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Roman Aquilifer Painting Guide

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Miniature Painting Masterclass
Sculpted by Ramón Martínez
painted by Fernando Ruiz

Roman Aquilifer, a MPM
painting guide


Hi everybody!
Here we are again with a new painting guide that we think it will be of your interest!The piece was sculpted by Ramón Martínez for FeR Miniatures and its scale is 1/12.

After a primer coat with the Vallejo’s Black Primer spray, I put together the whole bust and airbrushed several coats of Basic Skintone 70.815 from above. I normally don’t do this, but this bust has certain volumes that project shadows over other parts and thought it would be a good idea to use it to demonstrate how this system is very helpful to determine where highlights hit the surface in a zenithal highlighting scheme. The trick is to take some pictures from different angles and keep them as reference.



The first thing I did was the face, as usual in a bust and in most of the figures. For the basic job, I used a few tones from the Malefic Flesh Set 74.102, Forest Skin 74.013, Purple Shadow 74.011, Pale Flesh 74.015 and White Flesh 74.016. The idea was an overall look way paler than what I normally do.



I started with a basecoat of Forest Skin 74.013 plus a bit of the main highlight tone, Pale Flesh 74.015, and a bit of the shadow tone, Purple Shadow 74.011. Forest Skin was a bit too much green to use it alone for my taste and incorporating the other tones into the basecoat is always a useful trick to make everything come together nicely



First thing was to do the usual sketch, to set the right degree of contrast and the interpretation of volumes. I started with a first shadow, adding more Purple Shadow to the basecoat mix.



Next, I applied the first highlight, adding more Pale Flesh to the basecoat mix. The contrast started to be noticeable



Next, I intensified the shadow with a second application, adding more Purple Shadow



And I also added a 2nd highlight adding more Pale Flesh. The basic sketch was ready



I worked a bit on the transitions between highlights and shadows, mainly using the basecoat and the first highlight and shadow and added some final highlights and shadows using Purple Shadow and also White Flesh 74.016 in very few spots. The skin surface is quite reduced, due to the helmet and side guards, so I got it done in no time



Ok, now, all that was left was to apply some additional tonalities to the face, painting the eyes and doing the fine detailing. I used, along with the previous tones from the Malefic Flesh set, Flat Red 70.957, Deep Green 70.970 and Black 70.950.


This time, I wanted to have a stark look in the eyes, so I started with them. I painted the eyeball with Pale Flesh 74.015 and applied a really thinned wash of Flat Red 70.957 over it



I painted the iris with a mix of Deep Green 70.970 and Black 70.950, paying special attention to its position and shape.



I applied some highlights to define the tone, using some Deep Green and also Deep Green mixed with Pale Flesh.



And finally, I added the black dot of the pupil and a light reflection dot with White Flesh 74.016.



Next, I enhanced the cold fleshy look of the face, adding some thinned glazes of pure Flat Red in the midtone to shadow areas. This enhancement accentuates the pale look we were looking for



Next, I recycled the previous mix of Deep Green and Black and mixed it with the previous fleshtones to create the five o’clock beard effect in the lower part of the face, saturating the effect a bit further to draw some subtle facial hair in certain areas and also the eyebrows. Here is where Forest Skin 74.013, the tone I used on the basecoat that was a bit too greenish, comes in handy when applied straight from the bottle in glazes to integrate the whole area



I kept on working on the fine detailing of the face, working with all the previous colors to add small scars and imperfections, accentuating some points of highlights and shadows here and there so the face got certain richness to tell the story of a battle-hardened veteran.


Sometimes, even for an experienced painter, critical mistakes happen.
I painted the head as a separate piece as you have seen. After recording the video, I was working on some other paintjob but had the finished head on the table. As clumsy as it sounds, it fell over the table with the misfortune that it landed on a wet palette with some fresh leftover mixes and I didn’t realize about it until later. The bad news was that it had paint all over one side of the helmet. The good news was that the face itself was not affected. While removing the mess, I partially ruined the previous metallic job…

After counting ten and deep breathing for a couple of minutes, and considering that I was documenting the whole thing, I decided to transform the mistake into an opportunity and paint the helmet again in a different way, so you have 2 alternate ways of doing the metal of the helmet, the one of the video and the one of the painting guide. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t get discouraged by mistakes, even by serious ones. There is always a way to sort a mistake and, if not, take advantage of it as an opportunity. Long story short, here is the head with the metal parts painted back in black, hehe!



This time, I wanted to try a different approach. I decided to go for darker and less polished steel with some degree of patina. The tones used for this part are Black 70.950, MC Burnt Iron 77.721, Periscopes 70.309, Leather Brown 70.871, MC Silver 77.724, GC Green Ink 72.089, GC Violet Ink 72.087, Basic Skintone 70.815, MC Copper 77.710, and MC Gold 77.725



When you are aiming for a metal with a dull patina effect, a useful trick is to mix metallic and non-metallic colors, as the appearance will look more “solid” and it will be easy to achieve an underlying tonality. I made a mix with MC Burnt Iron 77.721, Periscopes 70.309 and Leather Brown 70.871 for the basecoat.



Next, I mixed some Periscopes and Black 70.950 and used it to apply shadows, aiming towards the lower part and sides of the helmet, as those areas are going to be really hidden inside the lion pelt.



I brought back some shine, adding MC Silver 77.724 to the basecoat and applying some highlights towards the centre, the area that would end up more exposed.



I added the final shadows with some controlled applications of GC Green Ink 72.089 and GC Violet Ink 72.087, adding some extra tonality and carefully outlining rivets and details.



And I enhanced the highlights adding a bit of Basic Skintone 70.815 to the previous highlight tone. With this tone, I just picked up some edges. Adding a bit of a light non-metallic tone to this final highlight makes it more solid and noticeable, quite convenient when you want to bring up just a few points.



Next, I did the brass parts. I started with a basecoat with MC Copper 77.710, mixed with a bit of the shadow mix I applied in the steel parts (Periscopes and Black)



Then I added MC Gold 77.725 to start building up the highlights.



The final points of highlight were done with a mix of Gold, Silver and a bit of Basic Skintone.



I glazed the shadow areas a bit with Green Ink and it was ready.



And this is how the head looked in its place inside the pelt. The lesson here is that if you take a minute before starting painting, to think how the light will affect a certain part once is placed in its final context, your life will be easier and the result much more natural. I built the shadows towards the sides and the lower part of the helmet and the highlights towards the much more exposed centre. The reward is the cool way in which the edges of the helmet blur into the shadows of the pelt.


I normally try to paint the elements from inside to outside and from up to down. Following that logic, I started with the cloth elements. The colors I used for this were Model Wash Dark Brown 76.514, Model Wash Black 76.518, Basic Skintone 70.815, Black Red 70.859, German Orange 70.805, and Flat Red 70.957



The first thing I did was the white piece of cloth that covers the neck. Over the previous base I had done with the airbrush, I added a wash with a mix of Model Wash Dark Brown 76.514 and Model Wash Black 76.518. These washes are quite matt and it is interesting to keep them in mind as potential weapons of choice for doing stuff. For the highlights, I added small amounts of Basic Skintone 70.815



I wanted some subtle texture in the red wool tunic. I started with a basecoat of Black Red 70.859



The best way to do this type of wool texture (at least for me) is to build it up while adding the highlights. Instead of applying the highlights in brushstrokes, I carefully stippled the surface with the tip of the brush damp with the lighter color. The transparency inherent to the acrylic paint creates a random overlapping pattern that builds layer after layer. I added German Orange 70.805 to build the effect bit by bit



After that, I applied some shadows glazing carefully in the lower areas with the previous mix of Model Wash Dark Brown and Black that I used in the white cloth. That way, the texture gets muted down gradually towards the shadows. To finish the effect, I enhanced the intensity with a glaze of Flat Red 70.957 over the whole area



Next, I did the same on the remaining tunic areas and painted a dark basecoat on the leather straps to frame the work.



Next, I worked on the metal scale coat. The colors used were MC Copper 77.710, MC Gold 77.725, MC Silver 77.724, Periscopes 70.309, Model Wash Dark Brown 76.514, Model Wash Black 76.518, Flat Red 70.957, and German Orange 70.805.



First, I applied a basecoat with a mix of MC Copper 77.710 and MC Gold 77.725.



Next, I applied a cold shadow toward the lower parts and the sides with several careful washes of Periscopes 70.309. The tonality gets instantly toned down.



Now I needed some general shadow to make the individual scales stand out properly. I recycled (again) the previous mix made with Model Wash Dark Brown 76.514 and Model Wash Black 76.518 and applied it all over the surface.



With some Flat Red 70.957 and German Orange 70.805, I added a bit of reflection on the scales, saturating the effect in the points nearer to the shirt.



Finally, I enhanced a bit more the highlights, concentrating on the front part of the coat. I used MC Gold 77.725 and a bit of MC Silver 77.724 for the final highlights



The last bit remaining to finish the torso was, besides the crossed shield belt, that would be painted after the lion pelt, would be the leather straps of the shoulders. They are a bit plain in the sculpture, but I saw that as an opportunity to try something.

The colors used for this part are Game Color Charred Brown 72.045, Black 70.950, Orange Brown 70.981, Basic Skintone 70.815, and Periscopes 70.309.



First of all, I painted a basecoat with a mix of Game Color Charred Brown 72.045 and Black 70.950, followed by some rough highlights adding Orange Brown 70.981, to get a foundation that looked like leather.


Then, I went back to the basecoat and carefully draw some lines parallel to the edges of the strap. Once I had them, I started highlighting the whole thing as if those lines were actually physical grooves, adding highlights to their edges too.



Now, armed with pure Basic Skintone 70.815 and lots of patience, I carefully painted the thread stitches inside the grooves



I completed the work adding some washes in the shadow areas with Periscopes 70.309, and random stained spots with pure Orange Brown 70.981 to add a bit more of interest. With this, all the main details of the torso are done. Next stop, the lion pelt.

First, these are the colors I used for it. Medium Fleshtone 70.860, Black 70.950, Game Color Charred Brown 72.045, Orange Brown 70.981, Black Red 70.859, Pale Sand 70.837, Basic Skintone 70.815, and French Mirage Blue 70.900



The first thing I did was to apply a solid basecoat with Medium Fleshtone 70.860. Even if it looks a bit too yellowish, it has the right degree of saturation, as I’ll modulate the tone here and there, de-saturating and transforming it where needed.



Ok, now it comes the tricky part. Using the tones previously described both pure and mixed among them, I created some sort of rough map of tones on the surface of the pelt. These tones were just brushed over the particular spots where I wanted them to be, not trying to blend them.

As an example, I used Orange Brown 70.981, pure and mixed with Black Red 70.859 for the shadows in the main tone, a mix of Medium Fleshtone 70.860 and Pale Sand 70.837 for the lighter parts, using some pure Pale Sand at the lightest spots. I also used Game Color Charred Brown 72.045 pure and mixed with Black 70.950 in the darker recesses and as a foundation for the darker mane area and Basic Skintone 70.815 as a thin basecoat for the inner hide parts.

The most important tool here was studying actual pictures of lions, identifying the way that their skin works and deciding which features I wanted to incorporate on the pelt.



Now, all I needed to do was to work on the transitions, the hair texture and adding details to make it look as much realistic as possible. For this kind of work, it is better to concentrate in different parts at a time. I started working on the lion’s face first



I started blending transitions and adding a bit of detail and textures. It is still very rough of course



The more I worked on it, the more it started to look like real fur. Sometimes I went back to a previously worked area and added or rectified some bit. It is the way it works, you move to a new area but keep on adding touches here and there on the previous work to balance the whole thing or get the final degree of contrast.



When I felt that the face was more or less finished I started working on the transitions between it and the darker mane



And this was the head of the lion more or less finished. I detailed a few more the face and worked on the mane. In the lower area of the mane, I incorporated French Mirage Blue 70.900 in the highlights to make the hair look darker and colder. Even if I still kept adding touches here and there while painting the rest of the pelt, it was done.



I wanted to finish all the upper area before moving to the rest of the pelt, so I went for the inner hide of the pelt that would be at the sides of the head. First, I added several washes of Game Color Charred Brown and Black, insisting towards the deeper end.



After that, I brought back some highlights adding Basic Skintone really thinned, looking for the imperfections and saturating the color where I thought it would add more interest.



The final highlights and shadows enhanced the sensation of dirt, cuts and imperfections that build the perfect texture in that area. I paid special attention to the edges of the hide, that I highlighted precisely as a way to frame the mane around the head.



I finally glued the head in place (how satisfying!)



And I finished the work on the rest of the pelt, following the previous mixes and steps. Obviously, this part is way simpler than the head, so I had it done in no time. The leather belt was painted using the same tones but in different proportions. The soft part of the lion paws was painted in a dark tone and the highlighted directly with Pale Sand to make them look dusty and worn.



And that was all! As you might already have understood, painting this pelt means planning and observation of real references in the first place. After that, you need a good choice of colors and adding those small details and textures that are going to really catch the eye.


First of all, I painted the arm with the same colors I had previously used on the face. Also, I painted the standard pole with some of the colors used on the previous steps but mixed in a different way to make them less orange and a bit more ochre. I applied some subtle texture to simulate the grain of the wood and some wear



Next, I prepared to paint the “Aquila” itself. The colors used were Game Color Charred Brown 72.045, MC Gold 77.725, Game Color Skin Wash 72.093, Game Color Green Ink 72.089, Game Color Black Ink 72.094, MC Silver 77.724, MC Burnt Iron 77.721, and Periscopes 70.309



I had in mind a rich brass look, very well polished, so it would be really shiny, with tonal reflections in the shadow areas. I started with a basecoat of Game Color Charred Brown 72.045



Next, I airbrushed a coat of MC Gold 77.725 over the whole piece, to get a really consistent and smooth finish




I continued working with the airbrush, applying Game Color Skin Wash 72.093 in the shadow areas. Now the tone looked way richer.



And I also airbrushed Game Color Green Ink 72.089 to make the whole thing colder and get extra depth. The good thing about using inks with the airbrush is that you incorporate the tonality but without obscuring too much the underlying tone. As I wanted a rich brass appearance, that was quite useful.



I brought back the highlights a bit airbrushing some MC Gold 77.725



And I finished the brass using a mix of Game Color Black Ink 72.094 and Skin Wash to outline the volumes and define the darker spots, and a mix of Gold and MC Silver 77.724 to add some final highlights in certain spots and edges



The pedestal of the eagle was painted as steel, with a basecoat consisting of a mix of MC Burnt Iron 77.721, Periscopes 70.309 and GC Charred Brown. I highlighted it with small amounts of Silver.



The pedestal of the eagle was painted as steel, with a basecoat consisting of a mix of MC Burnt Iron 77.721, Periscopes 70.309 and GC Charred Brown. I highlighted it with small amounts of Silver.

The last remaining part was the shield. I always think that elaborated freehand designs are nothing but a composition of simpler forms put together. What I’m trying to say is that you always need to decompose the design into simpler bits that you can paint in an easier way. The colors used for the front of the shield were Periscopes 70.309, English Uniform 70.921, Goldbrown 70.877, Black 70.950, Game Color Charred Brown 72.045, and Pale Sand 70.837



First of all, I did the inner side of the shield. Nothing complicated, I simply used some of the previous brown tones, concentrating the work in the upper part of the surface, as it would be the section that would be seen the most after glueing the shield in place



The basecoat of the front is a mix of Periscopes 70.309 and English Uniform 70.921. As most of the design over it was going to have ochre tones, I decided to incorporate it already from the start. That way you have a much more natural appearance



Next, I added some basic highlights and shadows, adding Goldbrown 70.877 and a mix of Periscopes and Black 70.950 to the basecoat respectively.



Let’s start with the design. I painted the side decorations with a mix of Game Color Charred Brown 72.045 and a bit of Goldbrown.



Next, I did the vertical arrows, using the same mix but with much more Goldbrown. The trick is to maintain all the elements aligned, as you can see



More arrows, this time in diagonal. Keeping in mind that I would add later the wings between them and the vertical arrows, I painted them following a much more horizontal plane.



Now, I transformed one of the diagonal arrows in a lightning bolt, adding a perfectly defined U-shaped section to its upper side, like a handle.



Then, I removed the other section, painting with the basecoat over it. That formed a perfectly angled lightning bolt according to the usual style you see on Roman shields.



I did the same on the other 3 diagonal arrows. Even if it would seem easier to simply draw the lightning bolt from the beginning, that is not true, trust me. If you follow a well-planned method like the one I used, your reward is perfectly symmetrical and properly shaped forms, much harder to obtain if you eyeball the whole thing.



Next, I painted the basic shape of the wings. First, I painted one, and I copied the inverted shape beside it. Then I copied both at the other side of the shield boss.



Now, it was the right time to add some outlining for the design details, always following the design and style of Roman-era shield motifs. Using pure Charred Brown, I carefully outlined the arrows and the bolts



And I also did the wings, incorporating the “feathers” separations



With the background color, I sharpened and detached the tips of the wings. After that, I outlined them again.



I incorporated some rough “highlights” that were used to simulate a tri-dimensional effect in these designs. I didn’t try to add really soft transitions or anything, as they should look like something hand-painted by an artisan on the camp. The trick is to go for a “clean but not perfect” sensation. For the final edges, I added a bit of Pale Sand 70.837



I made the bolts and arrows a bit lighter adding some Goldbrown but kept them simple as these don’t have normally that tri-dimensional effect. Also, I added some volume to the side decorations (these have a particular name, but I cannot remember it right now, hehe), adding some Pale Sand to its basecoat and outlining them with Black. The design was finished!


The brass parts were done with the following colors, Game Color Charred Brown 72.045, English Uniform 70.921, MC Gold 77.725, and Periscopes 70.309.


The idea was to replicate the dull effect I got on the steel parts of the helmet, but this time in the brass fittings of the shield, simulating a much more worn surface with a cool patina. I painted a basecoat with Game Color Charred Brown 72.045.


Then, I started highlighting adding English Uniform 70.921 to it.



For the final highlights, I added a bit of MC Gold 77.725 too.



The shadows were done adding Periscopes 70.309 to the basecoat and applying it very thinned down in the lower parts



I did the shield’s edge in the same way.



Finally, I added some wear to the whole thing, including superficial scratches here and there, stains with tones of brown and ochre, and general washes with really thinned Charred Brown and Black towards the lower edge.



That’s all!
I hope you enjoyed and learned a few tricks. See you soon in a future MPM painting guide!



















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