27 January 2012

The First Guest Post of 2012. . .

Today's entry is the first guest post of 2012.  Several of these have been lined up already, and most of which will have something to do with how each guest approaches painting his particular figures.  So, you can think of these posts as a growing repository or painting philosophy. . .  as well as a different set of voices here at the Grand Duchy of Stollen from the usual ravings of yours truly. 

Kidding aside, our first guest blogger is Mr. Greg Horne, the man behind the Duchy of Alzheim blog.  Longtime readers of Battlegames might recall that Greg had an article on blogging within a wargaming context in an early issue of the magazine.  And indeed, it was that very article that inspired yours truly to begin the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog in August or 2006.  So, without further ado, here is Greg with his take on painting vast numbers of vintage 30mm wargaming miniatures quickly and easily.

Painting Spencer Smith Miniatures 

by Greg Horne

Thanks to Stokes for the opportunity to make this guest-posting on his illustrious blog!

Here's how I go about painting my plastic Spencer Smith infantry figures.

I’ve developed this method whilst painting my white-coated Imperial Infantry which may be familiar to you from my own blog – the Duchy ofAlzheim.

Before we begin with craft knives and painting and so on, I’ll preface my remarks with a brief word on the goal and the method. What I am after is a nice clean, bright figure with simple colours that pop out for the viewer. Individually they are not masterpieces, but the effect I am attempting here is one of a numerically impressive, colourful and shiny mass. Thus, there is no shading (well… except on the faces), I do not mix colours; they are taken straight from the pot, and I use black-lining to define areas and make colours pop out. Finally, I employ minimal error correction preferring to forgive myself and move on to the entire spectacle rather than correct a sloppy line or two. Well… unless I really want to…

As to method, I paint an hour a day every day – usually while I am getting ready for work. My mind is clear, I am well rested and I am relaxed.

Omm. The Zen of painting.

I paint my figures in batches of four or five at a go and as they are completed they are added to the regiment that is being assembled. That lets me see at a glance how much further there is to go and motivates me as I can watch it growing.

That being said please do be nice to yourself and take a day off. Don’t force it. It won’t happen if you try to force it and ceases to be fun if you do. Take a break. Take a week off. Paint something for pleasure. Paint a landsknecht to help you realise how lucky you are to be painting nice simple figures like Spencer Smiths. As many a wiser people than I have said: it’s a hobby not a job! We are here to enjoy ourselves after all!

So, we start as we do with any soft polythene figure by giving it a good shave all over with a nice sharp blade to remove the flash. Connoisseurs of the figure will not need to be told that it runs down the middle of the face, along the musket butt, over the hand, under the arm, diagonally across the body then down the front of the right leg! Shave the fellow quickly (because you have a great many of them to do) and yet carefully as you will not wish to clip off a nose or a musket or separate a foot from the base.

Do the shaving first as it will stop you from excessively handling your miniature before the next step.

Wash in soapy water. Seven or eight all at once in a cup so you do not lose any down the plug-hole.

That chore done and with your figures now nice and dry, undercoat them liberally in white primer. Do this outside as you will be using a seven or eight [Australian] dollar can of matt white spray paint from the local hardware shop. Several passes will be necessary to get a good even coat as the native colour of the plastic can be either pale grey (yay!), navy blue (boo!) or brown (oh, just use a black primer). Don’t worry too much about losing detail with these figures as there is little enough to lose in the first place! A nice even and opaque coat is what counts!

Note that your nice, even base coat is now also your white coat, cross-belts, waist-coat and breeches. Waste not, want not.

 Fig. 1 -- Here is one of Greg's figures with the first two steps complete, a good solid basecoat of white and the base painted green.

Paint the base of the figure green. I use Games Workshop paints for the most part as they are easily had here in Australia. Goblin Green is the shade you are after. It’s nice and bright and has that “Old School” charm. Use the largest brush you can. I use a number 6. It’s quick and if it’s got a half-decent point, will work perfectly well. See Figure 1

Now, begin your acquaintance with your black paint pot. I use a 6/8 chisel tip and paint the gaiters and head, hat and musket black. Once again, we are using the largest brush we can for the job. Contemplate your achievement. Gaiters and hat are now complete. See Figure 2 below.

 Fig. 2 -- Apply black to the gaiters, boots, hat, and face of each figure.

Take a deep breath. Take your Number 0 brush. Thin your black paint slightly. Black-line your figure. There. That was easy!

Your goal is to outline your shapes – the arms, the straps. To follow the line of the coat. To indicate the centre line of the waistcoat, it’s tails. The turn-backs. The cuffs.  If you want to know if you are taking enough time, I take half an hour to black-line four figures. It has taken me 200 repetitions to get here. If you are just starting, do not be disappointed if it takes you an hour. You will improve, but you must learn the figure and be thorough. I have developed my personal technique to the point where I do all the black-lining in an area of the figure before I turn it in my fingers to do the next. It saves time. See Figure 3.

 Fig. 3 -- Now, we're getting somewhere!  Greg has next applied the blacklining to his figures, bringing out certain features of each figure more distinctly.

Things now become a lot easier from now on and frankly, a lot more fun. As you have seen, you now have a figure that already looks like something. So let’s put a face and hands on him. A dab of Dwarf Flesh on his nose and chin and a stroke of the same from cheek bone to jaw-line. Lightened (unnecessary, but I just can’t let go it seems) with a bit of white it becomes a highlight colour on the cheekbones and nose- and chin-tips. A line across the knuckles completes the hands. It’s surprising how much character you can get into a simple face even with this simple method and I always find the result pleasing. See Figure 4.

 Fig. 4 -- Next, as Greg describes just above, fill in the flesh areas of your figures.

You are on the home stretch now. Because of your diligence in black-lining, the rest is like colouring in.

The haversack is Iyanden Darksun – a yellow-ochre colour from the Foundation Range by GW [Citadel].

Paint on your facings. I am using yellow on these figures. As it’s going on a white base coat, it looks good with a single coat.

Water bottles and Musket stocks are brown with a silver stripe across the top to indicate the gun barrel. While your brush is still all silvery, I paint sword-hilts on officers and Grenadiers, Cartridge-box plates, scabbard tips, belt-buckles, Bearskin plates, silver hat lace and epaulettes for the officers also get done at this stage.
I take a step back at this point and take my white paint out again here and correct and really unsightly errors.

Spray-varnish in your favourite gloss and allow to cure! You’re done. See Figure 5 below.

 Fig. 5 -- And here is the finished figure with its facings and other details filled in.  Bravo Greg!  He looks great.

Add a few more figures to the pile and start again. Repeat as necessary!

Thank you, Greg.  As Cary Grant was fond of saying, "Good stuff!"  I know some people think Spencer Smith figures are difficult to paint due to their relatively understated detail, but you have developed a straightforward and, dare I say, fairly easy method for churning 'em out en masse in a way that presents these miniatures to their best advantage.  Thank you again for your contribution.

Be sure to tune in to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog throughout 2012 for additional guest postings from the likes of Stephen Caddy, Henry Hyde, and Phil Olley, among others.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


Jiminho said...

Wow - this is a radical change for the blog's look and layout. It looks great! One gets the idea that, having arrived at the end of your Painting Plan, you feel like Hercules leaving the Augean stables... This was always an energetic blog but it is going crazy here now!


Prinz Ulrich von Boffke said...

Crazy, man, crazy!

Best Regards,


Concentrationally Challenged said...

Greg and/or Herr Stollenmeister,

I wonder if you've experimented with blacklining using black rapidiograph pens instead of paint? I find them easier to control, and easier to use when attempting a uniform line width. Seems like black lining would be a perfect application.

Regardless, thanks very much for the article. You have me wondering what I was thinking buying all of these 15mm miniatures.

Prinz Ulrich von Boffke said...

Yes, Concentrationally Challenged, I agree on the 15mm observation. If I had simply purchased bags of 30mm plastic Spencer Smith miniatures years ago back in the early 80s, as I had half a mind to do, given the substantial savings they offered at the time over their metal brethren when they were still made in plastic, I'd be swimming in them now as Greg and Henry Hyde are. How I wish I had gone that route instead of taking the 15mm Napoleonic route that I did at the time as a callow youth. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20!

Best Regards,



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