Saturday, December 19, 2009

Painting: 15mm, High Contrast

I've produced a variety of guides on to how to paint, different speeds, different techniques. And, well, here is another. There's no shortage of tasks out there that painting demands of you.

Today I'll be looking at how to paint a 15mm unit quickly, but with a high visual impact. Painted to impress without being complicated.

If possible, pick your subject and plan it to make the process as simple as you can. Here I'm doing a commission job, so I had less choice, but you can still plan the job to suit.

Stage one get your source information ready; as ever I deferred to Blandford's Armies of the Peninsular Wars, a good general resource, though perhaps a little dated.

Next clean up and base the models for painting, I like to put three models on a temporary pieces of card for 15mm. They are easy to handle this way.

Base coat. As you may remember from my other guides, I recommend choosing your base colour to complement what is to go over it. These models will be wearing white coats, trousers and belts, so a light grey is a good option.

When that has thoroughly dried, overbrush (that is a moist but not free flowing brush of paint). The first layer is a much lighter grey, essentially off-white

After that dry brush the models, twice with white. The first drybrush will be almost as generous as the overbrushing of off-white. The second is focused just on the high points, belts and surfaces that point skywards. most Light effects come from above, aim to leave shadier spots on the underside of the figures

Remember we are working in 15mm and on a unit that will be mass ranked. Mistakes are forgivable and the whole process so fare should have taken less than an hour (excepting drying time). 80% of each model is now done.

Next paint all the black. This is only items that will be black, not everything. On these models I decided that the hats (NOT heads), Boots, Bayonet sheaths and cartridge cases needed to be black.

At this stage I went on to do the packs brown, as another project meant the colour was ready to use. As the packs have an easy shape and plenty of texture, a fine brush was used to add a drybrush of light brown to them. This takes literally minutes.

The Black is drybrushed with a fairly dark grey, in fact only the hats are worth this attention. The boots are going to be lost in basing detail, and the other bits are too small to warrant the effort. Minutes again. Also the Orange facing and lining of the selected regiment is done at this stage.

Use a good smallish brush. Don't overload it, keep a good point, most of this work was done with a size 1 sable. The lapel lines and the turn-backs on the coat are done with care as the colours they are against are finished. The cuffs and collar are painted more swiftly, as the flesh is not yet done; just remember to always lead the brush away from the finished side of the job, towards the unfinished side. As most of this is raised detail it's actually pretty easy to get a good job of it done.

Paint the musket, Standard pole, flesh and hair a mid reddish brown. A colour suitable for a musket stock will also be a good base to flesh and is ideal for hair.

You may notice in this shot the drummer has had some personal work done. A little light blue and a layer of lighter blue was over painted on his white coat with the same size 1 brush.

Time to start on the details. The plumes and cockades are painted a dark red, followed by a drybush of brighter red to the top half of the plumes. Dabs of this colour are used on the grenadiers bearskins too. The muskets, bayonets and swords are painted with a natural steel shade, and then the tips of the bayonet given a silvery highlight. This shade is also used to add some detail to the grenadiers bearskins, and to touch to the wire over the cockade of the hats.

The flesh is next. Paint up to the edges of the brown on the flesh, as is it was black lining, to get a little shade. good models and a light touch will allow you to use a thin brush to overbrush these areas to pick out fingers or leave the eyes as brown spots. Maybe too much effort but still pretty easy. Still, all pretty quick little jobs.

The Blanket roll/greatcoat is one of the last things on these models, though it could be done earlier. Retouch it in a suitable grey. Add a little white and drybrush with a small neat brush. At this stage I just added a suggestion of the white straps over the blanket, and lightly touched the clasps on the backpacks with white. A couple of minutes of effort that helps add a real visual cue to the models. It's the little details that make people go 'ooh'!

Finally there will be some gold/brass to do. The butt-plates of the muskets, sword hilts, grenadier cartridge badges, etc. Again, quick work.

In all to get to this stage took under four, maybe three hours, and was done alongside painting units of 28mm and other little projects. Whilst in no way as precise as my larger scale stuff the effect of the models is far better than simply base colouring, and yet takes very little extra time.

By the way, I deliberately do not mention any specific colours or shades, I work (almost) exclusively with the Vallejo Model Colour range of acrylics, but I would not specify particular colours for a job like this. You know which paints you prefer, the principles are the same however. It is the technique that is important, not using bleached bone rather than blanched bone.

Learning colour theory will stand you in better stead than an encyclopedic knowledge of one paint companies paint range. I after all only use about forty core colours; relying on custom mixing instead.


  1. How can I find your other painting guides? Very lucid and well written.
    Particularly for beginners and for 28mm dark ages--e.g., Viking.

    Much appreciated. Very nice work--I cannot imagine how you have the time to do this.

  2. Hi Miles. In the links menu there are a number of my painting guides, most of them I think, but for other hints and tips you can click on the Painting Techniques tag to see other items.

    As for time, well the key is to paint as well as watching tv, or whatever. To be honest these stem to a time when I had more time to devote to painting; not sure if that was a good thing...