How to paint Jager 1/16 model figuresApril 8, 2017
Many talented modelers who build fantastic models of vehicles, aircraft and ships of every description often believe they are unable to paint model figures also. When I talk to such people I often hear similar statements, giving me the impression some people are terrorized by the thought that to build and paint a figure is difficult because such a model is representing a living person. It is the same effect I noticed already with people who draw or paint. Some do wonderful jobs when it comes to painting landscapes, or other objects, but lose self-confidence when they are asked to paint a portrait. Not because of a lack of skill, but because they fear failure in giving the portrait a living expression.
But there is nothing to fear with figure painting because it is the same as with other models: Careful research, as well as the ability to analyze and observe, combined with patience are the set of mental keys to success. A calm hand, and a good eye for colors are the physical keys you need to build a perfect model figure.
In fact, successful modeling is more mental work than physical work. Carefully analyze real life photographs to find details – and in case of figures – to study body positions.
- Make sure your figure is in a natural position that a real person can hold or your figure will look like a toy soldier, despite all good paint work.
- Have hands which are supposed to grip something actually grip it. Examine photographs of real persons carrying things or wearing equipment and make sure that your model figure carries it the same way.
- Take physical facts such as weight of equipment into consideration when adding it to your figure.
- One of the most delicate positions of a figure is the seated position. Make sure seated figures are sitting solidly and give an impression of weight to the viewer of your scene.
- When building dioramas or vignettes check the positions and arrangement of your figures again and again to see how they fit into the scene. To temporarily assemble figures for position check, use a little drop of contact glue. You can easily disassemble the parts then for repositioning and/or painting.
- There are many, many things to think about. Always remember to think first, then build, no matter how much time you’ll need for thinking! And never lose patience until your work will be finished.
An Example – VLE British Paratrooper
Verlinden Productions is known for their first class detail kits, accessories and the big scale figures they manufacture. Some years ago they released a British Paratrooper carrying his wounded comrade over his shoulders. Opening the box is a pleasure because all parts are perfectly cast in resin, but assembling the model requires a lot of patience because some of the parts do not perfectly fit and body putty is needed to fill the gaps between arms and legs.
I also used a grinding tool to hollow the upper body where it meets the legs to simulate the Denison smock hanging naturally over the legs. This operation took a lot of time but was worth doing. If you look at the picture you can see black and gray areas on the assembled body.
This was the area where body putty got applied. After sanding I smoothed the places with steel wool before I applied a coat of flat black Revell paint to check if there are traces remaining from grinding and sanding. I assembled the model using Cyanoacrylate glue only. The parts must perfectly fit before glue will be applied because there isn’t much time left to correct the position of a part until the glue sets.
- Tip: Use Cyanoacrylate glue gel because the gel does not set as quickly as the liquid glue does, leaving you at least a little chance to correct the position.
During assembly of the parts I left the heads and the Sten submachine gun alone because I painted those parts separately. After assembly, the body got fixed on a steel roll from a big old roller bearing using a drop or two of Cyanoacrylate glue. The purpose of the heavy roller bearing is to have a firm grip when painting the model later.
Also the weight of this temporary base avoids the partially painted body from toppling over by a careless move on your tabletop, ruining the still wet oil paint. But as not everybody collects old rolls from roller bearings you may alternatively use a block of wood or anything else that offers a solid base for the part and a firm grip for your hand while you paint it.
The heads had a hole drilled in their lower end (neck) to stick the parts on toothpicks for holding them while painting. To store the heads while I did not work on them and to allow them to dry later I drilled some holes in a block of wood to hold the toothpicks with the parts. A toothpick was also used to hold the Sten while painting it.
An alternative to a block of wood with holes, a fistful of plasticine serves equally well to hold toothpicks with small parts. Make a ball from the plasticine and press it into a plastic container of your choice (i.e. clean empty jam pot etc.). The container will prevent the plasticine base from catching dirt.
Preparing to paint
Before painting can start, all parts should be washed in lukewarm water and a bit of detergent must be added to clean the parts from all dust and remove grease from eventual finger prints. The kit manufacturers spray their moulds with silicone based parting agents to prevent the parts from sticking. It is the residues of such parting agents which give the parts a waxy shine.
If you now try to paint such a waxy part you will notice that paint does not stick well to your model, especially when using water-based paints. While Enamels may dissolve the parting agent residues, water is not that aggressive and water-based paints will peel off from the waxy surface. For washing model parts, an old shaving brush serves well. Until the parts are dry, they must be stored in a dust free place. I use an old metal bread box for this purpose which is especially handy to hold medium size figures or aircraft parts.
To accelerate drying of resin parts you can use a hairdryer which will blow away remaining water drops and heat up the surface of the parts slightly, which will dry sooner in that way. Be careful not to come to close to the parts which may soften in the hot air stream.
A word about the paint
It is a matter of personal choice what paint you select for figure painting. I suggest you try the different paints and settle on the ones you like best. I personally prefer a mix of different paints because all paints have their advantages and disadvantages.