Step by Step Painting of a 75mm Napoleonic Figure

Captain ADC to Marshal Suchet, 1811

Note: This tutorial is a work in progress.  As I paint the figure I will continue to add to this tutorial until it covers the figure from start to finish.

The figure I've chosen is a 75mm scale Napoleonic piece from Pegaso Models. The figure represents an aide-de-camp. The information provided with the figure gives a brief description of these officers. Unlike more modern aide-de-camps, in the Napoleonic period these officers often found themselves in the midst of battle, perhaps having to cut his way through enemy lines to deliver important orders or information. They often had to risk their lives in order to deliver their message at all costs. During hard campaigns the life expectancy of an ADC was a mere two months.


Of course the first step is to clean, assemble, and prime the figure.  This project required some decision making when it came to how much to assemble before painting.  Normally I'll leave small accessories like the scabbard, spurs, and sabretache off as they are delicate and easy to knock off while painting.  However here I also opted to leave the right hand, left arm, and pelisse (coat) off.  The hand and arm could probably have been attached at this point, but there's a lot of detail around his waist and it will be easier to get to with those pieces unattached.  In addition, the seam on the left arm will be hidden by the coat, so that won't be a problem.

I went with a white primer, though grey or black would be fine too.  This figure is about half dark colors and half light so there's no wrong choice.  The white primer will make painting the face and red pants easier.

I will be painting this figure using acrylics and later some pigments for weathering. Unless notes otherwise all of the matte acrylics will be Reaper Master Series and all of the metallic acrylics with be Scale 75 Metal 'n Alchemy. Reaper paints are great, very similar to Vallejo but I have an easier time blending with them. This is more personal preference and you can do just as well with many brands. The metals, on the other hand, are Scale 75 and are by far the best water based metals I've seen. Vallejo Model Air are a close second, but the color options for their yellow metals are far more limited. 

Painting the Face

I like to start painting with the face.  I begin by base coating the face with Rosy Shadow.  I also base coat all of the sections adjacent to the face.  So for the hat and collar I used Pure Black and for the hair I used Brown Liner,  I use a bit of water to further thin the paint, so the base coat take about 2 to 3 layers for full coverage.

I then sketch on the shadows.  I use two reddish browns mixed with the Rosy Shadow (about 3 to 1 brown to rosy shadow).  First Chestnut Brown for the basic shadows and then Mahogany Brown for the darker shadows around the eyes, under the nose and chin, and in the mouth.  From there I take care of a few of the facial details.  For the eyes I start with a coat of dark pink (Violet Red + Rosy Skin).  This is then covered up with an off white (Weathered Stone, and Weathered Stone + Leather White), but some of the pink remains at the corners of the eyes.  I then paint in the iris followed by a dot of pure black for the pupil and then a dot of pure white for the catch light.  With larger figures it's easier to put more detail into the eyes.  Try to do as much as you can, but if it's too small feel free to simplify the approach.  You can skip the iris and just use a black dot for both the iris and pupil.

This figure is baring his teeth, so I used some Bone Shadow and Aged Bone to paint them in.  As with the eyes, avoid using pure white.  These aren't getting direct light so they would not be that bright.

With the details finished I move to blending in the shadows.  I start with the brown and Rosy Skin mixes and slowly add in more Rosy Shadow until I'm up to pure Rosy Shadow.

From there I start to add in Fair Skin to create the highlights.  When I'm at pure Fair Skin I start to add in Fair Highlight for the top highlights.  Use the highlights to further define the shape of the nose, tops of the cheeks, and chin.

I now switch to the remaining facial details.  The hair starts with Brown Liner, then into Muddy Brown.  To that I add Tanned Skin and at about 50/50 Muddy Brown and Tanned Skin, I start to instead mix in Fair Skin for the top highlights.  Be a bit random in your highlight placement (within reason) to pick out certain parts so the hair doesn't look too uniform.  I also take care of the lips, using Rosy Shadow mixed with Violet Red.  To that I mix in Fair Skin to brighten it and create the highlights.

At this point the face looks pretty good, but it's still a bit flat.  To create a more lifelike look I used several glazes.  I take GW's Bloodletter Red glaze and Guilliman Blue (I also mix the two to form a purple glaze).  In each case I add at least an equal amount of water to keep the effect subtle and allow me to slowly build up color.  The red is applied in multiple layers to the cheeks, top of the nose, and bottom of the ears.  The blue is used on the lower part of the face to create a subtle stubble effect.  I used the purple to deepen the shadows under the eyes, in the deepest part of the cheeks, and under the chin. It's a simple enough technique but I think it really adds to the overall look.  The nice thing is, no matter what approach you use for the rest of the face, the final glazing step should still work.

Painting the Shako

The majority of the hat is black, not an easy color to work with.  There are many variations on black so we're not stuck with just black and then neutral grey to highlight.  In this case I'm going with more of a brown-black.  I'm using Pure Black, Dusky Skin Shadow, and Dusky Skin (a grey-brown shade).  There's not a lot to the shape of the hat, so to give it some more texture I doing the shading/highlighting by stippling the paint.  Starting with a base of pure black, I start to mix in Dusky Skin Shadow and then continue to work up to pure Dusky Skin.  Try to get some reasonably smooth variations but it doesn't have to be perfect.  In the next step I'll use some glazes to further smooth the blends.  Because the glazes will also knock back the highlights in this stage I go a bit brighter with the highlights than I really want the end result to be (middle image).

Now I create glazes using pure black and dusky skin shadow.  I take a drop of paint, add two drops of Vallejo Glaze Medium.  Then roughly 6 drops of water.  There's a bit of trial and error in this.  Add some water, mix it all together, and see how it looks as you swirl it up onto the edges of the cup.  It should be semitransparent.  Too thin and you'll be applying tons of layers.  Too thick and it will overpower all your work from the first step.  Err on the side of being too thin.  If it's not having much effect on the figure you can always add a bit more paint to thicken it.

For glazes you want to control the flow of paint and only put it where you'd like (unlike washes which can go everywhere).  So, after dipping your brush in the glaze, gently wipe the brush on a paper towel to remove the excess paint.  When you then apply it to the figure pay attention to the direction of your brush stroke.  The most color will be left at the end of the stroke, so think about pushing the paint where you want it to be.  Also keep in mind that the glaze medium acts as a drying retarder.  So you need to wait a bit longer between each layer to make sure the preceding one has fully dried.  Otherwise the next layer will just push the paint from the first one out of the way and you won't be able to gradually build up the color.

Here I started with an overall coat of Dusky Skin Shadow glaze, pushing away from the highlights.  After one or two layers I switch the black, to darken the shadow areas.  I continue like this until I'm happy with the overall color and blends.

It's a little hard to show this with the images as the effect of the glazes is subtle and small difference in the camera's exposure trick the eye.  But the glazes darken the grey and help with the blends.

The next steps are the cockade and the metallic details.  I will be going into more depth on the metallic details when I cover his clothing, so for now here are just pictures of the end result and a short description.  For the metals I'm using Necro Gold, Elven Gold, and Citrine Alchemy from the Scale75 yellow metal set.  I'm also using Reaper's Imperial Purple in the shadows.  I begin with a base coat of 50/50 Necro Gold and Imperial Purple.  This is over a dark undercoat, the metallic paints do not work as well over bare white primer.  Into that I begin to mix in Elven Gold and work up to the mid tones.  For the highlights I start to add Cirtine Alchemy to the Elven Gold and work up to 100% Cirtine Alchemy.

I've put in some additional texture to the metallic parts.  On the strip around the base of the hat I painted diagonal stripes, leaving a small gap between each.  As I applied the highlights I treated these as 3-D and painted the highlights along the upper edges.  The strips holding on the cockade and the lines on either side of the rings at the top were done by painting a series of dots.  I use thin lines of pure black to fix any small mistakes with the texturing.  While none of this is necessary, it's nice to add these extra touches if you feel up to it.

The Dolman

To paint his coat we need to work with dark blue, red, and gold details.  Here I'll focus on the dark blue and the gold.  There's only a small bit of red so I will go into more detail on that color with the pants.

Dark colors can be difficult to paint.  For shades like blues or greens, if you use brighter shades of those colors to highlight it tends to brighten up what the viewer perceives as the base color.  Instead I like to mix grey into the midtone.  This desaturates the highlights, which helps create decent contrast while keeping the overall look dark.

I began with a base coat of Ritterlich Blue.  For the shadows I mixed in Pure Black (2nd image).  To create the highlights I gradually mixed in Dusky Skin (3rd image).  Previously I've used a neutral grey or a blue grey.  Dusky Skin is more of a brown-grey, but since I'd already used it on the shako I thought I'd try it in place of the standard grey to provide a little more consistency between colors.  As with the shako I pushed the highlights a bit brighter than I wanted so that when I applied the glazes the end result would be where I wanted.  Using Ritterlich Blue and Vallejo Glaze Medium (along with some water) I applied several layers of the glaze over the entire blue section of the coat to help smooth out the blends and tie it all together.  I also applied several layers of black glaze to reinforce some of the shadows.

With the blue finished I turned to the gold details.  You can do all of it at the same time, but there is so much on the coat I find it easier to work on smaller sections.  Starting with a dark base, I applied a layer of 50/50 Necro Gold (Scale75) and Imperial Purple to all of the gold sections.  Now I focused on just the color and strip along his back.  Using pure Elven Gold I painted parallel stripes along these sections (2nd image).  I wanted another gold line along the top and bottom, so I first too Pure Black and painted a thin border along these sections.  Following that I went back over the border with Elven Gold leaving a small gap between the border and the stripes (3rd image).  Finally I began to gradually mix Citrine Alchemy into the Elven Gold and carefully painted the highlights along the ends and some of the stripes.  Again, using pure black, I cleaned up the lines as needed.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely blue tones, I have given up trying to paint faces with acrylics, in fact, I'm finding the whole process of moving away from oils quite painful !
    I'll follow your blog with interest.......