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Oil paint shading for figures

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So I'm generally a beginner in the hobby, but I'm even more a beginner in terms of using oil paints and I think I struggle to understand how to use them appropriately.


I'm looking to use them to shade/highlight some 1/48 figures but unsure as to which techniques to use. As it stands the figures have been detail painted and had a flat varnish applied. From what I can tell there are two main ways for me to approach this (but I imagine they could be wrong and there could be others!): Either using the oil more or less straight out of the tube in tiny amounts in the right places, then using a dry brush to blend it in. Or thinning the paint slightly and applying it wet to the right area. Are those correct techniques and which would be the best/most effective? I've tried the former and it seems ok, but can't get the hang of applying oils wet at all...


Also - some of the figures are Luftwaffe mechanics and therefore wearing black overalls. What are good colours for highlights and shadows for a black base? I tried using small amount of white for highlights, but it doesn't seem to look right, makes it look a bit grey actually...


Thanks for any tips!

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Are you talking about the uniforms in particular? The best way is to paint all the base colours, then apply a slightly darker oil paint wash to create some depth and shadows, then when all that has dried use a lightened version of the base colours and dry brush the uniforms to bring up the highlights. I learnt from a book by Verlinden called "The System" it's a great book if you can find a copy. If you follow my link you can see the same technique's used on my SAS jeep and figures..



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There are lots of ways to use oils but you can try these.

I'll use your black overalled figs as an example.

Don't use black as your base coat, keep that for your shadow areas, use a dark grey.

Put a small amount of black oil paint on a piece of cardboard to soak out some of the oil. This will help to achieve a Matt finish and increase drying time.

Apply the paint to the areas you want to shade, leave for a hour or so and with a dry brush remove some of the paint. You should be left with enough to see a difference. Leave it to dry overnight and repeat as many times as required until you've built up the shadows to a satisfactory level. You can lightly moisten your brush with white spirit to blend as required.

It's a long process compared to using acrylics but worth the effort.

For highlights try using black mixed with a tiny amount of a flesh colour or yellow ochre + white, or burnt sienna + white. Use the same technique as for the shading.

The main thing is to try and use as little paint as possible. Hope this helps and if you have any questions please ask.


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