Friday, February 22, 2008

Still No Painting

I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand three weeks ago. What a pain. I had to wear a rigid half cast for two and a half weeks, and I just swapped it out for this new bandage. I'm still numb in much of my right hand, so I really can't paint. On Monday I'm having the left hand done. With only one barely functional hand, I won't be able to update the blog much for the next month.

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.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Napoleonic Austrian Personalities, 28mm

When I bought my big box of Old Glory Austrian lead, I bought the personalities pack by mistake. I already had the Foundry Austrian personalities, so I just wanted the run-of-the-mill Austrian generals, not the high command. Once I saw these figures in person, I packed up the Foundry figures and put them aside. These are some of the most beautiful figures I've ever seen. I just wish my painting could do them justice.


This is the standard Austrian dress uniform for Generals. When I first painted this figure, I painted his eyes, but I found that I liked the shaded look better.


The first of many cloaked generals. The cloaks were a nice break from all the lace and bright colors of most Napoleonics, but it was a challenge to make them interesting.


I love this figure. The drape of the cloak is very realistic. The undercutting beneath the right hand really makes this figure three dimensional. The pose is very realistic. In paintings, generals always balance upon a rearing stallion, gesturing heroically toward the enemy. In life, I'm sure the generals looked more like this: just containing their emotion, staring intently at a contest to see the result.


Here's the heroic pose! This figure would look right at home in any of those romantic paintings. I like this guy too. He really stands out on the table.

Hiller and Charles

Hiller and Charles, another view

These are two more great figures. Both were very easy to paint. You can see in these pictures how I varied the colors of the generals' cloaks. No two are exactly the same shade, which makes them look a little better as a group. The Charles figure really captures something of the archduke's personality: confident and impatient, perfect for the battles of 1809.

Group Shot

So here they are, the generals for my 1809 Austrians. These army and corps commanders are slumming it up on my table, playing brigade commanders in Nordmann's vanguard.

The mistaken order I made in June has really worked out well for me. I know everyone loves Foundry, but the Old Glory Austrian personalities are better figures than their Foundry counterparts.

Napoleonic Austrian Artillery, 28mm

These are more figures from my 28mm Piquet project. I painted three foot batteries and two horse batteries. I used Old Glory crew for most of my guns and Sash and Saber for one of my horse batteries.

Old Glory Austrian Gunners, Sash and Saber Guns

The Old Glory gunners are in full dress. As with my French army, I used Sash and Saber guns. They are correctly scaled for the figures, which the Old Glory guns are not.

Austrian artillery had yellow woodwork with black fittings. Even the barrels were supposed to be black. I figured that by 1809 these guns would have seen some rough handling, so I drybrushed the fittings silver and made the barrel bronze.

Sash and Saber Gunners, Front Rank Guns

The Sash and Saber gunners are slightly smaller than their Old Glory counterparts, but it's really not too noticeable. The figures are a little better than Old Glory, but again, not too much. I enjoyed painting these a great deal. They're the only non-Old Glory men in either army.

The guns are from Front Rank, the only company that makes 28mm horse guns for the Austrians. They cost $12.50 each, while my Sash and Saber guns cost $12.50 for two. I don't like the guns as well as S&S. They seem a little cartoonish.

Friday, February 8, 2008

French Napoleonics, 28mm

This is an older project, one I worked on last summer. I've always enjoyed the bright colors of Napoleonic armies, so I decided to paint some in 28mm. I figured that the larger figures would allow for more detail than my 15mm armies, and I was right. Piquet's Field of Battle is a great rules set for solo gaming, so I based my figures for it. I decided to build French and Austrian armies for the 1809 campaign. My French force is based on Morand's III Corps division. My Austrian force is based on Nordmann's Vanguard.

I set myself a strict time limit. I started in mid-June, and I would have both armies finished by the end of September. This was ambitious, but I got it all done on time. My French army has 204 foot figures, 30 mounted figures, and eight guns. The Austrian army has 270 foot figures, 30 mounted figures, and ten guns.

With a grand total of 474 foot, 60 horse, and 18 guns, I decided to use Old Glory figures. Anything else would have bankrupted me. I had heard many negative things about Old Glory's Napoleonics line, but I was pleased with the sample pack I ordered.

French Line Infantry in Bicornes
(Click on any picture for a larger version)

I knew that I wanted a mix of bicornes and shakos in my army. I chose the defending pose for my bicorne troops. I painted six battalions of these guys, and they definitely look like solid troops. Some of the faces look a little . . . canine. Like they have snouts. That might just be the sculptor's idea of a Gallic nose. The elite companies look great, especially the grenadiers in their imposing bearskins. Some of the flag poles were too bendy, so I clipped them off and used Old Glory long spear shafts instead. This eagle bearer has one of my modified staffs.

French Line Infantry in Shakos

I chose the advancing pose for my shako infantry. This is the classic Napoleonic French infantry uniform, the image that most gamers associate with "Napoleonic French infantry." I like these poses the best of all the French infantry packs I bought. The command figures are especially good. The shako cords are well detailed, which makes them easy to paint. I have six battalions of these troops.

French Legere in Shako with Front Plume

I'm not sure just how good the French light infantry was by 1809. I class them as "regular" and don't give them any skirmishing advantages over the line regiments. But there's no denying that their uniforms look sharp. I was very happy with these figures in the bare metal and even happier with how they painted up. I used the same shades of blue on them as I used on the line infantry's jackets, since I'm not convinced that the legere worse a lighter blue. I painted three battalions of these light infantry.

French Foot Artillery

Those infantry brigades get their long-range punch from my three foot batteries. The crews are Old Glory, but I was very disappointed with the Old Glory guns. They're in true 25 scale, which doesn't work at all with Old Glory's gun crews. The shaft of the rammer, for example, has a larger diameter than the gun barrel. Not the bore: the barrel. Fortunately, Merrimack/Old Glory Shipyard also stocks the Sash and Saber line. I ended up using Sash and Saber for all my French guns and my Austrian foot guns. The Old Glory gunners are great, full of detail with a wide variety of poses.

French Hussars

My French cavalry brigade includes the 5th Hussars, and Old Glory's hussars are very nice. I got a little frustrated trying to find the correct colors for the shako cords and plume, the trim on the sheepskin, and the sabretaches. When I couldn't find definitive answers, I went with what made sense from what I did know about other regiments. All my cavalry units get horses of the same color, except the colonel and trumpeter. Most Napoleonic cavalry regulations called for similar horse colors within each squadron, and I wanted to capture that look with my wargame figures.

French Chasseurs a Cheval

My cavalry brigade has two chasseurs a cheval regiments, the 11th and 12th. After painting the hussars, these seemed to take no time at all. I made the hunter green uniforms quite a bit brighter than they would have been in real life, because I really wanted the colors to pop off the table. The Old Glory figures are outstanding. The hussars may be more flashy, but I like the look of these regiments better.

French Horse Artillery

The cavalry brigade gets a single battery of horse artillery to support it. Just as with the Old Glory foot gunners, the horse gunners are nice, active sculpts with good detail and variety. Again I used Sash and Saber guns. I made the woodwork fairly dark, at least compared with other wargaming figures I've seen. Most people do a greenish yellow, but almost all of my painting resources show a dark green, similar to Union guns in the Civil War.

French Generals

The Old Glory French generals pack is one of my favorites, mostly for its humor. The four figures on the right are the standard general poses: pointing, brandishing sword, reading a map, and peering through a telescope. It's the two figures on the left that make this pack so fun. One general is taking a swig from a flask, perhaps to steel his nerves before he goes into battle. Or maybe it's to drown his sorrows afterwards. The other pose has an anguished expression, with the general holding his bare head in disbelief. It looks like he just saw his aggressive assault smashed to pieces, the survivors limping back to their own lines.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

15mm Napoleonic Austrian Infantry

My biggest current project is the Austrian army at Wagram for Age of Eagles rules. This is a huge undertaking: 1200 infantry, 162 cavalry, 48 guns, limbers and crews, and 42 mounted officers. Of course, the bulk of the Austrian army are the line infantry in their notorious white uniform. Notorious because they're monotonous and because white is very difficult to paint.

Battle Honors German Infantry

These were my first Austrians, painted a couple years ago. They're lovely sculpts, but you see the problem right away. My standard blacklining technique looks silly where all those straps meet in the chest. They're serviceable as is, but about 60% of my army will be made up of these guys I want my army to look better than this.

Minifigs German Infantry

This is more like it: clean, simple, uncluttered. I love Minifigs. They don't have the impressionistic mess on their chest, but . . . although I love Minifigs, these particular figures didn't do it for me. Partly it was the lack of pack and blanket roll. Partly it was the blacklining technique. It just doesn't look good with white. But partly it was the cost. Minifigs are some of the most expensive figures out there. Still, for a few months I fiddled around with these figures, planning on using them for my whole army. As it is, my vanguard and I Korps are all Minifigs.

Old Glory German Infantry

And here is where I had my real breakthrough. I bought some Old Glory and just didn't see how blacklining could work with all those folds. I experimented with painting these as I would a 28mm Austrian: a basecoat of mudstone followed by highlighting with white. They looked great, and because I was just picking out highlights with the white instead of carefully painting neat lines for each strap, these painted much faster than either the Battle Honors or Minifigs.

You know, looking at these images, I don't see that the Old Glory figures are clearly superior. In fact, close up like this, they look the worst of the three. But believe me, on the table, these figures sing. I'll have to find a way to show that in photographs. I think you can get an idea from the group photo below.

Comparison: Battle Honors, Minifigs, and Old Glory

The figures are all pretty close in size. You can see here why I still love Minifigs. Look at the iron discipline! They actually look like trained troops. Imagine how professional a whole corps looks! I'll have to get a good shot of that and post it on the blog.

Pictures like this, and like the comparison of mounted troops below, show how silly that old question is: "Are X's 15mm figures compatible with Y's 15mm figures?" As long as you don't mix them within units, the answer is always yes. And the real noticeable difference here is not in height, but style. The Minifigs are the same height as the other two ranges, but they're clearly more realistically proportioned.

Old Glory Austrian Landwehr

Any 1809 Austrian army is going to need a big chunk of landwehr. Fortunately, they're quick and easy to paint. Old Glory does a nice mix of uniforms for the citizen militia.

As an aside, isn't it funny how seeing figures can remind you of what you were doing while you painted them? I always like to have something on TV or the radio while I paint, and that middle stand was painted while I listened to my alma mater's hapless football team get just stomped. I have a set of 1/35 panzergrenadieren who I painted while watching "Much Ado about Nothing" over and over. Whenever I see that unit, I think of Kenneth Branagh in Tuscany.

Old Glory German Grenadiers

So you've probably gathered by now that I like Old Glory figures. I think they get a bum rap from lead snobs who think that good quality and high price must go together. $.15 a figure? Well, they can't touch my $.72 a figure ABs!

I always wonder how these people ever afford an army. This Wagram project is already pretty expensive using Old Glory figures. With my special buyers' membership, it cost me $216 for infantry, $115 for mounted figures, $72 for guns, and $144 for limbers. This is a $550 project, and that isn't exactly chump change. With AB, it would cost well over $1400.

And I just don't see a huge difference in quality. The AB figures are very nice. But you know, everyone's figures are pretty nice.

Except sometimes I get a pack like these German grenadiers. Ugh. Every negative thing you've heard about Old Glory figures is on full display. Ugly proportions? Check. Scrambled eggs? Check. Pinched faces? Check. Obnoxious "scurrying" pose? Check.

These are supposed to be the elite of the Austrian army, and they're the worst figures of the whole range. Look, part of the reason these look so bad is because I was experimenting with speed painting. The stand on the left got grey primer (I usually use black) with a drybrush of white to pick up the detail. The faces are just a blob of flesh paint. But I tried hard on the stand on the right. The figures are so bad, it didn't make much of a difference. These big, burly grenadiers are actually shorter than the Old Glory German line.

So I've pretty much decided to go with AB for my grenadiers. It'll cost a whole lot more, but for four elite brigades, it's probably worth it.

"But Scott," you might be thinking, "that's a good wargame standard paintjob. And those figures don't look so bad. I'd be glad to play a game with those."

Well mister, you're just the man I'm looking for. Leave a comment, drop me an email, or just shout really loud. Get in touch with me somehow. Because I'm more than willing to sell these figures off. I haven't sold any of my painted figures for a long time. But for these guys, I'm willing to resurrect the practice.

15mm Napoleonic Austrian Artillery

For Wagram, my Austrians need a lot of guns. Even if I eliminate the brigade batteries, I'll still need something like 45 batteries. Fortunately, I've been able to cobble together various eBay auctions with extra gunners to field the whole force.

Old Glory Austrian Artillery in Service Dress

All my gunners will be Old Glory, both from this pack and the full dress pack.

Old Glory Austrian Limbers

I love the look of limbers in games, but I hate paying for them and painting them. Why do limbers invariably cost twice as much as guns? By picking up spare packs of Minifigs limbers, using extra Old Glory horses, and finding a heck of an eBay deal on limbers, I can just field enough for my army. Now I just have to paint the darned things.

15mm Napoleonic Austrian Generals

Of course, my army needs commanders. Age of Eagles, my rules set for 15mm Napoleonics, requires division command (1 figure), corps command (3 figures), and army command (5 figures) stands. I have officer figures from Minifigs, Battle Honors/AB, and Old Glory. The OG figures will have to wait another six weeks until I recover from my carpal tunnel surgery.

Minifigs Mounted Officers

Minifigs doesn't make a set of Austrian generals, as I found out when I bought their "Austrian Mounted Officers" pack. Instead, we get battalion or regimental commanders in the 1798 helmet, the 1806 shako, and the grenadiers' bearskin. Still, they're nice figures, and I needed some generals, so I gave them the cherry red breeches of an Austrian general and made them division commanders. I'm not so sure division commanders wouldn't have worn this headgear, and it's nice to be able to pick out the commanders of my two grenadier divisions on the table.

AB Figures Archduke Charles and Staff

I picked up this set on eBay for $4. The seller had them listed as Battle Honors figures, and they came in a sealed Battle Honors blister pack, but they look identical to this AB pack. Battle Honors does have a set of Austrian generals, but I doubt that they are these figures. Probably my eBay find was a relic from the days when Anthony Barton and Battle Honors were parting company.

This is a beautiful command set. The poses are very natural. I really like the chevauxleger standing by to relay messages. The generals show a nice variety of dress, and they look like they're observing an action from a safe distance.

Size Comparison

Here are some mounted Austrians from different companies. From left to right we have AB dragoons, Old Glory hussars, Minifigs colonel, and Battle Honors/AB general. The AB, Battle Honors, and Old Glory fit perfectly. The Minifigs officer is a little smaller, but to be honest, I hadn't even noticed until I lined them up to take pictures. I have no problem mixing these figures in my army.

15mm Napoleonic Austrian Hussars

I like painting all figures in all periods. I have painted everything from ancient Egypt through the US Army of the 1990s. I have armies in 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 1/72, 28mm, and 54mm. I have only been painting for ten years, but I've managed to at least sample every scale and every period.

Last summer I built a 28mm Napoleonic Austrian army. I know, I know. How did I avoid snow blindness? Well, it was partly by wearing my Ray-Bans, but it was mostly through taking breaks to paint some of the Austrians' more colorful units.

And there are no more colorful European units in the Napoleonic Wars than the Austrian Hussars. They were the originals; every other country imitated the Hungarian horsemen. The Austrian hussars performed admirably throughout the Napoleonic Wars. If a game or scenario designer rates them anything less than elite, you can safely assume that designer has an anti-Austrian bias.

My first Austrian hussars were the Hesse-Homburg Hussaren, and I fell in love. Hard. I admired the cut of that uniform in a way that made me very uncomfortable. The apple green jackets. The bright blue shako. The cherry red breeches. The gold and black braid. What could be more beautiful? When I die, I want my Hesse-Homburg Hussaren lacquered and affixed to my tombstone so that future generations will know that I experienced some beauty in my life.

So when it came time to build Austrians in 15mm, I dove right in to the hussars. And they've left me a little cold. It's not the figures. It's not the colors. It's just that 15mm may be too small to capture the awesome splendor of the Austrian hussars. Maybe I was meant to paint 28mm Napoleonics instead.

The figures are Old Glory "Austrian Hussars / Full Dress / Reserve." They're fine. There isn't a thing wrong with these figures. Nothing I can point to and say "that's a little disappointing." But they just don't have the magic.

Stipsicz Hussars
Click pictures for larger images.

Palatin Hussars

Old Glory Republican Roman Cavalry

Old Glory makes two sets of Roman cavalry for the Punic Wars, one armored and one unarmored. The armored figures are wearing a muscle cuirass, which I find unlikely dress for my Second Punic War army. I'll be using Crusader figures for my armored Romans. The unarmored figures are likely to represent the allied cavalry in my army.

The Old Glory figures are dressed in a simple tunic with a sword belt. They are wearing a Greek-influenced helmet, so they have a distinctly southern-Italian feel. These cavalrymen are definitely at the charge, and their poses look very natural--not the over activity of which Old Glory is sometimes accused. The shields are particularly nice, with rivets along the shield crest.

I painted these figures using Delta Ceramcoats with Testors enamels for the metals. I knew that the figures in their plain tunics would be a bit bland, so I really focused on making their shields and helmets to pop. The shields got a drybrush in Testors silver. I painted the shield faces midnight blue, painted the designs with opaque yellow, then shaded the base color with twilight blue and blue stoneware. The skin started with toffee brown, which I highlighted with medium flesh. Tunics received a basecoat of cinnamon with shading of tompte red and dusty rose. I painted the helmets with brown iron oxide, then carefully painted the raised areas with Testors gold.

The three poses in the Old Glory pack.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Pose 1
This pose shows my flesh colors pretty well. Look at that kneecap to see how they complement each other.

Pose 2
I need to hit this guy with some more Dullcote. His lacquer is showing. This is my favorite of the three poses.

Pose 3
You can really see the tunic highlights on this guy.

The finished unit.
You can really see the shields well here. By using the rivets and shield boss as reference points, I was able to paint pretty uniform designs.

The figures look great once they're painted. The only real negative about this pack is that it doesn't contain any command figures. I'll have to paint a pack of Crusader Roman command for this unit.