Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Painting 2mm figures: The King's Life Guard

A word now, on painting 2mm scale figures from Irregular Miniatures. As I've said before, I'm certainly no expert, but it always surprises me how many people criticise 2mm for being impossible to paint, that they are mere blobs, or that you need an electron microscope to see any detail.
Oh ye of little faith! Of course they are small, of course they were designed to depict groups of soldiers; and yes, you can't count the buttons on the uniforms, but give them a try and you might be surprised. Not all the available blocks are perfect, but handle one in a well lit room, and take a good look. As you scan along the front, it is obvious that far from being a plain block, each figure is clearly delineated, you can see cross-belts on their backs and weapons at port to their front, there is even a drummer at one end of the line and a standard bearer in the centre!
As to painting them, you'll struggle to do justice to this detail; at least I always do, but for reference, here's my quick method:

As you can see in the first photo above, after cleaning up the mini, I sit firmly on the middle of the fence in the white versus black undercoat debate by using panzer grey!

Stage 1: Using a dotting motion, I put colour to the front, side and rear of each visible figure on the block, and then using almost a highlighting or drybrush stroke, pick out the raised detail of the figure's legs.
Next I fill in the line of the shoulders as seen from above, taking care to make sure that not too much paint flows from the brush.

Stage 2, in the picture above, sees a dot of flesh tone for each face, (you can even put in the hand of the standard bearer) and I also usually paint in the pikes and their points, and give flags their base colour.
Next up, as you can see below, I do the headgear, in the case of these ECW chaps, a variety of colours (scruffy lot in those days), again dotted on, with care taken not to obscure the faces at the front.
Here I've also added in a few buff coats amongst the musketeers, and follow up with a dot of black for armour amongst the pikemen, applied over the uniform colour.

Stage 3 is to finish the standards: of course at this size you are really only trying to suggest the colour or pattern, so don't worry too much; on occasion I've even removed the cast on flags entirely, and had them replaced with oversized printed or painted ones for more visual appeal.

Next I will try and pick out the weapons visible in the front rank with a stroke from my finest pointed brush (usually a 000), yes this is fiddly to do,not always successful, and perhaps not really necessary, but I think it adds a level of definition.

Finally, I line in the exposed base in the ground colour, using a bright contrasting tone that is lighter than you might normally use, for reasons of visibility, taking care not to overlap onto the figures.

So, you're almost there - a whole regiment (the same principle applies to mounted troops, just paint from the horse outwards) in a few quick steps - and you haven't gone blind or in a fit of frustration decided to use plastic Risk counters instead!

These figures were designed for maximum 'Mass' appeal, enabling you to portray a lot, in a limited space, on a limited budget, and will reward a bit of attention with regiments and battalions that at least look like they have the footprint of the real thing on the tabletop.

Don't be afraid to give them a try!

Next Post: Finishing and Basing the King's Lifeguard.


  1. Cool post and nice pictures!

  2. Very nicely done. I love 2mm figures, although I sold off my ACW set and Macedonians years ago. I look forward to seeing yours massed for battle.

  3. Thanks Guys, for your comments, good to know so many are interested in the smaller scales out there; final part on basing to come soon...

  4. I hve been enjoyng your coverage of 2mm very much. I've dragged out my own 2mm stuff again recently and was wondering if you have to clip the flags off of some of your blocks or if Irregular sells some of their blocks without flags.

  5. Hi Eli, glad you've liked it all, you're correct in thinking that there has been some wide-spread clipping of flags going on!

    Unfortunately Irregular don't do any blocks without the cast on flags....apart from the diminutive three rank 15 man forlorn hope RBG12 from the Renaissance range.

    Now some flags are easier to remove than others, I find, normally using some electrical snips and a few strokes of a small needle file to smooth the cut.

    The easiest to remove are definitely BG1 and BG14, followed by BG16 and BG32, BG33 and 34 are a bit tricky, and often need more cleaning up with a file to bring back the definition to the rows of heads.

    The worst to do, are by far the BG15s, whose cast on flag is very blobby and thick, unfortunate, as these are a nice block to represent Napoleonic French.

    The best thing is to sacrifice a few blocks and give it a try, once you get used to it, it can be done as part of the prep-stage; as you know, Irregular minis often need quite a bit of flash removal anyway!

    Give it a try, but mind your fingers!