Military Miniature

Organizing a Wargaming Army, Part 3 – The Paint Job

As we had seen in the previous article in our series, it’s not too much work to prepare miniatures for painting. It’s just a case of approaching the problem from the view of an assembly line. It’s much the same for painting. I decided for this article, we would paint up some Red Sailors! 

The Russian Navy mostly sided with the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, and provided not just the Red Army’s first “elite” core of troops but experts who knew how to handle the mechanical niceties of machine guns and artillery. In fact, many Red Army units, not just the “naval infantry” ones, had sailors manning the machine guns and artillery, as they were often the only ones with the technical expertise to do so.

The first thing one should always do before painting is a bit of research. Now, keep in mind, with the Russian Civil War, uniforms are more a “suggestion” than an actual fact. Sailors often wore mixed bits of both Army and Navy uniforms, especially as the conflict wore on and their naval uniforms wore out. But they always tried to retain some measure of their navy gear. So, you actually have some latitude in painting these fellas, but the Peter Pig miniatures are very much in navy uniforms. Some “paintbrush conversions” (aka, painting them other colors than intended) will often do the trick for 15mm and smaller scales to get the effects you want.

Some research into my reference materials developed this gent here as pictured in the Osprey Men At Arms Series Vol #203 “The Russian Civil War (1) – The Red Army”


He’s in the back row of subjects, in the middle, and I used him as the basis for the unit’s officer. 


Some additional images with a bit of online searching and some quick reading on the subject allowed me to plan what I wanted to do. Now, keep in mind, these aren’t 20-28mm figures, and though Peter Pig’s details are excellent, these are still 15mm figures. I find suggesting features and approaching things from the “three feet rule” (if it looks good from three feet away, it’s good enough). It will save one a lot of pain and heartache. 

So, with that said, let’s talk about tools, paints, and just plain how to approach it. I am going with the block paint and wash technique. I will paint as normal, with no effects like dry brushing or layering. As with 15mm, you don’t need that as much. I will then follow it up with a patina of Citadel’s Nuln Oil (which has become an indispensable product for me of late). Also, have some good small-scale brushes available. 


This is most of the paints I ended up using for this project (every gamer winds up in the midst of painting up an army, that they have to grab a few more colors!).

And these are the brushes I used. They’re a set of cheaper detail brushes I got off of Amazon, but they’ve done fairly well by me!


Even with cheap brushes, the trick is to wash your brushes constantly and never let the paint get onto where the metal meets the bristles or fennel of the brush. Frankly, if you use your brush correctly, you really shouldn’t have to. 

I use different techniques for different scales. And the first thing I do with 15mm figures is paint the flesh. I can do this a bit sloppily, and it’s easier to paint from the smaller to larger details first as well. If you screw up, you can cover it up with the work on the larger detail.

So, I used Reaper Master Series Tanned Flesh (my go-to for most of my armies) and painted all the flesh tones. When painting, be sure to handle the miniatures by the temporary base, aka the popsicle stick seen here. It’s a great method to paint figures fast and organized, and I swear by it.


As you can see, nothing special, and I followed it up with some work on the exposed hairline. Some of the figures got black for their hair, and some got Vallejo Golden Yellow (948) for the blondes (I know this might be a bit bright for blonde hair, but a little work with the Nuln Oil later will tamp it down).


The next step was to paint the uniform base. Some figures were painted Vallejo Dark Sea Blue (898), and some received color on just the top half of their uniform. The back flap and the collar of the sailor’s jumper, I painted Vallejo Andrea Blue (841). This was because some figures will be given different pants, as some will be wearing a mix of white summer uniforms and dark pea jackets. One model will be given green paints (he got army issue). All of the web gear will be painted later.


As you can see here, I painted in the white parts, as well as the shoes and boots, which I made a uniform black (most footwear of both armies came in black, though some was in brown). I used some simple craft paints for this. You can find these at Michaels, along with the Sand color I painted the web gear. Note I painted the ammo belts in that color. Russian machine guns of the period were cloth belts, and at this scale, the brass really wouldn’t be seen all that well versus the cloth. 

I then painted the rifles, using Vallejo Wood Grain (828) for the rifle stocks, the grenade handle, and the flag pole held by the fella to the left in the photos. I then painted the bayonets Vallejo Oily Steel (865) and followed up on the barrels with my trusty Vallejo Gunmetal Grey (863). After that, I finished the grenade body and the one army issue pants model Vallejo Russian Uniform WWII (924). It’s a very versatile color for Russians, and, to be honest, it’s useable for a good chunk of the 20th century for the Russians. I also use Vallejo Gunmetal Blue (800) for the officer’s pistol and Vallejo Brass (801) for the hilt of the officer’s dagger. All in all, it looks great once done.

After you finish all of this and do a bit of cleanup here and there, it’s time for the last step – washing the figures in Nuln Oil. Basically, you take a big brush (I use an older one that is pretty played out for this work) and generously brush it on to the figure. You want the Nuln Oil to settle into the crevices. It’s to “unify” the paint job as well as bring depth and relief to the figure. And trust me, it works. You might find you need to do some cleanup work after, but be very sparing with the paint. But once you’re done, you should have something that looks like this! 


This is before the Nuln Oil…here’s after!


See what I mean? It’s an incredible difference. These figures have drama, depth, and character. Next week, we’ll paint a White “Colorful” unit and show you just what can be done with a 15mm figure. And, we’ll discuss basing and finishing. 

Thanks for Reading!

At SJR Research, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse SJR Research’s service on our site at SJR Research.

(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)

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