Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Washes and Shades 1

Some textured card used to test washes.
It's been a while since I last completed an army of 28mm figures using a wash technique so it was time to think it through again. I don't have any coloured inks or dedicated colour washes. I do have a lot of different acrylic paints so that is what I’m using.

I've previously washed figures using a simple mix of acrylic paint and water. This time I wanted to get more contrast, so decided to mix the solutions more carefully and to experiment with adding detergent (dish soap) to reduce water resistance and improve flow. Isopropyl has also been mentioned as an ingredient but as it's used to strip acrylic paint I think I'll give that a miss. Another trick I wanted to try was to wet each figure with water before applying the wash.

The figures I'm working on are my 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for Rebels and Patriots. I want the Government forces to look uniform but I want the Rebels to look '40 shades of grey-brown' so they are an ideal subject for experimentation without running the risk of ruining anything. I therefore started on the Rebels.

Most historical peasant clothing was dyed grey but faded to brown. Various browns, grey-browns and greys will therefore feature as my principal wash colours.

It's a long way down the line but I will also be altering my finishing process. The provisional plan is:
  1. Spray gloss varnish.
  2. Wash with an ink stain or shade.
  3. [Highlight if necessary but hopefully not.]
  4. Add PVA builders’ sand, talus, static grass and tufts.
  5. Spray with Dullcote.
  6. Add flags.
The gloss varnish will again help the final shade to run off the raised surfaces and congregate in the crevices.

The figures had all been primed with white gesso. The washes are intended to be a one pass application of the main clothing colour, though other washes and block painting will be added for variation.

The washes were mixed in varying proportions depending on individual paints but they were basically about 1 part paint to 5 or 6 parts water and one drop of washing-up liquid.

This is what I noticed as I went along but I will be saying more in conclusion.
  1. Basically the constituency needs to be more like a watercolour than an acrylic.
  2. The detergent did break down water resistance and help the wash to spread but it took time to convince me. Use too much, however, and the wash bubbles and the paint gathers in arbitrary patches rather than running into the crevices.
  3. I tried wetting figures first as some recommend, but the effect was too extreme. It diluted the paint too much and created an overall very bland finish.
  4. Washes need to be put on pretty liberally. If you try to be sparing you end up covering the figure too evenly.

Group 1 - Coat d'arms 208 Wood Brown

Group 2 - Vallejo 160 Neutral Grey

The grey looked too neutral, so I added the remnants from the first wash.

Group 3 - Cda 501 British Khaki

Group 4 - Cda 537 Faded Khaki

Group 5 - Cda 519 Mid Stone

Group 6 - Vallejo 983 Flat Earth

Darker colours such as this provide better contrast and make the wash approach more effective. 

Group 7 - Cda 208 Grass Green

This was the first group of figures wearing uniform coats. At this stage they looked like exotic frogs…

Group 8 - Cda 110 Royal Blue

Group 9 - Cda 110 Royal Blue + Vallejo 154 Sky Grey

The gun needed finishing in a 'leaden blue' so I added some grey to the remnant of the Royal Blue.

Group 10 - Cda 238 British Scarlet replaced by CdA 146 Ruby Red

This was the most important group, the most challenging and the least satisfactory. Cda 238 British Scarlet covers poorly when block painting and made a very uneven wash so after a few figures I decided to wash it off and start again. My paint collection is quite old. I've been told that it may not be the age of the paint so much the age of the paint forumula. I then switched to Cda 146 Ruby Red but the figures still came up a sickly pink.

I was happy with the brown, grey-brown and grey washes for civilian clothes but I wasn’t confident that the final stain would make the uniform coats look right. The green was too vibrant, the blue was too grey and the red was shockingly pink.

I tried another wash of a slightly darker red on the redcoats. This reddened the pink a little but it also flattened the shade effect. Even Mrs Phalanx made a passing comment about how awful they looked.

Somewhat discouraged I put the redcoats aside and put a dark but very dilute wash of Cda 521 Army Green on the greencoats. This worked well. It toned down the luminous green but still left a lot of contrast. The figure on the left has been rewashed.

I made a similar improvement to the bluecoats using some cheap Navy Blue hobby acrylic. The figure on the left has been rewashed.

Encouraged by these successes I made a thin wash of Cda 509 Brick Red. Here the figure on the right is the one that has been rewashed. This toned down the pink and restored a shading effect, but they still don’t look quite right. Once the facings and cross straps have been painted in a lot less red will be showing. After the final staining I may have to touch up the red with a more appropriate colour. Time will tell.

These secondary washes on the figures in uniform coats pre-empt the role of the final stain but the figures do look better. Having to do a second wash is contrary to my central principle of economy of effort but it's still quicker and easier than a dark to light approach using two or three tones solidly applied.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Reflection No 1: Getting in Sync

I may yet have some 'rants' to deliver, but the idea of a rant is too  aggressive for many of my thoughts, so I'm pitching this as a 'reflection'.

Like most wargamers, I'm a serial obsessionalist. I'm happiest when concentrating on one thing and totally submerging myself in it, but then I'm also easily bored and likely to flit to something else! Finding the right balance is a perpetual challenge.

This year I've planned for a limited set of areas and a close integration between what I'm painting and what I'm playing. As I'm basing-before-painting and using-while-painting I'm well placed to do this. (I'm committed to adding more paint before an army is used again so I have to slip the figures on and off painting bases, but that's no great burden.)

I typically play two games a month so the idea is to spend the preceding fortnight working on the armies I intend to use in my next game. Devotion to theme doesn't stop at modelling or swatting up on rules, but may extend to what I read or watch or listen to.This will not only 'feel right' but give me a big incentive actually to do some painting. At the moment I'm focusing on my 1798 figures and the strategy is working.

This approach is much better than the one that involves months of painting before you can play a game with the inevitable loss of interest before an army is finished. I have the semi-painted lead mountain to prove it.

It's a little unusual to write about process rather than models or games, but it's actually fundamental to the whole pursuit.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Chain of Command: My 1944 Ardennes Platoons and Supports

These are my 28mm 1944 Ardennes Campaign German Volksgrenadier and US Army platoons for Chain of Command.

Volksgrenadiers and Supports.
The Volksgrenadier platoon consists of two Sturm (Assault Rifle) and one LMG squad. The Sturm squads have a Junior Leader and comprise a single Team. The LMG squad has a Junior Leader and two teams, one with an additional riflemen.

There is also an HQ team of three men armed with KARs and Rifle-Grenades. At this late stage of the war, following losses on the Eastern Front, there is only one Senior Leader but another can be purchased from the Supports List and looks like a must.

Other supports shown in the photo include a Pak 40 anti-tank gun (centre), a tripod-mounted HMG, Panzerschreck teams, and snipers. I also have a Black Tree Infantry Gun on order, but am having difficulties getting a response from the company.

The models are all metal apart from the Pak 40 which is a resin piece from Blitzkrieg Miniatures.

US Army and Supports.
The US platoon has three Rifle Squads. Each squad has a Junior Leader (square base), a Rifle Team and two BAR teams. The second BAR is actually a 1-point Support upgrade. I will probably field each Squad as two teams with a BAR in each.

The figures with oblong bases are Senior Leaders. To their right is a Bazooka Team. The Supports include an anti-tank gun, mortar, snipers, a 32mm Browning (needs some additional figures), some more Bazooka Teams and Medical Orderlies. I don't know how many of these extras I'll atually need. They're just the figures I bought twelve years ago.

The original figures were Artisan and Bolt Action but I've recently added a few Empress Miniatures and others. Crewed weapons in CoC typically require 4-5 crew which is more than manufactureres usually supply. I'm therefore always on the lookout for suitable extras, e.g. ammo carriers.

1/50 scale Corgi diecasts. At least I don't have to paint them.
Using 1/50 (or 1/48) vehicles instead of 1/56 vehicles is controversial. Readers will note that the figures are mounted on rather high bases. This is all to do with the AFVs, an issue I’ll be addressing in another post.

Friday, 7 February 2020

My 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for 'Rebels and Patriots'

These are my 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for Rebels and Patriots. I’ve been buying them from North Star using my monthly Wargames Illustrated discount. All the figures are Trent Miniatures. They have great character and required only minimal cleaning up.

United Irishmen. The units are a mixture of pikemen and gunmen. The skirmishers (bottom left) are Shelmaliers. The command figures (bottom centre) will be put into one of the pike units. The remaining figures (bottom right) are spares for different configurations.

There are no silly cast pikes but no open hands either, so the hands had to be drilled. I started with a pin vice but the metal was quite hard so I dug out my old modelling drill and upgraded the power unit from 9v to 12v.

It’s some time since I’ve used this so I had to decide on technique:

1. Start the hole with a pin vice hand drill which is more controllable than the electric drill. Once the hole is started you can get a purchase with the latter. If going through two hands, start each one with the pin vice.

2. Don’t just drill. It will jam. Keep pulling it out and pushing it back in again. This doesn't seem to happen with the pin vice.

3. Avoid letting the drill slip under a finger nail - it's uncomfortable and may cause delay.

The figures came with sharp wire pikes. I shortened these to 60mm to represent Irish half-pikes.

Irish Militia etc comprising two units of Line Infantry (centre row), Grenadiers (bottom left),  Light Infantry (bottom right), Yeoman Cavalry (at the back) and Artillery. The mounted Captain (next to the gun) replaces an ordinary figure in whichever unit he is put with.

The Crown troops required a lot less work. Many of the Militia (and Rebels) came with separate heads. This provides good variation for the Rebels but less so for the Militia. The Militia heads can be angled a little differently, but only up to a point.