World’s First Butterfly Cosplay – Part 2: Painting Monarch Brightwing

"Off with their heads? Oooh, yes! Delicious filling!"

- Monarch Brightwing

I’m Community Manager Kimberly “Vaeflare” LeCrone, and today I wanted to share with you the next steps of a unique project I’ve been working on over the last couple of months.

Last month I shared with you how this project began and the various stages required to sculpt the Monarch Brightwing sculpture that will serve as the base of what may very well be the world’s first butterfly cosplay!* In this second part of this blog series, I wanted to show you the colorful and creative steps that followed.

The regal skin that inspired it all!
Various images from Part 1: Sculpting Monarch Brightwing

Where We Left Off

When we last left off, I’d carefully sanded, masked, and then sprayed Monarch Brightwing with primer, but among other things, she still required her luxuriously-colored coat and regal accessories.

Many Colors! Handle It!

After carefully removing all of the unbaked clay I’d used to mask the sculpture from the primer spray, I gave the sculpture a day or so of resting time to ensure it was completely dry. From there, it was time to get to work on the next step: painting!

Monarch Brightwing's colorful palette.

At this stage I spent some time studying Monarch Brightwing’s in-game model, and I was actually quite surprised with all of subtle details of it that I hadn’t noticed originally. While I’d always believed her to be mostly blue with orange accents, I soon discovered there were actually many more colors to her! As a result, I spent some time mixing small amounts of acrylic paint to try to get a better feel for what colors I’d be using to recreate her model in the physical world. After some experimentation, I was satisfied with the various colors I’d mixed and planned to use for her going forward.

Next, I started painting Monarch Brightwing in earnest. Rather than cover the figure in one thick layer of paint, I instead start blocking in the predominant colors with thin layers of paint, one layer at a time. With each new layer, the colors get a lot richer, and more vibrant.

The figure after two thin layers of paint.

Onto Coat Number Three and Four

From this point, I continued to build up color on the sculpture by applying a total of three or more coats of paint to each individual area. At this time, I also started to hone in on some of the fine details I noticed on the sculpture, such as the stripes on her tail and spines, and the gentle gradients on her arms, legs, and antennae.

I also painted her tongue and gums at this stage. Did you know that Monarch Brightwing has a purple tongue? Now you know!

This sculpture was smaller and daintier than other sculptures I’ve done in the past, and I ended up attaching her to a rotating clamp for much of the sculpting and painting process to help me get a better angle on her while working on her.

More Details and Ambient Occlusion

At this point, the sculpture was really starting to take shape, and I continued to layer up paint and add details to help make her pop. In addition, during this stage I began to paint darker areas onto the sculpture. My goal of doing this was to create a sort of ambient occlusion (AO) effect in order to make the shadowed areas appear darker and more recessed, while also helping muscles appear a bit more pronounced. I have to give a shout out here to artist Kevin K. Griffith who helped encourage me to really hone in on the AO of the sculpture during the painting stage. It really made quite a difference!

In this stage, Monarch Brightwing also got a nice coat of pink nail polish because, well, it’s important to keep your nails trimmed and proper while you’re ruling over your loyal subjects, right?

Just a Few Last Touches of Paint…

During this final painting stage, it was time to go to town on details! I accented the stripes with a thin liner paintbrush, and then used an X-Acto knife to ensure they had crisp edges along each fine line. I also went in with darker paints and continued to antique and darken the shadowed areas. After that, I used a dry-brushing technique to add faint highlights to areas like the knuckles, underbelly, cheeks, and eyelids. Creating this painted contrast of light and dark pigments helped bring out the many details of the sculpture.

Speaking of eyes, during this stage I finally got to paint in Monarch Brightwing’s pupils, which really brought her to life for me! This was done using five thin layers of semi-transparent teal glass enamel paints.

At this point I also added a bit of rainbow particle effect paint to make the area along her back fin shimmer just a little bit when it caught the light just so. Trust me: it’s a Faerie Dragon thing.

One of the other fun details I made sure to include on my sculpture was the white spots that stood out on each side of Monarch Brightwing. These spots exist on real monarch butterflies, and I was thrilled when I saw that the art team had such an attention to detail when they created her! Did you know that Samwise concepted the Monarch Brightwing skin, and then 3D Artist Danny Saint-Hilaire modeled her?

Glory Through Varnish Awaits!

Once I’d completed painting Monarch Brightwing, I took some time to scrape off any last remnants of primer, paint, or dust, and then I got out my brushes for one of the final steps: varnishing the sculpture.

Since I had a lot of really tiny details on this sculpture, I opted to paint on the varnish in three thin coats rather than use a spray varnish. Using this method also allowed me to use multiple types of varnish that I hoped would give the sculpture a more dynamic sheen. I coated her belly in matte finish, her body in semi-gloss, and her accessories in a gloss finish. I also hand-painted certain details like around her eyes and mouth with a contrasting glossy varnish. I chose to accent areas like her nails, stripes, spots and more in gloss as well.  Once she was completely dry, I then anchored the sculpture to the wooden base I’d prepared and added rubber bumpers underneath to secure her and ensure the base didn’t slide around.

Here’s the result!

Monarch Brightwing all Painted, Sealed, and Ready for Her Guests!

At last Monarch Brightwing was finally ready for her butterfly cosplayer! In the next blog covering this quirky project, you’ll witness everything coming together, butterfly and all, to complete this unique take on cosplay! You can check out some teaser images below.

Do you have any questions about painting materials, the creative process for this project, or raising monarchs? Let me know in the comments below!

World’s First Butterfly Cosplay – Part 1: Sculpting Monarch Brightwing

Are you working on any Blizzard fan creations or Heroes fan art? Make sure to tell us all about them over in our Community Creations forum!

*- As far as we know!

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