Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Process Part Four: Drybrushing

Drybrushing is an inherently messy process, so I do it all before block painting. That way I can cover any over-brushing with my base coat.

Three of the uniforms have red-tipped green plumes. I want the green to really pop, so I add a little pale yellow to my green.

The drybrushing itself goes quickly. The contrast between the dark and light green is working well.

One uniform calls for red-tipped white plumes. I usually use Delta's "Oyster White" as it is mellower than straight white.

Once the green and white drybrushing are done, I start painting the plume tips brown to provide my contrast with red.

Red it one of the trickiest colors for me to paint. I have never found a craft paint that gives good enough coverage. For years I used Vallejo 70.957 "Flat Red," but they have reformulated their paints, and the new formula is not working for me. I picked up a few other bottles at the local gaming store, two of Vallejo's Game Color series and one of Citadel Technical. The Game Color "Scarlet Blood" ended up being just right.

The plume tips require a gentle touch. This is the slowest part of the drybrushing process.

For most 15mm figures' hair, I drybrush a dark brown shade directly over the black primer. This is the ever useful "Brown Iron Oxide" from Delta Ceramcoat. I tend to make the drybrush a little heavier here.

Delta's "Bambi Brown" acts as my drybrush shade for the calfskin backpacks. This step gets especially sloppy, but any mess get fixed in the next step.

It took three days, but the drybrushing is complete on all 468 figures.

 The next step is to block paint my base shade on all the figures. I'm not sure how much of this will be of interest, since presumable everyone viewing this blog is familiar with basic painting.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Process Part Three: Prepping for Drybrush

Now that the primer has cured, actual skilled painting can begin! 

I pride myself on historical accuracy. I have been compiling my reference library for 25 years now. If we can collectively know anything about uniforms and equipment, you can be sure I have the source in my library.

Whenever the French publisher "Histoire & Collections" releases a book, I snap it up. They do not usually last long, and they fetch huge prices on the secondary market. This one sells for only $20 on Amazon right now, but other volumes can fetch over $400 each.

I scan the uniform plates I want and copy them into a Word document. All the images I use stay in that document until I know my customer is pleased with the figures. This way if any concerns about accuracy arise, I have my sources right at hand.

My brushes serve different purposes in different stages of life. The leftmost container has the old, tired brushes that are only good for slopping heavy paint and drybrushing. The middle brushes are for enamels and more detailed blunt work. The right container has my first run brushes, suitable for detail painting.

This rotating paint rack holds 160 two ounce craft paint bottles. Most of my painting uses these inexpensive paints.

An old jam jar contains my cleaning water. I will use a Windsor and Newton Series 7 miniature brush, size 3, for this first step. Backpacks and red plumes get a basecoat of Delta Ceramcoat "Brown Iron Oxide," one of the more useful colors in my stable. Scratch paper from my office serves as my palette.

The last and most important tool is a good light source. I use this Ottlite, which I bought for about $20. I never wear magnifying glasses for painting. I my eyes cannot see the detail unaided, it is not going to be visible to anyone else either. 

I paint brown backpacks with the brown iron oxide. It dries fairly dark, providing a good base for the drybrush to follow.

Any red plumes also get this deep brown as a base. For green plumes I use DecoArt's "Evergreen," and white plumes get Delta Ceramcoat "Mudstone."

All 468 figures now have basecoats on backpacks, plumes, drum bodies, and eagles. After a night's curing, I will be able to start drybrushing.


Friday, May 14, 2021

The Process Part Two: Priming

Yesterday I grabbed my tools and primed John's French Guard infantry. After years of trial and error, I have come up with a decent process for getting a layer of primer on a lot of figures at once.

Ten to fifteen years ago I had a bunch of 1"x2" trim left over from a carpentry project. This, kids, was in the halcyon days of cheap lumber, so it didn't make much sense to return the unused boards. Instead I cut them into two foot lengths. I use those lengths to hold four popsicle sticks of figures, so I can prime 24 figures in one pass. Some blue painters' tape sticky-side-up keeps the popsicle sticks in place.

I live in a 100 year old house with a small back patio. That's where I prime my figures. I will spray indoors on very rare occasions, but never with a big job like this.

I wear a painting mask to keep the spray out of my nose, mouth and lungs. Exam gloves keep my hands from getting coated with paint. 

I have used cheap enamel spray paint for years, but it is getting tough to find. This project has exhausted my reserve of flat black.

Your humble hobbyist is kitted up and ready to spray. I give each group a smooth, continuous spray from 6-8" away. I approach the stick from the bottom left, bottom right, top left, and top right. Then I flip the stick and get the other side.

I do not know the science behind it (I suspect it has something to do with paint vapor saturating the surrounding air), but primer always dries better outdoors in moderate temperatures. I let the figures dry for a few hours, then repeat the whole spraying routine. The result is two this coats of primer. I almost always get complete coverage and never have gummy paint obscure the figures' details.

It took two batches, but I was able to prime all 468 figures. Is it too many to paint at once?


Tomorrow I will begin documenting my painting process. It will be specific to French Napoleonics in 15mm, but hopefully it will be of interest.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Process Part One: Prepping the Miniatures

John, for whom I am painting these large Napoleonic armies, requested a look at my process. I think that is a great idea! Get ready for way too much detail about how I take the figures from raw lead to based armies.

All of these pictures are of my actual working area. I did not clean or even tidy it up too much, so you will see coffee mug rings, glue stains, various paint flakes, etc. I work at this space every day for at least three hours. It is a well lived-in space, and these pictures reflect that.

To my left I have a tall bookshelf that I built myself. The top two shelves are committed to storing my various commissions. Most of this stuff is for Carl's Weird War II project (more to come). The two plastic bins to the left are labelled "John Maguire French" and "John Maguire British." The stack of papers between the two bins contains all my typed notes on the project.

This is my workspace. To the left are some shelves holding Vallejo paints, brushes, some glues, and figures in various states of completion. To the right is my revolving carousel of craft paints. The computer entertains me while I paint, either with YouTube videos, Great Courses lectures, or audiobooks.

The papers here list the contents of John's French army by unit and figure codes. When the figures arrived from Eureka USA, I counted them, checked for any damage, and sorted them by unit. Here we have the Old Guard grenadiers and chasseurs.

I usually just use a hobby knife to cut casting marks off the figures. I make sure they stand upright and don't have any obvious flaws. I will clean flash from between legs, but I won't rescuplt the figure. Fortunately, AB Miniatures are always well cast.

My friend Austin got me started replacing the soft metal flagpoles on all my figures. Now I do this on all my commissions as well. It is laborious, but it makes for much more robust command stands. I cut the existing flag pole from the figure, use a pin vise to drill holes in hands and eagle, and cut brass rod to size. Super glue works just fine to keep the flagpole in place.

France's Old Guard is sorted by pose and ready for the next step.

I have read that I am wasting my time by washing the figures, but I find this step absolutely necessary. The casting process always results in a thin residue. Hot water, a mild dishwashing soap, and gentle agitation seem to do the trick. Before I started washing my figures, I frequently had paint rub away from the bare metal. Since I started washing, I have never had rubbing or flaking.

I will be painting the whole French Guard infantry, 468 figures, at one go. I know many painters who base figures individually for painting. I find that basing them on temporary painting sticks makes it much easier to paint in quantity. I use wide popsicle sticks and Elmer's Glue-All.

I always label the underside of the sticks so I know whet I am painting. Sure, I can tell an unpainted French line fusilier from a guard grenadier, but I cannot always tell a grenadier from a chasseur at a glance.

I sort the infantry by pose and glue six figures per stick. The Glue-All provides a solid enough bond that the figures do not fall off during painting, but the bond is weak enough that I can remove the figures with my hands when they are done.

Once the glue cures (usually overnight), these figures are ready for priming. Here we have two battalions each of Old Guard grenadiers and chasseurs, plus skirmishers.


I hope this was of some use. I know I always enjoy seeing other painters' techniques. Tomorrow I will document my priming process.

Monday, May 10, 2021

15mm French Artillery

What does every army need? Big guns! These 22 guns and crew provide the full complement for John's French army.

French Line Foot 6-pdrs

French Line Foot 12-pdrs

French Line Horse 6-pdrs

French Guard Foot 12-pdrs

Saxon Foot 6-pdrs

Polish Foot 6-pdrs


Now I turn to the infantry: guard first, line second.