Painting for Battle


In this new article, I will explain you step by step how to paint a team (in that example, a 49ers 2009-2010 roster offensive line) with a classic modelling/wargaming style and technics. You will see that it is simplier than you might think…

First stage : preparation

Before anything else, you have to prepare your figures. No matter if you just paint out of box figures or heavily customized ones, some rules have to be followed.

  • Sand or remove mold lines with fine sandpaper or x-acto knife
  • Wash your figs with cold water and soap
  • Undercoat them with a white or grey spray can (wargaming shops or cars shops have the right product).

Once your figures are perfectly dry (see the spray can indications), you can start painting !


some figures undercoated with an already painted center

Second stage : basic coating

For that job, I use a Army Painter Regiment brush. It’s a quite big Sable brush, perfect for basic coating. In other brands, that type of brush is often called “standard brush” or if you need a size, go for a 1 or 2 size brush (see my other article on brushes to make the right choice).

Simply paint the basic colors. For my team, I used Vallejo “blood red” for jersey and socks, Vallejo “polished gold” for helmets, Citadel “elf flesh” for white athletes skin, Coat d’Arms “hairy brown” for black athletes skin, and Vallejo “Bone white” for pants + Vallejo standard white and black paint (tips : the black Vallejo paint is the best I found, fluid and with very good covering power).

Note : Always prefer multiple fine coats (diluting the paint with water, for example) instead of a thick coat wich can mask the figure details; and don’t worry about tiny details like eyes and stuff like that for now. Just do the basic plain parts of the figures.

basicsbasic coating and first shading washes

Third stage : Shading and lining

Now, the fig is barely painted. Some of us stop at that stage, and play the figure. You will see that with a little extra effort, the figure can be painted MUCH better than that…

Shading concept: The goal is to make shade zones on the figs, so the details will be naturally improved. For that, we ‘ll use washes (Citadel washes products are excellent) or inks (Vallejo ones are good ). Basically,  washes are just diluted inks. So of course inks are cheaper than washes.

So, prepare some washes (with diluted inks) or use a ready to use one (like Citadel washes range), and roughly brush it on the figure. Usually, we simply use a darker but similar to the basic paint coat wash or ink . Example, for red jersey, we’ll use dark red washes, etc…

On the 49ers, I used that washes :

  • White skin paint > Citadel sepia washe
  • Black skin paint >Vallejo sepia (not diluted) ink
  • Bright red jersey > Citadel Baal red
  • Pants > Citadel sepia washe
  • helmets >Diluted Vallejo ink

Once it is dry, you can make another washe coat, to reinforce some aeras on the fig, to reveal muscles, tissu, etc… ALWAYS remember than shading is NOT applied on the edges of the figure, but only in the hollow.

Now…the lining job !

Lining concept : With a very thin brush (3/0 or 5/0, see my other article to see what it means), we’ll delimit some parts of the fig, so it will be more “readable” and contrasted. For that, we’ll use Vallejo black ink.

Charge your brush with black ink, then carefully trace a black line between significant parts of the fig, for example the jersey and pants, the gloves and bare skin, tne glove’s fingers, etc… You’ll see that operation is quite easy after a little praticte, and dramaticaly improve the figure painting.

Fourth stage : highlighting

Now, your figure is shaded and contrasted. We have to add some light on the figure. The simpliest way is to use the zenithal lightning principe : imagine that it’s 12.00am so the sun is just above the head of the figure. You can place your figure under a desk lamp to visualize that, if need. You’ll see that edges appears clearer under the light.

For that, simply use the same paint you used for basic coat. If the effect is not enough strong, add a little bit of white in the paint (except for the red, you need to add yellow, not white…because if you add some white, you’ll obtain…pink!). For black athletes skin, use a clearer brown paint than you used for base coating, because browns are difficult to work, it’s easir to simply use another paint reference. I use vallejo leather brown paint to highlight that.

So take your brush (0 or 1 size) and put very thin (or diluted) touches of paint on the edges of the fig. Example : you shade the hollows between the arms muscles : put a little bright paint touch on the biceps and quadriceps. Don’t overlight the fig, the result should appear natural.

Note : Some painters use the drybrush technic to make the highlightning :  Use an old brush, put it in  paint, then with a piece of newspaper or cardboard remove almost all the paint on the brush, then brush the figure edge you want to highlight with your almost dried brush, you ‘ll see the paint go only on the edges parts of it !

Stage 5 : small details

If you make fine painted details on the figs (strips, eyes, logos, etc…), always use a thin and good brush, and diluted paint. You’ll see that it ‘s a lot easier to use diluted paint (even if you need to make several coats) than make details with thick paint.

Numbers : Simply pose the decals or stickers, or paint them  ! I ‘ll certainly make a dedicated article in the future…In the mean time, go on the MFCA forum to ask further informations about decals !

Eyes : The simpliest way in my opinion is to paint the eye in plain black. Then, make two small white points on each side (to make the white part of the eye). Do it gently, with little paint touches, and try to let a little black “eye liner” on the sides of the eye.  You’ ll see that it ‘s easier to do that way than paint the eye pupil (when you paint the eye pupil, you can’ t make mistakes).

Strips and helmet logos : Imagine that the stripe or logo is made of several layers, and always go from the last layer to the top layer. See the example on the pictures : for the pant stripes, I first paint a red strip, THEN I paint a white strip on it. Finally, we have the illusion of 3 stripes : white-red-white. You can use the same technic for jersey stripes (big color strip, then a thinner jersey color strip).

For the logos, same concept : paint the background first, then add a “layer” on top of it, then another “layer”, etc, etc…


start making the background… (you can also see the black lining effects between jersey and skin, etc…)

stripes2…and make the front “layer” after that, creating a 3 stripes illusion

Stage 6 : Finalization

  • Apply a varnish coat on the figure (I prefer matte finish personaly, except for helmets), with a spray can or a liquid varnish (mat medium, for example)
  • apply the facemask and chinstraps (if needed) : I use PVA white glue to do that, then I reinforce the montage with little touches of glue after the first coat is dry
  • make the base finish : I use some modelling flock, basically it’s just stained saw dust or cork. I glue it with PVA glue on the base, then I paint it with Vallejo “Gobelin green” paint. Finally I do a dry brush of bright yellow paint on the edges of the modelling flock.  Finally, I brush a coat of mat varnish on the sides of the base to make it stronger when I’ll manipulate it.

Well…I guess it’s finished ! I hope this little basic article will help you to improve your painting skills. If you need more informations, just ask, or go on the forum. You can also google infos on the wargaming or miniature “classic” hobbyists, or find usefull books and magazines on the subject. Most of the times, the websites or publications will speak about elves, orcs and robots, but it’s the same technics you want to learn !



following this article, and with some pratice and experience…you can obtain this kind of results 😉



Comments (2)

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  1. NATIONAL says:

    Dude you have been a breath of fresh air to our sport/hobby!!!!!

    Your brand of painting and sculpting is just sick!!! ( Here in the states..that means good)


  2. Dimitri says:

    thank you Nat’ ! I hope it will be usefull for mfca members, and also newcomers here.

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