Thursday, July 4, 2013

Figure Painting & Basing the Rosbif Way!

Hey kids! Can't give a toss who R-Patz is dating? X-box and Playstation losing their shine after 11th all-nighter of WoW? Finally reached your limit of Gilligan's Island/I Dream of Jeannie/Get Smart reuruns?


These school holidays don't have to be two weeks of ennui! Why not try Napoleonic figure painting the Rosbif way?!


As you might be able to guess from the opener, I'm home with the kids this week trying to keep them entertained and away from the TV/I-pad and doing things creative/interesting/outdoors etc.

In a perfect world they'd both be sitting at my knee with adoring gazes on their faces listening to me impart pearls of wisdom about how the Bardin plastron differed to those of the pre-1812 regulation uniform, how British cavalry uniforms changed over the period etc. etc.

In real life, it's the quickest way to get them to leave the room if you start on these subjects (I have been known to strategically steer the conversation to these very topics if I feel the kids have been monopolising the couch/kitchen bench/dining room table etc).

Enough of the cheap laughs for now, though. I've had a few comments on the forums (fora?) I frequent about a perceived improvement on the finished product I've been displaying recently, which has been gratifying! I'm not sure if it's an actual improvement in my technique or if it's an improvement in my photography (which I think is more to the point!).

Whatever, I thought it might be high time in spelling out my technique for painting and basing figures. The model in this example is another HaT figure with a head conversion, this time from set 8166. What follows is a step-by-step example of how I paint and base a figure:

The raw figure after being washed in warm, soapy water, rinsed in clean water and dried.

Undercoat in black

Major colours first; white and field blue

Brown on backpack, hair, musket

White detailing on cuffs, straps, second coat of white on the trousers

Red on collar, cuffs, epaulets, shako

Skin tone undercoat. My favoured skin tone is by Tamiya , but is a dog to apply as it's chalky and gluggy and very difficult to apply evenly. The undercoat hides the uneven application of the primary tone.

White and red piping on plastron, collar

Red piping on turn-backs, red sword knot and bonnet tassel under the giberne

White piping on cuffs, gold detailing, skin colour over base coat.

Gold detailing on reverse, grey coat on top of backpack

Details tidied up eg. where red shako stripe meets the black , moustache and bottle strap added 

White straps on backpack added, wicker bottle painted.

Now the magic starts! The finished figure gets a coat of diluted wood varnish, evenly spread. Areas where it pools excessively are dealt with by a short sharp puff a la blowing out a candle, which disperses the majority and leaves just the required amount behind.

For the base, I use breakfast cereal box cardboard measured and cut to the required dimensions as specified by the rules. Here, I'm making a single figure base, which I've then glued to a fridge magnet from our local pharmacy! The fridge magnet provides extra rigidity as well as securing the figure to the toolbox during transport.

The figure is glued to the cut out base using super-glue

The figure's base is disguised using a roughly applied layer of grainy artists' gel

The base gets a coat of earth tones

After the base's dried, a couple of dabs with diluted PVA around the figure's feet then a dip in some flock

With the addition of some tufts and a light coat of matt spray on varnish...

... it's finished!


  1. Wow mate what a guide that is very informative and helpful. As to your painting skills getting better I would still say yes but the pictures have got better too.

  2. Excellent. Glad to see that wood varnish and other household products are still used in this day and age (my brother experimented with it in the early 80s; actually, I think he still does). Plus it's cheaper than that Quickshade army painter stuff I'm sure, and just as effective.

    1. AP Quickshade? I spit on it! Ptui!
      I use a dark brown wood varnish which I found at Aldi: half the price for 3 times the amount of the AP product!

  3. I think it's both your painting and your photography. Combined, I think you've really stepped up your game. Always interesting to see how people do their thing, I can generally find something useful, or something new to try.


  4. Ah you make it look so easy! Tremendous 'how to' and a lovely introduction, which had me in stitches.

    1. Thank you, sir. I try to entertain as well as inform ;)

  5. great SBS always good to see how other artists do it

    1. 'Artist'? Steady on, James; you'll give me a big head! :D


  6. Excellent painting tutorial. Nicely executed and clearly illustrated. Thank you.

  7. Tricky post Rosbif, had me opening a new tab and searching the fount of all knowledge to find out who R-Patz was/is/wants to be. I can't believe that the kids would rather read about him than learn about changes in military dress in early 19thC Europe—no wonder the country's in a mess!

    Ditto the others thanking you for the step-by-step. As has already been said, it is great to see how you do the painting caper and produce those great finished products.

  8. A great tutorial Rosbif.

    Surely you've won over the young ones now?!

    von Peter himself


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