Highlighting flesh… in 6mm?

Yes, I know I said I was going to move on to the clothing, but when I decided to grab an hour this evening to move things a bit further forward, I picked up the first strip and thought, “hmmm, I wonder…”

So, this is one of those little detours that could have proved fruitless in this scale, but I’m in the mood to experiment, and since this is the only time I’m ever going to be painting Greek and Persian armies in this diminutive size, I might as well make the effort to make them as good as I can make them.

To begin with, let me say that this is where mounting the figures on wooden strips and working in production-line method pays dividends. Highlighting at this scale needs a steady hand, calm breathing and often constitutes the merest touch of the brush tip on the figure. Practice makes perfect, and having gone boggle-eyed on the first few, I was dabbing at speed by the last, taking only a second or two per figure.

Making use of the table edge for stability

In this first picture you can see the tremendous benefits afforded by mounting thse tiny critters on a strip of wood. When it comes to highlighting, we are generally talking about the merest touch of the tip of a size 1 or 0 brush on the figure, so a steady hand and calm breathing are imperative! Here, you can see that I’m minimising hand and brush shake by using the edge of the table as a support, with the light from the anglepoise coming from above and to the left front. Another anglepoise is directed from the right rear.

Another variation, adjusting the angle of the strip of figures

The second picture is very similar to the first, but shows how different areas of the figures can be accessed by a simple rotation and tilting of the strip of wood, leaving the brush hand in the same, comfortable and stable position. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the colour I’m using is Citadel/GW’s Elf Flesh, diluted about 50/50. I’m simply running the brush along the upper surfaces of arms that would be lit by sunlight from above, putting a wee dab on shoulders, thighs, calf muscles and so on. For faces, where I can identify a nose or forehead, that gets a dab too. Do not get stressed about accidents: “paint the unit, not the man”!

Can you tell what it is yet? the hoplites from behind.

Here you can see the finished results, with the hoplites closest to the camera. Yes, okay, okay, it’s subtle, but when you consider how tiny these fellers are, I’m pretty gobsmacked that it’s worked at all, but there is undeniably a shading effect happening here, and my Athenian and Theban finest are coming to life. When I start on the Persians, I’m making a ‘note to self’ about trying a slightly different flesh tone to reflect the different origins of the men who served the King of Kings.

Stunning flesh rendition on Greek archers

And finally, a macro close-up showing the archers closest to the camera, and the effect of brushing along the uppermost surfaces of the flesh clearly visible. As to whether it’s been worth it – we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we? But since this little exercise took less than an hour, I’m happy. In essence, of course, it’s the Dallimore two-colour method writ small. Umm, make that “very small”.

So, next time, I really shall be moving on to other bits! (Darn, Henry, don’t forget about all those tiny toenails…) And I mustn’t forget, of course, that this is just the first of my hoplite phalanxes, with another nine to follow – and that’s before I order some more! (Oh dear, I had a sudden urge to cackle in a maniacal fashion there. Perhaps it’s just that it’s very late again…)


  1. Nicofig,

    I always paint the flesh first as well. It seems to give the figure some life and also help orient me to everything else that needs to be painted.

    Bob in Edmonton

  2. Hi Henry,
    in his turorial on baccus website, Peter say it’s better to paint the flesh in last. You you paint the flesh in first. I am very impatient to see the next step

  3. Hello Henry,

    Glad to see you back in the saddle here, and your Greeks are looking very good already. Eager to watch them take further shape as the rest of the process unfolds.

    Best Regards,


  4. Henry,

    Nice work. I’ve never thought of highlighting flesh on 6mm but good on you for doing it. I find that the grey/white drybrushing often creates a shading effect when you paint over it with flesh anyhow.

    I’m just about to start a bunch of Successors. Not sure about your plans for the shields. Something I’ve done with the round shields the Greeks have is paint the shield goldish and then use a fine tipped black pen to create a ring, slightly inset from the edge of the shield.

    Gives the shield definition without the hassle of trying to paint a curved line several thousand times.

    Bob in Edmonton

  5. Hi Tyler

    Yes, I forgot to point out that I also work in that way. So, for the flesh and highlights, I don’t paint a complete figure at a time, I go along doing all the faces, then all the left arms, all the right arms, and so on. For the Dwarf Flesh on the back of the hoplites’ legs, it was really easy: I loaded the brush and swept right along the line of figures! For the highlights, however, I got into a nice rhythm of “one two, one two, one two…” with simple, vertical brushstrokes.

  6. This highlighting is key to these small miniatures. Not much will do it, and don’t forget to push the highlight a bit lighter than one would think.

    It seems most of the miniatures on my website are 6 and 10mm right now.

    A final bit of advice: When painting units on a stick, try making 1-2 brush strokes on each figure before moving to the next, breaking down each colour into small sections. Challenge yourself to find the most efficient strokes to paint the area.

    This helps relieve some of the monotony, keeps you from missing bits (very common to find the occasional unpainted foot), speeds up the process and gives you greater control.

    At the very least, do not switch from large brush strokes to small brush strokes if possible. Your fingers dial in motion so that when you move from a large stroke to a small stroke, the small stroke is harder to control. I find if I make a mistake, it’s usually moving from painting a large area where I can be a little sloppy to a smaller area requiring greater accuracy.

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