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Shading Questions

Discussion in 'Just starting...' started by Chuck Willis, Mar 11, 2019.

  1. Chuck Willis New Member


    I am relatively new to figure painting and have a few questions I'm hoping more experienced figure painters can answer. I am painting figures (minus the faces) exclusively with Vallejo acrylics and am having very good results putting down an even and opaque coat on uniforms and equipment. I'm a little stumped on producing a good shading color. For example, I'm painting a D-Day Miniatures WW I German Sentry wearing a heavy sheepskin (?) overcoat which I base coated using Vallejo Dark Sand. I've tried mixing some of the base color with Vallejo Burnt Umber to create a shade color, but either the color looks too light with less Burnt Umber or too stark with more Burnt Umber.

    So my questions are:

    Is there a 'general' or 'basic' rule for creating a shading color? Based on my reading some articles on figure painting, it appears using a mix of the basecoat and a darker color.

    What would be considered a ratio of base coat to darker color?

    What would be a good ratio of thinner to shade color when preparing to paint the figure?

    Sorry for the long-winded questions here.

    Any input and advise is most appreciated.


  2. DaddyO A Fixture

    Hi Chuck no basic rule I'm afraid (if only life were as simple as that) :)

    The amount of shade (or darkness if you prefer) is very personal and depends on the colour and the feel which you are after. In bright sunlight the shadows will be darker than on a cloudy day for example.
    Some colours will shade easily whereas others turn muddy or dull. Adding black will tend to 'grey' out a colour making it uninteresting and flat so you are on the right lines trying Burnt Umber instead. (I also use Vallejo paints and pretty sure that I've shaded dark sand adding small amounts of Black red initially and then darkening further with Basalt Grey or similar) There really are no hard and fast rules, but if you are struggling to darken a colour try adding some complimentary colour. For Dark Sand which is a 'orangy' shade for example adding some very dark blue might work better than dark brown (For red you'd add a dark green etc.)

    It helps if you try and imagine the base colour as a shade of grey on a grey scale where black is 1 and white is 10. It's easiest enough to prepare a card showing a range of greys or you should be able to download something suitable from the internet if you're feeling lazy ;)
    Compare your mid tone (or basic colour) by putting it next to the scale to establish how dark or light it is. Once you've got that position you'll be able to see how much darker or lighter you need to make the shade.

    Paint thickness is a whole other issue. Personally I like very thin washes for shades and highlights - perhaps 80% water to colour. These dry very quickly so you can build up lots of layers (maybe 20 or so getting darker and lighter from the base colour) Others manage using thicker paint, blurring the edges with intermediate tones or a damp bush before the paint is dry. Depends on your painting methods :rolleyes:

    Hope that helps a bit even if it doesn't answer your question directly

    ps - If you add a picture of what you have so far I'm sure someone will chip in with a specific suggestion or two
    Tonton and KenBoyle like this.
  3. Chuck Willis New Member


    Thank you kindly for your very informative and quick response. I also tend to prefer thin coats to build up to the result I'm trying to achieve as I feel it allows me more control of the results, especially since acrylics dry so quickly. I'll try some of your recommendations out this week while attempting to tackle this figure.


  4. KenBoyle PlanetFigure Supporter

    I agree with Paul's comments but am not sure I understand your example of dark sand and burnt umber. If it's both too light and too dark then what you want is in the middle. :) if you are mixing by drops then one drop of shadow may be too little and two drops may be too dark. I use a wet palette for my acrylics and put the two colors on the pallette seperately. Then using my brush i pull some sand and some umber together. That way i can get two or three shades of shadow. If its too light just pull a tiny bit more shadow into the mix. You have much better control using this method.

    The wet palette approach has been discussed on this forum and I recomnend looking into it. It makes color mixing much easier.

    Nap likes this.
  5. Chuck Willis New Member


    Thanks for your informative response.

    KenBoyle likes this.
  6. Nap Moderator

    Hi Guys

    Not going to comment as you folk are better at this ! ....

    Great advice and comments

    Definately say use a WP and a retarder as well ...I use W& N blending medium ...others are available

  7. Chuck Willis New Member

    Thanks Nap. I only posted here as I thought it was a 'newbie' forum. All responses so far have been quite helpful.

    Thanks again.


    Nap and KenBoyle like this.
  8. Landrotten Highlander Well-Known Member

    Just another tip - and again down to very personal tastes.
    While I was painting my Dark yoda (https://www.planetfigure.com/useralbums/landrotten-highlanders-evil-stuff.1047/view) I was reading an article about complementing colours, and decided to experiment with this.
    The highlights on this bust are different shades of green, while the shadows are different shades of purple. As you can see in the grey-scale picture, the grey tones seem to work well together. I think this technique worked very well on this fantasy piece, and may be worth experimenting with for more 'historically correct' figures.
    Hope this helps
  9. Alex A Fixture

    Apply base coat (very uniform)
    Apply first shadow (no need to be pretty here, demarcation is fine)
    At the junction of untouched base coat and shadow, apply diluted base coat color
    Apply deeper shadows where they need to be
    Now do the same for highlights and you are done
    Myussual dilution for Vallejo model color paints is 1:1
  10. PanzerIV Member

    Great advice gents, thanks for sharing.

    Cheers, Brendon.
  11. Chuck Willis New Member

    Thanks very much L.H. and Alex. All responses provide me with advise to employ as I experiment with shading. Thanks for helping out a newbie.


    KenBoyle likes this.
  12. Chuck Willis New Member

    Thanks again for all the responses. I was able to purchase a wet palette to help me get started and have found a few YouTube tutorials geared toward beginners which was a very good start and now with advice shared here, I am starting to experiment on some practice figures. Again, thanks for all the advice.



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