Monday, August 19, 2013

Musings about finding your own painting style

It is interesting that many renowned painters area able to define their style in the interviews or posts; some say it is reallistic and gory (Third Eye Nuke), grey/blue (Arsies), based in washes (James Wappel) and so on... and it got me thinking about my own style - after 20 years in the hobby I still don't have  defined paint style! or should I say, my paint style is not established yet and I keep looking for it. If I was to look at the armies I've painted over the last few years, there is a big difference between my light Space Wolves, painted a la GW, the dark, dirty and realistic Blood Angels I painted when I got onto airbrushing, and the latest Dark Angels which are still dark but clean and with high contrast. All of this in a time frame of 3 years!

I think the reason behind is because I keep looking for ways to improve my painting, even when I have win several best painted at large tournaments. I just keep looking around and finding wonderful, inspiring paint jobs that make me want to up my level. I guess it's just like players that want to become better at it and play better players; we often see this desire of improvement from a gamer point of view but not as much as a hobbyists. I'll do a brief recap of my last armies to show my evolution.

The Space Wolves were an army I had always liked. Back in the day in the late 90s I painted some Blood Claws, Scouts, Long Fangs and Land Raider in dark grey, just with a drybrush. It gives me the creeps to look at them now :) but hey, I was so proud back then! by the way those Long Fangs with mixed plastic/metal components has to be the most difficult model ever to put together!

So about 3 years ago I decided to expand the army and went with the same aesthetic as those painted by GW - a light grey blue with simple edge highlighting and shadows in the recesses. The armour plates have no color graduation at all, unlike today where is the part I probably care the most about. But with all the wolf pelts, fangs, runes, beards, axes, knives and other viking stuff, who cares about the armour? I based them with a high contrast snowed rocky setting and it's an army that looks nice in the tabletop.
Light, almost cartoonish. But still able to scare the s*** out of many opponents :)

Then I got an airbrush and was very tired of all those edge highlighting, so I set about painting an army that was very different to the Wolves - it is dark and realistic, full of battle damage and dirt, and it has very little contrast.

Dirty and realistic, little contrast

Nowadays I keep painting in a dark style but I strive to get very light highlights, increase the contrast and add OSLs in the weapons. I put a lot of effort onto creating color transitions in the armour with the airbrush, and have started to consider things like warm/cold colors. These are all things I have seen in our great community and luckily there are a lot of talented painters out there who are willing to share their work.
Ditto dark with clear highlights and OSL

Dark yet clear and with more contrast

Yet I know that this is not yet my final take and that my paintjobs in 12 months time will look different to those I do now. What will change? well I would dearly like to do good NMM, and I want to keep increasing the contrast.

What has been your evolution? have you settled on one style or are still finding your own?


  1. Interesting thought. I've found my painting style depending a bit on my army and paint scheme. For example, I picked up an airbrush a while back, but it doesn't really perform well for the scheme I'm going for on my tyranids, which is more feathering and line highlighting. I could see using it a lot though once I break into my Eldar though.

    Overall, I'd say my approach is "realistic" but not "gritty." By that I mean I tend to go for smooth blends, to the point where they become almost unnoticeable. As such, I've been pushing myself to make my highlights a little more "cartoonish" or comic-book like since I think it makes it more striking for the same or less effort.

    All that said, I agree that I don't exactly have a set style as I am regularly pushing myself to try new techniques and methods.

    1. Very true, the style has a lot to do with what's to be painted. I have some IG in my table that I'm painting with brush, nothing fancy, even when the airbrush is my go-to tool these days. I like the way you de scribe your style, sounds pretty good!

  2. The way I paint my models is usually Dark and Bloody, with some dust drybrushed over it. My Dark Eldar Coven is like that, with blood washed over the skin to make it look bloody, whipped, scarred, and such.

    1. Oh my! I'd love to see how they look, do you have pictures posted anywhere?


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