Monday 16 April 2018

Painting 18mm American Civil War Union Infantry.

So after the reception to my post on Painting a 28mm British Napoleonic Battalion here's a very rough guide on how I've started painting my 18mm ACW Union infantry.

A quick comment on how I paint my 18mm figures. I block paint colours and  apply washes. I don't use shading or highlighting 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, all paints are Vallejo Model Colour unless otherwise stated.

Main paint colours used

Primer, washes, flock mix and varnish

The figures are attached, four to a wooden tongue depressor using Pritt Stick glue and brush primed using Vallejo Ultramarine Surface Primer (625).

Based on painting sticks and primed

First I paint the uniforms:

  • Trousers: Either Grey Blue (943) or Andrea Blue (841)
  • Jackets: Dark Prussian Blue (899)
  • Kepis and Forage Caps: Dark Prussian Blue (899)

These areas are then washed with Citadel Drakenhof Nightshade.

Next the flesh areas are painted in Basic Skin Tone (815). I've used a paler colour for the flesh than I use for my 28mm figures due to the reduction in figure size.

Jackets, trousers (Grey Blue in this case) and flesh done

The areas of hair are next to get painted in a variety of browns or even grey before both this and the flesh areas are washed with Citadel Agrax Earthshade.

Equipment comes next:
  • Blanket rolls: Neutral Grey (992)
  • Hats (kepi peaks), cartridge box, haversack, knapsack, boots, scabbards & straps: Black (950)
  • Officers sashes: Red (926)
  • Water bottle covers: Grey Blue (943)
  • Water bottle straps: Off White (820)
  • Musket woodwork, drumsticks and flagpoles: Flat Brown (984)

Metallics next:
  • Musket metalwork: Gun Metal Grey (863)
  • Bayonets and swords: Oily Steel (865)
  • Sword hilts: Gold (996) Officers, Brass (801) Others
  • Scabbard tips and other ranks' buttons, hat badges and buckles: Brass (801)
  • Officers' buttons, badges and buckles: Gold (996)
  • Flag pole tops: Brass (801)

Then finishing trim etc:
  • Sgt's stripes: Prussian Blue (965)
  • Hat cords: Prussian Blue (965)
  • Drummer jacket lace: Prussian Blue (965)
  • Drum bands: Vermillion (909)
  • Drum cords: Off White (820)
  • Drum face: Dark Prussian Blue (899)
  • Drum skin: Flat flesh (955) washed with Citadel Agrax Earthshade

Finally on to the basing:

This is slightly different to how I do my 28mm figures, mostly due to the different rule requirements, but also tweaked due to figure size.
First the figures are based four to a base using super glue. Bases are 25mm square, 1.5mm thick plywood from Warbases with magnetic strip attached to the bottom. Next dried play sand, a finer grain than I use for 28mm, is glued down with PVA before being washed with Vallejo Game Colour Wash Sepia Shade. After this has dried the base edges are painted with Cam Olive Green (894) before they are flocked with a mixture of Woodland Scenics flocks, 50/50 mix of Blended Turf T50 Earth Blend and Fine Turf T45 Green Grass.

After all this is completed a final check is carried out for chipped paint or omissions before the whole assembled infantry stands are varnished with The Army Painter's Anti Shine Matt Varnish. Once this has dried the flags are permanently attached and they are finished. 

Completed unit, a small brigade of 1050 to 1400 men depending on game scale being used,

Time to start the next batch!

More AB figures



  1. Very nicely done as usual Tony. I am a big fan of the GW washes as well, but must admit I miss their earlier Devlan Mud and Sepia washes. The Agrax Earthshade is a decent enough substitute though, all things considered.

    1. Thanks again Lawrence. Was originally hoping the blue wash over the blue primer would do for a quick turnaround but the colour looked wrong to me.


  2. I do my ACW similar to you. I also don’t do much highlights or shading and just let the wash take care of it. At this scale it’s not so much the individual figures that create the visual but every thing together: the long lines of infantry, the terrain, etc.. and you need so much infantry that you can’t spend hours painting each one 😀

    1. Yes, you have to try to get a production line mentality going when painting these.


  3. Effective and beautiful job!

  4. Brand new ACW guy here. Can you point me to a diagram of all the uniform items? Probably an Osprey book? I am not near as familiar with the uniforms of this era. Actually, I don't even have any models yet! I came across your blog in a search of various ACW search items and like what I see. Great stuff!

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment.

      As I currently only do Union most of my reference is for them. I have Osprey MAA 177 ACW Armies (2) Union and MAA 38 Army of the Potomac as well as several books by the artist Don Troiani. His books are very well researched and feature equipment as well as uniforms.


  5. Trojan! Duh! Why didn't I think of him. I was going through my bookshelves and Found a book I forgot I had. Its a reenactors guide to uniforms. Bit flipping through it the author called kepis forage caps repeatedly. No kepis anywhere actually. Thanks for the reply.

    1. No problem. Online Pinterest can be very useful too.