A Layered Approach to Painting Miniature Figure Uniforms

Captain, 11th Hussars, Stable Jacket, 1900 (Chota Sahib, 54mm white metal)

Orangeville, ON (James Doan) If you consider a model figure as a blank canvas, then the modeller is the artist who will be applying colour and shadow. Over the years, I have found it easier and often better to work out through the layers of clothing and equipment. Paint successive layers of clothing in order. It is better to paint the uniform first and paint the buttons, trim, and equipment after.

When working with acrylics for my painted figures, I find that using a base colour along with one shadow colour gives a satisfactory effect. For the uniform shadow colour, use the full strength uniform colour and then mix the base colour by adding about twenty per cent white to the full strength colour.

When you have mixed your colours, it is time to start painting the uniform. Since acrylics dry quickly, it is best to work in sections to complete the uniform in stages. Start with the widest areas and work down to the smallest ones, saving fine detail for last. Paint each major section with the appropriate base colour. Then, before the base colour has had a chance to set, you can apply the shadow colour to the depressed folds of the area as required. Take a little time to analyze just where the shadows will occur. Work slowly and thoughtfully. Before you apply the colour, ask yourself where you should put it. Is this area in light or in shadow? Why? You may find this somewhat trying at first, but I have found that as you spend more time working this way, it soon becomes automatic.

Paint consistency is a major concern as you work. If your paint is too thick you will have difficulty getting an easy, even flow of paint from the brush. Even more seriously, if your paint is thinned too much it has a nasty tendency to flow almost everywhere except where you want it to. You can obtain the proper consistency by adding only a small amount of thinner initially.Then, watch and add very small amounts of thinner to your paint to compensate for evaporation as your painting session..

Unless you are modelling patent leather, use a subtle sheen on all leather fittings. One tip is to allow the paint to dry thoroughly and then gently rub the area with your finger. The oils present will add a slight polish.

Metallic paints can be used for buttons, metallic braid and lace, and weapons. Metallic paints behave differently from the normal acrylics. Some recommend not stirring the paint but rather retrieving a small amount of the pigment from the bottom of the jar and then adding, a drop at a time, the solvent from the upper layer until the proper consistency is achieved.

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