Help support TMP

"Gary Gygax's description of Orcs" Topic

15 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Fantasy Painting Guides Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Ruleset

Broken Legions

Rating: gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

15mm Barbarian Shamans & Army Completion

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian finishes basing up his barbarian reinforcements.

Featured Profile Article

Featured Book Review

Featured Movie Review

1,699 hits since 23 Dec 2020
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 12:36 p.m. PST

Gary Gygax's description of Orcs, in the 1977 1e AD&D Monster Manual, is really challenging to interpret, for painting Orc skin, and faces:

"Orcs appear particularly disgusting because their coloration -- brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen -- highlights their pinkish snouts and ears. Their bristly hair is dark brown or black, sometimes with tan patches…"

The "bluish sheen", has always thrown me for a loop. I never knew how to paint it. I may have found a means to this elusive end… FolkArt Color Shift Acrylic Paint Black Flash. In DM Scotty's video, Easy Sci-Fi Junk Piles Terrain from Your Trash, at 3:52, discusses this very paint. DM Sotty's video gave me the idea that this paint might work. He applies it to a styrofoam plate, then he moves the plate around, demonstrating how it shifts in color, as the light angles change.

While it does not appear to have a bluish sheen, it meets the other criteria, like, "dark brown or black," per Gary's description.

Have any TMP'ers ever experimented with this paint? Your thoughts/comments? I realize it is metallic, but it might still work, for 25-28 mm Orc figures' skin and faces. Thanks for posting. Cheers!

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 4:03 p.m. PST

I'd be tempted to use a blue wash

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 4:11 p.m. PST

I suspect that Gygax's colors were directly based on how he was able to paint the figures he used himself. But that's an assumption. Maybe those who played back in the day would recall.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 4:14 p.m. PST

I don't follow GG's description of fantasy figures, I prefer Tolkien where possible, though Yrch's are equally confusingly described regarding colouration there!

John the OFM23 Dec 2020 4:41 p.m. PST

Well, it is a fanciful description of fantasy figures so….
Do what you want?

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 5:41 p.m. PST

These look interesting: Green Stuff World Chameleon Paints


Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 5:54 p.m. PST

I found some videos reviewing these very paints, on miniatures… Not very good results. Back to the drawing board.

I follow Gary's descriptions and sizes listed, because I want to see Chainmail and D&D through Gary's eyes. I discovered that he used 54mm Cave Men toy figures for Hill Giants; he used 60mm Viking figures for Frost Giants. I bought both types of figures.

I have no idea what Gary used for the other Giant races, nor do I know what figures he used for the various races.

By emulating what Gary used, I've discovered some things. I see how detailed Gary's descriptions are. He had a lot of insight into what he wrote up in the 1977 AD&D Monster Manual. I really enjoy it.

In the end, I will do what I want, as it is fantasy. Still, it is fun to try to see things through Gary's eyes.

As for getting in touch with Gary's peers who might remember, I do not know any of them. I have the Dragon Magazine Archive, Strategic Reviews, Dragon Magazine's 1-250. I've gone through it several times, looking for ideas, and insights, for what mini's to use.

Thanks for the replies, I appreciate them. Cheers!

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 6:38 p.m. PST

Well every real Orc I have actually saw out in the wilderness is green!! In mating season the males seem to turn to a darker green hue.

Russ Dunaway

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 6:49 p.m. PST

Extrabio1947, I looked at the site, including the black iridescent paint. They have a video demonstrating its application. After watching that, I feel it would not work for my purposes. Thanks for the link. It showed me what I needed to know. Cheers!

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 8:01 p.m. PST

For the record, Grenadier thought they looked like this:


One guesses Gary approved, but maybe he was just happy to cash the checks! grin

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2020 8:04 p.m. PST

Did you ask on Dragonsfoot? Someone there might know.

Zephyr123 Dec 2020 10:13 p.m. PST

Sounds like a highlight drybrush with metallic or irridescent blue paint to me…

CeruLucifus24 Dec 2020 1:00 a.m. PST

I have not used that paint. Thanks for linking DM Scotty's video. It looks interesting.

However, for Orc flesh …

If I was trying to recreate a description from an early 1970s miniature game author who had likely painted his own miniatures, I would not look at modern specialty effects paints that didn't exist in that era. Gygax probably used oil-based model paints, Testors or Humbrol or an old school brand like that.

Sgt Slag:
Gary Gygax's description of Orcs… their coloration -- brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen
Dave Jackson: I'd be tempted to use a blue wash

Oil paints can produce transparency effects very well so this is possible, but it would probably be a glaze tinting the whole skin area not a wash that just colored recesses.

However to me, the word "sheen" sounds like a highlight. So maybe some drybrush or directed highlight on the cheekbones, chin, forehead? Or, do it in reverse? Paint the whole face blue. Let dry. Then cover with a glaze of brown or brownish green, wiping if necessary to reveal the highlights.

For the record, I had original D&D and later AD&D, and painted miniatures for those games in that era. I never read the descriptions of Orcs. I already knew what Orcs looked like. Orcs were from Tolkien, and the definitive depiction of Orcs was by Tim Kirk from the 1975 Tolkien Calendar.

Kirk's Orcs are green, reddish brown, or brownish green. Though some of his pictures are washed through with a single color palette which could color shift the skin. In that era I had a Humbrol greenish slate color that had good coverage and looked right, so I used that and to this day, I find a similar color in whatever paints I have when I do Orcs. I did have a Warhammer 5th edition phase where I used a brighter green, but that was a base color that got toned down with dark washes.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2020 7:31 a.m. PST

Thanks for the replies, All.

I just can't use green for my Orcs, nor my Goblins. GW went all in with Greenskins, and it really leaves me deflated. I've painted some, in the past, using a darker olive drab color, followed by a Minwax Royal Walnut (dark, dirty brown) Dip. That was OK, but I like Gary's description. I painted my first Goblins a brick red color, per Gary's description -- I really like how they turned out. For that reason, as well, I should like to recreate his description in miniature.

I have no idea how detailed Gary's painting work was. That, in itself, is an interesting topic to explore.

I am a member of Dragonsfoot Forum. I may venture over there and ask. Cheers!

Albus Malum30 Mar 2021 7:02 p.m. PST

WHAT COLOR ARE ORCS AND GOBLINS!!!!…. Pulls out hair, bashes forehead into wall!!! This one has caused a lot of consternation. I hate the Green for Orcs and Goblins!. I also have mixed fillings about Gary's Pig Faced Orcs. Didn"t like the Pigface orcs back in 1978 either.

My 15mm orcs and goblins sat for a couple years before I even painted any because of this question. I couldnt get myself to paint them Green. Finally I started painting the orcs a Yellowish, greyish, yellowish brownish color…. about a 1/3 of each, the mix is good at 15mm. The Lime Green of GW orc…. Just drives me nuts, but then you go watch the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoons ( which Gary was involved in) and they are green. Arg!!!! And Goblins were green, even before that, Green Goblin to name one.

So I start painting my 15mm Goblins orangish, reddish as per Gary, and Im liking it, and my son says "I want them GREEN", so I compromised and painted the next batch of Goblins Green. a lighter greenish with a agrax earthshade wash. A bout a week ago, I suggested I paint the next batch of Goblins the Orange-ish color … so we can have Goblins vs Goblin battles, but I couldn't quite convince him.

Anyways, I do like the Orange-reddish goblins, at least at 15mm.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.