Just a quick puppet painting tip….

By far the majority of people who order professional ventriloquist figures from us, order the darker hair colors such as brown or auburn. Matching the eyebrows on with either of those hair colors is fairly straightforward to do. But what about blond hair or gray hair? A little trickier typically. Here’s a blonde little boy figure I did not that long ago as an example:

Now you wouldn’t think it would be any harder than painting brown or auburn eyebrows on a ventriloquist figure. But if you take a closer look at those blonde eyebrows, you will see it is not just a solid color painted on there. There are striations of color in order to get a close match like that. I’ve been asked by a number of people how I achieve that look. Here’s the scoop…..

If you paint one solid color trying to match the hair, it will look very flat, bland and barely matching at all usually. Take a look at the blonde hair in those photos. What do you see? If you stare at it awhile you start to notice it is mostly a bit of very light and some darker shades alternating (with some shades in between). That is why one color just doesn’t get the effect you want.

I start with the lighter color matching as best I can, paint the eyebrows and let them dry. Here’s where the fun comes in and starts changing the look. Next, I take a 3/8″ wide flat artists brush and alter it. I take some thinning shears (used to cut hair) cut the bristles so it is now like a fork with several prongs of bristles (it will paint stripes now).

I mix up some fairly dark brown paint 50/50 with acrylic medium. I take the altered brush, dip it in that mix of paint and medium, and dab on a paper towel to get off the excess. I use broad strokes at an angle and try not to go over the same place twice. If you get too much on and it gets too many dark lines, you can clean the brush and apply a little bit of the lighter color that you started with to tone it back some.

Between the two colors and the altered brush, you can get the striations just the way you want them. Finally, you may find the match to the blonde hair is not perfect at this point. These were too beige and not the golden blonde I was going for at first. So I poured out a little puddle of acrylic matte medium, added the slightest amount of bright yellow and painted a wash of this over the whole eyebrow. Two coats did the trick.

This same trick works very nicely for gray haired figures as well:

Now on those two figures, I did the same exact technique. And the interesting part was that the figure in the top photo also required the yellow wash to get the eyebrows to match the lighter colored gray hair. I often will however make the final color on the eyebrows slightly darker than the hair so they stand out (real people often have that anyway).

So just a little painting tidbit from the workshop that some of you might find helpful at some point. I actually enjoy the painting process quite a bit, and find learning how colors work to be quite fascinating.

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