Flames of War is played on a table top where infantry are seen from three feet away and so you might ask yourself "Why you would bother with detailing a soldier's face?" Firstly I would like to confirm your thoughts and remark straight away that you don't have to. In fact I have found that it's with normal highlighting and shading that you can get the most "pop" out of a soldier's face on the table top. However, I really enjoy the modelling aspect of this hobby and so when it comes time to painting infantry, I go all out. This doesn't mean you should do the same for every soldier, however there may be that one character, general, or commander that you feel deserves the royal treatment.
In this article, I will endeavour to document the techniques I used as well as the the paints involved in each step in order to provide some guidance so that you can give it a shot. I preempt this with a warning that the following descriptions are quite verbose in order to provide as much detail as possible. This will makes it easier for you to replicate each step. However, I will be clear and succinct at all times with handy reference photos that show each step as it is being applied.
Tools for the Task
Firstly you will need your favourite small brush. By favourite, I mean the brush that you feel most comfortable with using for fine detail. This does not necessarily mean your smallest brush in your kit. It is the brush that you feel in the most control of. It will consistently hold it's shape and put out a measurable amount of paint during each stroke. This will become most important during the latter stages where control is paramount.
As an example, the brush that I am most comfortable with is a Kolinsky "Raphael" 2/0 sable brush, it is not the smallest brush in my arsenal, but I know how to get the best out of it.
Next, you will need a paint palette where you can easily control the consistency of the paint. I use a wet palette however a porcelain plate will suffice. In this tutorial I use water to thin the paints so have two sources of water nearby, one source for cleaning the brush, the other is used solely for thinning the paint.
A good white light source that you can move around is a must. A good desk lamp with a white light globe should serve this purpose.
Finally, you will need some means of holding and controlling the miniature that you are painting. You will need something attached to the miniature that you can manipulate and manoeuvre easily to change angles without touching the figure. I can recommend blu-tacking the figure to a nail with a large head. Other alternatives attachments include a golf tee or a pencil.
On a side note, I do not use any sort of magnification setup. My work is straight eye to brush, however I know of various pieces of visual enhancing equipment that may aid you in doing this work. I would highly recommend these if they work for you, I have found for some reason they really distort my vision and makes me nauseous.
The area that we are painting is very small, a twitch, a tremor, a deep breath can all cause mistakes. Be prepared to make corrections without getting too dismayed. My advice to begin with is to get into the most comfortable and stable position possible at your painting location. Stabilise your arms and elbows to minimise shake and have the figure poised close to your face. Have plenty of light on the face of the miniature so that you can see the paint being applied and view your progress.
Depending on your preparation process you may do the following a little different. I start with airbrushing a primer (Vallejo Surface Primer) onto all of my already prepared infantry. Then I do a thin base coat for every colour that goes on the soldier, except the helmet. The base layer of paint that I use for all flesh is Vallejo Basic Skintone. This is what I first start with:
Next up is the mouth detail and the 'rosing' of the cheeks. For the mouth I use a paint mix of 50% Vallejo Old Rose / 50% Vallejo Basic Skintone. I take this mixture and thin it, 60% water / 40% mix. Inside the mouth shade framing I paint roughly an oval shape to represent the mouth and lips. Don't worry if you go over the shading, this can be reapplied with just the Citadel Ogryn Flesh Wash later. Then I use a mix of Vallejo Flat Brown (75%) with some Vallejo Black (25%), thinned with 75% water and then concentrate on painting a very very thin line to define the lips. I try to keep my lips thin and small, not much wider than the nose. This is a judgement call that will vary from face to face so I don't have an exact formula for you. If your inside lip defining line is too thick use the lip colour to adjust the line. If your lips are too thick then use the Citadel Ogryn Flash Wash to bring in the confines (framing) of the mouth. After you are satisfied with the lips use the base colour Vallejo Basic Skintone to go back again and tidy up all of the excess outside shade framing until you get a fine line again.
For the 'rosing' of the cheeks I take the previous lip mix and then I thin it so that it is 90% water and 10% lip mix. This mix becomes a filter that will accentuate the 'pink' of the cheek without becoming the primary colour. Apply this very wet mix to upper portions of the cheeks (where the cheek bones would be) and a little in the centre of the cheek. Make sure that you have thinned this mix sufficiently so that you can just see a hint of the pink on the cheek while still retaining the original colour, you don't want this colour to dominate. If you find that either the mid tone or the cheek 'rosing' has become too dominant in the face then it can be corrected with a filter mix of 95% Water / 5% Vallejo Basic Skintone. Apply it lightly in a few coats working from the the centre of the face outward until you get the transition tones that you want. In this example I have used one coat of the aforementioned filter to lighten and unify the colours in the cheeks.
If you wish to continue then if you thought that the lips were fun then the next part will really open your eyes (pun intended).Really thin down some Vallejo White to 75% Water / 25% paint. Take your brush and spin it at an angle lightly in the mix. It is important that when you apply this colour you have the finest tip possible and the spinning action encourages this. Then offload a lot of the mix from the brush so that just the tip is wet with paint. Deciding on the correct amount comes from your experience but a guide would be enough so that only tiny amount of wet paint is applied upon stroking. Depending on the size of your paintbrush reservoir the paint may dry on the tip before you can apply the paint (which can be frustrating, persevere and find to find that sweet spot of paintbrush loading). Then slowly, but confidently stroke from the bridge of the nose, through the middle of the eye socket to it's outer edge. The paint has to be thin, so it may require more than one layer of white to define the eye. Afterwards you can tidy up the eye shape using Vallejo Flesh Base thinned 75% water / 25%, paint underneath the eye socket working outwards from the nose to the outer side of the eye socket working up. For the top of the eye, use Citadel Ogryn Flesh Wash starting from the nose to the outer side of the eye socket working down. Do not go beat yourself up if you are repeatedly making mistakes at this point, this is where I make many mistakes. Sometimes if you are making repeated errors here take a step away from the painting desk and refocus your eyes elsewhere for a while. Come back, relax and give it another attempt. Be confident in knowing that you have a process that you can keep falling back to in order to correct the mistakes. The paint ratios are very thin and so they are quite forgiving, the paint will not clog up the eye socket, even after a decent number of attempts. What you want to achieve in the end is a very thin whitish area for the eye that is contained within the eye socket depression.
Here are some other examples of completed faces painted using this process.
|Thinking of home, a world away|
|Don't these Russians ever stop?|
|Who goes there?|
|Halt, I will shoot!|
I hope that this tutorial has provided you with some helpful pointers on painting faces. Perhaps you won't use them on an entire army, however it may be just the thing to make your favourite character stand out on the base, objective, or tank.
MinutiaeofWar is a model painter with an avid interest in history and Flames of War. More of his work can be found on his blog The Minutiae of War and in posts on the WWPD forums.