The other day I saw someone online say that non-metallic metal is the best technique to use on Infinity models, and that metallic paints don’t look good on them for some reason.
This got me thinking about the techniques we use for painting metal. I should say right now that in most cases I prefer using metallic paints (even on Infinity models). This is because I think NMM methods can create a cartoonish effect. Lately I have been leaning more and more towards a realistic style, similar to the one a lot of historical modellers aim for. By this I mean creating depth and realism by using subtle highlighting only, and applying weathering powders and oils over what is essentially a simple neat paint-job.
The thing is, neither method is better, and both involve assumptions. If you use NMM then you commit yourself to mimicking the effect of a light source, which means imagining where it would be and then painting the areas that you want to look reflective as though the light was there. This is why I think NMM creates a cartoonish finish, or at least a painterly one: the model will forever after have a light source basically painted onto it, which I think removes it from its environment a little.
Metallic paints actually make the area reflective, which means that the model is at home in its surroundings. One problem with metallics though is that they get their effect by having lots of tiny chips of shiny in the pigment, so it’s almost impossible to avoid leaving a texture, which doesn’t look great since metal areas are naturally smooth.
I’ve found that this can be overcome by using better quality metallics. Your GW or Vallejo acrylics have this problem, but fork out a bit more money for some Vallejo Liquid Silver, or a Humbrol enamel, and you’ll find they have a texture similar to non-metallic paints. Just remember that they clean up with spirit instead of water.
The real problem though is consistency. If you’re going to use NMM, then you have to paint the whole model as though it has the imaginary light source. This might sound basic, but I’ve seen models with clever NMM and then the rest of it is shaded and highlighted in a neutral way and doesn’t match.
Likewise, if you use metallic paints then I think the model will look better if the rest of the colours also speak for themselves, and realism is achieved mainly by weathering. Don’t dramatically highlight the cloak comic-book style and then have a sword that gets its metal effect via natural light.
Anyway that’s just some thoughts. I wonder if there are other ways to paint metal? These are just the two that I know of.
Till next time,