Recently I've been painting quite a lot of Burrows and Badgers and Lord of the Rings minis many with significant areas of plate armour. There are lots of methods for doing armour out there on the internet but most are really time consuming in achieving a nice result. Obviously as a commission painter charging by the mini/hour time is of the essence. As Napoleon said in a very different context "Territory I can regain but lost time never. " As a result I have developed a basic but really effective method for painting metals which anybody with two brushes can use.
Iron and Steel
Step one is to take your metal colour ( for me vallejo model air aluminium ) and add black, quite a lot of black as you can see here below, over the black undercoat it really is a very dark barely metallic colour This is on all the steel parts.
Next take two brushes, on the first get your brightest silver (or Aluminium in this case) and paint about 1/3 down the weapon. Make sure this is not 'dry paint' - i always pick it up off the wet palette. then quickly swap brushes and drag the silver form the edge about a third further using a slightly damp brush. This is where you need to practice as if you get too much it just becomes a silver sword. Too little and it blotches. Practice really is the key here. If you've taken too long swapping brushes you can always wet the end again and soften the edge of the silver to drag it out or just pop a bit more on the edge you are dragging from.
I usually highlight the top edge pointy end and the bottom end opposite so you can get some nice contrast.
To increase contrast a simple dark wash on the areas opposite the brightest bits gives a massive visual boost. Adding highlights along the raised edges also adds to the illusion.
On the shield below you can see the same technique with bright areas next to darker areas with a blend in between. To be honest I'm not sure real metal looks like this but it works on minis!
On larger areas such as chest plates, arm plates and helmets I use basically the same big highlight and two brush technique with a stripe of the brightest silver vertically to the piece and then pulled into the blend with the second damp brush. On the helmet below you can see the highlight runs from the from the bit where the crest meets the brass to where it leaves the neck guard. On the Wildcat later the highlights fall at the top right of his chest plate and vertically down the length of the arm plates.
The technique I have for bronze is identical except that i add some brown as well as black to my Vallejo Bronze as the base colour - again over black primer. This barn owl has bronze armour because obviously its lighter for flying purposes...
This looks a bit rubbish at first.
The technique is the same though except the bronze colour on its own doesn't have enough oomph so i mix in some aluminium to get a super light bronze but then its two brush time again. Exactly the same stripey technique is used but where the plates are rounder it is applied in more of an oval shape with an emphasis on the upper areas. As you can see below its basically a stripe but wider in the top of the curve.
Sharp edges are always picked out and emphasised by having the area next to the edge dark using a brown wash if necessary.
Mixing it up.
As armoured wildlife creatures are clearly fantastical I have no qualms about mixing up armour types to add more contrast and this wildcat is a good example as it has steel, bronze and gold armour all painted with the same high contrast method.
The only difference here was in the sword where having painted it the regular way in the picture above I changed the highlight locations to give a horizontal highlight and a smaller pointy end highlight
Below are the completed Owl and Wildcat.
I hope this helps in speeding up your armour painting. any questions or comments feel free to post.