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Painting Ears and Hair

Painting Ears and Hair

by Phil Kessling

Ears are some of my least favorite items to paint. I use the same flesh mixtures as for the face but add some red for the base and highlights. For small scale figures, I paint the base, shadow and highlight colors wet on wet. After this dries, I go back and add the deepest shadows and light highlights.

I believe the secret to painting hair is to paint it just like the rest of the figure, i.e. shade and highlight planes and shapes without worrying about trying to depict individual hairs. I think it is actually easier to paint hair where the sculptor has only given you basic shapes rather than “spaghetti”.

For blonde hair, I start with a base color of Raw Umber and Mars Yellow; I shade with Burnt Umber or Raw Umber. For highlights, I add Titanium White and Naples Yellow or Jaune Brilliant; light highlights have even more Titanium White added. For large scale figures, I sometimes add just a tiny bit of an iridescent color. This gives the hair a tiny bit of realistic “sparkle.” You don’t want to over do this. After the hair is dry, I go back and add some fine lines of the deep shadow color and the light highlights. Again, don’t over do this and try to keep it random.

Experiment with mixes. I rarely paint the same color twice using the same mix. Vary the base mix and try some different shadow and highlight colors. This is part of the fun of painting.

For me, black hair is the hardest to paint because it is difficult to get realistic highlights. I usually start with a base of Blue Black and just a little Titanium White. I shade with Mars Black and usually highlight with a grayed-blue mixed from Indigo and a little Titanium White and a dab of Raw Umber


Phil Kessling is a  a critically acclaimed miniature painter, author of Osprey Publications Battle Honours, and a contributing editor to Historical Miniatures magazine.