Saturday, 13 September 2008

How I Paint

I got some new wargames figures in from Great War Miniatures recently, and took some photos along the production line.


A recent game had shown me that my small collection of Late War WW1 Germans were short on PBI. I had too many special weapons, and not enough rifles. I was limited to manufacturers that work well together, in this case either Renegade or GWM. I ordered a variety of packs from the latter.

Preparation (Saturday morning)

Opening the packs, I used a knife and files to remove the small amount of moulding flash. Then I glue the figure onto a base. For a 'skirmish' game, the figures are based singly. I use a 1 pence piece here, with a small magnetic disk glued to the underside (so that the figures do not move in the metal storage box).


I have to wait for the glue to dry, and then apply more glue to the base and sprinkle on 'ballast'...and wait for that to dry. So I complete the earlier batch of figures on the right-side of the table.

Base Layer (Sunday morning)


With the base dry, I can apply the black undercoat. I use a Games Workshop "Chaos Black". Expensive to use in bulk, but I find it works well.


The figures rest, temporarily, on a 2 pence piece so that the painted edges of the base do not bond with the cardboard working tray.

Mid Layer (Sunday noon)


I now dry-brush the figures with a coat of GW "Codex Grey". This highlights the main areas for painting, giving the figures a more 3D look. All this helps me envisage what I'm painting. I can also see any 'holidays' where the undercoat failed to reach.

I then work on the bases. This is a 3 stage job, painting it in light brown, then applying a darker brown wash, and then dry-brushing in a different shade of brown. I'm aiming for a brown appearance here. During my research stages, I had decided that I wanted to depict the trench warfare stages of the Great War. No grasses or dashing uniforms, but mud and grime. All my Great War figures have the same base colours. Mud reaches up boots, shoes and the legs of horses. HMG crews end up with a 'plimsoll line' of mud and I only paint the parts of the clothing not covered in mud.

And now, Paint (Sunday & Monday evenings)


With the preparatory work done, the figures are now ready to paint. How do I know what to paint? Well, I cheat.

When I first start a new project, I look into the military structure, uniforms, artwork, photographs, movies, re-enactors, and the like. I buy a lot of the Osprey Books (which contain much of the research already), and use the Internet to find images of the period.

I then start building up a painting card, trying out shades of paint that match the image I want to portray. I hate mixing paints as I can never recreate the mix again, so I buy shades of paints. And from different manufacturers too.

And paint some more (early Tuesday evening)


I tend to grab a paint pot and just paint. I tend to work in layers, painting the dark flesh holding the rifle before painting the rifle. that way, if I go "over the edges", the upper layer will mask the mistake.

I'll split up figures into groups. Similarly posed figures will be separated by helmet colours, so gameplay is facilitated and any groups of "camouflaged stahlhelms" don't look too 'samey'. Some of the figures had earlier tunics, so I added the red piping. I used to be able to do that on 15mm tall figures, no I find it fiddly at 28mm scale.

Eventually the figures are completed, and each one gets an inspection to make sure I haven't missed out anything.


From timings, it looks like this batch took about 8 hours of painting. That's approximately 20 minutes per figure. Of course, if I was painting one figure, it would take me longer than that. Economies of scale apply here. If I wasn't enjoying painting them, the task would become a chore, and painting takes longer. So I prefer to strike whilst the iron is hot, and focus on one project at a time. Larry's pie chart shows the sad truth about wargaming projects.

Protection (Late on Tuesday evening)


Figures are transported to the custom-built varnish-spray laboratory, and are coated in a fine cloud of matt varnish. I never liked gloss varnish, but if the heating system in the bathro... custom-built varnish-spray laboratory varies, the matt varnish can end up shining like gloss.


Passing out Parade (early Friday evening)


Each figure is then dusted in a coat of Tamiya Weathering Master Mud, Sand or Light Sand, depending on how random I feel. Above, the figure on the left has not been dusted, but the one on the right has been dusted.

If you need a scale, each figure is just over an inch high. I am not good enough to paint in eyes and other facial details. A poor job is more detracting, and I can argue that at the distance depicted on the tabletop, fine detail would be obscured from view.





Marching Orders

Wargames figures have to be transported around. People have various solutions. I kindly got offered some magnetic strips that I can affix to the underside of the figures' bases. This allows me to use old biscuit tins and the like, and the figures don't move around much. Instead of dividing up the carrying box into small compartments, I can fit more figures into the box.

Job done.


I'll need to make some terrain for them, more trench sections, blasted forests and the like. The last thing I'm concerned about is which rules to use. The look and the feel is more important to me. A visual depiction of some of the hell that these guys suffered through in the service of their Father- or Mother-land, their Republic or Kaiser.


PhilW said...

So, any 2p coins splattered with paint I come across - I'll know who to blame!

Londonbackpacker said...

WOW! I'd never have the patience to sit and paint figures that small.

Probably explains why I'd only play computer wargames too. :-)

American Bushman said...

Great stuff Dunc.

I used to paint figures like these too although mine were often the knights and goblins and monsters.

I like the idea of affixing them to bases to keep them from falling over. I wish I'd thought of that back in the day. :)


ptc said...

Great stuff.
A few years back I was ill which meant I was house bound for many months and I as I got better I got back into model making. It was bigger stuff though, sci-fi figures and the like.
Very cathartic, very good fun. I enjoyed the painting process most of all.
I'll maybe go back to it when I find the time again!

AktoMan said...

@Phil - I have collection bags for different coins, and seem to run low on 1p and 2p pieces. Strangely, I always find the Queen's head provides the better gluing side.

@George - I find it relaxing. It also explains what I do (sometimes) when the computer is off and I'm not online.

@AB - there's a good supply of paints in Games Workshop here in Aberdeen. They have cracking painting guides, and some of the chaps in 'historical' wargaming used to work for them.

As to bases, when I'm painting for a unit-sized base, I'll blu-tack the figures temporarily to coins, paint them, then base them on card later, finally texturing the base.

@PTC - I could never do the bigger stuff. Too much detail to apply. Painting is great fun, holding the image in the head, and trying to recreate it on a 3 dimensional model. Each part of the production means another step closer to completion.

A few years back at the wargames club, a few of us decided that we wanted the look of the game to be as important as the flow of the rules. In fact, the rules were less important than agreeing on painting styles and type of flock to be used on the bases. We would find a set of rules, but no-one wanted to waste time and energy on re-basing.

Backpackbrewer said...

Have you tried The Army Painter "quickshade" finish for your figures yet? I saw a demonstration in this months "Wargames...Soldiers and Strategy" and it looks quite good. Of course its nothing new and I have been using dilute colour washes to achieve shading for ages but it just seems a better, quicker finish to me. I will be getting some for a trial anyway. The Macedonians are getting grumpy at not being finished........


AktoMan said...

Oops, missed replying to you, Dave. Sorry.

No, I haven't tried that finish. I think one of the chaps at the club was going to give it a go. Isn't it "Warlord Figures" who are advertising it with their range of 28mm plastic figures?