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The following collection was developed by various club members. Whilst in no way a
comprehensive list, it does provide some very useful 'tricks' for fellow hobbyists.
However, someone wanting a bit more of a general overview of painting could do no
better than the excellent explanation of technique offered on the Wargames Foundry
web site
.

For now the tips and tricks include only the most basic items, but eventually we hope to
include descriptions of such exotic items as the "Zina Broom Spears," the "Estey Swap-
able Flags," and perhaps some day the "Ben Harper 25mm Flannel Shirt."

Priming Painting Dry-Brushing Washes The Magic Wash Horses Colors
 

Priming the Figure:
For those new to the hobby, always prime the figure first. This serves as a sealant, to prevent
oxidation of a treasured figure (that goes back to the 'lead-tin alloy days). It smoothes out any
rough surfaces created when converting a figure, but most importantly it provides a uniform
background color on which you'll be painting.

Back in 'the old days' most figures were primed with 'brush on' primer. Now most folks use one
of the various spray primers. Almost any manufacture of primer will do. I prefer those brands
described as 'sandable,' because they give a nice flat finish - and, of course, they're sandable If
I ever use them to prime a vehicle or model kit. The most important issue is, "What color spray
primer do you want to use?" And the answer is - No Color. Color Primer = "BAD." Our club is
divided over the choice of black or white primer, more about that below, but never use primer
that is; automotive red, grey, dark grey, or the exceptionally awful yellow-brown (a sort of
automotive version of Afrika Korps desert yellow). The grey primers tend to muddy up any color
that you lay on top of them, and the red and 'yellow' will have very unpleasant affects as they
work an unintended sort of color wheel magic on your figure. Trust me, white or black is the way
to go, but your choice will depend upon your painting style.

Why white primer? This choice seems pretty obvious to me, but then I like to use white primer.
Basically it insures that any color you paint on the figure will look like that color. Because you're
painting on white, red will look red - and not maroon, or orange. White primer is good If you like
to paint in light colors - trying to create faded cloth, or Asian silks. It's the way to go If you like
to paint a color, then shade it with a darker color. Most acrylics don't cover as completely as oils,
so If you use them it's white primer for you.

Why black primer? Depending upon your painting style, black primer may be better for you
than white primer. Most folks who paint with oils (one of our chaps still does) tend to lay lighter
colors on top of dark. They don't shade the figure, they highlight it. This works well with oils
because they're so opaque, and since you don't get any darker than black it's helpful to start out
with a figure that's primed black. Acrylics aren't quite so good for this technique, although the
magnificent line of Vallejo Acrylics comes the closest to behaving like oils of any acrylic I've ever
painted with. Another style of painting not only shades the figure, but outlines edges of clothing
items in black to make them stand out. Back in the early 1960's the grand old men of the hobby
used to completely paint their figures, then outline things like cross belts using India Ink. Some
years ago 'somebody, somewhere' hit on the idea of priming the figure black, then painting color
up to the edge of the different layers of clothing. So the red coat would come up to the bottom
edge of the cross belt, and the white cross belt would come up to the top edge of the cross belt.
However, the vertical edge of the cross belt would remain black. If everything worked out
properly the figure would have a magnificently outlined set of cross belts, without any of that
unpleasant ink business. I have to confess that I don't particularly like the visual effect, but that
could be because of the many treasured Napoleonic fusiliers I ruined as a callow youth trying to
get the hang of that fiendish India Ink. Maybe this is a valid artistic decision on my part, or
perhaps just sour grapes from my childhood.

French Marine
Boxer Rebellion
 
Russian Officer
Boxer Rebellion
 
Mexican Federale
The Great Revolution

Preparing to Paint the Figure:
Step 1: Remember your brushes. If you're painting your figures and you can't seem to see the
detail any more, you might need glasses. (This happened to me a few years ago.) However, If
you can see your figures and you used to be able to paint OK - but it just doesn't seem to be
working any more... Buy some new brushes. (This happens to me all the time.) I have some 'real
artist' friends who have kept the same brushes for years. But I'm just a hobbyist, and I'm much
harder on my brushes than they are.

Step 2: Pick you colors based on history and chemistry. It needs to be said. Your Dervish
Ansars won't look quite right If you paint them all as fair skinned blondes. But this also applies
to the colors you use for clothing. Before those industrious Germans invented chemical dyes in
the late 19th century all colors came from vegetable dyes that had a real propensity to fade. Paint
didn't fade quite so fast, so If you're painting a knight on campaign his surcoat should probably
be lighter - more faded shades - than the colors on his shield. Also, go through those wargame
research materials an make a list of colors/dyes that were available and/or popular with the
troops you're painting.

Step 3: Pick you colors based on the subconscious prejudices of the viewer. Years ago someone
pointed out that the most 'French Looking' infantry unit in my 16th century French army was
painted mostly in; blue, white, and red - the colors of the current French flag. Later research
indicated that the red was completely wrong for the period, and the shade of blue didn't become
widely used until the French Revolution. But the effect still worked. So now when I paint exotic,
Asian armies - I try to emphasize pastels that I can describe as 'silky.' When I'm painting feudal
European armies - I try to stick to unsophisticated primary colors. Taking into account the
business about 'fading' mentioned in #2 above.

 
French Marine Officer
West Africa
 

Finally, Painting the Figure:
One of the fellows in the club (it's the guy who still uses oils) chooses to paint his figures just
like they were larger scale display figures. 120mm, 90mm, 54mm, 25mm, or 15mm it's all the same
to him. He blocks out the figure in solid colors. Then he shades the low points on the figure
(the creases in clothing etc.) with a darker shade of the same color. Then he highlights the high
points on the figure (elbows, edges of cartridge boxes, etc.) with a lighter shade of the same
color. The most important thing to remember when using this technique is, Use lighter and
darker shades of the same color. Don't use white or black to create lighter or darker versions
of your basic shade.
As he pointed out to me, "White mixed with maroon doesn't give you a
lighter red. It makes pink. Black mixed with maroon makes a grey brown." Not to keep hammering
away at the wonders of the Wargames Foundry web site, but they've introduced a line of paints
where each bottle of color is sold with an appropriate shade of that color for both shading and
highlighting. It's an excellent idea, go have a look at their site.

Now If you're not a complete lunatic who treats his wargames figures like large scale display
models you'll want to start developing fast and dirty painting tricks to make it look like you're
spending more time on your figures than you really do. Here are the most used gimmicks in our
club.

Dry Brushing: Apply paint in a shade slightly darker than you want the finished product.
For example, If you're painting a redcoat start by painting the coat a sort of crimson color - not
red. You might even want to consider applying this undercoat as a thick wash. (If washes are
new to you, please see below) Once this base coat is completely dry you can come back to do
the actual dry brushing. Don't use your regular brushes for this. They won't work as well as a
cheap, big brush - and you'll just beat them up even faster than you normally would. As an aside,
the best drybrush I ever had was a specially designed 'Dry Brush' brush manufactured by Games
Workshop, but most real bristle brushes will do the job. And remember, bigger is usually better
for a dry brush. OK, dip the brush into paint that's a lighter shade of the color you used for the
coat. If you started with crimson, now you'd switch to red, or maybe scarlet. Then wipe the brush
back and forth on a paper towel until it's almost dry. When it reaches the point that paint is only
coming off on the 'high spots' on the towel you're ready to go. (Sometimes when I'm not sure If
the brush is ready I'll wipe it across the fore finger of my left hand, and If it highlights the skin so
that the wrinkles show.... Then it's ready.) OK, now draw the brush back and forth across the red
coat. If at all possible you'll want to do this 'across the grain.' If the figure is sculpted with lots of
vertical folds in the coat, then you'd want to drag the brush in a mostly horizontal pattern. That
way the brush will mostly drag across the crests of the folds, leaving behind paint to highlight
the ridges. Remember, it's always better to start with too little paint and keep going. If your brush
is too wet the paint will run into the folds, and you'll have to start over again. Dry brushing can
be pretty sloppy on the figure, so you'll want to finish up detail work after you've done the dry
brushing. In our example; don't paint the white cross belts until AFTER you've finished dry
brushing the coat.

Dry Brushing: (the even lazier method) Finish painting the figure completely. Then dry brush
the entire figure with a light tan, or yellow khaki. This doesn't work so well If you're painting the
Imperial Guard in full dress, but If you're working on troops in the field you can claim that they
have a light coat of road dust from marching all day. This also 'sort of' works like regular
highlighting on some colors (red, brown), but not on others (medium blue, white).

Washes: These are a fast way of applying paint to the low points on the figure. Again, use a
brush that's slightly larger than your 'hero,' fine detail brush. Take paint of a darker shade than
that which is painted on the portion of the figure you're about to wash. Thin this paint down. I'd
start at approx. 50/50, but you'll have to decide on the exact mix you prefer. Once you've created a
wash mixture that's to your liking, paint it over the section of the figure that you want to shade.
The thin dark paint will run into the wrinkles and folds and Presto-Gumbo, you've shaded that
portion of the figure. But make sure that you wait for the wash to dry completely before you come
back and start painting over it. Don't try and paint those white cross belts over a wet blue coat.

You can mix dry brushing with washes, using Janissary coats as an example. Paint the coat dark
blue, and let dry. Apply a wash of Prussian Dark Blue, and let dry. Dry brush the coat with
Medium Blue.
Both these techniques offer greater benefit to those figures with an exaggerated
style of sculpting. They will do more for Old Glory figures than they will for Wargames Foundry.
But they will do more for Wargames Foundry figures than they will do for minifigs.

And now, The Magic Wash: I believe that this gimmick began as a method of sealing
completed figures, but now most of our club members use it as a finishing touch to a figure's
shading. I can only recommend it's use on figures painted with acrylics, and I'd recommend that
you deliberately paint with lighter shades than you usually use If you intend to apply the magic
wash afterwards.

  1. Buy some 'Future Clear Acrylic Floor Polish'
  2. Premix a batch of 'clear.' The more water you use the less shinny the wash will be. I recommend a ratio of 1 part floor polish to 3 parts water.
  3. Stir the premix to make certain that it's blended. Don't shake the container, or you'll end up with millions of tiny bubbles that will stay on the figure.
  4. Decide whether your figure is painted in 'sky tones,' or 'earth tones.' Browns, tans, and khaki's are earth tones. Just about everything else is a sky tone. For example; ACW Union figures are 'sky tones.' ACW Confederate figures are 'earth tones.'
  5. Pour some of the premix into a temporary container. (A Dixie 3 oz. size paper 'Bathroom' cup is just fine.) If you're working on a 'sky tone' figure get some black acrylic paint. If you're working on an 'earth tone' figure get some dark brown acrylic paint. Put two or three drops of paint into the cup an stir the mixture. If you used your brush to stir the mixture make sure to clean the brush with water before you use it to apply the magic wash, or you'll have a lot of extra paint still in the brush. It's also a good idea to have just one brush that you use for the magic wash. I worry that pigment residue left over from normal painting will muddy up the wash when I apply it.
  6. Apply the Magic Wash just like a regular wash, but to the entire figure. If huge amounts of puddle up in undesirable areas - like an elbow up against the chest - you can draw out the excess using the corner of a paper towel.

Why use the Magic Wash: Well, it's good for several reasons. It actually does seal the figures
within a protective coating. If it's a bit too shinny for your tastes you can still spray it with one of
those figure-flat products. But the floor polish seems to act as a sort of emulsifier, preventing the
paint from developing grainy, ragged edges when it dries out. It also causes the pigment to draw
up against things like the edges of cross belts, etc. thus leaving a black outline (Shades of India
Ink!) Again, this technique does more for figures with exaggerated sculpting. With 15mm figures
Old Glory miniatures will benefit a lot more than Minifigs.

French Askari
 
French Sailor
Boxer Rebellion
 
Bavarian Musketeers
War of Spanish Succession
 
Mexican Federale Officer
The Great Revolution
 
Janissary
Musketeers
 
Goth Chieftain
Magic Wash, no shading
 
15mm French Musketeers
Magic Wash, no shading
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