Not satisfied with extraordinary toy photography and pushing the Digirama technique to new heights, Jason Yang (@workmoreorless) now tries his hand at figure re-painting. In this special Tutorial feature, Jason walks us through the full process of re-painting the head-sculpt from the Black Series.
With most things, you get what you pay for, and at face value this statement is true for toys and collectibles. Fortunately for toy collectors and photographers, companies like Hasbro continue to refine techniques for getting the most value out of their products. For example, the Star Wars the Black Series 6” line has made considerable improvements on face deco using new microprinting techniques, without having to raising the retail price.
Ironically, the sculpts underneath the ink and paint have always been exceptional. There are several extremely talented painters who have helped proved this point, including friends of Exclu, Old Boy CCTS. As an artist and hobbyist I love trying new things and thought I’d share my adventure of repainting The Last Jedi Poe Dameron from the 6” Black Series line.
For this exercise, I chose a set of Model Master Acrylics which went on smoothly and were fairly forgiving. I also purchased a set of relatively inexpensive synthetic brushes ranging in size that I used throughout the project. I also used Model Master Acrylic Clear in matte, semi-gloss, and gloss to seal the paint through various stages. You’ll want to mix your paint with a palette or even a paper plate, and always have paper towels handy. I use a pencil or similar cylindrical shape that fits the peg hole to use as a handle.
The factory paint application you get with a commercial product generally will require a bit of effort to remove. There are a few options you can go with, but I chose to use 90% rubbing alcohol and fingernail polish remover for stubborn sections. It’s always best to test first either on a different figure or in an inconspicuous place before you go all in. Take a cotton swap with your solution and light dab and rub, repeating as necessary. For removing paint around detailed areas, wet the tip of a toothpick and gently pick away the paint. Let dry completely.
Once you’ve removed a majority of the paint (if not all), it’s time to add a base coat. The general idea is to begin with the darkest tones and work to the lightest. I begin with Skin Tone Shadow Tint (F) and apply 2 thin coats to cover the entire face surface. Patience and the use of thin coats will help reduce the brush strokes in the end.
Using the Skin Tone Warm Tint (F), apply a thin layer to the areas of medium to high relief. This would be the forehead, cheek bones, nose, jaw and chin. Be intentional about not getting paint in the crevices, which will remain darker and provide shadow and definition. After applying the paint to your brush, remove most excess paint so the brush is nearly dry. Again, think layers as you go.
Medium Coat Toning
At this stage I like to take the Skin Tone Warm Tint (F) and add a tiny bit of Skin Tone Shadow Tint (F) and light lightly hit around the eyes, nose, mouth and ears to continue to build shadow and contrast. I find that adding the paint and dabbing with your finger helps to blend.
I also add just the smallest drop of a dark red to this Warm Tint (F) and add thin detail around the eyes, nose and mouth to give the skin tone some warmth. Apply the eye base coat with white and a tiny drop of the Skin Tone Tint Base – Light (F) because eye balls are never truly white (also black should always have another color mixed with it to give it life).
Using the same techniques from the previous coats, apply Skin Tone Base (F) to the high relief areas. These will start pulling out highlights and provide contrast overall.
Once I get the basic skin tones where I like them, I add a thin semi-gloss clear coat to seal in the hard work I’ve invested. Now if unwanted paint dabs end up on it, you can quickly wipe it with your damp fingertip or brush and it should come off without removing the paint. You can add a clear coat whenever you want, but just keep in mind that it is an additional layer even though it is clear.
This is where patience is key! I use the smallest brushes to do the details and always have a damp paper towel ready in case I need to dab away mistakes. Focus on one section at a time, applying your paint strokes slowly, building up the detail over time. Add eyebrows, eye lashes and tiny stokes along the hairline to help naturally blend the forehead to the sculpted hair. For Poe, I ended up having a few subtle shades of brown that I would alternate to provide some contrast.
The most challenging part is tackling the eyes. This no doubt will take more than one attempt, so testing it out once or twice on your hand is actually helpful.
Start with a muted darker version of the iris color and paint a dot in the center of each eye for rough placement. Adjust as needed. Paint the entire iris, taking note that the eyelids will obscure the top and bottom edges. In other words, don’t paint a perfect circle between the top and bottom eyelid. Use the more vivid eye color (still muted but less so) and cover the inner portion of the iris, leaving the thin outermost rim from the layer underneath still visible.
Brighten up your vivid eye color with a touch of white, paint the bottom half of the eye and blend it in to the top part of the iris color. I also like to add a quick semi-gloss clear coat here before adding the pupil.
Add the pupil with a mixture of black and a touch of color tone. Refer to your reference image for size and placement.
Treat the hair in a similar fashion, working from dark to light. For Poe, I obviously went with various tones and tints of brown. For Poe, I built up his stubble with several layers, applying hardly any paint with each pass. It’s easy to over do it, so thin, dry layers is best.
Congratulations! Now your head is completely painted and perfect – probably not, but you gotta start somewhere! The final stage is to add one final clear coat to reduce paint rub over time. I use semi gloss for the skin, matte for the hair, and a tiny dab of gloss over the eyeballs.
Be sure to catch more of Jason’s work including his 3-Part Digirama Tutorial across the Exclu site and over on his Instagram via @workmoreorless.
For all the latest toy photography tips and tutorials, stay tuned to Exclu.
Last modified: January 15, 2019