Drybrush and Wash Technique - Painting Smallscale 8th Army Figures
There was a time when I thought my Airfix sand-coloured plastic figures really looked the business with the exposed parts of the skin painted with good old Humbrol Matt Flesh - and of course to a 10 year-old kid they did.
And that kid still lives in my head, and even though various decades have passed since then, and even if I spend maybe a little more time painting my figures nowadays, I do still try and keep things as simple as possible,
Drybrush and Wash Technique
The figures below were all painted using a simple technique that brings out the detail well and allows you to finish off a large number of figures in a relatively short time.
I'll cover the preparation, basing and undercoating in a separate post in more detail, but the painting technique itself is straightforward and simple as follows.
- Paint a large batch of figures in the base uniform colour.
- Once dry, give them a very heavy drybrush of a much lighter colour to highlight the raised uniform areas, straps, buckles, rucksacks, etc.
- Block paint flesh areas and weapons.
- Finally finish off the whole batch with a wash to bring out the details.
Acrylic Paints / Colours / Wash
Acrylic paints are the best for this job and I generally use colours from the Vallejo range.
For the 8th Army figures I've used the following.
- Vallejo Khaki - base uniform colour
- Vallejo Iraqui Sand - heavy drybrush.
There are various products on the market sold exclusively as "washes" or "dips", but I've found that - at least for me - the best option is to use a good quality artists' acrylic Raw Umber diluted with water to a consistency of milk. In this example I've used the following
- Van Gogh Acrylic Raw Umber
You just need to squeeze out a half-thumbnail sized blob into a bottle top or similar recipient, mix in water to get the right consistency, and paint a generous dose onto each figure.
The wash will settle into the folds and crevices of the figures and once it has dried you'll see a very pleasing and subtle highlight and shadow effect.
The 8th army uniform can range from sun-bleached sandy white to the darker hues of khaki brown and even green. This all depends on the issue of uniform, the amount of time exposed to the sun and elements, etc., so you might want your figures to have more variation.
You can use the same technique but paint in more detail before the final wash, and play around with variations on the straps, pouches, rucksacks, helmets, etc., using lighter browns, sand, other shades of khaki, greys, and so on.
Another option is to also try with different washes using deeper shades and / or consistencies of artists' acrylics.
If you want to certain figures to stand out, such as as officers or special units, or even whole squads, once the wash has dried you can further detail the figures by touching up certain areas, dark-line, highlight, etc., etc
The illustration below is a guide based on Vallejo colours for painting 20mm British & Commonwealth WW2 8th Army figures.
One final note : Boots
The British wore black boots but if you've ever walked around, even for a very short time, in dry dusty terrain you'll already know that whatever colour your boots might have originally been, they will soon become the exact same colour of that same terrain,
For this reason I prefer to leave the boots in a dusty shade to try and match the flocked base.
There are plenty of options for painting the 8th Army and many of us have various preferences for colours and techniques so please feel free to add any comments.