The paint should be thin enough that you don't see but the slightest of changes with the first layer. What we want is the skin to have the barest tint of the color of the cloth. I add more layers until I'm happy with the coloring. Try to avoid pooling and it helps to paint towards the raised cloth areas or areas of solid color cloth. You'll see blue on parts of the miniature that aren't intended to be sheer and this is because I tend to test my brush on either the solid cloth areas (because this will be covered and doesn't affect anything) or another part of the miniature. It helps me make sure the brush isn't overloaded.
I layered up the raised cloth and the areas where the cloth pulls away from the skin with the Vallejo glaze to block in where the colors will be much darker. I used this as a guide to layer in the mid tone on the solid cloth sections and across the creases in the clothes. I also used a base coat of Reaper Master Series Twilight Blue to darken some of the shadow around the chest, breasts, stomach and legs. If you add too little color, you can go back in and change it at any point, but if you do too much, it is annoying and time consuming to correct. This is also a point where, if you have rough spots from your prep of the miniature, you will notice them, and the roughage can throw off the effect. You can also correct any overage of skin fairly easy here. I made her left leg less visible from the front as it looked too "fat" when viewed from the front with a slight angle to the left.
Those were the hard stages, now it gets much easier. Next is just adding in the shadows and highlights to the solid cloth and just a bit to the raised areas of sheer cloth.
I've layered in my shadows along the folds of the clothes with Reaper Master Series Midnight Blue, then tweaked my base coat and added some subtle highlights (my camera does not pick this up well) with a combo of Reaper Master Series Snow Shadow and Ghost White.
This is all the highlighting I will be doing right now. At this point its also easy to mess up, so I finish out the rest of the model and give it a quick dull coat. This lets me see the model in its entirety before I finish up the highlights and gives me a layer of protection over the paint job which makes correcting highlight errors easier.
I generally paint with paint the same consistency as the wash I showed earlier so ballpark maybe about 7-8 layers for the shadows, 5 or 6 for the highlights in the above pictures. After the base coat, the shadows and highlights are smaller areas for each layer so they take less time. Painting thin does require patience, but you will still see results fairly quickly even with the thin layers. Thicker layers means much faster transitions and more noticeable mistakes and makes it really easy to lose the sheer effect.
A few important notes on sheer highlighting. You'll notice I have not taken highlights up extremely or to white. This is because transparent cloth acts differently than opaque or solid cloth. With opaque cloth light is reflected off the cloth where folds gather, but in transparent cloth, light goes through the fabric and is reflected where the cloth meets the skin, not where the folds are. What this means as a painter is that where you would normally highlight opaque cloth, I.E., where the cloth is closest to the light (top of folds) you do NOT highlight the same with sheer. Sheer is highlighted not as light as you would see in opaque cloth, but the lightest highlight in sheer would be a light tint of the color you are using for the cloth. If you go up to a highlight of white or any color that you would normally do if the fabric was opaque, you went up too far and it will look odd to the eye. You should never see pure white unless the sheer fabric is white. The light tint of the color you are using that will be the lightest highlight, should not be as bright or brighter than where the skin is. Sheer fabric (with the exception of satin sheer) is very dull to the eye and lacks "normal" highlights and normal reflectivity of fabrics. The lightly tinted color of the cloth over the skin is the lightest parts or highlights of the cloth. When I was referring to highlighting earlier, it was over the skin areas of the cloth. The mid tone of the cloth is where the cloth is standing away from the skin and where the shadows are, is where there is no skin contact at all and the fabric bunches together.
Where you see a wrinkle in the sheer across the skin (like across the chest) the highlight is not white. It will be a mid tone version of the sheer color because the wrinkle represents two pieces of fabric that are one behind the other and, thus will be darker than the surrounding cloth.
Google is your friend because sheer acts so differently than normal cloth and a reference is always good to look at when painting it.
This is a re-posting of the older sheer tutorial from my previous website version with some new added information. I will be redoing this tutorial with better information and examples and a wet fabric tutorial at a later date.
The miniature used in this tutorial is 2632 Jahenna, Vampire, sculpted by Dennis Mize and produced by Reaper Miniatures. This is a very good example piece as you can not miss where the skin goes!
I personally consider "Sheer" as three different types. The "sheer sheer" is where the cloth is pretty much nonexistent and unnoticeable next to bare skin, "demi-sheer" where you have just the barest glimpses of skin under the cloth and not as much skin detail showing, and "wet fabric" sheer where the cloth is actively sticking to the skin and changing as it dries. "Wet fabrics" have different shadows and highlight placements than either version of dry sheer cloth.
It is very easy to go from "sheer sheer" to "demi-sheer" by overdoing the fabric and because of this, this tutorial is done as "demi-sheer", the easier of the two to follow along with. Likewise, I have chosen blue as the color for this tutorial as it is easier to correct and learn with than white or darker sheer colors.
It's always a good idea to eyeball your miniatures while cleaning them and get an idea of what you would like do with the miniature color wise. This also gives you the chance to do any conversions you might want to add. For me, this is also the time where I map out where exactly my sheer is going to go and how sheer I want to make the figure.
One of the most important tricks to sheer fabrics is painting your skin normally! This means the full shadows, highlights and mid tones just as if your model didn't have any clothes on. If you skip this step, your sheer will look off. I also recommend dull coating your miniature, as this will protect your hard work on the skin and allow you to "erase" some of the paint later if you mess up while doing the fabric.
The below pictures show you the model and the black lines show where I plan to put skin tone. It's very important to follow the body when doing sheer. It's also very important to know how each different sheer behaves so you know how much skin you need in each area of the body.
The following pictures show her base coated. The base coating step of skin is important because it lays out exactly where your skin will be showing through the cloth. If the legs, arms or any part that will be under cloth does not look like it belongs now, it won't look good when you are done and needs to be corrected here.
If you get the flesh tone on the cloth where there won't be flesh showing, that is not a problem as the skin color does reflect slightly in sheer fabric. If you are messy and hit the areas where the cloth will be solid it is coverable and it is better to go a little over than not have enough skin painted. However, you don't want to be too messy or you'll make more work for yourself when it comes time to layer in the sheer.
Since this mini has one leg up and leaning against the gravestone, it is important to get both sides of the leg painted so that they look even from the front. Her left side shows clearly where the leg should go, but it is not as well laid out on her right.
Since I am happy with the above base coat, I'll finish up the skin, face, eyes and mouth. I highlight all of the skin areas fully before I start laying in the sheer fabric. Finishing the skin completely is VERY important!
I start with an extremely thin wash of blue over the all the cloth covered skin. In this case I used Vallejo's Transparent Blue. It should be thin enough that when you spread a brush load over your pallet, you can see the pallet's color.