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                                                                 Historical & Fantasy Miniature Figure Painter


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 Painting Tips

This guide will try to help you improve your painting and create a professional finish to your miniature collection. I will be adding tips each week rather than writing a comprehensive guide all at once. If you have any comments or questions then get in touch. All feedback is welcomed.

The first step is to find some good quality brushes. Buy several of different sizes .you will need a fine detail brush, a larger first coat brush, a wash brush and one for dry brushing. Brushes wear out quickly no matter how good they are however the better quality you buy the easier your job will be. It’s important that the tips of the first coat and fine detail brushes don’t part when you apply the paint to the figure, so check them before you buy. If the bristles have started to separate in the shop don’t buy them.

The next step is to buy some paints .For painting figures use acrylic paint. There are many different manufacturers to choose from. The following are paints I use and find more than adequate:-citadel paints from games workshop, Vallejo and the foundry paint system. You will also need to undercoat your figures. To do this I find spray paints the easiest and quickest way forward. Use either white or grey, never black. The grey I use is a car primer which gives a very even and quality undercoat. The white I buy from games workshop. (the reason for not using black is that it clogs the detail on the figure, darkens the paint applied over it and makes finding detail while painting very hard).

Other tools you will need are as follows:-a quality craft knife, small modelling files , modelling drill, small flat screwdriver, a quality adhesive (I recommend a gel type such as grip red top), a plastic mixing pallet , a jam jar for clean water, plenty of card (a cereal box is ok for basing the figures to paint, artist card for basing) and plenty of clean tissue.

Preparing your figures is the next step .Take your time and make sure you get this stage right .You will need to remove all the excess flash from the figure .you will find it mainly on the bottom of the base ,the spear point and between the legs .Have a close look at the figure and make sure all the flash is removed .You might also be able to see the join marks on the figure where the two halves of the mould meet. Use a small model file and very lightly file the join until it is flat.

If you are feeling a little more adventurous you might consider moving the arms or heads a little to make the figures look a little different. If you want to replace spears or pikes first cut of the old spears very carefully. Drill a small hole all the way through the hand, just tight enough to fit the spear so it doesn't wobble. Place a small blob of glue in the hole then fix the spear in position. wait for the glue to dry then scrape any excess glue off the spear. When you're happy with the figure cut a small square piece of card and glue the figure to it. The card must be big enough to hold while painting ,but not so big that it bends while holding it when the figure is attached. Only glue one figure per piece of card .you will find it easier to paint then if you have several figures on one piece of card (strip painting). Strip painting might be faster but you will finish with a poorer looking figure.

When all your figures have been cleaned up and glued to card place them on a tray ready for undercoating. Using a white undercoat spray can, spray all the figures moving the tray round to make sure all the figures are covered. Spray using short controlled bursts. If you spray too much paint on the figures they will become bitty and make then un-paintable. When you have finished spraying the figures leave them in a dry place for a couple of hours for the undercoat to harden.

N.B. always spray paint in a well ventilated space. Outside is ideal as you will be able to see any areas you might have missed very easily

                                 The Basics of Painting Miniature Soldiers

After reading the guide on preparing your figures, you should now have a figure based on card, undercoated white and ready to paint. But before you start I’m going to explain a little about painting.

When painting 28mm or smaller scale figures there are a number of techniques you will need to use to create that perfect figure. The main key is to use bright but not garish colours. Colours that can define between high and low areas, and make a figure stand out and not to make it look dull and boring. Even if your not a great painter, following a few of these tips should make a big difference to how good your figures look.

  • Always use at least 3 shades of the same colour, Base, mid and highlight colour. Each lighter then the previous one. There have been times when I’ve used 4,5 and even 6 different shades to achieve the effect I wanted.
  • Try and use paint that is brighter then the real life colour of the uniform. It will add to the over all look. Also paint may dry a darker colour then it looks when wet.
  • Make sure your paint is a runny cream texture. Too runny and the colours can run into each other ,or not give a good coverage . Too dry and the paint will look lumpy or bity.
  • Paint in small batches of no more then 10 figures.
  • Keep a selection of different sized paint brushes. The smallest I use is 3/0.The largest is size 1.The bristles must come together to create a point. If they don’t then don’t use the brush. Have a separate brush for washes and dry brushing.
  • Use 2 jars for water. one for cleaning brushes, which needs the water replacing every couple of days. And one for diluting paint .Have plenty of clean tissue handy for wiping your brushes on.
  • Avoid black lines. When you feel the need to paint on lines to shade low areas, use a darker shade of the colour your shading.
  • When mixing colours, avoid adding black or white. eg if you want a medium red, mix dark red with yellow. If you want a mid blue, mix dark blue with light blue. I find,  that by adding black or white it can dull the overall look to the figure.
  • Always mix paint on a plastic mixing pallet . Adding a drop of water each time you mix paint together.
  • When applying paint, try and make your brush strokes flow in the direction the clothing hangs, or in the same direction the arms are pointing. It creates a more natural look. The quickest way to spoil a figure is to paint sideways on a long flowing coat.
  • Avoid dry brushing. It kills colour. I only ever dry brush bases.
  • Always paint under a lamp. You need plenty of light to see what your painting.
  • When charging your paint brush ,only dip 1/4 of the bristles into the paint .The less paint on your brush allows better control over the flow of paint onto the figure.
  • When diluting paint that has started to dry out in the pot .use an acrylic thinner and not water .Water can aid the evaporation process and the paint will continue to dry out quickly .

 There are 4 basic stages to painting your figures. Applying a base coat, A wash, A mid coat and a highlight .I normally paint in that order, exceptions will be dealt with later on.

With your various base coat colours, paint all the large areas. Coat ,trousers, hair and anything that’s going to be dark. Like shoes, gun stock and belts. Plus paint anything metallic. Armour , swords , helmets ect .Don’t at this stage paint any light colours like yellow, white or flesh.

 Next apply a wash over the whole figure using a black or brown  wash made from acrylic gloss ,or use a more careful wash using different coloured washes as needed over the different base colours .You will need to wait until each wash dries before applying another wash.

 When the washes have dried you can then paint the base coat on the parts of the figure that has no base coat on it. This will usually be flesh, white and yellow.

 The third stage is to paint the mid shades. Use a colour lighter then the base colour. Leaving the base coat showing in all the low areas and creases. Paint to the shape of the uniform, brushing in the direction the clothing flows .Think ' painting a small white circle inside a larger grey circle ,leaving some grey showing'.

 The fourth stage is to highlight all the raised areas. Using the lightest shade carefully paint all the raised areas, making sure you leave the previous layers showing round the edges of the highlight colour.

 Finally you can paint in buttons, eyes, badges ect . Leave a few hours to dry and then varnish.

That’s the basics of painting in very simple form. I’ll deal with all aspects of painting in more detail later on. I’ll explain how to paint faces, make armour look like armour and not cyber men. How to paint uniforms from different periods, including camouflage. I’ll go into more detail on shading and washes and how to paint horses. I’ll also be adding pictures to help show the process I’m trying to describe.

Why don’t you practice on some old figures. Have a go at using 3 shades of the same colour on a jacket or trousers.

Basing figures for 20mm WW2

Basing figures is quite straight forward .Most rule systems will say how figures should be based to be able to play their game .However ,for 20mm the most common and universal way to base figures is for each figure to be on it’s own base .On it’s own a figure is quite light and might move around or fall over .To avoid this create a base that’s quite heavy .You can buy metal washers at most DIY shops that are the size of a small coin .The other option and one that’s widely used ,is to use English 1pence pieces .Cheaper then metal washers and just the right size to base 20mm figures on .

 To make the texture for the base you will need the following …

  1. Fine sand .You can buy this from pet shops .It’s usually sold for bird cadges .Or you can get it from a builders merchant .If you do buy it from a builders merchant make sure the sand is sifted before use to remove all the large grains or debris .
  2. Acrylic paint .For terrain of any type ,it’s a good idea to buy a large tin from a paint merchant .They will mix a colour for you .I always use dark brown but you could use green if you prefer .A large tin will cost you around £10 but works out much cheaper then using your craft paints and will last a couple of years .
  3. Water .plain tap water is all you need.
  4. PVA glue .This is optional .I’ve never needed to use any ,but for large areas it might be worth adding a little for extra strength and durability .You will need PVA glue to attach static grass to the finished base.
  5. A plastic tub .To mix and store the texture use a small plastic tub with a good lid to it .I’ve found the small 1ltr ice cream tubs are ideal and prevent the mix from drying out .
  6. Static grass .This is fine modelling grass ,available at most good hobby shops.

To make the texture ,take the tub and fill 50% of it with sand .Pour in about a coffee cup worth of paint and about half that amount of water .Mix together with a sturdy screwdriver .What your after is a grainy paste .Add more paint and water as needed until you get the right consistency .Don’t make it runny or the finished base will look to flat .Don’t make it lumpy or you won’t be able to apply it to the base properly .

 To look after the mixture ,make sure when your not using it to keep the tub sealed .If you find the mixture is getting a little dry ,just add a bit of water and stir it in .One mix will last me about 6 months for just basing figures .

 Using the texture .To create the base take a small flathead screwdriver and carefully apply the texture to the base avoiding the feet of the figure .Don’t get any on the sides of the base as this will make the finished model look messy .Wait until the texture has dried .It takes about 45 minutes to dry properly .Depending on the colour of texture you chose ,you now need to dry brush the base .If like me you chose dark brown ,you will need a light brown for dry brushing .Dry brushing will create a 3D look to the base .Next you need to paint the sides of the base .The colour you chose is entirely your own preference .I prefer a dark brown ,slightly darker then the base ,however I do use other colours depending on the geographical region I’m basing the figures for .I’ll use a sandy brown for desert ,dark brown for western Europe .Next is to add some static grass .Place a few blobs of watered down pva glue randomly on the base and sprinkle on some static grass .Allow to dry then shake or blow the excess grass off .Finally spray with matt varnish ,this will ensure the static grass won’t fall off at a later date . To make the base look more scenic add small stones or long grass at the stage before adding the texture to the base

    Uniform and painting guide for British Paras'.

British paratroopers wore the Denison smock .A long front fastening waterproof jacket .The jacket was made in camouflage colours of green, yellow and brown .The battledress trousers were dark olive green .Boots were black leather .Headgear was a green steel helmet with netting to add camouflage scrim and Hessian  or a maroon beret .Webbing and anklet’s were a khaki drab .Weapons included the 9mm sten ,.303 rifle and the patchett smg .

Painting British paratroopers can be time consuming but worth the effort .This is how I painted mine.

Start with a white undercoat .Next stage ,Paint the jacket dark green (Vallejo Luftwaffe green 823) .Paint the Trousers brown (Vallejo English uniform 921) .Paint the webbing and anklet’s  Khaki (Vallejo khaki 988) .Shoes black (foundry black 34a) ,helmet dark green (foundry phlegm green 28a) ,gun stocks brown (Vallejo mahogany brown 846) and finally mix black and silver together to make a metallic black and paint the gun metal .

Leave the paint to harden for 30 mins .Then using a black wash  ,wash the figures and leave to dry .

We now need to create the 3 tone jacket .Add to the dark green jacket patches of  mucky yellow and brown .For the yellow I used (Vallejo Japan uniform 923) and the brown (Vallejo flat earth 983) All 3 colours need to be of a similar size and randomly shaped .Now highlight the 3 tones with a lighter shade of the colours you’ve just used .The best way is to mix each colour with a bit of buff (Vallejo buff 976) .Dab the highlights into the centre of each colour leaving the original colour round the edges .

To highlight  the trousers ,I mixed brown (Vallejo English uniform 921)with green (Vallejo usa uniform 922) .Mix the 2 colours until you get a dark brown/green that’s slightly lighter then the brown on it’s own .

The helmet was gently highlighted with a mid green (foundry phlegm green 28b or 28c) .The cloth strands on the helmet are painted separately in either light green or maroon to give a 2 tone cammo effect .

The webbing and anklet’s are highlighted in a light drab (foundry drab light 12c) .

Other items such as the rifle stock and shoes are highlighted in just a lighter shade of that colour.

For all the flesh ,I used the 3 pots of foundry flesh 5a, b and c. 

If your comfortable painting small detail on 20mm figures ,you can add more detail like the brass ends to the rifle stocks or the brown leather straps on the anklet’s .

  Making the Base for a d-day diorama

One of the main features is the flooded field .I wanted to create a look of depth .So I layered the water with bits of foliage .The water I used comes in a bottle called ‘realistic water’ and can be bought from model/railway shops .It dries quite quickly .After a layer of water I added a light sprinkling of crushed mint (bought from a herbal shop). I did this a couple of times ,allowing to dry in between each one .After a couple of layers ,I added the drop canisters ,cows  and a few dead soldiers (there are actually 5 in the diorama) to the water .I then added a few more layers of water and foliage .I then left the diorama for a week to dry properly .

The next stage is to add the painted figures .Arrange them first to see how they look .Once happy glue the figures to the base .Now add the final layer of earth to the diorama .I wanted it to look a little wet and muddy .The texture was made by mixing baking soda ,dark brown paint and a small amount of pva glue and water .Add it using a small flat head screw driver .Be careful not to get any on the figures ,if you do ,wash  area quickly with a small wet brush .When the texture is dry ,lightly dry brush in a The main base is made out of  mdf wood .The height of the embankment was achieved by layering shaped mdf onto the main base .Because I wanted a waterlogged field ,it was necessary to seal and waterproof the base .Bathroom sealant was spread round the edges of the base and round the edges of the raised areas .I then glued ,using pva ,some silver foil over the lower areas of the base .Sides were added and sealed on the inside .

Once the first stage was dry ,the whole base was covered in pva glue and fine sand sprinkled on top .When dry it was painted dark brown and dry brushed light brown .

Use a small drill and make evenly spaced holes along the top of the embankment .This is for the wooden posts to the wire fence .Drill a bigger hole for the tree to sit in .Add the fence posts .I made them out of matchsticks trimmed with a knife .Then add  thin fuse wire ,joining all the fence posts together .Paint the posts brown and give the wire a copper wash to make it look rusty.

Making trees is quite simple .I used a small twig from the garden ,glued rubberised horse hair on to it ,cover the rrh in pva glue and add green flock .Slide the tree into the hole on the embankment .The hedges were made the same way and stuck to the base ,leaving gaps for the tree and fencing to show through .

Small stones were added to the middle of the road areas along with small tufts of long grass .Tufts of grass were also added randomly all over the base .These were made out of matting and dried flowers .

light reddish brown .I used foundry terracotta light 37c .Add small clumps of static grass to the textured earth using watered down Pva glue .

The parachutes were made out of tissue paper soaked in pva glue .While damp they were hung over the branches and shaped to hang .Once dry I painted them a mid red and given a copper wash (red was the colour designated for ammunition drops) .Cotton was added to create the hanging cords .

Finally I made the sign post and small wooden fence .Both were made out of matchsticks ,just cut and trimmed to size then painted brown .The signs themselves are from ab figures ,backed on to card ,cut out and glued to the post .I painted on the rust patches using the same copper wash as for the wire fence rust .