Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven
'Schild en Vriend' is an old Flemish battlecry, used in the rebellion of the city of Brugge against the French, May 18, 1302. Legend tells that it was used to differentiate between the French-speaking (who could not pronounce 'schild') and Flemish-speaking citizens. Nowadays, historians tell us that it was probably 'Des Gilden Vriend'.
This section gives some explanation about what we call 'speedpainting'. Of course, the term 'speed' is highly subjective. The aim of speedpainting is to paint your figures in such a way that they still look attractive on the gaming table from a player's point of view, without putting in too much work.
Contrary to what some people may think, speedpainting is no substitute for bad paint jobs, or not being able to paint. You still have to be familiar with some basic techniques such as priming, drybrushing and shading. If your figures look like crap when you give them the 'full treatment', they probably will also look like crap when they are speedpainted.
When to use speedpainting:
When not to use speedpainting:
- If you want to paint a (large) number of figures, which are just going to be used to play with, and which will only be judged from more than one arm's length away.
- If you want to paint at least 10 figures at a time. If you want to paint less figures,the drying times of the paint intervene. This is, of course, dependant on the kind of paint you use.
Figures suited to be speed-painted:
- If you want to enter a painting competition with your figure.
- If you want to give a figure the full treatment, even if your other figures are speed-painted (e.g. a personality or leader)
- If you really do care about how your figures look when seen from a close distance.
- If you want to stick very closely to historical correctness.
Figures where speed-painting works not very well:
- Vehicles, spaceships etc...
- Modern-day uniforms, with a somewhat 'dirty' look.
Skills necessary for speedpainting:
- Uniforms with lots of color (e.g. Swiss Landsknechts)
- Figures with lots of detail.
- You must know some basic techniques such as drybrushing and washing, and you have to know what kind of effects you can achieve with them. For a more thorough explanation of some of these techniques, take a look at our painting techniques and terms page.
- Know your colors! It's important that you know what colors have what effect on a figure, what colors go well together and so on. It helps a lot if you know what combination of 3 colors go well together in order to paint/wash/drybrush an area. This, of course, requires a lot of practice and working with the colors at hand.
- Know your paints! Know of each paint what it's substance is, how well it flows, whether you should add water or not, whether it covers an underlying darker color or not ... There are some overlapping issues with colors, but generally, you should know how the paint behaves when it is on your brush and you apply it to the surface of a figure.
How to do it?
Okay, let's look at some observations when we look at figures on the gaming table from some distance:
So, how to start painting?
- Small details are not noticed. This includes pieces of equipment on belts, but also facial details such as eyes. This means we can get away with a simple treatment of these details. A basic color and maybe a single drybrush or wash will do.
- The overall color scheme is very important. Usually, you see figures as wearing 'green uniforms' or 'red jackets'. So, the most pronouncing feature that identifies a figure must be the main color of the figure.
- The basing is important too! Even an unpainted figure on a good base looks nice! Therefore, you should not let your bases be just cardboard. At least some flocking should be applied. The right basing makes up for half the visual impression you get when looking at the gaming table.
In a nutshell:
- First, decide how the figures should look like, and try to decide what colors you want to use (Know your colors!) As an exercise, try to limit yourself to 6 colors. What 6 colors are the ones that you will need most to paint this figure? Don't worry about adding another color later on, that's always possible, but try to keep the number of colors down. As an example, let's take some US infantry soldiers from the Vietnam War. We need olive for the main color of the uniform; a lighter green for the drybrush; black for the boots; flesh for the skin; a light brown for shading the skin; and some metal for details. Some of these colors can also be used for other parts. Also note that I've already decided how to drybrush and wash certain areas.
- Prime the figure in the color of the most pronouncing feature. In our example, this means painting the figure in olive drab. Don't use too much paint, otherwise you will blur the details. Better 'prime' it twice. If you know that this base colour is very difficult for lighter paints to paint over, you might want to consider another color, or leaving the areas to be filled in blank.
- Drybrush the figure with a lighter tone of the base color (i.e. a lighter shade of green). Apply drybrushing until you have a final, desired effect for your figure. Hold your figure at arms length and judge whether the drybrush does its job. If you have more than one base-color area, you have to apply the above stages for each color. Usually, there are no more than 3 such areas on a figure, with 2 or 1 being the most common.
- Paint the skin in a flesh color. Take care that the paint you use for flesh covers the underlying (drybrushed) base color (Know your paints!).
- Paint other details, such as black boots, and any equipment (brown or light green) in an appropriate color. Some parts will already 'show' because of the drybrush, so adjust them a little to pronounce them somewhat more.
- Use the light brown wash the skin areas. However, take care that the wash isn't too thin, otherwise it will run into other parts of the figure. Actually, this wash should behave more like paint than like a true wash. Paint the eye areas, the cheek lines, the mouth. Yes, this means that we don't paint the white of the eyes. You don't see it anyway, but you need something more than just a flesh tone. Therefore the added light brown.
- Paint the gun black or metal, according to what comes out best.
- Look at the figure and see what needs to be fixed. If you need any more colors for some details, do it here. Only paint things in this stage that make a difference when looking at the figure from arms length.
- If the figure is finished, paint the base in brown or green. Flock it or drybrush the base, depending on how you prefer your bases.
- Paint the main features in a base color, which also acts as primer, and apply one drybrush or wash, depending on what gives the best effect.
- Fill in details, using at most 3 colors
- Choose colors based on visual effect, not so much on historic or real-life accuracy.
- Finish the base of the figure.
Above: A set of five Vietnam US infantry figures painted using these techniques. Knowing Phil's painting speed, it probably took him considerably less long to paint these figures than to write this page.
Okay, so now you should have some idea of how to speedpaint your figures. However, be aware that none of your figures will win a painting competition, but are extremely well suited for playing wargames where no one will take a close look at your figures anyway!
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