I get asked this a lot but the simple answer is: you don’t. You can’t. Because If you mean, ‘how do you paint like John Blanche’ then I really have no idea. I think John has a unique way of painting and I wouldn’t even know how to start, and anyway at best you’d end up with an imitation.
And if you mean ‘how do you paint in the style of the models that feature in Blanchitsu’… well this is also difficult to answer. All the models that are in Blanchitsu have very different styles and use different techniques, so there isn’t just one ‘Blanchitsu’ method of painting you can learn. Some of my painting heroes that appear in Blanchitsu make models that look completely different from the others: PDH, for example, is very precise, it’s like Golden Daemon painting, but less flashy, more restrained.
Migsula (from www.ironsleet.com) has an almost filmic quality to his models – if you squint you could be looking at a movie still. Jeff Vader’s models (www.convertorum.blogspot.co.uk) look almost like illustrations. There are too many to name and none really look alike.
So a better question is: what makes a model Blanchitsu?
I’ll try to answer this as best as I am able even though I’m probably not the best suited person to do so. I don’t think it is about techniques, I don’t think there are skills you need to learn that will make your models more Blanchitsu. I think on the whole it tends to be darker (or grimdark) so you may want to avoid painting too much of the model in bright colours. And it tends to have a more limited palette so you might not want to use every colour available, but other than that there are no real rules.
Oh, and I think flesh tends to not be painted in healthy tones. Grimdark models have grimdark skintones. Rosy cheeks might look out of place.
I think the main thing is having a particular style and that might mean deviating from the mainstream ‘Eavy Metal and WarhammerTV painting guides (even though they are very good and teach really useful skills and I’d never dream of saying a bad word about Duncan – you can relax). A noticeable style can be just as striking as a mastery of ‘Eavy Metal painting techniques, maybe just because it stands out from the crowd.
One style that blew me away is that of a painter called Picta Mortis (www.pictamortis.blogspot.co.uk), who developed a method of painting a really glossy black. This deep glossy black next to pale skin and with some red spot colour just looks so striking. His models are really just these three colours which is so far removed from what you see on the boxes from GW or in Golden Daemon that it really stands out. He’s obviously a very skillful painter, but I think the fact you can recognise his models and recognise his style (once you know of it) is great. Does it look like how John Blanche paints? Not at all, but I think it’s really Blanchitsu.
Another painter I admire is Wierdingway (www.exprofundis.com/author/isaac/). One thing he does that I think defines his unique style is use colours that I would swear I’ve never seen before. Boiler suit orange, vivid teal and neon yellow in particular. I guess this breaks the rule I mentioned earlier about bright colours. And then by repeating these colours, and finding other, complimentary colours, across all his models I think you can easily spot a Weirdingway model just from the paintjob. And the massive heads are usually a give away too.
Tips and tricks
I hope I can encourage some other painters to share some tips and if so, I’ll share them in future posts, but for now here are are my top tips. You’ll see that I am mainly motivated by laziness. Seriously, I am a very lazy painter: for me the main thing is to finish painting before I get bored of the model or distracted by a different one. I usually have lots of other things I want to paint or make, so if I get bored of a model and lose interest everything just goes on hold for weeks.
I love texture so I start by stippling on lots of liquid greenstuff, texture paint and crackle paint, particularly when I want to disguise a join or a part of the model I don’t like. And particularly if I am using a plastic component that I think will look too smooth and clean.
A zenithal undercoat is a great way to get started. If you spray black undercoat first and then white from above, you’ll get lots of details picked out, and lots of shadows. It’s easier than starting from pure black.
Basecoating takes ages and is not much fun. I try to put as much colour down as possible with spray paint or an airbrush. I get some tonal variety by spraying from different angles and with different colours. I don’t worry about this stage being neat.
A limited colour pallette can look pretty striking, but you might need some strong contrast otherwise the model can just look brown or muddy. I have a few favourite colours that I tend to use on everything, especially an off-white.
Agrax shade is like magic, but it is nothing compared to the magic of a Burnt Umber oil wash. If you can read through a quick tutorial about oil washes on the web to get started then I think they are a great upgrade.
Edge highlighting takes ages and can be quite boring as well, a little goes a long way. Too bright and they can look unrealistic. They look striking from a distance which is why armies with strong highlights stand out on the table top, but I tend not to worry about that.
Sub-assemblies are really for people that undercoat white, I never use them. I’d rather be able to spray the whole model in one go. Usually this includes the base as well. This is for speed and for getting consistent light with the zenithal highlight.
A rare step bi step on mi facebook page at the moment – the blanchitsu style or grimdark is personified to me bi an attempt for the miniature to look realistic and not overexagerated with bright colours and intense highlights ….
I saw that on your Facebook, but I wasn’t sure it would be OK to link to it.
It’s interesting to me that sometimes things look more realistic when the painting is looser and even a bit more abstract, maybe not all the details picked out.
I’d love a link to the aforementioned John Blanche post.
I tried searching it out but I could not locate it.
Seconding – would love a link to the post.
I too would love to see the post. Can you copy and past the text in here? I would love a starting palette of colors too if at all possible. I know that its alot of earth tones and very limited saturation, but I have real trouble putting it it terms of paint names.
I know I’m late to the party, but I’d love to see the tutorial as well!
One of my favorite musicians said something in an interview: “You learn from others and build on it what will become your own style”. I feel like this may be applied to painting here. There won’t be another Mr. Blanche, there won’t be another Jake or Isaac or Pete or Jane. To many factors must fall in place together. I love reading material that is to the point from you guys. Opens my eyes, inspires my leisure and just makes my mind richer. Thanks for that.
I wouldn’t want to be John Blanche (or anyone else) but I would like to be a dwarf with a giant axe and I do like to learn how to paint the dwarf mini I escape to, better.
“the main thing is to finish painting before I get bored of the model or distracted by a different one. I usually have lots of other things I want to paint or make, so if I get bored of a model and lose interest everything just goes on hold for weeks” – too relateable lol. Always painted one mini of each unit and never got around to the rest of the squads.
A great introduction to the subject! Here are a few thoughts on what I think can really make a difference when painting miniatures, particularly when painting in this “blanchitsu” style (which is of course not a single style, but more of an approach).
• Strong tonal composition is key! A great paint-job guides the eye throughout a model, unifying disparate elements and calling attention to focal points. The distribution of various tones (ie amount of light or dark in a color) on a model is often overlooked; it’s always tempting to use tone exclusively to render a model’s form, so that each separate color and element is equally shaded form dark to light. The problem with that is you end up with a model with evenly distributed clumps of modulated light and dark, with the main tonal variation being caused by the natural tonal difference between hues (yellow is lighter than red for example). The best miniature painters control their tonal distribution, ensuring that focal points contrast strongly with other areas. If everything is equally high contrast, it’s hard to see anything.
When in doubt, take a photo of your model and convert it to b/w. Does it still look good? All of the painters Jake highlights above are tonal masters (Jake included!), but I have to single out Migsula for his dramatic use of tone. Often only the model’s face and/or one or two details are drastically lighter than even the lightest highlights on the rest of the model, and these light points are distributed in pleasing compositions.
• A favorite trick of mine is to shade warm colors with cool colors, and cool ones with warm. So for example I tend to shade my go-to turquoises with warm orangey colors. This gives colors much more depth and complexity, suggesting both the way shadows fall in real life and how the old masters tended to paint them. It also helps unite various colors on a single miniature; if the turquoise part of your model actually has orange in the shadows it will sit nicely next to the orange part that has deep blue-green shadows. And finally, it allows you to model form with hue variation, not just tonal variation, which makes it possible to use a smaller range of tones, connecting with the previous point.
• Less can be more. Not every surface needs to be modeled, not everything needs to be delineated, broken up into different colors. Brown washes over models work precisely because they unify everything, flattening out the painter’s impulse to articular every detail. Choose which details you want to define, let others be implied with more subtle treatments.
• Some of the painters on Jakes list are trained, professional artists and designers. You certainly don’t have to be to paint that way, but I think learning about art and design makes a huge difference. Studying color theory, art history, life-drawing, etc can be hugely beneficial to miniature painting, and there are so many great online learning tools out there. Don’t just learn by looking at miniatures!
Thank you for the article.
Apart from the practical tips, i appreciate your definition of the therm “blanchitsu” as an approach rather than a step-by-step guide.
While not considering myself a blanchitsuist i have taken inspiration by a lot of the approaches to painting mentioned above and used those to improve my miniatures.
Putting the character of the mini before the notion of achieving the shiniest paintjob, using randomness and indefinition in areas (as Weirdingway describes) and allowing (subjective) uglieness to shape a mini or contrast elements of it have all worked well for me.
Technically i can add:
– Try out mixing your colors a lot; Sometimes i mix parts of my main color into every other color used (in tiny amounts sometimes) to bind everything even more together. That can improve a contrasting part even more, leaving only that part out for example (example: http://fummelfinger.blogspot.de/2016/09/lucius-vorenus.html Blue in the gold, red, metal. Only the base was left out for contrasting-reasons). If you like it less saturated like i do, add some grey to your base colors. If it turns out to shunky, you can add color later by inks.
– Sometimes, random effects caused by some techniques, will add realism to your model (and speed shit up). Starting with using the zenithal highlightings shades though using only light layers of color (as stated above) always have an eye for things, that just “happened” while aplying a wash or anything, on wich you can build or wich you just leave. Some techniques support randomness like sprinkling color or dabbing for example. Nice article on that: http://miniatextures.blogspot.de/2016/01/pink-space-marine.html
– Especially for armor, i found that creating realistic damage is easily created not by brush, but by a needle. If you varnish the undecoat in that area before painting the basecolor and go gentle, you can do some great magic, really damaging the paintjob. Later washes will greatly improve the effect and hide scratches that took all paint off.
– I like to add a layer of final highlight (of course only to the most prominent and elevated parts, wich i WANT to stand out) in the same (watered down) hue of whitish mix regardless of base color or area. That adds to the idea of percieving the model as a whole not as a mix of different areas and can help a certain athmosphere of light.
Great inspiration as well for a wild or rather unbound approach to painting should always be roman from massivevoodoo (though i guess most will know him already).
A few things I’ve found useful, if you will?
White is one of the most important colours, add it to anything for a bit of highlight- but it shouldn’t be put down in great blocks; stippled with an old brush, and kept at a fairly dicey consistency yields decent results. Also it’s really the only colour that stays true to it’s name, being the best for picking out important details such as the face or
Keep the palette fairly warm, saving the cooler tones for spot colours, gems, flesh and such. Pale blues and greens shade skin nicely, with purple as the deepest colour; sometimes rosy cheeks do look the part, if its the right shade of sickly lilac… All my Astartes powder their cheeks…
In the end, as I always find myself saying; this is a form of art, and art is representative. one shouldn’t go for photorealistic. Suggest at colours, treat one’s subject like a canvas, and not a little plastic man.
By-the-by, loving the AoS28 concept. Might think about putting together something later…