I have seen a number of suggestions on the internet for painting up miniatures in a hurry. There is, of course, the well-known “miracle dip” in which you do a basic block painting job and then coat with a dark Minwax wood stain product (or equivalent home made brew). However, I recently read an article on The Miniatures Page in which two complete DBA armies were painted and based in 4 hours, 26 minutes! Granted these were 6 mm armies, but it got me thinking. Could a 15 mm Napoleonic regiment be painted in the same time? I decided to give it a go.
The Troops: I decided I would paint up a British regiment as I have the most experience with their uniforms. Not to mention I had an old “battalion pack” that I knew I would otherwise never get to. Over half of the infantry was in a kneeling position! Not exactly the pose that leaps to mind most when ordering troops. Still, the item description had not provided detail as to poses, so “caveat emptor” (which, loosely translated, means “ “). Perhaps I could unload the painted result on E-bay - after all one man’s “Collector Quality” is another man’s “Jackson Pollack.” The figures are Irregular British Infantry in the Belgic shako. There are four command figures (officer, drummer, two sergeants) and 19 infantry. At 50:1 this represents a strong brigade of 950 men (I used one of the infantry for the side-by-side comparisons elsewhere on this site).
The Goal: Given my time constraint, I would have to keep my aim reasonable. My goal was to have a regiment that would have a very basic paint job, with perhaps just a few washes for shading and highlighting. Obviously this unit would be laughed out of any painting competition (or would it? hmm....) but as long as it would not be laughed off a gaming table, I would be satisfied. Obviously fine details would be left for a later touch up. The idea was to replicate the need for a given unit for a given game. I thought 4.5 hours was as long a single session as any painter was likely to have at one stretch.
The Schedule: Looking at the figures I decided I would need two sittings. The first, which would be 30 minutes, would be for cleaning and priming. I decided I would use a technique I had read about for 6 mm - paint from the feet up (instead of my usual “from the flesh out”). In the first hour I want to get the boots, pants and major portions of the jacket painted. In the second hour I will finish the jacket, paint the flesh, then start the major equipment - backpack, cartridge box, and scabbard (they are all black). In the third hour I will do the canteen, cross-straps, cuffs and collars, ending with brown hair and the shako. That leaves one hour for final touch up (predominantly lace and such), painting the bases and basing the entire unit.
FIRST SESSION: 30 MINUTES
The figures had almost no flash and the bases required only a minimal amount of clean up. Having clipped and sanded the bases smooth, and given them a gentle rinse in warm soapy water, they were quickly primed. At first I had thought of priming them in black as a short-cut to obtain some shading, but the light gray trousers and red coats usually require two coats to look good over black. I considered gray, but rejected it as the red still often takes two coats to look nice. While I don’t expect any plaudits for these troops, I don’t want to embarrass myself either! I decide to prime in white. I mix Ceramcoat “Warm White” to get it thin enough and pull down my 30-cent half-inch paint brush and lay it on. So far so good. It takes just 25 minutes to finish this step. I decide to give the priming a solid hour to dry, so I go cook dinner (Fra Diablo with scallops - I’ve got a killer recipe - E-mail me for it).
SECOND SESSION: 60 MINUTES
Beginning Status: +5 Min.
Time for the rubber to meet the road. I load up my water jar and pull out my base coverage brush. It’s a Floquil 5/O sable. It has a good point so I can get some definition, but is large enough to cover the major areas quickly. However, I realize I will have to do a second round of scarlet on the jacket to get in between the straps and so on. Time to open some paint.
Flat black (Model Master again) for the boots all around. Normally I mix black with charcoal gray to do the gaiters and do just the boots in pure black, giving the feet some definition. If I’m going to add 10 minutes in putting in detail, it certainly won’t be on the boots! I don’t even look for any other detail like buttons. On to the trousers. I decide to go with gray. I select Model Master Dark Gull Gray #4755 as it is thin enough to use straight from the bottle saving me a minute or two. It also gives nice one-coat coverage.
Since I am painting from the bottom up, I only take pains on the lower boundaries between colors (in this case the boots). If I run up over onto the jacket or straps that’s fine - that will all get covered as I move up the figure. So for the pants, I take the extra few seconds to do a nice edge at the boots, then it’s all about the speed, baby! Again, I’m trying to balance speed and quality.
Now for the jacket. I select Polly-S SP Scarlet. The entire unit will have the same jacket color. This scarlet is also thin enough right out of the bottle and (over white prime) looks fine with one coat. I said fine, not great. Drummers wear jackets in reversed colors, meaning scarlet cuffs and collars with the main jacket in the facing color. I decide on Polly Scale Prussian Blue as it is dark enough to cover both scarlet and flesh. The drummer gets his blue coat and we’re finished.
Things are going well. This session came in right on schedule as well - 56 minutes. So far I have nine minutes to spare, which I know will vanish as soon as I hit my first snag. Still, I’m pleased with how the whole project is proceeding.