Saturday, 12 February 2011

3mm ACW: Painted WIP photos and thoughts....

Having been encouraged by the level of interest in the new 3mm from Oddzial Osmy, I threw caution to the wind, and threw some paint in their direction.
Being a lazy sort, rather than spend a lot of time and thought forming units, I merely had a go at the strips that I had prepared for the Review, in order to get an idea of how they would handle, instead of committing to large scale project work.

Thanks to the advice of Thaddeus over at 'Lead doesn't Bleed', I had a good idea of how I was going to paint these, namely with a generic, fast approach, that would hopefully play to the strengths of such miniscule minis, and produce large numbers without too much hassle; well, we'll see how far that plan "survived contact with the enemy" during the course of this post!

Perhaps out of force of habit, I started with a black undercoat, minded that in the past this has helped to pre-shade, if you like, smaller figures, and remove the need for later washes etc, that can often overwhelm minis under 10mm in size.
As this was going on, I began to immediately regret it, as it seemed that all of the detail was disappearing, so I panicked and threw on a drybrush of medium grey, which seemed to restore the equilibrium of things, although of course meant that we had already done two stages of process in what was only supposed to be the opening.....ho hum.....

I then went over the figures using a lightened shade of the same grey, to give a more Confederate look - this was supposed to be another drybrush-style action, but actually ended up being more lining and dotting, even highlighting things like raised details - picking out trouser legs, tunics, hats, that sort of thing.
Overall, things were beginning to shape up, but it was all looking a bit bland, so I pushed ahead and did the bases of all the strips in a light earth tone, and to some extent, this helped the individual figures to 'pop' a bit more as I worked on them.

So, I thought, a few bits of detailing, and we're done, right? Well, having flustered and fiddled my way through the hand-drawn flags, I followed up with dots of flesh colour for hands and faces -fairly straightforward, if a little time consuming, but then no more than I would do on say 2mm minis.
I realised, then, of course, that it helps to do the rifles before the hands, so then went on to outline these in a chocolate brown - hopefully this doesn't make it seem that they are hefting telephone poles, which can often be a danger in sculpts of this size....

Next up, and remember, we are quite a few stages into our alleged 'just a few steps' approach, I had to grasp the nettle of those darned cheapskate Confederate butternut homespun style vagabond uniforms.
Out came the 000 brush once more, and in varying shades of brown and the odd bit of blue, in went more trousers, hats, jackets and blanket rolls.
At this point, I was getting much more pleased with the results, but was painfully aware that we were most definitely in 6mm and above territory in terms of stages/time taken.
So, a quick once over and done? Unfortunately not - for the life of me, I couldn't resist popping on some colours for pouches and knapsacks, not to mention the artillerymen's ramrods, buckets and of course red kepis here and there..... I consoled myself by doing this all quite haphazardly, but then that of course meant that quality control overall wasn't quite what I would normally aspire to.

Another thing was that I was reminded of just how fiddly it can be when working on individually clipped small-scale figures - it's really the only way to get to all sides of a mini- I always stick mine down onto paintsticks using double sided sticky tape - but the artillery crews meant a whole gang of teeny-tiny figures to work on; I think this would impact any ideas I had for using a lot of individually clipped figs in future bases - the cast together strips are so much easier to do.

I think the main impression was that with the level of detail that the sculptor has provided, it was just not meaningful to shy away from detailing the various accoutrements, and therefore add to the painting stages and time taken - the artilleryman's ramrod, for instance, or the infantry blanket rolls, would just look odd if they were not picked out.

The Command figures in particular, would stand a lot of detailing, even when done quickly, and again I think this speaks for the theory that these 3mm minis are a bit too detailed when placed against their 6mm cousins - same amount of effort to make a meaningful paint job, smaller impact overall. Yet then again, look at the price differential - 120 infantry for UK £3.00 - 2.5 pence a figure, versus for instance, Baccus 6mm at 96 for £5.50 - 5.7 pence each....

So, what about the visual impact of these 1/600th versus minis that are twice the size - well, I haven't painted enough of them in numbers that would illustrate - obviously the bases of the strips need finishing, and I have to think about basing, etc so it is as yet quite hard to say.

Do I like them? - absolutely yes, and I think the more generic uniforms one tends to paint for the Union side would help with a quicker paintjob, but I think they still require a commitment of effort that puts them closer to 6mm than the 2mm I am more used to.
I think if you are new to the smaller scales, and would find 1/900th too small, and are looking to work cheaper than 1/300th, then these would certainly not disappoint - the charge of 'blobby blobs with no detail' could in no way be laid against these top-notch sculpts.

So will my North Carolina good 'ole boys be joined by more of the same, and might the Union also make an appearance? - again, absolutely yes, but I'll be setting aside more time than I had originally thought would be needed in which to produce them.


  1. Good article, I've done a bit of 6mm (WW2, Ancients)and quite like the scale, but find to get that massed army effect you have to paint tons of the buggers which I find slightly production line-ish and a little demoralising. This also of course, adds to the cost of the project, ho-hum...:)

  2. Here's a couple of tips for quicker work...

    1) Make regiments to one style. So you have a butternut regiment, a grey regiment, a regiment with blue trousers, etc. Do two or three figs different in each rank, if you must, but don't try and individually detail each figure. At this scale, the differences are seen only in aggregate and the Confederate Army, as a whole, should be seen as more diverse than the Union. That doesn't mean every regiment has to be that way, however.

    2) Do only one or two 'show' regiments in the way you did above to give to people to look at close up. 1 'show' regiment to 5 'mass' regiments and I swear folks won't know the difference on the table.

    3) Too much detail on these small figs can, in fact, confuse the eye and lead to a poor visual representation on the table. So again, I'd do 1 'show' regiment, 2 regiments in different tones of grey and 3 regiments in different tones of butternut. When my figs show up, I'll try to do a mass painting so you can see the difference (which I doubt will be much).

    4) Basing is crucial with these figs! The paint job needs to pop out against the background. I like the color you used for your bases: it's a good choice in this respect. When you flock, it should be to highlight and darken that tone, with a few bits of bland, dull green flock or static grass here and there.

    Really nice figs, though!

    You are correct in concluding that these figs are detailed enough to be painted as 6mm if you want. You need to tell yourself, however, that you don't HAVE to do that because the detail won't be noticeable. It takes discipline if you're accustomed to other scales (and it screws up your eye when you go back to bigger scales, too, as you can see with the Quar on my blog). But if you do a more generic approach, you can get them to the table in record time.

    Then, if you're anal retentive like me, you can detail up your regiments one at a time as time goes by.


  3. Thanks for your comments guys, I guess that these minis come down to whether one can successfully balance the required mass alongside a reasonable level of detailing.

    @Monty, can't agree more about the cost of providing mass on the tabletop - we often convince ourselves that the smaller the scale, the easier it will be to depict large armies that look like armies, but then find ourselves still painting more and more to get that look just right....

    @Thaddeus, again, you make some great points, and give some really good advice about painting 1/600th - I particularly like your idea of a differentiation between 'show' and 'mass' units, and as you say, having got the armies to table in quick time, you'll be all the more motivated to return to them and add some detailing when time permits.

    I hadn't really considered the approach of doing a unit theme, as it were, with regard to uniform colours, but that would certainly speed up the process and make painting easier - I'll have to give this a try with the units to come.

    Your point 4 is also well reasoned - I think basing for these will be really important, not only in terms of how many figures per base, but as you point out, the look of the bases will make or break them.
    I think the nature of the relatively thick base to the strips, and significantly, to the individual figures, will need some creative texturing in order to avoid the standing-on-a-pedestal look - although this could get fiddly with such small figures - once the ground layer has gone in, then less is probably more in terms of flocking etc....

    Anyway, thanks for your constructive guidance so far, it's given me extra confidence in taking these forward - hope to see some reports on your approach as well, once the figures arrive down in Rio!

  4. With regards to avoiding the pedestal effect, the way to do that is to use some sort of filler material and push it up around/between the bases. I've used both Vallejo's Sandy Paste and Durham Water Putty and both work fine.

    This is by far and away the most tedious part of doing 3mm figs, so I'm going to try a new technique on the ACW figs and see if it works.

    I'm going to buy a bag of powdered paper maché and mix it with PVA glue and a base acrylic color (probably I'll copy your light earth as I like it). I'll smear the base with it and wiggle the figs down into the mass. I'll then smooth the edges over with the point of a toothpick.

    Once it dries, I'll give it a light wash and then a bit of dry brushing.

    If one were doing the figs in strips, as you've done here, it would be easy enough to cut plasticard strips as thick as the base and glue them down in front and behind the regiment. You'd then paint over the bases with a thin mix of glue, water putty, and light earth paint to fill in the gaps. That would work, too.


  5. Very interesting stuff here. I'm not much of a fan of 19th-20th century land conflicts but O8's minis are intriguing enough for me to reconsider. Thaddeus, your last comment on basing would be perfect for this style of mini, the bases look to be about 1mm thick.