With the release of a new Dark Elves army book looming ahead, we at Tale of Painters got a request for a Druchii painting tutorial so here we go. This one was written in 2010 actually but except for a few paint names, it still all holds true. So buckle up, this is an in-depth article in which I also go rambling into painting philosophies and why I paint something the way I do in this tutorial and such. Hope that you find it interesting and for myself it's an interesting look back.
Some people asked me how I paint Dark Elves so I got some blank DE mini (a Blackguard Musician) from an old box, painted it up and documented the procedure as closely as possible.
Step 1 - Building, Basing:
Clean the miniature with soapy water and a toothbrush, clean of ANY soap residue. For the most of you, this is old stuff but I still want to mention it. Clean the miniature of any "flash", mold lines etc. with a modelling knife. In this example, I primed the miniature before glueing it to the base and sanding the base. I usually don't do that but this thing was rather unplanned so bear with me. ;-)
Step 2 - Basecoats:
It looks like quite a lot happened here but it's all pretty basic stuff. The base was primed. I prefer to have bases primed as well after applying rubble/sand/etc. because it makes the sandy surface much harder and you need that when you drybrush it. Nothing worse than drybrushing over the base and having 50% of all the sand on your brush. So prime the base, wait until it's dry.
Then I applied the basecoat for the base. For grey bases, I like using VMC German Grey mixed with a little black. The basecoat on the base usually takes quite a while to dry. Again, you have to wait until it's really dry because the moisture of the new paint tends to weaken the PVA layer again. Next thing I did was drybrushing the base in two layers, both mixes of German Grey and White.
The Skull was washed with a mix of Devlan Mud and Black Wash, the skin on the Drum was washed with pure Devlan mud, watered down of course. I water down everything I paint with so if I forget to mention it, just imagine that I added "(watered down)".
Step 4 - Gold:
Now it's time to apply the basecoat for another prominent colour on this guy - gold. Rather often, people ask how to paint Gold and of course there's not one proper way to paint gold but there is the one golden (hurhur) rule: It's all about the basecoat. GW Gold of what ever shade doesn't cover awefully well so you should always use something as a basecoat underneath the gold.
O noes, we upset mighty Mithril Silver by mixing it with a weakling colour like Shining Gold and now it has come to take revenge on the whole miniature!
Step 7 - Purple Cloth:
But wait! First, I fixed the front armour things a bit using black wash. As you can see in the picture of step 6, there was a little blob of Mithril silver on the lower end of the second to last armour piece on the font of the miniature. The part of the blob I didn't want was toned down with a glaze of black wash. Just put the wash onto your brush, mix with water and then pull, starting at the point we want toned down the brush from the lighter to the darker areas. Just swipe from the lighter area into the darker area where the wash won't do any harm. With each stroke, the overly light part will be darkened until it looks okay.
Step 8 - Purple, Purple, Purple:
So we just continue highlighting the cloth..
Step 9 - Finishing the clothes:
As mentioned before, the next step was giving the purple cloth parts a wash.
I used a 70/30 mix of black and purple wash and as always, it looked better after the wash. It's not an overly thick wash, just a bit to make it look a bit glazed. If this coat dries a bit shiny, nevermind. We'll apply matte varnish in the end anyway.
So after this wash, I did the final highlights using an 80/20 mix of Vanilla and VMC Royal Purple. This may come a little late but when I'm writing up ratios of mixes... these are all estimations. I don't use any sort of measurement but visual judgement.
This step is pretty basic again, just some edge highlighting on the brown parts using two mixes of VMC chocolate bown and bleached bone followed by a little wash.
Step 11 - The Face:
What you want to start with is the eyes. An eye can be tricky to paint but the trickiest part is that there are two most of the time.
Anyway, paint the eyeball black, paint it white and leave a small portion or "frame" of black around the white part so you have a conture around it. This usually is pretty hard to do but once you get a grip of that, it goes fairly well. Remember, you don't need a small brush for that, all you need is a good tip. The smallest brush I use is 0 and I only really use it for very small freehands or eyes.
Alright, now we got a white eyeball. Glowy-white eyeballs may look good on certain miniatures but in my experience, eyes with pupils look way better. This is the really tricky part about painting eyes and I'll be honest: There are days on which it works and days on which you won't be able to paint a single halfway decent-looking eye. Some people suggest using needles to do pupils. I tried it once but it doesn't really work for me. Some suggest to use really fine pens or stylos but that's not painting.
Anyway, painting a black point in a more or less appropriate size can be achieved. Next problem: The direction the guy looks. Have a look at the miniature and find out where it probably is looking. (the way heads, swords or guns point usually are an indicator :-) ).
Step 12- The Black Parts:
As we all know from experience, highlighting Black is tricky. The main reason for that is that GW black dries quite shiny while greys or black mixed with white usually dry pretty matte AND tend to get pretty obvious "borders" when drying (lighter Greys also tend to change colour when drying which makes me not like painting light grey very much). All this could be solved if I used not white or grey to highlight black but blue or something like that.
But I don't. So I started off with a mix of black and VMC German Grey. Nevermind if the first - in my case usually darkest - layer is applied a bit sloppily with very visible borders and such. I tend to use this first layer mainly to find out where I really have to paint the highlights i.e. where they work best. It's all trial and error. Especially on a black basecoat you can make up for mistakes pretty easily.
In this step, a lot got done but nothing especially tricky or clever was employed to achieve that. It was just plain old "highlighting black surfaces of different kinds".
To be honest, each time I highlight black surfaces larger than let's say a small pouch, I have to make up a whole new recipe or way to do it so explaining doesn't help much there I'm afaid. I mean, it's just adding white to the black and painting the exposed parts with these mixes followed by a struggle to merge these layers lateron. And while you're doing all that, you have to take care that the surface still looks black in the end rather than dark grey. It's tricky and some days are just better for highlighting black than others. But with some practice, it's possible to figure out ways to make it look okay.
Now that I got that cloak off the table, all the other black bits on the miniature had to be highlighted. The shaft of the dagger was pretty easy. Just regular edge highlights with two mixes of black and white, that's it. It's not really correct (t should be way lighter on the upper part and darker on the lower part) but we're not painting for Golden Daemons here, we want to get this guy painted to a respectable tabletop level.
The drumstick was similarly simple to paint. Some time ago, I figured that it's utter ******** to try to do classic highlighting on black staffs. Rather than doing that, I just painted a lighter stripe along the stick where the light might be reflected (= from where people will regularly look at the miniature) with a mid-light grey followed by a thinner stripe in the middle of the first stripe with a lighter grey. Some edge highlighting on the end of the stick, done.
Now for the hair. Black hair is tricky to paint as well and I haven't quite figured it out but I think I'm on the way. The thing about painting hair is that you shouldn't drybrush it unless it's got a really, really strong texture (like the furs on the backs of chaos warriors or the manes of plastic horses). Take a brush with a fine tip and paint tiny little stripes. They don't necessarily have to go with how the hair is actually modelled as long as it looks right. So much for hair in general. So why is black hair tricky? Because, like all things, you have to avoid making it look like it's just dark grey. So you have to take a very light grey or just plain white and paint only where the hair actually reflects light. That's on top of the head and on the ends usually. The hair as I painted it on this guy is far from being perfect. I think I should have gone for an even brighter tone for the highlights. Oh well, I guess I can fix that lateron. But so much for the theory of painting hair.
Last thing I did was the eyebrows. Dark Elves from this range have beautiful faces but weird, HUGE eyebrows and at first I refrained from painting them all black. I was afraid of getting this guy a huge mono-brow so I looked at Coolminiornot.com to see how others did it and what it looks like finished. This is always a good way to see or estimate how stuff's going to look like if you're not sure wether you should do it or not. So I looked at a few pictures and it actually looked good to have the whole sculpted brow painted so I went for it and I like how it came out.
Step 14 - Drum:
Time to take care of the last few bits. I went on to face the biggest of these bits first - the skin on the drum. This was fairly classic layering using mixes of graveyard earth, bleached bone and white. These three are a very good combination and they will help you get most light things done. Prachment, bones, skin, teeth, horns. The layers on this one don't merge very smoothly because the darkening in the middle is meant to stem from this guy beating it with a stick. He may be a well-trained drummer but he won't always perfectly beat the middle of the drum skin so the darker parts are a little uneven. If that makes sense.
As for the green razor...spike....bracer add-on things, here's how I painted them: Dark Angels green basecoat, black wash, highlights with a mix of DA Green and VMC Deep Green (lighter than DA Green, less spinach-green, more of an emerald green), highlgihts with a mix of Deep Green and white, final highlights using white. I want this to look shiny. The same colour have been used for painting the gemstone in the front.