Painting a Face: Oils over Acrylic
Basecoating with acrylics
The purpose of basecoating in acrylics before applying the oil paints is simple: coverage. When working with oils, you will find some have different opacities and, depending on how thin you put them on, it is very possible that you may see what lies beneath. In our case that would be the gray primer. So in order to prevent this we lay down a "safety net" of color.
Do they have to be a perfect match to the final desired color? No. As long as you are in the complimentary range you will be fine. The closer you are the better, but do not drive yourself crazy trying to get there.
Here is another rule to consider: if you are going to take your figure painting seriously, then there are a few things you need to maintain control over.
- Your workspace: Giving yourself enough room to work is important. We all know how our working area quickly shrinks as we get more and more involved in a project. Take the extra couple of minutes to clear a nice area for you to lay your paints down, and all your supplies. It makes the process much more enjoyable.
- Your supplies:Take proper care of your paints and brushes. A few extra minutes taken to properly clean and maintain your paint jars and brushes will save you money and headaches.
- Develop a routine: Once you learn how your paints and materials work, take mental notes and try to replicate good results. For example: how many of us have started a figure with clean brushes, fresh water, and good lighting? Then how many of us have picked up a figure and used older/slightly dirty water with poorly maintained brushes, and maybe not the same light configuration? I am sure several of us can answer yes to that. I know I have. Stick with what works! Repeating good results leads to growth and improvement.
- Learn to work within your abilities: Let's face it: there are those that can pick up a brush and without even a second thought will turn out a stunning masterpiece. Then there are those that struggle for hours on end only to end up with something that could barely be considered human. Hopefully you and I fall somewhere in between that. The truth is: we all have different levels of ability. Find out what yours are, and work to perfect them within your current level. The purpose of this is to have fun. Learn to be pleased with your accomplishments no matter how they stack up to the pros. While learning, only compete with yourself. If you stay focused on that aspect, before you know it you'll be up to the next notch.
OK, enough of that. Let's get on with the steps:
Here you see the supplies I used for basecoating this figure: paints (Ed: note that for basecoating the head the author only uses Acrylicos Vallejo Model Color 876 Brown Sand, and the other colors shown above are not required for painting the face. AV 876 Brown Sand is used for the base of darker skintones, whereas AV 955 Flat Flesh may be used for a lighter skintone base); 3 sizes of brushes (#3, #1, #000); a clean 10-well tray; fresh water; and a cotton cloth. I prefer to use a cotton cloth over paper towel as paper towel tends to disintegrate and can lead to fibers and dust ending up on your figure.
Here you see a close up of the brushes I use. I'm not loyal to any particular brand, but will rarely spend under $5.00 for a brush. That's just what works for me. For basecoating, accuracy isn't as much a factor, so I like to do as much work as I can with the larger brushes. They hold more paint, and cover faster.
I started by preparing my fleshtone color using Acrylicos Vallejo Model Color 876 Sand brown. Please note that I am only using two drops of paint for this figures flesh areas. Many people have a habit of squeezing out far more paint then they'll ever need, only to have it dry up on their palette unused. A little goes a long way in this case. I then added two drops of water to make the paint a thin consistency. The key for a basecoat is to get good coverage, but not to obscure any detail with thick paint, or leave any unsightly brushstrokes. I then mix the paint and water with the end of my paintbrush.
When loading your paintbrush, be sure to only dip the bottom half of the bristles into the paint. You want to avoid getting paint under the metal part (ferrule). This will cause your bristles to spread out and loose its nice point. After I load the brush, I lightly touch it to my cloth to absorb some of the water. This will prevent your paint from running down your figure uncontrollably.
Starting with the face, make nice quick strokes, moving around the whole head making sure to get good coverage. Don't worry if it looks like the paint isn't covering well at this point. Make sure not to overwork any areas at this time. As the paint dries if you continue to stab at it, you will start to create streaks and clumps.
A good rule to follow when painting a figure is to paint it in the order you get dressed. What the heck am I talking about? Simply, it means paint the lowest details first and work your way out to the surface. That way you avoid having to get into tight spaces and risk getting unwanted paint on finished parts.
You may notice that pools of paint are collecting in some of the recessed areas such as the eye sockets. Unload your brush onto the cotton cloth and then gently touch it to the eye sockets and allow capillary action to wick away the excess paint. After you've checked the head over for good coverage, you can put your figure in front of a light bulb to speed the drying process. MAKE SURE IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH A PLASTIC FIGURE, THAT YOU DON'T MELT THE PIECE BY PLACING IT TOO CLOSE TO A HOT BULB! Once dry, repeat the process with a second coat. This should result in sufficient coverage.
Don't worry about slopping paint onto surrounding areas of the head: the paint is thin enough that you can easily wipe it away with a clean brush loaded with water.
I know I said not to worry about getting colors on other parts, but if you can avoid it, why not try. Again, notice that the first coat isn't covering 100%. This is fine. After it dries, the second coat should do the job.
Here you see how I dry my paints in between coats. This would be a good time to clean your brushes too. After vigorously agitating them in clean water, you want to gently drag the brush as shown over a clean area of your cloth until no pigment is appearing.