Saturday, 13 April 2013

Basic Object Source Lighting for Miniatures

While working on a miniature (Word Bearers Helbrute) that I hope to get done in time for a local painting competition called Golden Kris, I decided to try my skills at a simple method of object source lighting (OSL) which uses glazes. This method is based on the translucent nature of glazes which allows them to be used when painting reflected hues on top of a miniature's existing colours.

Bask in the light from the fires of hate

Stage 1: Light Source
Firstly, I needed a light source so I decided to paint the vents (or gills) at the back of the Helbrute as an outlet for heat emanating from deep within. To achieve that effect, I decided to use a simple three-step method, starting with dark colours and getting lighter towards the light source.

In short, Blood Red was first applied generously all over the vents to the extent that they spilled out of the vent. This was followed the application of Blazing Orange paint in lesser amounts with a little spillover outside the vents. Finally, Sunburst Yellow was painted at the centre of the vents signifying the hottest part of the heat source.

Stage 1 - Step 1: Apply Blood Red paint
Stage 1 - Step 2: Apply Blazing Orange paint
Stage 1 - Step 3: Apply Sunburst Yellow paint

Stage 2: Preparation for Reflected Light
Once the light source was established, I then finished painting (largely finished as there are a lot more touch ups I need to do) the area around the light source before applying the reflected light effects.

Areas surrounding the vents were painted up in preparation for the reflected light effects

In addition, I also had to see how actual light reflects from the painted surfaces. Because the light source was from within the miniature and I could not place a torchlight into the miniature and shine it out from the vents, I decided to do the next best thing which was build some mock-ups.

With that in mind, I painted up three sprues to represent the three main surfaces that would be affected by the reflected light i.e. bronze metal parts, silver metal tubing and the dead skin covering the silver metal tubing. Following that, I shined a torchlight (using a yellow bulb) at the sprues.

Before a torchlight was shone on the mock-ups
After a torchlight was shone on the mock-ups
Behind the scenes look
What the results showed me was that the surfaces reflected an orange-yellowy light. So now I at least had a rough idea of the hue that I wanted to achieve.

Stage 3: Painting the Reflected Light
Now, the things were set for the actual painting of the reflected light. Using a 1:3 mixture of Blazing Orange:Sunburst Yellow and lots of water, I created a glaze that best mimicked the effect that resulted from the yellow bulb of the torchlight.

As you can see from the picture below, the glaze has a low level of opacity that permits you to see the surface under the layer of glaze. To know if the glaze is at the correct opacity - swish some of the paint to the side of the palette and check if you can see through the layer to the palette itself.

No this is not an Egg McMuffin - it's the glaze preparation

Finally I applied the glaze on areas which were in direct line-of-sight of the heat source emanating from the vents. I will need to study in detail if there are any areas I missed out but it's largely done I suppose. If you think there are any areas I missed out please feel free to comment and let me know. This is my first attempt at OSL and while it may not be 'Eavy Metal standard, I am still happy with it.
Can I do better? Most definitely but it's a first step for me towards better OSL techniques.

Basic OSL for the Word Bearers Helbrute


  1. Good job! One thing to take note is that OSL is easier to be spot on darker pieces/area, I've tried OSL a few time on brighter color piece, it was just not that obvious... another thing for OSL is that don't overdo the light source, I don't know about u, but I always get carried away and painted a larger area than the light suppose to be able to reach...LOL

    1. Thanks limp! Your superb miniatures are part of the reason that made me want to try the OSL effects. =)

      Yep ... I hear you ... I was trying very hard not to get carried away on the Helbrute. It's hard to see from the flat 2D pictures but the vents at the back are located quite far out from the arms hence the light does not necessarily reflect off most parts of the arm. It might not reflect off the spine too but for this I am not too sure.


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