So you want to paint your own Beasts of the Mesozoic Tyrannosaurus rex figure, but you have no painting experience? No problem. I’ve broken down the steps to make a awesome custom T. rex with a simple paint scheme and basic materials that you can find at your local arts and crafts store.
Getting Started- base coat color
For this tutorial, I’ll be basing my custom on the Tyrantisaurus Rex from the Masters of the Universe toy line, 1987. Conveniently enough, I have the toy handy for reference, seen here in the background.
The BotM T. rex comes with a light coat of matte grey already applied, so no priming is needed.
Here’s a look at the paints I’ll be using for the main body. These two purples are pretty much the same, with the smaller one being slightly thicker, but either one works fine.
Using the straight dioxazine purple didn’t give me the right look, but mixing in ultramarine blue creates just the right color temperature. Note that aluminum foil makes for a great disposable mixing pallet.
Tip: Mix ultramarine blue and dark umber to create a deep rich black, much nicer than the standard Mars Black.
I always start with the head. If the color looks good, proceed with the rest of the figure. For this example, I’ll leave the underside grey for the next step.
I often prefer to work from the lightest color to the darkest, but in this case it will be the reverse since dark purple is the main color.
Tip: For painting realistic animals, especially dinosaurs, it’s often best to use the darker tones along the back and sides with lighter tones reserved for the underside. However, this does not always apply to patterns, only base colors.
For the underside, I’ll be looking to match the red-orange seen on the vintage figure. For just the right color, I use quinacridone red mixed with a small amount of yellow orange azo. As you can see already, color mixing is essential to getting just the right color. I encourage anyone interested in figure painting to experiment with all types of mixed color combinations. They’ll usually end up being more interesting than using paint straight from the tube (or bottle), and you’ll get more use out of each color.
Apply the underside color, beginning in the center and blending out to the sides.
For blending, use a drybrush technique, which is pretty much what it sounds like- no added water, and very thin application of paint. This allows the color underneath to show through for an even, gradated effect.
And don’t forget to paint the bottom of the feet!
Now the entire figure is painted in two simple steps! Now we get to the smaller details.
They eyes on mine are the most challenging and detailed area to be painted, but by breaking it down into steps, it’s no problem. First, apply titanium white to each eye with a small brush (number 0 if you have it) and cover the surface of the eye ball. Avoid overpainting onto the eyelids, and be sure that the application is even and opaque, with no purple showing through.
Now I bring in two more colors that will be used for the eyes and mouth- muted turquoise, and light portrait pink.
After adding some white to the Muted Turquoise, I apply it in the center of each eye, again with my small brush. The light portrait pink is added to the underside of the eyelids. This color will be used again for the inside of the mouth.
Tip: It’s always good to limit your color palette. Generally, I find that it’s good to stick to about six colors for the entire body design, which can still have variations of tone and saturation. Check your color choices on paper first and if they colors look good together, then you’re ready to paint!
Some people may prefer to continue with their 0 brush for the pupils, but I personally prefer to use a narrow-tip black marker (like a Sharpie). Do not use an ink pen for this as it’s likely to smear.
I then draw in the pupils with the marker, keeping them as circular as I can.
I then add a tiny speck of white to each eye, mimicking my reference, however this is very much a style choice and may not be appropriate for more realistic renditions.
And just like that, our dinosaur can see!
Mouth and face details
As mentioned previously, I used the light portrait pink for the inside of the mouth, but I also blended a little of the red-orange color from the belly into it, to better match my reference. Notice how I’m using colors that have already been established, staying within the color palette.
The tongue is painted more like the belly color, with only hint of the pink mixed in. Titanium white is then added to the teeth. Normally I would use Unbleached Titanium white for the teeth, but again, this is style choice inspired on the reference that I’m using. Be sure to use the small brush again for painting the teeth and go slowly (personally this is my least favorite part due to all of the awkward angles involved.)
Also, note the added drybrushing on the face.
For the lighter purple tone, I simply mixed a small amount of white with the existing purple that I used on the body. Using the drybrushing technique mentioned earlier, I highlight the thicker, keratin details on the front and top of the face, going back to above the eyes.
To further push the range of values, I darken the figure along the back, starting with the head. This is just black added to the existing purple- not straight black, which can flatten the colors when applied directly.
Tip: Similar to 2D paintings, depth can also be created for 3D paintwork by using a range of values from saturated to desaturated. If your color range is only consisting of mid-tones, it can look flat and uninteresting. By using a range of values, the sculpted details can be enhanced instead of subdued.
Continue the darker purple along the back and now our value range is fully established.
Detailing the lower legs
At this point the legs are mostly painted, but we still need to paint the toe nails. For this I use the same light purple that was drybrushed on the head, except here it’s completely opaque. This light purple is also used on the hand claws.
I also add some dark purple to the feet, highlighting the larger scales and thus tying it into the dark purple of the back.
Tip: I always prefer to have a dark color somewhere on the dinosaur feet, even if it’s just the claws. This grounds the design visually and is often seen in nature as well.
Why do I have these Sharpies at this stage, you ask? Well, the knee joints are actually made of a different type of plastic than the rest of the figure, which doesn’t hold paint very well. The acrylic paint is likely to just rub off if applied. So if you want to color your knee disc, I highly suggest using markers. It stains the plastic instead of simply staying on the surface.
And we are now done with the figure! On to the display base.
Display bases are accents or compliments to the figure itself. While you can use new colors here, be sure that they still look good with your figure colors. I chose to base my colors on the accessories of the Tyrantisaurus. To match the blue gun, I again use the muted turquoise and mix in parchment to neutralize it.
After some paint mixing, I’m able to create a perfect match!
Once the blue color is established, I mix a big batch of it and apply it to the entire base. I’ve also added some subtle drybrushing using a slightly darker version of the color.
To match the green of the mechanical wheel accessory, I use bronze yellow and sap green. While these are newly added colors, they still complement the main figure colors and will look good for the grassy areas.
After painting in the green color, I throw in a wash of dark umber, and it’s done!
Tip: A paint wash is the opposite of drybrush, in which a color is significantly watered down so that it reaches the deepest details. The paint left on the surface can then be wiped away, creating more depth for the sculpted details.
Now that your figure is fully painted, it’s time to seal it up to prevent scratching and scraping. I use Liquitx acrylic matte medium and apply it all over with a thin coat. It’s completely invisible and has no sheen, but it will help protect the paintwork.
In the past, I’ve used to use Krylon Crystal Clear satin finish, but it’s very smelly and has to be done in an area with good ventilation. I highly prefer the odorless matte medium instead.
And for the final step, add gloss to the inside of the mouth and the eyes for a more realistic look. I use a Windsor Newton gloss varnish, but there are many other options for this.
I like to gloss the eyes last, as it creates a fun ‘It’s alive!’ moment.
And that’s all there is to it! I hope that gives some valuable insight into the custom figure painting process, or just painting with color in general.
If you’d like to paint a Beasts of the Mesozoic grey T. rex figure of your own, you can find it here in 1/35th scale: http://creative-beast.com/product/1-35-tyrannosaurus-rex-grey-action-figure/ and in 1/18 scale shown in this tutorial: http://creative-beast.com/product/1-18-tyrannosaurus-rex-grey-action-figure/
Good luck and happy painting!