Open in a new tab for a larger image

Ah, faces— my favorite part of painting any miniature. The face is the focal point of many miniatures, meaning it draws the eye when the miniature is being viewed. This means a couple of things:

First, a well-painted face can distract from other poorly painted elements of your miniature. Conversely, this also means that a poorly painted face will always stand out. It won’t matter how much freehand or NMM you put on that kneepad if your miniature’s face looks like the aftermath of a fire at a wax museum— the eye will always dwell on the face so ignore it at your peril!

Now a lot of people seem to hate painting faces. That’s understandable, after all, it’s oftentimes a very small part of the model and also very detailed. But hopefully, I can give you a few tips that might help make it just a little bit easier.

First up the paints:

The Essentials

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll just be using these four colors. From left to right: Bugman’s Glow, Sunny Skintone, Basic Skintone, White.

I’ll explain why I use these colors as we proceed. Let’s get started.


First up is priming. I’ve zenithal primed this fellow— one coat of black followed by a single puff of white from above. I’ve done this because it helps define natural areas of light and shadow on the face. If you can, I recommend keeping a picture of this stage so that you can reference light placement later on.


Now we basecoat the face using two coats of Bugman’s Glow. We want our paint to be fairly thick, roughly 2 parts paint to 1 part water. You want the paint to leave the brush easily but not so much that you lose control of it.

So why Bugman’s Glow? Well, it’s a nice reddish-brown color that acts as a good shadow for the rest of the face while providing some warmth.

First Highlight

For the first highlight, we’ll be using a 1:1 mix of Bugman’s Glow and Sunny Skintone. Sunny Skintone has a fair amount of yellow in it so mixing it with the Bugman’s Glow gives us a nice warm skin tone color. With this, we’ll define most of the face but deliberately avoid the areas that would be in shadow. As you can see in the picture the sides of the nose, the areas beneath the brow, eyes, cheekbones, and lips are left dark. If you accidentally get paint in any of these areas you can clean them up with some Bugman’s Glow.

Second Highlight

For the second highlight, we’re just adding some more Sunny Skintone to the mix. It should be something like 2:1 Sunny Skintone to Bugman’s.

Now when applying this layer think of the face like a cube. We’re only going to paint one plane of the cube: the front-facing one. We won’t be putting paint on the sides of the face here, just the cheeks, lower eyelids, the area above the upper lip, the forehead and chin.

On the nose, we want to paint the bridge and tip of the nose while leaving a little bit of the previous layer between the two. We’ll also carefully pick out the nostrils with a dot of this mix.

Third Highlight

This is where things get interesting. For the third highlight, we use a 1:1 mix of Sunny Skintone and Basic Skintone. We’ll be highlighting the same places as before just a smaller area of each. This is the step where we start seeing some real contrast between the previous shadows and highlights. Try to be as neat as possible here.

Fourth Highlight

Finally, add some White to the Basic Skintone and apply a final highlight to the lower eyelids and upper area of the cheeks. Then apply a dot of this color to the top of the forehead, brows, the nose, chin, and lower lip.


And that’s really all there is to it. The trick is just to push as much contrast into the front plane of the face and keep things cleanly defined. Now, of course, there’s a lot more you can do with this face, such as adding stubble, or some glazes to add more visual interest but for a face that stands out on the table, this is good enough.

I hope you all found this article at least a little bit helpful. ‘Til next time.