Friday 26 April 2024

A painting demo

I've painted up this Palatine infantryman and photographed it stage-by-stage to demonstrate my basic approach to painting these old figures. The figure is the Minifigs PB137 Infantryman of the Auxilia Palatina. 

I usually paint a single example of a figure to check out how to deal with painting a whole unit. This helps to spot flash and mould lines that are otherwise easy to miss. Much better than spotting that horrendous mould line once you've undercoated twenty figures. More importantly, it enables me to work out the colours I'm going to use and the order in which to paint each element of the model. 

Fig 1. Clean the figure up and give it a coat of white primer from a spray can. Some folks like to use black or grey I know, but I like to start with white because it makes the figures easier for me to see. 

Fig 1. Prime white. 

Fig 2. As a general rule I paint a figure from the inside outwards - flesh first, then the next layer of clothing, then the next, and finally weapons and equipment. That way, I can apply the black lining as I need it and splashes get painted over by the next layer. The base flesh is a mix of Army Painter (AP) Barbarian Flesh and AP Fur Brown. Depending on the subject, I vary the proportion of Fur Brown to get a darker or lighter skin tone. For Moors and Indians I would just go for Fur Brown at this stage.

Fig 2. Base Flesh

Fig 3. This figure has a lot of deep undercuts and I don't want to be poking my brush into those spaces  once the colour is in place. So, I'll paint some of the black outlines in now, notably to the deeply shaded areas where the shield joins the body, around the neck, around the right arm, where the cloak touches the tunic and beneath the legs. All of these areas are best blacked now. There's quite a chunk of casting in-fill under the right arm, which I've cut back as much as I could during the clean up. That also gets painted black so that when the figure is done the black will disguise the defect. 

Fig 3. Black out undercuts and hard to reach areas

Fig 4. Base colours for the next layer. The Tunic is a light mix of Coat d'arms Leather Brown and AP Matt White. The Trousers are a dark mix of Vallejo Model Colour (VMC) Medium Blue, AP Matt Black and AP Matt White. A couple of coats may be needed, especially with the tunic colour where it cuts in against the black. 

Fig 4. Base colours for the tunic and trousers.

Fig 5. I've applied a shading wash over the light coloured tunic and the flesh. The tunic wash is a thinned down Coat d'arms Leather Brown. I use an acrylic medium to make washes but water works too. The flesh wash is Citadel Shade Reikland Fleshshade. I don't need to darken down the trousers as they are dark enough to start with. Washes are great for adding texture to lighter colours and help to establish a guide coat for the highlights. 

Fig 5. Shade washes for the tunic and flesh.

Fig 6. Black lining.With the first clothing layer in place I apply the remaining black lining - round the face and the details of the helmet, the right hand, boot tops and the feet. I also add in the eyes - simple black lines, line round the nose and across the mouth. This is far easier that trying to do it later once the face is painted and any mistakes are easy to correct at the next stage. At this point I noticed that I'd obviously misread the left boot top detail and neglected to paint the whole leg in the right shade of blue. So I went back and corrected this before applying the black lining to the top of the boot.

Fig 6. Black lining. 

Fig 7 and 8. With the black lining in place I paint the next layer of base colours, sticking to my 'inside outwards' principle. The inner side of the shield gets a coat of Vallejo Game Colour (VGC) Leather Brown, the cloak and boots are painted AP Fur Brown - a couple of coats are needed to give a reasonably flat finish. 

Fig 7. Base colours for the cloak, boots and inner shield.

Figure 8. And from behind. 

Fig 9 and 10. At this stage I work up all the base colours by overpainting with a lighter shade leaving the original darker colour in shadows, creases and so on. This is the fun bit because the model starts to show its final appearance. If I was batch painting I'd probably do each colour in two stages to keep an even tone throughout, but as this is a one-off I've just wet-blended the paint adding more white/flesh to the raised details and clothing edges. The tunic is painted as the base coat but with more Matt White added to the mix. The flesh is painted as the base coat with more Barbarian Flesh in the mix. The inside of the shield is VGC Leather Brown plus AP Matt White painted around the outer edge. The cloak is AP Fur Brown lightened with AP Basilisk Brown (it's 'ochre'). The boots are AP Fur Brown lightened with AP Barbarian Flesh. 

Fig 9. Base colours overpainted with lighter colours

Fig 10. And from behind.

Fig 11. Having finshed the inner layers of flesh and clothing I move on to the shield. I've decided to paint this dark green. I quickly find that the dark green mix I'm using doesn't cover at all well over the white, so I paint the shield black, including the rim and rim inner edge. This will also give me my black line between the green shield and brown inner shield, which will save me lining out the shield later (see fig 16). I painted the scabbard black at the same time. If in doubt paint it black I say. 

Fig 11. Shield undercoated black

Fig 12. With the black undercoat in place, I mix up a colour to paint the shield. This is a mix of AP Angel Green (a dark 'bottle' green), AP Matt Black, and AP Matt White. With greens and blues I very often mix in a shade of grey to bring the tone down. I did the same thing with the blue trousers earlier. I sometimes do the same with browns; however, you have to take care adding black to browns as this can turn some yellowy browns green. The scabbard has been painted VMC Cavalry Brown (a maroon colour), this being my go-to colour for belts and sundry when not black or brown. 

Fig 12. Dark green shield

Fig 13. I've highlighted the shield by adding a little white to the mix, painting the top right hand side and carrying the paint over in an arc, then adding a little more white and painting the upper edges. I didn't go too far with this as I wanted to keep the shield a basic colour. I've also highlighted the scabbard by mixing AP Lava Orange with the VMC Cavalry Brown to make a matching brighter tone. 

Fig 13. Shield highlights 

Fig 14. The shield boss gets a quartered red and white pattern. I started with the white quadrants using a very light grey mix of AP Matt White and AP Matt Black, and then painted the red quadrants with VMC Cavalry Brown. I then highlighted with pure white and a mix of Cavalry Brown and Lava Orange. I also spashed a little red onto the green - didn't notice at the time though. 

Fig 14. Shield boss is a quartered pattern.

Fig 15. The helmet gets a coat of darkened down silver - a mix of AP Shining Silver and AP Matt Black. As with the other colours, the black lining is left in the incised detail.

Fig 15. Helmet base coat

Fig 16. The helmet upper surfaces and edges get picked out with AP Shining Silver.

Fig 16. Helmet highlights

Fig 17. The spear is next and I've painted it in my default spear colour: a mix of  VMC Flat Earth mixed with a little AP Matt White. 

Fig 17. Spear base colour

Fig 18. The spear gets a highlight coat of the same mix with more white added. I've also blacked the spear tip in preparation for painting the spearhead. Also... now that I look at the photos I realise I have splashed spear colour onto the figure's cuff! Well these things happen. I've since gone back and repainted the cuff, but as I'd taken all the photos before I noticed I've just left it for this demo. 

Fig 18. Spear highlight

Fig 19. The base is painted the same standard green I use for all my old school collection. This is a mixture of Warlord Green Webbing with about 10% VMC Flat Yellow. Two or three coats gives a nice solid finish. I like to paint the base before fixing the figure to its card base because otherwise it's a devil of a job painting between the legs and round the feet, especially on multiple figure bases. I also like to leave the base until almost last because I handle the figure by the top of the head and the base when  picking it up. This way the paint doesn't get worn away by constant touching. I've also added the spear point - darkened silver highlighted with silver as per the helmet.

Fig. 19. The base

Fig 20. Which only leaves the crest! This receives a base coat of very pale grey and a final coat of pure white - AP Matt Black and AP Matt White. I tend to paint crests red or white because I like them that way. As with the base, this is left until last because of the constant handling.

Fig 20. 

Figs 21,22,23 - I'm calling it done and here's a few shots from different angles. Note that the black lining is done by painting black in stages and overlapping the main or highlight colours to 'cut in' the black. With other models, I do sometimes reinforce the black by very carefully painting a thin black line, and there are occasions when I'll paint in the black lines entirely by hand. I haven't done any of that with this model except around the shield boss, where I needed to tidy up that red spash. Otherwise, the only things I've touched up are the ends of the feet where the paint had worn off through handling.

I could go in with a little brown wash to deepen some of the colours here and there - notably round where the tunic meets the cloak and in the creases of the cloak itself - but I'm happy with this one as it is. I've also left the tunic plain, mostly because the usual decorative bands worn by late Roman troops are hidden by the cloak in this case. I'm pretty much okay with how the colours turned out. The tunic may be a little darker than I intended and the shield a little flat - both could be adjusted with extra highlighting. This is why I paint a sample of course, though I suspect this fellow will have to wait a while before his friends turn up. 

Fig 21

Fig 22 

Fig 23 


  1. A cracking painting guide, it's always interesting to get peoples thought processes on painting miniatures, there is always something to take away and try. It's a nice figure too, when you get his mates done they will make up a lovely unit.

  2. Thanks Donnie - always tempting to start another army isn't it!

  3. A splendid little painting tutorial Rick…
    I am in agreement with Donnie…There is indeed always something to take away from someone’s technique…

    All the best. Aly

  4. Thanks for this Rick - it's always nice to pick up a few tips. The finished figure is splendid.

  5. Thanks fro taking us through that, very interesting. A nice simple style for nice simple 'old-school' figures. Doing the lining etc first on the undercut areas is a good tip!