Most people are familiar with the three-tone style of painting because that is the method that wins competitions but, because I am painting in quantity, I use a two-tone system.
The difference between the two is about time and personal style. Time – because a two-tone system takes far less time than the three-tone method – and personal style – I actually think that three colour tones often looks over the top and the two-tone more realistic. As I turn out about 30-40 figures a week using my system, I’m content.
So I will always use two tones, a base colour and a lighter tone, on all areas of my figures except for the following:
1) Faces and other flesh areas – here I do use 3 tones. A Brick red base (Coat d’Arms 509) then the main flesh colour (Coat d’Arms Flesh – number missing from my pot!) followed with the highlight tone on the nose and cheeks (Coat d’Arms Suntanned flesh). In between the two flesh tones I do the eyes by running two white lines in the sockets and dotting the eyeballs in black.
2) Black and gunmetals. I tend to use just the single colour here except for large expanses like Mitre faces where I go up to three tones. I would, for example use a grey highlight over black on gaiters (a large area) but not often on a tricorne.
3) Horses. I tend to use two tones of dry-brushing over the main colour.
So it’s useful to buy paints in their triple tones (like the range from Foundry) but not vital. Actually if you use the two-tone system but buy the three-tone system, that will give you extra colour variation. You can use dark with medium as the highlight or medium as the base and light as the highlight. I hope that makes sense!
Foundry paints are expensive but generally good quality. But if I run out of a particular colour I tend to top-up by buying individual pots from Coat d’Arms. They are slightly more watery (and all their yellows are diabolically poor) but they have a large range of colours.
Preparation. I hate to see mould lines so I spend quite a lot of time filing these off and when that is done, I glue figures in pairs to pieces of cardboard cut from the parcels in which the figures have been sent to me. Then I give them a mass undercoat in an enamel black (normally big pots bought cheap from Hardware shops)heavily diluted with White Spirit or Turpentine. The ratio is about 3 white spirit to 1 of paint. This both dries quite quickly and accentuates all the detail in the figures.
Painting. I always start by painting faces as the individual character stand out this way. Hair is normally two tones of brown or two tones of black. Very occasionally, I’ll throw a blonde in! Then I do the headgear. From there I’ll do the small clothes and move to the coat. After the coat has had its two tones, I’ll do leatherwork (ie straps etc) and buttons. Penultimate is the musket and lastly the hands. Then an artists matt varnish (acrylic and very well shaken) and then the flags get added.
Basing.Lastly the figures all get based, the bases have filler applied and then they are painted white. Once the white paint is dry, I apply oil paints in three colours (Sienna, Raw Umber and Burnt Umber) heavily diluted with White Spirit. Once they have dried (and at least 24 hours later) I’ll flock with a special mix of grasses in three tones that I make up in a large plastic box every two or three years.