Paints! Also painting! Also pain… in my wallet.
Turns out good paints are pretty expensive. Before I went out to our local art store, Total-Artist. I want to write about this, but first, please check out their website, and marvel with me at a website that seems to have been transported straight out of the 1990’s, and still doesn’t have a secure version of the site despite it being 2019. Geez…
Anyway, my dad and I went down to their store, and spent a good half hour looking for paints. I had some idea of what I wanted the knife to look, but I hadn’t made any hard choices at the time yet, so this process ended up taking a while as I weighed my various options. In the end, here’s what I bought:
The W&N Galeria is a good quality paint. Not the best, but a big step up from the cheap stuff with massive amounts of filler that you can find at discount stores. The Amsterdam Expert is, as the name suggests, a high quality paint – with a price tag to match. I needed an greenish oxide color and would’ve gotten a W&N Galeria, but that range didn’t have a matching color. The Amsterdam Expert was more expensive at half the contents, but since I knew I wasn’t going to use much of it, I figured what the hell, I’ll get that instead.
The Gold and Silver metallic paints I didn’t plan on using immediately, I just wanted to have them in case I ended up doing any unplanned details, on this project or any others.
Since my prop was fully primed, I could jump into it right away. I started by painting the blade with my metallic copper. Even at a single layer, I was super pleased with the first results – especially compared to the unpainted version:
The next step was to paint the detail areas of the blade – specifically, the blade edge, and the logo. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about the logo, to be honest. I knew I wanted it to have a different color, and I knew I wanted it to “pop”… but I had a hard time deciding on a color. I was leaning towards red, which would blend nicely with the copper tones, and would probably have worked well. On the other hand, I knew that I wanted to add blood spatter detail in the final phase of painting the ritual knife, and red on red doesn’t work that well. After some careful consideration, I decided to paint the logo with a mix of blue (from my super cheap paints) and chrome oxide green.
So here’s a funny thing. I looked up detail of how paints work and what’s in them before I bought my paints. Short version, cheap paints have less pigment and more filler – thus requiring many many more layers than good paints to get the same coverage. I knew this in theory. But theory and practice are two different beasts. Because as I mixed equal parts (super cheap) blue and (very expensive) green, the result I ended up with was… green. Just green. Practically no difference.
In the end I had to keep mixing in more and more blue, and even some white, to get the green to change color. It’s easy to write or talk about how expensive paints are “better” because they have “more pigment”. But this particular case really drove that home. I needed about twelve times the amount of blue to get my green to change. So here’s my advice to anyone reading this: if you remotely can, do yourself a favor and just buy good paints from the start.Or at the very least, don’t mix in super cheap paints with your quality paints. It’s going to get messy…
Still, I was happy with the results:
You’ll notice I also painted the knife edge already. I mixed some silver and copper to get a bit of a champagne look. Next, I painted the handle. I wanted this to look like old, darkened wood, and it was a bit of a challenge as – if you’ll remember – I’d never done something like this before.
I started with a brown base coat. Then I realized I could fake a grain by using a small needle to make scratches into my paint while it’s drying. I did this a couple of times to get some grooves into the handle. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the brown isn’t consistent throughout. This is on purpose, as wood isn’t just one color either, and having lighter and darker areas helps sell the effect:
Next, I wanted to add the chrome oxide green to help make the damaged areas appear more damaged. After all, it makes no sense that the massive X-shaped cut in the blade is exactly the same color and texture as the rest of the blade. I also wanted to have some of that green oxidation around the logo area, where things such as moisure would naturally build up in the nooks and crannies to slowly eat away at the blade. The result immediately looked better than before:
I was in the home stretch at this point, but there were a few more things to do. To start, I wasn’t entirely happy with the wood of my handle, so I spent a couple hours over several days adding a few more layers of various browns on top of it. I found out that I could add to the effect by using another kind of brush with harder bristles and a dry-brushing technique to make the wood look even more like wood. I also finally painted the connecting bit between the handle and the blade – nothing too fancy.
Then, the time finally came for weathering. Oh yes. I’d been looking forward to this. I was excited and terrified. Excited because I was so close to finishing my first real prop, and terrified because doing something wrong in the weathering stage can make or break a prop. I did some edge highlighting, followed by black-washing.
First the edge highlighting. This is a super subtle effect that you probably wouldn’t even notice if somebody didn’t point it out to you. This is where you go over the edges of a prop and dry-brush some lighter color onto the edges in semi-random locations.
For an example of this effect, look at the computer generated image below. Notice that on the side with edge highlighting, the edges seem to have more definition and “pop” more.
Next was the black-washing. If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, it’s where you take a black paint, thin it, and apply it very liberally to the prop, and then try to clean it immediately, but do a deliberately bad job of it. The result is that the black will settle into the various nooks and crannies, and stay there. This simulates the way dirt builds up into those areas over time in the real world – but at a fraction of the time.
For an example of this effect…. well, heh. Here’s the result. You can just compare it with the previous image:
You may have picked up on this, but edge highlighting and black-washing work well together. The reason for this is that where the edge highlighting adds more lighter areas, the black-wash adds more darker areas. Together, they make even the flattest paint job look better.
And with this, the knife is DO…
… nooope. Not yet done. Almost!
I mentioned blood spatter. This is meant to be a RITUAL KNIFE. And you can’t have a proper Ye olde ritual knife without some blood spatter and blood detail. Tune in next time for that final touch, and what you’ve all been waiting for: the final pictures of the finished project!