To tell you the truth, this was a long overdue project that finally reached completion. About 3 months ago, my friend gave me his collector's edition diablo head to paint and I've been postponing it for all this time. The guilt in me built up so much, that it was impossible to bear any longer, so I finally sat down and did it.
Part of the reason for postponing it for so long (apart from WH40 projects), was that I didn't really have a plan on how to paint it properly. Let me illustrate what I mean. First let me show you a random picture from the internet that shows the head as it comes out of the box:
It sucks right? Big black chunk of poo, just barely factory highlighted and the gemstone is as bland as they get. No wonder he wanted to pimp it up :D Now, let me show you a piece of reference artwork that illustrates how diablo should look:
Awesome right? Too bad it's completely different from the actual sculpt. When I started thinking about reproducing a similar effect on the head, I myself was getting a headache and wanted to shift my focus to something else asap. Basically, there were 2 main issues that I had to deal with.
First one relates to the inverted highlights. Unlike most miniatures that I come in contact with, where you have the darkest color at the bottom and work your highlights upwards, this one has that all flipped. You have the dark reds at the top and highlight into the recesses. How twisted is that? :) So you have the dark reds all over the face, and you get highlights in recessed areas like eyes, nose, mouth and the top of the head. You get an orange transition into bright yellow to simulate the devilish glow originating from those places.
That would be all good, except for the fact that the real life head is shaped totally different. You do get the eyes and nose, but there is no jawline and the "top" is split into at least 8 avenues. That was my second issue - figuring out how to apply those inverted highlights onto a model that isn't so friendly in supporting such a plan. After giving it extensive thought, I decided that the most obvious solution would probably work best and if not - screw it :) Here's what happened:
Basecoat black - obviously. Then came in the airbrush work. I sprayed Vallejo Model Air Orange into all the recesses that were supposed to get the glow, so eyes, nose and those "avenues". VMA Gold Yellow followed up for the highlight. Afterwards, I tilted the head 45 degrees and sprayed some VMA Fire Red. Last airbrush step was to give the outmost edges VMA black. At this point, I also sprayed the gem with Fire Red, but to be honest, on black undercoat it gives a brownish hue so I knew that I'll have to use other layers later.
The next step was to give everything a nice coat of gryphonne sepia wash. I used nuln oil for the gem though, since I wanted the shadows there to be more defined. At that point it started to look semi good, but I knew that some additional highlights were necessary. I didn't want to ruin those beautiful color transitions that were achieved through airbrushing + washing with line highlights, so I've decided to resort to a very careful drybrush, with the smallest brush I had available. I started off with averland sunset in the deepest recesses, followed by blazing orange into blood red. Black edges were less subtle and I just went with pure grey, followed by a 70/30 mix of grey and skull white.
Last piece that needed work were the teeth. Unlike the artwork, the real life head is more skull like and those teeth are so prominent, that I just couldn't leave them black. Also, there is no jawline there, so one cannot do the inverted highlight of the "mouth" to make it stick out. Therefore, I decided to follow my instinct and just paint them regular bone color. Once that was done, I coated the whole thing with Vallejo Satin Varnish. Perhaps a more glossy varnish would be better but I wanted to do full gloss on the gem and needed to maintain contrast between both pieces.
This brings us to the gem. Up until that point, I've only ever painted flat "half gems" of much smaller size so this was actually a challenge. Again, a lot of planning went into that small piece and in the end, I've decided that the best approach would be to make a highlight in the middle all around to simulate some kind of an inner glow. At first, I tried to figure out how an inner glow would reflect onto those multiple surfaces but my head started to hurt, so I went with the simpler solution. That one, big, circular highlight was a simple matter of blending from scab red to blazing orange towards the middle, followed by some line highlights of skull white and lastly, a thick coat of the alltime favorite - Tamiya Clear Red. Last step was a hefty doze of gloss varnish.
As you can see, the painting process itself, was pretty straightforward and fast. I've managed to do the whole thing in just a few hours. It was the colossal discrepancy between the reference artwork and the model itself that caused the most fuss and made me doubt myself too many times. I am quite happy with the result however and strongly recommend, that if you do have a diablo head, paint it. It will make your nerd shelf look way better :)
Oh and one more thing, the gem is actually a removable USB stick that has a LED light built in, so if you plug it into the computer, it will glow from the inside. This was actually a nice test for the painted highlights - they work just like they should! :)