When it comes to serious figure painting, most modelers prefer to use metal figures and high quality artist’s oil paints. Because metal cast figures show some of the best detail they have long been viewed as the pinnacle or Cadillac of figure modeling. Metal cast figures come in a wide variety of scales and subject matter, and many of today’s top manufacturer’s are still found in Europe. These figures are usually limited run items and can be quite expensive.

In the last decade resin cast figures have really come into their own. Advances in resin technology and casting techniques have made for figures that rival their metal counterparts and at much more affordable prices. Everything from mainstream companies to cottage industry shops produce figures in countless scales and just about every imaginable subject matter.

With the introduction of slide molding even injection-molded figures have become more accurate and detailed with much more realistic and natural looking poses. Still with the limitations of injection molding these figures pale in comparison to metal and resin cast figures. But they are mass produced, readily available, and therefore much more reasonably priced.

When it comes to painting figures there are many who believe that high quality artists oil paint is the best medium to use. The higher the quality paint means the pigment is ground finer and has brighter and more vibrant colors. Oil paints take a long time to dry and are therefore perfect for blending colors for very natural looking skin tones and fabrics.

Using acrylic or water based paints, requires an entirely different approach. The paints have to be thinned at a different ratio than oils, and they dry extremely fast. Working with acrylics means you can paint a figure in an evening or two instead of the 2-3 weeks it might take working with oils.

For this reason many modelers today use a variety of materials and employ several techniques on the same project to achieve the final look they are seeking. Models base coated in acrylic paints will often get a wash coat of enamel or oil. Conversely models finished in enamel or lacquer based paints will usually be washed in acrylics. Thinners, filters, washes, dry brushing, pigments, sealers ……the list goes on and on. Most of these products have strong fumes and require precaution when using or handling, proper ventilation is extremely important. And this is one of the main reason I have developed all of my techniques around water based products that are usually very low in odor, clean up easily, and are generally safer to use. The fact that I have had small children growing up over the last decade helped to make this decision a no brainer.

With the exception of using oil paints to add washes to my vehicles, I work exclusively in acrylics and watercolors. Using watercolors I have learned how to manipulate, push and move or even “erase” entire layers of paint. For me there is no other method that gives you more control over the final outcome. In fact at any point during the painting process right up until you seal the paint you can easily strip the piece back down to bare plastic within minutes without harming or altering any detail, try that with enamels or oil paints. Let’s get started:

Figure Painting 101