BTS: Painting & Weathering Action Figures

I was super excited when I recently got my hands on a Star Wars the Black Series The Child (henceforth known by the much better name: Baby Yoda) figure from The Mandalorian. I was, however, a tad underwhelmed by the paint job. The head had very little texture, and his robe was a bland beige with no shading or shadowing. It looked too new.

Black Series figures are normally very detailed, but they are still on the low end, cheap side of things, so I don’t expect a lot of shading. I still felt they could have added more fabric texture to Baby Yoda’s robe. Instead of just sighing deeply and wishing for better days, I decided to try my hand at something I’ve always wanted to attempt: painting an action figure.

I took some inspiration from the excellent interview Teddi did on this very blog with @12parsecscustoms to get the courage up to try painting my own figures, It is not something I’ve done before.

The painting I had in mind is called weathering. It entails using techniques to take new things and make them look older and worn. This is also a great way to add details onto models. There are a bunch of techniques that can be used, but I wanted to apply a simple wash.

Applying a paint wash

A wash is watered down paint that is applied to a model. It often includes something called a flow agent which helps the wash flow into small crevices—basically it helps break down water’s surface tension. The idea of a wash is to have the darker colours pool in the model’s crevices, adding contrast and bringing out the detail.

I started by cleaning Baby Yoda. This is to remove the mold releaser, which is a compound added at the factory to make it easier to remove the plastic parts from the molds. Think about buttering a baking sheet so the cookies don’t stick to the pan, and you get the right idea. That releaser can keep paint from sticking, so I scrubbed the figure with some dish soap and an old toothbrush to ensure the mold releaser was removed. (I am not entirely sure this step is needed for Black Series figures, but it doesn’t take much time, so it doesn’t hurt to be thorough).

One can make their own wash simply by taking acrylic craft paint and adding water. A better wash recipe is available from Black Magic Craft, but I happened to have a pre-made wash from a set of paint made for the Star Wars Legion tabletop game, so I used that instead.

To apply the wash, simply brush it onto a figure making sure it doesn’t pool. Then wait for the water-paint mix to dry.

First paint attempt

I’ve learned that I have a tendency to over-weather models. This was no exception. Here’s the result of my first attempt:

First attempt at paint.  Way to heavy.

Clearly the paint, especially on Baby Yoda’s skin, was too heavy. I tried to wipe off some of the paint with a paper towel, but it had mostly dried, so my attempts left a blotchy mess. As a last ditch effort, I scrubbed Baby Yoda down with soap and a tooth brush.

It worked wonderfully, and soon I had an (almost) clean figure to make a second attempt.

The second attempt

The second go-round I gave the wash a lighter touch, and the result was much better. It really doesn’t take a lot of wash to bring out some details, as this side-by-side comparison shows.

The paint job is not perfect—but it was my first attempt, and no first attempts are perfect. I do think the painted figure has more character. The robe is a darker shade, and the wrinkles on his head are more defined. I am definitely going to try this again on other figures.

The final test

The final test of any action figure modification is how it looks in-camera. I set up a shot of Baby Yoda doing the “magic hand thing”.

Baby Yoda doing the magic hand thing.

Yep, definitely worth the paint job. I have a lot to learn about this process, but I do believe it adds something extra to the final image.

Thats the thing with learning new techiniques. They are not going to work out awesomely the first try out. However one has to start somewhere, and work up. It rarely hurts to try. You’ll likely not succeed as much as you like, but as they say, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

[dave]

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One Comment

  1. Janan

    Great stuff Dave and I have this added to my todo list for Baby Yoda. I do agree that Black Series figures have awesome sculpts that are let down by the paint apps. Looking at the newly announced Rebels re-releases, it does show how a fresh pain app can make the world of a difference to the exact same body molds.

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