People have started to ask questions about the tools and materials I use. Now, while I’m flattered that they take an interest and I’ll always try to take the time to answer, I’m beginning to discern certain repeating patterns that mean it’ll be efficient for me to address the FAQs in one place that can be easily referenced. Of course, I’ll aim to answer the more obscure questions directly on an ad hoc basis as they arise.
So, if there’s anything you think ought to be covered here, pipe up. In the meantime, I’ll begin by covering the obvious topics: paints, brushes and varnishes.
I work exclusively in acrylics (at least, I do until I change my mind). I never use cheaper brands of acrylic paint from craft shops because they are usually low in pigment and often have a grainy finish. Instead, I stick to those specifically designed for modellers which usually means ones from the Vallejo Model Colour range. This range is mostly highly consistent in my experience though there are some colours that don’t seem to cover as well as others. I’ve had reports of people having difficulty with these paints but most problems can be avoided if you take a few simple precautions:
- Store the bottles upside down to save of shaking time to mix pigment and carrier together.
- Store the paints in an even, cool environment. If they get too cold or too hot, they do seem to suffer.
- Don’t use the paint “neat” from the bottle. Always dilute. How much to dilute by is a matter of taste. Too little and you don’t get a smooth finish; too much and you lose coverage and brush control. The medium to use for dilution is also important. I use filtered water mixed with Winsor and Newton flow extender.
- The nozzles of the bottles sometimes clog so keep some clean pins handy during painting sessions. In extreme cases, you may have to remove the nozzle and clean it thoroughly with hot water.
- Something I’ve not tried yet but have on the list for experimentation is use of a wet palette. Several painters I know, like Sascha Herm, make their own ones and use them very successfully.
Extensive as the Vallejo range is, there are still times when I can’t quite find what I’m looking for. At present, those gaps are filled by a few colours I use from the Foundry range and an increasing number of shades from the Andrea range. The Andrea paints are virtually identical to the Vallejos. However, the Foundry paints are different in character to the Vallejos but can be mixed with them. Foundry paints seem to require thorough mixing to get the best from them, they have a more plasticky but durable finish than the Vallejos and dry with a slightly glossy finish (which doesn’t matter for me because of my varnishing regime). The other key differences to note are that the Foundry paints come in flip-top containers and are more expensive (especially when you take P&P into account). So if you do intend to use Foundry paints, save up your shopping list and buy them in person at one of the big annual shows like Salute.
So how do I combine all these paints into palettes for layered painting? The key points are that I’m fundamentally lazy and I want colour consistency: that means I almost never mix my own shades but use colours straight (apart from diluting them). The only exception is that I mix Pale Flesh and Scarlet for the colour I use on the lips of figures. later I’ll enhance this page with a chart to show details of the palettes I use. I’ll aim to keep it updated as I add or discover new combinations that work for me.
|Colour||Basecoat||Highlight 1||Highlight 2||Highlight 3||Highlight 4|
|Black||Black (V950)||Dark Grey (V994)||Neutral Grey (V992)||-||-|
|White||Neutral Grey (V992)||Light Grey (V990)||Arctic Grey (F33B)||White (V951)||-|
|Red||Hull Red (V985)||Red (V926)||Scarlet (V817)||Orange Red (V910)||-|
|Brown #1||Burnt Umber (V941)||Beige Brown (V875)||Cork Brown (V843)||-||-|
|Brown #2||German Cam. Black Brown (V822)||Flat Brown (V984)||Beige Brown (V875)||-||-|
|Grey||Dark Grey (V994)||Neutral Grey (V992)||Light Grey (V990)||-||-|
|Canvas/Linen||Flat Earth (V983)||Ochre Brown (V856)||Yellow Ochre (V913)||Buff (V976)||Ivory (V918)|
|Gold/Brass||Flat Earth (V983)||Ochre Brown (V856)||Yellow Ochre (V913)||Buff (V976)||Ivory (V918)|
|Green||Black Green (V980)||Flat Green (V968)||Intermediate Green (V891)||Light Green (V942)||-|
|Jaeger Green||Black Green (V980)||Deep Green (V970)||Intermediate Green (V891)||-||-|
|Prussian Blue||Dark Prussian Blue (V899)||Prussian Blue (V965)||Medium Blue (V963)||-||-|
|Yellow||Ochre Brown (V856)||Yellow Ochre (V913)||Flat Yellow (V953)||Lemon Yellow (V952)||-|
|Leather||Burnt Umber (V941)||Cavalry Brown (V982)||Red Leather (V818)||Orange Brown (V981)||-|
|Rawhide||Rawhide Shade (F11A)||Rawhide (F11B)||Rawhide Light (F11C)||-||-|
|Flesh||Burnt Umber (V941)||Red Leather (V818)||Flat Flesh (V955)||Light Flesh (V928)||-|
I uses all sorts of brushes for mixing paint, painting bases and applying varnish but when it comes to actually painting the figures themselves, I now use Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Kolinsky sable brushes (previously, I used Winsor and Newton Series 7 Miniature Kolinsky sable brushes but I’ve found the quality of these to be inconsistent). In a perfect world, I prefer to buy these in person from an art shop but it’s getting harder to find high street stockists so I now stock up at Cornelissen when ever I visit London.
Although both the Da Vincis and the W&N Series 7s are designed primarily for watercolourists, I find them highly suited to acrylic painting, especially with diluted paints. The key thing with all brushes is that they won’t repay your investment in them if you don’t look after them. So, when I get more time, I’m going to add a few tips about brush care here.
[Brush care tips to follow]
After investing many hours in creating a miniature masterpiece (we can all dream), it would be a disaster for the paint job to get ruined. So I always protect finished figures with varnish. Like many other historical wargames figures painters, I favour the two-step approach: first coat with a strong enamel gloss varnish (I use Humbrol 35) to protect the figure; second coat with matt varnish (I used to use Winsor and Newton Galeria acrylic matt varnish but I’ve recently switched to Revell enamel matt varnish) for a realistic matt finish. Varnishes are a lot more tempermental than paints, so here are my tips for trouble-free results:
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay close attention to mixing / shaking thoroughly and allow plenty of time to dry between coats.
- I always brush on my varnish but if you are a spray can fiend then make sure you work in a well-ventilated environment.
- Don’t slap on thick layers. It won’t dry clear.
- Varnishes don’t seem to like cold conditions, so avoid working in the garage in Winter!
- Never use your varnishing brushes for painting; try to keep separate brushes for gloss and matt varnishing. Wash your brushes thoroughly with an appropriate cleaner as soon as possible after a varnishing session.
- Accept that your first coat of matt varnish will miss a few spots. Be prepared to go over the figure again to catch the bits you missed first time around.
- Did I say follow the manufacturers instructions?
So that’s it for now. I’ll try to update this page as I think of more topics that ought to be covered.