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Notes on Painting

By Sly


These are my ideas on painting developed over 30 years and a lot of expertise has been assumed


Prep work


Firstly, do nothing

Take a good look at the figure:


Does anything need trimming, bending into position or filing?

Sometimes, vent threads from the mould get painted by accident so trim these off with cutters

Bend swords, muskets, spears etc back into straight position. Bear in mind some weapons are supposed to be curved.

Some weapons such as spears may be better replaced with brass or steel ones which makes them very resilient to bending. Nothing worse than a droopy spear!


Take a half round needle file and flatten the base so you can glue it to a painting platform. Then, look at the figure and file smooth any mould lines or flash. These show up like a sore thumb when the figure is painted and always annoys me to see it, so donˇ¯t be sloppy. A half-round file lets you use either surface and is great for getting into just about any crevice. To be really pedantic, drill out gun barrels, as these can be of a large diameter and look odd on some castings.


Using PVA, stick the figure to a stable platform to paint it such as a cork or a strip of corrugated card if you are painting several similar figures at once. I use a strip about 1ˇ± wide by 6ˇ± long and stick 3 or 4 figures along it.

Undercoat by hand using WHITE undercoat, do not spray because it leaves areas of bare metal.


I use Vallejo acrylic white primer as it is nice and thin, covers well and dries with a reasonable finish with a good key. I cannot stand black undercoat as I canˇ¯t see detail once it dries and you have to add several layers of paint and even then I think the finished figure looks dull.



First paint steps


First, do nothing

Take a close look at the figure and drink in the pose:


What is it doing? What clothing or equipment is it wearing? Do you want to emphasise any part of the figure? Which areas of clothing etc do you think need to contrast to enhance the detail?


My style of painting is fairly quick.

I only ever use acrylic which is water based and quick drying.

I mainly use Vallejo acrylics which are high quality, well priced, with good colour density but I also use Citadel Acrylics by Games Workshop but buy 2nd hand if you can as they are pricey. Other paints I use are Miniature Paints Umber, a great dark brown.

I tend to work from light colours to dark as a watercolour artist does.

Painting lighter colours first means I can be sloppy in the early stages because I can overpaint any mistakes later as the darker areas are added.

This does require thought, such as; which items of clothing should I paint lighter etc?

With a set uniform scheme i.e. Crimean 93rd Highlanders this is easy but it gets more difficult with more individual models such as samurai





Paint a base colour and straight away add a highlight and blend if necessary

Allow to dry then add a weak ink wash and try wiping off with a finger to reveal the highlight. I use Citadel washes from Games Workshop. Add a further highlight if necessary.

Be careful when varnishing as inks and washes are picked up and spread around by brushed-on varnish and smear across your figures paintwork.

As with any technique there are nuances, so keep at it and you will get better.

I also use drybrushing for fur areas and wet brushing. This is a great technique which involves dragging a wiped paint laden brush over areas of raised detail. This is done slowly, with thick paint, so the paint can slop off the brush. An example of a wet brushed area would be over finger knuckles for a highlight. This is an advanced technique and requires practice so as not to trigger outbursts of expletives.





I sometimes file sword blades to a sharp edge with a file, add some blue-black ink such as Reeves Paynes Grey, wipe it off and leave it at that. Very effective. The only issue with this technique is the ink doesnˇ¯t take well to bare metal. For armour, I paint with a mid tone such as Vallejo gun metal and then wash with a blue black wash of my own mix (GW badab black with a splash of Azuremen blue) then highlight with GW mithril silver




Use matt varnish. The granular make ¨Cup of the varnish particles disperses light beams and has the effect of merging unevenly shaded areas to some extent and makes your figure look even better

Allow several hours drying time and use Vallejo matt varnish. Use a No.3 brush and apply quickly and evenly. Do not leave areas pooled as they can dry milky-white. Bear in mind warning about inks and washes above. Shake it well before use.

See my other article about basing. To blend the figure into the base, dry brush the feet and lower legs with a dry dusty version of the base colour paint. I sometimes use weathering powders by MIG or Forgeworld. These are powdered versions of paint which you dust onto the figure with a dry brush and blow off any residue. They leave a light coloured residue and have a similar, more subtle effect like dry brushing.

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