Thursday, February 8, 2018

Painting Tutorial - Do It Like Fritz

From start to finish, how I paint a figure.
Click on all pictures to enlarge.

I started painting a battalion of RSM Russian Grenadiers and I though that it would be helpful and of interest to our readers if I went through a step by step tutorial of how I paint miniatures. I have a list of the paints (names, manufacturer, product code) that I used at the end of this article.

Step One: I start by washing the figures in rubbing alcohol to clean it of any dirt or mould release. The I prime the figure with grey primer. I like grey because it doesn't overwhelm the lighter colors such as your reds and yellows, yet it is dark enough so as to make the lighter colors appear too bright, as you would get with white primer. I used to use black primer for everything, because then all of the black bits on the figure are already painted, which saves time. However, I am now with grey.

Step Two: Now I block in the basic uniform colors. In this example, I paint nearly the whole figure Russian Green. I am not concerned about the paint getting on the areas where there will be red paint. Then, I paint all of the skin areas with an undercoat of red-brown. Flesh looks better with a darker background than it does if you apply dark flesh over the grey primer. It results in a "doll house" look that I don't like. So go with a red-brown undercoat. Next, I apply the secondary base color, in this case, the red breeches, waistcoat and cuffs.
Primed figure on the left, then block in the basic uniform color, then add red-brown undercoat for all skin areas; and finally, add the secondary uniform color - in this case red.

Step Three: After all of the basic colors have been applied to the figure, I do what I call blacking the figure. I paint all of the equipment (muskets, cartridge boxes etc.) and black bits (gaitors, hats, mitres, etc). This can be kind of tedious. I have timed myself on this and find that it takes about 5 minutes to do all of the blacking.

Step Four: Once the blacking is completed, I add the color for the cross belts. This gives the figure the look of having  black lined the cross belt which is a neat effect. Then I paint all of the brown bits (hair, musket stock and fur bags) over the black. This seems to produce a nice effect on the brown coloring. Note also that the musket barrel and mitre front plate are black - when the metallic colors are added, they stand out better with a black undercoat than they would atop of the grey primer.

So the crossbelts, skin and a bit of the white undershirt have now been painted on the figure on the right, below.

For the face, I let some of the red brown color stay uncovered in the eye sockets, moustache and around the nose and neck. A dot of dark flesh on the nose, the chin, each cheek and the forehead are all that you need.

The "Blacking Process". Paint all bits of equipment, hats and gaitors black. Then start adding your basic color for belts, in this case a leather brown color. Note that the flesh color has also been added to the figure.

Step Five: Now I paint all of the metallic bits, in this case, the mitre plate, the gun barrel, the copper buttons and the copper on the cartridge boxes. Metallic colors show off better when there is black underneath them. For example, buttons should always start with a black dot on the button, followed by the metallic button color.

After the Blacking is done and the belting painted onto the figure. I paint the musket stock and hair  a medium brown. Finally, I paint all of the metallic bits: mitre cap, gun barrel, brass buttons and cartridge box facing.

Step Six: Now comes the fun part of the painting: adding the highlights to the basic colors. The three tone color system works well on many figures, but that third step adds more to do and more time. So I usually use only two colors: a dark shade and a highlight.

I have added red highlights to the breeches and waistcoat and cuffs and some green highlighting on the coat. The belts have some leather highlights too. I used to add wood grain to musket stocks but I stopped doing that because nobody is going to see the wood grain anyway.

The figure on the left is the same as the righthand figure in the preceding picture. The figure on the right  depicts the highlighting of the red and the green colors.

Step Seven: Now we are ready to complete the figure. All of the highlighting has been done except for the skin. I do this next. The face is easy - just a small dab of flesh highlight on the chin, bridge of the nose and on each cheek. You can also add a line or two of flesh highlight on the hands.

Part of the last step is painting in the eyes. Many people don't like to paint the eyes, which is ok. Paint the eye socket black and then you are finished. However, I like to paint the eyes so I put two small dabs of white paint in each eye, leaving the center of the eye black.

The finished figure is shown on the right in the picture below.

The figure on the left is the same as the one on the right in the preceding picture. The righthand figure is finished by highlighting the skin and painting eyes. Some people do not like to paint the eyes, which is OK too.

Paint Recipe Used on These Figures

GREEN Uniform Coat:
  Gnarls Green - P3 Paint (93034) = base color
  Leaf Green - Reaper Master Series (09011) = highlight color,
I find that the Leaf Green is a little too bright, so I tone it down by mixing in some Gnarls Green color.

RED Breeches, waistcoat, turnbacks and cuffs:
  Base Color: Blood Red - Reaper Pro Paint (18001)
  Highlight: Fire Red - Reaper Master Series (09004)

BROWN Hair and Musket Stock:
  Base Color:  Ruddy Brown - Reaper Master Series (09109)
  Highlight: Oiled Leather - Reaper Master Series (09110)

TAN/BUFF Leather Belts:
  Shade: Leather Brown - Reaper Master Series (09030)
  Medium : Tanned Leather - Reaper Master Series (09031)
  Highlight: Amber Gold - Reaper Master Series (09032)
I use the shade color, but mix the Tanned Leather and Amber Gold to create my highlight color.

  Shade: Rosy Shadow - Reaper Master Series (09067)
  Highlight: Rosy Skin - Reaper Master Series (09068)
  Undercoat for the shade: Red Brown - IWM (77-713)

COPPER Mitre Plate, Buttons, Cartridge Box Emblems:
  Copper Metallic - IWM (77-722)
  Old Gold - Viejo (70.878)
I mix the copper and gold together to create a sort of brass color. The Russian copper pieces were not the red copper color like on the U.S. Penny, but instead, had a gold/brass tinge to them.

METALLIC GUN BARREL:  Cold Steel - P3 Paints (93075)

WHITE Pom Pom:
  Gray - IWM (77-707)
  Morrow White - P3 Paints (93075)

BLACK Gaitors, Grenadier Helmet, Cartridge Boxes and belting undercoat
  Lamp (Ebony) Black - Deco Art American craft paint (DA067)


So that is basically how I paint my figures. It is basically a two-color shade/highlight color system rather than the 3-color triad system. I use it because it eliminates a step in the painting process and reflects my point of view that no one notices the middle color in the triad for the most part. Recently, I have stopped using two colors for my browns - hair, packs and musket stocks - and just go with one color. Black is usually used without any highlight, although sometimes when I feel like it, I will mix up a black highlight by adding some flesh color paint into the black paint.

The key step in my painting process is the blacking phase. It makes the cross belts really pop because it gives the impression of black lining the belt without actually black lining it. Also, it makes the metallic gun barrel and hanger swords and buttons pop.

I hope that this tutorial can help you improve your figure painting. Use some of the tips or use them all as you see fit.


  1. A very interesting post and food for thought; particularly using grey primer, something I must consider. You achieve a great result. Many thanks for the post. Simon

  2. Agreed! I could easily read about and discuss this sort of thing all day. One of the more interesting facets of the hobby. Thank you!

    Best Regards,


  3. Outstanding! Will book Mark it for future use. Great guide.

  4. Our techniques are almost identical!