16 October 2012

What are YOUR experiences and thoughts?

A mid-week posting here on the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog, lately an extremely rare creature indeed.  But I'd like your experiences and thoughts about using oils to paint wargaming figures.  A useful tool full of interesting possibilities and endlessly varied techniques?  Or a quaint relic from the early days of the hobby that should best be forgotten?  You be the judge.  Ok, talk amongst yourselves!


Later. . . 

Thank you for the comments so far.  All very interesting.  Now, as long-time visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen might recall, I have used oils for various painting tasks with increasing regularity during the last couple of years. I've been largely pleased with the results, so, let's visit my totally random and not fully explored thoughts on the medium at this point.  Here you go:

1) Tubes of oil last a looonnng time.
2) Oils offer endless possibilities.
3) Many and varied techinques to keep the painting tedium demon at bay.
4) Vast range of colors possible.
5) Ease and control.
6) Texture is a possibility.
7) The ONLY way to paint horses.  Easy and fast.
8) Highlighting not necessary if white base or undercoat used.
9) An interesting and nuanced appearance results.  Your figures won't all look exactly the same.
10) Durability. . .  Ideal for plastics.
11) Versatility. . . Good on metals or plastics.
12) Speed I. . .  surprisingly rapid when thinned.
13) Drying time. . .  ditto above, and/or mixed with drying mediums.
14) Flesh effects. . .  Fast single step that does highlighting and shadowing for you when thinners used.
15) Brilliance.
16) Richer metallics.
17) Easier on brushes.
18) Speed II. . .  Washes, stains, and glazes.
19) Easier to use than many think. . .  no special talent or education needed.
20) Oils remain workable for a longer period than acrylics and enamels.
21) A mixed media approach is possible.

Well, that's where I am right now.  What are YOUR thoughts on the matter?  Please leave a comment detailing your experiences and ideas about using oils for painting wargame figures.


rob3rod said...

I no longer use oils,but I think it is still the best way to paint horses. If you undercoat them in a deep yellow/orange enamel paint,then cover them in burnt umber oils mixed with a bit of turps,then wipe it off with a very soft piece of cloth [baby blanket is good]the effect is beautiful. I watched Peter Gilder doing that eons ago, and I dont think its ever been bettered,for effect and speed.
Thanks Robbie

Peter Douglas said...


My experiences date from my teenage years (when Carter was president) when I used humbrol enamels. I remember them being stinky and splotchy and that the tins dried up quickly. Then in 1980, RossMac put me onto artist acrylics and I haven't looked back.


MurdocK said...

Oils or Acrylics?

For minis, for me, it comes down to these key points:

How fast do I want these minis painted?

What "quality" level do I want the minis to have?

What is the final 'purpose' of the minis?

What size are the minis?

Fast: Acrylics - wins hands down.

Quality level High: Oils will give the best most natural color finish, with deep rich colors and the ability to do amazing highlights.
Medium: (most of the battlefield minis will take this level) Acrylics, with a sealing coat will do this job very well, most will also go into painting competition and come out winners 1/3 of the time.
Low: Acrylics, when the minis are going to be handled by 6 year old children and expected to be dropped on the floor a lot do not waste your time and good oils on these minis.

Final Purpose Display: Oils
Gaming Tabletop: Acrylics

Scale or Size: 28mm and lower: Acrylics (the minis are fast to paint and are mostly used to game or tabletop with)
35mm and larger: oils, the detail can be better picked out and the use of the oils to get the fantastic shading has better effect. Also these larger minis are most often display minis and have expectations to be kept for many decades, while the newest acrylics are color fast even the manufacturers cannot say that the colors will not fade in 100 years, while there are oil painted minis that are at least that old now that still look great!

My thoughts on your topic.

CelticCurmudgeon said...

My Dear Ulrich,

As a wise mentor once said "No teacher ought to go home more tired than his students." Having them actually do something active as opposed to passive (more or less) reception of lecture materials actually promotes learning. However....

Your question dealt with the utility of the use of oils.When I first began painting years ago I was a slave to the wonderful little tins of oils marked such as French Blue or British Red. The colors needed a long time to dry and a regiment of 36 15mm miniatures would take the better part of two weeks to complete. That's the down side. The up side is that my friend Otto has large armies painted in oils and the colors have stood the test of time and continue to be vibrant after years of use.
Your painting style - slow, careful with attention to things like shading and blending sems to be admirably suited for work in oil.
All the best,
Gerardus Magnus

Bloggerator said...


I think much of what has been said for oils could just as easily be said for acrylics. I use a lot of washes in my painting these days. My recent cavalry were all done with a very thin wash of gray over a white base and wiped off with my fingers.

Flesh is just washed on thinly these days and followed up with a GW ink-wash to darken up the pits and hollows.


Corporal_Trim said...

Interesting question. I tried oils for painting flats years ago. The long drying time kind of put me off it after a while and I've used acrylics since - even for the flats.

The newer type of water-soluble oil paints may represent a very good compromise solution, faster dry time and easier clean-up. I'm thinking seriously of trying these.

Gouache is yet another possibility.


Bluebear Jeff said...

I have never used oils . . . but my thoughts on the question relate to what you want.

If the painting of the figures is one of your joys, then oils will allow for much more shading . . . but when in the middle of a unit will this be noticeable?

I agree with Murdock, for 30mm figures on down, if they are for the gaming table, then acrylics are the way to go because the subtleties of oils are lost on the table top.

That being my opinion . . . but I certainly will not criticize anyone who chooses to use oils. We all prefer different phases of our hobby and if someone prefers to use oils, then that is proper route for them.

-- Jeff

Grimsby Mariner said...

I still find that oils, no matter if thinned down or not, take longer to dry than acrylic. My personal preference is for acrylics where I can paint 10-12 figues at a time knowing that by the time I get to the last one the first one will be dry of that particular colour. with the introduction of the washes and glazes from multiple manufacturers (and not forgetting the Army Painter shade)it gets even quicker.

Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

I've used oils very rarely, though I may try them again on 54mm figures sometime. For plastics I usually use acrylic as it's flexible, and for metal I like enamel paint. All my Prince August figures are done with Testors type enamel.
I'm all for experimentation and I'm thinking about trying that oil technique for horses...

Big Andy said...

I used Oils for years mixed 'em with enamels the range of colours is fantastic the ability to shade and blend exquisite and infinite.Both on figures and in my 2D work Miles better than the early acrylics Still have a boxfull kicking about
BUT and its a big but. Technology moves on I can now get the same effects using acrylics and inks as I could with oils and far more conveniently texture is just as do-able and if anything the range of waterbased products is even larger- Since any water based paint will mix with any other I have a huge gamut of products available from straight acrylics.
through gouache "Modellers acrylics" "ceaft paints" and artists acrylicsand of course inks.
I'd have definitely stuck to oils had the "water based" paints not improved but always see the point of oils they are - these days at least a good bit less convenient.

Mike Siggins said...

Isn't it amazing how many times the oil horse method is mentioned but people still find it news?

When Cpl. Trim posts, I listen. I have tried the fast drying and water based oils and just don't enjoy them as much as the real thing.

Also, it jogged my memory, I did write a while back about Atelier acrylics which stay workable/open longer.

Nice topic.


Mike Siggins said...

Further to Steve's comment, you can come at it the other way:


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

For me - like Peter D - I started with Humbrol/Airfix enamels, but was lost the moment I discovered acrylics... no smell, no fuss, mix/blend with water, dry almost immediately, and with the new generations of inks/washes and gels I can blend to my hearts content.... wonderful... and I still say my horse painting technique matches any attempt with oil.... shame about my painting butchery on their riders! :o))

Chris Gregg said...

What an interesting thread of thoughts, thank you. I gave up using oils on figures a very long time ago. Though I agree it is good for horses in larger scales as you do get texture, unfortunately I found you got texture on the riders too unless you put a lot of effort into brushing and thinning. I agree with those who say that they can achieve similar effects with acrylics and be sure that they will dry quickly. In addition there is a vast choice of colours and shades available now with the acrylic pots - I tend to use Foundry and Games Workshop. I use Winsor and Newton Artisan water soluble oils for my 2D painting so I understand their use but can confirm they are not particularly kind to brushes even with lots of soap and warm water.


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