Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘primer’

Primer primer

Posted by Martin on May 24, 2014

After a long gap, the bug for creating another video has bitten. Last time (almost two years ago) I did a rudimentary video about Tamiya X21 Flat Base which was quite well received. So here, at last, is my second offering with a look at the Vallejo surface primer that I use nowadays.

Overall, I think this video shows some improvement and evolution over the first but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’ve got some better technology at my disposal now – it’s amazing what kind of video and sound quality you can get using a just smartphone. Plus I found a nifty little attachment that lets me mount my phone on my camera tripod.

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Posted in Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , , , | 8 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 »

La Bricole painting competition

Posted by Martin on December 31, 2011

Primed figures for first base in La Bricole painting competition.

Primed figures for first base in La Bricole painting competition.

Regular BfK‘ers will know that I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions or entering painting competitions but coincidence has thrown something seasonal into my path. Over at the La Bricole discussion forum ran by my virtual friend in Tokyo, Robert Swan, (previously founded by Iannick Martin), there’s going to be a friendly Napoleonic painting competition running through the the end of the first quarter of 2012.

Given my pre-disposition against resolutions and entering painting competitions, why would I bother with this one?

Well, it has several interesting features to recommend it. Firstly, it comes at a time when my painting motivation needs a kick-start after an end to 2011 that saw my time heavily committed to the day job and my involvement with school governorship to the complete exclusion of hobby activities. Secondly, La Bricole is a small and friendly forum where a group of people with similar hobby values to my own hang out, so I almost feel a duty of camaraderie to participate. Lastly, the rules of the competition have been designed in a way that really appeals to me. There’s a goodly length of time to get entries completed (until 31 March 2012) and the scope of what’s required for a valid entry fits in nicely – the theme is militia and line units and we can opt for infantry, cavalry or artillery. I’m going for the former which, for 28mm scale, means I need only produce an entry of 18 figures.

And that’s the main attraction – this competition will, hopefully, give me sufficient motivation to make some real painting headway as we hurtle into the New Year. Doing 18 figures will get me halfway to my first completed battalion of French line infantry using the Calpe Route March figures. Once I get up momentum, I’m hoping it’ll carry me over into even more productivity as the year progresses. My plan is to complete at least one six-figure base per month of the competition and I’m hoping to throw in a couple of surprises as we go along.

Each entrant has been offered the opportunity to show work-in-progress updates in a special thread on the La Bricole forum and to offer encouragement to fellow participants as we go along. Of course, as well as doing that, I’ll be posting updates here too. I’ve already prepped and primed the figures for the first base and that’s where the first couple of interesting little surprises come into play. Firstly, I’ve done a head-swap on the drummer to give him a shouting barehead stolen from a Calpe Saxon infantryman; secondly, for a bit of scenic enhancement, I’ve added some putty straps to a backpack from the Perry plastic French infantry box to represent some discarded kit on the groundwork. The idea is that these touches will keep up my interest levels in the project and give my fellow competitors something to think about.

I’ve got some more sneaky ideas in mind to up the ante on the second base 🙂

I’m also going to use this competition for some experiments I’ve had in mind for a while. Having prepped the figures for the first base, I’ve primed them grey (a continuation of an ongoing experiment) but this time I’ve used Army Painter Uniform Grey spray paint for the job. It was certainly a quick job but somewhat smelly and you do need to be careful that details don’t get obscured by overspraying. Looking at the photo above, it would be easy to believe that these grey figures were Perry plastics rather than primed Calpe metals (well, apart from the backpack). More about other experiments as we progress.

Posted in Announcements, French Infantry, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Grey and interesting

Posted by Martin on October 2, 2011

Calpe eagle guard work-in-progress.

Calpe eagle guard work-in-progress.

A picture paints a thousand words. And, in the case of the picture on the right, this is certainly true. Those words cover three topics: first, yes, it’s a figure from the the new(ish) Calpe “Route March” French infantry regimental command pack; second, it shows the state of my current experiment with switching from black primer to grey; lastly, there’s a whole lot of uniformology going on with this little chap. Let’s try to take things in that order then…

What you see here is one of the two eagle guard figures from Pack F10. I’ve previously shown photos of greens of two of the other figures in this pack (drummer, officer and sappeur) and at that time I mentioned that it was a six figure pack. The remainder comprises this eagle guard, another eagle guard in a different pose and an eagle bearer carrying an eagle wrapped up in an oilskin cover to protect it form the elements while on the march. You can see from this picture that the pennant on eagle guard’s halberd is similarly covered. Other points to note include the covered shako, buttoned back greatcoat and the bucket holding two pistols. This particular eagle guard is drawn from a fusilier company (more of that below) while the other one in the pack is from the grenadier company.

Until recently, I’ve always followed the black primer school of painting and it’s served me well. It was especially useful when I first returned to figure painting and was very rusty because it meant that I didn’t have to worry about missing bits in those hard to reach recesses. But now that I flatter myself that I’m a much improved painter, I’ve started to worry about the limitations of black primer: it impacts coverage/brightness for lighter colours (in particular my personal bete noir, white); it actually makes it hard to achieve depth with dark colours for some reason; and there are times when a black primer actually makes it tough to see details of the figure clearly enough to paint them because you can’t see the shadows that provide definition.

I’m not keen on going to the opposite extreme of a white primer but, for a long time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of a grey primer. This figure marks my first experiment with this approach and it’s a case of so far so good.

While the actual application of paint for this figure over the grey primer has been a pleasant experience, the research to get the uniformology accurate has caused me some headaches. As ever, English language sources have proved inaccurate or, to be more precise, incomplete and ambiguous. For example, take the simple matter of how eagle guards were selected. Lots of English references blithely state that they were the regiment’s senior NCOs. But what does that mean? It was only by going to French sources, courtesy of Peter F. and Paul Meganck, that I was able to get some clarity on the matter. It turns out that the NCOs of the regiment would elect two from their own ranks for these prestigious roles.

That means that the eagle guards could come from any company – fusilier, grenadier or voltigeur – which goes some way to explaining some of the lentille/pompom variants I’ve seen in illustrations in English language books. This lentille/pompom business caused me problems because, on the basis of my early research using English sources, I’d errantly assumed that the whole eagle party was part of the regimental command and thus the lentilles/pompoms of the eagle guards should be white and that’s how I initially painted it on this figure. My subsequent French sources put me right on that: the eagle guards typically retained their company distinctions, so I opted to give this chap a green lentille. The two reasons for doing this were that I wanted to have a nice contrast with with canvas shako colour I’d already painted and I wanted to try out a particular triad of green paints (when I finish a few of the command figures, I’ll produce a little painting guide to the paints I used).

Another area that caused me to scratch my head was the insignia on the sleeves of the figure. Here Peter has sculpted what look like rank insignia and long service chevrons but this is a miniature minefield for the unwary! The bars on the forearms are indeed conventional rank markings but watch out for those chevrons on the upper left arm – they aren’t the typical red long-service chevrons. Oh no! I was in for another bout of repainting when I examined French sources. To be specific, Rigo (Le Plumet) Plate 116 which covers the eagle party of the 46th line regiment. Here I learned that a decree of 25th December 1811 ordered the wearing of four gold chevrons on the right sleeve and the two gold stripes of the rank of sergeant major. Rigo, however, as befits such a note expert, acknowledges that things weren’t always so clear cut and mentions a plate in the Hamburg Collection that shows an eagle guard wearing three gold chevrons on each arm! Notice how Peter F. has sculpted these chevrons on the left sleeve, just for even more confusion, because many sources show them there rather than in the regulation position on the right. And don’t get me started on the correct colouring for the epaulettes…

Still, the rest of the figure is fairly conventional and campaign dress gives me some welcome latitude on colour choices for shako covers, greatcoats and trousers. And, as if that isn’t enough, I can confirm that Pack F11 will be a head variant version of the F10 regimental command pack including figures with bicornes, uncovered shakos and so on.

Posted in Calpe Towers, French Infantry, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »