Wednesday, May 2, 2012

British 25pdr Battery Part One: Artillery Crew

To help a friend of mine get started in Flames of War, I am painting some of the British minis I have had in various stages of assembly for about five years a little while.  Called around to find some folks willing to trade some primed American stuff for primed British, and off we go!

First up is a two-section battery of 25-pounder artillery pieces and assorted staff elements.  I decided to start with the arty crews, as they would be the most time-consuming part of the unit.  He is going for late-war Desert Rats, so brown and brown it is, with a little khaki thrown in for flavor.  He will be using a maxed-out battery, so it will have eight crew teams, three command teams, two observer teams, and a staff team.  There are associated vehicles, but I'll be doing those later, at the same time as the guns themselves.

Step 1: Prep Work

First up, I cleaned the flash and mold lines off the minis.  Since I will be using washes and inks, solid lines will really show up, so this step is important.  I use a contact file (same ones you use for spark plugs) and a hobby knife; the file is mainly for the helmets, the knife is to scrape the seams.

Next up is a bath.  I'm not sure what mold release Battlefront uses, but I clean everything before priming, and have never had a problem with paint coming off.  It might not be necessary, but there is no kill like overkill!  Anyway, I dunked them in Simple Green, then held about ten at a time in my palm while I hit them with a fingernail brush.  Rinsed in warm water, set aside to dry, then did the next batch.

Step 2:  Grouping and Priming

After they finished drying, I grouped them by pose and used wood glue to stick them on boards for priming. By having the various poses together and aligned, it lets you speed up the painting process as you are repeating the same brush strokes four to eight times, and when you realize you missed particular parts or a piece of kit, you can check the same areas on the other like poses. Gluing them to a board gives you something to hold onto other than the fig, and gives easy access to all parts of the minis.

related note 2a:  waterproof Gorilla Wood Glue rocks!  It holds the figs strongly to the board, but pops off cleanly when it's time to dismount them without leaving clue residue on the fig.

related note 2b:  I use 3"x7" craft boards from Michael's, with a small crosspiece glued to the bottom so they stand up by themselves.

Step 3:  Tops and Bottoms

Normally, I would do the belts and web gear first, but I had no clue where my Khaki was and I was in a painting mood, so I decided to drive on.  For the shirts and pants, I used Vallejo English Uniform thinned six drops paint to one drop thinner.  This acts similar to a wash, but the "faded" look will be corrected in the final stage when I give it an ink bath.  If you get a little sloppy and paint outside the lines, no big deal...with the order I used, you can clean up as you go on to the next step.  The color is a little darker than the photo shows, but close enough.

related note 3a:  to thin my paint, I use half distilled water and half Future Floor Wax, then add a few drops of flow improver and drying retarder (both by Golden).  The Future is basically an acrylic base, just like the paint medium, so it thins without separation and adds a toughness to the paint.  And, as a bonus, it makes your paint smell better.  I'm not a brush licker, though, so I can't attest to the effect on taste, but I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend you don't put on your tongue what most people put on their floor.

Step 4: Khaki

Note:  the color is off, as I was shooting under fluorescent lights, but close enough...

Normally at this point the belts would have been done as the first paint step, but oh well.  I found my Vallejo Khaki and hit all the web gear, belts, and gators.  The color looked too similar to the brown, though, so I lightened it up with a little white mixed in.  Don't worry if the khaki on the gators slops onto the boots a little, as they will be painted black and will cover fine.  Be careful with the belts, though, because touch-up is a pain; this is why if I was more patient, I would have waited to find my Khaki before doing the browns in Step 3.

related note 4a:  the original khaki might have been a more accurate color, but for a 15mm figure at tabletop distance, I wanted a little contrast to make the details stand out more, so I used a 4:1 ratio of Khaki to White.  Looks fine in a black-and-white photo...

Step 5:  Boots and Q-Tips

For the boots and rammer tips, I used Vallejo German Grey, which is dark enough to be almost black.  Pure black rarely looks right at this scale, and I will be weathering them up anyway in later steps.  After the boots are done, use a dark brown and paint the tops of the bases; this will save time when we put the dudes on the bases, as we won't have to worry about perfect coverage with out basing material.

related note 5a:  the rammers make their first appearance in the Step 6 photo; it's the tool the Number 2 crewman uses to advance the shell into the breech.

Step 6:  Headgear

The officers get theirs in Vallejo English Uniform, the helmets are in Vallejo Russian Uniform.  I would normally just paint the underside of the headgear, since the faces get painted in the next step, but I had plenty of the paint on the palette so I went ahead and did the tops as well.  The very top of the model is normally the very last painting step, as it is the part most likely to get scuffed during the painting process, but I went ahead and knocked it out.  Saves a drop or two, I suppose...

related note 6a:  I have never actually used Russian Uniform on anything Russian...go figure.

Step 7: Gimme some skin

Easy step.  I went with Vallejo Basic Skintone, even though it is a little light and fresh.  I will be using a shader later on, so it will come out all right.

Step 8:  Rammer staves

Another straightforward step; I used Vallejo Goldenbrown.  Not the historically accurate color, but the correct ones were too close to the uniform, so I applied some artistic license and went with a lighter shade.

Step 9:  Shellshocked

The actual shells were an alloy rather than pure brass, so were a lot less "brassy", but I wanted more contrast, so I used Vallejo Brass.  The shading later on will tone down the brightness a notch or two.  Hit the tip with Vallejo German Grey (they were actually black, but as discussed earlier, pure black looks odd on minis at this scale unless you are going to do highlighting, which I am not) and you are done.

Step 10:  Time for a haircut

The officers are the only ones with hair showing, to this is a quick step.  Any color will do, but I would avoid medium brown as it blends with the uniform.  A couple have mustaches (or maybe Mick Jager lips, hard to tell at 15mm scale...), so don't forget to paint those as well.

Step 11:  Shady dealings

Shading is one of the most important steps.  Because I have been using thinned paint over a white primer, the colors are a little washed out.  Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade shares properties of both a wash (color flows into recesses and applies a light filter) and an ink (deepens the tone of colors and gives it depth) is the perfect solution to both.  It won't take care of the lining qualities as well as either a straight wash or a straight ink, but at this scale and to keep the speed up, it is a reasonable compromise.

Some folks just dip the entire mini in then shake off the excess, but I like to brush it on.  The two dudes on the right have received their shade, though I hadn't wicked off the excess (mainly at the bottom) with a dry brush yet.

Step 12:  Seal the deal

That's it!  Hit them with a light spray of matte varnish to seal them, and we're ready to get the dudes on their bases.

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