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 is the one that makes the difference and gives depth.

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.

11 comments:

Shaun said...

I paint in virtually the exact same way and order!!!!

Shaun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

Nice one James, I do a not dissimilar thing using Acrylic on my AWI. I need to find the courage to go for more contrast though, it looks great on your finished product. As you say, I need to move away from the single figure painter approach to more of an army style approach.

Andrej Reicherd said...

I like the way you paint miniatures - fast, simple and still great looking and attractive. Figures looks cool "en masse" - that's important for Napoleonic, SYW and so on. The one thing I don't understand - why do you use enamels? It seems that everyone paint acrylic nowadays.
Thanks for your posts!

David said...

Although I paint only with acrylics, I found that a really interesting read and a good advert for the wargames painter rather than the figure painter. Thank you.

Marc said...

A wonderful tutorial.

very sincere thanks for taking the trouble to share your approach in such a clearly documented fashion.

And the results are just superb.

Chris said...

I am also generally a "wet highlighter" although dabble in all techniques (washes, drybrushing etc.). In the end, however, it is the selection of colours and the shapes you paint when highlighting that really set your work apart. Love it. Your figures really jump off the table. The consistency of style is also something that holds your collections together. I have been following your posts for years and appreciate your efforts in posting regularly. Thanks again.

Yarkshire Gamer said...

Great article James, lovely to see how other painters work. I haven't used Enamels for 30 plus years so it was really interesting to see yoir techniques.

All the best Ken
The Yarkshire Gamer

M Ferris said...

James, I really enjoy this tutorial. Can I ask why you do a single feature as base/mid/highlight and then move onto new ones as opposed to the entire figure with all base colors, then all mid colors then all highlights? I find that the latter, which I do, is more forgiving of slips of the hand, but am always eager to find ways to improve what I'm doing. Thanks!

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Gary said...

Excellent article on how to paint figures.