Painting: Painting with Oils
Discuss Oil painting techniques.
Tarleton bust build - Step 4 Hair & Eyes
Pennsylvania, United States
Joined: June 04, 2002
KitMaker: 1,580 posts
Historicus Forma: 1,170 posts
Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2007 - 03:35 AM UTC
I. Introduction to Hair
Once the face is painted, the next step for me it to paint the hair. This really helps to define how the face looks. While surrounded by just the primer color, itís difficult to know just how realistic the skin tone looks.

II. Basecoat
The first thing you need to decide is what color hair you want to paint. For this piece, I chose to paint him with a medium shade of brown. I started by mixing Burnt Umber and Naples Yellow to a medium brown shade. I painted this all over the hair area. Be careful when you react the hair line. Too straight and perfect a line tends to look a bit unnatural. I like to use a very fine pointed tip brush to make the hairline just the slightest bit jagged looking. But donít overdo this effect or the piece can just look sloppy.
Donít forget to paint the hair on the back of the body and the eyebrows too. Itís easier to do it now rather than having to match the color later. Trust me!
III. Shadows
While the base coat is wet, begin applying the shadows. For this I used Sepia. Winsor Newton does not carry this color but it is available from Rembrandt. Another alternative is to make your own. Sepia is just a mix of brown and black. I havenít tried this so I canít recommend which shades to use. I would probably use Burnt Umber and add in a little bit of Mars Black. But just a little bit as this is a very strong shade of black. If you have it, Lamp Black or Ivory Black might be better shades. Rembrandt Sepia is a bit thinner consistency than most of the Winsor Newton paints and for this application that works well.
Begin by painting in streaks of Sepia through the hair. Short, random strokes are what you want here. You donít necessarily need to keep the strokes following the contours of the hair. Otherwise you can end up with something that can look more like stripes. But you do want to add in the Sepia in the sculpted folds of the hair. Try not to get the base and shadow colors to mix too much at this stage.

Once you have all the Sepia streaks applied, you want to blend it into the base color. You want to be very careful here not to over blend so that the hair doesnít turn into one muddy color. Taking a small, soft brush, begin to stipple the paints very, very gently. Just until the hard edges of the paint streaks begin to dissolve into the base color paint. Be sure to clean your brush often on a dry cloth so that youíre not adding more paint to other areas as you progress.

IV. Highlights
Again, while the base coat and shadows are still wet, you want to add in your highlights. For this I used Naples Yellow. Just like with the Sepia, you want to paint in short, random strokes of color. Using the same guidelines as for the shadows, donít try to follow the contours of the hair too closely. Next add some Naples Yellow to the sculpted high points of the hair. And again, Try not to blend the paints at this stage.

Once you have all the highlights applied, you want to blend them to the base color. Again, you want to be very careful here so that the hair doesnít turn into one muddy color. Taking a small, soft brush, begin to stipple the paints very, very gently. Just until the hard edges of the paint streaks begin to dissolve into the base color paint. Be sure to clean your brush often on a dry cloth so that youíre not adding more paint to other areas as you progress. If needed, add some highlights back and re-blend.
For the ponytail, try for a little bit lighter effect as compared to the rest of the hair. The hair will be looser at the ends as opposed to above the ribbon and this would let more light in deep.
For the eyebrows, paint the base color and add the Sepia and Naples Yellow in very short strokes and skip the blending. Just donít over do the highlight color. What I like to do is have the strokes angled up and away from the center of the face. And I like to make the top edge just the slightest bit ragged looking. If the edge is too smooth, the eyebrows look like what you see on Joan Crawford. Not a good look on a guy.
When youíre satisfied with how the everything looks, let the paint dry.
V. Secondary Highlights and Shadows
After the hair is dry, itís time to add your secondary shadows and highlights.
For the shadows, I took some Sepia and thinned it down quite a bit to make a wash. Apply the wash over the entire surface, allowing it to settle in the sculpted lines that define the texture of the hair. Also, concentrate more wash in the deeper sculpted folds of the hair. Just make sure that the wash is not strong enough to overwhelm your highlights. When satisfied, let this dry. Since the wash is just a thin, delicate layer of paint, it needs to be thoroughly dry before applying your highlights.
For the highlights, I used Naples Yellow. Gently apply the paint using a dry brushing technique. You donít want a lot of paint here, just enough on your brush to transfer to the high spots after a couple of passes. Again, be sure to concentrate more highlights on the highest high spots. Also, you donít want the highlights to look too uniform on the hair. Go for that random effect throughout the hair. If your dry brushing looks too intense, remember that the oils will allow you to blend them out some. If necessary, you can always remove them while still wet with some thinner on a brush. Then let it dry and try again. You can use a hair dryer to help speed the drying of the thinner if you like.

VI. Introduction to Eyes
Eyes are one of the most difficult things for me to paint. Itís bad enough that theyíre usually so small, but getting them to point it the same direction so that the figure doesnít look cross eyes just makes them more difficult.
Iíve learned from my past postings that most people paint the eyes before the face on their figures. My preference is to paint them after I get the face completed. I have two reasons for this. First, if I donít get the eyes right, I can clean them off while still wet and retry without damaging the face paint. The second is that I canít keep my flesh mix out of the eyes while painting. But you have to decide what works best for you.
What youíre going to see here are a pair of eyes that Iím not too happy with. But for the sake of this build, Iím going to use them for my description. Then I may yet go back and redo them.
VI. Painting the whites of the eyes
I donít like to use straight white paint for my eyes. I think it can contribute to that ďpop eyedĒ look. Usually, Iíll add in a little Naples Yellow to my Titanium White, just to tone it down. Take this mix and slowly and carefully paint in the whites. You may remember in Step #3 - Painting the Eyes, I mentioned adding Burnt Sienna to the flesh mix and painting the eyeballs with this mix. When I paint in the whites, I do my best to leave this darker color as a ring around the eyes to act as a shadow of sorts. For me, it helps to define the edge between the eyeball and the eye lids. Youíll need to use the finest tip brush you have for this step. In fact, Iíd recommend having a set of brushes that you use only for the eyes. Itís what I do and it helps assure that I have brushes with tips in perfect condition.
When you get the whites painted in to your satisfaction, let them dry thoroughly. If you donít like how they look, remove the white paint with thinner, let dry and try again. Remember, you can use a hair dryer to help speed the drying of the thinner if you like.
VI. Painting the Iris and pupil
Decide whether you want the eyes to be looking off to one side or straight ahead (or even looking upwards or downwards). With the head pointing down and away from front on this piece, I decided on straight ahead. It can be difficult to get the eyes matched up when you do this. So if the piece will have the face pointing straight at the viewer, Iíll usually have the eyes looking off to one side.
From this point on, all of the painting of the eyes will be done with the paints wet.
I chose to paint the eyes on this piece green. I began by painting the iris using Sap Green. To keep from getting that ďpop eyedĒ look, you donít want to see too much of the whites. And try to show a little bit of the curvature on the sides of the iris. When I got the shape to my liking I used Sepia to paint a rim around the iris. When you want the eyes looking upwards or downwards, this can be done on both sides as well as on either the top or bottom of the iris. This can take several tries to get them looking right, so donít worry if you need to remove the iris and redo it.
Once your happy, the next step is to paint a ďswooshĒ on the lower half of the iris. This trick was told to me by John Pradarelli (john17) and what it does is make the iris look like it curves out from the whites. This can be done with a lighter shade of the eye color. If the eyes are small, you can do this by just painting the lower half of the iris with the lighter shade. You want the upper and lower half of the iris colors to blend together a little bit where they meet.
On larger eyes, try to keep the swoosh off of the lower edge and sides of the iris so that there is still some of the main color showing as well as the Sepia rim.
The next step is to paint in the pupil. I do this using Sepia. Using the finest brush you have, dap the Sepia on to the center of the iris. Keep dabbing to build up a circular spot to represent the pupil. Try not to dap hard enough to blend the colors together. What youíre trying to do here is lay the Sepia on top of the rest of the paint. Thatís why I prefer using Sepia over Mars Black as it comes out of the tube much thinner than the Mars Black does. But I think you could just thin the black down if you like.
When the pupil looks good, you may want to add a catch point. This is just a tiny dot of white paint applied to the upper half of the iris. This can help give the eyes a bit more life. The catch point should not be too big and should be placed in approximately the same location on both eyes.
Below is a picture of the eyes as they turned out on my piece. As I said, Iím not too happy with them. If I do decide to repaint them, Iíll just cover them with the off white mix and redo them as described above. Iím also including a picture of the absolute best eyes Iíve ever painted on a figure. Theyíre on a Fort Duquesne bust of William Wallace. This bust is at least twice as big as the Tarleton bust, which made painting the eyes a lot easier. This piece will show you an example of what I was describing about having the eyes looking upwards. Based on the way the bust was sculpted, Having the eyes pointed upwards really fit in well the mood of the piece. I even managed to make the eyes appear bloodshot, which made me very happy!