Lost in Transmission

How I paint WW2 USMC

The USMC in the pacific Campaign of WW2 has been well represented on screen in recent years with the series The Pacific and the Clint Eastwood film Flags of our Fathers, as well as outstanding books such as Tolls Pacific trilogy (only 2 out yet…) and older primary sources like ‘With the Old Breed’ by Eugene Sledge. They are also well represented by Warlord and Rubicon and I have recently finished my second USMC Army so thought I would add this quick ‘How I paint’ to the Blog. Bear in mind that as a commission painter I am seeking a good standard within a reasonable timeframe not expensive perfection.

Step 1
Undercoat and basecoat. As most of the weapons teams are metal I always give these an enamel black undercoat to stop paint rubbing which ive found acrylic undercoat doesn’t stop. Then all are sprayed light grey acrylic undercoat. I use black undercoat on figures where the uniform itself is dark such as black sea sailors but where I’m after a lighter finish it’s the grey.

Then I spray in the base colours in this case Vallejo Green Grey and Us Army Dark green. I try to vary the jacket and trousers just for visual interest and some guys have a third colour which is a 50/50 mix. To spray model colour I just add some flow improver and make sure its well stirred.

Step 2
Next up I add in the flesh and webbing. The flesh is basic flat flesh and the webbing, gaiters etc German camouflage beige. Observant folks will notice that in a moments confusion I decided to paint the helmets in a very greeny green. This was because I was painting while listening to the Audiobook ‘The Coldest Winter’ about US involvement in the Korean War and momentarily started thinking about parallels to Vietnam and bingo I was painting USMC figures in Vietnam helmet covers….

The book is excellent by the way as it surveys the entire military and political context for the war as well as the actual fighting from all sides. There are interesting echos down to today in how the Republicans demanded enormous cuts to the US military post WW2 (which Truman agreed with and carried out) and that the USA should be more isolationist. Then when it all went belly up with the Korean War used this as a way to blame the Democrats for being soft on Communism, kicked off Mccarthyism and ‘Reds under the Beds’ to invigorate their electoral appeal having lost 5 elections. Picking on “the Other” never goes out of fashion for some folks….

Step 3
With all the base colours done its wash time using Army painter and GW washes in different areas, Army painter Dark tone on the clothing and strong tone on the webbing with GW flesh wash on the…flesh.

Step 4 Humanising
Time to go back with flat flesh and go over the bare flesh and start highlighting the face only leaving the wash in the eye sockets and wrinkly bits. I have said before that I think painting eyes is a waste of time as in real life unless you have eyesight like Viv Richards you cant see them at more than 30 yards as more than a shadowy area and a 28mm figure at arms length is smaller than a man at 30 yards. Unless you have very short arms or live in a country with very tall people such as the Netherlands. In any event any harshness in the effect will be smoothed out later on the larger areas with a glaze of thinned down wash. Highlights were also added on cheeks nose and chin at this stage.

The webbing was also re painted with German Camo Beige at this time to get a bit of contrast going.

Step 5
Back to the Helmets…having realised I was an Idiot I returned to the helmets with Camo Beige then divide the guys randomly into two groups. The first group had splodges of Model colour US dark green ( which isn’t very dark) and Extra Dark green added to the Helmet cover in what look like random patterns but I try to make sure about 2/3 of the darker splodges are touching the lighter ones…. This to me looks better. Then smaller thinned Flat brown patches were added – between 4 and 5 no more or less. Again this is entirely arbitrary but captures the look, The second group had Flat brown and German Camo extra dark brown patches added as I believe there was a second type of helmet cover - or it might have been reversible, I don’t know. Either way it provides more visual interest to the unit as a whole. Lastly a thinned down military green was went on the green camo and thinned agrax on the browns.

The remainder where then painted a darker green than absolutely necessary so that the helmet webbing in camo beige would stand out.

Step 6
Return to the uniform. Now it was time to add some highlights to the uniform which was done by successively highlighting the basic colour whether grey green or US Dark Green with more and more white. I use the Model air white which is thinner than model colour as it feels like it works to smooth the paint without adding water etc. Marine uniforms in theatre are much lighter after a short period of time so there is a wide variety in tones to reflect replacements, veterans and add interest. As always if the highlighting goes too harsh pill it back with thinned version of the original colour.

Step 7
Weapons and Boots were painted Extra dark brown. Apparently Marine boots darkened with age and to be honest feet are the last thing to catch attention so time spent here is wasted and only adds cost. Weapons on the other hand catch the eye so are worth time. Dark brown lightened up with flat brown and even a bit of orange brown for wooden bits. Metal bits basic black then gunmetal, then gunmetal with silver for highlights. I’m not convinced this is realistic but it looks better to me than just a very dark steel.

Step 8: Basing
Earlier in the process I added pva and builders sand to the bases so that when I varnished with matt varnish it would hold better when the Wilkinsons thinned down chocolate emulsion came down. This is drybrushed with desert yellow and a sandy colour and shrubbery attached. A harder decision than usual depending on whether its an atoll or Guadalcanal or Okinawa. Certainly not the black sand of Iwo Jima!

So that’s it more or less. I will paint sergeants stripes on one or two figures but that’s the marines done and dusted. I would like to paint some of the amtrac type vehicles from Rubicon someday but will have to await another commission.

Lord of the Rings - Rohan

I have no idea how popular this Games Workshop game is though as they have recently released the Battle of Pelennor fields box set so there must be a market I guess. Of all the GW products I have always thought that the LOTR miniatures are the finest they have ever made having gained this impression through visiting Warhammer World and seeing the huge range on display. The sculpting is phenomenal with the character figures actually looking like the actors. This must be very difficult and is noticeably not the case with some ffg miniatures from another Galaxy far far away…

As such I am always happy to get commissions for LOTR and recently have painted a few Rohan figures, plastics and resins, and enjoyed them all. First up some Rohirrim Cavalry.

The design of these miniatures with what looks like the Sutton Hoo helmet and Late Roman/Byzantine scale type armour is arresting and puts me in mind of both early Saxons and Romano British. The green cloaks and shields unite the units visually as well. They have a real Dark Ages warband feel about them and again make me think of an Arthurian warlord such as may have inhabited the ruins of the Roman fort at Birdoswald.

As an aside my great uncle William Henry Johnson served alongside JRR Tolkien in the same battalion in WW1 until Tolkien was invalided out in 1916. Tolkien was the Signals officer for the battalion and had a team of around 15 Signallers handling communications within the battalion area, mainly using runners I imagine and my great uncle was one of those signallers. Unfortunately WH Johnson was killed at the end of October 1918. Weirdly my father was also a signaller and ran for the Army and my daughter is an Elite level runner….

Returning to the Rohirrim there were also foot figures matching the Cavalry in every way. In my pictures I separated them into men with Hand weapons, those with bows and those with spears as below

The Characters
These figures were done slightly later than the previous when I was experimenting with a black background – jury still out – and are resin. I don’t know if this is the finecast resin or something new but it was sharp and easy to work with so no complaints. The arrows and spear were a bit wobbly but it was easy to cut and almost as smooth as the plastics.

Here we have a grizzled vet reaching for another arrow having fired all his straight ones. Centre has an axe armed hero strangling a goblin whilst shouting for somebody to bring another goblin because he has broken his. Finally on the right a warrior either blowing a horn or taking a swig from it, not clear.

King Theoden (Bernard Hill)

One of my favourite characters from LOTR with Bernard Hill delivering a great doomed king hoping to rejoin his son Theodred in whatever passes for Rohirrim heaven. The miniatures sre astounding with more details revealing themselves as you paint them, mainly horse based detailing! The mounted version which was built with the helmet on though I think a bare headed version is available – for Theoden not the horse. The horse is the famous Snowmane which rather clumsily falls on Theoden at Pelennor fields. Probably did loads of good stuff in its life and is remembered forever for one mistake…

... JRR Tolkien (the unedited version)

Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!
And try not to let your bloody stupid horse fall on you!

Malifaux - the Lilith crew

In a typical misalignment in my timing I have just entered the world of Malifaux and painted up a Lilith crew just in time for her to disappear storywise from the plot….. although to be honest as I will never play a tournament it makes no difference whatsoever to me and I will continue to lose running the Nicole Kidman lookalike Lilith. Check the interweb if you don’t believe me. So here is my initial Lilith gang plus Nekima who was absent for the group photo.

If you are here hoping for tactical insight you are definitely in the wrong place, I’m a newbie and pretty rubbish as well. As I said previously these Malifaux figures are my personal treat between painting Bolt Action and 40k commissions, a change of style and tempo.

I like to use crews as close to the theme as possible both for fluff and aesthetic reasons and despite an unbroken record of defeats so far will continue to do so convinced that if I play a bit better I will get the wins. As with all the crews I am building they will share a common base style which will be both factional and crew based so here the bases are made using the greenstuffworld Cthulu roller and coloured purple/green. The Pandora crew I am currently painting will have the same roller but be purple and blue.

Lilith – mother of monsters
Here is the girl herself with 2 of the three Terror Tots I have. This crew with the Black Blood Shaman and/or upgrades can in the right circumstances convert Nephilim including Terror Tots upwards into young Nephilim and even Mature Nephilim. The Terror tots are also useful Scheme runners I believe using Sprint.

I am yet to use Nekima as I’ve only just painted her but her miniature is pretty cool and she looks happy to rip your throat out so that’s good…

Another miniature I am failing to use properly so far who’s most interesting feature to date is that he appears to be left handed in reality but right handed on the box art and 3d design picture on the rear of the box… To date his greatest achievements in my less than capable hands were killing Nino Latigo after I forgot I was supposed to take him prisoner and slaughtering Papa Loco with deleterious effects all round.

Currently thinking that even though its my fault he has been useless, I’m seriously considering benching him for Nekima. He’s kind of like a star striker who isn’t getting the service and gets blamed for the team losing…

Young Nephilim
These have some good combat stats and can fly which is cool. They can also upgrade to mature Nephilim with some Neverborn shenanigans which will be great when I finally manage it. One of mine came without a head which has been replaced with another Demonic type head as you can see. I am keeping a blue green skin tone for all the Nephilim including Barbaros as a way to tie in with Lilith’s sword and cloak. The human head has been done slightly more vivid than reality to set off the Nephilim colour while the beheader is sat on a pice of 40k street furniture that was in the bits box

Malifaux Cupid and Black Blood Shaman
So both potentially useful I imagine…in the hands of somebody semi competent. In my defence I put the Shaman in the woods on the assumption that with those bloody great wings he could fly. Instead of which he just dragged his wings through the brambles for 3 turns arriving at the fight in time to do absolutely bloody nothing and then dying. Next time…

In summary I like the theme and the relationships between the miniatures. The potential for really clever coordinated play is there and hopefully with a few more games I will start being less of a numpty and do them justice. I will have the mature Nephilim painted in the next few days I hope and maybe he will give me the punch I need to kill that danged Perdita!


Starting Malifaux

I had heard of Malifaux for many years but had little idea of what type of game it was thinking vaguely it was some sort of Steampunk RPG. It was the figures which I saw expertly painted that drew me in and I bought some figures off Ebay to paint really just to practise a different style of painting to my usual bread and butter of 40k and Bolt Action. The first group of figures included what I now know as the Latigo crew which are a sort of Outlaw Western gang but working for the Law…

This crew is led by the lady in the middle and is made up of her Latino family and are apparently famed Neverborn monster hunters. It’s a shooty type crew which isn’t all that common in Malifaux.

This is Perdita Latigo – which I think means ‘little girl lost’ in Spanish and she basically bosses the crew and shoots like a machine gun. The ‘lost’ element seems to suggest she has some link to the Neverborn she hunts and her pet is the enslaved Neverborn by her side. I suspect ongoing plot reveals in future…

Second in command is Francisco who has some cool abilities and good melee which means he is often drafted by other Guild crews. The Guild being the proto fascist colonist power which rules the human parts of Malifaux.

Next is Santiago who appears less frequently, presumably as players value him less for his points cost. Good model though. Appearing here next to a guild rifleman who provides some longer range kapow.

There are a number of lesser Latigos including Nino with a sort of machine gun rifle who can help stop enemy figures achieving their aims as well as good shooting. Papa Loco who can be used as a suicide bomber or to hand out buffs to other Latigos, and Santana Latigo who appears to be constantly blowing holes in Zombies.

This basic crew can be rounded out with pistoleros and even Abuela Latigo but I don’t have these models…yet. I do however have Miss Terious, a female Death Marshall and atrocious pun. Like the other Death Marshalls she has a magical coffin for imprisoning baddies but as she is female does not have the glowy flamey face of the other Death Marshalls. She is probably meant for the Lady Justice crew but they await painting.


Winter Camouflage for a T34

Recently I have winter Camo’d several vehicles for various customers and thought to take some pictures while doing this T34. As a result here is a quick “How I do…” on winter camouflage.

Step 1
First take your painted T34. Here I’ve got a Bolt Action 28mm T34 and painted up and varnished in the usual manner with the modulation probably overdone for the purpose. Subsequently I’ve discovered that cruder slightly darker modulation actually works better with snow camo. Some minor weathering is already done as the AFV will usually have some ‘history’ before being whitewashed and some will show through ie some chipping.

Step 2
Spray the whole thing with the worn effects/chipping fluid, I used ak interactive because it’s what I had but other makes seem to be just as good. It took 3 fine sprays for a decent coat. I then left it for 30 minutes to dry. It looks quite shiny once its done.

Step 3
As I had gone to the trouble of decaling the model and I probably wouldn’t remember where the decals were under the whitewash I popped a bit of panzer putty roughly around the decals and the stowage, then sprayed several very fine coats of thinned down ‘white’ over the superstructure. It was actually model color off white or ivory. Pure white looks a tad harsh I think but that’s purely a personal choice. It may well be that the chemical composition of whatever they used as whitewash was really white but I don’t know and prefer my way…. The result below.

Step 4
Wearing away the whitewash. I have never whitewashed a tank - or anything else actually - so now it was imagination time trying to think of where on the model would the whitewash wear away quickest. I imagined on areas where there was footfall or friction and where rain, or melting snow, would cause run off speeding up wear. This process involves using a brush and just gently brushing on water onto the areas you want to wear away and letting the magic of the previously applied chipping fluid do its thing. You can control wear by the type of brush, amount of water and pressure of strokes.

The photo above shows some harsh wearing using the stubby short brush which produced quite hard flaking with very little water brushed on. For the softer additions simulating water action I used the longer haired brush brushing the water on gently in a vertical direction. The T34 has some nice sharp edges I rubbed with a cocktail stick to reveal the paint underneath. Its nice if the white is more transparent in some areas as well which is best done when laying down the spray.

Step 5
Once you are happy with the wear and distribution of the whiteness spray some varnish on as otherwise it will keep wearing when you don’t want it to….hard lesson learned there!
Now its weathering time. When I first started weathering I used to get carried away and the vehicle ended up looking like a scrapheap. Less really is more and especially over the ‘white’ as its effectively a blank canvas. Here I used a bit of winter streaking and normal streaking from the AK interactive range(?).

Step 6
Final step was to add the snow and ice on the tracks. It is possible to add the snow/ice to other areas but again my lack of tank based experience means im not 100% sure where icy snow would stick. I assume it would slide off sloped surfaces as it does off your car when in motion and not last near the engine.

The snow was made using a proprietary snow mixed with some crushed glass and a water effects liquid. Just varying the amounts produces drier or wetter snow and good ice. I think I got mine from secret weapon miniatures but there are probably other sources. I also used the wet effects on the mud gloop applied earlier to the tracks.