Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Archive for the ‘BfK Limited Edition Figures’ Category

Prize draw winners

Posted by Martin on March 4, 2013

I’m overdue with making the draw for the four lucky winners in the BfK Limited Edition Figures prize draw. As I expect you’ll remember, each lucky winner will get one figure from the pack painted, varnished and based by me. I’ll sign the underside of the base of each figure and, logistics permitting, I’ll see if I can get Peter F to sign them too.

So, without further ado, the lucky winners are:

  • Robert Groves
  • Kawe Weissi-Zadeh
  • John Snead
  • Jonathan Marcus

Congratulations to the four of you. Now you have the exquisite agony of following along with my series of paint-in postings in the knowledge that it’s your figures that are being painted! In the normal run of things, you will each receive a figure selected at random by me. If, however, any of you four have a special preference then feel free to let me know. I can’t guarantee you’ll get the figure you want because I’m only painting one of each for the prizes but I’ll see what I can do to make as many of you as happy with the outcome as possible.

On an administrative note, having had a second batch of figures cast up by Peter F, I’ve now dispatched almost all of the orders that have been paid for (only two outstanding to post this week). However, there are several of you who expressed an interest in ordering packs but haven’t paid yet. If you’re still interested in receiving packs, I urge you to review the payment instructions I’ve e-mailed to you. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you’re no longer interested and sell the packs set aside for you to other customers.


Posted in Announcements, BfK Limited Edition Figures | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Paint-in #3: a slight diversion

Posted by Martin on March 3, 2013

This is by way of being a small interlude to address a potentially thorny little topic that we’ll run into later on in painting the BfK Limited Edition figures. I thought that by covering it now, it would give you all advance notice. So what is this strange little diversion all about? Well, it’s another case of the French penchant for highly poetic if awkward names for the colours of cloth they used in their uniforms. You may have run into some examples before like “lie de vin”, “aurore”, “capuchin” and so on. The one that concerns us now is “gris de fer” because it is the main colour of the uniforms of French soldiers of the artillery train (and the baggage train too – more of this below).

Translation of the name of this colour into English presents only a modest challenge: it simply means “iron grey”. But that’s where the fun starts. What exactly is iron grey and how can we represent it when we we wield our paintbrushes? Let’s start by looking at the first of those two questions. Gris de fer is generally regarded as a grey-blue colour not dissimilar to sky blue but duller (or, dare I say it, greyer). Finding good trustworthy examples to inform us about what this actually looked like isn’t easy because few uniformologists and books pay much attention to backwaters such as soldiers of the train. Luckily, two of the very best have devoted some of their energies to this subject.

Let’s start with Knotel. There are two plates of interest: Band XVI, Plate 34, which depicts a trumpeter of the artillery train in 1812-13 (and, perhaps more interestingly for this posting, shows a number of artillery train soldiers in the background), and Band XVIII, Plate 29, which shows baggage train soldiers from 1807. Life isn’t helped by sky blue still often being in use instead of iron grey in 1813 but you can get the idea of things from these two – both shown for your delight below:

Knotel Band XVI Plate 34: French artillery train trumpeter 1812-13.

Knotel Band XVI Plate 34: French artillery train trumpeter 1812-13.

Knotel Band XVIII Plate 29: French baggage train soldiers 1807.

Knotel Band XVIII Plate 29: French baggage train soldiers 1807.

What I can’t show here, for copyright reasons, are the Rousselot plates covering the artillery train. These go into much greater depth and show a wide range of detailed uniform variants but, for the purposes of this discussion, iron grey is shown as a bluer and darker colour – frankly much closer to sky blue.

Of course, we also have to put these colours in the context of real life on campaign in the early part of the 19th Century: dyes were organic rather than chemical, there was no centralised supply system so individual local factories produced uniforms and campaign conditions were harsh. All of which would have led to tremendous colour differences in supplied uniforms that was only made even more variable by the effects of sun, rain and wind.

So, on to the second question: how to choose paints for iron grey. First, I’d like to point out that you have the legitimate option of clothing your artillery train soldiers in sky blue for which there are already easy paint choices (several Vallejo colours conveniently identify themselves as suitable by including “sky blue” in their names and I’d recommend them). However, I’m going for the iron grey option and I know, from previous experience of trying to represent blue-grey uniform colours, that this is an awkward job – especially when you’ve got to try to find a basecoat, first highlight and second highlight (at least) that match tonally. To cut a long story short (you really don’t need to hear about all the trial and error experiments I’ve conducted) I’ve settled on four paints:

  • Basecoat: Vallejo VMC964 Field Blue – a mid-to-dark grey with the definite blue overtones that are needed for iron grey.
  • First highlight: Vallejo VMC943 Grey Blue – now, I think this one is optional and you could miss it out of your iron grey palette. Give it a go and see what you think.
  • Second highlight: Andrea NAC-24 Union Blue – Quite close in colour to the previous one but slightly my preference. But it’s a personal subjective choice.
  • Third highlight: Andrea NAC-17 Azure Grey – this is a much lighter colour, so use it sparingly for final highlights.

In the next paint-in posting, you’ll see where I’ve started to use these colours on the figures’ lentille pompoms. In the meantime, feel free to comment and share your own recipes.

Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Paint-in #2: the eyes

Posted by Martin on January 23, 2013

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

If you ask most people which part of painting figures they hate the most, you can be sure of a fair smattering of answers involving eyes. So much so, that there are many who simply don’t bother with them. So that’s the issue I’m going to tackle in this second paint-in.

Before we begin, here’s a cheklist of the paint and equipment I used for this session:

I always begin every painting session by using the pipette to dispense some of my paint diluting mixture into one of the wells of the palette and mixing a little X-21 Flat Base into it – see my video review of X-21.

The first paint we’re going to use is the white, so put a small amount on the palette and dilute it a little with the cocktail of filtered water, flow improver and X-21 to achieve a thin but not runny consistency. Use the 00000 brush to paint the eye sockets white on all four figures. It’s best to use a thin coat of paint; by the time you’ve done the fourth figure, the first one will probably be dry enough for a second coat. At this stage there’s no need to get stressed about accuracy because it doesn’t matter if white paint gets on to other parts of the faces.

Now wash your brush in the jar of water and washing-up liquid and dry it off gently on the kitchen towel. Looking after your brushes as you work is one of the secrets of getting a good long working life out of them and is well worth the effort if you use expensive Kolinsky sable brushes like I do.

The next colour is burnt umber which we’re going to use to basecoat the faces of all the figures and the hair of most of them – I’ve decided one chap will have grey hair, so he won’t get his basecoated with burnt umber. Prepare some paint as before and apply it with the 000 brush, starting with areas of the face well away from the eyes. This way you can get attuned to how both paint and brush are behaving before attempting the more delicate business of painting around the whites of the eyes. As before, don’t worry too much if some burnt umber strays off the faces onto collars or headwear. That’s easily tidied up later.

Now paint as close up to the whites of the eyes as you are comfortable doing with the 000 brush. Some of you might be able to do all of this step with the 000 brush, while others may prefer to switch to the 00000 brush. Either way, you are aiming for narrow almond-shaped whites of the eyes. To avoid that goggle-eyed effect, these almonds need to be thinner than you think. As before, be prepared to apply paint in two or more thin layers rather than one thick one. You’ll get a smoother finish that way as long as you let each layer dry before applying the next. With four figures to work round, drying times shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. We all make them and I had to make a number of corrections as I went along to get the results shown here. Just let the burnt umber mistakes dry before going back over them with white and repeating the above steps until you have eye shapes you’re satisfied with. Don’t forget to keep cleaning your brushes as you go along.

Next it’s the pupils of the eyes and we’re going to use black for these. Prepare a small amount of black paint on the palette and load the 00000 brush with only a little paint. Now go for one confident thin vertical stripe down the middle of an eye. Notice how I’m not suggesting that you dot the pupil. To do that successfully requires a much steadier hand and risks spoiling the work you’ve done so far if you misjudge how firmly you press the brush tip on to the eye. The vertical stripe technique is much easier to master and delivers equally good results at this scale. Now all you have to do is repeat it another seven times!

The only drawback of this method is that your black lines will probably extend beyond the eyes and on to the burnt umber basecoat. So one final round of tidying up with burnt umber will be required to finish the job. That’s all for this time. In the next session I’ll move on to finishing off the faces and maybe even starting on the headwear.

Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Paint-in #1: figure preparation and priming

Posted by Martin on January 13, 2013

Figures prepped, mounted, primed and ready to receive paint.

Figures prepped, mounted, primed and ready to receive paint.

Before we start, an apology: I’ve been unwell for the last week, so I haven’t yet finished posting out all the orders. There aren’t too many to go now, so I think it’s safe to begin the paint-in. Not least because I paint so slowly that those of you who are still waiting for your figures will easily catch up!

So, in this first part of the BfK Limited Edition figures paint-in, I’m going to focus on figure preparation and priming. Luckily, preparation is not an arduous task with Peter F’s castings. He’s so skilled at figure design and mould making that two of the typical areas that need attention – flash and mould lines – are almost non-existent.

However, you will still find some “runners” (small lengths of superfluous metal) that need to be trimmed off. These come from vents in the mould being filled with molten metal during the casting process. The vents are cut to allow the metal to flow into all parts of the mould and provide somewhere for trapped air to be expelled. Typical places you’ll find them on these figures are at the end of the drummer’s drumsticks and at the end of the whip held by one of the artillery train figures. Carefully rest the figure on a cutting mat and cut off the vents cleanly using a sharp knife. I use a traditional Swan-Morton scalpel for these sorts of jobs. Then you can clean up the surface with a needle file.

After I’ve removed the vents, I rotate the figure under a good light looking for any slight mould lines or flash that need to be removed. Depending on the extent and location of the problems, I file them off or scrape them away with the scalpel. Once I’m happy I’ve removed any problems, I look to see if there are any parts of the casting that are bent out of shape. This isn’t an unusual occurrence – it sometimes happens when the figures are removed from the mould or during shipping. The metal Peter F. uses is flexible enough to be gently straightened by hand. The place I’ve noticed that this most often needs attention on this set of figures is the stock of the Marie-Louise’s musket.

Next make sure that the underside of the figures’ bases are filed flat. The final step I do in figure preparation is to give the figure a gentle brush all over with a fibreglass brush to remove any loose and unwanted oxidization. The emphasis is on gentle – yes, you do want to get a shiny metal finish but you don’t want to rub away any of the detail from the casting. By the time you’ve done all this, you’ll probably notice that you’ve got pretty black fingers so this is a good time to wash your hands thoroughly to remove any metal. Make sure you do this, because the metal does contain lead which won’t do you much good if you ingest it.

Now we’re ready to mount the figures on to suitable bases by which you can hold them during painting. Everybody’s got their own preferences for what to use a for a base and how to fix the figure to it. I tend to use old plastic tops from drink bottles -we have a ready supply of them in our house and they conveniently have grippy grooved edge. I simply fix the figure to them using BluTack, though doing so with something like a hot glue gun would work just as well.

Vallejo surface primer.

Vallejo surface primer.

And so to priming. I suppose the question is why bother with this step rather than go straight to painting? And the simple reason is that acrylic paint won’t form a lasting bond with the bare metal. It might seem to have adhered initially but over time it will start to rub and peel away. Primer provides the “grip” between the metal underneath and the paint above. Also, depending on the colour of primer you use, it can have beneficial effects on the final appearance of the paint job. Here, again, we’re into an areas of personal preference and painting style. Some people prefer a black primer (I used to do that myself), some like white and some like other colours. The merit of black is that it automatically shades those difficult to reach places that you might miss later in the painting process but it does tend to dull down the finish and make some colours (white, yellow, red) hard to get nice and bright. This latter problem is the reason why some people prefer a white primer. These days, I’ve compromised on a grey primer which also makes it easier to see some of the more fiddly details that need to be painted.

Once you’ve chosen your primer colour, you then have the choice of what kind of primer to use and whether to brush it on or spray it on. For all kinds of reasons, I’ve now standardised on brushing on Vallejo Surface Primer. It comes in brush-on and aerosol variants and the brush-on version is suitable for airbrush use. It’s also available in 15 shades – I use Grey (product code 74601) and bought a 200ml bottle that will last me for years.

The bottle will need a really vigorous shake before you use it to make sure pigment is well mixed in with the carrier. Then it’s just a case of squirting a blob out on to you palette and painting each figure. Make sure that you apply a thin coat to avoid obscuring the detail of the casting. One of the things I like about the Vallejo primer is that it’s fairly forgiving if I do accidentally apply a bit too much – it levels out nicely as it dries to an even matt finish (see the photo above). When you’ve finished put the figures aside somewhere to dry, preferably under a cover of some sort to stop dust attaching to them. The primer does dry quite quickly but I recommend leaving it overnight.

Next day, inspect the figures. It’s almost certain that you’ll spot a couple of glints of bare metal from spots you’ve missed, so touch up the gaps and set aside to dry again. After all that you’ll be ready to start “real” painting. And that’s where we’ll take up the story next time. In the next paint-in, we start work on the figures’ heads beginning with the eyes!

In the meantime, if you’ve go any questions, feel free to post them as comments.

Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »