A great aspect of the wargaming hobby is that there are always new things to try out, new things to learn and new things to buy and stuff into the back of your closet or attic. So when wargaming a period based on one of the biggest revolutions in history, does it really make sense to rigidly stick to just what we know? Should we not push on through our own personal and mental ancien régimes?
Inspired by some of the youtube paining channels I've been watching, I decided to try out some new things myself this year. It's easy to continue painting the same way once you reach a level that you're satisfied with. Keeping to a singular painting method can be great for painting masses of troops to a good standard, but challenging yourself to try new things can be just as valuable. This way you can pick up new methods and tools that might just make their way into your own painting style.
As I put together a new batch of Napoleonic French, I decided to try out some new things with them.
The first thing I wanted to try out this year is zenithal priming. It's far from a new thing, but I haven't gotten around to testing it. The idea is basically to prime the model in two or more colours, from dark to light, as to recreate light coming from above (zenith). This can be done by using an airbrush, or as in my case, by spray can primer.
Spotting a rare Nordic witer day of no wind or rain, I rushed out in the morning and primed the entire batch black, using Vallejo's black spray primer, and let it dry. Then I brought out the models again, and gave them a second coat, sprayed from a few different high angles, of Citadel's Corax White spray.
The results can be seen above. So why doing the extra effort of a second coat of primer? In theory, the zenithal primer should help you with shadows and highlights. Unless you absolutely cake your mini in paint, the primer layer changes how other layers look: the same coat of red will look darker over a black primer than a white primer. By starting out with natural highlights from the primer, your shadows and highlights should end up looking better.
Does it work? Well, after starting to put down the initial coats of paint, I'm not sure. However, I'm still very impressed by it, but based on a completely different reason. Speed!
Since the black primer forms shadows already, It's less of a problem if you miss out a few spots. Those missed spots will simply look like shadows. This is a great advantage of black primer, one that I kind of miss since I switched to lighter grey or beige primers.
However, picking out details on a black primer can take time, as you look onto a tiny black void. The lighter coat of spray does a terrific job of creating clear contrasts, which guides you as you paint.
While I'm not sure the different hues of the primer coats will help the end result look better, I must say that those extra minutes of spraying a second layer really pays off in making it faster and easier to paint the basecoat. The only main disadvantage I can see this far is that you need to buy more primer paint.
As a bonus, the miniatures also look far more painted than they are, which I guess helps your painting morale.
Overall verdict - definitely try it out if you haven't!
This is actually a tool that I did try out before, but didn't stick with. I'm making a new go at it this year though.
There are many designs for wet palette, but it boils down to putting your paint on a semi-permeable paper resting on something that soaks up water. This keeps the paint from drying up.
You can buy a fancy wet palette, or your can make your own. As I'm still just trying out if I like it or not, I made one out of a plastic tomato container. Fold a few sheets of kitchen paper to create a soaking layer and pour some water in it, until it's moist. Then cut out a square of parchment paper and gently push it down so that it adhere's to the kitchen paper. Now you're set!
Now, professional painters use nice wet palettes to make amazing blending between colours, and that's fine. But as a more intermediate painter, there are some nice advantages with a wet palette that makes it worth trying out.
First of all, you save paint. When I put down my Vallejo paints on a regular plastic palette, I know that much of it, even a majority sometimes, will dry out on the palette. Some of your paint will dry on the paper of the wet palette as well, but far less.
Secondly, you speed up your paint when doing larger batches. With a dry palette I constantly need to pick up the paint pot and add some more paint, as the old paint dries up. It's also easier if you are doing any kind of colour mixes, as you can mix bigger batches without them drying up.
Another advantage is that the paint keeps a good consistance for longer, which makes paitning easier. Nothing's worse than trying to do details with paint that is kind of starting to dry. The less time and energy you wase on struggling with your paint, the better.
I'm still kind of new to using the wet palette, and I must admit that I'm not doing superb wet blending any time soon. But I do find it helpful, and maybe I'll try a "real" one later this year.
Overall verdict - try it! It's practically free to make, so why not?
Ok, so I like buying new miniatures even more than I like trying out new paint techniques. For this batch I have the pleasure to try out two miniature ranges that I haven't painted before.
First up is Avanpost, a Russian manufacturer of primarily French and Russian Napoleonics, as well as some 30 year war minis. They are sold through their facebook page, but there's a UK retailer carrying them as well (Mezzer's Miniatures).
Now, these miniatures are just amazingly detailed. Exceptionally so. If you've checked them out but not bought them: they look as good, if not better, in person.
The caveat here is that the amazing detail means that the miniatures are fiddly. Some very much so - the drummer comes with two loose straps for the drum! Needless to say, said straps fell off several times during assembly and priming. With up to six or seven parts for an infantryman, they are probably not your go-to option for large units, and the delicate details are maybe more suitable for showpieces than for tabletop duty...
...but they look so good!
I bought enough minis for a command group, a grenadier company, some artillery crews and a few odd infantrymen. I'll paint up a few as a trial, and see if I decide on getting more or not. While assembly was a bit of a pain I really look forward to seeing them painted up.
Next up are some French from Calpe Miniatures. It's a bit unfair that they came in the same batch as my Avanpost minis, as any other day they'd stand out favourably.
Sizewise they seem to match my Warlord miniatures very well, but with a lot more detail and livelier poses. I bought the Calple French with this in mind, the plan being to use the Calpe minis for command groups as well as sprinkle in some infantrymen in the front ranks. I ended up buying enough to form four command groups as well as regimental command out of these.
In person they look great, and even though a lot of the muskets were bent in shipping none of them broke, as they are quite sturdy.
With these new tools to try and minis to paint, I have quite the batch in front of me, literally. With these minis I'll be closer to my goal for this year, to finally finish my French infantry battalions.
I hope this inspired you to try out new painting techniques or miniature ranges as well. I'd be happy to hear if you have tried anything new that gave you a different approach to painting or a new technique that helped you.
"Glory is fleeting,