Painting Skeletons

        This is a quick way to paint Skeletons. The method is based on an article on painting skeletons by Mike McVey in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle 4th Edition Rulebook.

        You'll find that being able to paint bones and skulls will prove useful even if you don't generally paint fantasy figures. Many Sci-fi figures feature bones and skulls too.

Step 1. Take your figure and remove any mould lines or flash. This is important since the following painting method will really show up mould lines. I find a round needle file the best tool for this job.

Step 2. Give the figure a white undercoat. This often makes any mould lines you missed more visible so don’t be afraid to use the file once again and paint over the bare metal or plastic.

Step 3. While your undercoat is drying you need to make what I call “Skeleton Mix”. For Skeleton Mix make a mixture of Brown Ink:Yellow Ink:Water in the proportions 2:2:1. I use GW inks for this, but other brands should work since in their infinite wisdom GW have discontinued Inks. An eyedropper such as a Pastette is very useful for these sort of jobs if you have access to them. While you are raiding the lab supplies pocket a small plastic bottle such as a Bijou. You will find it useful to make up a small quantity of your Skeleton Mix keep it in the Bijou ready to use.

Step 4. Take your white-painted skeleton and paint him with Skeleton Mix. You’ll find that due to capillary action the mix tends to flow into the gaps between the ribs and joints and into places like the eyesockets. Make sure some ink mix gets into the mouth if it is open. Put your figure to one side and give the ink time to dry fully. You may notice that a few mould lines appear again! File these off, apply a bit more white paint and then paint over with Skeleton mix.
        You now need to decide whether to drybrush your figure. For some skeletons this is not necessary and you can jump straight to Step 6.

Heroquest Skeletons Skeleton Crew Skeleton Crew

Step 5. DryBrushing. If you decide to drybrush wait till the ink is fully dry. Watered ink sometimes takes much longer to dry than simple acrylic paint. The secret to drybrushing that most painting articles omit to mention is to use a large, slightly stiff brush. Games Workshop sell a flat brush and a pointed brush specifically for drybrushing and these are worth acquiring. If you can only afford one get the big flat one first.
        Dip the tip of your brush in GW Bleached Bone, wipe off the excess on the rim of the pot, wipe off more paint on a paper tissue and then brush lightly across the surface of your figure. You’ll find you only need to do this a little, since you want to coat the raised surfaces of the bones but leave the ink between them below.

Step 6. If you want a really quick paint job. I suggest you ink the figure, drybrush in Bleached Bone and do a little highlighting with a lighter shade such as White or MP Pale Flesh, then jump to Step 8.

Step 7. The More Involved Method. If the method above doesn’t produce something that you are happy with you may like to add a few more stages of drybrushing. McVey suggests that the first brushing should be with “Orc Brown”. GW no longer make Orc Brown but GW Graveyard Earth or Tamiya Flat Earth appear to be close alternatives. Progressively drybrush with lighter mixes or shades of paint until you are ready to highlight. I’ve yet to try this personally, preferring the quicker method.
        A possibly variation to the above would be to basecoat the model in brown, drybrush with white and then apply the Skeleton mix, then proceed from Step 5.

Step 8. The Eyes and Teeth. Some of your Ink mix should have pooled in the eye sockets, making them darker. If you are not satisfied with the look of them either add a dab of Skeleton mix, pure Brown Ink or a suitable colour. Generally dark empty eye sockets look good on a Skeleton but if you are doing a Character or Champion you may want red or green glowing eyes or some other effect. I suggest you get a nice dark eye socket before painting these colours in.
        The Skeleton’s Teeth often need a little extra detail. The Skeleton’s teeth should already be painted a light colour from the drybrushing stage. Paint over them with neat Brown Ink and allow to dry. The ink settles into the gaps between the teeth. With a light touch and just a little paint on your brush you can now paint the individual teeth without filling in the gaps in between. I tend to use MP Pale Flesh to paint teeth, but you can use White or Bleached Bone, depending on what effect you are aiming for. Incidentally, this is my standard method for painting teeth on other creatures, although I tend to use GW Chestnut Ink rather than Brown for living creatures.

Step 9. Rust. Now that your basic Skeleton is painted you can think about painting any other items that it has. Fantasy Skeletons tend to have weapons, and generally you will want to paint these a bit rusty to keep it in character with something that has crawled out of the earth. There are various ways to do rust effects but by far the simplest is to paint the blade GW Boltgun Metal and then Drybrush it with a little GW Tin Bitz. Adding dabs of Brown Ink can be used instead or in combination with Drybrushing. It is worth bearing in mind that rust patches tend to be quite orange in colour, so if you are painting them in use colours such as MP Orange or GW Vermin Brown. If you want a really rusty item such as a piece of armour it may be a good idea to paint it in Vermin Brown and then drybrush with Boltgun Metal.

Step 10. Black Ink. I use MP Black Ink for this stage. While coloured inks add colour, Black Ink does several other things. It adds shadow, makes the model look a bit dirtier and more realistic and fills in any little gaps you missed.
        Take a little dab of ink and add a few Millilitres of water. You want a sort of dark grey dirty water look when you brush it on a white surface. If you are new to Black Inking go slightly lighter than you think you need. Adding a flake of soap to the Ink/Water mix will help it flow better and reduce the chances of it pooling and drying wrong. Brush over the Skeleton and allow to dry. After 5 to 10mins give the figure a shake to remove excess ink and give it a look over to ensure the ink is not forming drops in places you don’t want it to.

Step 11. Base. All you need to do now is finish your base. I prefer an uncluttered, neutral base that shows off the model, so usually just paint it with MP Mid-Grey. Many other modelers prefer to paint the base, paint it with PVA (Woodworking) glue and coat it in various materials.


Death Jester Skulls

Death Jester with Shrieker Cannon

Death Jester with Shrieker Cannon

Owner: Uncle Phil

        For the bone masks and features of the Death Jesters I used a different technique. Death Jesters are undercoated in black, so I'm not sure how this technique would work over a white undercoat. Some Eldar technology is grown from Wraithbone so I've used the same technique also on his weapon above.

Step 1. Over the black undercoat, paint the part in GW Bestial Brown.

Step 2. Once the Bestial Brown layer is dry, paint over it with GW Snakebite Leather, leaving the Bestial Brown showing in the deepest recesses or parts that would be in shadow.

Step 3. Next, paint over the Snakebite with GW Bronzed Flesh. Use a fairly thin layer and leave a little Snakebite showing through at the edges.

Step 4. Repeat Step 3 using GW Bleached Bone. Again, use a thin layer and mainly add it to the raised areas.

Step 5. By now the part should be looking fairly bone like so the final stage is to add some highlights with white. I use MP White Primer for this since it is very thin so can be used to add a thin glaze. You might need to do this a couple of times, but since you are using very thin layers the paint will dry quick and the process is not as time consuming as you might think.

Variation
        This is a variation of the Death Jester model I used on my Chaplain Dreadnought and Servo Skull.

Chaplain Dreadnought

Chaplain Dreadnought

Owner: Uncle Phil

Servo Skull

Servo Skull

Owner: Uncle Phil


        Basically the skull part is painted as described for the Death Jester until you reach Step 4. The Bleached Bone is either painted on or drybrushed and allowed to dry. Once dry give the skull a wash of GW Gryphonne Sepia (Devlan Mud is an alternative, depending on what effect you are after). Once the wash is dry highlight with more Bleached Bone or White as you see fit.

        If you have enjoyed this article or it has been helpful to you please feel free to show your appreciation. Thank you.