Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How I paint my 1/72 - Part I

Every now and then I get asked about my technique for painting my napoleonics, particularly how I manage to paint so many of these guys in such short time, so I finally decided to do a short series of step-by-steps on how I do my paintings. This is not necessarily the best technique around or the best way to paint 1/72, it's just my way, how I feel confortable painting and feel to make the best progress on building my armies.

As I usually say, the "secret" is regularity and assembly line. 

It's better to paint a bit every evening, than to have occasional bursts of motivation that get you sitting for several hours painting on one day, and then spend the next several days (or weeks!) without touching your models. Regularity is much more productive, so you must find a way to motivate yourself constantly.

Second, you need to be willing to paint your models on an assembly line approach. I say "willing" because this feels very boring to many people, since you don't get to see much result of your work immediatelly. It takes many days to get a model completely done, but when you're finally finished, you'll have not one, but many finished models, so you need to be patient here.

Day 1

Here I have 2 units of cavalry for my british army. They were primed white, and the first day of painting is dedicated to basecoating the horses. I paint my cavalry with their horsemen glued on. Some people prefer to glue them last. If you do that, make sure you scratch the paint off the area where the two models will contact, so the glue may adhere directly to the plastic, instead of the coat of paint, otherwise it may unglue easily.


I usually paint 2 units in a row, them being infantry, cavalry or artillery. Why 2 units, you ask? Because this is the amount I'm comfortable painting any single step of all models at once on a single evening. For instance, 2 units of infantry is about 64 models ('about', because I may be painting a small unit, or perhaps a big one with some skirmishers, also, etc.), and I can confortably basecoat the breeches of all of them in a single evening, or their backpacks and muskets, and so on. 

It's important to finish any single step of the painting in the same evening, so you may go forward on the following day.

Here, for example, I basecoated all horses in a single evening. This is 34 horses (17 per unit). The Royal Horse guards have black horses, while the Light Dragoons have a mix of dark/light brown steeds. Both units have the trumpeter ridding a grey.



These are the colors I used for the light dragoons. A good set of shades of brown help give the unit a more natural look.



My black for the horse guards is a mix of flat black (Vallejo Model Color) and gloss black (Vallejo Game Color). This is a personal preference of mine, since I feel a 1/1 mix of these 2 blacks gives a better visual, not too flat, not too glossy.


Day 2

The basecoat of the horses was all the work of day one. Day 2 consists of doing the wash on them all. Well, not 'all', since the black horses don't receive wash! 

I use Agrax Earthshade (brown wash) for the light brown horses, and Nuln Oil (black wash) for the dark brown ones.





The greys of the trumpeters I wash with a mix of black and grey shades (1/1), so it's neither too dark nor too light.



Washing doesn't take much time, so I finished this still with plenty of time on the evening. Since I can't continue working on those models (they need to dry, after all), this is usually when I go about cleaning mold lines on the next couple units on my paint schedule, which happen to be more cavalry for my romans.

Next up, part II of this series.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I like what I see. It is the approach I used to take in the 1970's through the 90's except I never used a wash. Mine were metal - 25mm/28mm. I was an average wargames painter but could paint very quickly. Unfortunately, I have "lost" the urge to paint for probably over 15 years now but still dream of getting started again. I have been picking up 20mm metal figures for ECW, Sikh War, and WWII Eastern Front, I have fully painted 20mm metal armies of ACW and FPW, each nearly 3,000 figures. I used to set a goal to paint every day and it was very successful. I enjoy your blog and look forward to studying it and following you. Thank you - Hal

  2. Thanks for this looking forward to the next part!

  3. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the series. Great stuff.

  4. I'm glad you find this useful, guys!