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.