|Darth Vader's helmeted head at 1/12 scale|
|Clockwise from left: Darth Vader's locking helmet, magnetic clamps, breath mask, back of head|
My one and only reference when painting Vader's head/helmet/mask was a book titled Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy. I love this book both as a Star Wars fan and as a modeller who needs good quality photo references. For the most part, I use this book as well as another one called Sculpting a Galaxy when working on Star Wars-related projects involving the original movie trilogy.
|Star Wars Costumes is an excellent reference book for hobbyists|
Things got off to a relatively bad start when I got impatient and tried painting a bright gold metallic colour onto the breath mask's body heat regulators [square vent-like thingamajigs on the forehead] without first laying on a darker metallic base colour. As I don't practice painting metallic colours as often as I should, my forgetfulness played a part too. Other metallic colours on the breath mask were more straight forward: a simple dash of gun metal on all three points of Vader's triangular respiratory intake, and a mixture of gun metal/bronze for the top of the head i.e. the helmet's magnetic clamps.
|Darth Vader's breath mask without the locking helmet|
|Gold bits are the helmet's body heat regulators ...|
|... while the metal bit at the top is the helmet locking system comprising magnetic clamps|
In contrast, painting flesh was like riding a bike. I guess the amount of practice I had put in working on flesh tones helped me adapt quicker back into the rhythm of painting with a hand brush. Results wasn't exactly awe inspiring but it's a step back into the path of small scale miniature figure painting.
|Neck support at back of the helmet was painted with metallics and finished with a wash|
|Back of Vader's exposed breath mask sans locking helmet|
|Scars on the back of Vader's head had a reddish brown wash followed by a purple one|
At the risk of sounding like a lovesick fanboy, I can't praise the level of details on Bandai's Darth Vader 1/12 scale model kit enough, at least from I've seen so far. Vader's head/helmet/mask looks almost identical to the studio model based on the photo references seen in Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy. Apart from my misgivings about the choice of a rigid plastic cape, the rest of the kit has so far been in Vader's own words ... Impressive, Most Impressive.
|Sculpted details on Darth Vader's breath mask is excellent|
Below is a quick How-To in painting Vader's pale, sickly, scarred skin using some old Citadel paints and washes I had on hand. It's one of the simpler flesh skin colour mixtures I use as it only involves three acrylic paints and three acrylic washes. The steps involved are as follows:
1. Primer: Tamiya Fine Surface Light Grey Primer, my go-to primer for any skin and most cloth related parts that need painting;
2. Basecoat: A 1:1 mixture of Citadel Tallarn Flesh and Space Wolves Grey;
3. Midtones & Initial Wash: Basecoat mixture with more Space Wolves Grey and some Skull White together with a wash of Dark Flesh and Devlan Mud mainly on the scarred tissue;
4. Highlights & Final Wash: Midtone mixture with even more Skull White and wash of Leviathan Purple mainly on the scarred tissue.
|Progression of how the back of Vader's scarred and injured head was painted|
So that's Darth Vader's iconic head done and dusted. And as with most Bandai model kits to date, all those details are now hidden by his glossy black helmet. But at least the helmet is still detachable for a pose with the breath mask and back of his head exposed. So all that hard work hasn't necessarily gone to waste. Painting Darth Vader's head should be on the bucket list of every modeller who is a Star Wars fan. And that's a check for me. Now on to Vader's torso, armoured breast plate, et al.