Wednesday 20 January 2016

Painting Commodore Borgossa – part 3

As promised back in December here is a more detailed description of how I finished painting Commodore Borgossa. You can see the finished bust on Putty & Paint HERE.

 The Face

I chose a desaturated mid-grey/green as a base colour for Borgossa’s face. This gave me a muted foundation that helped to prevent the subsequent colours becoming too saturated, which might have happened with a lighter base colour. The shading and highlights were built up with translucent layering and glazes. Much of the apparent colour on the face is the combination of several layers of translucent colour rather than something that was mixed on a palette. 

The eyes 

I decided to give Borgossa a ‘dead eye’ by extending the scar sculpted across this mouth up across the rest of his face. This may not be the most original thing to have done, but it seemed to suit both the character and the sculpt. I used pictures of the actor Kirk Douglas from the movie ‘The Vikings’ as reference for the eyes, and this was a great help in getting some life into them. I also applied a spot of gloss to the eyes once they were painted. I’m always wary of going too glossy on a finished model; but, in this case, the varnish gives the eyes a sparkle that works with the painted reflections to great effect! 


Painting the clothing was a fairly straightforward task but I had to remember to keep the saturation down at all times. I’m constantly surprised by just how far you can push the desaturation of your colours without compromising the colourfulness of your work. One example of this is the ‘gold’ decoration on Borgossa’s waistcoat. The effect is achieved with the use of just three colours (grey, yellow ochre and ivory) but grey is the most used colour by a wide margin! 

The blue/grey and maroon colours used in the clothing were picked to complement and contrast with the green flesh tone. They bring some extra interest to the piece but don’t detract from the face. For the textures I decided to paint a silky shine on the waistcoat and give the coat a slightly courser texture. In the end, I used a stipple texture on the coat as this seemed to best complement the slight stippled texture in the sculpt. 


One of the targets I’ve set myself for 2016 is to experiment with true metallics. The buckle and buttons on Borgossa’s costume were a good opportunity to do this. By painting them in true metallic they contrast with the materials around them and help to sell the overall illusion of reality. Although I like to paint non-metallic metals, I’m currently of the opinion that true metallics work better for larger scale projects. 


The fishtail decoration in Borgossa’s hat proved to be the most difficult part of the project for me to get right. In my first efforts I attempted to use a metallic foundation and glaze over that with inks. The effect was interesting but, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to look like it belonged with the rest of the piece. In the end I used the same blue and maroon colours as Borgossa’s costume and these proved to be successful! The fishtail now feels like a part of the whole and is colourful without being distracting. 


I usually prefer to base my models on plain black resin plinths but I wanted to try something a little different with Borgossa. In this case I decided to use a tall wooden plinth and to burn and stain it to resemble an old ship’s timber. I’ve seen tutorials where bases are burnt using a cigarette lighter but this proved to be too subtle. The wood was quite hard and burnt very slowly. Taking my plinth (and my life) in my hands, I burnt it in the flame on my gas cooker hob. This proved to be more successful and gave a more dramatic effect. 

Obviously working with fire is hazardous and all due caution was taken with regards to ventilation and avoiding injury. In addition I found it very useful to have a large basin of cold water close to hand to extinguish the flames and cool the wood down - it became very hot! 

Painting the hat.

The leather texture on Borgossa’s hat was painted with a combination of several basic techniques.

Step 1. Base coat using GW Baneblade Brown. 

Step 2. Initial texture. 

To begin creating the texture, I daubed & stippled the hat with a darker brown using a combination of brushes and sponges. The process was fairly random, although I concentrated the texture effects on the areas I wanted to be darker. I then went over this with a stippled highlight of GW Baneblade Brown mixed with Valleyo ivory. The highlights begin the process of creating definition for the shape of the hat. 

In addition to brushes, I used a combination of both natural & synthetic sponges to create a more varied texture. Try to avoid only using one surface of the sponge as this runs the risk of inadvertently creating a repeating texture. 

Step 3. Wash. 

The first stages are fairly rough and random but that will help to create an interesting texture. The following stages will tie everything together and refine the texture. The first step towards this is an overall wash of ink. I used scale colour chestnut ink for this and it totally transformed the overall effect for the better. 

I found it necessary to dilute the ink as inks can give a very intense layer of colour and it’s easy to over-do the effect. 

Step 4. Refining the texture and highlights. 

Returning to my base and highlight colours, I began to refine the details and texture with further stippling and glazes. It's all about brushes this time! It's quite good to use a couple of different sizes to help vary the marks. As well as Windsor & Newton series 7 I like to use Windsor & Newton Scepter Gold II brushes for a lot of the stippling. They are a sable/synthetic mix and a bit stiffer (& cheaper) than pure sable, which works well for stippling. 

This stage involves a bit of going back and forth between the shades used but it’s worth the effort. It is also during this stage that I picked out and enhanced the sculpted textures and damage on the hat. The trick here is to enhance and add to the sculpted detail in a complementary way. The final step is to add a few carefully applied glazes to enrich the colour and tie all the details together. 


  1. A fantastic piece and excellent write-up. Thanks for the tips : )

  2. That is pretty astounding sir!

  3. Amazing work.

    The leather effect is incredible - not truly realistic but rather what you see in your mind when you think of worn leather. A very successful stylisation.

    1. Realism V stylisation is something that has always interested me! I often find it tricky to balance between them.
      I remember from the earliest days of my art education that I was taught not to be too literal when painting textures (or anything else). Sometimes its better to paint the idea or impression of a texture rather than creating a photo realistic representation. I think this is especially true when working at a small scale.

  4. An amazing piece of work - I'm going to be adding desaturated colours and stippling to things I want to play with this year!

  5. Thanks a lot for posting this, especially the bit about leather. I'm really looking forward to trying this technique out next time I have something leather to paint.

    I have a couple of questions for you:
    1) at the very end you wrote, "The trick here is to enhance and add to the sculpted detail in a complementary way." Could you explain a bit what you mean by this, or give an example?
    2) what do you think about using the same technique at different scales, like on a 30mm or 54mm figure instead of a 1/10 bust? Would you still use it? What, if anything, would you change about it?

    1. 1)I've probably made this sound more complicated than it is!
      If you are painting texture effects onto an area with sculpted texture the sculpting and painting should work together.
      For example Borgossa's jacket has a fairly strong stippled texture sculpted onto it. In the first instance I tried to paint a woven fabric effect but it looked wrong over the stippled sculpting. In the end I found a painted stipple effect worked best for me on the jacket. I'm not saying that the sculpted and painted textures should always be identical but they should always work together to create the desired effect.

      2) Broadly speaking the technique should work in diferent scales. Smaller brush sizes and finer sponge would probably be a good idea for smaller scales. At larger scales you would need to add more fine detail and be careful with the contrasts to avoid the effect looking too cartoonish.

  6. Very cool project David *Thumbs up*

    Really love the skintone, could you please tell us what colours you use for the green skin itself and what colors for the skin shadows?

  7. Hi Michael.
    Most of the paints are from Scalecolour. The main green used is sherwood green. I've also used Ardennes Green and Boreal Tree Green in the mid tones & shadows. For the deep shadows I've added Red leather and Black leather. The highlighting is done with the addition of Rakarth flesh (games workshop) and a touch of white. There is also a little Adriatic blue and Deep red used in the midtones to add some extra colour contrast.