Sunday, 1 April 2018


Before I go further with this, I want to say a little about paints. I shall add all usual disclaimers, I am not a trained artist, my views are based purely on my experiences as a layman. Others will no doubt know much better 😊

I used acrylics for many years, having moved on from good old humbrol enamels, mainly because acrylics are quicker and easier to use and the water based nature of them makes life so much easier and less fume filled.

However, a number of years ago I became disillusioned with the "modern" style of wargames figure, increasingly I saw them as gross caricatures of human beings, usually a cross between an orc and a gorilla. Sure, they are easy to paint, but I just really stopped liking the look of them. I progressively moved back towards more anatomically correct, slimmer figures, many of these being from older ranges.

There was a problem though, these figures are much more challenging to paint well. You have to really "paint" them to get them looking good as opposed to the "paint by numbers" style you can use with modern, chunky figures. I found my technique and the paints I was using weren't really achieving the look I wanted.

I knew that "back in the day" most of these figures had been painted using enamels and oils, I didn't want to go back to using enamels, so started playing around with Oils.

Using Oils was in one way a revelation, but also a bit of a disappointment. I could see that the Oils had so much more richness and depth of colour, but they were really hard to use and also looked "washed out" when used alone with a white primer. What to do .....?

I started to experiment using a mixed medium technique, acrylics and Oils together. This has a fundamental problem though ...... As we all know, the two solvents involved, Oil and Water, don't as the phrase goes "mix". How to get round this? The secret is that you must, must let either the acrylic or the Oil thoroughly dry before going anywhere near it with the other medium. If you do so they are compatible, the only exception being that sometimes the acrylic might struggle a little to "grip" on a previously oiled surface. It will, with a few additional strokes of the brush and it only happens occasionally, so I put up with it.

Anyway, that's enough boring text for one post! 😊

On to the next stage.

Blocking in

So, with the figure primed and then washed with raw umber (When I say a wash I mean a small quantity of Oil paint, a bit on the end of a matchstick, mixed with a few drops of Liquin till it makes a solution of the colour concerned which has the consistency of thin motor oil) I leave to dry for at least 24 hrs until the Oil paint is dry (it can take longer). The use of Liquin is critical in this, as it serves two functions, it thins the paint to make the wash, but it is also a drying agent which makes a huge difference to how long the Oil wash takes to dry. When I was going through my "trial and error" phase I once painted some horses with oils, which, several years later, still weren't fully dry!

Once dry I will then block in the first basic colours, which I will subsequently be over painting with Oils. In our example I've painted in the Coat and gaiters with Vallejo Acrylic 007 Pale Sand and the shoes and hat with Foundry Artic Grey 33A. In doing so I am filling up most of the surface but allowing the underlying raw umber wash to show through at the edges and also in any deep cuts or folds (similar to how you would if doing the "black undercoat" technique). The figures will then look something like this ...

Apologies this runs to much more text than I'd hoped, don't worry the text/image ration will improve once I've managed to explain the bulk of the technique as we progress forwards.



Graham C said...

even though you've explained this to me before the images are a great help and this is proving to be most informative.

Clive w said...

Really enjoying reading the new posts and looking forward to the next instalment

Graham Hilditch said...

Looking forward to the next chapter John. I have selected a batch of 40mm Austrians, which I am painting up as Empire regiment Roth Wurzburg using your same techniques. Interesting experiment, currently working a day behind you, so the blocking will get done this evening.
No pressure for you then ! Will email you pics of the final outcome.

John D said...

Glad folk are finding this useful. Graham (H), good luck with the painting, the "blocking in" bit is the most tedious element, after that, it becomes more fun. Feel free to ask any queries you might have as you progress with them and I'll try to help.


Andy McMaster said...

Following this as well. Very useful. I'm not sure I'll go the oil route but looking forward to the rest of the process.