This post will focus on painting tips, tricks and traps that have gone into producing the figures you see on this blog. It will not necessarily be a ‘how to paint’ guide, just the ideas I’ve used to achieve the results that you see here.
When starting this project I was always going to have to aim for some method of getting through the fairly large numbers of figures required to get the army I wanted. Not everyone will paint as many as I do as I tend to 'go big' rather than less whenever I do a project, but speed in painting whilst achieving a good photographable result was and is the aim. I like to take atmospheric shots so the figures must look good under the camera. In this the superb Cutting Edge sculpts as you can tell from the pictures in the blog and elsewhere go along way to getting great looking minis on the table even with the most rudimentary paint techniques. To this end, for this project I am using the Army Painter system as this gives excellent results for these types of armies. By following the steps below you should be able to produce 40 figs in about 4-5 man hours, possibly less...start to finish....ready for basing.
This seemingly inconsequential thought is in fact pretty important in my opinion. The workspace I have is comfortable and readily accessible to get painting completed. Ideally if you can get a space where you do not have to pack everything away this works best. I find that even doing just small tasks of 10-20 mins here and there helps break up the ‘paint session’ type mentality that can often be off putting. Four to five of those little 20 min sessions really adds up and also enables you to come to the paint table with good focus for a short period of time for a 'burst' of painting. Hours hard at it can lead to sloppy work or at least drain the enthusiasm sometimes or worse still prevent you from starting/resuming painting. When using the Army Painter Quickshade and turps make sure you have good ventilation – the stuff stinks and can’t be that good for you under your nose for extended periods.
The other great helper I find in getting through the lead pile is having a good distraction! If you have a iPad or iPhone you can watch You tube videos or listen to a podcast, perhaps a PC nearby to do a similar thing. This really helps ease the painting sessions and in fact makes them something to look forward to if you hold out for your favourite TV show or podcast to paint and listen to.
A VERY well lit paint area or at least a spot light overhead makes a world of difference to getting accuracy in painting. This cannot be emphasised enough. A good selection of paint brushes of similar sizes so that you can jump from one brush to the next to allow the other to dry after having been cleaned is useful. This gives you control of the paint so that it does not run, particularly when you are doing small detail work.
After fiddling with a number of ways of setting the figures up for painting I have settled on mounting them on small round bases (washers would work also). I use a tiny bit of super glue to secure them. The figure easily pops off no problem once the figure is finished. Putting multiple figures on a single strip to me actually slows the painting down. It’s much easier to get accurate control of a single figure in your hand and the round base enables you to roll the figure around easily in your hand without touching the miniature. It also is perfect for the final job of ‘dipping’ which is a critical step in the process...mount them singly!
|Dynastic Sumerian Armoured Cloak Spearmen|
When painting I do it one unit at a time. I find that it’s easier and faster to paint 40 figures than four lots of ten figures.....you get results as well. You should organise the figure in rows on your paint desk by the same type of miniature it is. That way you can produce variation in color of the same type of figure to get a different look into the unit and at the same time you are painting the same miniature so it eases the task once you have ‘learnt’ how to paint that single figure ie you know the easiest way to paint the same detail one after the other, and so on.
After having them mounted, I then give them a dusting of white spray paint. Then hit them with Army Painter Barbarian Flesh tone spray. Generally one coat will do it. I then go back and ‘touch up’ areas I missed with a paint brush very quickly and easily. Best to do this rather than spray the figure multiple times as you’ll clag up the detail. This provides the base color for all other colors to go on.
|Note the shields based separately and horizontally.|
You can actually buy a Warpaint matching color for Barbarian Flesh to get a perfect match if desired. I've also used a paint-on color such as Vallejo Beige Red to give much the same tone of flesh color after the army painting dip (goop) is applied. All this then dries rock hard and the task of painting begins. The Army Painter dip is very forgiving and you can mix the odd shade of flesh on a figure with no ill effect - in fact, it can give you some natural shading if done cleverly.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there are alot of very natural shades in the figures on this blog. The armies of this period use mostly natural colors and you really can’t go to far wrong sticking to browns, beiges, reds, off whites, etc. For the most part I use the foundry paint system which allows you to use triple shades of the same colors. This is very handy to get variation from the same type of color and as a good example of this you can see the red shields on the Sumerian spearmen following this principle. In this way I use the same triple color to make sure the shields look similar but still different. Once again, the goop will bind and tie all this together. As a guide the goop will darken the figure a bit so using lighter shades is best to allow some natural shading to occur once the goop is applied and it settles into the various folds and cracks in the figure.
When painting the figure a good way to do it efficiently is by painting ‘inside to outside’. By that I mean paint anything on the figure that can then be painted over by the next layer up. A good example is the base coat. That is the bottom layer. After that I usually paint the skirt, then the belting, followed by the hair, helmet and the spear last. This means any blemishes can easily be painted over with the next coat further to the ‘outside’ of the figure....this really speeds and eases the painting 'task'.
This is a simple technique that is used by many painters but makes for very fast painting and you need not be too precise in dark recesses on the figure as the goop will naturally fall into those areas. You do however need to be accurate with painting anything that the goop will not hide. For example, make the belting ‘crisp and sharp’ so that the goop will sit in the cracks and the edges that will show your accurate painting. It’s worth the extra effort and you get better at painting the same figure after a while which is one reason to set the figures up in a row by each type, to make you better at this ‘accurate’ painting. Small paint sessions for these detail tasks are useful to hold the concentration.
To do the sandals on the figure I simply run a brush with Windsor and Newton Peat Brown into the detail on the figure - easy and very fast. When you goop the figure it will bind it all together and you do not have to do any further work on the feet of the miniature.
Bronze of this period is a color that is often talked about. Essentially there is no ‘exact’ color. It varies depending on the composition of the tin and copper. Anything from a brownish to a shinier color is fine. Polished bronze comes up quite shiny. I like the browner shade and the color I particularly like is the Formula P3 Rhulic Gold (excellent) and Foundry 'Burnished Gold A' pot. Both these colors paint over the flesh base coat color very nicely and take well to the goop. These are my staple bronze colors achieving the desired look after they have been gooped! I use the P3 paint for ‘less shiny’ items and the gold for spear tips...though I do mix them as well! I occasionally use other variation colors here and there just to create variety.
|a 'brownish' bronze color.|
Paint colors that I find that I use alot are highlighted on this chart.
As you can see, the variation in shades of brown and red take the Army Painter dip very well and are in keeping with the tones of this period (in my view). There are quite a few varieties of colors so this helps ensure the units don't have a 'cooks cutter' look, but do have a similar look achieving the desired 'organised city-state' force effect look I like.
That said, it is good to put in some variation in color other than basic browns, beiges and off whites, etc. I find that the best way to do this is to goop the figure and then paint on the other colors that don’t take to the Army Painter goop technique that well - colors such as blue and Green, purple, etc are good examples. The goop is a shiny surface so mat varnishing the area you wish to paint can help the application of the paint depending on its consistency, opacity, etc - experiment.
Armoured Cloaks – these are some of the easiest and nicest Cutting Edge figures to paint and also some of the most tedious! The basic paint job is very simple as there is no belting on the figure and you can finish the miniature very quickly. I found with the cloak, if you outline the cloak color on all the figures with a smaller brush, you can very quickly go back with a big brush and fill in the open surface of the cloak...very quick and it gives good consistent coverage easily.
When the figure is painted you will have to decide whether you want to go to the trouble of highlighting the ‘armoured bronze disc’ on the coat. I think it’s worth the effort as these are iconic items of the Sumerian ‘look’. They look good on-table and in the pics. To that end I found a way to speed it up and make it bearable. Get yourself a good gold narrow tip paint pen. The type that dispense paint that you write with. After the goop is applied (not before) you dab the tip on top of the armoured cloak discs and your done (be careful not to press to hard otherwise the paint runs) .
Depending on the paint pen you may be able to do this before the dip but will lose the impact as the goop will darken the gold effect. The cloak discs are very well sculpted and this detail ‘stands up’ ready to be painted on the Cutting Edge figure. Invariably you will make mistakes that you can either ignore or paint over with the coat base color...your choice. Being careful reduces the need for this afterwards. These gold dot on the cloaks are perfect candidates for 2-3 small paint sessions as this job is tedious.
If you prefer a shiny gold effect then you have to put the dots on after the dulcote mat varnishing process. I think it looks best when dulcoted as the effect is still obvious and the texture of the figure all blends in...it’s a personal choice. One of the nice things about making the armoured cloak discs ‘pop out’ like this is that you get to see the fruits of your labour whenever you play as the cloaks face you not your opponent...at least to start with!
Army Painter Quickshade ‘goop’
Now to the ‘easy’ and fun part....gooping! Up to this point the figures look very basic and frankly pretty horrible! No fear, the goop is here.
There are three shades of goop available. I use the mid tone shade for overall coverage of my figures and occasionally use the dark shade tone as well. The mid tone has more viscosity and the dark tone has less ie it is more ‘runny’. The dark tone can be useful for areas with fine detail but I find it does darken the figure a bit. I find that the soft tone is not that useful for these armies as the contrast is not enough, but you could try it on some figures if you have very light shaded colors. The mid tone shade is the best quick shade to use.
I put the word ‘easy’ in inverted commas for a reason. To get good results that are consistent there is a technique that in my opinion is not the one they advise for normal application of the Army Painter. The normal technique calls for you to dip the figure in the Army painter pot and shake the figure then leave to dry. I do not think that this gives the best results - at least not for these minis.
The technique I use is application by brush – nothing scientific here, as many others do the same. It is the best way in my view to get control of the goop when applying it to the figure. One important point to realise from the start is that the goop does ‘harden up’ relatively quickly. It takes hours to dry, but hardens quickly - Important point! I never apply goop to more than 8 figures at a time. By the time I've done the last figure the goop will have started to settle on the first miniatures and then comes the important part. I do however do the entire unit at the same time - this is not a long process. Ensure you have set aside 30-45 mins for the unit of 40 figures to be gooped by this method.
Freshly gooped spearmen
The 'trick' is that you must go back and ‘draw off’ the excess goop that invariably puddles in the crevices in the figures and nearly always at the feet of the miniature as well, which is not immediately apparent when you first apply it. All looks well for a few minutes then it starts to 'puddle' – pay attention to get the excess away from the feet and sandal detail. Goop also sits around belting and in the ‘v neck’ area and the small of the back.....all very common areas to pay attention to. These areas are hot spots to go back and draw of the excess goop.
This point cannot be stressed too much as failure to do this will result in unsightly blobs of goop that really detracts from the finished figures. Take note!!
This point cannot be stressed too much as failure to do this will result in unsightly blobs of goop that really detracts from the finished figures. Take note!!
|This looks pretty ugly up close! - note the puddling at the base of the feet and at the bottom of the fur cloak.|
|Here you can see I removed the excess goop from the above figure, |
but left a bit on the cloak as a 'fur effect' - see below.
At this 'gooping stage' one of the tricks I use is to keep a pot of turpentine nearby. If you find the goop settling and hardening in a place before you are able to draw off the surplus then by wetting the brush with turps and applying it to the offending goop you will be able to 'soften' and then 'draw it off'. You can also use this method to draw off goop from items such as bows which has a goop puddling around the hand and then you can ‘shade out’ to the tip where the turps lifts the goop and returns the base color giving a nice blended effect - in this way you are 'working the goop' to achieve an effect. These tips can only be done in the single session of gooping, not after the figure is left to harden and drying. So to a degree you do have some control over the ‘goop process’ whilst your applying the stuff that can enhance the final effect. Its all quite painless and I think the best part of the process.
After the goop is dry, at least 6 hours but I usually leave them for a day or so to be sure it is absolutely dry, the figure can then be touched up. This step can be left out as small details in massed units don't always show up, but I like to go back and very quickly touch up spots that may be obscured or covered in such as way that you want to highlight missed or obscured detail. Once again, this is personal taste but I find this ‘last look’ before dulcoting enables small blemishes to be fixed easily and gives the finished figures a nice consistent look.
When applying goop to items such as shields one method I use is to lie the shield or figure horizontally so the goop puddles around the bosses on the shields. This works better than the goop running down the face of the shield and puddling at the bottom. When the goop settles, draw off the excess from the flat parts of the shield and let the goop mostly puddle around the bosses. Once the shield is finally mounted and dulcoated on the figure they you can paint the metal bosses. This retains the metallic look of the paint and really makes the bosses ‘pop’ on those lovely big shields and gives an even coat to this large flat surface.
|Shields gooped lying flat - I actually bluetacked them to a small stand to make handling them easier.|
Another technique that is very useful at this point, before mat varnishing, is to apply washes. The Games Workshop Devlin Mud is a favourite. This can be applied in areas where the goop hasn’t settled and can help even out the less than precise goop method once it hardens. This is great for belting and faces in particular. The wash can be easily worked and because the goop gives a hard shell shiny coating to the base colors the ink is not absorbed into the paint. The result is that the wash doesn’t change the color underneath and if you mess it up it you can very easily 'draw off' the offending area with a cotton earbud or paint brush. Inking OVER goop is a good precise way to apply washes.
|These figures have been ever so slightly 'worked' with a wash around the belting and edging of the skin and sheepskin cloaks. |
Note, these are finished figures after having been mat coated.
Yet another technique I use is to apply detailed geometric designs, albeit, quite simple, onto the figure after the goop is applied. Use a normal fine texta pen - .01mm. Similar to the ink, the pen paint or ink flows on the goop surface much more easily and if you make a mistake you can simply wipe it off and start again – you can't do this if you draw on the paint directly as the ink is absorbed into the paint. This way you can get fairly nice details easily to add a bit of variation to the figure, but in a painless way. Ensure this detail is completely dry before mat coating and do not 'paint' a mat coating on as it can smudge the pen-paint detail....use a spray mat varnish.
|Note the geometric drawn pattern on the figure on the left.|
Fur coats feature in this period as Guti cloaks and Amorite shields. These can be tricky. The detail on the figure is slight so you need to be careful not to put too much paint on the figure during the base coat stage. When painting the fur the goop will be used to bring out the detail. So before gooping apply a base coat fur color, then dry brush very lightly to highlight the detail. Apply the goop as normal and then go back and use the ink which is very thin and 'push it around' to make sure you bring out the fur detail in the figure. You can also use the natural tendency of the goop and ink to puddle to your advantage by using it to create a ‘fur effect’ also.
|Here the ink has been applied after the goop and 'worked around' to provide extra shading effects.|
|..and here you see the goop puddled at the bottom of the cloak to create a 'fur effect' |
which naturally settles in the folds and detail.
Experiment with this to get the look that you like. The important thing is to get the ink and goop to sit in the fur detail and bring out a high contrast between the colors so you can see the fur effect. As a last touch up AFTER the figure is dulcoated you can dry brush very lightly to make the fur ‘pop’ that much more. You must do this on the mat surface after dulcoating however as the shiny goop surface will not allow you to dry brush – it just smudges. So for painting fur it is - paint, drybrush, goop, ink, highlight....these are all easy and not tedious steps.
At this point the figure still looks pretty ugly. It’s shiny and looks like it’ll never look any good. Off course you know that’s not the case and the wonders of Dulcote will knock the shine off the figure when you spray it. I find it's best to spray once from the top when the figures are still on their base, then pop them of their base and spray them on one side and then the other. This should get rid of most of the shine. I haven’t used it, but I believe the Army Painter Anti Shine will do pretty much as good a job as dulcote and cost about half the price so might be worthwhile trying out. I also have a pot of dulcote that I brush into hard to get at areas for a completely 'flat' finish.
|Finished figures not yet based.|
My basing is pretty simple. The base material I use are metal cuts made of 1.6mm Galv Steel. This is undercoated with a spray can color called yellow oxide, as this is close to my base color. I use a house paint color that matches my table surface and use this to edge my metal bases. Then I apply the paint with a touch of white glue mixed in, sprinkle on some woodland scenic Burnt Grass in patches and then flock with a sand mix that includes small rocks, ballast, etc for texture. After a few minutes of shaking off the texture, which by now has 'set' enough to stick to the base, I run my finger around the edge to get a crisp, sharp edge of flock right up to the base edges - nice an clean! It’s a very simple but effective base method that is fast and blends well with my gaming surface (which is the MKP desert mat). If I’m feeling a touch inspired I’ll add some Silfor type grass effects, but not always.
|Step 2 - Burnt Grass course texture liberally 'dumped' on the base...then shaken off.|
So there you have it, my method for painting figures as you see them on this blog. Quick, fast, and well protected from damage. The importance of the sculpt you work with makes quite a difference as the goop highlights all the good and bad things about the sculpt you use.