A new category for feedback

Issue 14 seems to have been very well received indeed, with Bob Barnetson’s calm and reasoned article on figure piracy and Barry Hilton’s suggestions for rapid painting techniques receiving particular praise.

One reader, Steve Burt, went a step further, adding some suggestions of his own:

“I very much enjoyed this (and the whole issue, in fact), but I was surprised that Barry didn’t say anything about undercoats in colours other than black or white, and nor did he mention the best base texturing material.

Some years ago I switched over to a sandy brown undercoat (I use Liquitex Bronze Yellow), followed by a burnt umber wash. Not only does this show detail on the casting in a way not possible with black or white, but it does not dull colours down as black does, and missed areas look like wood/leather so do not stand out like a white undercoat.

Indeed, for Dark Age figures, you can just paint flesh and shields and the figure is pretty much usable on the table straight away.

I notice that Barry seems to favour model paints; I personally find artists’ acrylics better quality and cheaper, especially for things like undercoats. The Liquitex medium viscosity range (now renamed soft body) are fluid, so don’t need to be diluted like the tube paints; they come in little squeezy bottles.

For plastic figures I find that acrylic paint from a tube is perfect; it covers the plastics and shrinks slightly on drying to form a skin, perfect for further paint. It’s much easier than using PVA in my experience.

Finally, Barry should also have a look in an art shop for his basing material. Acrylic texture paste is clear (so can be mixed with whatever colour you wish), dries slightly flexible, does not shrink or crack, and does not cause warping. The plain clear texture gel is perfect for water effects. The various sand textures are great for basing.

Thanks for a great issue, and I hope the tips above are of some use to others.”

I forwarded his comments to Barry, adding:

I am copying this reply to Barry, who I’m certain will appreciate the feedback and excellent ideas, and will find a home for them on the Battlegames website. And, of course, I’m going to try them out myself! I’m sure we have all noticed, of course, the recent publicity by Army Painter who prescribe coloured undercoat sprays, chosen according to the final colour scheme of your army, though it would seem very strange to me to undercoat an army of plastic legionaries with silver! (Though Bob Barnetson, as you will have noticed from his previous article, probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid as he often doesn’t undercoat metal figures at all.)

Barry replied:

Yes, thank you both. Interesting ideas, Steve. I too have experimented with different colour undercoats including blue, tan and grey. My article was mainly focusing on a very pragmatic comparison of a particular figure type and differing production methods so I kept the writing frame quite tight. I suppose if Henry had wanted a few extra pages I may have been able to oblige! Hope the omissions did not spoil your enjoyment too much.

I’m quite certain that everyone realises that a contributor has to focus on one particular aspect when writing and article — otherwise, it quickly becomes a book! I personally found Barry’s piece incredibly valuable, especially since I am embarking on a couple of major projects myself, a view shared by reader (and previous contributor) Ian Allen:

Barry Hilton’s painting article was particularly interesting as I’d recently been agonizing over not painting figures ‘properly’ any more, but my 15mm C18th look good on the table en masse from a sensible distance even though they are just flat painted, no highlights etc. I think that for skirmishing type games, more time should be taken to make each figure look as good as possible, as with my “Thrilling Tales!” collection, but for massed troops and units a simpler approach works well.

Steve Burt then sent a postscript to his earlier email:

Actually I should have said that black is a very good undercoat colour for figures which are mostly armoured, such as cataphracts or medieval knights. I just find brown tones better with most other figures. The ‘undercoat in main uniform colour’ trick is one I’ve used with success for WW2 figures. I did experiment with no undercoat a while back, but was disappointed with the results.

Anyway, if you’ve got any thoughts to add, then by all means leave comments of your own below. I find that there are as many painting techniques as there are wargamers, but that a piece like Barry’s has value in challenging us all to think about why we paint the way we do, forcing us to consider the results we achieve relative to the time and effort invested. I know that I’ll be making some changes! In the final analysis, we have to simply consider whether we are happy with what we achieve, and if so, that’s the most we can ask.


  1. I found Barry Hilton’s piece in Issue 14 on painting and basing styles interesting and helpful.

    I recall from the time when I could still see to paint (!) that one of the problems with using ready-mixed Polyfilla and the like for bases was that it showed an unseemly white mark if it chipped. I am not sure whether this would work on the more modern materials Barry refers to but I found the problem could be mitigated by stirring in to the Polyfilla before application poster paint of some appropriate colour from small pots that used to be readily available in places like W.H. Smiths. Chips would seldom match the painted base but they looked a lot less obvious than the glaring white. The added liquid content was quite small, even if quite a lot was added to get a denser colour, and did not appear to affect the plaster mix.

  2. I found the painting article very interesting and informative. As I have a batch of Confederate infantry ready to paint I shall try a brown undercoat. One tip I did pick up. When using hand-applied acrylic undercoat it helps to mix a little Klear floor polish into it first. It prevents it rubbing or lifting off the metal.

  3. After trying black matt primer and various other colours I tend to go for an undercoat which goes with the predominate colour of the uniform; eg Light grey for white uniforms; mid-brown for red etc.

    Although I have fallen into using mid-brown primer for most things recently.

    — Allan

  4. Hi all. I generally ise black undercoat, but have been known to dabble with red-oxide primer followed by a thin blackwash. This worked very well on my 28mm Foundry ancient Greeks.


  5. Hi Steve, and thanks for your thoughts. naturally, I’m glad that you have found so much to enjoy in the latest issue.

    Voting system: absolutely not, I’m afraid, it’s just too much open to abuse and the domination of a minority.

    From my experience with running competitions and on forums, it would be the same people who vote time and again. It’s taken me a long time to even consider doing this much, and whilst I welcome feedback, Battlegames is not a democracy, and I will continue to publish articles that I believe have merit, whether or not I think they will prove ‘popular’.

    Moreover, writers are sensitive people: can you imagine how crushed someone might feel if their article got few or no votes or, even worse, attracted the vindictive bile one often sees on the web? I see my remit as encouraging new writers as well as experienced ones, and I stand by them if they come under attack. I’ve already had to defend a couple of people who simply submitted honest reviews, and I fully expect to have to do so again. C’est la vie.

    And finally, a camel, after all, is a horse designed by committee. I know precisely what I want Battlegames to be. So far, I’m gratified that so many wargamers seem to understand that vision and have come along for the ride, but I’m not going panic if, occasionally, an article ruffles a few feathers or doesn’t particularly interest someone. You can’t please all the people, all the time, and any magazine editor who thinks that they can is a fool. For example, someone came up to me at Colours just to tell me that they thought issue 12 was “…the worst issue yet.” (No, I’m not kidding.) But what does that mean, when I have also received many letters and emails from people who absolutely loved issue 12? And the other fact is, well, what am I supposed to do about it? Turn back time and do it differently to please a single individual? I think not.

    Issues of magazines are like buses. If you don’t like the look of one, another is sure to come along soon enough that looks more inviting, and that’s the most that any editor can hope to achieve.

  6. Barry’s article was one of a selection of top notch articles this month – before I comment specifically, I’d like to add praise for the Sudan scenario (Tarka – can’t wait to get my Dervish out to have a go solo!), but also the SYW article by Angus, and (of course) the Table Top Teaser…

    Returning to Barry’s article I found lot’s there to try on my own figures – in terms of the techniques offered though, I would say the only thing I would add to the discussion is the “hybrid undercoat”. I’ve been using the technique for years now – black spray undercoat, but then white damp brush. This (to my mind) gives all the advantages of the black undercoat (shadows/fill etc.), and also the white undercoat (something to help the lighter colours show better), all in one application….

    By the way, have you ever considered doing a kind of online voting form for each issue of “Battlegames” (I think WI does it already??) where you could offer readers to give direct feedback on each of the articles?? Rate it 1 to 5, where 1 is poor etcetcetc.? Problem is – going on the last issue it would be 5’s across the board for me! :o)))

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