Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Getting your whites right and other chores

Posted by Martin on June 13, 2009

The now-famous Andrea white paint set.

The now-famous Andrea white paint set.

June is always a hectic month at BfK HQ but this year seems more frenzied than ever. On top of the usual family birthdays this week, I’ve been cracking on with the updates to the Calpe website, proof-reading Peter F’s painting guide for the Saxon musketeers and grenadiers, writing some more of my Wargames Illustrated article and trying to complete my paint trials in readiness for getting stuck into the job of painting up the first battalion.

The white palette trials seem as good a place to start as any. As you know, I’ve been introduced to the Andrea white paint set and I’ve now completed my experiments. It’s a dangerous temptation to have a set of six pre-mixed shades in front of you on the workbench (see photo above). After all, six colours means six layers, right? Well, I was able to resist that extreme option but I did initially go for using four out of the six colours on the trousers of a test figure. It was fun at the time but after a couple of days reflection I reached the conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient difference between each shade.

So that meant the poor test figure had to suffer the ignomy of having his trousers scrubbed clean with hot water and an old toothbrush! The second experiment was a more conventional three layer job. The base coat was the second shade colour from the set (i.e. the darkest of the six – leftmost in the photo above); the first highlight was the base colour from the set (third from the left in the photo above) and the second highlight was the third highlight colour (i.e. straight white – rightmost in the photo above). I opted for two thin layers of each colour as opposed to a single thicker layer.

Successful white trousers!

Successful white trousers!

The test figure has spent most of the rest of this week being dragged round the house by me and viewed under various different light sources. And the conclusion is that I’m satisfied with the outcome. In fact, I’m more than satisfied with the whole experiment. At last I think I have three shades that work as a palette for white and all three of them come from paints that don’t go chalky. Oh yeah – look right for a photo of the results.

Reviewing Peter F’s painting guide has got me thinking about the blue palette I had previously settled on for the Saxon officers’ surtouts. Before, I’d be visualizing a sky blue as the target to aim for but Peter’s notes describe the colour as a grey-blue, the figures he is painting at the moment are definitely a grey-blue rather than a sky one and (this is the clincher) Peter Bunde’s plates for the Saxon infantry regiments also indicate a particular shade of grey-blue. A pity really, because I was pretty damned proud of the pair of officer’s trousers that I’d painted the other week. Still, all is not lost: two of the colours from my intended palette will still serve well and I’ve identified a suitable candidate for the third colour. Once I’ve re-painted the trousers of the officer in question, I’ll post details here.

A slight digression follows.

Peter F. intends to sell relevant Peter Bunde Brigade plates alongside his painting guide. If you haven’t seen these plates before, then I urge you to investigate them. Peter B. is German and therefore has easier access than many to primary research materials in German museums, archives and collections. Naturally, the fact that German is his first language also makes it easy for him to correctly interpret these sources. The result is that the Brigade plates are a stunning uniformology resource that mainly (but not exclusively) covers German states of the Napoleonic period. Each A4 plate covers one particular unit in extensive detail.

For example, the plate about the Saxon Prinz Friedrich August infantry regiment is on my desk at the moment. It illustrates the the flags carried by the two battalions; uniforms for musketeers, NCOs, sappers, musicians and officers; shako details; rank distinctions; the shabraque for mounted officers; the aforementioned grey-blue surtout; examples of campaign uniform and other details like cartridge cases and forage caps. The plate comes with a page of notes translated into English with a full list of the sources used by Peter B.

Digression over.

The last area of work this week has been the Wargames Illustrated article. I have to confess to a little procrastination on this front but I’ve got thing back on track and I’ve completed almost half of the article now. Most of what’s left is planned out and there’s only one section that I’m not particularly looking forward to because it calls for some research that feels a bit too much like exam revision for my taste. Still, I could get the thing finished next week with a solid final push. Dan’ll be pleased to hear that if he’s reading this.

PS: who spotted photos of von Peter and ADC Simon in this week’s Foundry e-mail newsletter!?

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22 Responses to “Getting your whites right and other chores”

  1. “PS: who spotted photos of von Peter and ADC Simon in this week’s Foundry e-mail newsletter!?”

    I did!! 8O)

    Salute
    von Peter himself

  2. So did I!

  3. Frank Catinella said

    I am v interested in the white paint palette. The photo looks good, but I think that I may have to buy the paint and test for myself. One question though, if you use the remaining three colours as a three way shade, presumably it gives you a pale beige colour. Would this be viable as a ‘dirty’ canvas or will it be too close to the white if used on the same figure?
    regards
    Frank

    • Martin said

      Interesting idea Frank. My suspicion is that it won’t work too well because the remaining three shades (second shadow, first highlight and second highlight) are too close together in shade for an appreciably effective difference to be seen between the layers.

      Nothing to stop you from experimenting though. Let me know how you get on.

  4. Rob said

    Martin,

    Can you share how these paints were different than the vallejo palette you were considering last month? As Valejo is rather easy to obtain whlle the andrea paints are rarer than hen’s teeth here in Canada, it would be illuminating to know what the difference was…

    Rob

    • Martin said

      Rob, I used to use Vallejo Neutral Grey (V992), Light Grey (V990) and White (V951) as my white palette but I was never quite satisfied with it for three reasons:

      Firstly, it’s a tonally neutral palette so comes across visually as a bit cold and that doesn’t work for cloth. Secondly, I’ve always had problems with Vallejo White going chalky (though the other two colours never seem to suffer from this problem). Thirdly, the difference in shade between the Light Grey and the White is a too much for my taste and has precluded some of the subtle shading I wanted to achieve.

      As you may know, I tried to use the Foundry Arctic White set address the latter two problems but I haven’t got on well with them – I find them too plasticky in texture for my painting style and they dry with a semi-gloss sheen (although I know that subsequent varnishing would fix that). Also, I’ve not been impressed with the coverage of the various Foundry colours I’ve tried.

      The Andrea paints crack all three problems for me. You can see from the photos that there’s a definite warm brown-beige tone to them; the base colour in the set is a nice subtle mid-tone for the three-layer approach and the white isn’t at all chalky.

      Does that help?

  5. Gaz said

    Given that I bet they’re almost certainly the same formulation as Vallejo, why not just match the colours with the ‘V’ range (or anyone else’s for that matter) and save a few bob?

    Yes, I KNOW I’m a tight fisted old curmudgeon . . . .

    • Martin said

      Well, Gaz, the answer to your question lies in the fact that it’s not a “given” that Andrea paints have the same formulation as Vallejos. If that were the case, then they would perform in the same way as the Vallejos and, in my experience, they don’t.

      They’re certainly similar enough to be a good fit but the facts that they dry with a slight sheen (not dead flat matt like Vallejos) and, critically, that the white doesn’t chalk up tells me they’re different in some way.

      As for picking matches from the Vallejo range – well, there aren’t any perfect matches apart from the white and I’ve already explained why I don’t like that. There may be other ranges that have matches but it sounds like an awful lot of work (and expense) to locate them, buy sample pots and experiment. Sure, the Andrea white set isn’t the cheapest and I’ll probably only use three out of the six colours but they’re convenient, suit my style of painting and give me the picky results I’m after. And, boy, have I got a lot of white to paint over the coming months!

      The beauty of this hobby is that we all have different preferences. If you find another way to do white that works for you then that’s fantastic. I’m just sharing what I’ve done in case it helps anybody else.

  6. Andrew Brentnall said

    Has anyone ever considered painting white trousers using a Foundry Linen base (which is a more yellowy colour, rather than grey? I did for a couple of Victrix Brits I was painting and was rather pleased with the results. Sadly, before you ask, my technical skills do not stretch to either the phoyography or the computery to show you the result!

    Andrew

    • Randy said

      Andrew,

      I’ve tried four different stock solutions to white out of the foundry line. Canvas, linen, white and Austrian white. They produce subtly different ‘whites’. I must admit that my test wasn’t really a test so much as it was the desire to vary the white across a 2 btn regiment. Same regiment also got buff leather and base sand colored trousers. I don’t really like any of the stock solutions Foundry has to white. The best I’ve come up with is using their white, adding just a touch of blue to Artic Grey (33b) and heavily thinning out the white to allow more of the bluish grey to bleed through. Another technique I use is their base white set unmodified followed by a wash of blue waste water [the water in which I clean my brushes after a bout of blue] finished by a very light dry brushing of pure white.

      As Martin pointed out there’s almost as many ways to an end as their are people. I’ll add an addenda: Like cooking, the more you do something the less you need a recipe.

      • John M. said

        Ive tried something I got out a book I bought and damn me its so simple it works a treat, if u are looking for a warm look to the white (now this is what Ive used before I got my andreas lads) gw white and a very light beige mix 50/50 for the base and then add more white as u go on till u are using the whiet for the highlights, or white and english uniform and same rule applies add white till you are happy gives a colder look, I use it mainly on the horses now, cant waste andreas on old nags
        God bless Danilo cartacci, if good enough for him,;) only thing is the book cost me £35
        but the eye candy is awesome, he paints the pegaso large figs,
        John

  7. Randy said

    Martin,

    How well does that technique of using hot water and a tooth brush to clean a figure work? And does it work on metal just as well? I know I can get all of an acrylic off if I act fast enough but your figure had ample time to dry thoroughly.

    I’ve actually got into the habit of painting the base uniform first [trousers, coat, pack and bedroll] and immediately follow with a sprayed coat of gloss followed by flat. Then I paint the details. I find if I make a minor error in lighter colors, like extending a yellow cuff or collar too far, I can corrent it using a damp brush to pick up the excess color.

    • Martin said

      The thing to bear in mind is that I was only removing a couple of layers of unvarnished acrylic paint, so hot water and gentle rubbing with the old toothbrush works well. I don’t think it would have any effect on varnished figures and I also suspect it would be ineffective on Foundry acrylics – they seem to dry to a much more robust finish than Vallejos or Andreas.

      My intention wasn’t to buff the metal underneath. In fact, I was being deliberately gentle so as not to remove detail from the casting. The hot water is actually pretty effective – a bit like when I clean my ceramic palette (AKA an old cereal bowl) after a painting session. It doesn’t seem to matter how long the paint has been left to dry.

  8. Phil said

    I placed an order last week for the white set and the blue set. I’m looking forward to them. I really need a good blue set.

  9. Phil said

    So my white and blue set came today. (By the way – good turnaround from Michigan Toy Soldiers if you happen to live in the states and are looking for Andrea paints).

    It may be a few days before I get to experiment as the A/C is out in my gameroom. But I’m curious about what is intended. Are the two shadow colors in the set intended to go on as a wash at the end? Are they the same consistency as the other paints? It looks like you just used them to build up from as a base.

    Nothing in the packaging helps, maybe Andrea have some publications somewhere.

    • Martin said

      There should be an A5 leaflet in the box with some guidance. That leaflet is aimed at painters of 54mm and above figures, mind. The technique typically used by painters at the larger scales is to start with the mid-colour (the “base” colour in the Andrea set) then work up the highlights before finishing by working down the shadows. There’s a free 25-page PDF guide you can download from the Andrea site entitled “Painting with Julio Cabos” if you don’t mind providing an e-mail address.

      But it’s probably not a how a 28mm painter would use the set. The way I look at it is that it’s a six layer set and if you use them in the layered painting style you’d go from darkest to lightest (i.e. 2nd shadow, 1st shadow, base, 1st highlight, 2nd highlight, 3rd highlight). I’ve reached the conclusion that using all six is overkill on a 28mm figure and I’ve now settled on the three layers described in my posting above.

      Lastly, all six paints are the same consistency – none of them are designed as washes or inks. But there’s nothing to stop you diluting them to use as washes if you wish – in just the same way you might with a Vallejo paint. Of course, I’m not going to be able to give you much guidance on that because I rarely use washes in my painting.

      • Phil said

        Thanks. I was just trying to figure it out by looking at that little sheet and it wasn’t clear. Painting down into the shadows seems hard, but maybe on a 54mm figure it wouldn’t be. I intend to use them for 3 layers also and as I see it having 6 shades of the same color should give me the ability to do dark, medium, and light versions of the same by choosing which triad within the 6 to use. But experimentation will tell me whether this is really practical.

  10. Phil said

    So I experimented with both the blue and the white over the weekend. The blue is just a dream to work with. I can’t wait to do something on a large scale with blue. I’ll probably finish my landwehr int he current brigade (two more battalions) with it. It’s a little different shade than the vallejo dark prussian blue/prussian blue combo I’ve used but that won’t matter on the landwehr. When I start my next brigade I’ll have to figure out whether to switch to this for all my remaining Prussians. It really is an amazing paint. The 4th highlight is quite light. I won’t need it for the prussians, but for other stuff, I think I’d need to mix it with the 3rd highlight if I were going to use it on anything.

    The white is interesting. The only downside is that it seems really, really thick. It will take some time to get the hang of cutting it down to a good consistency. I tended to cut it too much to begin with so that it was fine going on as a paint, but separated as it sat on the palate and then dried out really quickly. I love the color though. I could see doing some off white stuff with the 4th highlight really as a small highlight on things, or even being omitted altoghether (using 3 layers from the rest of the set).

    Glad you experimented with this Martin, and made the effort to write it up. I prolly wouldn’t have tried it myself otherwise.

    Now what other colors do they have?????

  11. Martin said

    Good to hear it’s worked out well for you, Phil. On of the reasons I run BfK is to share ideas and experiences like this so it’s gratfiying when somebody gets a better painting experience as a result of what’s happened here.

    I agree that the paint does need dilution before use – but then I expect to do that with all brands of acrylic paints. I am a little more concerned that you report seperation on the palette. I’ve never seen that with any paint. What do you use to dilute? I use distilled, filtered water mixed with W&N flow improver. I know that sounds like hassle but I periodically mix up a batch and keep it in a jar with a lid so it lasts for ages and then I use a pipette to put drops out on to the palette as needed.

    As for paint drying on the palette – that cones with the territory, especislyl during hot Summer weather. One thing you can do to counteract that is use a wet palette. I know several painters who make their own using old ice cream tubs and greaseproof paper. One of these days I’ll get round to trying it out for myself.

    Other colours? There’s certainly black, red and flesh, maybe more…

  12. Phil said

    I just used water. I have some flow enhancer that I hardly ever use, but maybe I’ll try that. I’ll let you know how that works out.

  13. […] to build up white cloth from a brown base versus black/grey, and I had major issues with things.   Getting white to look right is hard! I’ve ordered the Andrea Miniatures white paint set and hope to have that in my arsenal soon. […]

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