Well, my first 6mm armies arrived on Friday evening at 6pm and since then I’ve not had much time to devote to them, just a few hours snatched here and there over the weekend. Never theless what I have been able to achive has been quite surprising. A number of people have asked how I paint 6mm, and the simple answer is that I am still very much learning the ropes, having never painted anything smaller than 10mm before. That said, here’s a guide to what I have done thus far.
Step 1. Stick the figures to suitable painting stick. Mine are about 12” long and ¾” inch square. I use a hot glue gun to apply these as they can then be peeled off at the end. Be warned, however, if you are going to accelerate the paint or ink drying process by popping the figures in an oven at any stage then the hot glue will melt! Once stuck to the stick I apply a base coat of aerosol Humbrol Dark Earth. This is the perfect undercoat for British troops in khaki in pretty much any modern war between 1998 and 1950.
Step 2. I then “wet brush” the undercoated figures with a base coat. I use Vellejo acrylic paints and here selected Desert Yellow (70977) with a slight touch of Khaki (70988). In truth the Desert Yellow is too bright for the true uniform colour, but in 6mm I decided that a slightly brighter look would allow the figures to stand out more on the tabletop. A “wet brush” is pretty much the same technique as a “dry brush”, however the brush is kept relatively wet. This allows coverage of nearly all of the figure, only the most inaccessible crevaces and creases still retain they undercoat colour showing. It’s a fast and dirty attempt to avoid the hard work of shading later in the process. I use a large, long bristled brush for this, Size 5. Use a pretty knackered old brush as both wet and dry brushing take their toll on decent bristles.
Step 3. An ink wash is applied. Historically I would have used the old Games Workshop Brown Ink, but for some unknown reason they stopped producing their superb inks so now I have to mix my own. I now use calligraphy ink that I pick up at my local Hobby Craft store. I use a brand called Calli which has a very high pigment level. Here I used 90% Brown (012) and about 10% Jet Back India (010). This I water down with my precious reserves of Flash floor polish mixed with water. In recently got an old bottle of Flash from a friend who kindly donated it after the UK version of that brand changed their formula. When I run out of this the closest substitute that I have found is cheap screen wash. It’s bright blue, but watered down with three parts of water to one of screen wash it does an adequate job. That said, I’d like to meet the smart-arse at Flash who changed the formula. Again I use a large Size 5 brush and just splash it all over.
Step 4. This is a key stage to get right as here the figure will really come to life. Now you dry brush on a mix of Desert Yellow paint with some added white. I use about 80% yellow at first and then do a second, lighter, application with some more white added. Remember BEFORE you do any of this make certain that the ink wash applied in stage 3 is dried or you’ll get a horrible smeared look of damp ink mixed with the light paint. If you get that then you must pretty much return to stage 2 again, and that would be tedious in the extreme. On tip I will add here, is that when dry brushing always start with the top of the figure. When you load up your brush you will naturally still have most paint on it at the start, so here you are applying it to the area that would naturally get the mist light, the top of the figure. As the paint runs out the lower parts of the figure can be done.
All of Steps 1 to 4 combine to finish the basic paint job that, from a distance, allows the figure to look like it has some depth and form.
Step 5. Now we have the basic figure painted we move on to add all of the detail. In 15mm or larger I would tend to paint all of the detail black at this stage and then paint on the fresh colours from there, however I am not going to waste my life doing that in 6mm. There will be single coat flat colours applied, and my choice of colours will be the slightly lighter tones that I normally use for highlights in a larger scale. I start with the rifle, painting this brown (Vallejo Flat Brown 70984). Once that is done I have painted the belts. I am a great believer that painting wargames figures is not always about faithfully representing every detail. Rather, what I am attempting is to insinuate detail. So for the belts I am not carefully paining on every detail, but I am adding paint where I would normally put the highlights. For me that gives a more than adequate effect on the table in this scale. It is here that putting the figures on painting sticks really speeds up my performance. I can do one area at a time, putting a single dab or swish of paint on to each figure in turn, before starting at the beginning to add the next touch of paint. In this way I can literally zoom through the 50 tiny men on each stick with minimum of fuss. For belts I use Vallejo Stone Grey (70844) mixed equally with White (70919).
This leaves pretty much nothing to be done. If the rifles have attached bayonets then I paint them black (I firmly believe that any metalics need a black undercoat to really stand out), if not, as with these figures, I paint the muzzle-end tip of the rifle black and then give it a touch of steel paint. If there are bayonets I paint these with silver by literally running a brush along the row on bayonets on both sides. I now add any peculiar detail, such as bugles, officers’ swords, bagpipes and so on.
Step 6. The last stage is to do the flesh. Again I have gone for a very light flesh colour (no idea what it’s called as the name and number have worn off, but it is the equivalent of GW Elf Flesh). I simply dab this on to the face and hands. Once that is dry I use watered down GW Flesh Wash (again discontinued for some daft reason) which I simply run along the line of faces and then hands. Some of this will go onto the uniforms, but I am not in the slightest bit concerned about that as it adds to the shading. And that’s it.
What else could I have added? Well, I could have used a very thing black ink wash on the strapping, I could have used the same on the backpacks and then added some highlights, however the truth is that I didn’t see the point. I am not seeking here to paint individual figures, but rather give a feel of troops en masse, and with 96 figures to a battalion I am certainly achieving that. Throughout this piece I have shown step by step pictures and I hope that they have been useful. Frankly 6mm figures are probably not meant to be viewed in that much detail, so the most useful picture of all may well be the following which shows the four battalions that I have painted in a total of five hours painting over the past 48 hours. I could simply not achieve that volume in any other scale, and in 15mm painting four battalions of a dozen or so figures would have taken me just as long. From left to right they are British Infantry for the Sudan, Scots Infantry for the Sudan, British Infantry for the Zulu War and then more Sudan British. I like the variety of having both different sets of British infantry for the Boer War, even though the Sudan figures are more accurate for the Boer War. That said, the Zulu War figures paint up perfectly well and ass a bit of variety.
Am I pleased with the results? Yes, very much so. I have lots more to paint, so I won’t get my new armies on the table for another week or so, but that is still an incredible turn around and what is more the figures will give the feel of scale that I am looking for with this project. What has surprised me is that despite their size I have still found myself “attached” to these figures. They have ample personality to make them toys that I want to play with, and ultimately that must be the best barometer of a good figure.
After all of the hard work getting my Yanks ready for action, i thought we’d have a bit of a fun game with week at the club, just getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. As a result the scenario was a bit tongue-in-cheek, with both sides having their own objectives which weren’t mutually exclusive.