Here's my step by step guide to painting some Wargames Foundry 28mm Franks/Early Saxons. I have a hundred or so already painted and based, so these need to fit in with the rest and are intended to be used as allies for my Hun, Goth or Late Roman armies that I have been working on over the last few months.
There are 34 rank and file troops to be painted, which will be added to some left over command figures I painted a few years ago to make 3 units which I intend to base on 120mm x 50mm "impetus" bases. I find that I can easily paint and base up 50 or so figures in 8 hours painting time (man hours) over a 4 or 5 days (elapsed time). You may not achieve quite this speed (I have painted this way for about 25years), but if you apply the method shown you may find you up your output considerably
Step 1 - preparation (30mins)
After cleaning the figures, and attaching few spears, I attach the figures to 4 x 8 inch wooden strips using a hot glue gun and undercoated with matt black halfords spray. Leave this to dry overnight.
Step 2 -the base coat (3 hours)
When the figures are completely dry and fully primed, I start by drybrushing all the metal bits (chain mail, spear tips etc) in silver. I use a fairly large brush (size 3) but the trick to any dry brushing is to, err, have a really dry brush. Don't use one that's still wet from earlier use; and make sure the paint is nice and thick (not all paints are suitable for drybrushing). Add a small amount of silver to the brush, then use a scrap of wood to remove most of the paint. (I sometimes us the base of the painting tray as you can see in the picture below). Then flick the brush over the figure in a fast back and forth motion. Because this is the first paint to be applied, accuracy is not important. Just make sure all the parts you need to cover are covered, don't worry about areas you have dry brushed in error.
Next I chose 5 muted colours from my paintbox that complement each other. These are going to form the basis of the various shades of clothing they are wearing. This is an important step, as there are in my opinion three things that will affect the overall visual appeal of the unit. The other two are the shield designs, and the look of the bases. More about these two later.
For reference the colours used were vallejo 924 (Russian uniform green), foundry 75c blue grey, army painter wolf grey (which also has a nice bluish look), foundry 31b Granite (a brown grey stone colour), and vallejo 982 (which is quite a strong colour in comparison to the others so I used sparingly.
Next I paint the flesh, leather belts, hair and any gold items. I now have the whole figure covered with the first layer of paint. I'm going to leave these to dry completely under my lamp before the next step
Step 3 - ink wash (30 mins)
So the next step is to apply ink wash. Over the wolf grey I applied army painter blue wash. Over the rest, except for the very light blue grey, I applied army painter strong tone ink, which is a dark brown wash. This covered the chain mail and the flesh, as well as the green (which has a brownish tint any way, and the granite and cavalry brown. The trick to ink washing is to push the ink around the figure, so it covers where you want it to, and on some flat surfaces, if it forms a pool or puddle, remove this excess with your finger or a brush. These army painter inks dry to a very flat matt finish, which I particularly like.
Ink washing suits figures that are well defined. This is why I prefer painting foundry (and more recently Aventine) figures because the ink flows into the grooves so well
Here's a close up. This is about the half way stage, before any touching up or detail is added:
Before finishing the washing, I want to tell you about cheat number 1. Many painters black line the figures, to give extra depth. This consist of applying a very fine black line to redefine the areas where say belts overlap tunics. Great look, methinks, but hey, life's too short, and this is meant to be a speed painting tutorial, so my cheat is to apply yet another wash, but this time only to the areas I want extra definition. The wash I use this time is Windsor and Newton nut brown, which is an Indian ink that is very much thinner and darker than the other washes. The trick is to only apply it very sparingly. The only downside is that it's very glossy, but that won't matter as I will be matt varnishing the whole figure later. It does however look very off in the photo below! But have patience, the hard work is done and the magic starts soon!
Step 4 - highlight (1 hour 30 mins)
So now I add the highlight. Put simply, I reapply the original colour over the figure in the areas I want to highlight, such as the creases of the material on tunics and cloaks. This works very well because the ink has darkened the original colour. The key to successful highlighting is to make sure the difference between the highlight and the colour it is covering is noticeably different, but not so much so. You will find that this trio of base colour, ink wash, highlight give just the right tonal variation
Now this is as far as I am going to go with the figures attached to sticks. I'm now going to pause to paint the shields, then remove the figures from their sticks, attach the shields, the fix the figures to their mdf base with wood glue.
Step 5 - Shields (1 hour 30 mins)
I said before that good looking shields is one of the key thinks that needs to be achieved to make a great looking unit. It is often the first thing that catches the eye, particularly from your opponents side of the table! Take extra time during this step to get the wow factor!
I lay out the shields on a flat piece of scrap board and spray the reverse side in halfords red undercoat. When completely dry, I flip the shields over and spray with halfords grey undercoat. I then attach a row of shields to sticks this time using bluetac. Using references from various websites, and a heap of artistic license, I pair simple designs on the shield, using a very limited, but different, brighter palette. You may want to use shield transfers, there are some very good ones available from Little Big Man, they take about the same time to apply as I can paint them, but you do need to use white as the undercoat colour, not grey. But as these shields are quite curved, transfers can be difficult to apply, so I have decided to paint them.
Once painted, I give the shields a coat of brush on varnish before removing them from their sticks and attach the shields to the figures using fast acting araldite, a two part epoxy resin glue. I used to use superglue for everything, until I realised I was allergic to it, (I thought I was suffering from asthma). Now I only use superglue if emergency "in-battle" repairs are needed!
Step 6 - Basing (1 hour in total, over a 48 hour period)
This is the third most important thing to get right, as sometimes I think even figures that are painted to an average standard can look so much better if they sit on some very well detailed bases. And good quality basing is quite easy to achieve with practice.
Arrange the figures on the mdf without applying any glue to make sure you get an effective composition (this being a barbarian unit I want to achieve a less ordered feel). This also helps to identify any figures that could topple over and thus need a little bending on their metal base. Now I lift each figure in turn and add some wood glue to the underside of the figure before repositioning it on the mdf base.
The wood glue should be left overnight again to dry thoroughly.
So it's day three and is now quite frustrating stage because each of the following need to completely dry before proceeding. So if you have set aside an hour or two this evening, why not use the leftover time to prepare your next figures for painting?
1. Cover the base in pva glue and sprinkle with some small grit. Dip the base in sand, shake off the excess. Have some clean water and a clean brush to wash away any sand that might get erroneously attached to the figures. Allow to dry completely (again, overnight is best).
2. Mix up some burnt umber paint with equal amounts of water, so if is just a little thicker than ink. Paint the mdf base and allow to dry again overnight
So now it's day 5, and I'm on the home straight. Time to highlight the bases. In 2015 I changed my approach to basing, and have ceased to use flocking or static grass of any kind. I found it irritated my skin and eyes, so I now purely use texture and colour. So to simulate grass patches, I cover the base with random patches of a dark green paint, but avoiding areas where the coarse grit has fallen. When completely dry, I dry brush with a mid green and finally, very delicately, dry brush again with a tiny bit of lemon yellow.
What is left to see of the burn umber base I dry brush with a beige brown and then very lightly with foundry sand
And here is the finished article, complete with some command figures I painted a few years back:
Before the next stage I might do a bit of tidying up or extra detailing with the brush, if it takes my fancy.
Step 7 - varnish (10 minutes)
Set the figures out on some scrap board again and take them outside to spray varnish. I have been using Army Painter anti shine but have recently tried testors dull coat. Give them a couple of coats, allow to dry, and the job is done!