An Exercise in Critique 

A very exciting thing happened. One of the more handsome & intelligent readers of this blog reached out to me to ask for some feedback on a painted miniature. "[I have] gotten as far as I can in terms of painting, but I want to bring it forward a little more."

This feels like an honor.

I openly admit that there are many other individuals in this community who are more qualified; to some I'm a toddler in finger-painting class by comparison. With that disclaimer said: I'll enjoy my moment of pride!

The following is an attempt to intelligently lay out some 'next steps' in the case of this particular paint job. The pictures are not super high quality, and the actual miniature may appear slightly differently in real life. This is meant to be constructive and in no way disrespectful. 

Captain1.jpg
  1. These rivets are one of my favourite opportunities to create contrast. Apply some black paint tightly underneath each bump for an easy win. 
     
  2. The rim around this shoulder pad exhibits another missed opportunity for contrast. Apply black to the bottom and work in a gradient as the curve approaches the top. Then you can apply a metal-highlight colour to the top such as Game Air Aluminium and work that highlight back down into the black. This transition is the single greatest technique to master in my opinion; it's the whole game.
     
  3. Go over these white lines until they are completely opaque. Then clean the lines by carefully adding black over areas where the lines have become too fat.
     
  4. In the future consider adding basing materials before priming to create a more dynamic piece. In this instance GW texture paints can still be added to good effect.  
Captain2.jpg
  1. This solid red has been applied nicely. To take it to the next aesthetic level there must be more contrast added. The easy way to do this would be to take a highlight colour and start outlining. Layering or wet blending a gradient of near white to red to near black will yield the greatest results, but is the most challenging. 
     
  2. This skull represents another easy shadow opportunity. Refer to point 1 of the first picture.
     
  3. The metal highlight colour on this panel does not sweep across the top, and is too fat. For better results apply the highlight across the top as well and reduce thickness by reapplying base colour. Remember that the light source is (I assume) above the miniature. 
     
  4. This strap is completely devoid contrast. Look at any object around you right now. Chances are that it does not appear to be a single, solid colour. 
Captain3.jpg
  1. This is a nicely spherical shape. If you put your mind to it you could create more contrast on a flat piece of paper. On a 3D object this principal should be starkly demonstrated to the viewer. I would start by taking very thin black paint (more water than pigment) and applying to the bottom. Not unlike point 2 in picture 1.
     
  2. These pocket things are pretty flat looking (in the picture) & could use some more definition. Perhaps 1 or 2 more light passes with a sepia wash & some more extreme highlight. They are also too close in colour to the purity seals (IMO). 
     
  3. If your game plan is one of 'Edge Highlighting' (as opposed to creating gradients literally everywhere) then you have to be consistent for the greatest effect. These lines have been missed; if highlighted they would undoubtedly create more visual interest in this area. 
     
  4. This purple is flat. Consider hitting it with some Druchii Violet or other suitable wash along the edges. Lightly pick out the areas closest to the light source (i.e. the sun / directly above the model) with a very thin highlight colour. Blend the edges of this highlight with the original base colour while also cleaning any areas where the dark wash dried in an unpleasing way. 
     
  5. This medallion thing looks pretty dope. 
captain4.jpg
  1. These blue buttons also look pretty dope. 
  2. The wax on these purity seals are too flat. Try hitting them with a wash and then highlight the outer rim with pink. 
  3. You have demonstrated a nice gradient here. I would suggest forgetting the lightning lines for now and just concentrate on turning up the contrast of the purple. Right now the gradient changes from near black to dark purple. Aim for something more extreme (especially on power weapons) such as straight black - dark purple - medium purple - light purple - white.  

Further Reading & Resources 

It would be possible to take any of my miniatures and level the exact same critiques against them. We all land somewhere on a spectrum of ability to create contrast. 

Techniques

Almost everything I know about the actual physical process of dragging pigment across the surface of a miniature was learned from this video alone.

Materials 

  • If you don't have a wet palette yet then stop fucking around and make yourself one! 3 minute tutorial
  • Try out paints from Citadel, Vallejo, P3, Reaper & what ever else you see for sale. 
  • If you plan on spending another $200 miniatures in your future, then set aside that part of your hobby budget and purchase an airbrush kit. It will serve you better than another $200 of plastic. Purchase guide
  • Experiment with all sorts of basing materials. Badass Basing tutorial

Theory 

I've written about this before here. You should also consider this legendary book.