Painting Orc skin with Jason Martin (Redrum)

Painting Orc skin – PRELUDE

A few years back I painted an Orc standard bearer from Forgeworld who I christened Nagrus’z Strongarm. Hopefully this will complement the work David did in his article HERE! Anyways, I hope some of you will find this useful!



Base colour

So initially I was thinking about how I wanted the piece to look, as I had decided to go with a cooler colour in purple for the dragon hide banner, I decided to go warm for the Orc’s skintone. The metal would also be cold in temperature value, framing the skintone and drawing your attention.

So a warm green was needed and after speaking with Camelson who flaunted the traits of a particular GW colour, I chose Camo Green (CG a warm yellow green) which fitted perfectly.

A trick I sometimes like to use is to add a touch of black to my base and thus I begin to lay in the shadows. With painting the skin it is really important to block in the colours and define the volumes of the anatomy as quickly as possible.

I build up the base colours with several thinner coats rather than a more solid coat which may obscure details. Being careful with the direction of my brush strokes so as not to leave a strong build up of this colour in the shadows.


The miniature was painted with Zenithal Lighting in mind, so imagine a light source directly above the miniature. Next I started lightening the skin tone with many layers of pure CG, careful to leave the shadows within the darker base colour.

So, to explain this in just a little more detail, that is to bare in mind at all times, as you paint to envisage the figure within local and global terms. So not only do you paint each element or group of muscles, arm or leg etc you must also take a step back and observe your work as it progresses across the whole figure, making adjustments as you go if necessary.


First series of lights

With highlighting in this manner you need to slowly cover less and less of each section with your chosen colour so that you eventually concentrate the pigment at the apex of the highlight, moving away from the midtones and deepest shadows.

I always seem to struggle with highlights more than say shadows or applying glazes of colour to the midtones. In this instance my base colour was purposefully kept lighter meaning I had fewer transitions to my brightest light, the flip side being, I will need to work more extensively to create the strong shadows I require for good contrast.

If you dilute your paints too much when highlighting your results can look chalky, so for me a good rule of thumb is to dilute less for light and more for shadow.


Using slightly diluted paint I began to add increasing amounts of Elf Flesh (EF) to the CG. Pretty basic so far, just remember to use the direction of your brush stroke to place the majority of the pigment at the brightest/lightest part.


Developing volumes

So when highlighting your stroke should go from the shadows and towards the light and vice versa for adding shadows. You don’t want to contaminate your transitions so careful brush control is always important.

Remember at this stage your painting does not need to be smooth, the most important part is to have a nice transition from light to shade, good contrast and establishing those volumes.

I had traditionally struggled with this, sometimes still do, no matter how crazy I thought I was being with my tones and placement, I always seemed to produce another desaturated piece with a very natural feel to the painting.

If your blends aren’t the smoothest you can clean them up in the next stage with the use of glazes.



Adding tones with glazes

Now for the fun stuff, this is where we can introduce colour variations, temperature and additional points of interest. For a long time I had assumed “glazes” was just another term for “washes” however, a few years ago now my good friend Adam Halon aka Loler put me straight.

Both are very diluted paints, but with a glaze, most of the paint mix is removed from the brush, this means you have much tighter control of where you place the paint, a glaze will result in tinting the underlying colour.

This is particularly important when you are adding different tones and spots of colour. With a wash the brush is loaded with the paint mix and the miniature is flooded with the wash. This is useful for adding quick shades and picking out sculpted details.

So the glazes will add varying contrasts and interest to the large areas of skin and will also blend the various transitions I had painted. It is important that the glazes are applied carefully and slowly and allow each to dry before applying the next.

A glaze will dry much quicker than a wash and will not result in a “sheen” to your finish that you can get if you apply too many washes.


Firstly to accentuate the shadows a drop of purple and black was added to the base mix, thinned down and applied to where the deep shadows would fall. With glazing it is important to build the colours up over several, transparent layers. Otherwise you will simply obscure your painting thus far. Glazing is about adding tonal variations to complement the colours you have already applied.


Stronger shadows

A glaze of pure black was then worked into the very deepest shadows. You have to be careful that your shades don’t encroach too far into your midtones otherwise you will lose your transitions. Sometimes black ink can also be applied to the deepest shadows, this slightly glossy finish can really enhance the depth perception of the shadow.

Working out of the shadows, purple by itself was added to the base mix and applied to the midtones, meeting glazes of blue (also added to the base mix), you can vary the intensity of the colours by using pure blue or purple glazes where you wish to add an area of interest or more vibrancy.

It’s this careful application of glazes that smoothed out the transitions and blending that was laid down in the previous steps of highlighting and shading.


With all these glazes beginning to take shape, especially, especially in busy areas such as the face, you can start to lose a bit of definition between the various elements. Take for instance muscle groups, the boundary between cloth and skin or face and helm.

You can use a highly dilute brown/black mix to outline the various elements. This technique will bring definition to to features and help separate the various elements of the sculpt and helps to make certain details pop!!


Retouching and popping

Sometimes it is necessary to go back to applying midtones and highlights and/or tidy up certain areas. Pure purple glazes were placed under the eyes and upon the bottom lip and a red glaze was painted around the eyes leading down and onto the nose.

With the blue and purple glazes, the skin was heading to far to the cold range so I brought it back with glazes of CG and yellow (doesn’t matter which) to key areas, which maintained warmth and areas of contrast and interest.

Tops of muscle groups and shoulders are good places to do this as they have nice curves and volumes to them. The highlights were once more touched up and a final extreme highlight added to certain areas such as brow ridge, nose, elbow and knuckles for instance, with EF.

Unlike most of the painting with diluted paint the final highlight can be quite strong and not so diluted. And that’s it! I hope you found this useful. There’s no right or wrong way, this is just the way I painted this particular figure and I wanted to share some insights with you. Enjoy!