Tutorial: 28mm Pulp Painting to Tabletop Quality I

The first thing I’d like to say is I am by no means an expert painter. As I’ve mentioned in previous polls I paint solely to get figures onto the gaming table as quickly as possible. With that self deprecation out of the way, here’s the second of three posts regarding painting Pulp figures for a North African desert setting. This post is a continuation from the previous 28mm Desert Basing tutorial as once you’ve based your figure, you’re ready to paint it.

For this tutorial I’ll be painting up one of the Anglian Miniatures Moroccan Spanish Civil War tank hunters from the basing tutorial. As I’ll be using him for generic Pulp gaming I’ve made no attempt to adhere to historic colours so apologies to any Spanish Civil War buffs out there!

Pulp Painting Primed 1. Prime Everything. First I seriously recommend priming anything you paint for gaming, be it figures or terrain. Priming both your metal and plastic figures with an appropriate product will help make your final paint jobs much more resistant to handling and knocking about during gaming. This is because primers are formulated to cover metal and plastics well and also dry to a finish with some ‘tooth’ for further layers of paint to adhere too.

For figure priming I’ve always used Games Workshop’s increasingly expensive Citadel Skull White Primer. However be careful where you purchase it from as I’ve picked up dud cans in the past. Several gaming friends use cheaper spray products, typically flat grey automotive primers. However I don’t mind paying a little more for a product I know has worked well for years.

Apply your primer sparingly and try to hit each side of the figure evenly. I typically line up a bunch of prepared figures, spray across them and then rotate each individually 90 degrees (yet another reason to blue tack them to old drink bottle caps) and repeat until I’ve hit each side. Don’t douse your figures in primer as that will just obscure details, instead aim for reasonable coverage and don’t be too concerned if you can see a little bare metal from certain odd angles once you’re done. You just want to make sure you’ve primed the areas that are going to be handled during gaming. For example you can see the base on my example figure hasn’t been that well covered, but the figure has. That’s because I usually handle figures by the shoulders when gaming.

Pulp Painting Base Colours2. Flat Paint Basecoat Colours. Once the primed figure has dried I transfer it to my paint station and start applying flat base coat colours from my motley selection of Games Workshop and Tamiya acrylic pots. The idea here is to lay down basic colours to completely cover the primer. This is where the fun starts as you need to make choices about how you want the final figure to appear. After this I’m going to apply an ink wash and then work them up with some quick highlights, but as this first layer dictates the overall figure colours, choose wisely!

One beauty of using a white primer is that you’ll only ever need a single coat of acrylic to cover it which makes for fast figure painting. I find white primer also gives your base colours a nice ‘pop’ and I’m sure it helps contribute to the clean look of the final figure. It also makes sense when you’re painting figures for a desert theme as it reflects the kind of harsh, flat white light you’ll find in that environment.

I’ve tried black priming in the past and generally found it to be a nightmare to paint over, particularly with any kind of light colours like yellows and flesh tones. I’m fully prepared to admit I’m in a minority here, but really can’t understand why so many painting tutorials published by large gaming companies insist on teaching you to black prime and then laboriously cover the black primer with layers and layers of paint.

I paint with a handful of artist’s OOO and OO paint brushes. I only ever paint with sable brushes (ie. the red ones) and completely avoid synthetic nylon brushes (ie. the white ones) as frankly I’ve found them to have little merit. Nylon brushes in particular seem to lose their ‘point’ quickly which makes them almost worthless for figure painting.

I’d say find the best mid-price sable brushes you can at your local art supply store and use those. Certain companies will try and sell you overpriced ‘hobby figure painting brushes’ which are of course just re-branded art brushes! Also don’t bother with fancy brush soaps etc, just keep a pot of clean water nearby and make sure you rinse your brushes after you’ve finished apply each layer of paint and never let paint dry on the brush itself. Also never leave any brush head down in the water pot because that’ll bend the bristles and destroy the ‘point’ on the brush, making it useless for figure painting.

While painting figures there’s only two common-sense guidelines I try to follow: Inside out and light over dark. Inside out is where you paint the central details of the figure out to the edges because the central parts of the figure are generally harder to reach. Our example figure shows this nicely with a number of straps, holsters and pouches covering his chest while his ‘outside’ consists of a simple flowing robe.

Light over dark is where you apply dark colours earlier and then lighter colours later. This is because it’s very easy to correct light colours accidently painted over dark areas by applying some more of the darker color, however it can be difficult to correct dark colours slopped over light areas by applying more of the lighter color!

3. Dry Brushed Ground. I’m about to apply a ‘magic ink’ wash as the next step, however before I do that I dry-brush the figure’s base to bring out the textured nature of it. Using a larger, older sable brush I dry brush GW’s Bleach Bone over the base, followed by a lighter dry brush of Skull White. I don’t pay too much attention to keeping the dry brushing off the character’s shoes because I like to think it adds a cheap ‘dust’ effect to the shoe leather.

Pulp Painting Ink Wash4. Magic Ink Wash. This is the final step we’ll cover in this post as it seems to be getting rather long. Here I’m applying a chestnut ink ‘magic wash’ over the entire figure as well as the ground underneath.

This is another process that speeds up my figure painting considerably because it gives you some interesting depth to the figure for almost no effort and also guides you towards which area of the figure should receive highlighting later on.

In the photo you see the example figure after the magic wash has been applied and you may well be thinking ‘wow that looks like crap’ about now. However keep in mind this is an intermediate step and at least several coats of repainting are going to go over this in the next post in this tutorial, so bear with me!

Kleer Floor PolishMagic wash is a blend of finest tap water and Johnson & Johnson’s Klear Floor Polish product mixed in a 7:3 ratio respectively. Klear Floor Polish is largely made up of wax, dissolved in an ammonia solution by the smell of it. I pre-mix this magic wash and store it in cheap dropper bottles which I then mix in a 1:1 ratio with Games Workshop inks.

Why bother? Well, if you paint with straight inks you’ll find they tend to pool as well as not flow that well into minor details, this is because of the surface tension of the ink (or rather the water in the ink). Mixing your inks with a wax solution reduces surface tension which means ink flows into tiny details on the figure and tends to pool less which is good. For more details Google for ‘magic wash’ and you’ll find articles like this from the Painting Clinic. They’re using a slightly different product but for the same reason.

The other advantage of Klear is because it’s a floor wax it’s designed to dry to a hard, rather shiny coat. This works for us because it nicely seals the base coat colours and gives you a robust coat to paint further colours over. In the past I’ve also found that painting over straight ink washes can be problematic depending on the ink. The high shine finish is a downside, but that’s easily fixed by applying a decent matt spray varnish once your figure is complete.

Note that because I’m painting my Pulp figures for a dusty desert environment I typically use a fairly brown/red palette of colours which allows me to get away with a single chestnut ink wash. This single wash also deals nicely with the tanned or Semitic skin tones. If you’re interested in magic washing blue and green inks you certainly can but it’ll add more steps to your painting process as you’ll have to hit individual areas of the figures with different washes.

Also note my single quick and dirty chestnut ink wash has been applied to both the figure and the ground. Post ink wash the ground is complete for this figure and I’ll be apply no more paint there.

Stay tuned for the next post when I’ll finish the example figure off with some repainting and highlighting and then varnish the beggar. Comments and questions are welcome as always of course.

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