Monday, February 18, 2008

World War II American Infantry, NW Europe

When a local hobby store stopped carrying historical miniatures, I bought all their stock of 28mm World War II figures. They had carried Black Tree Design for so long, the packs were still marked "Harlequin." The codes have changed over the years, so I can't give current pack numbers for these figures.

I used Delta Ceramcoat craft paint for this entire project. I know how difficult it is to make appropriate colors for World War II uniforms from craft paints, so I'll list all the steps I took. Hopefully this can show how easy it is to produce realistic World War II figures with inexpensive paints.

Kneeling rifleman, side (click on any picture for a larger image)

Kneeling rifleman, front

I usually make a prototype figure whenever I start a new army. It helps me get the colors right without destroying a whole unit if I make a mistake. I use Delta Ceramcoats for all my figures, and for World War II, that means I'm mixing my own colors. I got the olive drab by mixing black, yellow, and tangerine, which I lightened or darkened as needed for shading and highlighting. All webbing and leggings started with territorial tan, with highlights mixed with white. The trousers and shirt are a mix of dark brown, toffee brown, and black, highlighted by mixing white. The helmet started dark forest green, with medium foliage green and avocado mixed in for highlights.

I used a pin vise to make a bore in the Garand's muzzle, then mixed a gunmetal color from silver, black, and opaque blue. I touched up raised metal areas with unmixed silver. The rifle stock is brown iron oxide, unaltered.

I apply my own mix of flesh base tone to any skin. My mix is a combination of toffee brown, territorial tan, and dark brown. If you don't feel like mixing, unaltered toffee brown works very well. I hit the main surface with medium fleshtone, then pick out raised areas with fleshtone. I usually don't paint eyes on 28mm figures, especially if they're wearing helmets. Even when skillfully done, it just doesn't look right.

The base is a 1" wooden disk I bought at Michael's. I painted the disk dark brown, flocked with Woodland Scenics brown medium ballast and summer mix static grass, and used tacky glue to affix some medium talus and clump foliage. I sprayed the figure twice with a clear lacquer to seal the figure and the flocking, then sprayed with Testor's dullcote to take away the sheen.

The prototype figure sat alone for a few months as I worked on other projects. In October I entered him in an IPMS sanctioned regional modeling competition. I received a gold ribbon for this figure, and he was runner up for the Best Figure award.

In November I painted the rest of the squad. This was a two day project. I decided that my prototype looked a little too fresh and well-rested, so I added a five o'clock shadow on all the other figures. I did this by adding charcoal to my medium fleshtone. I also mixed a little red with my medium fleshtone to pick out the lips. I used Dresden flesh to add a fourth highlight layer to the skin tones.

On the uniforms, I went from two tone shading to four tones by adding a little white to each layer. I made the web gear a little lighter to hint at greater wear and tear. I painted metal fittings with Testor's enamel gold, as I know from experience how quickly the blacking rubs off in the field.

The helmet webbing was the toughest thing to get right, and I'm still not completely happy with it. The actual webbing was olive drab, but that just doesn't show enough contrast in this scale. The color I settled on is very similar to the base color of the webbing.

The only change I made to the bases was to switch to an autumn blend static grass.


BAR gunner, front

BAR gunner, side

The BAR was the trickiest of the weapons. With all that gunmetal, it took a delicate touch to keep it from looking too dark or too bright. I was very careful to pull out the raised metal areas with silver where they would have experienced a lot of wear, like the bipod feet, the trigger guard, the gas regulator, and the magazine. On the front view, you can see where I drilled out the bore.

Veteran Rifleman

This figure has a lot of character: a crusty old veteran, for sure. The Jeep cap got the same base color as the trousers and shirt, then a drybrush of territorial tan and Bambi brown. The cigar leaf is brown iron oxide. The ash is charcoal highlighted with mouse grey. You can't see it in the picture, but there are dots of tangerine around the base of the ash to show the embers. I glued a wisp of cotton to the end, but it didn't survive the lacquer. On this picture, you can clearly see the four colors on the field jacket.

Rifleman 1

This figure provides a good look at the sling. I started with a dark olive drab and just touched the edges with my lightest highlight color.

Rifleman 2, front

Grenades got the same treatment as the helmets. The shading is very subtle, and in these pictures it's hard to make out. What worked well on the large surface of the helmet gets lost a little in the small surface of the grenades. When I do my next batch of Americans, I'll probably add a little white to my highlight to really bring out the pineapple pattern.

Rifleman 2, side

This is probably my favorite pose in the bunch. The sculptor (Nick Collier, I believe) did a great job portraying the tension of an infantryman advancing into danger. I'm very proud of the face on this figure. That's the very best I can do, and I think it looks damned good.

Rifleman 3

This shot shows the highlighting on the rifle very well. I was able to pick out the muzzle, front sight, rear sight, and trigger guard on every weapon. The BTD figures are well detailed.

Rifleman 4, side

Rifleman 4, front

Rifleman 4, back

A number of the figures are in light kit, which really allowed me to use shading to create depth in the field jacket. You can also see how I picked out the figure's knuckles with Dresden flesh.

Rifleman 5, front

Rifleman 5, side

This is another figure that demanded careful work on the field jacket. I like this pose a great deal. This guy is definitely moving forward, but he's wary. Even his expression is suspicious.

The Black Tree Design figures are top notch. Together, these men make a convincing looking squad. I've read reviews of BTD figures that describe them as "cartoonish," but I thought these poses looked very natural. We don't have any men rushing forward and embracing death. Instead we have a bunch of tense soldiers moving cautiously forward.

The Delta Ceramcoats are very easy to mix. With a little work, they can match any hobby paint, and they're only $1.29 per 2 oz. bottle.

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