Sunday, June 5, 2011

Miniature Wargaming 101 - Painting!


Painting figures can be divided into four steps: deburring, temporary mounting (holding), priming and painting. We will cover each step separately, discussing supplies and equipment, basic steps and recommended techniques. We cannot recommend how many figures you should attempt to paint all at once, since figures vary in size and type (infantry, naval, aircraft, etc.). But most people paint anywhere from 10 to 30 infantry figures at a time, depending on the sizes of units being used in the rules they play. Painting one figure at a time is not advised, since your brushes are probably not cheap, and the repeated cleanings which come as a result of such small groups will shorten the life of your precious commodities!
Deburring - When you first buy your figures, they will often have bits of metal left on them from the molding process. These will have to be removed before you prime the figures.

Equipment: X-acto knives (large and small), nail clippers and sandpaper.
How to: Use the shearing strength of the nail clippers to remove the largest chunks and easy to access pieces. Then use the X-acto knife to clean up the detailed areas, and for infantry bases, to slice the bottom of the base smooth. In the case of metal tank models which need to be assembled, forming the tread segments or at least examining them for consistent form is advised. Make sure to use a small X-acto knife to clean up the basic outline of infantry figures, in case there is flashing along the parting lines (where the mold halves met).

Temporary Mounting - Instead of trying to hold onto each miniature separately as you try to paint it, it is common to temporarily mount miniatures on small disposable chits, sometimes even the cardboard chits out of board games. My preferred method is to use the extra wide wooden popsicle sticks sold at most craft supply stores. Instead of gluing the miniatures in place, I use clear adhesive glue-dots which are also sold in most craft supply shops. 15mm human figures can readily be lined up three or four per stick for easy holding and access. Also, the wooden sticks double as good paint palettes.

Priming - If you paint figures without primering them, it will usually cause a number of different problems. The colors of the paint will not be as vivid, and the paint itself will come off easily unless sealed. Some very finely detailed models can be painted without primering by using two thin coats of paint, followed by careful sealing. For most infantry and land war figures, primering is advised since they will be handled a lot. In the case of plastic figures, primering is more important to give the figure some extra resistance against flexing (which causes paint to chip off). Make sure to wash plastic figures in a strong solution of detergent before attempting to prime and paint them.

Equipment: For metal figures, Floquil primer is highly recommended. For plastic figures whose paint jobs are somewhat more at risk, a less expensive primer used for utility painting is probably fine. Do not use automobile spray primer on plastic figures, as it can melt them. Always test prime a single figure and check the results.
How to: Priming figures is fairly simple. Find a large, flat piece of material such as cardboard or an aluminum pizza pan, line of your figures up on it, and take it outside (Remember to paint outside, or in a well ventilated area, no huffing on the job!). Shake the primer can very, very thoroughly before you spray. Also allow each side of the figure to dry before flipping it over to spray the other side. Priming your figures in warm weather, or under warm conditions, is best. If the weather is really bad, then buying a bottle of brush-on primer and painting it on may be the best solution.

Painting - The two most important items you will need for painting will be paint and brushes. You should try to buy the best possible paints and brushes because the results of your labor will be better rewarded. Cheap brushes do not coat evenly, they shed their bristles onto your work and their tips quickly curl over into imprecise hooks. They also do not last very long, and you end up having to spend more money anyway. Cheap paint has less pigment and leaves things looking uneven and washed out.

Equipment - Paint: There are two types of paint; water-based acrylic, and oil-based enamel. Water based paints are by far the easiest to work with, because you can clean up the brushes using water. Water clean-up also extends the lives of those expensive little brushes. Some of the best known paint manufacturers for miniatures are Citadel, Vallejo Model Colors and Testors. If buying the later, make sure to buy their Model Master series and not their cheap "department store" level paints which are not really suitable for gaming miniatures. Make sure to seal your completed work with a good clear seal coating. The best to use is Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating.

Equipment - Brushes: Many people use a combination of "throw away" synthetic brushes for unimportant work, and good quality kolinsky brushes for high value precision paint work. Of the later, the best brushes you can buy are the Da Vinci Maestro series of Winter Kolinsky brushes. They are outstanding quality and have long bristles that extend deep into the ferrule, which prevents the brushes from pulling out during cleaning and also makes for a longer lasting brush. If the Da Vinci are too expensive, there are several lines of sable and taklon brushes made by Loew Cornell which also work well, and they are much more widely sold at major craft supply stores than Da Vinci. Buy at least five or six different sizes of brushes, from tiny to medium-large, and keep a small cup of water and paper towels and toilet paper nearby for cleaning them. Never leave your brushes .

How to #1: The first painting example is of a French infantryman for the Napoleonic Wars. A World War Two figure will use much the same technique, except that the variety of colors used will be different. Begin by painting the one or two most dominant colors present on the model, in this case the white pants and lapel and the dark blue tunic. Once these basic colors are painted, you should next paint the areas which are recessed, and therefore most likely to be painted over. So for an infantry figure, you might want to paint in this order: pants/tunic, face, rifle/boots, backpacks/bags, headgear, straps, hands, buttons, etc. After you paint your figures, coat them with a light coat of Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Coat, remembering to shake well before using. This takes away the glossy effect of some paints (who ever saw a glossy paratrooper?) as well as protecting your paint job against heavy handling. Make sure not to use a glossy sealer, as this will leave a thick layer of shiny muck on your freshly painted figures!
NOTE! It has come to our attention that some people purposefully coat their figures with gloss sealer because they enjoy the shiny depth that the gloss coat lends to the appearance of the finished figures. It should fairly be noted here that a heavy gloss coat does indeed accentuate the vividness of paint schemes, especially those for periods already known for brightly colors uniforms like the Napoleonic, Seven Years War and others.

How to #2: For ship models (both historical and sci-fi) you should start by painting the basic hull color. Some ships, such as those from the turn of the century, have elaborate painting schemes which require careful painting, or at least attention to what colors the various section of the ship were painted. Painting the deck and other hull details almost last usually works well. For this, use a flat brush, with strokes going outward, from inner edge to outer edge. Trying to paint the deck along the edge (down the length) of the ship usually results in an uneven border. As before, coat finished vessels with a coat of Figure Flat sealer.