Blacklining or Brownlining

"Blacklining" is the painting technique of applying paint or ink in thin lines of black where there are boundaries between color regions. "Brownlining" is the same technique, but using brown paint or ink to accomplish the same thing.

The advantage of blacklining is that the details of the miniature really stand out. The human eye is given reference points better and can more easily sum up what it is seeing. Because miniatures are so small (and because those of us that paint miniatures tend to have our eyesight go downhill from straining :) it becomes important to make it easy to determine areas of detail on the miniature to give the maximum visual impact. This is especially important when we use two colors that are close together on the color wheel (hue) or in the lightness or darkness of colors. Where two colors are at least two steps away from each other and are painted side-by-side, there is often little need for blacklining, since the color contrasts will define their own boundaries where they touch. If the colors are dissimilar enough in hue or brightness, using blacklining can be too stark of a contrast sometimes, giving your miniature a "cartoony" look.



Use brownlining mostly on flesh, where you want to accentuate where flesh meets clothing, for example. For lighter colors, flesh especially, blacklining often will give far too harsh of a contrast, creating the aforementioned "cartoony" look.

In addition to black and brown, the two most frequently used colors for this technique, you can line with a darker version of one of the colors where they meet. Especially where the colors are not earth tones, where brown or black are appropriate, using a darker version of one of the colors that meet at a boundary will emphasise the boundary without giving the miniature that appearance of a filled in area of a coloring book.

Knowing when to use a lining technique, the next step is to know how to actually do it. Normally blacklining is done with a fine-tipped round brush. I have found very fine tipped permanent markers at craft stores that work well as well, and are easier to control in many instances than a fine brush.

A technical drawing pen can work well too, if you can find one that is fine enough, such as is used by draftsmen (those few that still don't use a CAD program of some kind). That said, it can be difficult to find very many colors in small pens. I have found the fine pens to work exceptionally well when I am doing lettering or symbols on clothes (detailing). If you use the pens, my experience has been that they tend to gum up when used with acrylic paints unless you wait to do the fine detail work after you have sealed the miniature.

Next Topic: Learn to blend >>

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