Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First 6mm Unit – Comparing Mini Sizes and Painting Times

One of the reasons I want to start painting 6mm is that I just don't have the time for larger figures and everyone who has tried 6mm seems to assert they are much faster than larger scales.

Some years ago, I decided I wanted to try a Napoleonic skirmish game in 54mm. I painted this fellow, the first of what was supposed to be a "squad" of French light infantry:

This mini took me about four hours to paint – not including priming, overcoating, basing and flocking – and he ended up being the only 54mm Napoleonic model I ever completed.

Smaller size minis – for example, my 28mm fantasy figures – take me about two hours each to paint.

In starting my 6mm Napoleonic project, I chose to time how long it took to paint my first unit of 32 French line infantry, for comparison. I used a very basic paint job, since at a normal viewing distance of one to two feet or so, it is impossible to see much, if any, detail (though more on this below).

I adopted the painting process from Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames which seems ideal for such small minis:
"When painting begins, an assembly line process can be adopted. Let us assume that the budding wargamer has acquired some British Napoleonic infantry of the Waterloo campaign, and has prepared 12 figures ready for painting by giving them a black undercoat. The next step is to paint all the jackets in red. Once the last figure has had its jacket painted, the first miniature should be dry enough to paint the trousers in grey. This is followed by the hands and face (flesh or pink paint), and finally the base (green). The black undercoat can legitimately suffice for the other parts of the figure, covering muskets, shoes, backpack and headwear."
I added a tiny bit more detail, but otherwise followed this approach. After mounting with blu-tack and priming black, I painted the following: green bases (15 minutes), white trousers (15 minutes), blue tunics first coat (15 minutes), blue tunics second coat (7 minutes), brown muskets (7 minutes), brown backpacks (9 minutes), flesh (9 minutes), all metal items (6 minutes), general touch-up (5 minutes).

The total time for post-priming application of color was 88 minutes. One-and-a-half hours to paint 32 men, as opposed to two hours for a single 28mm mini, or four hours for a single 54mm figure.  This is a huge change.

With such a basic paint scheme, these models don't look like much close up:

But from just one or two feet away, they look very much the part, I think:

You may be wondering why I didn't paint the lapels and crossbelts white. Well, I did. Then I undid that (which added another 15 minutes to the painting time, but that won't happen again, so it doesn't count). Painting the lapels and crossbelts created a very bizarre effect. The crossbelts and lapels looked right close up on each individual man, but from a distance they looked completely wrong. The whole mass just looked like a white blob, with the white thoroughly dominating and washing out the blue of the tunics such that there was no blue visible at all from a distance. So I went back over the crossbelts and lapels with blue and decided to leave them that way. Now they don't look quite right as individual men, but the mass as a whole looks better to me, and that's the effect I want.


  1. Close up they look like little monkeys. From far away they look really great!

    1. Maybe because I just paint like a monkey. :)