Apex Predator Painting Tutorial (featuring Artis Opus Drybrushes)

I have been obsessed with Dinosaurs since I was old enough to cognate the world around me.

Naturally, when Para Bellum released the Apex Predator, I had to have one. Even better, Chandler and Bret are both in love with the game system, and the minis are amazingly well engineered as you can read about here.

I also was intimidated beyond words to paint the thing. It’s huge, and I have a tendency to massively overcomplicate projects.

So it sat on a shelf, roaring at the sky and being angry at not getting painted.

And then Artis Opus graciously sent me a set of Dry Brushes when I asked, and suddenly I knew how I was going to paint the big guy. You should go ahead and look at my unboxing article before reading on from here to get an idea of what kind of brushes these are, as this is part of a review of the brushes as well as a tutorial.

This tutorial is going to go through the method, the paints, and the steps I used to paint the entirety of the Apex Predator. Total time, including photography took about 100 minutes.

For those who are curious about these things, this model was primed with Krylon Flat Black Paint+Primer and allowed to cure for around 48 hours post prime.

We start off with the Large Dry Brush for the Skin and Feathers, and then move down in size. Every Dry Brush load was worked off with a textured piece of cardboard before being applied to the model, as Artis Opus recommends not using paper towel to avoid a chalky finish.

You can find the Artis Opus D Series of brushes, which are used to paint the Apex Predator in this tutorial here.


We start with the skin, as Dry Brushing works best – as far as I can tell – if you start at the deepest parts of the model and work outwards towards the outermost areas of the piece.

The skin uses the following colors:

  • Scale 75 Africana Shadow
  • Formula p3 Gnarls Green
  • Formula p3 Wurm Green
  • Formula p3 Rucksack Tan
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight.

If you don’t have these exact paints, the picture is here to let you see what the colors are so that you can pick out paints from your own collection.

Africana Shadow

We begin with Africana Shadow on all of the exposed skin. This is a fairly heavy drybrush, with only the most sunken recesses of the Black Primer showing through.

Keen eyed readers will note that Africana Shadow is a pretty ruddy color, not at all the Green Skin advertised.

I really like to base coat most skin tones with a dark, dull red. Muscle and blood are both red, and skin is almost always going to have some amount of translucency to it. By making the base coat red, we can show some of that and have a more realistic skin color that looks accurate to true skin.

For this layer of drybrushing, I went in both directions with the stroke, up and down and side to side.

Gnarls Green

For the Gnarls Green, I made brush strokes only going from top to bottom to preserve the shadowed areas on the lower halves of each of the scales. For the throat skin, I also did some upper to lower diagonal strokes to catch the veins properly with the correct amount of color.

I initially loaded a little too much on the brush, and this is really easy to do so I highly recommend practicing on a part of the model you don’t care about seeing much or at all.

Wurm Green

This layer goes on even more lightly and targeted at the top part of the scales with a deliberate top down motion. You can see especially on the underside of the eye ridge and the “lips” on the upper jaw how some of the original green and red/brown show through and create a nice gradient.

Rucksack Tan

Even more lightly than the previous two layers, and this time concentrated on the top of the ridge, the top of the snout, and the top of the inset area on the side of the upper jaw.

The difference between the top of the eye ridge and the underside continues to be more and more defined.

Menoth White Highlight

This layer is the lightest still and you can see the definition on the snout the best compared to the previous picture. I did this in two passes to get the look I wanted.

With that the skin is done, and I started moving on to the feathers. Total time for this process was about 5 minutes of actual painting.


The feathers are the next “layer” moving to the outermost parts of the model, so they come next. Most people that I’ve seen paint this model have opted for vibrant, tropical plumage which looks incredibly cool. I, on the other hand, am incredibly boring. Plus, I really like hawks and falcons, which tend to be a little more drab. With both of those pieces of information in mind, it should come as no surprise that my dinosaur friend here was destined for a more restrained, brown coat of quills. Maybe the next one can be a little wilder.

The Feathers use the following colors

  • Formula p3 Umbral Umber
  • Formula p3 Bloodtracker Brown
  • Formula p3 Gun Corps Brown
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

As with the last set of colors, they are pictured here for ease of finding similar tones from your paint collection.

Umbral Umber

I started with brush strokes everywhere on the feathers, going both up and down and in circles in places for the first layer. I used a fairly empty brush on this pass and coated everything.

Next, I went back twice more over the raised areas of the feathers that I wanted to be getting actual highlights.

Look at the lower jaw and right behind the big tuft of feathers on the upper jaw – you can see that primer is still showing through rather strongly as darker than the Umbral Umber tone.

Being selective with where the paint goes can make a piece appear much more polished than it actually is with even less time spent because less paint needs to actually be applied.

Bloodtracker Brown

This trend continues with the Bloodtracker Brown. The areas that I want highlighted get the most attention, although the first layer (I did two) went over most of the feather areas to get the transitions smooth and cohesive.

My Bloodtracker Brown was also super thick as I haven’t opened it in about 5 years, so I had to do some finagling before it cooperated with me. It’s one of my favorite colors of paint Privateer Press makes, but I keep not using it for projects inexplicably – it never seems to fit.

Gun Corps Brown + Menoth White Highlight

I forgot to take a picture of just the Gun Corps Brown, but basically the trend continues of placing the lighter colors on the areas where light should reflect and avoiding those it should not.

I will note that I had to go back over the Menoth White Highlight layer with a little bit of Gun Corps Brown again to dull it a touch because it was far, far too bright.

At this point I had yet to wash out or clean the brush, and it was fairly thoroughly colored with pigment.

Following their care recommendations of dampening it and then lathering with their soap a few times left the brush in great working shape again – though a little too wet to dry brush with. As you can see, the color has largely returned to the bristles.

It’s also worth noting at this point that for the first 10 to 20 minutes of use, bristles fell out of the brush about once a minute, however I think this is probably expected with new brushes of this type and since then I haven’t lost a single further bristle with over an hour of use as of this writing.


Moving right along to the next stage of the paint job, I broke out the small drybrush and decided to go after the Gums and the Tongue with the same color set.

  • Formula p3 Amethyst Rose
  • Formula p3 Sanguine Highlight
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

I didn’t photograph this phase, but it was an extremely simple heavy drybrush with the Amethyst Rose, and then a 60/40 mix of the Sanguine Highlight and Menoth White Highlight for the highlight layers.


The teeth were done immediately after in a two step process.

  • Formula p3 Thrall Flesh
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

This set of paints was applied with a very gentle base layer of the Thrall Flesh and then two stronger layers with the Menoth White Highlight.

It’s going to be obvious that I use Menoth White Highlight a lot as my tope layer in this article and on this paint job. There are two reasons for this. First, it’s a slightly off white which is useful because natural materials almost never reflect pure white light. Secondly, using the same colors repeatedly in a paint job like this can help tie the piece together in a way that doesn’t require much effort.


For the eyes, we abandon the drybrush for a moment as I am not confident in my ability to hit a target that small.

  • Formula p3 Rucksack Tan
  • Formula p3 Umbral Umber
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

We start with a basecoat of thinned Rucksack Tan covering the whole eye. Then, we go back in with another layer of the Rucksack Tan that only covers the center circle of the eye. This gives a good effect of depth to the eye for very little work.

The Iris is done with Umbral Umber in a roughly circular shape, and then Menoth White Highlight is used to make a dot on the upper right side of the eye and a thin line that traces the shape of the circle for about 1/4 of the arc on the lower left. Eye highlights should almost always be opposite each other across the center of the eye. The upper highlight outside will usually be circular thanks to the sun being a sphere, and the lower half will be a line to reflect the landscape.

The cuts in the skin were basecoated with Amethyst Rose and then a couple of thin lines of Kimera Kolors Orange were used to highlight. I would have put pics of the paints, but there are other pictures of them in this article and frankly three pictures of paint in a row was enough for me.

With that the head is complete! Also worth noting, the small dry brush recovered from its heavy red pigmentation quite nicely with a quick lather in their soap or two. I was quite impressed.

Following the same steps as outline above, I quickly completed the entire body worth of skin and feathers in about 10 more minutes of work and using the same colors and strategies.

From here we get to dive into the most time consuming parts of the model – everything else!


One of the things that I had done with my test model – the rider for this fearsome beast – was start using an interlocking white and blue stitching pattern on the reed/leather decorations to make them pop. I decided to pull this onto the Apex Predator as well, and for future versions of this model I may add even more.

Since this is a two part color scheme we will bring in two sets of two colors, using the black primer as the darkest shade tone.

  • Formula p3 Hammerfall Khaki
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight
  • Formula p3 Cygnar Blue Base
  • Formula p3 Arcane Blue

I started off with the blue as I felt that it would be easier to clean up dark areas with white than white areas covered in blue later down the line.

Cygnar Blue Base

Using the smallest of the dry brushes, I started with one of the sections closest to the big bone on the edge and then alternated in a checkerboard pattern from there. I kept this color to the upper areas of the stitching, avoiding the recesses completely.

Arcane Blue

Next up, I took the Arcane Blue and highlighted the upper edges of the slanting parts (the lower part of the saddle for example in the picture below) and the center of any parts that face more directly upwards.

I brushed across the stitching rather than following its direction, as I quickly found that following the stitching got paint into the crevices where I did not want it to be.

I also did both of these steps on the decorative stitching on the back of the saddle area.

The entire brush by this point was saturated with blue paint, and I was a little concerned that it would not come clean.

Once again, I was surprised to find that the use of the dampening pad between diving back into the paint in addition to quick use of the brush soap worked incredibly well.

Hammerfall Khaki

With the same brush, I went into the alternating stitching sections and, going across the line of the pattern, quickly basecoated those areas as well. I also took this opportunity to apply a layer of Hammerfall Khaki to the leather straps on most of the model, as I wanted the leather to stand out from the feathers and thought that a brighter base tone would help that happen.

Menoth White Highlight

Using the same technique as the blue sections, I followed up the Khaki with the Menoth White Highlight, making sure to keep the lighting angles consistent across all of the stitching. I did not apply the highlight to the leather straps, although in hindsight I kind of wish I had.


The downside to having done all of the feathers in a nice brown tone is that now the leather needs to differentiate itself from the established color. Since I went for a yellow hued brown in the plumage, I took a pink toned brown for the leather.

As established, I had already put the Hammerfall Khaki down as a base coat on the Leather, going mainly from the top down with the brush stroke to catch the upraised ridges.

  • Formula p3 Hammerfall Khaki
  • Formula p3 Idrian Flesh

Idrian Flesh

This was two layers of thinly dry brushed paint over the leather straps all over. I focused on areas that were facing upwards so that it created some natural shadow, and you can see that in the somewhat horizontal strap connecting the bone to the metal rings.


The bone is a three step process, that probably should have been a two step process. I started with the Thrall Flesh that I had already used on the teeth in the earlier step – and I probably would have done these at the same time if I had been painting the model holistically – and unfortunately I overloaded the brush a little more than I wanted too and eliminated the nice dark shadows. Be careful, or you will also have to introduce a third color to bring some of those back as I did.

  • Formula p3 Cryx Bane Base
  • Formula p3 Thrall Flesh
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

Again, colors to the right here in case you want to match from your own collection.

Hammerfall Khaki

Top to bottom strokes again, and do not do what I did and cover the entire length of the bones. Bones will have some blackening at the ends to sell the effect.

Menoth White Highlight

Layer this on top of the bone surfaces, avoiding the undersides completely if possible. This will help sell the look of light hitting the top of the bone rather than light reflecting from all over.

Cryx Bane Base

This step is hard to see in this picture – I didn’t realize until far after it was too late to take another picture – but at the end of the long bone to the right you can see the best example of darkening down the end of the bone. I might even go back and add some darker color there later because it bothers me now. I also added a little shading next to each of the ropes to create a more stark contrast.


Rope is actually one of the things that I hate painting the most. For this set, I dived right in after painting the Cryx Bane Base on the ends of the bones and mixed that directly with the Rucksack Tan. This gives a nice darker mid tone to transition to the lighter tone of the pure Tan later down the line.

  • Formula p3 Cryx Bane Base
  • Formula p3 Rucksack Tan

We will also do multiple layers of the pure Tan over the top to increase the vibrancy of the color.

Cryx Bane Base/Rucksack Tan

We put this color over all of the ropes, brushing perpendicular to the sculpted weave in order to avoid the recesses as much as possible. Basically any time it is desirable to avoid the recesses of a shape, best practice is to dry brush against the flow of the texture rather than with it.

It’s hard to tell, but there are some ropes on the top of the saddle, and these got the same treatment.

Rucksack Tan

With pure Rucksack Tan, hit the upper edges of the ropes twice to make the color seem pure. The discoloration of the undersides will give it a nicely weathered look for no additional work needed.


I had a lot of choices to make when it came to the cloth trim, but I ultimately decided I wanted it to be close to the decorative stitching that I have chosen for my scheme.

I didn’t want it to be identical however, so I decided to go for a purple/blue base tone to highlight off of. P3 Bad Bruise is one of their better colors, alongside classics like Coal Black, but I don’t get many opportunities to use it so I jumped at the chance here.

I also decided to highlight it less intensely, so I brought out one of my all time favorite paints – Meridius Blue – to top off the trio.

  • Formula p3 Coal Black
  • Formula p3 Cygnar Blue Base
  • Formula p3 Meridius Blue

Bad Bruise

I worked this dry brush along the entire edge of the cloth on both sides, as well as making sure I’d covered a substantial portion of the primer to ensure that it would show through nicely and differentiate from the stitching.

Cygnar Blue Base

The next tone catches all of the ridges as well, and isn’t quite as heavy to allow some of that deep purple through.

Meridius Blue

Finally, the Meridius Blue gently overlays on top of the Cygnar Blue Base for a pleasant highlight color that pops nicely while not disrupting the overall composition of the model.


Fur is something that most people are pretty familiar with drybrushing already, and I personally haven’t done a whole lot of. I chose to go with more cool tones because I didn’t want to have the other really textured area besides the feathers try and fight for warm tone dominance, and I thought with some good desaturated blues and greys it could set off the intensely rich cloth around it nicely.

  • Formula p3 Cryx Bane Base
  • Formula p3 Underbelly Blue

I chose Cryx Bane Base again to tie it into the similar color tones on the bone pieces and the rope – remember, the same tone used in a number of spots can really bring a piece together nicely composition wise. Underbelly Blue is a beautiful desaturated blue-grey that doesn’t get quite the recognition I think it deserves, even among p3 mainstays. I really like it in a Non-Metallic Metal mix as well as for fur highlights.

Cryx Bane Base

With the Meridius Blue still on the brush, dry brush from the top down with the Cryx Bane base. This will further cool the color down and help it to harmonize with the cloth around it.

Once more, it is very important to move the brush perpendicular to the texture to leave the recesses untouched as we want to.

Underbelly Blue

I more liberally used this color on the sides of the fur, leaving the stuff underneath the stone talisman more or less alone after one gentle pass. Thinking about where light should be coming from is a little annoying, but it ultimately does save time in the painting stage while also making your models look more correct, so I have found it well worth the time.


I knew I didn’t want a massive Jade or other brightly colored stone talisman on the side of the Dinosaur like the box art has. It is a very cool look, but I want the main focus point to be the face, and I haven’t put the right amount of color vibrancy into the feathers to make the eye naturally head to the head if there are other massively distracting splotches of color on the model.

To that end, I decided to start with a warm base ton to match the overall feel of the model, and mix a bit of a cooler highlight color up to help it sit nicely with the surrounding fur and cloth.

  • Vallejo Game Color Tierra Earth
  • Formula p3 Underbelly Blue
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight

Again, one of the huge benefits of starting with the black base primer is that I can make a huge variety of greys very quickly with interesting colors on top of it.

Tierra Earth

Nothing particularly fancy here. I made sure to get all of the edges of the stone talismans so that they stand out nicely from each other. I also made sure to pick up some of the natural texture in the sculpt itself with the paint so that it differentiates itself nicely from the area around it.

Underbelly Blue/Menoth White Highlight

I mixed these two colors on the brush and then followed the same general pattern, hitting the edges harder than anywhere else and focusing on the parts of the texture pointing up towards the top of the model generally rather than all over the place. I completely ignored the deeper recesses, as they don’t seem to want much detail before becoming a distraction.


I decided I was going to have a bit of fun and add some glow to the eye areas of the stone skulls. I did this with some Formula p3 Khador Red Base (see below a bit) and a very gentle application over two or three layers.

The already established highlights of the previous drybrushing meant that the red naturally looked like it was a bit of a glowing source, which was very fun. The full effect of this cannot be appreciated yet though, as without the brighter eyes it just looks like paint. We’ll come to the eyes at the very end.


At this point, I really liked the overall look and feel of the Apex Predator, but there were some differently textured ridges and scales on the upper parts of the feet and outer parts of the claws.

Since I already had some Khador Red Base on my brush, I decided to give that a stab and really liked the look.

Fishing around for a highlight color that looked semi-realistic took a minute, but I eventually settled on Ember Orange, which is a bit of a desaturated tone.

  • Formula p3 Khador Red Base
  • Formula p3 Ember Orange

Khador Red Base

The first step was to apply it quite strongly using both up and down brushstrokes to get the color well defined in the space. I was fairly careful, but not too concerned if I hit the claws as I had not yet painted those.

Ember Orange

Next, I did two highlight passes with the Ember Orange. The first followed the expected top to bottom path of the brush. The second, however, went backwards but much more gently to catch the ridges and make them more pronounced.


Follow the same process as the teeth. I totally forgot to take pictures of this process, and you can see some of the base coat of the Hammerfall Khaki above. Since I had yet to clean the brush, the red and orange mixed into it which I don’t personally mind, but if you don’t care for it a good brush cleaning is in order first.


I decided to do the rock with the same colors as the fur to tie it back into the model a bit. I also chose to use these same colors (plus a little Menoth White Highlight and pure white) for the metal rings on the left hand side of the model.

I chose to do the rings in a Non-Metallic Metal fashion partially because I did not want to get out some metallic paint at this point in the process and partially because I wanted to see if it could be done easily with the drybrushing method. I’m quite happy with the results, although the last step I did cheat and break out the regular old round paint brush for some very intense white highlights.

  • Formula p3 Cryx Bane Base
  • Formula p3 Underbelly Blue
  • Formula p3 Menoth White Highlight (Optional)
  • Kimera Kolors White (Optional)

For the rock, I heavily base coated with Cryx Bane Base and then applied a much heavier highlight with the Underbelly Blue than I did on the fur. This helps differentiate the two materials from each other and gives the rock a nice bit of catchiness to keep it separate from the foot, which you will notice I’ve largely left as primer.

Cryx Bane Base

Applying this does feel like a bit of an exercise in futility, and it is quite hard to see where I’ve placed it. The whole point though is to supply a nice foundation layer for the brighter highlights that come after it. On the center pair of rings, I’ve brushed perpendicularly to them once again, and then on the tops of the two rings laying flat on the side of the animal I’ve put another gentle layer there.

Underbelly Blue

Now that this brighter layer is on, it is much easier to see where the original highlights were going to be placed. I let the two colors mix on the brush fairly freely, and that makes the transition smoother too. It’s perfectly reasonable to leave this as is now, it definitely looks metallic compared to everything else on the Dinosaur, but if you want to push a little higher that’s where the next steps come in.

Menoth White Highlight

These layers get applied very gently and over a couple of passes to the uppermost regions of the rings themselves. You can really see the early layers of drybrushed pigment on the rings from the green of the scales giving them a nice reflective quality, which was a happy accident but still looks great.

Kimera Kolors White

For this step (and for the glowing eyes on the skulls), I broke out one of my size 1 round brushes and gently placed some very opaque highlights in the center of the existing highlights. I think this adds the pop factor that makes the rings really read as metal. I think I could probably have done this with the drybrush over several layers, but it felt like bending the tool to do a job that it wasn’t necessarily designed to do and so I opted not to.


This step is exceedingly simple compared to what most people think of when they hear about Object Source Lighting. One of the most important things to make OSL look good is to have the glow be less vibrant than the light source. We have already established the glow as a dull red, so bringing that up to a proper orange for the glowing area makes the effect sell really easily. I chose Kimera Orange because it’s the most vibrant orange I own, and I didn’t feel like messing around with a ton of different layers to get the same intensity.

  • Kimera Kolors Orange

After this it was clean up time (there were a couple of leather straps that didn’t get painted throughout the whole process that I’m sure were driving some of you insane) and basing.

I did a quick base of the Bloodtracker Brown dry brushed with the Vallejo Tierra Earth and liberally washed with a mix of Brown and Purple inks to give it a rich, wet earth look. I may, in the future, break out some weathering pigments and dirty up the feet of the big girl too, but for now it’s time to break out the finished pictures.


This entire process, including photography, took just under two hours of time, and I am blown away by how quickly I was able to achieve perfectly acceptable tabletop painting on such a massive model.

The Artis Opus drybrushes handled beautifully, especially for someone like me with next to no experience drybrushing. They did exactly what I wanted them to do each time I put them to the model, and the dampening pad really does make quite a difference to the way that the paint comes off the brush.

I am extremely happy with the set and would be ready to recommend them to basically anyone.

However, in the days since my unboxing, there has been a flurry of comments from people who insist that similar results and feel can be gotten from make up brushes, so the next part of this series is going to feature some more W’adruhn models from Conquest and a side by side comparison of both the Artis Opus brushes and some make up brushes I’ve purchased from a local supermarket.

Again, you can read the first part of my review here and find the D Series brushes here, and if you’ve made it this far I’d love to hear what you think and if this changes the way you think about dry brushing as much as it has for me.

If you want to pick up your very own Apex Predator from the Para Bellum webstore, you can use the code LOS10 to get 10% off your first order and support the website!

In any case, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time.

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