Friday 1 March 2013

Having the Courage of Somebody Else's Convictions

Rather fetching 1/1200th scale models from the collection of Tim Gow of the WW2 German Battle Cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in their projected 6 x 15" configuration

It is no secret that for the most part my painting technique when it comes to wargames models is firmly rooted in the 1970s. I still use Humbrol enamels over a white undercoat and to be honest, feel very comfortable doing so.

Which probably explains why it takes me an age to paint anything....;-)

I have made use of acrylics for metals and have been very happy with the results - actually relieved is probably more accurate as varnish does not tend to lift acrylic in the same way as even supposedly dry for three weeks old enamel paint! My only nod to modern techniques has been the occasional use of drybrushing or ink washes. I used both of these techniques when painting up some Battlefleet Gothic space ships many moons ago rather successfully - so much so that the chap at the club who purchased them from me (who is incidentally, a top drawer painter and modeller) merely added a few items of detailing to them and happily used them more or less as I had finished them.

I must own around 300 tins of Humbrol and perhaps a couple of dozen acrylics and so for reasons of economy I plan to continue with my Humbrols - at least until I get a job in any event.

What I am doing though, is planning to radically change my painting technique.

Many gamers I know use a black undercoat on the basis that if the top coat misses a bit then you have an instant shadow effect. I have always been a little wary of this - mainly because my eyesight would struggle with the smaller items of detail against a black backdrop. However, and I have to doff my hat to Tim Gow of 
Megablitz and More for the idea, I am now converted to using such a black undercoat.

It came about quite by chance. I had undercoated the dozen light cruisers I had mentioned previously in white and had painted the areas of wooden decking prior to painting the grey. Some of the detail on the models (especially midship gun mountings of the Magdeburg class) is a little awkward to get at with a brush so I planned to give the areas in question a thin black wash in order to give some shade and depth. I overdid it, massively.

The end result looked like an oil-slopped mess so I was faced with the choice of starting again or trying the technique that Tim uses to such good effect on his ship models (as evidenced in the picture above), namely a black undercoat with a the top colours drybrushed on.

Now I know that Tim uses acrylics and a technique he calls 'wet dry brushing' but I was attempting this with enamels.

(Pauses for a sharp intake of breath and a long roll of drums)

I tried it and it works - beautifully! The class of ships have had their first grey drybrush and all I will do now is to add a fine lighter shade drybrush for the highlights. The areas of wooden decking will probably need to be block painted as they are very small (we are talking about light cruisers after all) although I will try brushing them first.

I hope to have these finished over the next few days - complete with the bases, names and ensigns.

I am really pleased I tried this and the big plus is that painting the ships will now be a much faster process - once they arrive from Stonewall, that is.

Many thanks for the idea Tim, much appreciated and I only wish I had tried it sooner!


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Photos Please!

Ray Rousell said...

Sounds like some great advice, Tim's ships do look good.

Steve said...

Funny, I switched from white to black a few years back though now restarted using white undercoat on anything I am going to dip. That's the next thing to try!

Tim Gow said...

Glad to hear it worked. Quick, isn't it?

Paul O'G said...

I too use a black undercoat except for figs I want to have in bright colours (typically 28s)

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I've used a technique I learned from a chap on the old usenet group (and that dates me!) for ages now which is a kind of hybrid... black undercoat, and then dampbrush white.. gives you instant shading, but a brighter base for the highlight colours.... I'm increasingly using inks to paint with and this method with ink over the top gives instant highlighting as well...

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

They will be appearing on a blog near you soon!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ray,

I am fast coming to the opinion that as we usually look at wargames models from several feet away then an impressionistic approach to painting rather than fine detail is the way to go when viewed en masse!

Tim's ships are very atmospheric looking and I really like the style - it has that weather worn look that I find appealing.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve B,

At my current rate of progress I fully expect to be experimenting with dipping techniques around about 2035....;-)

Seriously though, that is on my to do list for the plastic figures I have.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Tim,

It is really quick and the almost instant effect of the model 'coming to life' really took me by surprise.

Great technique and thanks for sharing - it also works very nicely with enamels (which is just as well as I have so many of them!).

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve T W,

That sounds like a good technique for more colourful uniforms and is one that I shall squirrel away for future use!

Many thanks and all the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

If I ever paint any 28mms (and yes, I have some plans for some in a small way) I may well stick with the white undercoat but I will have to wait and see. Everything I have to paint at the moment will be using a black undercoat though.

All the best,