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How I paint US troops

The US Army of WW2 very quickly evolved through a series of uniform styles and colours which seems to have resulted in troops wearing a variety of items all identifiably American but not always homogenous or in fact uniform. This might be due to the opposite situation of armies such as the Japanese who were struggling for any kind of uniform items in far flung isolated islands – maybe the US troops could take their pick of available and new items and were not as hidebound to regulations as other armies.

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As a consequence US miniatures can be painted more like the chaps in the pictures here and less like Napoleon’s Old Guard. This is always a good thing as it provides plenty of visual interest whilst keeping a distinctively US look. The figures I have painted most of have been the Warlord games US troops and I have remembered to camera phone photograph 5 here from start to starting basing which I hope might be useful..

Step one – pick the jacket colour
Here I have gone with the light colored for 3 figures and darker for 2 which is the normal ratio I use for no reason other than I like it. I have used Vallejo German Camo beige for the lighter colour and Brown Violet for the darker though I also use American uniform green sometimes.

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Undercoat of light grey….

Step two: trousers colour
I usually divide all the dark top figures into two roughly equal groups and the same with the light jacket figures. The first subgroup gets the slightly orangey brown trousers, the other subgroup the American green trousers. By doing it this way I get 4 combinations. Bear in mind I usually paint 14 to 16 figures at a time and change the jacket colours each batch to increase variety.

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In the second picture I’ve also painted the helmet in American Green, though sometimes I use a light olive drab or Russian green which makes a big difference to the overall effect. From this point I paint in all the base colours which are required but not always the weapons as these can get in the way sometimes when highlighting faces.

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Larger version of second picture

Once completed its wash time! With a mix of GW Agrax/Flesh over the beige and brown, Athonian Camo over the Brown Violet and US uniform green and thinned Flesh/Agrax over skin. This provides a decent result with some depth and you could leave it there but I’m not a fan of dip and go.

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The washed figures.

So next step is to go back to the original colours and do a broad brush highlighting leaving the shading in the creases. I oftentimes then add a lighter version of the original colour on collars & webbing to provide some false depth.

Next up its time to highlight the faces and paint in the weapons etc and its extras time. This can be as imple as putting the rank bar on the back of the officers helmet, painting in the cigar (?) or adding NCO ranks.

Based up troops look like these from my current ebay auction: HERE

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How I paint Waffen SS Oak Leaf camouflage...( and Pea dot )

I have painted a number of Waffen SS commissions including these chaps from the most recent and have learned some lessons which may or may not be useful. Lesson one is that in 28mm you can’t really paint accurate Oak Leaf – the elements are just too small and if you were able it wouldn’t look like the real thing and would be confusing. Lesson two is the rather annoying contradiction that to look good on the table it has to stand out! This wasn’t the intention of the creators of camouflage ( except Dazzle Camouflage ) but nobody wants to spend time and money on a camouflaged figure that can’t be seen….

So it’s all about the representation of the idea of the camouflage which looks enough like the real thing in our mind’s eye when reduced to 1/56th of reality that it will be instantly recognisable. In this endeavour as in many things I’ve found that less is more and what we want to achieve is give enough of the idea that the viewers’ eyes subconsciously fills in the gaps. Anyway enough waffle I will try and show my personal straightforward method – there are others which will give better results possibly but which take a lot more time.

Below are our starting figures, Bolt Action plastic SS with basecoats of Vallejo English Uniform (with a bit of Dark Sand) and German Camo Pale Brown with a thinned down GW Agrax Earthshade to give some definition. For the Oak Leaf the Pale Brown is our base while the Camo Beige is for my version of Pea Dot. I like to vary the various elements of smock, trousers and helmet colour just because of the rule of cool. Remember their camo has to stand out….

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Basecoated and washed
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– ready for camo

The first step with Oak Leaf is now to decide what season you want to portray the greeny spring summer side or the browny autumnal version – for me it’s a no brainer…both! About 1/3 get autumn and 2/3 get spring and I try to avoid having jacket and trousers in same style. This is counter intuitive as any half intelligent person would obviously chose the most appropriate at the time for all his camo but I think this way looks better.

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First, for autumn I add irregular patches of German Camo Black Brown looking to cover about 1/3 to a max of ½ in patches. This is less than the real thing I feel but is enough to give a sense of the thing. For spring camo replace the Black Brown with German Camo Dark Green but with the same ratio on the surface. Additionally I have found that if you hit a seam such as where the sleeve joins the jacket do not continue the patch over the seam These would have been separate pieces of cloth and would not in most cases match up. In any event it improves the look of the thing. The big pockets are also good for showing this effect.

Next is adding the highlight dots. For the autumn version I use the Orange Brown or German bright Camo Green for spring, applied with a brush. I know some people use a wooden toothpick but I couldn’t master that so I use a brush where the point is at that stage where its not actually a point any more but its not losing coherency. These next photos show what I mean.

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At this point it is really tempting to add more patches but it does start to become diminishing returns and you need to remember the rules! If you want more sublety a thinned down wash of agrax/ flesh will tone down the orange.

For Pea Dot we need to be even more impressionistic. There are better painters than me who can probably do a more realistic version ( and charge more ) but this is an effective method.

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Step one is the basecoat as previously described a lightened English Uniform with a thinned wash of Agrax for depth over which larger patches of German Camo Dark Green than the Oak Leaf version. Once again I look to cover about 1/3rd of the surface, again as can be seen with Panzerfaust man, taking notice of seams in the material. I then add slightly smaller patches of Dark Sand trying to make sure these touch a Dark Green patch. These are both smaller and cover less surface though I have no exact formula. Finally I add in small patches of German Camo Bright Green attempting to place these on there own as much as possible. These are even smaller than the sand and cover less surface.

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Finally its dot time. First using the Dark Green I try to put several dots onto each of the light sand coloured patches. I try to keep them the same size but that isn’t happening so as long as they are similar it’s fine. Once the sand patches are dotted I then look for the camo bright green but putting less dots and then finally randomly onto the basecoat of English uniform. This process is repeated using the Dark Sand but only onto the Dark Green patches. I used to put onto the bright green as well but this seemed too busy and diminished the effect.

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These photos show the completed Pea dot which again can be toned down with a thinned down wash of Athonian Camoshade. All these photos were taken on my phone during the process which explains the (lack of) quality but more pictures like the ones below can be seen in the gallery here… HERE

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