Painting and detailing 1:72 Scale Miniatures

1:72 scale detailing work on some Prussian Landwehr.

Airfix Prussian Napoleonic Landwehr infantry. Blue undercoat, drybrushed light blue. Crossbelts painted white. The yellow facing colour of the Silesian Landwehr cannot be painted dircetly over the dark blue coat, the collar, cuffs and coloured band around the cap need to be undercoated in white, first. Blue undercoat on the face will blead through the flesh later, creating a five o’clock shadow.

Undercoated and drybrushed miniatures do not look very attractive at first, but the detailing work will bring them to life very quickly. Acrylic paint is used in a much thinner consistancy than was used for undercoating. Even if the undercoat is relatively dry, the moisture in the paint will activate some pigment in the undercoat, causing it to bleed into the newly applied paint.

When a light colour is applied over a dark undercoat, the resulting paint bleed may not be a desirable effect. The problem can be avoided by preparing the area with a white undercoat, before a lighter facing colour is applied. On dark blue, green and red uniforms, this is usually required. It is important to realize, that undercoating the figure in a dark base colour is still a significant time saving technique, even if lighter facing colours need to be undercoated again in white before they can be painted on. An alternative method would be to undercoat the figures in white, and apply the dark coat colour brush stroke by brush stroke, carefully avoiding the areas that are to be painted in a lighter colour later. A very tedious process, and one where mistakes are easily made, which will require correcting with a white undercoat anyway. Better to slop the coat colour on and not have to worry about detailing work until later.

In the event that the lighter paint layer stays in the same colour spectrum as the undercoat, paint bleed may be used intentionally to give the figure a nice shading effect. This is the case with Union troops in the American Civil War, where a dark blue undercoat will bleed through the light blue trousers and shade them very attractively.

Tools and Accessories

  • Size 1 and 2 Sable Paintbrushes
  • Artist Acrylics
  • Plastik Pallet


Grey, light blue and white trousers may usually be painted over darker base colours without a problem. The undercoat bleeds through and shades the trousers, particularly in the recessed areas, where the undercoat tends to be thicker and dissolves more easily. Excessive paint bleed can be corrected by touching up dirty spots with another round of the trouser colour. It is not essential that the trouser colour be applied perfectly. Careless strokes with a size 2 brush will apply the paint in a streaked or feathered pattern, not unlike the effect we achieve in drybrushing. Narrow stripes of the darker undercoat will be visible between stripes of the trouser colour, giving the impression of small creases in the material. In order to accentuate the shading, allow the darker undercoat to remain in shaded areas between legs and around the edge of the jacket, where it falls over the trousers.

Khaki, medium and dark brown trousers should be undercoated in a light sand or yellowish tone and lightly stained with burnt umber. Brown shoes and boots may be stained at the same time, but using a darker tone of burnt umber.


The edges of light coloured facings on white, fawn and yellow unifoms should be carefully outlined with black brown airbrush colour to increase the contrast between the uniform and the facings.

Light coloured facings on dark uniforms need to be undercoated in white to prevent paint bleed and improve the luminescence of the facing colour.

White facings on red uniforms may turn pink. It may be useful to undercoat the facings in black before they are painted white. Leave a narrow black outline around the edges of the facings, to improve contrast. The same is true for white belts and haversacks on red uniforms.

Belts and Gloves

On dark uniforms, white belts may be applied directly and any paint bleed touched up again later. Some paint bleed may be desirable, to give a nice shading effect on those parts of the leather equipment not exposed to direct sunlight.

White and khaki belts on light coloured uniforms should be outlined with brown black airbrush colour, to increase contrast between the straps and the uniform. This outlining may be done at the same time that the folds in the uniform are shaded.

Lace and Hat Borders

Light lace on dark uniforms should be undercoated in white to prevent paint bleed and improve luminescence. White lace on white uniforms should be outlined in brown black airbrush colour, to improve contrast. Rank chevrons stand out more if the entire area of the chevron is painted black and a small black outline is left around each stripe. Do not use airbrush colour for this work, paint bleed must be avoided in this case.

Yellow lace on tricorne hats must be undercoated in white first. Officers in these regiments would wear gold lace instead, which may be painted on directly.

Pompoms and Cords

Shakos usually carry national cockades, coloured cords and pompoms in company colour which need to be undercoated in white before the lighter colours may be applied.

Black Leather Boots, Pouches and Knapsacks

Polished leather noticeably reflects the sunlight, any raised surfaces should be highlighted with light grey and white to show the reflection. Use an older brush with a slightly feathered tip, which will streak the paint and give it a realistic look. If you don’t like the result, immediately rub the paint off with the finger and try again.

Buttons, Buckles and Badges

Uniform items made from brass or tin look very good when they are undercoated with black. The undercoat will significantly improve the luminescence of metallic paint.

Sabres, Bayonets and Gun Barrels

Like other metal parts, weapons need to be undercoated in black to make the metallic paint really shine. Airbrush colour may be used very effectively to shade the metal fronts of grenadier mitres, the joints between blades and hilts as well as the rings around gun barrels.

The muzzles of large calibre weapons should be drilled out before the entire barrel is undercoated in black. The barrel may then be painted or drybrushed in brass and shaded with airbrush colour. A final drybrush with brass or bright yellow will accentuate the fine detail and cover up any mistakes that were made during the shading process.

Pistols, Muskets, Carbines and Polearms

Any weapons consisting of wood and metal part should be undercoated in light khaki and stained with burnt umber, to achieve a nice wood texture. This work should be done at the same time that hands and faces are stained, to save time. When the stain has dried, metal parts are outlined in black and painted in dark silver. The Bayonet may be drybrushed with bright silver to highlight it. Musket barrels are usually attached to the stock with three brass barrel rings. These need to be outlined with black again and painted in brass. The barrel ring in the middle is where a red brown or white leather strap is attached to the weapon.

Pistols and carbines differ from muskets in that they carry no bayonet and there are only two barrel rings. Polearms have a metal tip which needs to be undercoated in black, painted dark silver and drybrushed with bright silver. Leave a fine outline of black between the shaft and the point, to create contrast.

Painting Miniatures