Skeletons, zombies, mummies, and other unnaturally raised creatures are a mainstay in so many tabletop games. The ubiquity of the undead means that you’ll encounter them in games that perfect for that time of year when children come around asking for candy (which is during Halloween and virtually every other day of the year). Moreover, undead models are perfect for learning how to paint: they’re quick, require little in the way of technical brush control or technique, and are so numerous that you’ll get a good amount of practice on without spending a ton of money on them. Even the most novice model painter can have an incredibly great looking undead horde in no time at all.
So if you’ve got a set of undead minis for your next D&D campaign or you’re looking at the grey zombies of Zombicide and thinking plastic isn’t the best look for them, here are some really easy tips to getting those undead models painted faster than you can say, “Braaaaaaaains!”
Key Technique 1: Prime in Ivory/Bone
I’ve talked about priming in other blog posts, but priming in bone serves a couple purposes when it comes to the undead. First, it helps cover a lot of the skin/bone color of the model. Skeletons are bone, zombies have that undead yellowish pallor and mummies that have risen don’t wear lily-white wrappings.
Secondly, bone makes for a fantastic base colour, since you won’t need to have perfect paint coverage on the model. In fact, if you have appropriately watered-down paint, a single coat will cover exactly what you need with the bonus of settling into the cracks and creating natural highlights without having to fuss with blending, drybrushing, or layering up. Basically, it means you can speed paint a pile of these models fast enough to spin a zombie’s headless neck.
Key Technique 2: Wash All The Things
Washing is a go-to painting technique that creates depth on a model and pulls out the details without much work. Taking a very thinned paint (or a specially made wash) and applying it to a model takes about 30 seconds.
You want to go with a darkish grey-brown for virtually all undead models because it’s extremely forgiving. Not only does it fill in all the recesses to emphasize shadows, but even if you don’t have perfect control of your wash, it just ends up making your model look dirty, which is totally on-brand for both the newly and not-so-newly risen.
Key Technique 3: Blood Fixes Everything
The best part of painting undead is that even if you make a mistake, you don’t have to try to go back and fix it. Instead, put blood on it! A little red paint not only adds character, it gives it a pop of colour that contrasts beautifully with the dirty browns that undead are often sporting. It also hides misplaced paint, missed spots, and other flaws. Just like Bob Ross says, you don’t make mistakes (especially on an undead model), just happy accidents. Except in this case, those (not-so-)happy accidents may have been from eating a meal that’s so fresh it’s probably still kicking.