How to Paint Faces on Warhammer Miniatures: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Warhammer 40k Airbrush

How to Paint Faces on Warhammer Miniatures: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

As an avid Warhammer painter with over 20 years of experience, I want to provide the definitive guide to painting smooth, lively facial features on your miniatures. Realistic faces can make models pop on the tabletop. However, blending skin tones is an art unto itself.

In this epic tutorial from the expert painters at Warhammer Universe, I’ll explain multiple techniques for painting faces, from speed painting to advanced blending methods using layering, glazing, wet blending, feathering and airbrushing. By the end, you’ll be able to paint stunning, pro-quality skin textures and expressions.

Warhammer 40k Paints

Getting Started

Before applying any color, prime models with a uniform coat of black spray primer. This creates a dark base allowing layers to build up richness and depth.

Gather paints like Bugmans Glow, Cadian Fleshtone, and Kislev Flesh for basecoating. Washes like Reikland Fleshshade add instant shading and definition. Thin down thicker paints with water or medium so they flow smoothly off the brush.

Contrast Paints for Beginners

For gamer quality results with next to no effort, Contrast Paints are a miracle. After priming, basecoat skin areas. Then simply apply a flesh-toned Contrast Paint like Guilliman Flesh, letting it naturally tint recesses while leaving raised regions lighter.

Clean up spill over with base tones. Layer on traditional paints for highlights if desired, but well-applied Contrast over black primer can almost finish a face itself – perfect for speed painting armies.

Warhammer 40k Mini

Glazing and Layering For Smooth Blends

For display-level smooth blends, layer progressively lighter skin tones using glazing. Start re-establishing shadows, then build gradual highlights focused where light naturally hits – foreheads, noses, cheeks, chins.

Thin paints until semi-transparent, apply in multiple passes to build color intensity. Feather out edges between layers to seamlessly intermix tones. Repeatedly layer, glaze and blend until skin looks lifelike.

**Airbrushing Flawless Faces **

Airbrushing is the fastest way to achieve flawlessly blended skin. After hand basecoating, use an airbrush to spray on lighter skin tones from directly above, keeping the nozzle closer to intensify highlights.

Follow with thicker layers of paint at sharper angles just catching noses, cheekbones, brows and other raised areas. Softer blends than manual painting come effortlessly from fading spray patterns.

Warhammer 40k Paints

Oil Washes for Instant Shading

Oil washes also create ultra realistic skin rapidly. Apply an oil wash over basecoated skin focused in recessed areas. Then use a clean, moistened brush to softly blur edges and selectively remove stain from raised volumes, revealing smooth basecoat tones underneath.

The undertone transitions create depth and ambiance that takes only minutes compared to careful manual shading.

Crisp, Expressive Eyes

Eyes draw attention, so crisp definition separates average paintjobs from pro-level ones. Outline eyes in a dark color first, painting eyelids in complementary tones like purple or yellow.

Fill recess with off-white leaving a border. Make iris colors really pop using high contrast shades like amber or teal. Finish with black or blue pupils. Add final white dots or gloss for wet, lively eyes.

Warhammer 40k Mini

Expert Skin Textures and Details

Once mastering fundamentals, advanced techniques create truly realistic, emotive faces. Build up layers of glazes and stippling for surface textures like pockmarks, wrinkles, enlarged pores and mottled complexions reminiscent of real skin.

Incorporate colors seen beneath skin’s surface like faint veins and capillaries using thinned translucent purples and reds. Create bruises and hickeys with graduations of yellows, greens and violets. The possibilities are endless for painters willing to put in extra time and layers.

Sculpting and Kitbashing Unique Heads

While most miniatures lack detailed face sculpts, customizing blank canvases is very rewarding. Build up epoxy putties like Greenstuff to sculpt entirely unique grimaces, laughs and expressions.

Insert magnetized eyes to enable swappable glowing pupils. Craft cybernetic masks and respirators combining flesh and machine. These conversions display your modeling chops as much as painting expertise.

Warhammer 40k Mini

Achieving Tabletop-Ready Faces Rapidly

When aiming for maximum efficiency batch painting armies, utilizing quick highlighting and shading techniques saves tremendous time while still giving decent realism compared to bare plastic.

Start basecoats with more neutral tones like Vallejo Beige Red mixed with 20% Vallejo Tan Earth to ground saturated colors. Apply a single thinned all-over wash focusing deepest shadows like eye sockets.

Build up gradual highlights through drybrushing which skips need for careful blending strokes. Begin with midtone base, then progressively lighten mixes upwards towards white-beige. Move paint in quick back-and-forth motions across raised facial planes to dust on lighter accents.

Finish by glazing concentrated washes of red and brown solely around eyes, under brows and over shadowed wrinkles without full wash coats. The pinpoint shading refines definition. Lastly, concentrated drybrush raised cheekbones for final pops of light.

The speed tradeoffs mean quality maxes at tabletop-ready, but you’ll paint entire units in the time display pieces take. And cleverly placed shadows and highlights still make them look great on the battlefield!

WH40k Mini painting

Matching Real World Ethnic Groups

When painting diverse characters, adjust hues and saturation to match ethnicities. Increase yellows, reds and browns for African skin tones using paint triads like Doombull Brown, Tuskgor Fur and Skrag Brown. Boost oranges and yellows for Hispanic faces. Deepen reds and yellows for Native American tones.

Mix ashy greys, muted yellows and olive greens for Asian skin types. Swap in appropriate washes like Carroburg Crimson instead of standard Reikland Fleshshade as well. Celebrate the broad spectrum of humankind!

Paying Tribute to Master Painters

Many renowned painters like Richard Gray, Mathieu Fontaine and Jen Haley have recognizable vibrant, graphic or somber styles for rendering facial features. Analyze their layering techniques, color choices and finishing effects that define their signature aesthetic.

Emulate famous artists you admire by intentionally incorporating aspects of their techniques into your own process as an homage. This cross-pollination helps rapidly advance skills.

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I hope this exhaustive guide gives you ample tips and techniques to upgrade your miniature facepainting, whether aiming for batch battle-ready tabletop quality or pursuing golden demon display perfection.

Learning to render authentic skin, piercing eyes and lifelike expressions is incredibly rewarding. Nuanced blended tones and punched up details make figurines feel truly alive and vivid on the battlefield. Rally your models with inspiring leadership and fearsome warcries painted boldly across their faces! Please share your finished works and any questions in the comments.


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