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Painting armies --is it okay to be casual about uniformity?


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I have never painted tabletop armies.

 

Would it be okay to paint them not uniformly, but still recognizably on the same side?

 

I have contemplated painting up some historical army figures.

 

In my experience between the vagaries of natural dyes, sun fading, washing or not washing, and luck, not one soldier is likely to have had a uniform whose colors were exactly identical to any others' (at least before the twentieth century, and maybe not even then if Bill Mauldin is anything to go by).

 

I see painters agonizing to remember what colors they used so all their soldiers will match, and I remember how dramatically differently different dye lots can color fabrics. I think a close-but-not-matching color might make an army look more realistic, not less.

 

On the other hand, as I have said, I have never painted a tabletop army, and I might be being fussy or making things too complicated.

 

May I ask experienced army painters their opinions of the wisdom and sanity of this idea?

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The thing about painting an army, is that you're painting an army. That is to say, there's a lot of them. It's generally easier and less time-consuming to assembly line your painting process; paint everyone's coats the same way, paint everyone's pants the same way, and so on and so forth. It kind be boring and mind-numbing, but otherwise you're trying to paint several dozen ten point mooks with the same care and devotion you paint your one hundred point generalissimo, and it gets kind of silly.

 

That said, more effort = better results, usually. If you feel like painting your dozen troops with subtle differences, it would most certainly be realistic; and as long as they're in the same uniform style and a mostly similar colour, they should be tied together enough to be obvious as an army.

 

So... yeah, go for it. ::D: And post pictures.

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I guess I'm going to contradict that opinion a bit. It depends a lot on what period you are planning on painting. Uniforms did not become common for a long time and you are right, quality control was quite lacking. Depending on the period a solider on campaign may not be wearing very much of his original uniform. Although my British Napoleonics all have red jackets I vary the colors of the pants quite a bit as they wear out quite quickly. There are over 1000 miniatures in that particular army and you can pick out the different colors of the pants quite easily, and you can identify units both by the flags they carry and the colors of the cuffs and colors, you can even pick out the light and grenadier units because of the "wings" on their shoulders. How far you go is entirely up to you, but the extra bit of work is very much worth it when my units are on the table. I could give you a better answer if you had an idea of what period you were thinking of painting.

Edited by Heisler
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Agree with Heisler. And it's true even now that soldiers on battlefields have remarkably differently colored uniforms.

 

When I'm painting up units, I tend to use a small selection of basic colors. I'll use (say) three different tunic colors, painting every third figure, then every fourth figure with a trouser color, then every fifth figure with a hair color, then pick out details individually. The resulting figures are all different, but recognizably related. It really doesn't take much longer than a purely uniform set of colors and the results (I think) justify the minor extra effort.

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Would it be okay to paint them not uniformly, but still recognizably on the same side?

[...]

 

 

Historically, uniforms were anything but.

 

Practically speaking, you want to be able to recognize sides and units, so a uniform of sorts is helpful. Doesn't have to be exact, but should be recognizable.

 

A good example is my zombies for Zombicide. First group of Walkers and Fatties, I painted in all sorts of different colors as if they were real people who chose different colors of clothing before they were killed. Then, when we put them on the board, we discovered that, when the survivors were mixed in, it took longer to figure out who was the zombie and who was the survivor even though the survivors had a colored ring around their token.

 

First set of Runners are all being painted with the same color palette (grey tracksuit/running gear, red stripe and red shoes). ::):

 

I see painters agonizing to remember what colors they used so all their soldiers will match[...]

Especially for army painting, I recommend that people use a painting notebook such as the Moleskine Watercolour Notebook (large). Every color that I use gets noted (especially mixes) (for example: "Clothing: Base - Misty Grey"), and I put a dab of color next to the notation.

 

Ron

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The great thing about painting miniatures for yourself is that the only right answer is what makes you happy!

 

Most people go with a set colour scheme so that they can paint a large number of similar figures quickly. Others paint each figure as if they were a unique model which may or may not blend with the other memebers of the group.

 

So, the question for you is, if it is historical units, do you want to paint for historical accuracy or do you just want to go wild and paint the colours that come to mind when you look at the miniature.

 

It reminds me of a story. I was at a historical convention 2 years ago and doing a paint and take. Being a historical convention, many of the models were historical in nature. At one of the spots, a little girl (I'm guessing about 10 years old) was having a great time painting a soldier (I believe it was Napoleonic). Her face was all scrunched up as she concentrated on painting "between the lines" as she added purple, pink and blue to her model. One of the instructors came over and told the girl that she was doing a great job but suggested that she look at this picture which showed what colour the uniform should be. He said that soldiers in that army didn't have purple, pink and blue uniforms. The little girl stopped what she was doing, looked at the picture and then looked at the figure. She then looked up to the man and said, matter of factly, "I know what those soldiers wore but this guy isn't a soldier, he's my miniature and he wears pink, purple and blue". To his credit the man thought about it, laughed, and agreed with her.

 

I credit that moment as really defining what this hobby means to me!

 

We need more little girls (or boys) in the hobby to remind us that painting miniatures isn't a job but something we do for fun. So, if pink/purple/blue makes you happy, be happy!

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It really depends on who is going to be looking at them. Personally I like something to tie a unit together but prefer the figures themselves to clearly be individuals.

.

It tends to be old school FBW's* that are more concerned about every figure in their army being as near to identical and historical book accurate (as opposed to how they'd actually look in the field) as possible. As great a resource as the Osprey books are I've known more than a few people who can't accept any deviation from them regardless of logic. I see less and less of those though as Fantasy and SCI-FI have largely taken over the market.

.

*For the sake of deceny I'll say this stands for Fat 'Bearded' Wargamer

Edited by Nocturne
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I imagine it depends on whether or not you plan to game with your minis, and what the rules of a particular tournament may stipulate. Personally, I just use mine for D&D, so it really doesn't matter. I have some Circle Ouroboros minis that will likely be completely different palettes, except for the little bit of matching armor that they all have in common.

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It really depends on who is going to be looking at them. Personally I like something to tie a unit together but prefer the figures themselves to clearly be individuals.

.

It tends to be old school FBW's* that are more concerned about every figure in their army being as near to identical and historical book accurate (as opposed to how they'd actually look in the field) as possible. As great a resource as the Osprey books are I've known more than a few people who can't accept any deviation from them regardless of logic. I see less and less of those though as Fantasy and SCI-FI have largely taken over the market.

.

*For the sake of deceny I'll say this stands for Fat 'Bearded' Wargamer

I don't think that Fantasy and Science Fiction have taken over the market at all. They have taken over the market in the retail stores for the most part but that has been the trend for years now. Historical gamers are notoriously cheap and moved to the mail order market long before the internet. Plus historical gamers tend to have much, much larger armies than your average fantasy or sci/fi gamer and often able to put both sides on to the table.

 

I also see the trend has moved away from strict adherence to plates in books. In fact there are a fair number of Osprey books that show campaign dress as opposed to parade ground dress. Really there is no right answer to what you want to do, it does depend on the period though. After WWI uniforms definitely achieved a level of quality where you would expect a unit to be mostly dressed the same. Individuals will customize their uniforms to a certain extent, again the vagaries of how long a unit is in the field will make a huge difference in its appearance.

 

Now if you want to paint a no holds barred on what someone is wearing then you should look at the Thirty Years War and the English Civil War. Pretty much anything goes and although it is the beginning of the introduction of National Flags (Denmark lead the way here) they were not exactly common so a unit would have its own flag to serve as a rally point. Armies might be identified as one side wearing an orange and blue sash while the other wore a sprig of green in their hat bands. That's the type of identification that several others have commented on. Take a dozen figures and pick one item that will be a common color amongst them.

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