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Figure Painting Guide


I have been asked many times how I paint my figures, so I thought I'd cover this subject here.​

All the points covered can be seen in the image of the 1/43rd scale 'Oh! Mr Porter' and 'Loco Crew 3' figures below



Brushes I use are Kolinsky Sable numbers 3 and 4 from  both brand new and some a bit tatty.

For fine work I cut the outer hairs from the outside of a number 4 brush with a scalpel leaving the centre core which then has a very fine point. This is called a 'finishing brush'.

Undercoat is Halfords White Primer in a big spray can.

Paints are a large selection of Matt Humbrols, plus Gloss Humbrol Brown 10, Gold and Silver, and Goldsize



The best thinner is genuine turpentine although white spirit can be used. I use kitchen foil to stand the figures on as this cuts down dust, and kitchen roll for wiping brushes.

I usually stick 1/43 or smaller figures to a small styrene base with Uhu or Evostick so it will stand up (this makes it much easier later on and the base can be removed at the end of the process). If the figure is required to have a small permanent base, I solder it to a piece of thin brass sheet.

I always use margerine or ice cream tub plastic lids as a pallette. It is always a good idea to have a few of these handy. It takes a few seconds to put some paint on the pallette so that the Humbrol tin can be sealed again to avoid the paint in the tin drying out.


Shake the Halfords White Primer for a full two minutes as per the instructions on the can. Spray gently from around 25cm so the figure is covered but not at the expense of filling up the detail. Allow to dry for 2 hours before handling.


Making a Start

Make a start by painting the basic flesh colour onto faces, hands and, if necessary, legs, trying not to overlap too far onto other areas.

I have not found a satisfactory flesh colour available in the Humbrol, Revell or similar range of paints. I mix my own using a half full white tin, and adding small amounts of red, blue and yellow paint to create a satisfactory shade. The ideal mix is similar to your own skin, but just a little bit darker.

Once the skin colour is dry (best left overnight, or at least for 3 or four hours), carefully paint in maybe two of the main colours required on the figure allowing the first to dry before adding the next.



I shadow and highlight all of the main colours when I paint figures. This adds a little more realism, but there is a slight knack to it and it takes a little getting used to. I will deal with faces and skin in a separate section.

Make sure you have clean turpentine and a square of kitchen roll laid flat. Use a no. 3 brush with a good point.

To shadow, on the pallette, mix a little black into the main colour you have used. Only trial and error will tell you if you are creating the right shade, and with experience you will make the right choices more often. (Darkening reds with black does not seem to work too well, adding a brick type brown is better).

Paint the darker shade carefully into clothing creases, and any other places you think a shadow should exist on your figure, maybe a thin line around lapels, or the edge of a jacket, or the underside of a skirt.

After this darker colour has dried for 5 or 10 minutes, clean your brush, and remove any excess turps on the kitchen roll. Then, while the brush is still damp, blend all the edges of the darker colour into the original colour. With a bit of practice you should be able to do this neatly.



To highlight the main colours on your figure once again have clean turps handy and a square of kitchen roll laid flat. However this time you will need an old, tatty but clean and dry no. 3 brush.

On the pallette mix your main colour with white to make a lighter shade. The object this time is to 'dry brush' the paint across the area to be highlighted. Pick up some paint from the pallette just on the very ends of the bristles on the brush. Wipe off some of this paint on the kitchen roll before carefully 'flicking' the end of the brush across clothing creases etc. Also pay attention to elbows, knees and shoulders, but try not to overdo it. It is a similar method to how some people 'weather' model locomotives.​


Painting Faces

The first stage of painting the face is very similar to shadowing using a skin colour mixed with some brick red no. 70. This needs a brush with a fairly good tip, I use an old finishing brush where the tip is past it's best but the brush can be useful for other tasks. This darker skin colour shadows underneath a cap peak, the eye sockets, alongside and under the nose, the two creases from the sides of the nose past the mouth, underneath the chin and also inside and behind the ears. Don't forget to treat hands in a similar manner and arms/legs if skin is showing. Then blend all this shadowing as described in the 'shadowing' section above.

I then paint in the whites of the eyes and the pupils (usually brown or dark blue) carefully with a good finishing brush, and a thin very dark brown (mixed from black and red) line across the top of the pupil. I find that, once the eyes are finished, it is easier to judge the remaining steps.

Mix some of the skin colour with red so it gently changes shade, then paint the cheeks in a wedge shape from the side of the nose towards the ear, to give the face a bit of colour, then blend in.

Add more red to make a pinker skin colour and then draw a line carefully across the lips.

To highlight the face, mix a lighter version of the skin colour using white, and then lighten the top edges of the eye sockets, the bridge and the 'flare' of the nose, the cheekbones under the eyes, the chin and sides of the jawbone and round the edges of the ears. Blend all this in again as per the shadowing. Knuckles and tops of fingers can be highlighted too.


Finishing Lines

Finishing lines complete the painting and have the effect of 'tidying up' the painting on the figure.

Mix Humbrol matt black and red to produce a dark brown colour. This is thinned with turpentine and by using a 'finishing brush' very thin dark lines are drawn to separate the colours from each other and mark other detail. If finishing lines are needed on very light colours or white I will use grey for the same purpose.


As with anything artistic if you begin using this description as a guide with practice you will undoubtedly develop your own ways of doing things in order to achieve the desired result.

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