Painting a Face: Oils over Acrylic

Introduction: By Rudi Richardson

With over 11,600 page views (at the time writing) and even a translation to Dutch, John Pradarelli’s “John’s Painting Class III” has become a quintessential reference for newcomers to figure face painting.

What many visitors to our website may not realize, is that John had two prior installments to his painting class that also dealt with painting the face, namely the priming of the figure and basecoating the face in acrylics. Now at this point, it would be prudent of me to mention that although this article deals with painting oils over acrylics, the acrylic basecoat could as easily be enamel, as the principles of basecoating and the subsequent oils techniques remain the same.

So, without further ado, I have the pleasure to present to you John’s face painting tutorial, including the supplies, priming and basecoating sections specific to face painting. The words that follow are John’s:


For the purposes of this tutorial, I have elected to demonstrate these techniques on Alpine Miniatures’ US Tanker, kit # 35009.

Don't be shocked at the number of colors I'm listing. It just happens that I have all these paints so I'm utilizing them. Don't feel the need to get every one of them. There's a lot to be said for getting certain core paints and mixing them: especially for the acrylic basecoat. The intention there is to get good coverage as a base so that if any of your oils are somewhat transparent, you won't see primer gray underneath.

Vallejo Acrylics (Model Color):

  • White 951
  • Black 950
  • Brown Sand 876 (for a darker skintone base)
  • Flat Flesh 955 (for a lighter skintone base)

Oil Paints (all Winsor & Newton):

  • Titanium White
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Naples Yellow
  • Cadmium Red Deep Hue
  • Raw Umber
  • Indian Red
  • Paynes Grey

Other items:
  • Turpenoid for thinning
  • Plasti-Kote Sandable Primer (I like this brand as it dries fast and give a fine coating - feel free to use the primer of your liking)
  • Brushes - no special brand. I use Vallejo, Winsor-Newton, Floquil sable, etc. Usually I'll use a #3, #2, #1, #0, #000.

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About John Pradarelli (john17)

A modeler off and on (as time permits) for over 20 years. By day I work for a Model Railroading company in Milwaukee, WI. By night you'll find me spending time with my wife and two boys...until they go to bed. Then it's off to the basement where I will work on figure painting, armor, planes, diorama...