Painting faces

Painting 1/6 faces requires proper tools, mastering techniques and lots of practice.
1/6 scale heads are small enough to be difficult to paint, yet large enough to see lots of details.


When working with latex based acrylic paints such as Vallejo do not thin the paint with water (not even distilled water). Water will ruin adhesion and may cause the paint to break up in tiny globs. Use Vallejo Thinner (70.524) instead, or use Vallejo Gloss Medium (70.470).
Vallejo Thinner will make the paint dry more glossy, when using little or no thinner I prefer to add some Gloss Medium because glossy surfaces are more resistant to newly applied paint, so if you have to layer paints you won't risk wiping off old layers.

For opaque applications like lips and the white of the eyes the paint usually does not require thinning, but do check if the paint covers without leaving brush marks.
For fine lines the paint needs to be thinned to the consistency of ink. This is a bit of trial and error. If the paint is too thick then the paint won't flow properly or even dries on the brush, if the paint is too thin then the coat of paint will be translucent (often not that much of a problem, just apply more layers).

mild cadmium staining around mouth Never use paints that contain cadmium on soft vinyl. Cadmium (abbreviated as 'Cd') may be present in red, green and yellow paints.
Apart from being toxic, cadmium will migrate from the paint into the vinyl over time, which causes discoloration of both the paint and the surrounding plastic.
I ran into this problem after repainting Nathalies mouth. As soon as I noticed an orangy glow developing around the lips I removed the paint (using a cotton bud with some rubbing alcohol) and repainted the mouth using Cadmium-free paint. Once the paint has been removed, the orangy glow will fade over time.

First practice: FemBasix Lia head.

FemBasix Lia head with mouth and white of eyes painted I started with the easy bits: the white of the eyes and the lips.

For the white of the eyes I used Tamiya Acryllic flat white (in future I will use Vallejo Base White (70.919) with a bit of Gloss Medium added). I did not manage to paint the eyes in a single stroke, so I ended up leaving some brush marks (usually Tamiya acrylic paint shrinks while drying, making brush marks disappear, however this particular jar was probably too old).

For the mouth I used Vallejo Old Rose (70.944), I added a highlight to the center of the lower lip by mixing a little bit of white in with the Old Rose.

I cleaned the spilled white paint from the edges of the eyelids using the tip of a toothpick cut to a flattened point. Moisten the tip with some water and carefully rub the edges making sure not to damage the white of the eyes.
After that I left the paint to cure for several weeks to be sure it would form a solid base for the next steps.

In the meantime I took a picture of the head. I found it difficult to visualize how the painted face would look, so I edited the picture in my image editor (GIMP), adding transparent switchable layers with different colors and sizes for eyes, eyeshadow, etc. This is a really quick and easy way to try out different looks.

The next picture is an overview of some of the options I explored, the lower rightmost one is the one I decided on trying to paint.
FemBasix Lia head, exploring paint options
FemBasix Lia head with mouth, eyebrows and eyes painted Painting the eyebrows and the base color for the irises.

I decided on brown eyes so for the base color of the irises I used Burnt Umber (70.941) with a little bit of Gloss Medium mixed in. I started with placing a dot where i wanted each pupil, then I drew a small circle around the dot and filled in the resulting circle.
The size of the circle is a bit of a trade-off as this head has rather large eyes.
Small irises create an 'uneasy' or 'surprised' expression, larger irises create a more relaxed expression, but also make the head look more doll-like.

For the eyebrows I again used Burnt Umber with Gloss Medium as it offered a good match to the hair color, this time I added some thinner to be able to draw smooth lines. First I drew a thin line of paint to form the base of the eyebrow, then I added small strokes to represent hairs. I ended up making the eyebrows a bit thicker than usual, just to try out the effect.
There is a rule for painting perfect eyebrows.
FemBasix Lia head completely painted Adding some details: the line over the upper eyelid, the eyelashes and the main color of the irises.

For the line over the eyelids and the eyelashes I again used Burnt Umber with Gloss Medium, this time adding a lot of thinner.

For the main color of the irises I used Saddle Brown (70.940) mixing in some Golden Brown (70.877) for the lower halves.
To finish the irises I mixed some Black (70.950) with Gloss Medium, cut the point off of the tip of a toothpick and used this to place a nice round black dot in the center of each of the irises.

Finally I mixed up a bit of Old Rose with some Burnt Umber and put a bit in the corner of each eye.

I would have applied gloss varnish over the eyes, but I noticed that there are brush marks in the white paint and some more in the irises. A glossy finish would make these marks much more noticable so I decided to leave the finish of the eyes flat.

FemBasix Lia head completely painted

Gaining experience

If you don't feel ready to repaint an entire face you can gain some detail painting experience by overpainting existing details in a different color.
Here are some examples:

Changing the color of eyebrows

This is a nice way to practice. Nothing can go wrong as long as you keep a paper towel or a Q-tip and some water at hand to wipe away any excess paint or wipe off all of the fresh paint to start over.
In this case I just painted over the original eyebrows, following the original contours.

Anne with original eyebrowsAnne with repainted eyebrows
Original eyebrow colorEyebrows repainted in a color that matches the hair.

changing the color of the eyes

To change the color of the eyes of a figure, start by observing the size of the pupils and the white highlight dots in relation to the size of the irises.
Then paint a dark base color over the entire iris of each eye.
Once the paint has cured, paint lighter colors inside the irises, leaving a dark outer edge visible.
Finish by placing a black dot in the center of the iris of each eye.

Once the irises have the color you like, there are two ways of adding a 'highlight' reflection to the eyes: adding a white dot or giving the eyes a glossy coat of varnish.

When adding a white dot you have to be careful to make the dot not too large and to place the dots at the same position on both eyes.

When adding a glossy coat (satin usually looks better a than a high gloss) be sure the paint on the eyes is smooth as any bumps or brush marks will show up as false reflections.
Also make sure not to get gloss on the eyelids as that will look like tear-filled eyes (if that happens, then run a fine brush with some flat varnish along the edges of the eyelids after the gloss coat has cured).

eyes original color eyes being repainted eyes repainted
Original head with blue eyes.Eyes repainted.
The eyes can be finished with either a white 'highlight' dot or a glossy finish
White highlights added.

MBears My very first practice object for painting entire faces was Blue MBear.
These StikFas MBears are made from hard polystyrene which makes latex based acrylics easy to remove in case the paint ends up looking wrong.
I painted the paws, the insides of the ears and the eyes in a grayish-blue shade, then painted black dots in the centers of the eyes.
I was pleased with the result so I sealed the painted parts with flat acrylic varnish, painted the nose glossy black with Pactra Acrylic Enamel and applied a dot of gloss acrylic varnish to each eye.

Painting perfect eyebrows

perfect eyebrows

Whilst zapping TV channels I hit some beauty/makeover show right at the moment when a beautician was about to pluck the subjects eyebrows. Before doing that, she explained what perfect eyebrows should look like. She put the side of the tweezers against the side of one nostril and pointing it upwards she indicated three lines:

  1. across the inner corner of the eye, the perfect eyebrow should start on that line
  2. across the center of the eye (i.e. halfway between the corners), the perfect point for a bend in the eyebrow (if any) is on that line
  3. across the outer corner of the eye, the perfect eyebrow should end on that line

Between A and B a perfect eyebrow is at its darkest, most defined, between B and C the eyebrow gets thinner.

On the right is a picture of CG Ash with the three lines drawn on it.

Okay, so Ash does not have perfect eyebrows (close enough for me though).

back to my Cy Girls main page Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional