The Andrea Blue Set in all its glory.
My involvement in the La Bricole painting competition was, in part, intended as an opportunity to experiment and one of the areas I wanted to investigate further was how to achieve the most pleasing result for the blue of French infantry uniforms. My existing palette for Prussian blue has served well over the last couple of years: Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue (VMC889), Vallejo Prussian Blue (VMC965) and Vallejo Medium Blue (VMC963). But when I tried to adapt the same palette for French uniforms, I found it unsatisfactory.
The main problem is that the blue of French uniforms is actually rather dark. And that means that you need a really dark blue basecoat for highlight layers to show up clearly enough without them making the whole effect too light. After a lot of consideration, I reached the conclusion that Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue isn’t dark enough a starting point.
The secondary problem is with Vallejo Medium Blue as a final highlight. It seems too bright and, to my eyes, to contain too much green whereas I was looking for a greyer blue. I’ve tried various other blues in the Vallejo range as a replacement and none of them quite hit the mark. Plus, with both its fellows under scrutiny, I has also started to wonder about Vallejo Prussian Blue’s suitability.
So what was to be done? Answer: time to experiment outside the Vallejo range. When I previously had problems with my white palette I ultimately found the solution in the form of the Andrea White Paint Set – or at least with some of the colours from that set. So the logical step was to try the Andrea Blue Paint Set, not least because I’d seen Sascha Herm’s success with it. Like other sets in the same range, the Andrea Blue Paint Set comprises six shades: a basecoat, two shadows and three highlights. Visual inspection of the bottles suggests that the change in shade from one colour to the next is subtle to say the least until you get to what appears to be quite a jump from the second highlight to the third highlight.
Further, three of the colours seem very close to the Vallejo shades mentioned above. In certain lights, the basecoat colour is close to Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue and there’s a marked similarity between the second highlight and Vallejo Prussian Blue. In particular, the third highlight looks very similar to Vallejo Medium Blue. So I was initially a little disheartened about the prospects of finding a solution with this set. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I decided to take the plunge.
New blue palette on French officer's habit-veste.
I started out by applying a basecoat using the second shadow (i.e. the darkest colour in the set). Experience has taught me that Andrea colours work best with two thin coats for the basecoat and, in doing this, it became instantly clear that this was a colour to be reckoned with. It really is a deep black blue with an exceptionally matt finish that flows smoothly on to the figure. Of course, some of the mattness may be down to the inclusion of Tamiya X-21 Flat Base in my new mix for diluting paints (more of that experiment in a future posting) but I suspect that is only a modest factor in the case of this particular paint.
Next I tried the the second highlight as a first highlight (I know, confusing isn’t it?) on the basis that my test application of many blues on some white card showed this to be sufficiently lighter to show up as a highlight and rather similar to the Vallejo Prussian Blue that I know so well. This wasn’t so successful because this paint didn’t seem to have quite enough covering power to complete with the dark base coat. To be fair, I did skip several of the intermediate colours in the set and perhaps if I had layered up through them, that might have made a difference. So I switched to the Vallejo Prussian Blue as a first highlight instead – bingo! A most pleasing effect: clearly visible highlights without being too light or drifting tonally to green.
Emboldened by this success, I moved on to a second highlight using the third highlight colour (i.e. the lightest colour in the Andrea set). Now I was worried about how similar this would be to Vallejo Medium Blue but I was reassured by a comparison of the two on my white test card. I think my initial impression must have been skewed by the fact that the bottles are not completely transparent and therefore give a slightly false idea of the actual paint colour. This colour also seems to lack totally solid covering power but, in this instance, that turns out to be an advantage because if it did provide too effective coverage it would be too bright a shade. In reality, a degree of transparency to let the previous layer show through slightly helps provide a more subtle final highlight and means that I can control how intense I want it to be by painting on additional brush strokes of the colour if needed.
In terms of finding a new palette to use for French blue, I think this has been a successful experiment but I need to use it on more figures to really understand the properties of these Andrea colours and how they interact with the Vallejo Prussian Blue. On the downside, as it stands, I’ll only be using two colours out of a set of six paints, so it hardly qualifies as the most cost-effective solution. Still, I live in hope that the other four colours will one day come in useful for something!