Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Book Review - Painting Wargaming Figures

Painting Wargaming Figures
by Javier Gomez "El Mercenario"
Pen & Sword Books, 218 Pages. ISBN 1848848226

The first reaction when someone hands you a book about how to paint wargames figures is "Damnit man, I KNOW how to paint wargames figures..." but should it be? Can't we all learn a little bit here and there?

Taking an objective look at this book, I'm looking to answer three main questions:

  1. What level of painter is it aimed at? (Beginner, intermediate, expert?)
  2. In a world where there are a multitude of tutorial videos online, is it relevant?
  3. Can I learn anything from it?

So let's have a flick through and see how our painting measures up.

From a quick perusal of the preface and introduction, the author was a professional painter for many years with the El Mercenario painting service, and has won awards at Salute and other shows, as well as painting for Perry Miniatures. So he knows his stuff! However, this book is not aimed at making you the next Angel Giraldez, rather it's a practical guide to painting historical wargaming miniatures to a decent battlefield standard.

The main part of the book is divided into four sections, each handily distinguished from the others by coloured panels on the right hand side of each page for quick reference. In the first part, "Basics", we learn just that! There is advice on which paints give the best coating, undercoat sprays and how to use them, and brush size and choice, as well as notes on varnishes, glue, painting supports, palettes and modelling tools. There is also a section on basic paint and brush concepts like handling and cleaning, and some good advice on healthy painting! Watch those nasty chemicals, make sure you have a good light source, and practice yoga if you're planning to do it for a living! This is followed by a "How to Paint Miniatures" section, which goes through all the techniques used in the rest of the book. Instead of being purely theoretical , the author uses multiple pictures for a step-by-step practical guide, going through the use of different undercoats, basic colours, highlighting techniques, lining, drybrushing and washes. The last entry under Basics is on what the author calls "patinas", also known as "tones" or simply "dip". This is about the current trend for instant washes to give deep shadows and depth to a painted mini, and provides his own patina recipe.

The second part is simply titled "Colours", and does exactly what it says on the tin... Each chapter in this section takes a single colour and gives guidance and advice on creating varied effects by using different highlight colours over the same base coat. These cover the majority of colours needed for historical gaming, including interesting things to do with black, white and browns, and ends the section by covering metals.

Part three is titled "Themes", and covers more specific areas of painting, including flesh tones and faces,shields and flags, and very useful chapters on horses and camouflage. Rounding off this part are two chapters on finishing off your models, by basing and varnishing them.

The final part is a short section with advice on painting different scale models. The majority of the book deals with 28mm, the most common available gaming mini scale, while the final part deals with 40mm, and 6 to 20mm scales, and the differences involved in painting in these alternative sizes.

This is a pretty comprehensive guide to getting those unpainted models table ready in a reasonable amount of time. It is well written, with clear descriptions of the techniques used and how and where to apply them. It also includes 370 (!) pictures to allow you to follow the text more easily and serve as an excellent reference guide, as well as colour listings for each model. There are a couple of little niggles. Right at the end of the book there are a set of photos supposedly showing the progression of highlights on a horse model, which are unfortunately all the same picture. (A print error, I presume) The Colours section doesn't include yellow, which I admit doesn't appear in large quantities on a battlefield, but is one of those bugbear colours that would be really helpful to have some advice on. As with any project of this type, the author lists his own preference for paints, in this case Vallejo and GW. It is a little awkward for anyone who doesn't own these ranges to see exactly the colour being used. There are colour charts online which could help, but I feel that a couple of pages of colour charts at the back of the book would have been invaluable.

So to answer my questions; I would say that any painter from beginner to intermediate could get a lot out of this book. If you are just starting out this is perfect for you, and if you are a confident painter with a bit of experience there are plenty of tips and techniques that could be added to your skill set. As mentioned earlier, this book doesn't claim to be a display painters manual, and I can't imagine anyone at that level finding it useful. This book is also certainly relevant. Painting tutorials online tend to focus on one particular model or technique, and rather assume you know the basics. This book is educational without being condescending, a trap it could easily have fallen into, and covers a multitude of subjects under one cover. It is also very readable. And I certainly learned plenty from it! There were lots of things I didn't know (like the two different families of browns), and expanded versions of guides I had read before (horses).

Highly recommended.

I'm off to my painting table to try it out!

David Mustill


By day, David Mustill is a Human Workhorse for a chemical company. Naturally, every possible moment away from this existence is spent gaming and painting miniatures.

A steady diet of rock, metal, punk, comics, gaming, miniatures and genre movies has moulded David into a renaissance geek, for whom no gaming company or genre is too obscure, and no graphic novel is unreadable.

He is currently the Chairman of Milton Hundred Wargames Club, which affords him the privilege of running the Broadside Games Show. He will not let you down. Unless you're after selfies. He is rubbish at selfies...


If this book sounds up your street, then why not pick up a copy using our Amazon Affiliate store? It won't cost you any extra, and it gives us a nice few virtual pennies for the referral!


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