Painting human skin in a realistic way is one of the hardest thing to do in miniature painting. This is mostly due to the fact that most beginner techniques are not suited for this. There is also a gazilion colors dubbed as « flesh » and picking the right one(s) can get tricky.
As if skin was not hard enough, adding realistic tattoos can make even the bravest of us cry. But fear not, for I bring you today a video detailing a simple method of doing skin and incorporating tattoos.
And if that wasn't enough, below is all that you want to know that couldn't be covered in a 10 minutes video.
The way featured in the video is this one :
Cadian Felshtone layered on
A wash with thinned down Rhinox Hide
Cadian Fleshtone layered on again
Mix some white in the Cadian and highlight the details.
This is the way I paint skin on every model ever. Granted, depending on the quality of the piece, I will add steps ( or blend in the colors instead ) or remove steps ( stop after the wash ) but the idea remains the same.
A few things to note :
Flesh Wash / Reikland shade
I have yet to find a company made wash that is appropriate for skin. I believe that paint range manufacturers are all from the Jersey Shore and that orange is somehow the normal skin tone for them. Say no to spray tan, kids.
Picking the right basecoat
As mentionned previously, there are 7 colors branded as « flesh » in the Games Workshop range, just as many in the Vallejo lines, and quite possibly another 4-5 in the P3 range. Stick with 1 or 2 that are neutral and that you can shade with other tones or highlight with other tones. GW's Cadian Fleshtone is the one I feel is best suited for this, and you could work with only that one. All other flesh tones are basically Cadian mixed with another color to produce a tan/pallid/northern/guido color that quite frankly, no healthy human would have. Stick with the basics.
Beside weathering, oil paints are superstars when it comes to painting skin. Burnt Umber and Violet thinned down to a wash will add a realistic feel and incredible depth to flesh. This could be an article in itself – an article I'll eventually write, mind you- so I won't go in a lot of details here, but if you have these at hand, try it.
From the 1st time I started painting models I realised that real badass miniatures were bare chested and had a tattoo or two to show of. It might not add to the stats, but you just know that he's much more of a badass if he's rocking the tats.
The hard part with painting tattoos is making them look like tattoos and not just some freehand stuff laid on top of your model.
I've praised the off black last week when painting scrolls and I'm about to do it again for tattoos. Tattoos are rarely truly black, except within the 24 hours when they're done and the skin is still bloated with surplus ink ( before the itching begins, for those familiar with the needle ) Once the skin heals, tattoos will take a blue-ish hue. This is more the case with old and cheap tattoos, like most of those typically seen on sailors and grandpas ( on the badass gramps that is ). P3 Coal Black is really a weapon of choice here, although Skavenblight Dinge is sill a solid contender, it's what I used in the video afterall. Skavenblight Dinge is a lot more subtle and will blend in more, where P3 Coal Black will produce a cleaner outline.
Don't go new school
New School tats are caracterised by their bold use of colors. Don't do that on your models. This ties in with the point that you want something that looks like a tattoo, not like any freehand painted on top of skin, which is what these colored tattoos will look like, sadly. In the far future of 40K, there's only black tattoo ink, for simplicity's sake.
Painting anything freehand is already quite a difficult task when done on a rather flat surface; it's that much harder to do on curved and bent areas like muscles and limbs. Once again, this ties in with real tattoos, where placement of a design will play a huge part on the end product.
On minis, the chest and the shoulders are usually the easiest, as they offer a flat surface. Whatever you paint there should fit without beign distorted too much. Forearms, back and head are the tier 2 of simplicity, offering flat areas of their own, but with sometimes an odd placement. Unless doing simple lines ( I'm a big fan of the bicep barbwire myself ) stick to those areas for an easier time.
I say google image because it contains it all, but get a reference for whatever your gonna tattoo on your model. This pretty much goes for any freehand, but the good part is that you can search for a tattoo version of whatever you're doing.
This is the drawing I used as a frame of reference on the video.
By doing this, you can see how a real tattoo would be placed on someone and a flattering shape - the same dragon on an arm would look bad because the shape is wrong with the general shape of an arm. Also, it's much easier to draw.
This pretty much covers the basics.
Until next time,
No clickbait, no bullshit, simply painting.