Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eye Spy with My Little Eye

As requested*, today I'm cover painting eyeballs. Being my usual detail oriented self, I can't cover one topic entirely in one tutorial, so today I'm just going to cover painting eyeballs on a mini.

*Always feel free to suggest topics in the comments. I am easily influenced and give in to peer pressure.

With eyeballs, doubly so in mini-scale, I'm a big believer in less-is-more. I use simple colors, a few layers, and an easy technique. Which all goes to say I'm not going to show you how to paint eye veins on stablemates. This same technique is also scalable, meaning you can use it on trads too. You can add more detail on a traditional (and I’ll cover this eventually) but you don’t have to to create high quality, competitive work.

I started with an airbrushed model sporting a completed base coat.

From here, I move into detailing the face excluding the eyeballs. Partially because I paint with an airbrush, I’m not eager to add particularly dramatic shading. In some cases, it can punch up the detail on a face (I’m thinking of plastic models which often lack a crispness in their details.) In others…well…I’ll just say my taste is conservative in this respect.

Step one is shading around the eyeball. Miss Scarlett was kind enough to pose nicely and show us how light the skin around the eye can be on a buckskin:

However, this shade looks so light on my model that I’m concerned the edge of the eye lids will contrast too much against a dark brown eye. However, if you flip through pictures of buckskins, you’ll notice how they tend to look black around the eye. This effect is created by shadows, but the shadows don't usually translate on a model so small.

So I split the difference and mix this grey color to go around the eye:

Okay, so there's a bunch of greys here. I mess with a color like this a bit before I start in order to find the right shade.

I mix enough water to get a consistency akin to 1% milk. I don’t quite want it watery as it needs to stick to the existing paint, but it also needs to be thin enough that it lays down at about 50% transparency.

You may notice a theme here and in future tutorials. I don’t prefer to paint by hand so I tend to fall back on the same skills I use when I airbrush. With an airbrush, I never mix paint directly. I shade by using multiple thin layers--each a shade darker than the last--but still allow the lower layers to shine through. This is called wet-on-dry. As opposed to wet-on-wet (mixing wet paints together to shade), this technique requires (eh hem) a pinch less patience and manual dexterity. And when I use it, I get less brush strokes. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not good at painting wet-on-wet, and that could be the real source of my failing.

Using my thin, medium grey and a 18/0 size brush (itty bitty teeny tiny size), I run my brush around the crease in the sculpture where the eyeball meets the eyelid. Not that you'd ever want to do such a thing, but imagine you were putting eye making up on a horse. The light grey I airbrush on earlier is the eyeshadow. This darker grey is the eyeliner. I want the eye to pop without looking tarty.

I also want the paint the fill the crease as even the most delicate of airbrushes can miss a small space like this.

This guy is going to be an appaloosa, so it's important to remember the sclera aka eyewhites. Eyewhites, ironically, are never really white. With all the little capilarilies running through them they are more a pink color. I mix this color using titanium white and this brown paint mix I use for almost everything:

This is a mix of Light Burnt Umber, a pinch of Raw Sienna, and a bunch of Super Russet Pearl Ex (a metallic powder pigment)

I want a half and half consistency with this color. I use it to cover the entire eyeball, while being careful not to spill onto the eyelid. If my aim sucks (it often is) I can go back with my grey color and touch up the edge.

After letting this layer dry, I go back with the same eyeliner grey color from before (1% consistency). Which sounds redundant. I paint a circle in the center of the eye, but leave a sliver of pink at either end of the eyeball.

Let the grey dry. Realistically, when I paint both eyeballs at the same time, just the time it takes to flip back and forth between sides will be enough to let a layer dry.

Now I switch to carbon black. A slightly thicker, almost creamy consistency is fine here. I'm too lazy to paint too many layers. However, I often need to paint a couple layers of black to get it completely solid.

Next, I add a thin (1%) layer of Light Burnt Umber, leaving a slight black edge all around. I continue to add thin layer of this color, but increasing smaller oval shapes weighted toward the lower half of the pupil.

I end with a small black oval to represent the pupil. This will be the thickest texture (maybe heavy cream) of mostly black paint with a drop of water. I set the model aside to fully dry, then I finish with several layers of gloss (2 to 4 layers-ish.)


Anonymous said...

I'm curious about your "I use this for everything" mix- do you have a way of mixing acrylic paint and keeping it without it drying out? My biggest problem with any kind of acrylic painting (wet on dry or wet on wet) is that I can never quite get my shades close enough together so that they blend properly. If I had a way of keeping mixed paint usable, that would be revolutionary...

Laura Skillern said...

That is a very good question. I airbrush my base coats, but I'm not fond of airbrush paints. I use high quality Golden Acrylics (in the tubes, not the tubs) and water them down with...well...water. I use about 1 part water for 2 parts paint. The water is just enough to mix the paint by shaking of the jar. Speaking of the jar, I exclusively use those glass jars made for airbrushing.

All this put together--quality paint, water, and a good jar--extends the life of the mix to at least 3 to 6 months of storage. If you intend to use it for airbrushing, the shelf life is on the short end as the paint will begin to break down after a few months if you’re not perpetually working with it. When it breaks down, it will start to form teeny tiny spots of dried paint which will clog your airbrush.

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