I’ve switched back to working on more 28mm Napoleonic figures after doing little but Warhammer 40K Tau for the last 8 months or so. This is prompted by my new friend Jason cranking up his 1813 project using the “Black Powder” rules, and inviting me to participate. Before getting sucked into 40K in the middle of last year I had started working on my 28mm Napoleonics again, albeit without a real goal or direction in mind. It’s my favorite historical period, so I always fall back on that when I run out of other project work. I dithered along but without an organized group project, maintaining focus is hard, so naturally I didn’t keep it and shifted around to other things.
The purpose of this post is to show how I’m choosing to paint up my rank & file miniatures. A project like using Black Powder for Napoleonics will require hundreds of figures for an army. It’s just the way of things, and if you want the massed battle/”Big Battalions” look you have to accept it. I like to think I’m a pretty good painter, but for whatever reason I had a devil of a time moving up to 28mm historicals from a painting standpoint. My main bugbear was figuring out ways to paint black and white without looking unnatural or just dirty. I’ve been using my Sash & Saber Russians as test figures for a while to figure things out before investing in the new Perry and (maybe) Warlord Games Russians for my core force.
First, I think I should spend a few sentences talking about what I’m aiming for. As mentioned above, these figures are going to be for mass combat units in Black Powder. As such, they will be based on multiple figure bases two ranks deep. They are not going to be used or looked at as single figures. They will be part of a unit of 24 figures (on average), and will be viewed at arm’s length or farther for the most part. As such, I’m going for a paint job that looks good ‘en masse’ and not trying to turn each figure into an individual work of art. It would take too much time and, since many of these figures will be obscured in the middle of mass formations, the work would be almost useless. Since I’d like to get a full army or two up and running before I die, sacrifices must be made. So, some details will not be picked out or highlighted for the rankers. I see this as the best compromise for the goals I wish to achieve.
Anyway, enough pontificating. Let’s see some lead.
Here’s a picture of a figure I painted up in the middle of 2012:
The picture isn’t the greatest, but you can see the following things
- The trousers are offwhite washed with Army Painter inks. The creases shaded in well, but the overall effect is way too ‘dirty’ for my liking. I also wasn’t totally happy with the colors I selected. Trying to find a good-looking color palette for linen trousers isn’t easy. It has to be a ‘warm’ white with brown tones in it versus a ‘cold’ white that has blues or greys in it.
- The flesh paint was globbed on and again washed. Doesn’t look too bad, but not enough contrast to stick out well at arm’s length.
- Shako cords were offwhite washed with Army Painter “Dark Tone” (i.e. like old GW Badad Black). Looked too bright and, again, messy. I have a tenency to lay whites on thick to get it to cover over darker base colors, which doesn’t look very good at the end.
- The reds are washed with the Strong Tone as well, which muddies up the color a bit.
There are all mostly niggling things, but the end result didn’t turn out that great so I went back to the drawing board. More experimentation and conversations with Jason and other folks have led me to working on this as a new test:
What do you think?
Here are the main changes:
- The trousers are not washed. I used a few colors from the Andrea Miniatures White Paint Set to build up a nice brownish color. Might have been able to use another highlight, and my shading technique needs more work, but overall I’m pleased with how they turned out. I have a method to build on if nothing else.
- The skin tone is GW Dwarf Flesh, washed with Army Painter Soft Tone, and then highlighted with a mix of Dwarf Flesh & Elf Flesh. I think this lightens the flesh up a bit as well as gives a nicer contrast you can see at distance.
- I used Vallejo “Light Grey” and “Sky Grey” for my belts, straps & shako cords instead of offwhite. I think it looks a little more subdued and is easier to work up without looking dirty like the whites always seemed to.
- The reds are washed with GW’s “Carrowburg Crimson” and then highlighted with Vallejo Scarlet. Makes for a nice red tone that isn’t too bright or too pinkish but still stands out at distance.
I expect the quality of the paint jobs to raise a bit once I get more experience with things, especially with the shako cords and the trousers. Overall, I think this does a nice job of concentrating the eye’s focus on the face and upper torso, which is where most of the action is for historical figures. Once I get a full unit based up and ranked I hope you’ll agree that the effect looks great even if the individual figures aren’t masterpieces.
In case anyone’s interested, here are the colors I used:
- Trousers- Andrea White Paint set 2nd shade, base, & 2nd highlight
- Shako, boots, packs, scabbards – Vallejo Black Grey
- Coat – Vallejo Extra Dark Green, GW Athonian Camoshade
- Cuffs/collars/turnbacks – Vallejo Red, GW Carrowburg Crimson, Vallejo Scarlet
- Musket – Vallejo Hull Red
- Musket strap – Vallejo Red Leather
- Flesh – GW Dwarf Flesh, GW Elf Flesh, Army Painter Soft Tone ink
- Straps/shako Cords – Vallejo Light Grey, Army Painter Dark Tone ink, Vallejo Sky Grey
Happy Painting! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them here or hit me up on Twitter.