediately apparent.  On his staff you can see another easy special effect in the use of the high gloss varnish against a matte finish.


If your party has defeated a band of highwaymen such as this fellow, you’d loot them, right?  In the game, you can only claim a single item.  On a chud such as this, most of the gear is worthless (he’s swinging a stick at you, which is why you beat him), but he has a few interesting items he’s stolen from passing travelers.  Look at those fancy red boots!


Doh!  Should have grabbed the spoon in his hat.  Would have granted an extra food per day.

You can see that the grass around ToadChapel is also magical.  Primal earth magic. Coincidentally, I began using fluorescent green to highlight my flock because it gave me the realistic color I want.  Grass is green, man.  Really green.  Look at it!

*For what it’s worth, the fluoro green will dull over time.


Tùrmundd, the wayfarer, a dwarf without a home.  He goes in search of…


Magical trinkets!  Tùrmundd’s satchel holds his stash of minor magical items (and a perhaps a few fakes).  For our RPG campaign the party’s starting out as naive and bumbling amateurs.  However, as the campaign continues and I improve my gear I’ll return to painting Tùrmundd and add more magical effects to him, making their true nature more obvious as they increase in power.

I am very happy with this particular effect, as I was able to conceal the fluorescent paints fairly effectively when the figure is under full light.  I only drew the effect down from the inside of the satchel, creating the sense that the etheral glow is spilling out of the pocket.


Look out, little buddy!  The Spirits of the Earth are angered by the greedy delving of your kind!

So far, my most outrageous use of fluorescent paints has been this tribute to H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour Out of Space.’  The piece was sent to a fellow Lovecraft fan in Argentina in the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society‘s annual Secret Shoggoth exchange.

Check it out under ultraviolet!

Four Album Heroes Tutorial

Last week I banged out seven of these guys from Zombicide Black Plague. I took a few pictures of the process. I used washes and simple color schemes to get the figures up to tabletop standard, then maybe picked out a few details to catch the eye.

First a dunking into wash/ink onto white primer. This quickly lays down a unifying background color, begins shading recesses, and helps the eye pick out the model’s details.

Colors are blocked out simply and not that fastidiously. The models texture is used to guide rough zenithal or other lighting, but I don’t make too much of a fuss about it. Many areas get no highlighting at all.

More washes are used throughout the process to keep the look grimy and unified. Later, when certain details are then picked out, they’ll stand out the more clearly.

Here most of the details have been picked out from the sculpt. Thundergut is further along than the ladies, who still lack faces.

Once all the skin is highlighted up, I use inks to put life into the flesh. Thundergut is a drunken dwarf (like, drunker than a normal dwarf, even), so he’ll need a red nose!

Finished! This is Gwen, my favorite character. She’s based upon a character design by Paul Bonner.

Tiny Flower Tutorial 1

The addition of tiny flowers adds an element of realism and interest to a scene. I like to use flowers to unify a piece with color, add a personal or symbolic touch, or just push a piece a bit farther.

Luckily, it’s super easy. There’s basically a supply you need and a trick I discovered.

1) This is the stuff you need. I’m not sure what it’s called, but you can get it at any dried flower store. Support your local business! Probably elsewhere, too. It’s just preserved greenery of some kind. If anyone knows the name, let us know.

2) Cut off a tiny little branch.

Hopefully with this shot you can track down the right plant.

3) Definitely down to the fiddly part now. Cut off just a few little flower buds at a time.

I like lots of smaller flowers most of the time on the ground, but a few or a single blossom from an otherwise dead tree looks cool.

Now, here’s the trick. Those little white flowers? Yank em out. It will create a nice little tulip shaped flower with a hollow chamber inside.

4) Paint the buds. Just the tips, mind. Because they’re so tiny, you can go bright. Really bright!

There are a lot of applications for this little technique. I hope you give it a try.

Scenic Vignettes Tutorial 1


As I began to explore the hobby of miniature painting a few years ago, I particularly enjoyed the basing element of the process.  I had been instantly attracted to the amazing and diverse bases of many different artists.

That interest led me to spend a good deal of my hobby time creating purely scenic pieces.  I’ve done urban scenes as well, but here I’m making a wild little place as a gift for my mother.

 Of course, all one needs to make a ‘scene’ into a ‘base’ is a nice figure!  I hope you find this tutorial helpful or motivational.


Turn off the metal.  Pick some music either with an insistent rhythm (Krautrock works best) or go full hog and play the sound of a babbling brook.  Watch out for the Japanese flute: too much of the stuff will make you crazy!

I begin building by simply selecting a format for my design.  This time I tried a cheap wooden frame I picked up at Blick for a few dollars.  Because of the recessed space, I used Milliput to create a little ridge along a swale.  I buried a couple of rocks in there for interest.  I knew this would be a compositionally challenging design, because it’s basically symmetrical, but I wanted to try out some color & lighting ideas.  I try to apply the basic compositional principles you got in middle school without spoiling the realism of the scene.

That’s dirt over the top put down with wood glue thinned with water.  Hard as a rock after a couple of coats.


Next I added a downed log.  Here I’m actually reinforcing the symmetry on a structural level, but I’ll later break it up visually.  The finished result will be pretty rumpled, and other blocks of color & focal points will obscure the underlying simplicity of the scene.


Just a first pass of colors on everything.  To make each element stand out distinctly and to create a vibrant look, I’ve used dramatically different shades of brown, and the shadows are basecoated in VMC Dark Sea Blue.  I’m going for a sort of hyper-realistic scene, but it’s easy to throttle down the color.  Or put the hammer down!


Here you can see the lighting effects emerge a bit.  Toward the bottom you have orange, crepuscular shades, while I’m laying down heavy, no joke purple washes on the shady side of the hummock.  I use Amethyst from Secret Weapon.  It’s so intense it’s almost an ink.

At this point I’ll probably call this an evening scene with the sun at about 7:00.  I use this orientation to plan where different kinds of plants & things will go.

I’ve begun adding lichens to the rocks.  I use mostly the amazing and versatile patina technical paint from Citadel, mixing it with VMC Ivory, breaking it with too much water, thinning it with blue & green inks.  This produces some really lively looking lichens, I think.  The last picture in the article shows the effect nicely.


Here I painted the tree.  Again, because I’m going for a stylized look, the main color of the log is a funny yellow-green.  There will be so many washes and so much undergrowth that you have to be really heavy with the basic color scheme if you want it to translate to the finished product.


Once everything’s painted, I lay down a few layers of flock.  In my opinion, flock & grass tufts are the best products to create a sense of verdant growth in a temperate climate.  Most other products just look a bit fake to me.  I do not think static grass looks good, no matter how it’s put on.  I have a some other ideas I’d like to explore, but for now I just do what I think looks best.

Here I’ve used three kinds of flock: a dark green, a light green, and a proprietary mix of several flocks that accumulates as I collect leftovers from one project to the next.  Don’t put it back in your bag/jar, but don’t throw it out!

I wanted to keep the look clean to differentiate the vegetation from the earth beneath it.  When I want a more realistic look I sometimes tint the glue I use to set the flock, wash the flock heavily after it’s applied, and other things to blend it into the scene more.

My favorite colors are orange, green, and purple, in that order.  I think they look great together and I use them… a lot.  If you watch the things I paint, you’ll see the evidence.  In my painting I use a great deal of color, but so does nature!

Now I’m happy with the overall setting, I’ll start working on the fine details.  As this is a gift for my mom, I’ve put a stripe of red (a color she likes as well as I like orange) along the margin of the bare earth and the moss.

Highlight the moss sparsely, but use bright colors.  I typically use fluorescent green & a pale yellow green.  Yes, fluorescent.  I have yet to find a green that I like as well for the purpose.  Plus when you put on the blacklight it looks cool.

In nature, stuff clumps.  One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to convey realism is to spread things around evenly.  That looks like an unkempt garden such as mine.

Whatever those little red guys are (I’m not imitating any specific flower), they only grow on the sunny side of the rise.  The yellow mushrooms prefer the shade and definitely feed upon the decaying tree.  The dark mushrooms (yeah, they’re really crazy looking) lead the eye to the wall, as the larger mushrooms along the edge suggest that the main patch lies beyond the scene.

Little tricks like this help the scene feel more like a tiny slice of an entire world, rather than a sort of podium done in a natural style.  Many incredible bases are designed to look like that, and I am no less a fan of those scenes than what I’m doing here, but the key to creating a sense of intimacy rather than exposure is to ‘attack the edges,’ so to speak.

I hope some of those ideas are helpful. I plan to write some other short tutorials on tiny things like flowers, logs, and mushrumps. Until then, good luck with your bases!

Dark Angels Painting Tutorial


The Dark Angels I’ve been painting recently have been a fun project, particularly as each model has been kitbashed and heavily converted to produce a unique personality for our 40k skirmish games.  I intend to work up some background lore, as well.

I want the kill team to look cohesive, so I have been following a systematic approach in painting similar units.  Here’s a tactical marine.

  1. Basecoat all major areas of the figure in pure, solid colors.  This includes the green, red, and black areas of the figure.  Metallics are painted.  The ground and things like skulls, ropes, leather get basecoated in brown.1
  2. Carefully wash the whole figure with Nuln Oil.  Some areas might only get a light glaze, while other areas might get dulled down to almost nothing.2
  3. Add back some of the color you’ve lost with the washes.  I start with the metallics.  Work mainly upon a few areas of visual focus.  I’m only ever highlighting the major volumes back up to a mid-tone, so the figure looks dark despite the presence of a very strong red color.  I am bringing the red back to an almost flat and uniform look, while ‘highlighting’ the green areas much more judiciously.3.jpg
  4. Pick out all the tiny details!  I love to hide tiny blossoms of vivid color on a figure, using colors that totally contradict the overall tight scheme of the unit.  I love to try to create as many different textures as I can.  Some things receive close attention, while other areas are only hinted at.  I intend for some areas of thse models to jump out in vivid detail, while other areas fade into nothing and provide a frame for the personalizing details.4.jpg
  5. Paint the faces.  I’ve been painting most of these Dark Angels with repulsive pallid skintones.  I decided to paint this one a sort of greasy yellow-green.  The demon head ended up far darker than I had expected, but I like it.  I have a unit of bloodthirsters ready to paint, so I may re-use the scheme.5.jpg
  6. Paint the base.  I used Tamiya clear for the blood effect.F

We do not fear the monsters of the Warp!