Painting Grind, Feeling Fine: WW2 Soviets and Army Painting

Ugh!  Army painting!  There aren't many hobby activities that curb my enthusiasm more than painting subtle variations on the same figure fifty times over.  Rather than just flashing pictures of the front end of my Soviet project I thought I would fill the spaces between photos with some strategies I employ to try and extend my patience, and by extension painting output.  If you are hobby challenged like me, and more a figure painter than army painter you might find some of these suggestion helpful.  If you are new to miniature painting maybe it will help you avoid some of painting pitfalls I've accumulated over the years.  Finally, if you are a veteran army painter with X thousand points in four or more armies grab a coffee, look at the pictures, and chuckle as you think, "Bitch, please".  Some of these suggestions are universal, while others relate my the Soviet project in particular.

If you are sorting out squad composition for a list you might want to start planning prior to getting here.
Know what you are getting into:  Choosing a painting project that accounts for your own hobby tics, and quirks will dramatically increase your odds of success.  There are no guarantees of completing an army project from my own experience, but this is critical.  Before you commit to an army you need to like the models.  To finish an army you will be in it for the long haul   Draws should include the quality of the figures you will be painting,  the choice of colours you will be working with, the story or history of the army and if you, or I get that far what that army does on a tabletop.  If you want it all odds of success go up exponentially.

What am I getting into?  Among forces in the Second World War I choose the Soviets because of the variety of models I would have the option of painting.  All armies have a wide selection of units but the People's Army had 800,000 women in service including roles in combat arms.  Including women in the army let me paint some different figures and breaks up the monotony of the painting queue.  On the colour front the Soviet uniforms were some of the most varied during the war.  The sheer scale of the their military made inconsistency in dyes and textiles a certainty.  This diaspora of standard was further amplified by materials acquired and introduced from other countries by way of the Lend-Lease agreement.  In short, I get to change things up a bit.  I hate all government equally so Communist rhetoric doesn't draw me to the army.  What I do admire is the determination and sacrifice of the soldiers fighting for their homeland.    

The integrated army should make it more interesting to look at and to paint.

Bite sized pieces:  The ugly truth is that whether or not you fool yourself into thinking you aren't painting an army; You are.  That means batch painting will be required.  How many models do you feel comfortable painting at a time?  Everyone has a tipping point measured between commitment and return.  You need to strike a balance between tolerance of the task, and how many, "done" models you see at the end of each push.  Finding harmony between effort and expectation will keep you painting.

Poor abused, overworked church.  I must make some new terrain.

Looking down the barrel of painting an army I realize single model or even my "skirmish" painting four or five models at a time won't be enough to see me through the project.  One or even five models is too far away from, "done" to hold any appeal.  Painting 10 figures at a time is child's play to some, but not to me.  That's pretty much my high water mark;  A point I can walk away from the task happy with the result, yet willing to come back to it after doing something a little different.  I only recognized this palate cleanser method last year while working on my Walking Dead project.  I'm structuring all of my projects like that this year because it worked like a charm in 2017.

The squad were recipients of multiple "serial" paints.

Concurrent activity:  After you have a have a test model you like build a painting plan.  As lovingly as you lavish every attention on them single figure don't build armies.  Serial painting is your friend.  Tackling multiple models and painting "same" colours across all of them saves you time and materials.  Painting good quality models in bulk means all of the corners you are cutting should be the inefficiencies, not rushing through the actual brushwork and making a mess. 

DP-28 gunner and loader.

Luckily for me same doesn't mean everybody has brown pants and hats.  To keep things visually interesting I have varied khakis and interspersed greens into the mix as well.  It just means rather than painting, "Pants, pants, pants"  I might do a set of trousers, then a telogreika, maybe a coat.  The colours I'm sweeping across the models hasn't changed but the location has.  It doesn't sound like much but it keeps me interested. 

The same but different.
Balance Form and Functionality:  Managing the execution of a painting plan is all well and good but you need to know where you want to be at the end of it all.  Maybe that means arriving at a particular force organization as a goal or a point by point breakdown of your dream army list.  Both of these are important, but I want to focus on the Golden Mean of playability and aesthetic.  How good will the army look and how soon will you be able to play it?  Knowing your hobby priorities will affect how you look back on your army building experience.  My favorite half measure and one i recommend to any person who describes themselves as a player first is to base coat an army neatly and in it's entirety then apply washes.  At this point the army can be sealed and set to table.  This is my half measure of choice.  It might not appear as "finished" as a hastily, but completely painted army, but it is a clean foundation for a more fully developed paint in the future.  You can stop any time you want but picking the right place can make it easier to come back to.

If I wanted to play right away (Ha Ha!) this might be a good point to stop.

I'm not going to talk about my Soviets.  I'm going to look back on a space marine army I painted about a decade ago.  It was an, "art scale" force with all figures, on and off bikes with extended legs and torsos.  The front end of the project went reasonably well.  I was happy with the models but as I pressed on things went horribly sideways.  I had to get the army done and that's when I started rushing.  I hated what I did.  The figures on the tail end of that army were awful!  The resculpts were half ass and the paint work was questionable.  To this day I hate that army.  It was overly ambitious, fiddly, and I was on a tight deadline.  It was a perfect storm of shit so this is my warning to you.  Projects with positive results beget further fulfilling hobby endeavours.  Abysmal failure makes a painting desk feel like jail.  Good planning and consideration will help you arrive at a project you will remember fondly and continue to inspire you to greater things.  Plan ahead!

The finished lot.

The outro is a cover of the T Rex classic by the Scorpions.  If the title seemed gonzo or cryptic here is this was the inspiration.  It's a good tune either way.



  1. I'm not a fan of army painting myself, but you raise a lot of good points and your advice is very solid. A most useful post!

    1. I am quite awful at army painting and don't like it much either Bryan. I find it easier to focus on single figures because what I enjoy the most is putting that extra detail on a prized figure. I prefer skirmish games as they favor a more personal touch but stumbled on some methods that helped me and wanted to share them. You can always check back in somewhere down the road if you ever decide to take on a full precinct of Judges.


Post a Comment