Do you have a painting style or do you struggle?

Short answer, I struggle. I thought I might take a look at my painting and how it has changed over the past few years. From struggling through learning how to paint different ways to developing a style of painting I enjoy and can call my own.

A disclaimer before starting though... please do not read this post and compare your work to mine. We are all on different painting levels and skills. This post is a look at how I've progressed as a painter. Everyone moves at different speeds when it comes to painting. For some folks, the transitions in this post are way slower than they progressed. For others, it will seem like it's impossible to ever do this kind of work.

The point is that we are all somewhere along the line of learning and perfecting our own painting style. Here's a look at where I stand.

I've been wanting to do this kind of post for a while now. Part as a critical look at my work and part for my own inspiration. If for nothing else than to show that anyone can improve at painting if you keep at and push yourself to understand and try new techniques. In the process of doing that, you'll discover new methods and create your own ways of doing things. From that, you'll keep certain aspects and drop others. The result being a style you can call your own.

The beginning, or at least when I started getting serious
I'm not going all the way back to the beginning. It would be a funny look back though I'm sure. I'm going to start with this guy since it was around the point when I started getting serious with my painting. And be serious, I mean practicing and trying to do the best I could along with trying new techniques.

Black Templar Terminator Chaplain

When I look at this guy, I can see that I did not have great brush control or much of an understanding of how things work. Sure, he's got paint on him, but he's pretty much paint by the numbers I would say.

My highlighting covers every edge I could find. The lines are thick and bulky as well. There is no consideration for how light falls on the model and what would be in shadow vs what would be highlighted. This is the beginning of me learning how to line highlight.

I do have some blending in there on places like his helmet and chest area. It's not bad from a technical point of view, but it lacks the understanding of how it should be done in relation to the rest of the model.

The basing might as well be it's own thing as it and the model are two completely different things.

This guy is painted using formulas. Each section is designated something and then painted that way. For example, black armour has a formula, bone has a formula, and so on. Nothing is really tied together on this guy.

Refining the formulas and trying to include detail
This guy is not far from the previous model, but there are some things on him that set him apart. He comes along a bit later than the first guy, but not too far as you can tell.

Revilers Space Marine with auspex

He's still the paint by number/formula approach, but the biggest difference here is my attempt to refine the formulas and try including details. Things like the eye lenses on his helmet. They still follow a formula I found somewhere, but now they are included.

The purity seals are another example. They are there, but the have been tightened up some. The writing on them is not so sloppy. There is more control in its application.

If you notice the line highlights, they don't cover every single edge either. I was starting to develop an understanding of light and how it works over the surface of the model. I'm far from "getting it," but it's no longer the "paint every single edge" approach. That and the thickness is not so bad.

Basing still leaves a lot to be desired. It's good, just not there yet. I'm still thinking of it as a separate thing from the model.

Pushing myself to try and understand how it comes together
This guy is included because of what he taught me. He's painted white.

White Scars Terminator

Want to teach yourself how to really paint? Try painting a "good" white. You'll learn how to thin your paints, how to not cover up details on the model, a whole host of things. Sure, I didn't get much line highlighting experience with this guy, but I learned about including shadows on a model. Well at least the deep recessed ones.

You can still see all the same formulas as before, but the skill level is improving ever so slightly. My shadows stay in the recessed areas on this guy. The little bit of line highlighting on the gun is much sharper now too. If you look at the edge of the crux on his shoulder, you can see the faded highlight there as well. Small improvements.

I am trying some new things, but not much. The chest eagle is an example of that. Not the most common color combination you see.

The breakover from formula to style
Here's where I've made the most progress. Things have started to come together and I'm getting a handle of how it all works as one piece and it's not just a bunch of different formula-painted parts.

Deathwing Terminator Sergeant

That being said, this guy is still missing a good amount. He's made the leap from formula to understanding what I'm painting, but I still don't know how to do it well.

For example, the armour is smooth, but that's technique. There are a few places where the coloring is incorrect.

The addition of battle damage is a big thing here. I love the look, but my application is not the best. The scale is wrong in places, it's heavy handed (something I still struggle with to this day) and it just doesn't look right in most places.

My coloring has taken on a much more muted look as well. You're starting to see my painting "style" emerge. I like the darker, more muted colors with battle damage and environmental effects. It's only now that I am starting to understand how to get those effects.

Overall, this model is fairly sloppy. The reason being that I don't understand exactly what should be happening on every surface of the model so I can't paint it well enough to convince you.

That and I need to work on my golds more.

Finally, an emerging painting style
I'd say this guy was one of the first ones where I started to put it all together. From lighting to shading and weathering and all the little things in between.

Red Scorpion Veteran Sergeant

Even then, he's still got lots of work to do. I chose the grey armour because it allowed me to work on my blending and have some room for highlighting and shading. I'm getting better at my weathering as well. It doesn't look so formulaic since I'm starting to get a grasp on not only how to apply it, but where and when it should be applied.

I still need to work on my golds (not present on this guy). I've got a good handle on basic metals, but my golds still need lots of work.

My weathering is coming along and my basing is starting to tie in much better with my models. They don't look like two separate things that just happen to be lumped together. I'm starting to find a balance with all the extra effects I add to a model. Not only picking the right ones to use, but getting them on there in the correct amounts.

Where do I go from here?
I've got my sights set on a few things. One is decals. Now that I'm getting comfortable with the smaller levels of detail, I think it's time I get used to adding decals and such.

I need to keep working on my effects like glowing objects and object source lighting. Knowing when to use them is just as important as knowing how, but I have a tendency to leave them off my models now. I like the basic, no-frills look sometimes.

Green, There's a color I don't paint often that I need to try and get a handle on. I'd like to be able to paint a really nice green color.

And last but not least, I'm going to keep working on my conversion work. The more I do, the better I get in that sometimes it can be tough to tell that the model has been converted at all and that's the effect I'm really shooting for.

So where do you stand?
If you're comparing your work to mine, you're not doing it right.
The trick is to look at where YOU started and where YOU are right now. It's not important that you accomplish something within a certain time frame as much as you can look at your first model and notice the improvement between that one and your most recent model.

It doesn't have to a huge leap either. Most of my improvements have been tiny as I stumble across things or try new techniques out. Even then, it takes a few attempts before you start to get a handle on something and you can really get it down. I know it does for me.

Keeping at it is the most important thing. You can talk about painting all you want, but you need to actually paint to get better at it. That being said, I'm off to paint something so I can put a decal on it. I need to practice.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
My first look at my painting style over time
A few things I've learned over the course of painting

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!