An Interview with Model Painter Adrian Yablin

Adrian Yablin has been painting the models for us including Margo and Mr. Walthersnap. Her work is very finely detailed and really shows off the models. We've had a lot of questions about the paint and the process and so we asked Adrian to lay it out for us and tell us how she makes the models looks so beautiful with paint.

How did you get your start painting models? 

I've painted on 2D surfaces since elementary school, but 3D figures are still relatively new to me. I dabbled a little bit while I was in college, but I didn't seriously delve into it until I started working for Stern Design Works a little over a year ago. Pretty much everything I paint at work is smaller than two inches tall, so these models were a fun and challenging change of pace!

Do you have to avoid caffeine to be a detailed modelmaker?

I've never had any issues with caffeine consumption, but that's mostly because it doesn't make me jittery. If you're prone to that sort of thing then avoiding caffeine is a good idea, you could always try mate tea as a replacement. I also find that bracing my pinky finger on something can help keep my hand steady if I'm having any trouble.

Can you walk us through the process you go through as you paint Margo and Mr. Walthersnap?

The first step is to sand all of the pieces. I used 220 grit for most of the models and then 400 grit on the faces just so detail work would be a little easier. Once all of the pieces were sanded I used canned air to remove the dust and wiped them down with a slightly damp paper towel.

Next I used Rustoleum ultra cover primer in flat gray to prime all of the pieces. I did two coats. There are lots of other primers out there, Tamiya is a brand recommended by many model painters, but I've never had any issues with the Rustoleum. I chose gray because it shows any imperfections in the surface that you may have missed and also brings out the detail of the model. Ideally you should wait 24 hours after priming before doing any other painting, or at the very least wait until you can no longer smell the paint chemicals with your nose actually touching the paint. This is because you want the primer to "de-gas" and for all of the propellants and whatnot to dissipate so they won't affect the paint that goes over it.

I then used Golden fluid acrylics for painting these models. I like them because they're very pigmented, even when diluted with water, and go on nice and smooth. I basically treated the models like they were portraits that just happened to be three dimensional, so I did underpaintings and thin layers to build up the colors.

Once all the individual pieces were painted I then glued them together. I alternated between plastruct, loctite heavy duty epoxy, and devcon plastic welder depending on the size and weight of the pieces being attached. These all set pretty quickly, but you still want to wait 24 hours before any handling if you want it to cure nice and strong.

Lastly I did a clear acrylic topcoat over both models using Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic spray. I did three coats each, to give a nice sheen and to protect the paint underneath.

What tips and tricks do you have to make the models look alive? (I love what you do around the eyes and I love what you did with the textures and shading of the clothes)

Layers. Lots and lots of thin layers. Remember that even though it's a three dimensional object you want to add depth to it through shading. If you paint an object with just a thick coat of a flat color it will make it too uniform and flat looking. I did under paintings that deepened the shadowed areas and lightened the highlights before going in and adding color. For the faces I then did thin glazes of different undertones before adding in the color of the skin itself. On the clothes I also did some drybrushing of a lighter value on areas that needed a little more of a highlight. It takes a lot of trial and error if it's a process that you're not used to

What advice do you have for those getting started painting models? What materials, paints, brushes, and stuff do you need to get going?

That depends a lot on the finish that you're trying to achieve and the overall style of the model. I was going for a illustrative/ slightly painterly style so Golden fluid acrylics were perfect for this project. They're water based so it makes cleaning brushes easier, which is always a plus. I personal like faux sable brushes and natural/synthetic bristle blends. I try to have a wide variety of sizes and shapes of brushes, as well as different handle lengths, but some artists like using just one or two brushes for everything. It boils down to personal preference really. You can also use model acrylics, like Tamiya or Vallejo, but they're technically more like enamels and I find them hard to work with. Practice and experimentation are key to figuring out what works best for you.

Thanks Adrian, we look forward to seeing more of your work as we release more of the models for the Margo series of models.