Last year I took a look at the Encyclopedia of Figures Modelling techniques Vol.0 from AMMO by MIG book as a warm up to this; the first book in their range aimed at the fantasy miniature painting market. This isn't the most recent title in the range but it's still relevant to the subject of painting incredible looking miniatures for our collections.
What I didn't mention is that this is the first book with BigChild Creatives who have really made a name for themselves since they burst into life with their Black Sailor's Kickstarter.
BigChild have also built a reputation for having consistently excellent box arts for their miniatures, and also painting box art pieces for other companies in their recognisable style.
Straight away you're met with Ruben Martinez' Crystal Brush winning Ulrik the Slayer and a prologue giving a little insight into what to expect from this book. These range from "introductory articles on colour and painting techniques" to more specific subject matters as the book continues.
Ruben is also the project editor for this book and the painting manager at BigChild.
As with any book (unless written by Terry Pratchett that is), this is split into chapters with each by a different artist, using a different miniature, and covering a different subject.
- Colour theory. Ruben Martinez. 12 pages,
- Special techniques. Miguel Ángel Matias. 10 pages,
- Painting a male face. Rodrigo H. Chacón. 8 pages,
- Painting a woman's face. Marc Masclans. 10 pages,
- Textures. Luis Gómez Pradal. 10 pages,
- Lighting effects. Fabrizio 'Rusto' Russo. 10 pages,
- Fantasy creatures. Rodrigo Ciprés. 10 pages,
- Tabletop miniatures. David Arroba. 6 pages,
- Authors gallery. 10 pages.
Ruben Martinez - Colour Theory
Ruben sneaks in and grabs the first chapter. Talk about abuse of position. I am of course joking and I honestly don't blame him for wanting to be the one to set the benchmark for what you can expect.
Starting off with a crash course in colour theory. Condensed into a mere two pages for the core of it and then more tips throughout his section.
You'll find some useful tips about planning and using reference images. Always something I'm pretty terrible at. The rest of the chapter follows a more familiar step-by-step format on the Honuk figure from the Black Sailors: Pirates of the Storm Coast line at BigChild.
It's interesting so see how Ruben brings other colours into areas of his painting to adjust the feel, atmosphere, and look of the overall piece. And there's a good part about how he tackled the turtle like textures on the skin and shell.
Every chapter has a lovely, full colour, double page spread showing the finished article so you can really get a good look over it.
Miguel Ángel Matias - Special Techniques
On to the Special Techniques chapter which does touch on some techniques like glazing, painting hair, and cloth. Even talks about brush size choice and encourages you to actually use more of your brush that just the tip and front third. May be a scary one for those of you who like to keep their brushes in pristine condition rather than seeing them as tools to create the marks you want.
Good choice of figure using Zhou Kang from the Black Sailors: Legends of the Jade Sea line from BigChild. Good mix of materials and shapes to paint.
I do feel that it is a little light on explaining actual techniques and more focuses on methods of creating materials using/ applying paint. But perhaps my views on what is a technique aren't the same as others.
The fabric section uses what Miguel calls "mixed technique", using brush work and airbrush glazes. Not totally sure the photos really help to enforce the text descriptions. That might be more due to purple being one of those tricky colours. And yes...I did have my glasses on.
Perhaps some explanation of creating volumes or lighting directions could've been of use in this early stage of the book. Just to help readers picture where to create light and shadow.
No Fantasy painting book would be complete without an (or many) explanations of non-metallic metal (NMM for short). Miguel gets in with his version. However; he covers a golden metal alongside a more blueish steel rather than the standardised grey which you usually see. He also discusses two methods of creating the effect too which I do like.
I do admit that perhaps more photos of stages and a more in depth explanation of value contrast could've really reinforced the methods discussed here.
Rodrigo H. Chacón - Painting a Male Face
I started to notice a trend at this point where two part priming is discussed. It seems to happen a fair bit throughout. Sometimes with added information about lighting considerations. I must admit that I did start to get a feeling that perhaps the book could've been split into two main sections at this point.
- Section 1: covering prep and techniques like priming, lighting, colour theory, values, contrast, glazing, outlining (or edge highlighting), and other more technical terms which often get mentioned throughout the step-by-step explanations.
- Section 2: the step-by-step sexy stuff from the individual painters.
But anyway...I got distracted with thoughts.
I'd say that this is the most focused chapter of them all. Fully titled "Painting a Male Face: Old Man and Boy", and that is exactly what you get. Which I like. For me a heading gives you a hint at what you will read or learn, and with this chapter you get that without distraction.
Covering different methods to help show age difference is a nice touch. You get skin which is something I often hear people say is a weak spot of theirs, eyes, beard, and hair. All very much focal points on almost any miniature. Not bad going when you think this is also one of the shorter chapters.
I actually found myself wanting more in between steps with some parts feeling like they were cut short, either for book space or some other reason. But with it being such an important area of painting (more than NMM personally) it could've been given a bit more space.
One main complaint though, and this might sound really petty. The choice of bust. Lovely as it is, Spira Mirabilis only sell their miniatures for 48 hours and so if someone wants to paint along on the same mini they either have it already, spend a large amount from someone reselling, or go that route that I will never advocate.
Marc Masclans - Painting a Woman's Face
What better to follow a chapter on male faces that one focusing on those intimidating female faces!
However; Marc himself even says in the introduction that it will "not be restricted to painting the face only; we will also see how to frame the face within other defining feminine features such as skin complexion, hair, and bust." Perhaps 'painting a female figure' might have been a better title?
This figure is a bit of an odd/ original one coming from Celestial Genesis called Nuwa the Listener.
Unlike many other methods I've seen for painting female skin, Marc doesn't focus heavily of using an airbrush to create smooth transitions from the get go. In fact he mainly seems to reserve it for delicate glazing while using the brushstrokes to really do the work for him. Being that I don't airbrush, and not because I don't view it as a valuable tool and skill set; no prejudice against airbrushing here; it was interesting to read a primarily hairystick method.
It shows that Marc has done a fair amount of teaching. There are more images than explanations, and some text connects to multiple image angles too.
Whilst he does touch on sections like the tail, DNA strand, and last details; Marc really kept the focus on that skin area. Weighing more towards the all important face and hair which can really frustrate people when painting. Shame there wasn't a few more pages to expand on this though.
Luis Gómez Pradal - Textures
Luis certainly went for a more obscure selection of miniatures. Which is a good change from all the humanoid subjects. The Smoking Caterpillar from Creepytables.
"Textures" is a pretty huge subject to cover and could lead to all sorts of expectations. So I'll narrow it down:
- Creature skin texture,
- Liquid bubbles in a glass container,
- Eyes (though that is really a one paragraph description),
- Golden NMM (version 2)
- Wood tree stump.
Pretty specific for such a generic, all covering chapter title.
Unfortunately, with the bubbles being quite a unique texture, it had a single paragraph text description rather than something slightly more expanded.
Gems could've also been covered too as they aren't touched on elsewhere within the book. But that's my head again looking at things from a different angle.
You can see the eye paragraph with accompanying photo just under my thumb. Could've been more in depth with so many different eye types being well painted but that is just me.
The tree stump in comparison gets a lovely eight photo, almost full page description. Just feels a little unbalanced to me.
Fabrizio 'Rusto' Russo - Lighting Effects
The addition of Rusto is a nice change as his method and style of painting feels quite unique here. Much more feeling like a canvas painter working with underpainting and building colours by using quite transparent paint layers.
Painting a weighty metal version of Vlad Dracul from Pegaso Models (yes...Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, and many other names) sculpted by Andrea Jula. Fabrizio decided to go down a more cinematic colour scheme than the more historical looking box art.
Again here, the title of "lighting effects" doesn't really cover what is talked about. Yes, he does talk about lighting briefly and does create glowing red eyes on both Vlad and his mount. But it really is more of a step by step on painting red armour, a massive white horse, and a bit of info on painting a gold looking stitched freehand.
Lots of photos throughout to really help to visually communicate what the text describes. Really helps to see what is being said when methods are done differently.
Rodrigo Ciprés - Fantasy Creatures
Fantasy creatures... Seriously broad subject. Massively wide subject. And so we have a really obscure figure from Celestial Genesis called Uzeon - The Wing of the Cryptick Mist. A strange mix of organic and inorganic in a hellish vision.
There are some interesting stages in creating the other worldly looking flesh parts but it would've perhaps been useful to have a more classic fantasy creature with less bionic looking sci-fi sections and yes...a third version of NMM.
Slight slip up from the translating team here too with a whole section still in the original Spanish. Oops.
This chapter did read a bit like an instructional manual too. Very much 'I did this, then this, then this...'. Could be the translating but it can be quite an easy chapter to skip over after having had Masclans and Rusto leading up to it.
David Arroba - Tabletop Miniatures
Ah... then we have David Arroba who still looks like a youngster even with his stubble (you lucky fella you). Painting...some tabletop miniatures. Yes...tabletop miniatures. This felt a bit disjointed and perhaps like it should really be a separate book aimed at that market. Especially when more display type painting takes up nearly 92% of the books contents.
But, with David being the excellent painter that he is he delivers not just one guide, but two.
First up is a Quick painting guide taking you through ten steps to get a decent looking figure on to your table. Good stuff.
Then David expands with a further ten stages to take that initial figure further. Which is great for gamers wanting to get that bit more from their armies without long processes.
However; guess what returns...that's it (I hope you guessed correctly). NMM Mk4. That's four methods of doing non-metallic metal without an in depth explanation of value contrast and zero methods for an approach using metallic paints. It's a shame because I know there are some interesting methods using metallics too but I'm guessing people aren't asking for that.
You can't have this many painters together in a book without showing other work of theirs. That would just be a wasted opportunity. Good to see a brief bio from each of the painters too.
Quality wise you get 123 pages of glossy full colour pictures which feels quality. Though the pedantic head I have feels the need to mention proof reading as there are a fair few typos and it sometimes changes between English UK and English US. Minor I know but at 26.50€ it would be nice to avoid that (and the untranslated paragraph) where possible.
I'm a little torn on this and I'll explain why; but also bare in mind that there have been other books released since this one which I hope have improved on the format.
I honestly don't feel like I've learned any 'painting secrets for fantasy figures' from this book. There are some excellent tips for introducing colour into your painting in ways you perhaps wouldn't have considered to help create ambience. Some good pointers for skin painting on human and non-human miniatures. Pointers for creating material textures too. And of course...methods for the often craved and sort after non-metallic metal (NMM). Perhaps more of the "why" could've been explained rather than so much "how".
But I feel the structure perhaps lets it down.
As I mentioned earlier in my review, perhaps splitting the book in to two sections could've made for a stronger book.
Major and reoccurring techniques and terminology being explained in the first part. This would help more novice painters understand things like volumes, values, hue and saturation, glazing, opacity, and other terms which it sometimes feels like the writers have an expectation that the reader already has an accomplished level of knowledge in.
The second section would be the bigger step-by-step sections but with more focus rather than painting everything. More like the male and female skin chapters.
Last up; I really feel that less would seriously be more. Many sections have areas where it feels like things have been edited for space and miss part of what you do. Less subjects, less chapter titles (if even needed), and more information and insight into each project in the book could've worked better.
I mentioned too that David's 'tabletop miniatures' section felt disjointed. Really I would say that a separate book aimed squarely at the gamers out there would appeal to them more. I highly doubt that gamers will buy this for one chapter after all.
This is a good book for those who have a solid grasp on painting already and want more insight into the models painted or the painters included within this book. But it's a bit of a jump for novice or even intermediate due to a lack of glossary of terms really and I would steer you in the direction of the Encyclopaedia series of books to build that knowledge.
Where to buy?
You can buy this and any of the other books published by AMMO by Mig from stores stocking their products or direct at https://www.migjimenez.com
If you've made it this far (and I've just realised how much there is, sorry), thank you. I hope you're safe and well, and getting in some hobby time.
Until next time. Take care.
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