Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Painting A Campaign Appearance On You Miniature


Fife & Drum Miniatures Saratoga British Flank Company Figures
Faded coats on the right, normal red coats on the left.


In the past I have painted several units to look like they have been “in the field” for a long campaign season. Basically this involves painting the coats in a washed out color to reflect the sun fading of the cloth and painting some patches on the knees and elbows. A little bit of dirt around the ankles works too. I haven’t figured out out how to paint unshaven faces, like Barry Hilton carries off with fine effect.

The other day I was painting a company of British Light Infantry for the Saratoga campaign and by happenstance my first coat of red on the uniform coat looked a bit washed out. The undercoat of white-Grey primer made it kind of bleed through the red. Hmm, thinks I, their coats will look sun faded if I don’t add another coat of red and then do the usual highlights bits on the coat.

Faded Campaign uniforms on the righthand stand. 
Normal red coats on the lefthand stand.

Rear view: campaign figures on the right, normal figures on the left.

Instead I went in reverse, starting with a washed out red and then highlighting with a pinkish red color. For this I took the base red color and mixed in a tiny bit of white to perfect the sun faded look. Next, I used a creamy tan color on the overalls rather than my usual grey and white combination. 

The final step was to paint patches on the areas of the uniform that are likely to wear out from hard usage on the campaign. We are talking knees, elbow and the seat of the pants. This starts with a tiny square of black painted on the knee, for example, and then painting a color such as brown cut from local spun cloth, or some red that might have been cut from excess material on the coat. You can experiment with other color schemes such as a white patch with some polka dots or stripes that contrast with the knee patch color.

I need to experiment with mud and dirt effects on the ankles, but this would really enhance the campaign look of the figure. Oh, and I dress the officer in brighter, non faded red on the assumption that the officer would have the financial means to purchase better quality cloth for his uniform.

At any rate, I thought that the faded red coats looked kind of cool and I will definitely consider painting a full regiment in a like manner.

What do you think? Comments appreciated.


  1. The use of hard campaigning allows you to vary the look, I like your result. Many of the units on my table have such a look.

  2. What a great effect; a wonderful bit of serendipity in making this discovery!
    As you ask; I'd prefer the campaign red to be a little less pink, so perhaps a red wash before the highlight. That's for mine and, as I said, only since you asked.
    Regards, James

    1. Thank you James. I will give your suggestion a try.

  3. One of the attractions of this period is the colorful uniforms. Not sure sacrificing that for historical accuracy is worth losing that.