Hobby Focus: Faux painting to trick the eye

After talking with Aurelius Legion about his Tycho conversion (seen above) using the idea of faux painting, I got his permission to share some of our discussion with you all. The idea of faux painting is not a new one, we do it all the time with battle damage. It really gets interesting when you apply it to other places though.

Warhammer 40k painting details

I've talked about doing it with hair to create texture that is not actually on the model.
In this case, it was applied to Tycho's face mask.

The face on the left is what he started with. Not bad at all, but there are a few key things I convinced him to do to really seal the deal and make it even more convincing. The face on the right is my example done in photoshop.

The biggest difference is a line highlight and a single shadow where the face mask meets his skin. By adding a highlight to the one you want to be on top (the metal mask) and a shadow to the one you want to pass underneath (his actual face) you create the illusion that one is sitting on top of the other one. Of the two effects (the highlight and shadow), the shadow is the more important one I believe.

In reality it's nothing more than paint. The illusion works because the two pieces do not have a drastic change in surface height. The mask is not a foot thick and we wouldn't have an actual change in surface depth.You could model this if you wanted to, but knowing this trick might save you from a potentially troublesome sculpting job depending on your skills. I'm not sure I'd want to try sculpting half of a face myself.

So next time you think you need to sculpt something on your model, take a closer look at it. Maybe you don't need to sculpt it on. Maybe you can fool the viewer into thinking it's there just by the way you paint it.

And last but not least, check out the post with all the pics of Tycho for the full effect.
A special thanks to Aurelius Legion for allowing me to share this.

Make sure to check out the other Hobby Focus Articles too!

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I think I do this subconsciously as my style leans mostly around extreme contrasts/highlights, and a dabbling of freehand, so it kinda happens anyway.

  2. cool man!! i tried that simulating scars on some orcs and worked perfect!
    the scars on the shoulder and butt r 100 per 100 painted and it works great!!

  3. I think over time people who paint often learn this skill by accident. The term, "This would look cool if...."comes to mind.
    Awesome article though Ron, people need to know how it works!

  4. GoldenKaos: so it just sort of happens by way of the high contrast you add to elements... that's not a bad thing.

    dancing platypuss: Nice work. This kind of thing allows you to add little details here and there like scars and such.

    Fayte: Now there's an interesting idea/question... how many people learn things without the tutoring or being shown. You know, just figure it out on their own... either modeling or painting.

  5. Yeah, this is something I like throwing onto my minis as well- my Dark Angel freehand chapter symbols are all shaded to look three dimensional, and there's some extra vents (with edge highlighting) painted on the helmets of my Veteran squad.

    Im also currently trying out a variation of the battle damage technique in order to show holes in the fatigues of my Deathskull Orks, with small patches of green skin showing through. A very thin outline of black around the skin colour seems to work really well.

  6. Tempest: Those are absolutely killer ideas. I would have never though to use the technique to simulate holes in material with the skin showing underneath. Very cool.

  7. oh and i´d like to ask for your opinion on something if its ok with u:
    Im working on a project and i want the chracter have his armour made of metal and wood... im thinking of painting the wood texture instead of modelling it... but the thing is, would b better to paint the texture and the do the highlights and shadows?, or should do lights and shadows and the paint the texure over it?
    Im sure i told u before... but great blog man!!

  8. dancing platypuss: I think if I were doing it, I would get my base colors down, add my wood grain texture and then and my shading and highlights.

    You could always go back and redefine the wood grain in the areas you needed to in the end if it disappeared due to shading.

  9. thanks man!ill show you how it goes ;)

  10. @Tempest - make sure you add a highlight to the bottom edge of the "hole" Just like chipped paint, this helps sell the effect even more.


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