Wednesday, 5 August 2015

French Line Infantry Painting Tutorial Part Two - The First Highlight

Fusilier, Grenadier and Voltigeur
The box art from the HaT French infantry 1808-12 gives an idea of the look of the French
 line infantryman on campaign. Note the variations in trousers, water canteens and great-coats.
The rigours of Spain would produce even greater variation, but Fusiliers were still required to remain clean shaven.
Detailed highlighting requires a good brush
French Line Infantry Painting Tutorial Part One

Sorry for a delay in producing this second post, life has demanded more of my time with starting a new job, wedding anniversaries to celebrate and entertaining friends whilst the weather has enabled more out door living. The good news is that in between all that fun I have been putting in the odd hour or two to move this project forward, so on with the post.

So the next stage of the paint job is to apply the fist highlight colours to all the block colours you have already applied.

The one thing you really need for a job like this is a reliable brush that you can use again and again and get a good job particularly with fine work such as applying the top lip highlight under the nose of the 18mm figures as seen with the third figure from the left above.

To do this level of work you need to have a good point to your brush and I first highlighted these Tamiya detail brushes back in 2012. They are quite literally the best ever brushes I have ever used and I would strongly recommend them without reservation

I started this next stage in the same order as the first, so in these first three pictures you can see the figures after I have applied Citadel Kislev Flesh, picking out the nose, cheeks, top lips, chins, tops of hands and exposed fingers and thumbs. With the voltigeurs and grenadiers some of them are sculpted with a moustache as with the second right figure above and I generally leave the base colour showing for the top lip whiskers.

The other main colour I started with was the blue jackets and here I have highlighted with Vallejo Prussian Blue, those surfaces exposed to the light looking to leave seams and folds with the darker base colour. The backs of the figures above really show how effective just one shade up can bring out the folds around the turn-backs, straps and shoulder lapels on the fusiliers above.

The next major highlight to do is the light grey, specifically Coat d'Arms Uniform Grey to pick out the top folds of the grey great-coats, grey shako covers and those figures selected to have grey trousers/overalls as opposed to those I will have in their whites which usually form the majority of the soldiers.

Probably the biggest job in this next stage is applying the off white to all the dark grey areas. The idea is to apply a white that is thin enough (you are looking for the consistency of skimmed milk when mixing with water) to allow the grey base to show through in the creases and folds of all those belts laid across the front lapels. This application needs to be done as accurately as possible, so don't load your brush with too much paint. However the good news is that you can cover all the grey without worrying about leaving any of it exposed.

The other paint work requires a more accurate application, including the white straps on the blue uniform areas and around the back-packs, great-coats and musket slings. I would suggest mixing the white in a 50:50 with water to get a more controllable and thicker application, but leave areas around loops and buckles with the grey showing, to imply those buckles and around straps in folds of the uniform to create the shadow of straps going under arms.

The art of highlighting is to apply the next shade up taking care not to cover all the first shade but to leave it showing around the edge of the highlight. This effect fools the eye by giving your colours depth. For example, look at the picture below and see how the dark sea blue applied to the top edges of the shakos and to their peaks emphasises those areas exposed to the light.

Similarly the tops of the shakos with dark around the top rim highlights the crown and draws the eye.

This stage is also where I start to apply the lacing edges to turn-backs and collars. Try and be as accurate as possible (this is where a good brush pays you back for the investment). By adding the colour now you can correct any miss-application with the third and final highlight, although I will also take any excess paint off using water (the beauty of using acrylic paint).

The idea of allowing the base coat to show through is demonstrated with the plumes on the elite companies where you can see the base green, yellow and red showing through in the recessed areas of those raised plumes and chords. Like wise, the dark brown helps to provide depth to the brass scales and shako plates.

So there is the second stage completed with a highlight colour applied to all the first colours used. Some people are happy to just go to this stage and varnish. I would suggest the third and final highlight will really make things pop and we are using less paint as we work up to this point so the effect requires less work but will reward you with figures that will stand out on your table.

As always, if you are not clear on any of the stages illustrated or my colour preferences then drop me a comment and I will get back with an answer.

Next up, Part three, the third and final highlight and basing process.


  1. Dgreat step by step JJ. Very useful tutorial mate and love the figures and those wonderful colour plates.

    1. Thanks Carlo, really appreciate your comment. I'll try to have part three out a bit quicker.

  2. Nice tutorial Jonathan, thanks for sharing .
    Regards Furphy .

    1. Cheers Furphy, glad you like it. I hope it helps

  3. Nice JJ.

    That piece of wood the figures are stuck on has seen some action !

    I agree that a 3rd highlight makes a figure and is not much more work, as it is only a touch of the brush here and there.

    One thing I would say is that I paint two shades lighter than I want the finished figure to be, as varnish is the enemy of light and will darken any shade.


    1. Hi Vince, yes my sturdy little sticks need the occasional scrape with the Stanley knife, nut have given sterling service from WWII TO Napoleonics..

      Good point about the varnish. I hope the colour selection I have gone for will offset that effect and I find the Vallejo varnish really kind to their colours which are so loaded with pigment that they seem to withstand the varnish anyway.

      The other effect I like to catch is to paint lighter the smaller the scale, and so I would not go so much with added white of buff to a colour with 28mm. Also I try to take into account the effects of the Spanish sun on strong colours which will take it back that bit lighter.

  4. That is a nice piece of artwork on the Hat box! Now, Tamiya brushes are the best? Never tried 'em but I am solidly a Winsor Newton guy. I may have to give one of the Tamiya's a test.

    Congratulations on the new job. Hope it was of your choosing and liking.

    Enjoyed Part II of the tutorial and looking forward to the final chapter.

    Great work as always.

    1. Hi Jon, thank you.

      If you have a good brush then stick with it. I spent quite a while trying out brushes as I am a bit rough with them and I am continually washing and cleaning them as I come and go on a project. I think these Tamiya brushes would survive a nuclear attack and still have a good point on them.

  5. Replies
    1. Hi IG,
      Thank you, glad you like it.