Painting a Face

by Bruce Grinstead


This article has first appeared in Post Strike – the newsletter of IPMS Ottawa ( Published here with kind permission of the Editor – Ed.


This article is a brief overview of painting a figure face… intended as a guideline so that you can start experimenting and come up with a formula that works best for you.

A number of paints were used: Model Masters light and warm skin tones, Humbrol Red Leather, Chestnut Brown, Prussian Blue, and black. I also used Windsor and Newton Acrylic Flat for the finishing coat.

Step 1


Using Model Master light skin tone, paint the base coat and let dry for 48 hours – this will allow you to use as much thinner as you like to blend top coats without lifting the foundation.



Step 2

Apply two washes of Model Master warm skin tone (50/50 thinner and paint mixture), let dry between washes, and then for 48 hours.

Using Humbrol Red Leather or a similar shade, paint a small line where the helmet and face meet. Do the same for the eyes, nose sides, creases, etc. Blend the edges with thinner, and as required, use the warm skin tone to further smooth the edges – let dry.

Mix 50% Prussian Blue, 10% black, and 30% warm skin tone for the 5 o’clock shadow and apply as re-quired. Blend the edges with thinner and let dry.

Step 3

Using the 50/50 thinner and paint mixture, lightly wet-brush the warm skin tone over the top, highlighting the areas around the mouth and fading the 5 o’clock shadow.

Paint the eyes, eyebrows and any facial hair with a mixture of Red Leather and Chestnut Brown – mix a bit of the light skin tone with the Red Leather and dry-brush the hair for highlights. If required, dry-brush the warm skin tone onto the shadow areas.

Step 4

Mix 50/50 Red Leather and black and use this darker tone to paint the eye centers.

Mix the light skin tone 50/50 with thinner and carefully apply to the highest areas of the face (e.g. the bridge of the nose). Blend with pure thinner if required.

Finally, let everything dry and apply a flat coat. Also, for added realism, apply a satin finish to the eyes for a light sheen.


A final word of advice: Treat your paints like your chips and salsa when company is over – no double dipping! Don’t use the same toothpick to withdraw pigment from two different bottles of paint.



This article was originally published in IPMS Stockholm Magazine in December 2001.