A little digression…

100 newline Zulu warriors on the painting tray
100 newline Zulu warriors on the painting tray

Okay Henry, just what are you up to now? 32mm cowboys, 6mm ancients, 30mm 18th century, and now 20mm Zulus? What happened to focus, man?!

Actually, these little fellers are a guilt-free addition to my, shall we say, portfolio. As you may know, I am a supporter of the Redoubt show, to be held in Eastbourne on 26th and 27th July. I shall be running a trade stand for Battlegames together with my dear partner Annie, and in a conversation with Mike Spence, who is organising the show this year, I found myself offering to run some kind of participation game for the benefit of visitors to the show, particularly newcomers and youngsters.

Having given myself a silent slap for having thus taken on extra work, the topic then turned to the theme for the show, which this year will be the Zulu Wars. As it happens, a couple of years ago, at this very show, I was conversing with a rather forlorn Sean Pereira of Newline Designs, who was having a somewhat tough day. In an effort to cheer him up and contribute to his petrol home, I picked up the first army bag I could find on his table, and handed over the requisite banknotes (not many, as I recall — he does to exceedingly good deals), and it just so happens that the bag I had selected was his Zulu Wars starter pack.

The bag, now rescued from the dusty obscurity of the back of a shelf, was found to contain 100 Zulus, 40 British foot, 12 irregular cavalry, 1 field gun and 2 Gatling guns, all with crews. Perfect! And, in keeping with all Sean’s sculpts, these are lovely little gems, reinforcing my feeling since my youth that 20mm is pretty much the perfect size for wargaming.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise of what the scenario will be on the day, but let’s just say that it will inevitably involve the Brits being heavily outnumbered by bold and brave Zulus. I want to keep things simple enough for youngsters to happily get involved and have a fun time, but with enough flavour of the period to make it feel authentic and for more experienced gamers to rise to the tactical challenges.

Zulus cleaned up and mounted on pennies
Zulus cleaned up and mounted on pennies

For me, this is a real excursion: I have never, ever collected or painted colonials before. What a time to start! Fortunately, I have a reasonable collection of military history titles covering the period and theatre, and the usual leavening of Ospreys and, of course, the vast resources of the Internet. Anyhow, I thought I’d begin with the Zulus, as these are the major part of the project to crack. The show, I will remind you, is in two week’s time!

I actually started on the figures on 8th June, filing and scraping flash (not much) and mould lines. The figures were then mounted onto 1p pieces — yes, I could have bought small washers, but I had a tinful of old pennies that I couldn’t be fagged to take to the bank! Incidentally, I used the strongest superglue I could find for this; a good alternative would have been epoxy two-part adhesive. For the cost of just £1 plus half a thimbleful of superglue, therefore, the Zulus were all based. Next came a spray with Games Workshop/Citadel Chaos Black as an undercoat.

Zulus receiving their basecoat of Dusky Flesh
Zulus receiving their basecoat of Dusky Flesh

This is definitely going to have to be a fast painting exercise, so I decided to use this opportunity to test the new and much-vaunted Citadel washes. On went a coat of Foundry Dusky Flesh 6B as a base coat on all the flesh areas which, when it comes to Zulus, means a lot! As with my previous experience of production-line painting all those Spencer Smiths, I found I could finish a batch of 20-30 figures in one sitting before my eyes needed a rest and the brush needed a good rinse. I always take some paint from the pot and put it on a mixing tray, adding roughly the same amount of water to create the right consistency. I just use clean tap water — it has never given me any problems, and I’m not aiming to win any prizes here, so the kerfarfle of obtaining and using distilled water is just not worth it.

So, after a couple of sessions, I had all the base flesh done, and the figures immediately had that spark of life that we have all experienced once the undercoat begins to disappear. Next for the wash, to bring out the musculature, facial features and other detail.

Close-up of Zulus after Devlan Mud wash
Close-up of Zulus after Devlan Mud wash

The colour I chose was Devlan Mud from the new Citadel range. For those of you who remember proper paint colour names before gaming companies came along and made everything sound as though their ranges were invented by dyslexic pixies, it’s somewhat akin to Burnt Umber. The consistency, however, is very unusual indeed, rather oily and slippery in a way that’s hard to describe. The pigment is evidently very fine, and suspended in a medium that, whilst somewhat glazey in appearance on first application, dries completely matt. It also seems to leave very little residue in the bristles of your brush, but is highly susceptible to capillary action which seems to draw both it and the pigment into the ferrule of the brush. Thus, when I came to rinse the brush at the end of each batch, the water was discoloured very little, but significant staining was visible at the base, rather than the tips, of the hairs. Odd.

Anyhow, the proof is in the pudding as they say, and over the course of a few hours, I sloshed this stuff pretty much all over the figures, giving the results you see. It would be interesting, of course, to have run a comparison using other washes (such as artists’ acrylic Burnt Umber, Citadel Scorched Brown and perhaps their Brown Ink), but I’m in a hurry. I’m reasonably pleased with the results: the musculature of the figures seems to be quite naturalistically defined, the facial features highlighted without any ‘pooling’ of pigment, and other details nicely picked out.

Now, I’m often a three-stage flesh man, but in this instance, I’m going to press on with the clothing, arms and accoutrements and see how it all comes together. If, after this, I feel that they still need a little extra definition, then I may come back to add a slight highlight, but with time at a premium, I’m pressing on.

Tune in again next week for updates!


  1. 100 zulus = A little digression? For me that would be like turning the panzers against Russia while those pesky Brits are still refusing to be defeated.

    The discussion on inks is of interest to me. I’m currently sploshing on watered down red paint to convert the ‘office-worker jaundiced yellow’ hue of Coate d’Armes flesh to a more healthy, outdoors look.

  2. Technically, they’re not inks, Steve, and the consistency and finish is quite different. For a start, they don’t have that shellac glaze that true inks have.

    As for the article, well, I’m sure it might happen in due course. I’ve got some other cracking painting articles lined up first, though…

  3. ..I’m hearing lots about these new inks all over the place – the best way to use them, effects you can achieve, etc., would make an excellent article some time in future, Henry.. hint hint… :o)

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