Tuesday, 20 December 2016

AWI: The ABC, Paint By Numbers, Lazy Way to Paint 1/72 Scale AWI

I am perhaps too impatient for this hobby, which lets face it, is several hobbies combined into one. There's: collecting, modelling, painting, military history, and gaming.

When my grandiose and narcissistic internal workings alight upon a new period or set of figures, or even a new rule set, I don't think "yea, just a couple of units, made up of a few figures will do', oh no... I see a giant table covered in many, many units from both sides and detailed terrain, with at least four players a side playing, and I want all of it right then and there - because I don't get out much.

When it comes to painting, I try to do as much as I can, with as little effort and in as short as time as possible - including commissions when I have the cash spare.

So here's my quick and easy way for painting those AWI nobs in their white tights and powdered wigs, for a decent 'arms-length and a little closer' kind of finish - I like to think of it as an 'optimised' approach.

Prep Work
Make sure you take the time to flash the figures (removing mould lines) and to mount them for painting.

I use strips of cardboard or ice-lolly sticks, and white glue to mount the figures for painting: 4 - 6 figures per stick. Do not underestimate the amount of time this type of mounting will save during painting, by drastically reducing the amount of handling (picking up, putting down, changing hold positions).

Unless painting a whole heap of different figure poses, try and mount the figures of the same poses together on the sticks.

Step One: White Undercoat

Spray the little suckers white - don't paint the undercoat on. For me sprayed undercoat provides a nice even base for subsequent layers and although I do use a brush sometimes, painting the undercoat on never works so well with 1/72 plastic figures (even after washing), so requires several goes at it and it just drives me crazy.

But as most of the strapping and uniform is actually white and the facings are mostly bright or pale colours, don't set yourself up for hours of painting coat upon coat to cover a dark undercoat. The next step will produce any overall shading you require.

Step Two: Washing or Paint By Numbers
These are some of the most complex uniforms to paint so make it easy on yourself. Over the white undercoat do a thin (really thin) wash of deep blue-grey, I use Citidel's 'The Fang'.

This sets me up in two ways:
- it provides a decent shading for white areas and equipment.
- it clearly picks out all the detail in little blocks like a 'paint-by-numbers' puzzle.

This will increase painting efficiency as you can plan how to paint the figure as you go and get guided lines to help steady your strokes.

I also apply a thin black wash over the musket/weapons, hands, face, and helmet/hat to provide a deeper shading in these areas.

Step Three: Block the Suckers Out
Now just block paint the coat, wastecoat, and trousers/tights, facings and cuffs the appropriate colours. For the coat, for medium to dark tones, I almost wash it with a fairly thick wash, letting the white undercoat come through. With the white I leave the blue-grey in the deep crevices of the molded details, to immediately cause shading.

For each block colour I use a two step process. First I identify larger areas of block work and use a medium sized brush, then I identify the small areas of blockwork and use a detailing brush.

To be fair, apart from mistakes, errant splotches, and anally retentive finishing, the white parts of the uniform are finished at this point.

I apply a wash over the coat area using a Citadel shade slightly darker than the original block colour. This provides shading for non-white areas and ties in the block work. I also highlight darker shaded coats.

Step Four: Pick Out The Highlights
Probably the most time intensive step but the steps up to this point have paved the way to do each highlight area/item quickly using a detailing brush.

For detailing I usually follow this general sequence: webbing/straps, equipment, hat/helmet, musket, facings, wigs.

The last lot of detailing I do is the flesh, to which I also apply a dark red wash over the face.

The absolutely last things I do are the command and musicians, they need a bit more focus than most troops.

Many of the musicians of the period have 'reversed coats', with the facings/cuffs and coat colour of their regiment reversed - this was to make them stand out to the enemy nice and obvious like...

I was going to write that reversed coats for musicians was a general rule of thumb but came up with more exceptions to the rule. So to the best of my knowledge:
- British Line Musicians: reversed coats
- French Musicians: royal blue coats and facings/cuffs the same as their regiment
- German Musicians: same as their regiment
- British Guard Musicians: same as regiment or reversed, check as per actual regiment
- Loyalist Musicians: (if uniformed) some reversed others the same as regiment**
- American Continental Musicians*: reversed coats unless they don't**
- American Militia*: um... lucky to have uniforms, wing it or research

* early on British uniforms were used, especially for officers and musicians, so would be red with whatever facing/cuff colour they could nick, er borrow, er commandeer.
** more likely to be uniformly dressed and better uniformed to the standard of the day (reversed coats) in the later part of the war

Step Five: Clean Up, Base, and Varnish
Fix up any errant brush strokes made during any of the steps above and call it quits. Then its off the mounting sticks, onto the bases and off for a matt varnish; my basing method is just as driven by impatience BTW.

I tend to play with the figures on the base without any glue to start with, as a dry run until I like how they look; then use white glue to fix them to the base(s).

Once the glue for the figures is dry use white glue and fine miniature pebbles stuff to create random splotches of roughness.

Paint the base and rough areas with a watered down dark brown; as long as the rough areas have a good coverage, the rest only needs a wash - note the water dilution helps get into the rough areas.

Flock using white glue and a pretty grass mix of flock - don't flock or glue the rough areas.

Gently drybrush the rough areas with tan, buff or similar, and mount the standard if there is one. Note some of the pebbles will come off, just patch it up with a splotch of paint.

Then spray with a matt varnish - I use the Army Painter Anti-Shine. For 1/72 figures with particularly bendy plastic, before varnishing I paint a layer of white glue on weapons and other pointy, bendy, bits. This will help prevent paint from cracking and coming off when areas bend during games, storage, and transport.

All in all I think I can churn out a 20mm (1/72) AWI Black Powder battalion in about 3 - 6 hours using this method (that's not elapsed time - so not counting drying time and prep, watching TV, eating, riding, sleeping, or browsing porn), including basing and depending on the colours of the uniform, which isn't too bad at all.

But having reviewed all the steps, it doesn't seem that quick now!

How To Paint Properly
Also for a really good and professional finish and to check out how to actually paint properly, then check Le Chasseur's excellent 28mm Napoleonics and painting guides. Otherwise pass me the next box of figures, I've got another twenty units to do. :)

PS: sometimes this method does not immediately give rise to great looking figures and it really is about building up shading and highlights - like proper methods - no matter what the primary colour is. The picture below demonstrates both these points - snapped after the blocking and shading work was completed for a bright red New Jersey unit with a dark blue coat.

Note: it was over 25 degrees Celsius when I did the first blue-grey and black washes and they didn't dry well at all, literally producing the reverse finish than I'd intended - darkening high points.


  1. I like it. Always good to see how others work, especially those you're painting figures for. ;)

    I'm experimenting with a new method of painting, of which some of your AWI minis are guinea pigs. Don't worry, I have done lots of research first (ie; read 3 or 4 blogs where it was mentioned). haha

    A post will be forthcoming enlightening my 2 readers. :D

  2. Really excellent tutorial Dave, and thanks for the shout out! :)

  3. Good stuff. When will they be ready for a game then?

  4. Cool look forward to it Spiro and thanks guys, no prob Chasseur. A while yet Nick, probably need another 5 or 6 units finished for Americans, some command figs... and artillery... and some cav... :)