Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Painting Zombie skin- a quick little tutorial

It was a long weekend last weekend, so I spent much of it (too much according to some!) building and painting zombies, survivors and a little bit more terrain.

I thought I would just put down a quick look at how I paint Zombie skin. Mainly so that I can remember what colours I have used in painting them! To assist with that, I have called on Dave, the Zombie.

Meet Dave. He is another of my Wargames Factory Survivor/Studio Miniatures Zombie conversions. Step One is of course to assemble the miniature, and then I use Tamiya Light Sand texture paint for the bases. It just provides a bit of texture, just enough to represent a bit of concrete! Then the miniature gets an all over coat of Nuln Oil from Games Workshop. I prefer to do it this way, rather than a spray undercoat simply so that I can see the details better. Plus because I tend to use washes and dry brushing as my main techniques (lazy as I am), the thinner the coat the better, because you are relying on those layers to show up the detail in the washes/drybrushing.

So after undercoating, the next step is the first layer of skin. I use Games Workshops Ogryn Camo colour. Using a green base means that when you layer the colours on the top, there will always be a bit of green showing through. Remember that this is a zombie, not a healthy human, so we do need to reinforce the point! I have just painted it pretty liberally over the skin, don't worry if it goes into the cracks and crevices on the skin, it is a good thing. The drybrushing will leave it behind, making your zed look even deader.

The next step is to do the first drybrush of Vallejo Medium Sea Grey. Why that colour? Well, it is a blue-y grey, and I like it. Which is what it really comes down to, I use the paint colours I like! The key here is to have very little paint on the brush. Too thick a layer here and you might as well have not bothered about the green undercoat, but too thin a layer and you will have green zombies (maybe not a bad thing?). Inevitably, I always end up going a bit thicker than I should with this coat. It isn't a big deal at this stage, but it is nice to have a few bits which are still sortof green.

Still a bit green, but not all green!

The next step from here is to paint the skin with Games Workshop's Drakenhof Nightshade (?). It is a lovely purple blue colour, which just goes really well with the grey and the green. Sick, cold and dead flesh? This is where it really starts looking like it. Avoid letting the ink pool on the model, make sure it is an even coat. You don't want to ruin your hard work by making a big purple splodge do you?

And then we are on to the second drybrush. Again using Medium Sea Grey, and this time you will have to use a very light drybrush over the skin areas. The key here is to have all the layers you have built up show through, and also to have a very thin layer of the grey as a highlight. It is much easier to do very small amounts, than to put on too much. Although, if you do put on too much, just ink it with the Nightshade again, and have another go (I have done that once or twice. Or a lot...)

And with that the skin is done!

Now I have two important details which I add to my Zombies. The first, is eyes. I know that most people don't paint eyes (I am generally one of them, this is the first project where I have ever done them), but there is just something haunting about having the zombies all have those staring white eyes.

Painting them can be a pain, but bear with me.

I use Games Workshop's Ulthuran White. Why? Because it has good pigment, which means you only have to paint the eye once. Last thing you want to do is to have to paint something as fiddly as an eye twice. I am sure master painters do, but I am not one of those, so I take the lazy route. Anyway. Eyes. I find it easiest to go from side on, so that it is a single line, up and down. If you go over the edge, make sure that you have covered the part you want to be the eye, and then touch it up with grey. If it stands out too much, put a Nightshade ink over it.

For Humans, I use the same technique. Except that I then use a 0.05mm pen to draw on the iris- if I try to paint them all I get is goofy expressions and bug eyes. I have found I get much better control with a pen.

The second important detail is the blood and gore. These are zombies, so they will need to have blood etc over their skin and clothes. The gore is the last step in the process for me, I paint the skin, clothes and base, and then I do the blood.

The blood is a single paint colour, Vallejo Hull Red. My technique is to paint a bit on where I want the blood to go, say a hand, then wipe it with my thumb. This has two results. One, my thumb becomes painted red. And two, you end up with a streaky finish to the gore, some of the original colours show through. You can do as many layers as you want, sometimes I will go over it a couple of times to show off wounds, others will be more subtle. On the Zombies, I focus the blood on logical areas such as open wounds, the hands, the mouth, spilled down their front etc. I also put some blood spots on all my bases, just to break up the dull grey concrete, and to remind about the whole Zombie Apocalypse thing!

So, this is Dave the Zombie in all his finished glory:

These photos attempting to show off the eyes and blood smears. I will get some proper followers once the rest of his zed buddies are completed!

Come back Friday for the next survivor, and I have even more of these conversions in the works. I am hoping to complete them over the weekend, so should be up here early next week.



  1. There are many ways to paint zombie flesh. The key is to find which way works best for you and stick with it. Nice tutorial, Chris.

    1. That is exactly my thoughts too- I am sure there are people who look at it and think "zombies aren't grey, they should be green or flesh coloured or blue or something". None is more right or wrong than any other- we aren't painting Napoleonic uniforms here!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks- it will be a big help to me in 6 months time when I forget how I painted my zombies!

  3. Great tutorial dude! Zombies can be all sorts of colours, don't just stick to the one method, experiment.