Tag Archives: Painting

0.07 The Guys with the Cool Uniforms and Bad Attitudes

And here are my Valiant Classic German Infantry all painted up and based. After experimenting on my four American infantrymen, I pulled out all the stops and did a full squad of the Germans.

My methodology was very similar to that used on the Americans.

Full squad of 10-1

I used a Farnworth color guide to pick my paints. As you can see, German uniforms are quite dark. I did considerably more highlighting on the Germans than I did on the US troops.

A couple of NCOs and a rifleman

My only beef with the Valiant Germans (other than their overly heroic heights and girths) is that none of the poses in the box are action shots. Not that the poses are bad. Quite the opposite-they’re very naturalistic. I just wish there had been a couple of riflemen firing their weapons, and maybe someone taking a knee or lying prone.

None of these Germans are firing their weapons

The Valiant German kit, even more than the American, has lots of extra weapons, heads, arms, and legs. The guys that are wearing soft caps are head conversions. I take inordinate pleasure in decapitating them and then putting new heads on. I think it appeals to my inner Dr. Frankenstein.

0.06 What’s the Color of an Unladen M1943 Field Jacket?

American Infantry

There are dozens of guides on how to paint figures, so I’m not really going to go into much detail. Instead I’ll offer a few pointers and detail my basing methods.

You’ve Got to Have Paint

Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a well-stocked hobby shop, you’re going to be ordering paints from the internet. You’re going to need a lot of them, and they’re not cheap. The best thing to do is find a color guide that you think looks correct/good/good enough and use it to build a list of what you need. I think the Farnworth Colours US Infantry WW2 is a good guide, and I used it to build my list of paints.

I’m using acrylic paints. Water clean-up and no toxic fumes is a big selling point, to me. Vallejo paints have a good reputation, and that’s what I’ve been using. Going with another line of hobby paints isn’t such a big deal-you can use this conversion chart to mix and match.

Another possibility is going to an art supply or craft store and buying acrylic paints there. Acrylic paint tubes from the art store are full of  high quality paints, and are way less expensive per unit volume than hobby paints. You’re not going to find Summer ’44 Olive Drab Boot Lace Highlight as a color at the art store, though, so that could be a potential problem.  I’d at least recommend picking up white and black in that format, though.

From zero to hero...

Doing Stuff

Prep and Basing

The monotone guy on the left has been removed from the sprue, cleaned up with soap and water, trimmed of bits of flashing and mounted to a quarter with superglue (I recommend LocTite brand-it works well with plastics). Mounting to a quarter is nice, because they have a manly heft to them. Manly at 20mm scale, anyway. Washers might be a slightly less expensive choice, but I had a ton of quarters on hand and I didn’t feel like a run to Lowe’s.

Keep in mind that it’s best to pick one style of base and use it  with all of your figures. This will give you visual consistency and dimensional unity. Having a guy mounted on a quarter next to a guy who’s mounted on a thin piece of card would look weird.  There are some figures (mortar men, and medium machine gun operators) that won’t fit on a quarter, but luckily you can order polystyrene sheets in .07″ thickness, which is damned close to the thickness of the coin.

You don’t want your guy just sitting there on top of a shiny quarter. You’ll want to use some sort of filler, clay, or putty to build up to the smaller base that the figure is ‘cast’ onto. I’ve used Squadron Putty to build these bases. You can get a really nice mud texture with this putty, but it is quite toxic. Another option is Milliput, which is a two-part epoxy putty that’s available at most hobby stores. It’s also toxic, but you can get a very smooth finish and Milliput cures much stronger than the squadron putty. In any case, while you’re picking up your basing material, swing by the pharmacy and buy a package of surgical gloves. Your skin, bloodstream, and brain will thank you.

Priming and Blocking

Mr. Middle Man has been primed with white spray paint. I used Valspar spray primer from the local hardware store. It worked ok, but I think it might be better to pony up for a modeling brand of paint. The Valspar just doesn’t spray all that finely-there are weird areas of texture on every mini that I primed with it. That could be due to humidity or temperature problems, though.

Some people like to use white primer, some like black. I knew that I was going to be using the dip method to shade my figures, so it made a lot of sense for me to use white. White primer will help the colors to pop, while black primer will do some shading work for you.

The next step is to begin blocking in colors. Start from the ‘inside’ and work your way out. This will minimize, but not eliminate, a lot of the frustrations that come with painting things too small to see. For instance, on these American infantry, I painted skin first, then their shirts, then the jackets, then the gaiters, then the pants, then the boots, then the webbing, then their gear. Work in an assembly line fashion. Get a half-dozen to ten figures prepped, and then make your way down the line working one color across all of your figures. The first figure will be dry by the time you’re done with the last.


I’m not going to be a lot of use, here. There are some great tutorials on how to do shading by hand, but I don’t really enjoy painting that much, so I went with something easy and effective: the dip method. What’s the dip method, you ask? Well, I could duplicate a lot of effort, but instead I’m going to point you  here. Go and be enlightened.

To my knowledge there are two options when it comes to dipping your minis. You can use Army Painter products, which are expensive and not widely available, but supposedly dry much faster, or you can use MinWax wood finish, which is cheap and readily available. I used MinWax, Dark Walnut 2716, to be exact. I expect the little tin I bought for $5 to last me for years. Most guides tell you to expect to wait for 24 hours before handling your dipped miniatures, but that’s wildly optimistic in my experience. Mine have all taken 36-48 hours before I felt comfortable pawing at them.

It can be helpful to go back over your minis and do some highlighting (via drybrushing) after the MinWax has cured. You can use the base color of whatever you’re painting: Trust me, it will be plenty bright enough! Faces and the tops of cloth folds are the only areas I really put any effort into. Highlighting goes very quickly.

The last step will be to spray your figures with matt varnish. This is a magical step that will make you feel much better about all your hard work.

I wouldn't normally recommend attacking into the sun

Bases Again

There are as many ways to dress up your figure bases as there are wargamers. Here’s what you need to follow in my footsteps:

  • playground sand
  • Flat Brown, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Yellow Ochre paints. These are readily available from the art supply store-no need to pay high modeling paint prices.
  • some very fine gravel (Woodland Scenics ballast is a good choice)
  • Basil from the kitchen
  • A couple of tones of flock. You can make it yourself, but I bought Woodland Scenics.
  • PVA Glue
  • Matt varnish
  • Sisal twine

And here’s the process in easy steps:

  1. Paint your base in a flat brown
  2. When the paint is dry, liberally apply PVA glue to the base
  3. Put your sand and gravel into a container, and mix them up
  4. Dip the figure’s base, which is wet with glue, into the container.
  5. Let it dry for a couple of hours.
  6. Brush/shake/flick off the excess gravel.
  7. Mix 50/50 tap water and glue, paint this wash of glue over the base. This will seal the gravel and sand and make them strong like Conan.
  8. Let it dry for a couple of hours.
  9. Mix Burnt Umber with tap water until you get a milk-like consistency. Paint this onto your gravel. Try for a very high percentage of coverage.
  10. Do a heavy drybrush with the Burnt Sienna.
  11. Do a final light drybrush with the Yellow Ochre. it will look shocking at first, but it looks good after the paint has dried.
  12. Let everything dry for an hour or two.
  13. Time to flock: Mix your two colors of flock up in a small container.
  14. Apply PVA glue to your bases everywhere you want there to be ‘grass.’ I’d suggest mixing it up between figures. Have some of them standing on patchy ground, some in full lush grass, most somewhere in between. Variation is good.
  15. Dip the figures into your mix of flock, get good coverage. I even press the flock down into the glue with my hands. Don’t knock off the flock!
  16. Drying time. At least an hour.
  17. Now you can knock off the flock. Hold the figure over your flock container and flick the back of the base with a pen or pencil. Then take a crappy paintbrush and lightly brush any remaining excess flock from the base.
  18. Get your dried basil out. Doesn’t that smell nice? Shake a bit out. It’s going to be representing leaves and other organic detritus, and will probably be a bit too large for 1/72 scale. Either hand pick smaller pieces out, or crush your pile of basil with a spoon so that you have smaller bits. Apply the basil with small amounts of PVA.
  19. If you want to add some taller weeds, you can use Sisal twine. It’s readily available…everywhere. Just cut to length and place in a dollop of glue. It doesn’t look 100% accurate in macro photos, but it looks good at gaming distance.
  20. Take your matt varnish (I use Testor’s Dullcote) and give the figures a good going over. This will settle down the flock and basil and make them stronger.
  21. Sit back and bask in a job well done.

Ok, that doesn’t seem so simple, now that I’ve typed it out, but in reality basing goes quite quickly. You could also add small stones and twigs to your bases. Extra weapons or crates might be appropriate for some figures. Basing is a lot of fun;  you have a little freedom compared to painting figures.

An important note about basing: Use similar palettes for your basing efforts and your terrain boards. The basing color scheme I outlined above would not work for troops operating in North Africa. Those deep reds and browns would look very strange in desert terrain. Ditto for urban operations in Stalingrad, or actions in the snow during the Battle of the Bulge. If you do it right, your bases will look like they came from the terrain board.