Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I ripped into these figures quick smart once I decided to break the seal - or should that be once the ram touched the wall? I've seen the HBO series Rome too many times to be able to resist leaping into a second Roman army so here is the first of many cohorts to come. Contrary to my usual practice, all figures are from the same manufacturer - Warlord Games Caesar's Legions.
I've never created a plastic infantry unit before and I have to report that these gents were easy to assemble and great to paint. I truly enjoyed myself creating a speculative Legio XI and being able to put my invented shield design into practice.

 I used two different skin tones (only subtle) and two different off-white tunic colour schemes. It's obvious from this overhead shot that I went with a scattering of iron helmets in the mix also. I've not used any filters when Photoshoping so what you see is what I got. I am very keen to take on the first cohort (double strength) next.
I included three replacement shields in the group as I wanted to represent what an unpainted field replacement might have looked like - quickly stenciled black over rawhide. The horse symbols representing Neptune are Veni Vidi Vici 28mm decals, fixed and then settled with Microsol, matte coated then the shields were lightly black- washed before matte varnishing.
I will paint alternate green shields with the same design for other cohorts and even mix a few green shields in largely blue units and some greens in with blue shielded cohorts. I want as much of the legion represented to depict something of a transition stage. I also happen to be having difficulty choosing between the two so I can have both - can't I? Standing back it should look relatively congruous.
I'm not sure why the packs come with a trumpet and not a cornicern. Also, the standard has no awards on it so it's just a plain shaft. I'll be mucking about with the next one. They have a bull so let's say these chaps are from northern Italy.
My next unit will have gladius in the front ranks with pilum in the rear I think. The pilum armed figures require significant depth so they are occupying a six figure base end-on which I had measured for a front-on formation in two ranks. I have used the same bases I had cut but have used six instead of four to base the 24 figures. Anyway, it's back to the Crimea before Christmas.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Flag Tutorial: Making Cloth Flags

I take a fair bit of effort to create my own flags. I see many people's armies and units whose flags are an afterthought, an inconvenience or a nuisance step in the process to paint up a unit of toy soldiers and get them on that table. I get it completely. Many of us probably think it's too fiddly or that we feel unable to compete with the level of detail commercially produced flags can achieve through the printing process. In many ways this is neither wrong nor unreasonable but I'd like to make the case for making your own flags and provide a crude how-to for what I am doing these days.

When my eye falls on a unit of finely painted toy soldiers one of the first aspects which catches my attention is the units flags. This is perhaps particularly the case for the large flags (colours or standards) that were popular from the renaissance through to the end of the nineteenth century - particularly and consistently for German and British flags. They are relatively big, colourful and meant a lot to the men who fought beneath them - so I always thought I should put some care into their reproduction also.

The problem with commercial paper flags is they look like what they are - stiff or shaped paper flags. The designs and print qualities aside, they just don't look like a silk flag. I suppose I should specify here that I'm really talking about 28mm scale flags. For smaller unit flags such as French Napoleonic flags of 15mm armies I'm perfectly happy to go with a printed flag.

I used to design and fashion my flags from tissue paper. It was thin enough to re-trace the mirror image of any design exactly on the other side (handy), easily shaped when wet with white glue and they set nicely. They were a perfect surface to paint on also. But since I saw a few commercial flags produced using the finest of cloth, I took the leap and can't go back.
I use a very fine suite lining fabric - white so I can draw on it. I cut oversize so once set later in the process, I trim the edges back to the proper dimensions. For this example, I am making a British set of 28mm flags for the 3/60th regiment of foot for the British Army at Quebec 1759. The flags represent a 6' x 6' 6" slightly rectangular flag and I use slightly generous (oversized) measurements of 35mm height at the staff x 40mm long.

The initial measurements for the cloth exceed the 40mm length considerably to allow me to wind the cloth onto the steel wire flag-pole - I'll be trimming it off anyway. I run a carefully applied smear of Selleys Kwick Grip glue up the wire to allow fixing the 35mm width of cloth. I ensure that about a 5mm or so gap is left at the top of the wire where I will later fix the finials and tassels. I use steel wire cut and straightened with the top filed off to a slight point to seat better into the drilled finial. I first fix just the very edge of the cloth to the wire and let then set properly before applying sufficient glue to then wind or wrap the cloth around until it covers the join. I then let this set properly.
Now I can draw my design with a pencil. The cloth gives and shifts and I admit it's not as good a drawing on paper but the lines can be traced effectively through this cloth on the other side.After my basic design is complete it's time to wrap them.
I simply fold the cloth back on itself concertina style working from the wire outwards until the cloth is fully folded against the wire and then wrap it in cotton - no need to tie it up - it will hold. I then immerse it completely in a bath of diluted PVA white glue and give it a half hour or so to soak fully. This is why it's important that the previous application of glue fixing the cloth to the wire is fully set.
Once I retrieve the flags from the solution, I unwrap them and tease them out to open up the folds. As you can see this time I have pinned them to aid this as the little flags dry. This process sets the future shape of the unfurled flags and also sets the fabric sufficient for painting. As I write this I realise I made all this up as I went along over time through experimenting. I'm sure other people must be doing something similar - I just haven't seen it.
Once set, the flags are then trimmed and the cloth painting can begin. Even though the cloth is soaked and set in a PVA solution, if the paint is thinned too much it will still bleed into the fabric. I darken my shades with a little black to get a richer shade and because the white will lighten the application.
Once I finish painting the flags themselves, I then fix the finials. These are from Crusader which are specific to my Quebec project. Having worked with these finials I am compelled to say I prefer the Front Rank variants which are just that little bit more robust. I drilled out the ends so I could fix them to the wire with Supaglue.

It's worth pointing out that these flags took a lot of handling and still retained their shape so you don't need to be too precious with them. In fact the handling helped round out the folds. They also take a fair amount of detailing but that depends upon the weave of the fabric. The finial chords were simply painted in darkened red with a gold highlight to represent the red/gold thread. The gold or brass finial was given a brown undercoat before gold dry-brushing.
I emphasised the creases with a diluted black/brown wash but depending upon the colour of your flags, be careful of bleed-through to the other side. You don't want partial shading lines on the reverse highlights - given that one side's recess is the other side's bulge. It would be of benefit to spray coat it with a matte varnish first - I didn't. I applied the same wash from the bottom edge and end of the flags. I refrained this time from applying tears or bullet battle damage but it's always an option.

Well that's it. I hope this has been useful to someone.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

UG the Great: Back to work!

I know what you're thinking ... enough is enough. Well I couldn't help but put myself in the picture so to speak. I wanted to keep practicing to hone the new skills. Well I'm happy that I'm done with this foolishness - so it's back to my more usual foolishness.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Marshal Grant Duc de Worrigal

A homage to my life-long buddy and ever-lasting wargame adversary Grant. I've been fiddling with Photoshop whilst in Tonga as those of you following this blog are aware. I'm honing my new found skills in face transplanting and this is my best effort yet. I can now make leadership cards with the actual players in the picture. 

Now I must get back to some painting. I have Romans and Crimean dragoons to get on with.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Heinkel III : Last Heinkel Photoshp - Air Wing

Okay, no more of this nonsense I promise. Obviously a different photo from a different angle this time I cut out the model image and saved it as a smart object this time. I pasted it three times with size and orientation manipulated. After painting in the edges I shaded the screw-blur (don't really know what to call them) variously and that was all. I fixed them to a sky-scape taken from the same angle at the same time as the photo of the model itself - taken without the model. In short, a different technique to my previous air-brushing the stand out.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Heinkel III : Up and Away

This is the first of a short series of photos I intend doctoring care of Photoshop. My Airfix 1/72nd scale Heinkel III P2 is seen flying out over the sea - released into the wide blue yonder. This manipulation was the simplest effort and no doubt clumsy to the trained eye. I merely painted out the wire rod holding it up, matching the changing layers against the sea and sky then cropped the result. I was holding it against the skyline so the light is completely correct - this wasn't transposed onto a different background.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Heinkel III HE-20 Airfix: Part 2

Well I've stated previously that I'm a wargamer, not a modeller but I do have one foot in that pond and I confess to trying to get in deeper. I've really enjoyed assembling this model and trying to improve on my techniques and results.
I've developed my spinning props further by washing sections in black to imitate the optical blur and outline the arcs. Prior to painting them I cut them from the clear sheets by repeatedly turning my dividers - scratching through the sheets. Prior to the final 'cut' I repeatedly score the surface with the dividers, applying a half turn after each full circle so reducing the circumference and scoring ever decreasing circles toward the centre. At the end, it resembles a clear vinyl record - a wee one. The prop discs are tightly fitted but not glued or otherwise fixed and they seem to be well on thanks to the gloss coated spinners.
There's not much panel work to pin-wash but it has been done to raise the definition. The paintwork was brushed on (two coats) and then matt coated after applying the decals which were also set with Micro Sol softener. After that the lightest dry brush of light grey was dusted on the upper surfaces to catch raised panel lines and rivets and dark grey was applied to the under-surfaces. Exhaust staining was applied either side of the engines sweeping back across the underside of the wings.
I purchased the He 111 P-1 to P6 set from Print Scale - I think they are Russian based. A superb product and well worth the investment as they provide sufficient decals to do more than one model - they will no doubt come in handy one day. The decals depict an HE 111 P-4 8/KG 55 out of Villacoublay (France) in April 1941. 
Technically I should have opted for an earlier unit which the decal set does provide for (several in fact) but I wanted them to match the red spinners and I liked the heraldic shields.
On my next visit home I have a mind to scoop up the DFS230 gliders and my JU52 models and do the lot as I enjoyed this build so much. It's disgraceful how many unpainted figures and unbuilt models I have in my shed.
I'm going to muck about with Photoshop with this model and post the results in the near future.In the meantime these shots are in my yard due to an overcast sky and poor light.