The digression continues

With this weekend’s unmovable deadline staring me in the face, I decided to take a break from all that brown and dig out the scarlet for the noble 24th Foot. Only 30 figures plus two officers and two NCOs, I thought to myself, I’ll bash those out in no time.


The fact is that regular, uniformed troops are never the sort to submit easily to fast painting techniques, nor will my controlling soul allow me to be too slapdash about it. The thing is, even though I’m painting these for use at just one or two shows, they will be in my collection for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to feel embarrassed to put them on the table when a visitor arrives.

And it’s now that I’ve come to realise that 20mm really isn’t that much bigger than 15mm, and more to the point, my eyes ain’t what they used to be! Whilst the average British redcoat in Zululand wasn’t as burdened with lace and frippery of his forbears from the Napoleonic era, there’s just enough going on here to make for a slow job. Those Austrian knots on the cuffs; the little bit of white piping around the base of the collar… And of course, the usual demands of trying to achieve some semblance of shadow and highlight on these small figures.

painting in progress
The 24th Foot: painting in progress

Anyway, the photo here shows where I am after a couple of eye-mangling days. I’m finding that I’m just having to take a break every couple of hours so that my eyes can re-focus, and there are other little diversions, such as trying to run my business and do all the normal things like respond to phone calls and emails, eat, drink and other necessary functions. Other entertaining interludes have included questions like, “Just precisely what shade of green were the facings of the 24th Foot?” and discovering that some officers wore red jackets, others wore dark blue ‘undress’ ones with lots of frilly bits on them. The figures I have are wearing the red tunics, so should the cuffs have the green facings, or just have gold lace? You’d think it would be easy – but it isn’t! The one Angus McBride Osprey book I have says surprisingly little about the British, though quite a lot about the Zulus, and I have had to conclude that his impression of the 24th’s green facings is way out. I have found lots of re-enactment reference, even a proper military costumiers, all of whom make the green much darker. And then there is, of course, the movie Zulu, which I have on DVD and is about to get an outing…

As for the cuffs, I was dreading doing all that white piping when an idea struck me: just do the whole cuff with twiddly bits in white first, then overpaint the green bit inside. Job done! (Well, okay, it wasn’t quite that quick…) It’s possible to get a much thinner white piping this way. I know this close up it doesn’t look that fine but, trust me, the real width is a fraction of a millimetre. The question is, can I be fagged to put a microscopic dot of red inside each of those white bits at the top of the cuff…?

The scarlet tunics and blue trousers are both multiple-colour jobs. Foundry scarlet, scarlet light and finally a Citadel Baal Red wash for the tunics; the trousers started GW Storm Blue, highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Storm Blue and Ultramarines Blue, to which I added some Shadow Grey for a top highlight. They were then washed with Citadel Badab Black. The stripe is just Foundry Scarlet, no messin’ abaht! I’m hoping that, in daylight, and once my vision has recovered, all this effort might prove worth it.

Enough for now, back on the treadmill. Would the first person to see me on Saturday at the show please bring me a very strong little cup of espresso?


  1. Henry – I must admit that I assumed everyone painted cuffs that way. I learnt that with French Naps and their red cuffs, white piping, blue flap and red piping combination. To get a sensible red it needed a white base, and as you have found, it is easier to paint up to a line, than to paint the line itself (rather like the black undercoat technique). Now there’s a point (soapbox time) – it steams me to see the black undercoat method attributed to Dallimore – I first saw it when I was a nipper in White Dwarf (7?) as the Sable Brush or some such. Ok, rant over. So with French, I do a white band, then red, then a white flap, red, then blue inner flap. Hard to describe, easier to do.

    Interesting to hear your comments on 20’s. As you know, I switched from 15s to 20s (plastics though) a while back, principally because I found the 15’s took as long to paint as bigger figures, wwere harder, and did not look like it when done. The 1/72 figures occupy more space, have a bigger volume, and work better with my poor old eyes. The same trend can be seen with 25s/28s/40s etc. And, the killer for me, plastics in 1/72 are significantly less expensive than 15s in metal, and I get a bigger style game.

    Good luck with the painting – although I think the game must have happened last weekend?

  2. Strangely, I find rank and file much easier to paint. The trick, I find, is to break down the job into small portions. I mount my miniatures on popsicle sticks, and will often go down the line, painting only 1-2 brush strokes, all at the same angle. Then, change the angle and do 2-3 strokes of the next bit. In this way I’m not constantly moving my arm holding the miniatures, and the small movements of my painting hand become more precise.

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