Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Note to Self: Painting WWII Russian Infantry (20mm,1/72)Preparation/Painting Guide

The Russians are coming! 

Warning: A long post follows with lots of pictures... but I was enjoying myself so much I just could not stop myself ... and also I did not want to forget anything I had done. I shall explain the crazy logic behind my excessive number of  layers of detail to this painting process (on cheap plastic) in another post. Meanwhile sit back and enjoy my madness or simply ignore it!

Following on from my recent "Chain of Command" games using my WWII British Platoon I decided  I needed to allow some other toys to fulfill their "wargaming destiny". So kit that had laid dormant for nearly a decade (ahem plus), painfully stored the attic in their basic chipped paint scheme finally makes it to the 'painting table' (see below, "1/72 Classic Esci/Italeri WW2 Summer Russians"):

For some reason (perhaps watching the H2 History Channel "Russian WW2 Weekend" has something to do with it), I fancied attacking the pile of unpainted and partially painted Russians (plastics and metals), starting with the plastics first. In this way I could safely experiment and build up a paint set before moving onto the more tricky metals. As stated earlier I opted for my "old school" Esci/Italeri Summer Russians. I particularly wanted to put to good use the extensive collection of Vallejo paints I have acquired (see below):

Note: I am basing these as individual figures for the "Chain of Command" rule set. My previous attempt at painting Russian infantry were for "Command Decision" which requires them to be based "in twos on a 20mm square", which IMHO makes them look a tad cramped. Depending on the results I may well go back and convert these to single bases.

WWII Russian Painting Experiment: Esci/Italeri WWII (20mm, 1/72) Summer Russians

"Plastic Figures" Preparation:
  • Washed in warm soapy (detergent water)
  • Cut from sprue with sharp knife
  • Dry off water with dish towel and leave to dry fully
  • Paint with slightly watered down PVA glue mixed with a dark brown (I used Vallejo Game Colour Charred Brown, because it was Dark Brown and 'to hand') and don't panic if it looks a mess at this stage (see below)
Help my figures are covered in "PVA Gunk!", a very messy painting tray. 

Note: These are old figures getting a repaint which is why they look different to 'virgin ones' from the packet show in the later photos when the PVA had dried (see below):

The factory production line akin to the Soviet Stalin "Five Year Plan" (see below):

However once dry the preparation stage is complete (see below, 3 x Russian two man LMG teams), the PVA has shrunk over the figure creating a seal that helps softer plastics be more rigid. By mixing in a dark paint it also help highlight subtle detail in the figure (such as shoulder straps) and helps as a painting guide later. 

An example batch of 'prone Russians' sealed in "dried and tightened" PVA (see below):  

A close-up of a single figure showing a surprising amount of detail, a work of art really not just a kid's toy. I cannot recollect this figure being and the prone LMG figure being in the original Esci set, but this one definitely comes from the Italeri set in hard 'plastic' (see below): 

Alternative for "Metal Figures" Preparation:
  • Wash in warm detergent water  
  • Dry off water with dish towel and let dry
  • Remove flash with sharp knife
  • File off mold lines with small modelling tools
Painting Guide:
  • Undercoat figures (see below) light to dark brown (Ex, I used Games Workshop "Foundation Calthan Brown" again because it was near to hand, but any Darkish-Mid Brown will do). Note: Yes this loses the "PVA painting guide marks" (see above) but sadly this step is needed, but you will remember in your "mind's eye" trust me.
  • Wash the figures in a Black Wash (I used Valleo Transparent Acrylic Wash: Black Shade). This tones and partially brings back the painting guide, again this serves as a painting guide (see below):

The REAL" Painting Starts:

Phase I: Shade/Mid-Colour Blocking: 
  • Helmet: Vallejo Model Colour Russian Green (aka 70894), the most distinctive Russian uniform element IMHO (see below):  

  • Tunic: Base shade of uniform (wait for it) English Uniform Vallejo Model Colour (70921) and not as I expected the Vallejo Russian WWII Uniform. Why you may ask? Please see the following excellent article on Painting WWII Russians from a blogger called Steve Balagan. 
Anyway things's should now be looking like this (see below):

Close up of the excellent prone LMG figure (see below):

  • Blanket and larger bags and packs: Vallejo Model Colour German [ahem, not quite what you would expect for the Russian army] Camouflage Beige (70821). In a bit of a dilemma here as I want to keep the baggage authentic but simple, so I am trying not to paint "50 shades of Green" (see below):  
  • Waist Belts and Ammunition Pouches: Vallejo Model Colour Flat Earth (70983), although you need good eyesight to see it against the background of English Uniform (see below, strap over the right shoulder):
  • Boots: Black Vallejo Model Colour (70950) to show that these "boots are made for walking" all over the Nazi hoards (see below): 
  • Face and Hands: Vallejo Model Colour Flat Flesh (70955), an awkward colour as it looks too bright and white, but I am going to apply a wash over this later (see below): 

  • Highlight Tunic: Vallejo Model Colour Khaki Grey (70880). Some may say perhaps a strange choice to highlight now, wash then to highlight again, but stay with me there is method to my madness (see below):
  • Various Metal Bits: Gun Metal (Weapons and Entrenching Tool): Using Vallejo Model Colours Gun Metal (70863), to point out the metal bits without being too shiny (see below): 
  • Wood Weapon Stocks and Entrenching Tool Handle: Vallejo Game Colours (Charred Burnt Brown and/or Beast Brown), a two step shade and highlight process (see below): 

Getting there now as all the "base shade colours" have been added. It is "Intermission Time" so:
  • "WASH ONE" is applied again in Vallejo Acrylic Wash Umber Shade to dull everything down and add some depth to the figure (see below):
  • "WASH TWO" is the Vallejo Acrylic Black wash again applied over he metal parts to dull down the shiny bits as per every self-respecting combat formation (see below):
  • Gallery (1): of "other Russians at this stage" (close-up detail on some single figures, SMG and Rifleman, see below), the wash has made the figures shiny:

  • Gallery (2): of "other Russians at this stage" (Soviet "Masse", see below):

From another angle (see below):

Phase II: Highlight Time
  • Helmet Highlight: Vallejo Model Colour Russian Green (aka 70894) mixed with increasing amounts of Vallejo Game Colour Gold Yellow (72007) to give subtle shades of green highlights.
The "Soviet masse" (see below):

  • Tunic Highlight: Straight back to Vallejo Model Colour Khaki Grey (70880) and yes I know we've just washed over it, try adding Vallejo Game Colour Golden Yellow (72007) and Vallejo Game Colour Dead White (72001).
And a close-up on some "singleton Soviet Snipers" (see below):

The "Chain of Command" Platoon formation seen from afar with their "Yellow Tunic highlights" (see below):

Next a "touch of White added" to the extreme bits of "highlighted Yellow" (see below):

These "White highlights to the tunic" shown a little closer (see below):

The "White highlight to tunic" with a very close-up LMG prone figure (see below):

  • Boot Highlight: Vallejo Model Colour Black (70950) mixed with Vallejo Game Colour Stonewall Grey (72049). This is dabbed in patches over the earlier black muddied by the Umber Wash for a subtle effect (see below, the whole platoon and a few close up):   

  • Bags and Blanket Highlight: Vallejo Model Colour German [ahem, not quite what you would expect] Camouflage Beige (70821) mixed with Vallejo Game Colour Dead White (72001).

  • Ammo Pouches and Straps: Vallejo Flames of War Read Leather (818), mixed with Vallejo Model Colour Flat Earth (70983) and highlighted with Vallejo Game Colour Gold Yellow (72007
  • Wood: Vallejo Model Colour Beige Brown (70875) mixed with Vallejo Game Colour Gold Yellow (72007)
  • Metal Bits: Vallejo Game Colour Gun Metal Grey (70863) in a tiny thin highlight strip
  • Flesh: Vallejo Model Colour Flat Flesh (70955) mixed with a small amount of Vallejo Game Colour Dead White, and dabbed as highlight spots
  • Shoulder Tabs (I): [Note these were added rather late in the process and it would have been better if they had been included in the base painting section too, ho hum] Rectangular strips of Vallejo Game Colour Gory Red (72011) as 1939-1942 Soviet Infantry has "red" shoulder tabs, post 43 it was a more subdued affair (see below): 

  • Shoulder Tabs (II): This is retro fitting the "shoulder tabs" into the previous stages to tidy up the edges of the red tab and tone down its in your face colour (which would be more appropriate for the NKVD units)
    • Black line with thin brush around red shoulder tab
    • Umber wash shoulder tab area to regain that "brown" feel
    • Re-touch tunic (Vallejo Model Colour Khaki Grey 70880) and highlight (adding some amounts of Vallejo Game Colour Golden Yellow and Vallejo Dead White) on and around the shoulders
    • Subtle red highlight on a small part of the shoulder tab (see below for the end of painting results): 

Phase III: Are you TOUGH enough for Table-Top?
  • Varnish Gloss/Satin: Depending on availability (much to my surprise I do not own any Gloss Varnish, so I subbed in the nearest I had a Humbrol Satin Varnish, originally purchased for a 'water/sea effect' project I never got around to doing (see below, first a tester on two figures, then the whole batch as in A Chain of Command basic platoon):

  • Varnish Matte: To tone down the glossy effect a layer of Matte Varnish was applied after leaviong the Gloss/Satin a full day to dry and cure (see below): 

Phase IV: Detailing the Base:
  • PVA the base around the figure and dip in tub of "Grit" (see below): 

  • Ink the Grit Base a Dark Brown: In this case reconstituting some "gelled up" Winsor and Newton Ink with water and adding a bit Anita's Acrylics Earth Brown, so the sand and grit soaks it up and gives it shade as it dries out (see below): 
  • Shade the Base: Anita Acrylic Earth Brown (see below):

  • Highlight Layers to Base: Add Anita's Acrylic Cafe Brown to the Base Shade of Anita's Acrylic Earth Brown for "first highlight layer". Then add a dab of Vallejo Game Colour Golden Yellow as a follow on "second highlight layer (see below, WIP left [basic shade colour], middle [first highlight] to right [second highlight]):
  • Final White Highlight: Subtle dry brush white (Vallejo Game Colour Dead White) to highlight tip/edges of grit (see below): 

  • Flock Base: Add watered down PVA in smears to flat areas of base, dip base in "flock box", wait thirty seconds and tap to release excess (see below): 

  • Add Clumps of Static Grass: Choose random sections of base to add tufts of grass, by dabbing PVA to base and pressing static grass to base and tap to release excess as per flock (see below):  

Soviet Office with classic upraised pistol pose (see below):

The ubiquitous Russian SMG armed trooper (see below):  

Advancing rifleman (see below): 

The LMG section (see below):

Now we are ready to commission this platoon into the Red Army for Poland (1939) or Barbarossa (1941) to the Summer Battles of 1942 (After that the shoulder tabs change ... but do we really care?). Note: Finland (1940, aka "The Winter War") is probably a push for these figures as these Soviets are all in Summer Uniform.

Final Note: I have a lot more "Russians from various manufactures" to now consider painting (at my 'leisure', as in if I ever manage to get any more "time off" seeing as how I have 'neglected' house and garden duties for the sake of the Red Army) but now at least I have the 'Geordie's Big Battles' (patent pending) "Mark One: Russian Painting Set, Guide and Travel Box" to hand. 

Note: Paints and Brushes (which I estimate cost approximately £60 to gather over many years, but yes it can be done much cheaper) on the bottom tray (see below):

And WIP figures in the top layer of the  box (see below, in this case Italeri's "ex Esci" 'Summer Russians' retailing at approx £7 a pack and I have at least three packs to work on):

As I said other manufacturers to follow (Revell Summer, PSC Summer, Revell Winter, Italeri Winter, note no Caesar or Airfix [do these figures actually paint up well?] "as of yet")

Hope you found some of the above useful .. perhaps too long for one blog post but I wanted it all in one place for future reference and not spread around.



Leif Eriksson said...

Good tutorial! I wouldn't do that many steps on 20mm figures, but that's just because I'm lazy.

I can confirm that the prone figures ARE indeed in the original ESCI box, I remember them and I still have some, and I have never bought the Italeri re-issue.

I can also confirm that the Airfix soviets are shite; they are underscale and details are soft to non-existant as the moulds seem to be ancient. Avoid like the plague.

Paul Foster said...

By crikey mate!

Basically all the same colours as I use, nice!

Some of the best photos of your troops you have posted. Must have been good lighting.

Top notch post.

Service Ration Distribution (Hobby) said...

I really like these figures and you've done a 'spot on' job with them. They also happen to be the backbone of my Russian Army as well.I haven't tried the newer offerings in any numbers yet. But, I ask myself, why bother with the new stuff when you can get such excellent results with the classic figs? Hat's off to you, sir.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Thanks Gents,

Glad you liked my "tour to Russia with a brush"

Leif: Thanks I will have to check out the spares box again to try and find the missing LMG Russians (PS Airfix: hmm, say no more)

Thanks Paul, your stuff looks great mate: The interesting 'touch' was the Vallejo brown wash to see how it dried adding depth and changed the tone of the figure (now there's me sounding all srty)

Service Ration: Much appreciate your comments. I have the Revell and PSC figures as future projects to do too, but the Esci/Italeri were the best starting point from an emotional point of view!

Sun of York said...

Great post. I will have to try adding PVA as part of the undercoat step. I use PVA as a pre vanish step, but only on extended parts of the figure.

If you are after some heavy weapons i can recommend the Zvedza packs. Here is a link to some I have done recently: http://onesidedminiaturewargamingdiscourse.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Zvedza

I mixed in some Esci figures as extra crew. Also figures from the HAT tank riders set - another one I would recommend.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Thanks "Sun of York", it is about time I went back to the WWII Eastern Front where the "Tigers burn bright"