I’ll be showing you 4 different ways that I use to paint skulls and bones on my miniatures. There’s way more than 4 approaches to painting skulls or bones, it’s just these are the 4 techniques I always use the most depending on what I need.
The techniques I’ll show you will range from easy to advanced. Sometimes you just need to get something done, and other times you want that skull to be a focal point. I’ve got you covered either way.
The other difference with my techniques is the color tone of the skulls. Two of the techniques will focus on an aged and weathered look (more yellow/bone), where the other uses greys and white to give a gritty look.
You can look at it that way, whether you need bone that’s been around for a while, or bone that’s freshly exposed, but I use the colors for another reason. It depends on the color palette I’m using on a model on which bone color I go with. If I have a model that already has a lot of yellow tones, or I feel the aged bone would just blend in too much, then I’ll probably use the grey/white option. The same goes for the other way around. I let the colors I’m using overall dictate the technique I use.
Anyway, let’s jump in!
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How to Paint Skulls & Bones
Again, there’s more than these 4 techniques to paint skulls and bones, but these are ones I use so much that I don’t have to think about it.
Also, all the colors used below are Citadel paints.
Painting Aged Bone (Easy)
There’s only a few steps to this technique for painting skulls.
It’s really simple to do and it’s my favorite method I use as well. The results are impressive considering the simplicity.
Base coat with Screaming Skull.
Apply a pretty heavy wash of Seraphim Sepia.
Now, all I do is use White Scar to get a few final highlights and I’m done.
The highlights are focused around any cracks in the skull to enhance them, as well as the spots that would get the most light, like the eyebrow area, bottom of the eye sockets, etc.
I also use the white to pick out the teeth.
While the shot in step #4 is complete, I like to zoom out and get a shot instead of remaining so focused in. This is more like you’d see it in a tabletop setting.
Painting Aged Bone (Advanced)
This is very similar in result to the easy one, but it has a few more steps and gives you more control over the result.
The skull is base coated with Karak Stone.
Now, I apply a heavy wash of Seraphim Sepia.
Using Karak Stone, I come back in and layer it back up, but leave the recesses heavily shaded.
Now I layer up some more and I use Ushabti Bone for this.
I didn’t spend time on this one blending it like I did with the easy method. The paint colors are so close together that it does most of the work for you. That being said, I could have gotten a smoother result with some simple blended layering.
Yet another layer and highlight. This time it’s with Screaming Skull and I stuck to mostly highlights with this.
The final step is just taking white and hitting the extreme highlights with it, like the eye socket area, nose, cracks, and teeth.
So, same shot as step #6 but from a more tabletop distance, a more natural distance than all those macro shots.
How to Paint Gritty Bone (Easy)
This is the easiest technique I’m showing. It’s great when you’ve got a ton of bones and skulls to do.
Base coat the bone with White Scar.
Wash pretty heavily with Nuln Oil but focus on the recessed areas.
Highlight with White Scar.
These highlights are around any cracks, edges, and I also pick out the teeth in white.
Step #3 is done, but as before, I’m zooming out to show the result more naturally.
If you want to go a step further, then in step #3 you can do a thin blended layer with White Scar, but don’t go too white with it. Then you can use White Scar for a final highlight.
Painting Gritty Bone (Advanced)
This one gives you the brightest, cleanest looking result of those listed.
Base coat the bone with White Scar.
Now, I take Administratum Grey, thin it out, and apply it like a wash to the recessed areas.
Now to start some deeper shading.
I do the same thing as step #2, but this time using Eshin Grey. I stick to the areas that should be the darkest, not everything.
You’ll notice things are a bit sloppy at this point, so I blend the layers out a bit. I use the Administratum Grey to smooth out the Eshin Grey areas, and I use White to smooth out the Administratum Grey areas.
Basically, it’s typical blending stuff, which is often just a lot of back and forth with colors until you’re happy.
The final step, adding the white highlight.
I use White Scar and do some selective highlights where the skulls would get the most light. Most of it’s done already since I started with white, so this is mostly more cleanup from earlier shading.
And a big step back for a better viewing distance.
Conclusion to Painting Skulls and Bones
Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on ways you can paint skulls and bone for your miniatures. You can certainly follow this exactly, use a combination of these techniques, or just use them as a guide and create your own method.
I tend to use a combination of these techniques as well. I could have easily shown another 3 techniques I use, but I feel that with these 4 as a foundation that you can figure it out from there. There’s no right and wrong way to paint skulls and bones, just whatever suits the model you’re working on.
I should note that having painted over a white primer makes a difference as well. Normally I paint over a black primer, but I didn’t want to have to work up to white from black in this tutorial. Doing these techniques to paint skulls over a black primer gives a much darker tone to the result.
If you have a different way you paint skulls and bone then I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Specific Painting Techniques & Tutorials
Check out these other tutorials covering specific techniques.
- The Year That Was 2020 and Where I’ve Been - January 17, 2021
- Top 5 Reasons Why Most People Fail at Miniature Painting - July 6, 2020
- Why You’ll Never Be as Good a Painter as You Want to Be - July 1, 2020