I will walk you through my process on these pieces from start to finish (or mostly finished). I begin by priming them, nothing too exciting to see, but I do want you to notice there is a lot of detail to these models. They are more expensive than I normally like to spend on terrain, but I believe they are well worth the cost for a number of reasons. First of all, they are solid pieces made of resin, so there was very little building to do aside from gluing all the levels together. Most people will not do this as the insides are also finely detailed and you can then play inside them as well. I decided that in order to minimize accidents and breaking, from being manhandled at the store, to glue everything together for even more solid pieces. There were almost no mold lines or air bubbles in these pieces and I was pretty stunned to be honest. Most times I end up having to Green Stuff the air bubbles but these were ready as soon as I washed them in some warm soapy water to get rid of the mold release.
Next I base coated them which is really straight forward: pick your color, paint it on with a brush you like. If you wanted to stop here, you probably could and you would have some pretty decent buildings, but in order to make them seem realistic and have a lot more depth, you will want to ink wash them. I used The Army Painter Quickshade Strong Tone. On the right (below) you can see that the stones have a lot more details than the ones on the left which feel a little flat and lackluster. I had never used the Quickshade in a can before and didn't realize that it is a varnish so it leaves a very shiny finish even when fully dried. That's OK! Although unexpected it is not a real issue, our next step will still work out just fine. TIP: Use an old paintbrush that you don't really care about for this because even after cleaning, it will never be the same after using varnish.
There are many, many brands of paint and ink washes that you can use. I just happened to use The Army Painter for this project but I have also used Citadel, Vallejo, and the bottled Army Painter Quickshades (which are not varnish and I like a little better than their canned product).
Anyway, inks are very thin are made to kind of flow into the crevices of your model and darken the recessed areas. So you saturate your brush and paint it on similarly to the way you basecoat a model. You can see the areas between the stones and even on the surface of the stone itself have darker spots where the ink settled in. Then you want to dry off your paintbrush and use it to absorb the excess ink from the surface before it dries, without removing it all. If you wait too long you will get rings where the edges started to dry, so work fairly quickly and in small sections. Make sure you don't remove all the ink from inside the crevices you want to darken, or your whole model will have a dingy look, but the deep recesses won't be darker than the rest, which is the effect we are going for. I did one side of each building at a time. After I finished the second side, I would go back and double check that the first side wasn't pooling at the bottom. Carry on this method until the building is inked then let it fully dry. I suggest at least a couple of hours, but I usually let them dry overnight just to be sure.
Absolutely, do not even think about attempting the next step until you are certain the models are completely dry...because next, we are going to drybrush! People also commonly refer to this as highlighting, but keep in mind there are many, many techniques for highlighting, and not all of them involve drybrushing. I like this method because it is a more simple approach, but I may show a few more advanced techniques in a later post. In the next photo you can see what a difference drybrushing makes!
Both these buildings were painted using the same exact colors on wood and stone. Then I used a shade lighter when I drybrushed to really accentuate the raised portions of each texture. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it because drybrushing is a little counter intuitive. What you are going to do is take a wide flat-ish brush, put a little bit of paint on just the edge, don't load it up too much, and then you will take a paper towel, or your pallet, or something else you don't mind getting paint on, and use that to dry off your brush. Yep, wipe off all the paint you just dabbed your brush into. You will be tempted to leave some on because, how can you possibly paint something without any paint, right!?! That is why this technique is called dry brushing! So, you wipe off all your paint but some of the pigment will remain on your brush. Now you will want to do this next step fairly quickly before it all completely dries and the pigment remains stuck to your brush bristles. Wipe your brush back and forth AGAINST the "grain" of whatever you are trying to highlight. In this case the wood is a very good example because there is actually grain. The wood grain has a vertical pattern, the crevices run up and down, so I want to move my brush in a left to right motion so the bristles only hit the tops of the texture. If you do it the same direction as the grain, your bristles will go into the deeper parts that you want to remain dark, and you will just be repainting your wood a different color.
For the stone there is no real pattern so I just lightly brushed back and for and in a few different angles being gentle enough that I didn't press the bristles into the recesses. After that you can touch up any spots that need it, do your final touches and you are ready to seal the model. On these pieces I did the windows last because I wanted them to have a bit of a glowing effect without any wash on them...but that is a post for another day. I hope this was helpful to any of you who are just starting to paint miniatures. This easy 3 step technique can be applied in many different ways, on pretty much any type of model from a tiny 15mm historical miniature to these larger pieces of terrain. I would love to see what you are working on! Send me pictures in the comments, or find me on Facebook.