Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Varnish’

Paint-in #6: finishing the Marie Louise

Posted by Martin on September 1, 2013

All around views of the completed Marie Louise from the BfK 2012 Limited Edition set.

All around views of the completed Marie Louise from the BfK 2012 Limited Edition set.

It’s been a long time since the last posting in this paint-in series and rather than spread things thinly by discussing progress across all four figures, I’ve decided to use this posting to discuss the steps I took to complete the Marie Louse infantry figure in the set. The main reason for doing this is that, after a disrupted Summer, I felt in need of the morale boost of getting least one of the figures over the finishing line – painted, varnished, based – the works!

The last time I wrote a paint-in posting, this chap at least had his head, trousers and shoes completed. When I re-commenced work, the first thing that happened was that I decided I wasn’t completely satisfied with the work I’d previously done on the pokalem, so I did some reworking of the blues to make me happier and to get back into the swing of things. Then I moved on to the greatcoat which I decided to paint brown given the amount of grey and blue across the set as a whole. The basecoat was Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822), first highlight was Vallejo Flat Brown (VMC984) and the the second highlight was Andrea Medium Brown (NAC-46).

After than, it was on to a lot of details, many of which are unexciting so I’ll simply list the paints as follows:

  • White strapping and shako rosette: basecoat – Second Shade (Andrea White Set), first highlight – Base (Andrea White Set), second highlight – Vallejo White (VMC951). For these colours, two thin coats rather than one thicker coat will give a smoother finish.
  • Black for cartridge case and shako: basecoat – Vallejo Black (VMC950), first highlight – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), second highlight – Vallejo Neutral Grey (VMC992), third highlight – Vallejo Light Grey (VMC990). Go sparingly with the final highlight.
  • Brown for the musket and potatoes (!): basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Beige Brown (VMC875), second highlight – Vallejo Cork Brown (VMC843).
  • Canvas for sack and cloth wrapped round musket lock: basecoat – Vallejo Flat Earth (VMC983), first highlight – Vallejo Ochre Brown (VMC856), second highlight – Vallejo Yellow Ochre (VMC913), third highlight – Vallejo Buff (VMC976), fourth highlight – Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
  • Brown for backpack and leather strap on water bottle: basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Cavalry Brown (VMC982), second hightlight – Vallejo Red Leather (VMC818). The piping was done with Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
  • Brass for shako plate, “N” on cartridge case and musket bands: Vallejo Gold (VMC996) with several pin washes of Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822). This is one of the rare occasions that I use washing as a technique and the key is the patience to go for multiple very thin washes rather than one or two more opaque ones.
  • Gunmeatal for musket: basecoat – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), first highlight – Vallejo Natural Steel (VMC864).

All the above is pretty regulation stuff. The painting I want to devote some commentary to is the lentille pompom. You can choose different colours according to which fusilier company of a battalion you wish to represent – dark green for the first, sky blue for the second, aurore for the third and violet for the fourth. Normally the lentilles of the first battalion would be solid colour but it was common for those of the other battalions of the regiment to have white centres with the battalion number inscribed on them. For the purposes of the paint-in, I thought it would be instructive for me to tackle the notorious aurore colour because I have seen so many bizarre interpretations of this over the years. Of course, it’s impossible to be prescriptive about this (or any other historical colour) but I took my cue from the meaning of the word – dawn. To my mind that implies that the colour was intended to be the pinky orange of the sky at dawn. With that in mind I used the following paints: base coat – Vallejo Orange Red (VMC910), first highlight – Andrea French Orange (NAC-35), second highlight – Vallejo Sunny Skintone (VMC845).

When you’ve finished all the painting, leave the figure overnight to dry completely before varnishing. There’s a lot written about varnishing and everybody will have a recipe that works for them and gives the desired outcome. I aim for two things: rock solid protection of the paint finish and as matt a finish as possible. With that in mind, I currently follow a three step process, leaving the figure to dry overnight between in each step hidden under a plastic cup to prevent dust and hairs settling on the figure:

First, I paint the figure with Humbrol Enamel Clear Gloss 35 for protection. Second step is to paint with Winsor and Newton Galleria Matt Acrylic Varnish. The reason I do this is not to provide the final matt finish but rather to help me when I apply the final coat of matt varnish which is shiny when wet and I can’t see the spots I’ve missed when painting over the Humbrol gloss finish. The third step is to paint with Revell Enamel Color (sic) Matt 2. For all these products I can’t stress enough the need to follow the manufacturers instructions – especially when it comes to stirring them thoroughly.

Once the final coat of varnish is finished, I now take precautions to avoid handling the figure directly because oils from your fingers will start to add a sheen to the matt finish. So, for the basing steps, I handle figures using a paper towel and then only pick up based figures by their bases (people visiting my house get very dirty looks if they pick up figures by any other method).

For the figures in this set, I promised to sign the bases, so I fortunately remembered to do that before gluing on the figure. The lucky recipients will see the flourish of my initials with the year (2013) in permanent black Sharpie pen on the underside of the base. Having glued the figure to the base and let it set, I built up a thin layer of epoxy putty ( a 50-50 mix of green stuff and Sylmasta A+B putty). When that had set, I applied a diluted coat of PVA glue and dipped the figure in a tray of N-gauge model railway ballast. When dry, I repeated for a second coat of ballast to ensure good coverage and then glued on some individual larger stones. When all the PVA had dried out completely and I was satisfied that there were no loose particles I applied a final light drybrushing of Vallejo Buff (VMC976). And voila, the figure was complete!

Now I’m bracing myself to tackle completion of the second figure. This should be a little more challenging because it’s the drummer with all his Bardin uniform Imperial lace.

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Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The proverbial can of…

Posted by Martin on May 4, 2011

Revell enamel matt varnish.

Revell enamel matt varnish.

Nope, not worms.

There is an unwritten law that states that when ever two or more figure painters gather together, at some point in the proceedings the conversation must turn to the frustrating topic of matt varnish. And so it has been for me on two such occasions recently. Why? Well, I’ve had a nagging feeling for quite a while that the matt varnish I’ve been using isn’t matt enough. And for me, “enough” means seriously dead flat matt.

The offending item is Winsor and Newton’s Galeria acrylic matt varnish. I used to love it. It was matt enough, it was easy to use, it was easy to clean the brush afterwards, it dried quite quickly and it didn’t smell too bad. But then something happened. My head was turned by seeing just how truly, deeply matt some other painters’ figures were. And the doubts set in. And they gnawed away at me. And they kept gnawing until I just had to do something about it. And I had to do that something to the Westphalian Landwehr casualties that I’d painted as a commission. Now these no longer looked matt enough and my pride wouldn’t let me post them to their new home until I’d put things right.

So who were the wicked people who sowed these seeds of doubt? Well, one was David Imrie at Salute when we were chatting about his ECW demo game; the other was Peter F. on a visit to Calpe Towers last Bank Holiday Monday (more about that visit in another posting soon). The outcome of the conversation with David was that he’d tried all sorts of different matt varnishes over the years and never found the perfect one. At present he’s also using Winsor and Newton’s Galeria but he seems to get much better results than me – grrrr! So no solution there. Peter F. informed me that he’s always used Humbrol enamel varnish (Code No. 49). At this point I should interject that, like me, both David and Peter F. gloss varnish first and then apply a coat of matt varnish to finish and both use brush on rather than spray varnishes. Peter F. says it’s always worked for him but that you do need to keep stirring the tin thoroughly at regular intervals during a varnishing session to avoid the dreaded white patches and streaks.

I came away from Calpe Towers inspired to try the Humbrol enamel matt varnish (after all, the gloss equivalent has long been a standard part of my process, so how hard can it be?). On Tuesday, I used my lunchbreak to visit the local model shop. Curses, there was no Humbrol matt enamel varnish in stock! I was about to slope out of the shop in a fit of despair when I noticed a display rack of Revell enamel paint tins. A closer inspection revealed that the rack was marked up with Humbol colour code equivalencies. Lo and behold, the Revell enamel matt varnish (Code No. 2) was marked as equivalent to the Humbrol enamel matt varnish. So I decided to chance it.

Last night, I carried out my evil experiment in the painting laboratory (mwhahaha!). I was very cautious and shook the tin thoroughly for about five minutes and then I opened it and gave it another five minutes of stirring with a cocktail stick. Only after that, did I feel brave enough to dip my brush. After coating the three casualty figures carefully and evenly, I placed them under and upturned tub to keep the dust (and the cats) out while they dried overnight. Then I gave the brush a deep clean – I use liquid poly for cleaning varnish off brushes and it works a treat.

The outcome? Total success! This morning I was greeted by three terrifically matt figures. Conclusions? Yes, these sorts of enamel varnish do smell heavily of sovlents so make sure you work in a well ventilated area. In passing, I should mention that the smell reminded me of happy boyhood days painting Airfix tank kits with enamels. But I digress…

The other big conclusion is that things will go fine if you follow the instructions on the tin to the letter. And then do them some more for good measure. I especially mean anything to do with shaking and stirring because that’s the only way to be sure that you’ve mixed in the matting agent thoroughly to avoid white patches and streaks. Lastly, I want to note that the fact I used Revell enamel matt varnish rather than the Humbrol variety doesn’t seem to matter a jot.

So I suppose that means I’ll need to update my Kitbag page now…

Posted in On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Kitbag: it’s a start

Posted by Martin on December 9, 2008

You might notice a new Kitbag link in the tabs at the top of BfK. This is the start of a page to provide details of the paint and equipment I use. I’ve been considering sharing this sort of information for quite a while but been too lazy to get the job done. A recent thread on the General de Brigade forums about what paints to use for Prussian blue reminded me that these sorts of questions come up over and over again. So I thought it would be more efficient to tackle answers to the recurring questions in one place where it can be referenced easily.

As yet, this page is far from complete. Not least because there are several things I’d still like to add to it as well as a few photos to liven up the text. But also because I suspect BfK readers will have their own ideas for what should be included. You know who you are, usual suspects; and you know how to post your comments.

Posted in Announcements, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

Casualty markers SBS: part two

Posted by Martin on May 29, 2008

In part one we reached the point where the overlay had been glued to the base. Now that this has dried out properly, we can move on.

STEP 5: Varnishing
We want to protect the overlay from the rigours of handling during wargaming in just the same way that the paint jobs on figures need to be protected. So it should come as no surprise that I used the same varnishing approach for this overlay as I use for figures. The first coat of varnish is a polyeurethene gloss for protection and the second coat is a matt acrylic for appearance.

For the gloss varish I use Humbrol clear enamel 35 (which seems to go under a variety of names these days). The important thing to remember is that the varnish needs to be thoroughly shaken and stirred before use. I always keep a seperate brush exclusively for gloss varnishing and I clean it using Humbrol Liquid Poly (yes, I know this is a solvent that’s intended for sticking together plastic kits but it’s a great brush cleaner too). Once you’ve painted the base with the varnish put it aside in a dust-free location to dry overnight.

For the matt varnish I use Winsor and Newton acrylic matt varnish. This also needs a really thorough shaking before use. If you do the job properly, you’ll get an excellent flat matt finish – if not, then expect shiny results but these can be corrected with a second properly shaken coat. I sometimes find I need to touch up the bits I missed first time around with a second coat anyway. I dilute my matt varnish with water mixed with a drop of washing up liquid to help it flow better. Again, it’s good to leave this to dry in a dust-free environment but it doesn’t usually need anywhere as long as the gloss varnish before it’s safe to handle. Check the directions on you own preferred varnish for guidance here.

STEP 6: Adding the figure and basing material
When the matt varnish is dry (and assuming that your chosen casualty figure is also painted, varnished and dry) it’s time for some assembly work. I glue the casualty figure to the base using UHU but there are plenty of other adhesives that’ll do the job just as well. Once this is set, you can start adding your basing materials.

Everybody seems to have their own recipe for this so go ahead and do whatever works for you. I thought I’d share my approach though, in case it provides any inspiration. Well, it’s not really mine – I learnt it from the late great Ian Stables.

He used to use ready mixed pre-coloured flexible wood filler. There are all sort of brands of this type of stuff but Ian recommended Wilko dark brown. If you’re in the UK, you can buy this from Wilkinsons (which is a pile it high sell it cheap hardware chain store). The last time I bought a 1Kg tub it cost £1.49 and 1Kg goes a very long way indeed. Don’t try to use it neat from the tub though because it’s too hard to work. Instead, spoon a dollop out into a mixing bowl and dilute to taste with some water and maybe a bit of PVA glue. once you’ve got a consistency you’re happy with you can sculpt it on to your base, taking care to avoid your figure and the numbers printed on the overlay. I use those wooden stirring sticks from posh coffee shops as my sculpting tools.

The great thing about this Wilko wood filler is that it’s a good earth colour already so most of the painting job is done and it has a great texture to dry brush over. I tend to go for a light sandy colour. Lastly you can add anything else you like to spruce up the base – static grass, bits of cat litter for rocks, twigs from the garden for tree trunks etc etc.

Next time, I’ll post a photo of my finished casualty marker base for the second battalion of my Kurmark landwehr infantry.

Posted in Casualty Markers, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »