Painting the Black Sun Barbarian (with emphasis on NMM) – by Andy Gillaspy

Painting the Black Sun Barbarian – PRELUDE

Hello Figurementor readers, a little while ago I spoke with David Powell one of my favourite painters and was very flattered to be asked to produce an article for Figurementors. We decided to concentrate on a figure with NMM (non-metallic metal), one of my favourite ways of painting. Fortunately, I had splurged and unbeknown to my darling wife I had bought the amazing Black Sun  Miniatures Barbarian. This has to be my favourite figure on the market at the moment and I found that quality really pays off. The muse was there and the urge to produce the best possible paint job was very high.

There are some truly wonderful versions of the Barbarian out there that inspired me but I decided to go my way with it and not slavishly copy any of them.

So as I have fortunately taken a lot of pics throughout the painting process I have put together a step by step article on how to paint this amazing figure.

paint the face first

For painting this piece, I primed the whole model with Citadel Chaos Black spray paint and painted the skin areas first, I always try and dress the model starting from the skin sections then clothes armour weapons etc. painting outwards.


For the skin I used the scale 75 flesh boxed set. This is an awkward set of paints to get used to. They separate very easily and are rubbish at glazing, that said they are brilliant at layering, indeed my all-time favourites. They are so matte and they dry with hardly any transition lines between the layers. They are a must, but not for the fainthearted.

I worked my way up the colours in the set apart from Arabic shadow which doesn’t seem to work too well (but it is excellent as a base for blond hair BTW) so base coated in Indian shadow and then using a spot well (I don’t like wet pallets I find it makes the paints go grainy) I mixed in the lighter shades into the previous mix and finally some white. So the skin recipe is here:

  1. Indian shadow base
  2. Indian shadow+basic skin first highlight
  3. Indian shadow+basic skin+golden skin second highlight
  4. Indian shadow+basic skin+golden skin +light skin third highlight
  5.  Indian shadow+basic skin+golden skin +light skin +pale skin fourth highlight
  6. Indian shadow+basic skin+golden skin +light skin +pale skin + white (Vallejo matte white) fifth highlight

There’s actually about twenty layers in the skin; I put slightly increasing amounts of the paint into the mix before transitioning up to the next highlight colour, making sure to keep the paint watered to a skimmed milk consistency. (Roughly a 1 to 1 mix of paint and water topping it up slightly with dabs of water as I go along).

Muscle-y Torso Tip:

form study – great photo reference

A good tip here is the bright line down the chest and abs. If you look at pictures of Arnie etc you will notice that this area is actually flat and tilted towards the light it catches a lot of light and is not in shadow at all unless bent over. As such it is the brightest area of the torso and should be painted as such.


The glazing is done using old GW range of paints I find them slightly glossy and very good indeed for glazing. Remember very thin, watered right down. I don’t use retardant in the mix, clean water is sufficient. Check the opacity on a paper towel first and remember moist is the best word. Just don’t flood the mini, controlled positioning helps reduce tide lines, pulling to the region of greatest depth.

  1. First glaze into the mid tone and shadow: Bhaal Red.
  2. Second glaze into the shadow regions: Bhaal Red + Regal Blue.
  3. Third glaze into creases: Regal Blue.
  4. Fourth glaze into midtone and some upper regions: Desert Yellow.
  5. Upper torso highlight regions: Vallejo White.

Details on the Skin:

The veins can be picked out with a thin glaze, carefully applied to the vein using Regal blue and then highlighted over with a thin, carefully applied pale skin.


To paraphrase Nick Cave in his immortal song Stagger Lee “Oh-h-h-h Yeah-h-h-h!”. I live for NMM (well that’s a slight exaggeration I actually live for Ben & Jerry’s………..oh the wife and kids I suppose as well).

I am most definitely still learning; there are masters out there such as Yellow One, Glazed Over, Nakatan, and Sprocket to name but a few. However, there may be some basic things I can go over.

I don’t go for all the armour at one take. I find it is better to concentrate on a section at a time. You need to make sure that the light is hitting from the same angle. Make sure that the raised areas receive the most light and the area underneath it is in the most shadow. This ups the contrast and this is absolutely the most important thing. So, for example, smooth surfaces with not so many raised sections are going to have larger midtone region and won’t be as shiny except for the edges. Meanwhile, blades and bass relief buckles will be more extreme.


I also like to use a large-ish brush with a good tip, so a Windsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sable size 1 or 2. If it’s good, the tip will be just as fine as a 0 or 00 and it will have a much larger paint well so it won’t dry out and the paint will flow nicely.

The paints I use are very simple: Vallejo Neutral Grey, Vallejo Matte Black, and Vallejo Matte White.  Also, as a “shader”, I use Army Painter Dark Shade.

The colours will appear with the glazing later on. A tip here is that the more fantasy orientated the NMM is, the more colours you put in the glazing stage.

Stage 1: the Helmet and other Armour

  1. Prime the metal with Vallejo Neutral Grey.
  2. Wash liberally, making sure there is no pooling or tide marks, using Army Painter Dark Shade.
  3. Apply a thin coat of Vallejo Grey+Vallejo Black about 90+10 over the surface, pulling the paint away from the creases.
  4. Reapply the Vallejo Grey, thinly pulling the paint to the midtone/highlight areas.
  5. First highlight: Vallejo Grey + White about 70/30, make sure its thinned down.
  6. Second highlight: Vallejo Grey + White about 50/50, make sure its thinned down.
  7. Third highlight: Vallejo Grey + White about 30/70, ditto.
  8. Fourth highlight: Vallejo Grey + White about 10/90, ditto.
  9. Fifth highlight: Pure White.

Make sure that the area you are covering is decreasing each time. The flatter the section of metal, the larger the areas of midtone and highlight region. The more raised and sharper edged, the smaller the areas of highlight become and the more the contrast is upped.

The white should generally be just a dot or two.

You can go back into the shadows with a dilute mix of Vallejo Black and water, just one small step up from a glaze. Pull the paint to the darkest shadows. This I would only do on sections of deepest shadow (i.e. where there are raised sections or sharp edges). It’s essential you don’t go completely barmy at this stage, make sure the transition is smooth and build it up gradually.

Pulling Paint:

scratches to the shoulder armour

I keep alluding to this, so I best explain. Using a brush which is moist, start the application of the paint in the previous area of coverage and pull the brush into the area that you want covered with the new paint. This has two effects. Firstly, only a thin amount of paint is on the border between the two regions, so the underlying paint shows through and you have a nice smooth transition. Secondly, it piles up the pigment in the region you want covered, increasing the opacity and upping the contrast.

Tips and Tricks:

If you find the transition between the regions is a bit harsh you can do the following: add scratches. Lines of a highlight between the two areas can help fool the eye into believing there is a smooth transition. You have to be careful that the scratches are catching the light from the right direction. That said, if you have a look at some of the really good painters like Bohun they use this technique all the time.

Pitting on the front of the shoulder pad

Another good technique to smooth the transition between midtone and highlight is stippling. Apply this method in a controlled manner so a few dots in the midtone region gradually coming closer together and more numerous in the highlight zone.

It really smooths the transition and can add texture, it is particularly good with more worn metal.

Stage 2: Blades

Blades are one of the focal points of the NMM section. On the mini, our eyes naturally gravitate to them and they need to look sharp! They have a fine edge which is very reflective, so you need to put a dark shade next to it. They also have a flat section, which needs to look shiny as well. If it’s used, there needs to be scratches as well. And all these need to be placed in a convincing fashion.

The edge of the blade definitely needs to be highlighted up to white and the scratches also need to be white. The blade section itself needs to transition smoothly from black sections up to white. It needs to be smooth thin layers here and lots of glazing. For the body of the axe I have decided to do as a black-ish iron (this bit I did take from a couple of the already painted figures out there).

The scroll work on the riveted section of the blade is actually easier than it looks. I just transitioned from black to white with fairly large midtones and then picked out some of the detail with pure white at the end.

the work on the blade

Stage 3: Round Bits

On the belt front and back there is a spherical piece this is large enough to catch the “uplight”. If you look you can see I’ve put a line of midtone on the underside. The metal will catch all types of under lighting, just remember it will not be as bright as the light directly from the sun. The under lighting adds a real depth and helps produce a recognisable 3-D effect.

notice the “uplights” on the round sections of armour

Stage 4: Glazing

This is what brings the metal to life and adds a magical ethereal quality to it. I love Frank Frazetta’s work and the metals have all sorts of glazed colours in there. Indeed, ones I would never have thought of using. I’ve gone for a slightly chrome finish to the metal, incorporating the sky and earth colours in the glazing. So the sky sections (i.e. the bits closer to the higher raised sections or brighter regions) have a thin glaze of GW Ethereal Blue.

colour is glazed into the nmm

This glaze is built up slowly, you really don’t want to mess up all your hard work by slapping an opaque layer of colour over your NMM!

The shadow region is a mix 50/50 of GW Scorched Brown and Bestial Brown. Yet again, layer it up and pull the glaze into the shadow regions. Make sure the glazes cover each other slightly where they meet.

All this glazing helps smooth the transitions beautifully and scratches and pitting do the same.


Stippling is king with worn leather and I’m not talking about technically proficient, totally controlled point work, I’m talking about bashing the hell out of it with a tired, old, splayed brush.  All different tones of brown, working up from a very dark brown by adding more and lighter tones on the highlight sections, but also occasionally using greens and blues and reds all thinned right down to almost, but not quite, glazes.

completing the leather work

I started off base coating with Vallejo Tank Brown + Black and then worked up adding lighter tones mainly GW Graveyard Earth in increasing amounts. Finally by adding Vallejo Ivory and then Vallejo White however, I just randomly grabbed other browns and reds and blues etc. I also went into the shadows after I had done this stippling with Vallejo Dark Sea Green. It’s a great colour. Have fun here!

To bring it all together again it needs a thin wash. I used the old GW Sepia Wash and then went back into the shadows with Army Painter Dark Tone.


The scabbards were a bit more controlled going from dark to light along the edges and raised sections.  There was stippling to blend these two areas together but it was a little more controlled.  There were times where I added scratches here and there, finally I go back in with the glazing to blend and smooth it all together as previously mentioned.

leather and scabbards completed


I will be the first to admit that my bases are not the best, but I tried here to work in a layered approach. Because he is a very upright fellow, and appears to be looming over the battle field, I put him on a raised hillock.

Different textures and materials play a part here with large chunks of natural cork for the rocks.  These are covered with different grades of sand and slate mixed together to give a messy earth look. Then twigs and leaves are mixed in for the litter on the floor.


I went to town on the painting and glazing here trying to incorporate the colours on the armour. So the earth I went with the same mix of Scorched Brown and Tank Brown and worked my way up by adding more white and then washed it with Army Painter Dark Shade.

The log and twigs got the same treatment but with far more white added, desaturating these elements. The Rock was very similar to the metal just Vallejo Grey worked up with more and more white. Then glaze and wash the whole thing, also grabbing all sorts of different colours like green and red and blue whatever came to hand.

Grass tufts and moss tufts and then the obligatory skull and we are all done!


Thanks to FigureMentors for giving me the opportunity to add an article! I hope this is of use to you all. Here are a few angles of the finished project!

Shameless Plug:

If you want to see this figure and much better ones by far better painters than me then European Miniature Expo is the place to be this coming September in Folkestone a seriously excellent competition that has been reborn and well worth the visit with loads of traders. Cheers!

We’d like to thank Andy for contributing this article to FigureMentors.  We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we did.  To see more of Andy’s work, check out his work in progress posts here and his finished work here. (Ed).