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Painting Grey Hair

Discussion in 'Painting Techniques' started by Showlen, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. Showlen Active Member

    I'm having some issues with achieving a realistic look for grey hair. I'm painting a bust of Robert E. Lee, started over twice and just beginning my third attempt. Based on paintings and old photo's of Lee, his hair was mostly white on top of his head with more grey in the beard. The bust has been primed with a very light grey.

    I tried a lighter base of London Grey and then white... this didn't really work. I then tried for a more blue tone in both the grey and white, this didn't work either. I thought I would reach out to the community and see what suggestions you might have for white/grey and what to base and highlight with.

    Thank you very much for your help!

  2. Sturm Grenadier Well-Known Member

    Hello Ron, What type of paint or oil are you using? Regards, SG
  3. megroot A Fixture

    I start with a basecoat of black acrylic paint.
    Then I mix a grey with sepia and white.
    On bust's i pick out every high detail with this mix. I do not drybrush it because it don't look good.
    After that i mix more white to the grey mix and pick out the high highlights.
    When everything is dry (oilpaint) i wash with a black mixed out of sepia, indigo and a touch of real black.

    Sturm Grenadier and John Bowery like this.
  4. Showlen Active Member

    Thanks! I should have mentioned this before... using only acrylics.


    This is how I would do it - try to determine his original hair colour (likely dark brown) and start there as even grey hair has the original colour mixed in in most cases. I would then build up to the grey using flesh and light flesh mixed with the original brown. Highlight with ivory or unbleached titanium (or acrylic comparable) with a very few high highlights in white but very sparing.

    Sturm Grenadier and housecarl like this.
  6. Showlen Active Member

    Marc & Colin - Thank you very much for your help!

  7. Sturm Grenadier Well-Known Member

    Hello Ron, To me, painting white/gray hair on figures/busts, would almost be like painting winter white uniforms. Here is an example but, not the only one, using Vallejo Model Colors: 820 off white, 862 black grey, 907 pale blue grey, 950 flat black, and 951 flat white. Base: 820, Highlights: 951, Shadows: 907, Deep Shadows: 907+ small amount of 950, Deepest Shadows: 862. Hope this helps. Also Colin's suggestion is very good. Regards, SG:)
  8. Showlen Active Member

    Hey SG- Thank very much for your suggestion! I've started my latest attempt with a light coat of dark brown followed by a base of off white. I'm very slowly working in the highlights and shadows you noted above. Not anywhere near being finished, but I'm much more satisfied with what I have now.

    Again, I appreciate everyone's help!


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