Sunday, 24 May 2020

How I Paint In Enamels. Part 3 - Painting

There was a query last week about the size of the Artmaster, Pearl series, 5/0 brushes I use, saying that I must use something much larger. I think I know where this query came from - like clothes, brush sizes don't mean the same thing to different manufacturers - so, for avoidance of doubt, the picture above shows the three brushes I use most next to a centimetre scale. 

The 10/0 doesn't come out that much and I generally use it for things like buttons. The 5/0 is the most used, I pretty much use it for all figure highlighting, belts, hair and hats. The 3/0 is used for big base coats on figures and the bulk of the painting of horses, and other big items, that require big broad strokes.



I must also, at this stage, point out that that this is not a 'how to use a brush' lesson. Painting is about what feels comfortable and becoming proficient at brush handling only comes with regular practice, the more the better. However, I thought I'd take a picture of my painting position. You will note that both hands, and the figure, are braced against the surface of the desk; both elbows are resting on the arms of my painting chair: The position is solid. There are no floppy arms, or hands, and consequently the paintbrush is completely under my control.

Onto the painting. The subject is a battalion of Coldstream Guards for the Peninsular War. The batch is 28 figures by Front Rank Figurines.

Flesh base coat.

This is Humbrol 73 [Wine].

It was applied with a 3/0 brush.

As you can see, I feel no need to be neat here and I make sure that the paint covers every scrap of bare flesh. Neatness at this stage is a waste of my time.

Also note how dark this colour is. I find that a very bold base flesh colour gives faces more character than something more realistically muted. Remember, we are dealing with very small things at this scale and anything less would not be visible except at very close distances. I like my faces to 'pop'.

The flesh tones.

Humbrol 61 [Flesh] on the left, and the same mixed with Humbrol 34 [white].

I've taken this photo to show you the different shades that I used so that you can clearly see that the difference isn't subtle. It is my view that when you are using the three tier colouring system (base coat and two highlights) that contrast in shades should be quite bold.

Note: Obviously I didn't mix the highlight until it was required, in fact I added the neat flesh colour to the palette after doing the highlighting purely for the purposes of the photo - and just so you know, I'll probably do this throughout this post. 

Next, using a 5/0 brush, I add the first flesh colour. This is neat H.61.

I apply this to the cheaks in two broad V shapes, forehead, chin and lips, not forgetting the ears and a spot of paint on the neck under them.

The hands are done at the same time with a 'U' or 'UU' shape on the back of the hand (base of the letter at the knuckles). Then a gentle drawn stroke crosswise across the figures, sometimes repeated; this is not a dry brush as such as there is plenty of paint on the brush, and I'm not playing the washboard.

Some painters stop at this point, thinking two colours are enough, but the colour is flat and lifeless. The second highlight makes is the one that makes the difference

Face highlight. Using the mix of flesh and white I now go over the neat flesh tone, in the same way, with thinner lines and spots. This should leave a little of the previous coat showing. I used a 5/0 brush.

Note the forehead has been done with three lines / dabs. This was done to add a bit of 'worry' and a 'raised eyebrow' to the man.

The nose is only highlighted down the bridge and not the sides.

Note that I don't highlight the lips. Realistically they should be pinker but, I find that figures painted with pink / red lips look like they are wearing lipstick - so I don't.

Note that I don't do eyes. Some painters are very good at doing eyes and, at a pinch, I'm okay at them. However, they can be very time consuming for the difference they make, and if you don't get it exactly right you can completely cock figures up - all you see are men with eyes like a goldfish or, nearly as bad, funny squints. Being a unit painter, rather than someone who concentrates on painting individual figures, I haven't painted eyes on figures for years. I haven't touched on this before, but there is a great deal of difference between the two kinds of painter and you should probably choose which you want to be: Unit painters go for overall effect; individual figure painters go for magnifying glass perfection. Individual figure painters have great looking figures but very rarely have armies of them, and that's the rub - perfection, in my opinion, takes too much time and that is why I'm a unit painter.

The hands are treated in exactly the same way except that the fingers are highlighted individually and, if you want to be flash, you can do knuckles.
The red base colour for the infantryman's coat. This is a mix of Humbrol 60 [Scarlet] and Humbrol 33 [Black]. 

I've shown the scarlet next to the base coat to show how dark I go.
I apply this to the coat with a 3/0 brush without much care for neatness. Again, taking time to be neat is a waste of time at this point, it is more important to cover everything.

Note that I also painted the base of the fusilier 'pom poms' at this point to save time later

This isn't a great photo, I'm afraid. The actual red colour is nearer to that in the shot of the pallete above. However, the base colour does need to be dark because the recesses, say between arm and body, go deep. If in doubt when painting, I find better results are obtained by being bold and there is no point painting a highlight unless you can clearly see it.

The first highlight is now applied using neat Humbrol 60 [Scarlet] and a 5/0 brush.
Note that I don't wholly follow the 'contours' of the sculpt. Sometimes you have to make things stand out - like elbows. 

Where lines do exist, like the pleats in the back of the coat, they should be obeyed. 

If  you have not used this method of painting before, and you decide to try it, you will notice how much easier it is to leave a thin line than to paint one. This is the secret to this style of painting.
 The final highlight is Humbrol 60 [Scarlet] and Humbrol 24 [Trainer Yellow]. This mix is quite orange.
This should be applied over the first highlight without fully covering it.



 The facings for Royal Regiments (including all foot guards) are blue. The base colour is a mix of Humbrol 25 (Blue) and Humbrol 33 [Black].
We are now applying a new colour on next to a completed colour so neatness is required. The edges, where the blue meets the red, need to be crisp. 

The blue is highlighted using neat Humbrol 25 (Blue) followed by Humbrol 25 mixed with Humbrol 34 [White]. 
The facings of the Coldstreams was a dark blue, but dark blue often looks black if it is not highlighted up a shade. 
The final highlight should not be over done, just a small stroke on the sides of the collar and unlaced cuff is all that is needed, otherwise it will look too light overall.
Next up is the white. A lot of people like my white, and so do I. 

I've messed around with all manner of base shades for white - mostly pale greys - over the years, none of which I was happy with. 

Some years ago a client asked if I could paint some figures for him using a murky white. I tried using Humbrol 84 [Mid Stone] as a base colour and I've never looked back. For some reason it just works.


The first highlight is much lighter than the base colour but uses the same base colour mixed with plenty of Humbrol 34 [White].
The first highlight should cover almost all of the base colour. It is important to be very neat, leaving the base colour showing where strap goes over strap, etc. The first highlight defines everything.

Note that whilst the first highlight was drying I decided to start applying the grey to the trousers of some figures for variety. 

The base for this grey was Humbrol 33 [Black] mixed with Humbrol 89 [Middle Blue]. I find that that simply mixing black and white makes a grey too 'flat'. Using a blue spices it up a bit.

I applied the dark blue / grey base coat to the 'bed roll' on top of the backpack, some figures in grey trousers trousers, and the canteen.


The final highlight for the white belts, etc. is, unsurprisingly, pure Humbrol 34 [White].  

Notice, on the trousers, how I take liberties with how and what is highlighted on the casting. Some of the creases are, quite literally, painted on where they don't exist.
Next I did the first highlight on the canteen using Humbrol 89 [Middle Blue] mixed with a little Humbrol 33 [Black] to grey it slightly, and Humbrol 34 [White] to lighten it.
This is spotted around the facing edge of the canteen. I do not bother painting the sides of the canteen as these will be lost under the strap or 'fall into shade'.
The second highlight is just one shade lighter - more Humbrol 34 to the mix - and this is applied in smaller spots of paint. 

British canteens catch the eye for some reason, so it pays to take a little care with them. 
 I don't waste the remaining paint. I simply add balck to it to get a grey and apply it to the 'bed rolls' and grey trousers. 

This second highlight used the same base further lightened with more Humbrol 34 [White].
Some figures, again for variety, will have brown trousers. 

I wanted something striking so I mixed up some Humbrol 73 [Wine] and Humbrol 33 [Black]. The same colour was used as the base coat for the figures hair.
 The brown trousers were highlighted with neat Humbrol 73 [Wine] and then highlighted again with Humbrol 73 mixed with Humbrol 24 [Trainer Yellow]. 

Overall, this gives a very warm red brown. This picture shows two figures with coloured trousers.
The 'bed roll' was done at the same time as some figures were given grey trousers.
Next up, another brown. This time Humbrol 160 [German Cammo Red Brown] and Humbrol 33 [Black] was applied as a base coat for the musket stock and canteen strap.
Again neatness is required.
 The first highlight for the musket is neat Humbrol 160. The second highlight is the same with a little Humbrol 34 [White]. This is also used as the first highlight for the canteen strap - lightened again for the strap's second highlight.
When highlighting the musket it is useful to use broken strokes.

Note that black has been added in this shot.
Doing black is, IMHO, the worst job. I hate doing black: I've just spent hours covering one load of it up!

I apply black to all of the black leather equipment, and to anything made of metal, such as musket barrels, swords and buttons.

Metals work best on a black base coat.


Whilst the black was drying I did the officers sashes. 

Historically these were crimson, which to my mind has a pinkish hue. 

For the base of this colour I use Humbrol 153 [Insignia Red]. This red is a harder colour than Humbrol 60 [Scarlet]. I mix it with Humbrol 33 [Black] for the base coat, I use pure 153 for the first highlight, and 153 [Insignia Red] and 34 [White] for the second highlight. 

You can distinguish between the two reds (coats and sashes) quite easily. 


I did the first black highlight on the hats, boots, packs, etc.

I also did the leather tops of the officers boots using neat Humbrol 160. I highlighted the leathert with Humbrol 62 (Leather), lightened for the second highlight with Humbrol 63 (Sand).
The first highlight for black is very dark. You want your black to look black not grey. It uses a little Humbrol 89 [Mid Blue]. 

The second highlight is the same mix lightened with Humbrol 34 [White].

Both highlights can be seen here.
This last highlight for the black is applied quite sparingly. Again, you don't want your black to be too grey. 
The last colours I ever do are metals.

I do my white metal buttons, swords and musket barrels with Humbrol 56 [Aluminium]. 

Although I didn't take a picture, I highlight swords and barrels with acrylic silver - by Model Colour - because it is very shiny, much shinier than any Humbrol colour. 

I don't highlight buttons.


All that is needed now is to do the flags and do the yellow metals. 

I do anything in yellow metal using an acrylic brass - by Model colour.

Generally, I don't highlight yellow metal on figures unless it defines something as different.  For these figures I highlighted the spear points on the flags to make them look different to the cords. I highlighted the brass by mixing it with a little silver. 

I should probably highlight epaulettes, but I can barely notice the difference when I do, and I'm lazy, so I don't.


For doing the edges of paper flags I use acrylic ink blocks by Derwent Inktense. 

For this I use a reservoir brush. This has water in the handle that you can squeeze through the bristles when mixing. 

I absolutely love using both of these products together, and the inks mix well when trying to match a colour on a paper flag.

And this is what the Coldstream Guards look like when painted.

Oh, I forgot to mention the green shako tufts on the light coy. These were Humbrol 150 [Forest green]. 

Base coat with a little Humbrol 33 Black, neat first highlight and second highlight with a little Humbrol 24 [Trainer Yellow].

 Not too shoddy.
 They took just over 14.5 hours to do.

I'll get round to basing them at some point.
I hope this post will prove useful to someone. When I next do horses and guns, I'll do a post on how I do them too.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

How I paint In enamels. Part 2 - Figure Preparation

This is a very short post because I don't have much to say on the subject of cleaning and undercoating figures. 

These days, metal figures from most quality manufacturers arrive with very little flash or mould marks, and plastic figures (which I rarely come into contact with) only require a wash in detergent to remove the mould release agent. Things have improved so much over the years that I rarely need to give figures more than a very rudimentary once over.

However, figures do require some element of flash to be removed from the bottom of the base, and metal strands* need removing from some extremities (such as bayonet points) and deep undercuts. Only very occasionally is more work needed to remove flash.

These are the tools I use to remove flash and prepare figures.

I use a heavy blade, like a Stanley knife, to remove flash from the underside of a figure's base, and any other heavy flash from around the base. 

I use small pincers to remove 'sprues' connecting one bit of a figure (such as one connecting the bottom of a sword scabbard to the figure's base) before finishing with a scalpel** and needle files.

Scalpels and needle files are also useful for cleaning up other small imperfections, so it's best to have them in your tool kit.

Very rarely, especially where a mould has become worn and damaged, you get a much heavier piece, or lump of flash. Most commonly, I find these 'lumps' between a horse's legs and they are just too chunky to remove with a blade, and files use the wrong action to be effective in most circumstances. Therefore, where it's possible to reach it, I find a modelling drill the easiest way to remove the bulk of it, drilling it out, then filling the holes with putty (Milliput or Green Stuff) afterwards. 

Powered modelling drills are very useful and well worth the investment. Simply having one increases their use ten fold. Drills are useful for all manner of basis preparation. Sometimes hands need drilling to take flag staffs, lances or spears, and although a pin vice will do the job, a modelling drill will do it much quicker.

I always clean figures with the figure pressed down on a small kitchen cutting board as it allows you to cut down and away from yourself to prevent injury without blunting the blade on any hard surface beneath. I also use the boards when drilling through things (hence the holes in the board and not my desk).


The figures are now ready to be mounted on cardboard painting armatures and undercoated. 

I make my painting armatures - the thing you use to pick a figure up with when you are painting it - out of artist's mounting board. 

For 28mm infantry I use an armature measuring 20mm x 50mm, and for cavalry I use one measuring 25mm x 60mm. 

To glue the figure onto the armature I use a glue gun. A glue gun will secure a figure to the card quite firmly but it will be easy to remove cleanly when it is finished. I like my figures glued to one end. I tend to reuse armatures several times; the one above has only been used once before - you can see where the figure has been removed; when reusing an armature, always glue the figure to the opposite end to which it was glued the last time because the figure will come away easier when finished.

I spray undercoat my figures black. Mostly I use Liquitex spray paint. This stuff is excellent. It dries matt and doesn't smell, so you can spray things outside in the winter (I always spray outdoors in a big lean to, open sided, shed) and bring them straight in doors when they are done to dry in the warm. Spray paint does not like cold weather. 

As it happens, I didn't use Liquitex for the figures below as I found half a rattle-can of old stock in a drawer and decided to use it up. It's not as good as the Liquitex because although it says matt on the tin it dries to a satin finish, and it stinks. It was warm and sunny today, so I left the smelly buggers outside to dry.

I spray undercoat my figures in bulk where possible because I use just about the same amount of spray paint to undercoat fifty figures as twenty. 

This is a two battalion batch of fifty six figures. Two battalions worth of British Guards.

I spray my figures on a sturdy board - in this case a large ceramic wall tile.

Once sprayed I sort the troops out into batches and put them into paining trays. These trays allow me to move multiple batches to and from my painting desk with ease, so I can paint several different batches of figures on the same day.

The painting tray should, ideally, have at least twice the footprint of the figures to allow them to be moved from one side of the tray to the other as each stage of the painting process occurs. 

In this case the tray is large enough to paint files or rows as the mood takes me but, because the figures are painted in procession I can be sure that every figure will get done. This is painting organisation at its simplest: Not having to go back to do missed figures saves a lot of time in the long run.

I also take the trouble to mark figures of note. In this case the light and grenadier companies use the same figures (British Guards have full shako plates for both), so I daubed a spot of green on the lights and a spot of red on the grenadiers.

I like doing batches of between 20 and 48 figures, preferring something mid range. A batch should ideally be large enough to allow some drying time, so that the first figure has dried before the last figure is done, usually 20 - 40 minutes, but not so large that the process becomes mind numbingly boring. I've done batches of 72 figures in the past and, although it is the quickest way to get figures done, it can be spirit crushing, especially on the third or fourth batch. In the case of my British Guards, I'm going to paint two batches of 28, one batch at a time.

* For those who wondered how the strands of metal are formed in casting: When centrifugally casting, air pockets can sometimes prevent lead from reaching every nook and cranny. So, to let the air out, very fine holes are drilled through the mould (usually at right angles to the horizontal mould line) to let the air escape, and these holes fill with lead and thus the strands are cast onto the figure; the lead doesn't leak out of the mould because the holes are at 90 degrees to the metal flow, and so fine that the lead cools very quickly, self sealing, on entry into them. 

** When it comes to 'modelling knives' I largely dispensed with them years ago. The blades are simply too expensive. I went over to surgical scalpels. I generally use a #3 handle and a #10A blade. Blades can be had for £9.99 for a box of 20 packets of 5. At 10p each you can throw blades away without thought when they get blunt - blunt blades cause more accidents than sharp ones - though I use blunt ones for scraping my painting palette clean (I have three handles).