Belts and Uniforms

The Humbrol colours used in this section were:
H34: Matt White
H33: Matt Black
H154: Insignia Yellow
H89: Mid Blue

Step 3: block paint the coat and trousers.

In this case, of course, all this involved was giving him another coat of H34 Matt White.

Step 4: wash the uniform colours with thinned-down H34 Matt Black.

There's a lot of scope for varying the mixture at this point, depending on the depth of the shading one wants to achieve (I use a very dark wash for shading blue uniforms, for example), but in this case I opted for a fairly dilute solution. The only occasion when I don't use a black wash is when shading yellow, in which case I'll use brown.

Figure 8 shows the result, which can be fairly terrifying the first few times you try it as all one's lovely painting suddenly looks terrible. To while away the time this took to dry, I painted his helmet crest with H154 Insignia Yellow. As I'd hoped, the white undercoat on the crest made this look really bright. It was then just a case of tidying up with black where the crest met the helmet, and painting a black streak along the top of the crest.

Fig 8. Applying a black wash
Step 5: add highlights to the uniform.

With most colours this is done by dry brushing in the base colour and then again with a highlighted shade of that colour. The highlighting shade is usually made by mixing the base colour with white. For reds, greens and browns, however, I mix them with yellow.

For white uniforms, however, I've found that dry brushing doesn't really work. What I do instead is paint on the highlights directly using white paint with a slightly watery consistency, straight from the tin. I try to do this quickly, using a rapid series of brushstrokes. Things like knees, elbows and upper arms are picked out with small dots of pure white. For the areas I want to be really white I'll just keep adding more colour until I reach the desired intensity.

Figures 9 and 10 show the final effect. I also had a go at his collar and cuffs using H25 Blue to see what this would look like, but opted for H89 Mid Blue a little later

Fig 9.

Fig 10.
Step 6: paint the collars, cuffs and turnbacks. How I do this depends on the colours being used. If the facings are red or yellow, for example, I'll usually paint them white first so that the final colour will look as bright as possible. In this case, however, I simply painted them mid blue after first defining the relevant areas in black. A fine pointed brush was used. The trickiest part tends to be the collar as access to this area is often very restricted.

Step 7: paint weapons, belts, shoes/boots and equipment, black.

This is the step that always seems to take the longest. The key thing is to be as accurate as possible as this will make all the difference to the overall look and feel of the finished figures.

If there's any additional black lining needed, this is generally when I'll do it. In this case, when all that was needed was a single black line down his chest, I used a brush. If something more intricate, such as waistcoat detailing, is required, however, I'll sometimes use a very fine mapping pen. This can save an enormous amount of time, but may need special treatment when it comes to the varnishing stage. My ink is water soluble, so I always use an oil-based varnish over any inked areas and allow it to dry before applying the final acrylic varnish to the whole figure.

Fig 11.

Fig 12

Step 8: Paint belts and straps, white (or whatever other colour they're supposed to be).

The secret to painting white belts is getting exactly the right consistency of H34 White. This is normally found in the gluey blob of white pigment guaranteed to lurk at the bottom of every tin. To get at it I dig a bit out of the tin with the end of an old paintbrush. If' it's too thick I'll thin it with some of the more watery stuff found on the surface of the tin.

The paint is then not so much painted on as "blobbed" on using the tip of a fine brush. I'll usually start with the uppermost belt, and then the belts below it in descending order. With practice one can paint right up to the edge of each belt, leaving an almost perfect black outline.

Figures 13 and 14 show the slightly less than perfect results I achieved on this occasion. When I'm really determined I'll go over them again with black to really sharpen up the edging, followed by more white if necessary. I remember doing this repeatedly when working on my Empress' Dragoons!

Fig 13.

Fig 14.
Figure 14 shows the final tidy up with black added to the pack, water bottle and pouch to conceal any areas where I overshot with the H34.

I finished off by painting his shoulder straps. In this case all they needed was a dash of mid blue, followed by a white stripe down the middle. For other figures this can be a lot more complicated. French grenadiers and voltigeurs, for example, start out with black epaulettes. The details are then picked out in white and then repainted again in red (or yellow and green for voltigeurs) to make them really stand out. This is bonkers, I realise, but I can't seem to help myself. I did this once just to see what it would look like and now I can't stop.


  1. Really comforting to know I'm not alone in digging the gunk out of the bottom to get an opaque coat of white. I'm still impressed by the number of stages you go through - individually each stage doesn't seem to add much but all together they do add depth and life to the figures. I'd hoped you had the holy grail to quick 'n' easy painting that looked great, but I see the old adage holds true in that you get out what you put in.
    I did appreciate you giving the Humbrol codes for colour used - I've never used 'insignia yellow' before (only 24 & 99 - don't know the names) but will now have to add a pot of that to my next order.
    Perhaps next some tips on your horses as I still can't get your Estorff hussar horses out of mind?

    1. I started out using the really ultra-bright H69 Gloss Yellow (cf the Voltigeur company of the 13e Légère), but found H154 to be slightly less migraine-inducing.

      Yes, Rob, more pages will follow - including a proper guide to painting fizzy-can flags!

  2. Thank you for setting forth the secret of the glob of paint at the bottom of the tin. Though I use acrylics, there is often an equivalent glob to be found. I will have to give it a try.

    1. It hadn't occurred to me that this might also be a problem with acrylics, CN. News just in, however, is that it's possible to get really good effects with a white acrylic pen. I saw this demonstrated just last week when I was visiting the UK.

    2. I didn’t know that white acrylic pens even existed! Astonishing.