Using graphite to enhance your true metal metallics with Lucas K Stine

True Metal Metallics – the PRELUDE

The following is a somewhat succinct but hopefully informative piece about my use of graphite when achieving realistic looking metal using metallic pigments. It is not aimed to be a in-depth article about painting metallic, there are plenty around but I wanted to share with you all an insight into a particular technique I use which I believe produces a pleasing effect.

True metallic metal, or TMM for short, is often overlooked when it comes to higher end fantasy painting. Many favour non metallic metal, as it is easier to photograph, considered more technical, and can be easily controlled. I still prefer the look of realism and the all-round appeal a piece painted with TMM has. TMM is often seen as easier than NMM, which could be the case in larger figures, but to make it look real you still need to have an excellent grasp on light and colour in miniature painting.  I’ve come up with a few tips to help boost your TMM and increase it’s appeal. The piece i’m working on today is called Dimitr Von Goray by Karol Rudyk Art. Here are a few shots of where the metal began at the start of my session.


I have laid out the initial foundation of metal, going over it with a frayed brush to somewhat stipple on metal textures. I want my metals to appear worked and dinged, and stippling is a quick way to achieve this.  I went through with a red metallic paint to add the reflections of the cape upon the armour,  just like NMM, with good TMM you still need to show the reflective properties of metal.  You need to pay careful attention to where your light source is, and how it will affect your metal. Keeping your light source even across the model will make your finish look more realistic and make more sense to the viewer. I used a pearl purple over titanium white to highlight my metal foundation, on the right shoulder and along the rim of the gorget.

I still had to smoothe out my powerful purple paint, so I decided some blending was in order. Graphite is a powerful tool in making realistic metal, especially in historical painting and armour.  I’m using a soft artist’s graphite stick. These are relatively cheap and can be found at most art supply stores. I scrape the stick onto a sheet of standard paper, until it makes a fine dust. You can also use the stick directly upon the surface of the miniature, but I generally save this for plastic and metal miniatures, as you can run the risk of scraping paint off.


I just use a finger to apply it, as it is a very fine powder and I don’t want it getting onto my brushes. I have used a clean makeup brush to apply it as well, but a finger works great. I apply it to buff the graphite onto the miniature in key locations, it doesn’t have to go everywhere, and a little goes a long way. You can use this technique over flat colours as well to give the illusion that paint has been worked away. Graphite powder is much smoother than most metallic paints, and will give an overall dull metallic sheen to your piece without compromising too much of the metal you have already laid down. Make sure not to touch other areas of your piece with the graphite, as it will get everywhere. I also used a silver pigment powder, to add my highlight blend with the graphite.  I applied this the same way as the graphite, but only in the areas closer to my pearl purple highlight.

Here’s what the more blended pauldron looked like. It still keeps the brightness from the purple, but your eyes cannot perceive the colour by itself anymore. It’s still there, and just as bright, but the powders have blended the metal to have a more natural look.  At this step I have also applied both powders to the gorget and armour, so they will match the pauldron. I seal the powders so I can keep working, be careful which sealant you use, as some can dull down the shine on your metals.

My armour is looking better, but it is still missing something. I decide to add a contrast point, the reflection of some object that the metal is picking up in it’s shadow.  It’s very easy to forget about shadows and just assume they are all dark blues and blacks. Interesting shadows will make your work come alive. I begin with several thin glazes of a mahogany paint, I want this shadowed reflection to represent the ground, or a dark wall to the shadowed side of my bust. Make sure to feather out your glazes, to make them disappear into the metal. Using standard acrylic paints over metallic paints is an excellent way to denote light sources and shadows, and when done properly it will really boost the appearance of your TMM.


The final step I did was to add highlights of pure titanium white to my metallics. Using acrylics to do this will ensure that the bright portions are picked up and recognised, especially in photographs. I put a small dab of paint on all the brightest points in this picture, taking care to follow where my light source projected them. Pairing this with black artists inks in the shadows of your metals will ensure that your piece features high contrast points that an eye or camera will always pick up.

Understanding the properties of your paint is paramount when using true metallic paints, as not all of them will behave the same way. Learning how to control and master metallic paints will set you apart. Here’s some finalised photos after the process is complete, I now have a sudden urge to go watch Dracula. Thanks for reading and I hope someone finds it interesting and perhaps a little useful too, many thanks to Jay and the team for giving me the opportunity to share this with you all.