03 February 2012

Another Painting Guestpost. . .

This week, lets continue our painting ruminations with another contribution, this time from Stephen Caddy, who discusses his particular approach to painting wargaming figures and privdes a few photographs of his eye-catching brushwork.  Here's Stephen:


There are to my mind two kinds of figure painters – artists and craftsmen. Artists understand things like the effect of the direction of light and are able to recreate the most complex flag designs freehand. Craftsmen may have less training and natural flair but have learned their techniques by trial and error and conversing with fellow hobbyists. I class myself as one who is painting by numbers in 3D.

I began with Airfix and Minifigs and Humbrol gloss enamel paints. In many ways, that’s still what I do though now, I paint in acrylics. Like the man who was impressed to find that he had been speaking prose in the vernacular, I now learn that what I basically do is called Block Painting, and I then gloss varnish the results.

However, it’s not quite that simple anymore hence these lines. Primarily I am talking about painting 25/28mm figures.


I used to simply clean up the castings and then add the paint. Now the cleaned up castings are washed first in hand hot water and washing up liquid using an old toothbrush and then again in clean water with vinegar added. Whether it makes a difference, or not is hard to tell, but it gives me a sense of a job well done. I would tend to do up to 12 infantry or 6 cavalry at a time depending on the unit size for the rules I’m using and how varied or identical the castings are.

When dry, the figures are glued to a base. If this is their final resting place, that’s straightforward, but if they are to be multi-based. I used to just stick them to a temporary cereal packet base, which can be removed after painting.  

The next stage is using a polyfilla to level the stuck on base up to the figure’s own base, so smoothing out the discrepancy. Unfortunately, most polyfillas advertise the fact that they have a smooth finish when one whose selling point was ‘rough and uneven as hell’ would be better for our purpose. These days, I tend to go for the flexible fillers which may be lighter.

This is fine for the figures based singly. For those multi-based, I finished painting them, tore off the temporary base, stuck them down and then added the filler. This is not easy to do especially if the figures are close together or have tiny bases because you almost inevitably get filler where you don’t want it on the figure, and it’s nearly impossible to get it off again.

To minimise this risk, I now base everyone on an individual base and do the filler first. If the final destination is a multi-base, I size the figure base, so that it is small enough to fit on the multi-base but large enough to separate the figures as I want. For example, on a four figure base when the four are stuck down, there should only be a need to add filler round the outside of the group and possibly a thin cross between the figures where all the bases don’t quite join up.

Finally, the figures are undercoated with Humbrol Matt enamel paint either in white, or a pale grey or tan. The colour can be useful if there is a lot of white to paint as it’s easier to see where you have missed.

I always start with the faces, hands and any other flesh that’s going to show – Highlanders’ knees, Peltasts’ feet etc. This is partly because I paint from the inside out, but also because it seems to bring the figures to life.

Eyes are a controversial subject. Are you attempting to paint the eye or the shadow of the whole eye socket area when you see someone at a distance? I don’t like figures without eyes, nor do I like the huge staring eyes with black pupils in a white iris. I still paint the eyes as I have always done with a dot of medium dark grey paint [Humbrol grey]. Whether because this is how I have seen my figures for decades, or it really works, you must decide for yourself.

Faces take the most effort. I paint the base colour and then add the eyes. This allows mistakes with the eyes to be corrected. I paint a stripe down the nose in white or the base colour mixed with white. I add some scarlet to the base colour until there is just enough distinction to give rosy cheeks. I add more scarlet before doing the lips, and if I want a change,  the odd nose of the heavy drinkers [perhaps one in a 36 figure regiment]

I then paint the hair and drybrush highlights unless the hair is just black. I try to get a variety of red, blonde and brown hair types by using different base and highlight colours.


Basically, I don’t do it at all. However, more recently I have painted firearms black and then left some showing once the other colours are done e.g. separating the barrel from the woodwork. I also use black to paint the parts that are there in the metal but not in reality. For example, there may be metal between the end of the scabbard and the coat or between the musket and the body, or in the sword hilt where the man’s hand goes when he draws it from its scabbard.


I then paint the colours. Mainly, I work from the inside out e.g. coats before belts.  I also do large areas before small e.g. hats before plumes. I also like to do dull colours before bright ones e.g. coats before facings. I do the faces to motivate myself to start. I do the bright colours later as a reward for doing the dull first.

I tend to do only one colour in a painting session. This dates back to allowing the enamels to dry overnight but still often is enough to do at one session.


These tend to be last. This is partly because it’s easier to put a button on a coat than paint a coat around its buttons. It’s also because enamel metallics were and to a degree still are better than acrylic ones, so I used to varnish the figures and then come back to add the metallics.  Currently, I use more acrylics, and so these are done before varnishing.

 Touching up and varnishing.

There are always those tiny omissions and mistakes, some of which are picked up and corrected as we go. However, the finished figures are inspected before varnishing and, if necessary, the figures numbered and the problems listed, so I can work through them efficiently.

The figures are then gloss varnished by brush. Sadly, this seems always to discover mistakes missed at the inspection, so these may need to be corrected and when dry revarnished. Again, the list helps to remind you what to look for [Yes, lists are extremely helpful -- Stokes].


The bases will probably have been roughly painted at the undercoating stage but need to be repainted to cover up splashes and where the varnish spreads around the feet from the brush. Until recently, this has usually been a shade of green but I am experimenting with brown.

The bases are then painted with watered down wood-glue and flocked.

The unit is then complete.

Thank you Stephen!  While most of us tend to think and talk a great deal about our respective periods of choice, our figures, their tabletop battles, etc., etc., HOW we paint those figures is a fascinating topic, given the profusion of ways that exist to do it. 


DC said...

Washing lead alloy figures in vinegar is a very bad idea - the acid in vinegar is likely to start the oxidisation/rot process. Don't do it kids!

Steve's Wargame Stuff said...

Great posting. It's always really interesting to see how other gamers paint and the different techniques used. Thanks for posting!

paint pig said...

Interesting post, I'm always fascinated to read how others go about the business of outfitting their armies.

Bloggerator said...

Doug, I prefer to wash mine in a nice Shiraz. Which i then drink.

Hic, haec, hoc.


Prinz Ulrich von Boffke said...

This comes to us from Stephen Caddy -- Thanks DC for your comment, I posted a comment a moment ago and the ether ate it so I'll try again. In the old days I didn't do anything to the castings after cleaning up the mould lines etc but undercoat them. I then read somewhere about washing them to get rid of grease or something from the moulding process and after washing with warm water and a little washing up liquid just rinsed in plain water. Later I read the idea of adding a drop or two of vinegar to 'degrease' the washing up liquid. Perhaps this related to plastics where I understand there is more of an issue with whatever is used to release the figures from the mould. I shall change my habits as a result of your help. Apart from the interest of reading how the other man does it the point of this series is to pick up new tips. I'm grateful for yours.
Thanks too to Steve for his comments.


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