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(This article originally appeared on the Mining Co AD&D [now RPG] web site, as part of a series of painting articles on doing basic textures)

        Hi, I'm Laszlo Jakusovszky. There are some basic textures in miniature painting that come up a lot and, if done right, can greatly enhance a well-painted miniature. This is the first in a series of short articles on some common textures and the techniques used to render them realistically. Most of these are relatively easy to paint by following a few basic steps.

        Wood is the first texture I'll be demonstrating. Often a figure has a wooden shield or club that needs to be painted, or a diorama may include parts with wooden surface details to finish. Painting wood falls under the category of drybrushing, really, as there is little blending to do. Careful drybrushing technique is essential to get the right look. When practicing, apply several layers of light drybrushes, rather than a single heavy layer (which often looks chalky or gummy). Also, when applying the washes, use multiple thin washes to create deep color tones rather than one really dark wash. The example I've chosen is a treasure chest.

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        The fine details of the wood in this resin casting make it very easy to work with. If the wood you want to paint is not as well detailed, don't be afraid to add a little wood-grain with a sharp hobby knife or dental pick. Just keep a steady hand and a good eye. (A note here: always wash resin pieces before priming them, as they may have a mould-release agent left on them that prevents primer from sticking well.)
        This piece will be painted a golden oak color, but the type of wood can be varied according to your taste. For other woods, obtain a small, varnished piece of the wood in the color you want to copy or get a wood stain chart, which is usually available for free from hardware stores.

(Please note—all paints used are Ral Partha brand, except for the inks, which are Citadel brand).

Step 1:

The wooden areas are painted a base coat of Leather. Since the multiple drybrushes for painting wood can wear through the base coat on resin pieces (forcing you to patch up the paint), applying a nice thick base coat helps prevent this. I paint several thinned coats of paint to build up the base coat; if you paint one thick layer, it will not brush on smoothly and will fill in the wood grain too much.

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Step 2:

I wash the base coat with a mix of Dunkel Braun and Red Brown. (The wash is thinned with water to the consistency of lowfat milk). Next I apply the first drybrush, using an unthinned mixture of Leather and Ivory.

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This establishes the high points of the wood grain and the dark recesses of the seams for future reference.

Step 3:

To increase the "depth" of the wood-graining effect, I usually wash and drybrush the miniature two to three more times, with each successive drybrush layer being lightened with more Frost Ivory and a touch of Lantern Yellow. (The final drybrush should look very yellow.)  For successive washes, I use several coats of the original wash color, followed by a final wash of Rust Brown Ink. I dilute each wash layer (even the ink), so that the drybrush highlights underneath show through a little. I don't wash over the final drybrush layer, however; instead, I let it stand to depict that bright, reflective look of lacquered wood.

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Step 4:

It's time to finish off the details of the wood. I begin by outlining all the areas of the chest that are in deep shadow: the seams where wood meets the chest's metal straps and the joins between the boards.  For this step, I mix a darker shade of ink wash by taking the Rust Brown Ink and adding a little Brown ink to it. (Ink is better than paint in this case, as successive layers give a very deep, dark look). This ink is applied with a 5/0 brush. To further heighten the shading effect, after I ink each seam I immediately rinse the brush, leaving it slightly damp (not wet), and then blend the ink outward from the recesses of the seams. For the highlighted details, I mix more Frost Ivory, Leather, and Yellow together. This highlight color is painted on to the outermost edges and center grain of each board, to simulate light hitting it. I'm careful to not make this highlight too bright, as that can make the wood look "cartoony."

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Step 5:

The finished miniature is sealed with a semi-gloss spray coat. The semi-gloss gives the wood a nice "polished" look while keeping the metalwork bright. (If you want the look of unlacquered wood, use a matte spray instead).

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I hope this helps you out with all those wooden details!

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Text and Photographs (c) 2002 Laszlo Jakusovszky