Why Thinking is Bad
With a painting plan in place, it's time to deal with the part that is hard to avoid in Napoleonics: painting a metric ton of infantry.
This is a perfect opportunity to dig into that plastic and metal mountain most of us have, as rank-and-file is generally the fastest to paint. In my case I had quite a few sprues of Warlord's plastic French kits, but also a variety of Victrix plastics as well as some other odds and end. For the first step I'm looking at around 5-6 battalions, which means around 200 minis. Most of these will be from my unpainted wardrobe pile of shame, which will please my wife immensely.
My opinion on army painting is that if you want to paint in bulk and get an army done, you should do it in an organized fashion. My 13-year-old self could not paint armies for shit, because I had no idea about how to do that. I would paint a single orc on a war boar to a descent standard, then base-coat some spiders, and the next thing I knew I was building some space elfs or something. Needless to say, nothing got done.
Exactly what you decide your method to be is of secondary importance - what matters is that you get into a rhythm, so that you end up painting when you sit down to paint. The death of bulk painting is thinking. If you're thinking, you're not painting. If you're not painting, you're not getting your army done. So your method is there to ensure that you know what you've done, what you're currently doing, and what your next step will be.
My Current Method
Since I'm basing my infantry in groups of six, I divide what I plan to paint accordingly. So a batch will be either 12, 18, 24 men etc. It's tempting to go with a really big batch, and if you can pull it off you're great. Personally, I find 18 or 24 man batches works best for me.
Step 1: I prime using a spray primer. I've experimented with both blue primers, brown, black and more, and I've come to term with that all of them works for me, except pure white. Get that thing away from me.
Step 2: Once primed, I keep to a pretty basic painting method. I will first block in all colours with a basic layer. This layer is often a tad darker than what I want them to end up as - so red parts gets a dark red, yellow parts might get a mustardy yellow, straps that will be white gets a deck tan paint, etc. I take one colour at a time, and coat everything on the model that will end up with it.
Step 3: Washes are great for bulk painting. I use three washes - one flesh tone for flesh paints, one brown for yellows, brass and browns, and a black for most of the rest including whites, reds, metals and blues. When painting French, you're basically painting those colours. I slab it on quite freely.
Step 4: I basically repeat step 2, recoating the base colour on top of the washes.
Step 5: I highlight some parts, but not all. The parts that tends to give the most effect is highlighting flesh coloured, black, red, blue and white parts. The idea is to not give lavish details for everything, as these are hundreds of dudes who will walk in big blocks, so spending too much time on them will hinder painting progress. So I guess leave them as basic as your painter's pride allows you to?
Now, this is not the best way to paint. It will not make the nicest miniatures out there. It's not even the speediest way to paint! The important thing is this: it's a painting method that I'm very comfortable with, as it's my default way to paint. So I don't need to think a lot when doing it - I can just sit down, see that I haven't painted white yet, and get to work.
So if you're not used to bulk painting and want to try it out, that's my advice. Paint in a way that you're used to, maybe removing a few steps if you're usually a very detail-oriented painter. The greatest improvement in speed will come from painting many miniatures at once, and also thinking about and planning your painting less.
With that said, let's check some progress:
First out are four companies of Warlord's plastic "Late French". These are the epitome of speed painting, as there's almost no colour to them at all beyond beige and gray.
Keeping track of your progress can be a great motivational tool. I put the finished bases, minis attached with blue-tac, in a box divided in battalions. Six bases deep means they are finished. This way it's easy to see what's missing, which is mostly voltigeurs and command stands.
My next batch will deal with my voltigeur deficiency. Two companies, all from Foundry, with a lovely officer and a musician. It's hard to tell from this picture, but they are lovely sculpts and I'll show them more properly when done. The six remaining troops are fusiliers, some of my last remaining non-greatcoat Warlord. As you can see, these are in the step where I'm blocking in the colours, with these being quite close to be ready for washes.
Bonus Painting Challenge
The lovely people over at Murawski Miniatures put up a painting challenge on their facebook page, and I'm a sucker for painting challenges. It's simply to finish some of their minis during the month of September. Now, I've had these Polish Duchy of Warsaw troops in my lead pile for a long time. They're by the excellent sculptor Paul Hicks, a big favourite of my club.
It's a pity not to paint them up, and sometimes you need to treat yourself in between the line infantry. I'll try to do these two companies of voltigeurs and grenadiers before the month is ended, let's see how I do! It's such a small number of minis that it shouldn't keep progress back, and maybe I'll end up with a Polish battalion to bulk out the army.
I'd love to see if you're also partaking in this Murawski challenge, or if you're busy bulk painting an army yourself!
"Glory is fleeting,