Friday, October 04, 2013

How To Paint Heads - the Jeff Vader Way!

I've been asked to do a tutorial on how I painted the head on the truescale Grey Knight.

Now, obviously that's already done and I didn't document that process so I undercoated my other favourite noggin' from the new sternguard kit (the bald grumpy one) kept my camera close (well... IPhone...) to document the procedure and got to work. 

So listen up boys and girls - here's "How To Paint Heads - the Jeff Vader Way!"

1. Give the head a light undercoat. 
I used army painters bone-colour spray on this guy as I wanted him to have a very light, slightly unhealthy skin tone. He spends a lot of his spare time on Titan instead of the beach, so he doesn't catch much sun.

2. Basecoat the non-face stuff. 
In this case I gave the bionics and neck bits a neutral dark grey coat. 

3. Wash the face with seraphim sepia. 
Take extra care around the eyes and mouth and give it a few extra coats there so the features really pop.

4. Wash #2 - the features like mouth and eyes gets a wash of agrax earthshade. This is a pin point wash, painted only in the recesses.

5. Highlight #1.
Highlight using a mix of skull white and bone.

6. Highlight #2, glazes and fiddly stuff.
Highlight with pure skull white. Parts like the nose and ears get a thin glaze of reikland fleshshade to add some variation in his flesh. Those parts are often a bit rosier on most folks. Don't ask me why... I'm a painter - not a doctor! 

The eyes were washed with a similarily thin coat of nuln oil (he's spends a lot of time in dusty libraries on Titan so he has bags under his eyes). 

I also picked out the whites of his eye with skull white and added a pupil in black by swiping a very thin brush downwards over the white. This really is the fiddly stuff - I can barely make out the eye on this guy without a magnifying glass. I basically just point the brush in the right general direction, look away and hope for the best... Use the Force, Luke.

7. Other details. Painted the bionics and lens.
The mechanical stuff was washed with. Uln oil, edged with a mix of silver and dark grey, and finally with silver. The lens was painted deep red, recieved a blotch of orange in the lower right corner and a prick of white in the upper left.

8. Clean-up. 
There was a stripe of black under his eye from when I painted the pipil, so I carefully painted some dark brown there, followed by a mix of dark grey and turquoise. 

Aaaaaand... Done! There's some red left under the lens as you can see which will need to be adressed. Other than that - we're finished. 

There you go. Thanks for watching.
Now get painting!


  1. Thanks for this, I'm going to try it out.

  2. Tip top :) I can just about remember being able to pain eyes back when I was a youngster. Now I'm lucky if I can see the figure's head.

  3. Thanks Jeff, great tutorial, and very helpful as well. I find it interesting that you use so many GW washes, as that is a relatively "new" technique, and I had figured you for more of a traditional sort of guy...

    1. Yes, but since they came out I've changed the way I paint entirely.
      I used to use only black base coat and basically just highlight my way up from dark base colours.
      Now the process is much more painterly and experimental.

    2. Yeah, I used to do black basecoat and layering with a final black wash, but I have recently "improved" my work by doing the washes earlier in the process, and then highlighting etc on top of that. I think it works a bit better, and I can see how using multiple washes at multiple times should help that... As a minor step in that direction, I got some new flesh wash at the FLGS this past weekend, so we will see how that goes.


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