Dungeons and Dragons figure from Heroforge.

Kirth Whitehand: Half-orc bard.

Kirth Whitehand's character sheetHere’s something totally new for you: I painted this mini for a buddy because I was curious about working with Heroforge minis. He told me he had a half-orc bard, which is just plain awesome, so I set up a little consultation and picked out colors and whatnot. I think it probably took me around 20 hours or so, including prep, but I wasn’t keeping track because I didn’t plan to charge him the full amount. I don’t really do commissions, as you probably know, so this was an experiment for me as well and a nice change of pace.

Planning the project.

colorized render from HeroforgeI met with the client to discuss the background of the character and chat about colors. He told me a bit about the Kirth’s history and style and that helped inform the color choices. He knew he wanted a very well-traveled and worn look. These were traveling clothes. That meant, to me, lots of leather. Worn leather boots, a leather hat that could take a beating, a nice leather jerkin… But he’s still a bard, so little pops of color and a certain style were essential. I felt like a warm leather palette would benefit from some cooler colors, os we blocked out red trim, gold-thread braids, and cool purple satin sleeves and pants. Coupled with a gray-green skin tone, and we had a decent arrangement, if a little wild. I knew those pops of color were going to be toned way down in the final product, so I wanted to make sure they were bold enough from the get go. He also explained that his hand would have been dipped in some kind of acid to mark him out as a half-breed, which was an excellent bit of character building and would offer some nice texture. He showed me pictures of the Joker from Arkham Knight to demonstrate the crusty, gnarly effect he had in mind.

Prepping the 3D print.

This was my first time working with a 3D printed model. I had my eye on Heroforge, but the cost and horror stories online about their brittle resin scared me away. I was really eager to take this project in part so I could play with that material and make up my own mind about it. I asked around online about ways to reduce that ‘stair-stepping’ feature, so characteristic of 3D prints. I got some good advice to use a gloss varnish to fill in the deepest parts of the cracks, and then from there I added a layer of Liquid Green Stuff. This helped a ton, but in fine detail areas like the face and collar, I didn’t want to go crazy for fear of obscuring the detail. Once I was pretty happy with the putty work, I did a quick zenithal-hightlighted primer layer.

Laying in colors and textures.

I didn’t want to go with a heavily edge-highlighted technique, because most of this detail was fairly soft and also, edge-highlighting doesn’t go over very well with non-hobby folks. It tends to look too unnatural. I decided early on that, with so much leather, the best thing I could do to mix it up was to rely on using different textures and shifting the browns from warm reds to more yellow and even some green hues. Between his hat, jerkin, belt, boots, lute and the wooden floor, there would be lots of different browns on display. I looked up tons of references material and started dabbing and stippling a lot of the colors on to build up some interesting and realistic textures. I wanted the shirt and pants to be satin, so I even went as far as mixing in a bit of metallics to enhance the sheen, but I didn’t go too crazy with it. The red trim had a somewhat fuzzy texture, because I was thinking of it like a soft felt. The boots got some wet-brushed wear and tear (Kirth didn’t seem like the type to polish his boots a lot) and I did much the same on his hat. I also decided to give him a crow feather in his hat. Something about the crow seemed to work with this guy. Not flashy, nor even traditionally beautiful, but practical and associated with history, spirits and the dead. You can’t really see it in pics, but I used a color-shift green/purple paint layer on the feather so it has flashes of color in the right light.

Details, details, details.

This model required some discipline. Besides textures in the paint, I also wanted to use various finishes to differentiate and break up the various areas. Since it’s going to be a gaming piece, I knew I wanted to give it a really durable hard coat (with Future Floor Polish, of course) at the end. That meant some of the most fun details had to be saved for later. I went to town painting light and reflections into the raised bottle. I opted for a deep green, like Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, to show off his white hand all the better and make sure it didn’t look too much like wine or beer. Kirth is a bit of a drinker, as many good bards are wont to be. I also painted in a label, and added some scribbled text and the obligatory XXX mark. The lute was interesting. As his prized possession, it’s in better shape than you might expect. However, he’s not a careful man, and I added some chips and scratches in the end. I was so proud of the blend on that big, complex curve, it was a little tough to bring myself to do it.

I used glosses in various finishes from matte, to satin, to high gloss to kick the realism up a notch. The hat and boots got a nice oily satin, whilst the glass elements got a double dose of ‘Ard Coat. The lute got a medium-satin gloss as well, before the chipping layer. But the real fun was yet to come.

 Telling the story in the final steps.

The lighting and textures help tell you where Kirth is from and where he is now, but I wanted to really sell that with the base. I knew this was a bar, from the scattered bottles. But what kind of bar? Surely it’s a seedy, busy thoroughfare with rowdy travelers carousing and clashing. I used some putty to build up the wood slats. I painted them a very worn-down wood with lots of mottled wear and some scratches, and then I had some fun picking out a couple key details. I painted a small coin by his foot that had been carelessly dropped, a spatter of fresh blood from a recent brawl Kirth may or may not have been involved with (who’s asking?), including a couple of teeth that were liberated from their previous owner’s stinking maw. And of course, one of the beers wasn’t quite empty and has released its contents onto the floor. Perhaps that’s what started the fight in the first place. I get the distinct impression that Kirth liberated this bottle of hooch from a table, right before it was overturned during the fisticuffs.

The splash coming from said bottle of booze was made with very thin clear plastic I cut from a piece of packaging, coated with High Gloss Mod Podge tinted with a bit of Reikland Fleshshade. I hit it a couple times to build up the natural rounded shape, then added another layer of clear Mod Podge to finish pull in more light. The spilled beer was basically the same, just Mod Podge tinted with Lamenter’s Yellow glaze. Two coats to give it some depth.

To show off the tricky finishes and glosses, I had to make this little 360 video. It really helps to see it in motion.