Miniatures: Painting

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Painting tips from Anthony Barton

Napoleonic Guide editor Richard Moore offers some suggestions on the basic things needed to either paint your own figures, or get them professionally done.

Work area

Ideally you'll have an area that will be a permanent painting spot. Your own bedroom or study is the best place. If you have young children you need to keep your paints/figures out of their reach or, if you are a young person, where you can stay a little bit disorganized (messy) without your folks (or wife) getting peeved.


You need to work out if oil or water-based paints will be the most suitable for you so ask the people at the shop you get your figures from or check out the local games group. Remember with oil-based paints you'll need turpentine to clean your brushes and hands.


Colour-wise you'll need a range and of course that depends upon the nationality of the armies you'll be painting. Top of the list are -

Flat white
Flat black
Brown - light and dark
Green - light and dark
Blue - light and dark
Grey - light and dark
Metallic gold
Metallic Silver
Metal - gun metal or steel

When buying your paints remember to check the facing colours of the various regiments in your chosen army and get cans of those.


I have to say brushes never last long when I paint so I do not go for the most expensive variety, but many people do. You'll need medium brushes for larger areas of your figures and sharp-pointed ones are invaluable for smaller parts and details.


These are the thin balsa wood, plastic or metal platforms that you fix your painted soldiers on to. The rules you choose will decide the size of the bases and how many figures you place on them.

Bases can be painted or covered in flock - a grass and terrain lookalike - or small pebbles and sand.

Uniform information

There are masses of books around on Napoleonic uniforms, but for good basic starters it wouldn't hurt to look at Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars 1796-1814 and Uniforms of Waterloo by Philip Haythornthwaite and Jack Cassin-Scott (aided by Mike Chappell on the latter).

Uniforms of Waterloo
Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars, 1796 to 1814


The Napoleonic Guide suggests two Internet sources of free Napoleonic flags. Click here for details.


A sharp box-cutter knife to trim excess metal off your figures.
Sand paper.
Small bowls for cleaning brushes.

Storage boxes

I have seen some utterly stunning boxes that people store and carry around their miniature soldiers in and some must cost a fortune. I have to confess to being lazy and a bit mean and took one of my figures down to the hardware store and checked out some plastic tool boxes. I settled on a five-drawer container with opaque plastic sides (to see the figures) and a carry handle. Seems to work for me.

Be a hoarder

If you are serious about wargaming and building your own table-top battlefield you should try to keep all manner of materials stored away somewhere.

Foam rubber offcuts, plastic pieces, balsa wood, cardboard, pieces of package protection foam and matches are all excellent to work with.

Buy painted figures

Now if you have the money, or are a terrible painter, or don't have the time then you can do what I have done and buy second-hand figures. It is not the cheaper option, but it is much faster.

I now have a good basic selection of 15mm Napoleonic troops that include hundreds of British (my first purchase and a little down on painting standards, but good enough), a complete Saxon army (professionally painted), French infantry and 50-plus French dragoons (again professionally painted).

It is a bit of a mixture but I'm not gaming at the moment and can afford to take my time picking up figures here and there whenever they are available at the right price.

Your local games shop or wargames club should be able to point you in the direction of a good miniatures soldier painter.


Painting Hints
Painting tips from Anthony Barton
One of the men behind AB figures gives his tips on painting Napoleonic soldiers.
Miniature Painting Techniques
Suggestions to help improve your painting
Painting Naval Miniatures
How to paint naval vessels of the Napoleonic Wars
Professional Painters
Campaign Game Miniatures
Miniatures, buildings, scene accessories




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