Saturday, 26 November 2011

Painting Great War British Infantry

I’ve posted some WIP shots of a section of 28mm British Infantry from Great War Miniatures plus a Company command stand which I’m painting for a game at my local wargames club on the 6th December. I don’t normally paint work-in-progress shots, mainly because I’m never quite sure if people are interested how the figures are painted as opposed to how they look at the end of the painting process. However, a couple of recent comments on the Blog suggested people would like to know more … and that’s the reason for the next few Blog posts.

So, a few words of introduction. There’s nothing original here. In fact, I think all my techniques have been featured by far better painters elsewhere. I get deeply inspired by Golden Demon entries and painting competition winners, and against the company of those artists, the figures I paint are on a far more humble plane of existence.

However, I have tried to paint the figures for our Great War games in a particular style, which I hope gives the results we were looking for at my wargames club in St Albans. The three things in my mind were:

(1) for starters, I was looking for figures which were attractively painted, but not too immaculate that I’d ever be too nervous to play with them in club or participation games at wargames shows;

(2) I wanted figures which would catch the eye from a distance of about three to five feet, especially to a person new to the period, and look dramatic on a tabletop. I wasn’t looking for painting every tiny detail in three colours (although some figures did end up a bit like that). But I also wanted to avoid the very-authentic-covered-in-mud look, at least for the figures (I found more issues with the terrain in this regard); and

(3) finally, I wanted to paint figures which looked a bit different, exaggerated even. This was because I wanted them to stand out on a fairly “busy” set of terrain boards and not just disappear into the background.

With this is mind, here’s how I’ve painted just about all the figures for the Great War project.

Stage One – Faces and Hands

I like to try for a base coat and three colours. The base used to be Plaka GelbBraun, but for some inexplicable reason this awesome colour has been discontinued. Vallejo Green Brown is a decent substitute, if a bit darker. The face base-coat of the figure on the far right, below, is painted with just Vallejo Green Brown, while the other three figures show the stages described below.

I then run a thin brush with a mix of Plaka Braun and Vallejo Black into the recesses of the face – eyes, mouth, sides of nose, under the cheek-bones. I don’t bother painting the eyes on the Great War figures. You can barely see them under the steel helmets of most of the infantry. I’ve only ended up painting the eyes when they have been clearly sculpted onto a figure’s face.

After the shading of Plaka Braun/ Vallejo Black, I build up the face contours using Vallejo Sunny Skintone and Basic Skintone, and finish off with picking out the tip of the nose and cheekbones in a mix of Vallejo White and Vallejo Basic Skintone.

The figure on the left below has the Sunny Skintone painted on, whereas the officer on the white has both Sunny Skintone and Basic Skintone, and dabs of the Basic Skintone/ White highlighting.

I used exactly the same formula for the hands as the faces, trying to paint in small blobs to accentuate the fingers. I work in groups of 10 to 20 figures. I’d estimate it took about an hour to do the faces and hands for the group of figures below.

I subscribe to the “inside-out” approach. Again, this is nothing new but the aim is to paint the fiddly hands and faces first, give the figure a bit of character, then build up the colours from the dark to light.

With this in mind, I like to try and cover a fairly large area next, so I usually paint the bulk of the uniform shade colour.

Stage Two - Shade Colours

For the British infantry, a uniform shade colour of Vallejo Brown Violet seems to me to work really well.

OK, next time I’ll post the rest of the WIPs for the bulk and shade painting. I guess I can finish the short series with a third post covering the highlighting and finishing, which is where the whole figure starts to look a lot better. Honest!


  1. Thank you. I for one love to see how other people achieve the results that they do. I appreciate that this can sometimes seem repetitive but there is nearly always something new to learn or assimilate.

  2. Thanks Sidney. I agree with Michael. I have been painting these wee chaps for the last 40 years or so but am still learning.

  3. Progressing very well. I really like the Great War figures.

  4. I've really got to stop looking at your WWI stuff or your going to cause me to jump into another period I have no time for!(LoL!)
    Very nice tutorial so far and I'll keep it in mind if/ when I start the period.


  5. Great War is my favourite brand. I own now the whole late British and German infanrty army ranges (incuding some support weapons); that after three years collecting and painting anyway. Thanks for the tips, I use a different technique but willing to test new ones

  6. Thanks guys. I really appreciate all the comments.

    The idea behind the work-in-progress shots was very much as a "this is how I muddle through" piece! I like the way everyone has their own way of doing things, and I really enjoy seeing how everyone else does their painting also.

    After 30 years now, I feel like a beginner many, many times - especially like with washes and dips. And yes, I'm still learning all the time also. I guess that's one of the many things which keeps the painting side of the hobby fresh for me also.

    So please, don't think of this as a "you do it this way", but more a "this sort of organised chaos works for me"!!!


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