Monday, September 14, 2015

Chibi Painting

I mentioned in a previous post that I was energized for painting, having pushed through the doldrums and becoming more productive. Part of what reinvigorated me and raised my excitement was I found enjoyment painting Chibi style miniatures. After doing a little research I discovered that Chibi is a Japanese slang word that means "short person" or "small child". In all cases I could find it was primarily used by anime fans and more often than not indicated an art style that was "cute". The word also appears to indicate an art style which over exaggerates the heads and eyes of the art subject while leaving the body in "normal" proportions.

The only game in my collection which currently uses models of this style is Super Dungeon Explore (SDE) by  Soda Pop Miniatures. SDE is a dungeon crawling game I've had in my collection for a couple years which I enjoy a great deal. Over the years I've made some soft inquiries to different painters about costs to have my rather large (and regularly growing) SDE collection commission painted, but had never come across the best arrangement. I did convince friend and amazing commission artist Convy or 13th hour miniatures to squeeze a couple of my SDE stuff in between some of his other commissions and these looked great.

There were a couple challenges that kept me from diving into painting up my SDE. The Chibi style is fairly clean and cartoony, which is not a style that I had practiced or been taught to paint. The style tended toward brighter colors and extreme highlights, which are both fairly different from how I am comfortable painting. Lastly was the emphasis on faces and especially on eyes, which are painted in a fairly specific style that is very recognizable. This style with the eyes includes some bright colors, multiple layers to show a pupil, iris, and the rest of the eye, and a fairly specific use of Object Source Lighting. All of this built up a barrier in my mind that convinced me I would not be able to paint my SDE models in a way I'd be pleased with.

Wow, was I wrong.

Clean Painting Style with Bright Colors

The first thing I came across was trying to get bright colors painted in a "clean" painting style. Comparing the Chibi style to my typical painting technique shows a marked difference overall. Specifically this comes down to blending and the lines on the model itself. My typical painting  style uses a three layer approach laying down a darker shadow color, then a mid-tone, then a highlight. I then use washes and another mid-tone or highlight layer to blend the model back to where I'm happy with it. This style specifically tries to blend away some of the hard lines on the model, causing the different shades of color to gradually fade into each other. I do this in an attempt to avoid a cartoon like look where the colors are solid and blocked out on the model.

One of the challenges I faced for painting Chibi models was that the cartoon blocked out look is what I was aiming for. At the same time, I've seen some fantastic chibi style models that incorporate beautiful levels of blending far beyond even my typical blending skills. I was not sure how to incorporate both of those and get the desired result on my models. I ended up jumping in to start with Fire, as I feel most comfortable painting fire. I started painting the fire in the same was I would on any other model, blending up each of the colors and trying to fade through the hard lines on the model. After doing this and reaching a point I was comfortable with, I went back and painted in hard edges to my colors, emphasizing the harder lines and covering over (with a thinner layer of paint) my blending. In the end I was surprised and pleased with how the models turned out.

Painting Chibi Eyes

Once I had completed my flame monsters I felt far more confident that I could achieve my objectives with the other models. I could be fairly confident in painting up the variety of SDE critters that would be attacking our intrepid heroes and make them look fairly good. Now I had the bigger challenge, Chibi Style eyes. Monsters do not typically have the Chibi eyes painted on them, but these eyes are a prominent feature in the Chibi heroes. I searched around a variety of different sites until I found a brief tutorial that I was comfortable with. Tutorial loaded up on my tablet, I primed my first hero and set out to see what I could accomplish. I set out with a quick reference from Calico Kate's character card to guide my color choices for the model and painted out all the colors and extreme highlights, leaving the eye until last. Then I grabbed my tutorial, my small brush (citidel fine detail, approximately the same size as a 3/0 brush), and a couple pots of paint. I cheated a little, picking a model with only a single eye to paint, but it still made me nervous. Once I completed following the tutorial I was happy with the results.

I had discovered that painting Chibi Eyes was not as tough as I had expected. Additionally I was able to achieve some pretty good results and then go back to focus on cleaning up the model and really working on the extreme highlights. Overall I am very happy with my progress painting my SDE models and have begun to experiment with other colors and styles on the eyes. The ranger (Blue to the right), Hexcast Sorceress (ping hair below) and Paladin (Yellow hair below) are three of my recent models with some of the best eye work I've done so far.

After all that I would be remiss to not give a reference to the fantastic tutorial that I followed for the Chibi Eyes. I found a tutorial by Queen of Cute on deviant art which is what I use and recommend to others. It's a very simple tutorial to follow and Queen of Cute did a fantastic job laying it out. Thanks to her (him?) for posting this online.
Queen of Cute

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