French infantry in horizon blue uniforms. HaT Industrie re-released the old Airfix figures in a glossy medium blue plastic, which is relatively close to the actual uniform colour. Unfortunately, this is not much help if you use a traditional painting technique. You would either have to undercoat the figure in a dark blue and drybrush the horizon blue highlights, or you would apply dark blue shadow into every fold in the uniform. The fastest alternative is to patinate the miniatures, using the medium blue plastic as the uniform colour, and saving a lot of time in the process. This particular speedpainting technique can be used on all plastic figures cast in nearly the correct uniform colour. You will have to experiment with the plastic, to see how it will turn out.
Tools and Accessories
- Size 1 paintbrush for detailing
- Artist Acrylics
- Pactra Acrylic Gloss Varnish
- Pactra Acrylic Matt Varnish
- Tamiya Flat Base
Many modern armies adopted uniforms with matching jackets and trousers, and some plastic figure manufacturers cast their models in a colour which is close enough to the original. HaT Industrie has a policy of matching the plastic to the historic uniform colour, and many of their troop types can be patinated successfully. The process is very different from the other speedpaintig technique, the one based on drybrushing. When we patinate figures, we need to reverse the order of painting, the detailing comes first.
Speedpainting is impossible without mass production. In figure painting, most time is spent researching the uniform, deciding which colours to use, mixing the paint, cleaning brushes, and waiting for paint or washes to dry. These steps require the same amount of time if a single figure or an entire platoon of 36 soldiers is painted. In fact, painting entire units nearly eliminates the waiting period, because some figures dry while other are being painted.
For the purpose of this report, the editor spent a total of 70 minutes speedpainting a batch of 13 French infantry figures, some of which are pictured above. Three sessions were required to allow the varnishes to dry. The group of figures was too small to take full advantage of speedpainting, but 5 Minutes and 23 Seconds per figure is an acceptable result. An entire platoon of 40 figures would have improved the painting speed to under 2 Minutes and 45 Seconds per figure, keeping the quality of the work and the stress level the same. Much larger groups of figures will become tedious to paint, because mixed paint dries up on the palette before the last figure in the batch is completed. Furthermore, too much repetitive detailing work will tax the painter’s patience enormously, causing the entire project to be dropped before completion. On the other hand, a paint change after 40 figures is something to look forward to, it is well within the limit of patience.
The figures need to be cleaned with detergent, to ensure that the acrylic paint can be applied directly to the plastic surface, without undercoating. Surprisingly, these figures are made from a plastic material which accepted Tamiya and Pactra acrylics without a problem even when the paints were thinned considerable with water.
Hands and faces should be painted first, using full flesh colour to cover the blue plastic. This is the most difficult part of the job, the faces must be painted precisely, without spilling paint onto the collar or helmet. If a mistake is made, use a clean brush to immediately remove the unwanted paint. Thinning the paint with water, and lifting the excess off with a brush should work fine, but it must be done immediately. Alternatively, scrape off the spill with the fingernail or with a knife, after the paint has dried. The latter requires more time and patience than is appropriate for a speedpaint technique, so watch what you’re doing and clean up mistakes immediately.
Hair, mustaches, rifles and rifle slings are painted medium brown. Straps, belts, ammunition pouches, pistol holster and officer’s boots should be a medium reddish brown. The second colour is well worth the effort, but it would be acceptable to save time by painting all wood and leather items in the same medium brown colour. Put more brown paint on your palette than you need now, we will use it as the basis for the other colours.
Put white acrylic on your palette and paint the haversacks with it, add a little black and paint the canteen pale grey.
Mix the medium brown and white paint on your palette to arrive at a light or medium canvas colour, and paint the backpacks with that.
Add black to the canvas colour to arrive at a dark grey, and paint the soldiers’ shoes with it. The visor on the officer’s cap is the only other item which needs to be painted dark grey.
Paint the officer’s pistol and all metal parts on the rifle with gun metal. The trumpeter needs a brass trumpet, and you’re done. The figures should be well detailed now, with all equipment items painted. Check that you made no mistakes, and that you’ve not forgotten anything. Blue hair will not look attractive later.
Seal and Protect
Spray the figures with gloss varnish. Pactra Clear Gloss acrylic is very good, and it dries fast. Allow the figures to dry overnight, if you have the patience, but it’s probably ok to continue painting them within the hour. Touch a figure with the back of your hand to check that the varnish has dried. If the figure does not stick, touch it with the tip of your finger to be sure. Warning: If the varnish is not perfectly dry, the figure will be ruined when you patinate it.
Mix a batch of very watery dark grey acrylic, using black and dark brown. The mixture should have the consistency of ink: Thin enough to run all over the figure, and not actually stick to any part of it like paint would. Brush this watery paint onto a figure, and check that it does not cover. The liquid should flow, and you should be able to lift it off with a clean brush. If the consistency is too thick, add water and work on this one figure until the wash flows properly. Apply the wash to all of the figures, making sure that they are well covered. It is important to spread the wash over the entire figure, so that a film of watery paint encloses the figure completely. Brush down onto the base of the figure to allow the excess wash to run off.
The wash will begin to dry, and this process must be monitored for several minutes. It is important to brush out large puddles of the wash which may collect between an arm and the chest, under the helmet, between the legs, and between rifle and sling. Using a clean brush, lift some of the puddle off or brush it into another area of the figure that has not been washed sufficiently. If some creases in the uniform appear to be empty of pigment, brush more of the wash into them. The effect you want is a deep shadow in the engraved lines and around equipment items. The raised surfaces should be as clean as possible, revealing the medium blue of the uniform. This effect will appear almost automatically, because the paint pigment runs off the raised areas and into the creases. However, if there is too much pigment on the figure it will spread across areas that should stay clean. Another thing to look out for is that the film of water covering the figure tends to dry up unevenly, causing puddles of the wash to be trapped in some areas.
Keep checking up and down the line of figures to make sure that new puddles are brushed out and areas with too much run-off are washed again. Within five or ten minutes, the wash will have dried enough to set. If you detect any big mistakes that need to be corrected, add clean water immediately to dilute the wash again. Typically, you will have reached a result that looks good enough, and you may let the figures dry completely now. Large puddles around the feet should be brushed off the base to speed up the drying process.
The wash should dry within a few hours. Once the figures are completely dry, they may be sprayed with Pactra Flat Clear acrylic varnish. We found it necessary to add 15 % Tamiya Flat Base to arrive at a dead matt finish, probably because the plastic is very glossy to begin with.
When the matt varnish had dried, we felt that some of the figures had been patinated excessively, they looked too dark and a little dirty. A selective drybrush of light blue applied to the helmet, upper arms, knees, and some of the larger folds in the uniform remedied the problem. Instead of the light blue, a light beige dust colour could have been used to lightly brush the entire figure, including the face, hands, pouches, and rifles.