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PaintMinion Dragon Diary...



Now that you're all primed and set to go - remember to dust your dragon before you start painting!

Because I have to match the Larry Elmore artwork (as this was for Dark Sword's box art), I played with a number of blues and wasn't happy with any of them really - so this is a combination of Reaper Master Series Ultramarine Blue with some Indigo thrown in. I base coated the entire dragon in this medium/dark blue mixture, a couple coats to get a solid foundation for highlighting.

I painted under the wings with Deep Amethyst--again, a few coats.

I wasn't too worried about the belly plates, because I planned on basing them in a dark golden color that should easily cover up any stray blue marks. I didn't bother doing inside the mouth or the base yet. I'll save those for last. The head should be almost fully done before needing to get inside the mouth, and the base should be last so as not to spoil it with stray sprays and splotches. Have you seen me paint dragons? Paint flies! Especially with only a couple of weeks to get this done!

Notice in the picture that the wing on the left has one coat, and the wing on the right has two coats just wanted to make sure you understood why you need a few coats. If your base isn't solid, it will look mottled as you try and layer over it you want good and solid! Do three coats if needed!

Here I've done a first coat on the body of the dragon, and notice how much more solid it is on the wings. That's three coats on the wings, and there will be three coats on the body as well to get solid coverage with this color.

In general, I paint dragons with a fast basecoat that includes doing the initial highlighting. After that it's tweaking precise highlighting by building up layers, and darkening the recesses. Then it's on to fine details. So let's finish the base painting and get on to the details!

Once the beastie was coated blue and under the wings the dark amethyst color, it was time to dry brush.heavy-duty time with a GW tank brush. No, dry brushing is not the final effect here, so don't panic that it will look too rough. Dry brush well - no streaking, and after that's all done I'll do a wash over it in the basecoat color to darken up the creases and start blending in the dry brushing. Right now, with the dry brushing, you simply want to find the details and highlights so you can start using it as a map of where the highest highlights will be and what details you want to pick out.

Let me illustrate this with the head painting - as I had to hurry this beastie along for a deadline, I have fewer pictures of progress, but I can at least get you some idea of what happened.

Here I've done the basecoat and a general dry brushing of the basecoat color made a bit lighter by using a bit of indigo and some snow shadow. Don't get sidetracked by what colors I used. Everything is a variation of the Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Twilight Shadow and White. The difference, the contrast with the base coat, isn't much with the first dry brushing, more of a quick light dusting. I've started finding the deeper darker points - around the frills, the teeth line, the nostrils, under the eye ridge.

After finding where I want the darker shadows, I can now go ahead and start dry brushing even lighter to bring out where I want those highest highlights!

Also, note that I darkened up the line where the scales meet the belly plates.

So this process happens across the entire body - but remember that first dry brushing shouldn't contrast greatly and get in those dark recesses, working out where the muscles get dark and light.

After this, I just work using layering, feathering and glazes/washes to get the contrast right between highlights and shadows all over the blue body and to make them smooth out in the transitions (that's what the washes and glazes are for).

So let's skip ahead and show what this process gets us - highlights on top of the muscles, shadows below. I tweaked the wing muscle where it joins the body so it was a bit lighter, and starts to fade into the wing color - which has more Indigo in it than the rest of the body.

The process for the main body is:

  1. Basecoat
  2. Dry brush lighter
  3. Find the shadows and strategically wash/line them in
  4. Dry brush higher highlights
  5. Wash with a basecoat
  6. Tweak the highlights higher with glazes/dry brushing/layering/feathering, and make sure your shadows are dark enough. Take your shadow color and line around those muscles in the creases.

The wings were a bit different. They were painted, not with dry brushing, but with wet blending using a large brush---back to that tank brush again! Frequent glazes to keep the transitions smooth, and ending with a feathered highlight and dark lining around the pinions. Colors used were more Indigo and White. Again, remember you need the contrast of highlight and shadow in the recesses to make the wings look cool and not just an expanse of purple/blue. Really dark in the shadows, really bright on the highlights. Notice the highlight points on the top of the wing at the horn. Also, the pinions were done with more blue in the mix than the wing highlights, so there is a color difference between wing membrane and pinions.

So finish the body, finish the wings on the outside. Next should be underneath the wings, and the belly. My pictures may not be precise, but again, I was rushed on this one and so don't have many progress shots to show you.

This shows how dark I started on the basecoat of the belly. You can also see that it does the trick of covering up all the stray blue paint. Once that's done with two solid coats, I sealed the belly area and went on to layering, feathering and glazes up through Linen White.

You can see here it's now quite light in color, with a highlight point at the top edge. Keep it neat now! Don't stray onto your blue! Nice shot of the dark/mid/highlight on the scales though.

When highlighting the belly, remember where the highlight should go will change as you move down the body and underneath. Not sure where? Shine a bright light from above and see where the shadows start as it wraps underneath by the front legs. Notice that up towards the head, the angle changes and the edges should get some highlight, but at the head, it's all in shadow. I tweak this a bit usually by making the outer edges the highlight point on the underneath plates, and keeping a deeper color for the shadow. The front plates also have a highlight point on the top and a bit at the edge, but overall they are lighter in color than the rest of the plates. The last picture you can see the line of highlight change as you go up and down the plates.

Under the wings, I used some wet blending to get in basic highlights and darker shadows at the fold points using an Imperial Purple (VGC), a more reddish purple than used as the base here. I don't highlight a huge amount there, but the effect gives us some color relief from all the blue, as will the frills on the head.

You can see the highlighting in the lighter purple, using wet blending for the basic effect and tweaking after with a bit of feathering and layering and glazes to smooth it all together. Remember this part of the dragon is really all in shadow, but the very bottom will get the most light and so the highlights sweep up and disappear into the basecoat as you go up to the top. Once the purple was done the way I wanted, I painted the inner pinions the base blue of the main body with a hint of highlight. Later I lined along the pinions in a very dark amethyst/black color.

Next, it's the head, the horns, the claws, the backbone ridge, the.yep, all the details need to come together in the end. Make sure you frequently seal your dragon to make it easier to clean up any messes, and handle it as little as possible so you don't rub off the paint. I ended up propping my dragon up to eye level on a box to deal with much of this detail work.

Back ridge is done with the same basecoat as the underwing, but instead of the brighter reddish purple, I tossed in some Indigo so it's more subtle in the highlight.

Horns were all base coated with primer again, especially all the points where rub off is a problem. Primer, a bit of light grey paint, and shaded up to white with dark lining at the base of each. Every claw and horn received the same treatment.

Head

I painted the frills a pinkish color (Violet) with a bit of whiter highlight wet blended in there. I then cleaned up around the frills with the blue and highlighted the little stick bits individually, giving them a brighter tip, as well as adding the white tip to the frills. To follow the artwork more, I left the top horn of the frills the base blue color and just highlighted each ridge individually, just not all the way around, for the shadow effect.

The eye started with dark brown, bright red, and to yellow, with a white point added over the dark pupil. Be careful to check both eyes to make sure your dragon is looking straight and not funky.

Mouth was painted entirely red with a couple coats to make it solid, and then I painted the teeth with an Ivory, then with White. The tongue received some highlight with the same pinkish violet color as the frills, especially where it hits the teeth and bumps over. Darkened the nostrils, and now you can check to see what needs dark lining to help tidy up! Not my neatest dragon head, but my fastest, and pretty close to the artwork!

The base rocks were done in a light gray, washed with dark blackened brown, and then with quick strokes of grays and browns following the line of the rocks I layered in different colors and shading. Another wash, a quick tweak of the highlights, then I lined in the creases. Presto! Done dragon, right?! Right!

This dragon was more rushed than I would have liked, but sometimes that's just the way it is. If you remember that most of the dragon is wings and body, and you make those look good, then at least be neat and tidy on the details even if you're not doing any heavy shading on each detail, your dragon will look just great! Better if you take your time on those details and do shade and pay attention to small details, but in a crunch, neatness will count at least. Also, as with minis, get the eyes done to help the beastie come alive if you're dragging your brush over the painting and your enthusiasm has lagged. Seeing the detailed eyes staring at you and demanding you finish and make him look good should give you a bit of a boost to finish up!

Time-wise I'd say the dragon painting took 3/4 of the time to do the wings and body, and 1/4 on the rest of it. How long did this take? I had about 4 weeks to put him together and paint him before he had to run along home. Luckily, the next dragons I had more time!

Thanks for bearing with me for so long on this diary, and shortly I'll have the Diabolus Dragon Diary up as well.and it won't take nearly as long as this one did to get online!

This is the blue dragon, Elmore Dragon #4, now on the Dark Sword website and on the box art. You can see the manufacturer photos of him here.

And here is the link to the CMON pictures so you can vote. ;-)

Thank you for checking out the Dragon Diary on PaintMinion.com!