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Painting WW2 British in NW Europe

WW2 British Infantry are some of my favourite ww2 figures to paint both because of the aesthetic and the challenge. The aesthetic is that their uniform is frankly dull and designed to be that way. It was a uniform without frills built for function rather than form and as it continued throughout the war and into the 1960s with only small changes It obviously did the job. There are no high leather boots or shiny leather here, just a khaki coloured workmans clothes with webbing designed in the same way. If you were giving style points for WW2 uniforms the Germans would win and US uniforms run them close but for practicality and sheer uniformity the battledress takes some beating and as James Holland points out in his The War in the West trilogy substantially cheaper and less resource intensive.

The challenge part is in making figures in a uniform designed to be dull and workmanlike look good and visually interesting on the tabletop.

In some ways its like the challenge of painting camouflage uniforms which is to make the re stand out – the opposite of the point of camo!

Here we have a monocolour uniform whose colour is dull – how can we make this interesting? Given lots of time im sure better painters than me can do wonders but here I will show how I do it to turn out numbers of figures at the same time to look good if not medal winners.

Step 1 Undercoated in Vallejo grey which looks white but is a light grey. If I was using a brush I might use black to get some inbuilt shadow but with the airbrush its going to be quicker to cover the lot in English uniform.

Step 2 So here they are sprayed with a dark shade of English Uniform with a bit of German Dark Brown added. As British uniform is all variations on Khaki this is a good base.

As part of this phase I then also do a bit of highlighting with the airbrush using normal English Uniform, more for my benefit to see where the highlights will be.

Step 3 I wash the whole figure with a thinned version of something like agrax earthshade or army painter strong tone (in the little bottles – not the dip). This is useful on a monotone uniform to increase the contrast and visual interest. I thin it down as I don’t want it to darken the actual figures too much, you may prefer it unthinned.

Step 4 Because I’m an idiot I forgot to take any more pictures on the original batch which is why these guys are in different poses but the process is the same. This step was all about the uniform and brushing in the English uniform on all the jackets and trousers. I used it thinned a bit so it didn’t entirely obscure the existing shading and left the darkest creases untouched. In the highlight areas I added Desert yellow to the mix.b

Step 5 All the webbing was then painted using Khaki Grey mixed with white for highlights. The previous wash left some nice ready made creases and edges so some care was taken. The Gaiters were also painted at this time but with a tad less white. This gives a decent degree of contrast with the uniform, like me you might think its too much so add another thin wash of Agrax/Soft tone if you do.

Step 6 The skin was painted first using basic flat flesh with a thinned wash of mixed agrax and flesh wash from gw. This provides the depth in eye sockets and between fingers to then allow the use of Flat flesh over 90% of the raised areas and then highlights with a bit of white added to nose, fingers and cheeks etc. I never paint the eyes for 2 reasons, firstly I think it’s unrealistic. 28mm figures at arms length represent a man at about 30m away. If you can see his eyes in the shadows of his eye sockets you are called Steve Austin and you are the world’s first Bionic man. If you don’t believe me get a 28mm figure and hold it at arms length and match it up with someone in the street. Secondly to get eyes painted right takes bloody ages and would increase the cost of the figure I’m selling out of the price bracket I’m selling

Step 7 Next up are the weapons which are painted dark brown then highlighted with flat brown, metal parts are black highlighted gunmetal then gunmetal with silver.

Helmets were painted a mix of military green and black to get a darker green than absolutely necessary, then drybrushed with khaki for the netting and strips of cloth.

Lastly thinned washes were painted over flesh and the webbing to just tone it down a little. Red shoulder flashes were added to the shoulders. These have the regimental name upon them however at this scale its pointless to try and paint letters. I also add stripes for NCOs in light khaki on dark khaki. Unit badges such as 5oth division could be painted on but limit use for the pedantic….Basing is the usual builders sand on pva, desert brown and dark sand drybrushed over.

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