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Painting Wood Grain
by John Long

Too many times I've seen beautifully painted model figures with gear and accessories that seem to be painted as an afterthought. I was guilty of this same practice in the past. This is especially so in the case of finishing weapons. A plain brown coat of paint and black for the metal seemed to suffice. When I started attending shows I noticed that other painters were going to greater lengths to show every detail possible. I was challenged early on in the figure game when I decided to paint Andrea Miniature's “The Name of the Rose”. Featuring a large wooden desk, that kit had a lot of wood. The desk was central to the piece and a plain finish was just not going to cut it, so I developed a process that I think works well for most wood surfaces we miniaturists might encounter.

I almost always apply primer. I've been using Brite Touch automotive primer since it was recommended to me by my good friend Anders Heintz. I've been very pleased with the results. After that I apply a good undercoat of Flat Brown. I used Humbrol 113 on these, but nearly any “Brown” will do. You can even change the tone a bit by varying the undercoat.

I use oils for almost all of the finish work on my figures and weapons are no different. The difference in how I finish gun stocks varies somewhat from how I finish clothing, in that I don't try to cover the undercoat entirely. My palette for wood is usually Burnt Umber, Mars Brown, and Mars Yellow. This varies sometimes, but normally these are the colors I use.

The gun stocks in the photos are 1:35 scale muskets from the Meteor Productions Fighting top kit. The piece is undercoated and the metal parts are painted. Use a "0" round brush and apply the darkest color to the stock in a rough wood grain pattern. Don't worry too much about precision. Just get some stripes on the piece in a general wood grain pattern.

Next apply the Reddish Brown color in the same manner.

Lastly, apply the Yellowish Brown color.

The piece looks pretty rough right now. It looks like you've tried to paint tiger stripes on a gun. The next step will fix this. Using a "0" flat shader, blend the colors together. The blending is done a little differently than when painting cloth in oils. Instead of stippling, use a pulling or dragging motion. The pattern can be manipulated a little by how you drag the colors around. Avoid over-blending though. Over-blending will diminish the individual colors and the piece will look monochromatic.

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