Saturday 27 May 2017

Painting a 28mm British Napoleonic Battalion.

So once again another forum comment results in another blog entry. This one was, to paraphrase, "would be interested to see how you do your figures" so here's a very rough guide.

A quick comment on how I paint my figures. I block paint colours and then apply a wash. I may, very rarely, highlight some areas after the wash. I don't use wet blending or three colour shading etc, I think the finished figures look fine for wargaming, which is what they are for after all.

With that said here is how I do paint them.

The next unit up in the painting queue wasn't a usual one, it being the Second Battalion of Detachments which was part of Kemmis' Brigade of Campbell's 4th Division at Talavera.
This unit was made up from those troops left behind in Portugal, for various reasons, following the evacuation of Moore's British army from Corunna in January 1809.
For more information on theses units see The British Battalions of Detachment in 1809 by Robert Burnham.
So this unit would have various facing colours, carry no colours and probably have an even more unkempt appearance than the rest of the army.

Main paint colours used not including Facing colours.

Primer, Varnish, and Washes used.

To get a more varied look to this unit I mixed manufacturers and assembled more with bare heads than I would normally. Rear rank are Warlord, front rank Victrix including one of their resin officers, skirmishers Victrix and Perry and a Warlord metal casualty figure.

Assembled and placed on final bases to check fit

The figures were then attached to bottle tops with UHU glue and brush primed using black Vallejo surface primer.

Attached to painting stands and primed.

Then it was time to decide which figures would represent which parent battalions and thus the facing colours and other identifying features required. Having downloaded the tables giving the breakdown of the 2nd Battalion of Detachments I added facing colours to aid with this decision.
Having done this I chose how many figures to do in each facing colour to try and give an overall representation of the historical make up.
This led to the realisation that if I was going to do any figures from the 71st Highlanders I would need some head swaps. Because although, at this time, the parent battalion was back in England and would soon be converted to a Light Infantry unit, those left behind in the Peninsula would still have been in their highland style uniforms. For the 71st this was highland bonnet and tartan trews!
All this resulted in a help call to fellow club members for highlander heads, soon sourced, as well as the following choices for facing colours.

  • Blue: Prussian Blue (965)
  • White: Ivory (918)
  • Yellow: Deep Yellow (915)
  • Black: Black Grey (862)
  • Buff: (976)
  • Gosling Green: A mix I forgot to record but a yellow green.

I paint the knapsacks and attached equipment separately and attach to the figure near the end. I find this gives me better access to heads and more importantly collars when painting.
  • Knapsack: Black (950)
  • Canteen: Pastel Blue (901)
  • Canteen Strap: Leather Brown (871)
  • Blanket: Light (990) or Neutral (992) Grey normally, sometimes with some brown mixed in.
  • Pots, Pans etc: Gunmetal Grey (863) or various browns if covered.
  • Straps: Either Off White (820) or Buff (976) depending on final figure.

Knapsacks in progress.

Onto the figures, I decided to start with the tartan trews having never tried this before. A quick internet search lead to the tartan pattern to be attempted, MacLeod. Quite happy with the results and the decision to only do three.

First attempt at Tartan trews.

My next stage is to paint the large areas so jackets and turnbacks, trousers, headgear, boots and flesh. Note the reversed colours on the drummer and facing colour panels on the drum. As this is a battalion of detachments I have included more figure in locally produced brown trousers than I would for a standard line battalion.

  • Officer/Sgt Jacket: Scarlet (817)
  • Other Ranks Jacket: Dark Vermillion (947)
  • Jacket Turnbacks: Off White (820)
  • Trousers: Off White (820), Chocolate Brown (872), Beige Brown (875), Tartan :)
  • Headgear, Boots, Cartridge box, Scabbards: Black (950)
  • Flesh: Flat Flesh (955)
  • Drum Wood: Light Brown (929)

Jackets, trousers, flesh, black areas plus
backpack and canteen on one piece figure painted.

The two headless highlanders, awaiting bonneted heads.

Next up facing colours. For the collars and shoulder straps I first paint these completely in the edging lace colour, not required on officer figures, and then fill in the facing colour afterwards. This I have found much easier and neater than painting the facing colour first and then trying to paint a thin line around it after. The cuffs are easy, no edging lace except on the drummer. Remember the drummer will have red collar, cuffs and straps if in reversed colour jacket.
I then paint all the equipment straps, remembering to do these buff for buff faced battalions and leather brown for the canteen strap. The haversack and strap are done next then any sashes (facing colour stripe in Sgt's) , shoulder tufts and headgear plumes. Then it's time for hair, musket woodwork and boot gaiters. Last at this stage is the drum bands and cords.

  • Lace: White (951)
  • Equipment Straps: Off White (820) or Buff (976)
  • Canteen Strap: Leather Brown (871)
  • Haversack: Buff (976)
  • Officer/Sgt Sash: Red (926)
  • Shoulder Tufts: Off White (820)
  • Hair: Various colours
  • Musket wood: Flat Brown (984)
  • Gaiters: Basalt Grey (869)
  • Plumes: Off White (820), Off White (820)/Dark Vermillion (947), or Deep Green (970)
  • Drum Bands: Scarlet (817)
  • Drum Cords: Off White (820)

Equipment straps, haversack, facing colours, sashes, plumes,
gaiters, hair and musket woodwork done.
Also highlander heads added.

Next I paint the jacket and cuff, button hole lace as well as wing lace on the flank companies, remembering the officers will be either silver or gold depending on the regiment. Then all the other metallics get painted; musket metalwork and bayonets, swords, pikes, buttons, shako plates, chest strap plates, canteen stoppers, scabbard tips and any buckles.
I then attach the knapsacks and touch up any paint affected while doing this.

  • Lace:White (951)
  • Officers Lace / Metalwork / Buttons: Silver (997), Gold (996)
  • Shako / Chest Plates: Brass (801)
  • White Metal Buttons: Gunmetal Grey (863)
  • Barrels/Locks: Gunmetal Grey (863)
  • Musket Butt Plate / Trigger guard: Brass (801)
  • Bayonets, Swords, Pikes: Oily Steel (865)
  • Officer Sword Hilts: Gold (996)
  • Other Sword Hilts: Brass (801)
  • Scabbard Tips: Brass (801)
  • Misc Buckles: Brass (801)

Jacket lace and all metalwork painted, Knapsacks attached.

The drummer also has a sort of half apron leg protector, this I paint either Off White or Ivory, to give contrast, depending on trouser colour.

Close up of drummer, decided to try a unit
crest on the drum face.

The last stage before applying the washes is to paint the bases using a brown craft paint that I also prime my MDF bases with and then check each figure for any omissions, error or paint splashes.

Bases painted and final check for touch ups before washes.

The first wash is on the flesh areas using Agrax Earthshade from Games Workshop. I used to paint the eyes but don't any more unless they are really wide eyed. I then use the Vallejo Game Colour Wash Sepia Shade on the rest of the figure. This is a dip but I prefer the control of brushing it on. I use this colour rather than a more black based wash as I think it gives a more dusty looking effect, which suits the Peninsula environment they will be "fighting" in.

Washes finished awaiting varnishing.
Casualty attached to his final base and plastic shako added.

Washes finished awaiting varnishing.
Better view of the highlanders.

Next comes the varnishing which again I brush on. I use an Acrylic Polyurethane Matte Varnish 27.527 from Vallejo but this has now been superseded so I will have to try it's replacement when this tub runs out. After the varnish dries they are removed from the bottle tops and fixed to their permanent bases, figure bases trimmed as required. I use superglue for this, other people use various other glues. The casualty figure, as a single figure base has the basing done before a spray varnish is used to seal the whole thing.

All ready for the basing texture etc.

How I chose the base sizes and how I texture them I covered Here on a previous post.

I hope this proves of some use to people, if nothing else it should help me remember in the future.


Basing completed.


  1. I was wanting to know what brush sizes for each stage you had ?

    1. The majority of the large areas was done using a Size 1, straps metalwork and other medium work either a 2/0 or 3/0 and the silly stuff like the crest on the drum and fine lines on the tartan a 5/0.


  2. Hi, your blog address says your in Israel. I am working here at the moment. Painting Brunswickers. Would really like to chat about finding materials here if you are. My contact

    1. Not sure where the Israel location comes from Scott but I'm definitely located in the UK sorry for any misunderstanding.