Monday, January 7, 2008

Fanning the Flames of War

In December I spent much more time then I care to admit ogling the minis from Flames of War, the semi-historical World War Two game. Finally I broke down and bought a few miniatures. Now I am waiting for the rest of my order to arrive. I often get asked about how I paint such small miniatures. It actually is not very difficult at all. I will chronicle the painting of my British Airborne army.

So what do the figures look like? Well here is a picture of a single 15mm soldier next to a dime.

Four or five of these miniatures will be placed on a stand to represent a team of soldiers. Note the strand of metal connected to the bottom. This is called flashing and is waste material, cut it off with a pair of clippers or a hobby knife.

Choosing a force and learning the game is a few pages by itself and better left to the folks on the Yahoo Group FoWOntario or the Flames of War forums or better yet your Local Game Store (LGS). Best thing to do is pick a force you will enjoy learning about and that you think looks good. In my case I choose the dead-hard British Paratroopers, bonus is the Canadians of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion took part on D-Day which means I can field a Canadian force.

Before painting the first thing to do is get some picture references of the real life figures. We are looking for the colours of uniform, equipment, gear and identification. I found a good number of pictures on the Internet for pictures of British Paratroopers. I also hit the local library to pick up books on the Canadian army during the war era. Also helpful is a reference section of one of the rule books (Flames of war: D minus 1), it even notes the differences in the Canadian uniforms (which had a slightly greener hue).

Now, that we have a reference we can collect the correct paints and some brushes. As well as a jar of water to rinse the brushes while we are working and a paper towel to absorb excess water and paint. For brushes I use Citadel brand sizes fine and standard (available from or Winsor and Newton size 0, 00 or 000 (not sure where to get it from). Sable brushes are the best don't bother with the synthetics. For paints I use Citadel colours, but Vallejo is good and there are many brands of water based acrylic paints. Just be sure to stay away from enamels.
Now lets get back to the miniatures. The first platoon I am going to paint is my Airlanding Battery, 4 howitzers, its crew and command teams. I'll show the process for two guns, the other guns will be similarly done.

I carefully remove the flashing and other unwanted metal being sure I don't scratch details on the miniature. Then I stick the crew, using white glue, to pieces of card so I can handle the figures without touching the miniature and rubbing off paint with my fingers.

Using slightly watered down black paint I paint over the entire miniature, creating an undercoat for later layers to stick to. I try to get into all the nooks and crannies but I am careful not to put the paint on to thick. You can see a spot I missed on one of the crewman to the left of the front gun. Oops, I'll fix that on the next go. I paint in an assembly line so that (hopefully) the paint is dry on the first figure by the time I have finished the last. It is best to let the paint dry before putting on the next colour as wet paint mixes!

Time for some camouflage. The Dark Angels Green paint I had was a bit too cartoony, being meant for science fiction warriors. I mixed a small amount of some Scorched Brown paint on my pallette to get a more realistic colour. Both howitzers and all the helmets were painted with this colour.

To get a nice even colour I painted in two light coats. This is better than a single heavy coat as the paint dries evenly and does not get "chunky". As you can see the gun is pretty bland in a single colour. I am going to create the illusion of depth by highlighting raised parts on the gun with a lighter colour. I added some Goblin Green to the mix I had previously and used a technique called dry brushing to get just the raised bits. Here is a comparison: the gun in the foreground has been highlighted, the other one is just flat colour.

There are two tricks to dry brushing. First you need to wipe the brush on a paper towel until the lines of colour are very faint and second, contrary to the name, the brush has to be a little damp to avoid the paint drying out too much and leaving a "dusty" effect all over the miniature. To apply the highlights lightly drag the brush over the miniature. All the raised portions will rub against the brush and the small amount of remaining paint will stick to the miniature. The amount of pressure is directly proprtional to the amount of paint remaining. Don't push to hard though or the lower layers could be scratched off.

I spent the rest of the night just experimenting with colours since I don't have the exact colours that the Flames of War source book calls for. Here are the results of the gun crew's pants.


hm park said...

Tanks! I want to see Tanks!

Karl Sciberras said...

Tanks? In an Airborne Regiment?
Actually they are in the works but I wont get to them for a month or two at least.