a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Walking Dead Wednesday: Comic Styling

It’s almost Halloween and that has me looking at horror-themed games, especially Walking Dead. While I haven’t found time to put it in the general rotation, I did have an experiment I wanted to try out. I’ve seen some very talented painters do things in a comic-style paint scheme and I wanted to try it out a little bit but in my own way.

First up, a little background. I stumbled upon an over-sized artist proof copy of The Walking Dead #1 and loved the format so I picked it up. It’s not a rare collector’s item or anything. More like an anniversary promo they tried out at some point.

The artist proof is basically Tony Moore’s line drawing of the entire comic before the colorist comes in to finish the work up. I wanted to see what this might look like in miniature form so I took two copies of one of my unpainted walkers and primed them up.

I wanted to see some different options so I primed one all white to mimic the artist edition of inking on a white canvas. The other option I used a zenithal priming technique with a base of black, a large coat of grey from up high and then a highlight of white from directly above. This is pretty standard zenithal priming so nothing new here.

One of the biggest reasons for running this experiment was to see it using ink pens would work instead of painting. I did some research and these Microperm black pens seemed to be what I wanted since they are for use on smooth, hard surfaces.

I started with the zenithal first as I had a feeling it would be the easiest. Even though I was using the smallest pen (0.25mm), I found the width was too big in spots. Here is where a nice brush would do well. I struggle with a brush like that because I find the paint will dry too fast to put down a good line. Washes can cheat a lot better at that too.

Overall, I found the concept pretty quick and easy as most of it was just outlining the contours of the physical model. The zenithal technique also made it easy to figure out where I wanted to ink the shadows in more. The whole model took about 15 minutes to complete.

Having found success with the zenithal model, I moved on to the pure white one. This was much more challenging. The zenithal can hide shaky lines or when the pen would slip off the line and mess up. None of that happens here. I found the smallest pen still too thick here and it was even worse as I couldn’t hide the fact that I could not get into the recesses of the model sometimes.

Even though it was harder, it wasn’t so difficult as to not work. After a while, I got into a groove and just powered through, shaky hands and all. It was more “intense” as I was really trying to get good lines going. It ended up taking about three times as long as the zenithal since I need to do all the work and could cheat with the zenithal’s natural shadowing. This was fun and more freeing as I found I could even take mistakes and make them turn out okay.

After a few front/back comparison shots, I have this last one where I compare the two new ones to a model I did in my more classic Black & White style.

While the close up of the pure white/black comic style looks nice and achieves the effect I’m going for, the zenithal works better in real life on the tabletop. The original paint job looks soft and flat in comparison to the zenithal but has the best variety options. In the inking comic-style, you can’t differentiate skin tones so everyone will all be the same. Likely the best option would be to marry the painted style with a inking over of the lines to really make the comic-style come out.


Idyllic Scenes


Too Soon?


  1. Russ Spears

    I’ve got to admit, in picture/close-up the white primer + pen really does have the comic look to me. I switched from using “hard” tipped pens to brush tipped (Pigma Brush Pens) give me some good control to where I can finally add pupils to eyeballs! It may be my method, but the regular pens would dry up after a few uses – clogged with my paint, maybe?

    That would be a whole lot of by hand line work for all those minis if someone was first starting out…

    • Christian

      oh nice! That is a big worry with pens drying out. I initially liked the zenithal but the white with black pen is near my desk and I’m drawn more and more to it. I might try a few more this way to see how I like it. I also want to see how long this pen lasts. When it dies, I may try those Pigma Brush pens you talk about as they sound interesting.

      • Russ Spears

        I’ve been using the pens for pupils, eyebrows, and lips. They work well with my elderly, unsteady hands lol! The real drawback is that they’re VERY water soluble. If a wash or too-wet of a sealant gets on the ink it tends to run.

        Amazon as well as Hobby Lobby carries them. Amazon price is a little less that Hobby Lobby 40% off.

        • Christian

          Oh interesting, so how are you sealing them? I haven’t tried sealing these models yet.

          • Russ Spears

            So far I’ve been using the pens as the final step, after sealing. The spots I’m using the pens on don’t get a lot of friction, so I haven’t really worried about the ink getting rubbed off. But the ink is ever-water soluble. I lost some pupils on a mini a month after setting it aside when I forgot (or honestly I didn’t think it would be an issue) and added another hearty layer of flesh wash, which washed the pupils away.

            But Alabama stays moist and humid at least 14 months out of the year, so that might affect it too.

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