02 March, 2016

Painting Miniatures of Color

I am a really big fan of diversity - both in life and my gaming table - one of the reasons I prefer Vietnam era wargaming to the segregated army of WW2, for example. However painting miniatures that read on the table as non-white is not as easy as it might seem.

This is a skin tone tests for non-white characters. In all I'm rather pleased with the results... the only disappointment is the dirtiness of the white suit... but the photo accentuates it and it looks better in real life.

All the skintones were Vallejo Model Colors. For the three Asian figures on the left (Yakuza gangster "oyabun leader" painted as a low level chimpira in flamboyant red suit, and a "heroic cop" both from Northstar's Fistful of Kung Fu line; female "citizan militia" painted as a Hong Kong SDU officer) were painted with VMC 036 "Bronze Fleshtone". It is a bit stereotypically yellow, but it reads as "Asian" more than any more nuanced tones I've tried. It shall be my go to Asian skintone.

Next we have a "news team minder" painted as a city detective (from Copplestone Castings's Future Wars line) painted with Valleho Model Color Extra Opaque 140 "Heavy Skintone" which I think will read well for both Hispanic/Latino/Chicano and North African/S.W. Asian characters.

Finally "corporate babe 2" (also Copplestone Castings; Future Wars line) painted as an armed female corp with Vallejo Model Color 044 "Dark Fleshtone"which I fine to be a very attractive, rich black skintone in miniature - the photograph really doesn't do the actual miniature justice... she looks gorgeous in person... with just a hint of dirtiness to the white suit. I will definitely be using this color more often.

So those are my basic skintones for non-white miniatures... I would like to find more shades for each that could offer more variety while still remaining identifiable at scale... I have four or five shades of Caucasian/white fleshtone by comparison. However the fact is that real skintones aren't as defined - my wife and I are nearly the same shade for example... and at scale the slightly cartoonish choices of skintone become more important to distinguish the miniatures intended ethnicity. In my previous batch of minis I had experimented with "Heavy Fleshtone" for a lighter-skinned black woman, and "Elf Skintone" (VMC 004) for Asian characters... the results were a Latina-looking woman and two white-looking women respectively. Indeed the Asian characters skintones (two at center) are hard to distinguish from the the three "white" skintones used on the redhead corporate babe with the sword (VMC 089 "Cadmium Flesh"), the partisan in magenta watchcap (Ceramcoat"Medium Flesh"), and the biker on the end (VMC 100 "Rosy Flesh"),


  1. Lots of good stuff here. I think it's good to try different skin tones, and while making the Asian models a touch yellow might seem like stereotyping, I think you said it best yourself that it READS well. At 4' away, being able to tell who's who at a glance is really useful. I like it.

  2. Exactly... It is definitely stereotypical, but it's necessary to truly differentiate the models... i do wish there were more shades available for non-white skintones. Of course I can mix colors, but I like to have them in the bottle to allow for touch ups later in the painting process.