The method I've had the best luck with works like this:
- Find a large batch of minis you can paint at once. Common uniforms across the lot help a lot here. I should say in advance that this approach works best with uniforms that have dark or natural tones to them (e.g. uniforms from the dawn of Khaki on, undead, ACW figures, especially Rebs, etc.). Uniforms that require a lot of bright color to look crisp (e.g. Napoleonics, Medievals, etc.) will suffer badly.
- Mount the figs on painting strips (e.g. popsicle sticks, whatever).
- Prime the flat black.
- Drybrush heavily with medium gray.
- Drybrush lightly with white.
- Stain paint the figure, using very dilute paint. It should color the white parts, but the shading should show through. Paint thinned to about the consistency of milk works for me.
- Use a wash of black or dark brown (depending on the colors...black over cool colors, brown over warm) to add a bit more shading, and to tie the figure together visually.
- Seal with your favorite coating.
- Get distracted by the next project...
So, speed painting is all well and good, but still hasn't proved faster than the Distraction Demon, at least for me.
I've got one more approach in my bag of tricks, that I'm trying out now. Hair Curler Armies. I first heard about this approach over on the freewargamesrules blog. Have a look over there for the details. A scan of the original Andy Callan article can be found on his site too. As discussed on the ultracheapminis Yahoo group, I had a lot of trouble finding the right kind of hair curler in the United States. In fact, I struck out. But...I found a solution. At most drug stores, I've found hair brushes that are made of stiff plastic bristles poking up through a rubber base. The base is easily slid out of the handle, and when opened up it will reveal that the bristles are actually joined together in long rows. These can be trimmed to make 5-6mm infantry easily, with spacing between the figures that looks natural, even if it might not match the parade group training manuals of your favorite era.
I've painted up one little strip of these, in Union uniforms from the Civil War, and it was REALLY fast. I had the strip done, with six colors, in about twenty minutes. And they look pretty good. The next step in this experiment is to paint up enough strips to make up two entire army for the Humberside extensions to DBA. I'm basing the infantry three strips deep on a 40mm frontage. I'm making cavalry by mounting one strip (with shortened "rider" pins) between three strips of plastic stock sanded to look roughly horse-shaped in profile. By keeping the scope small (54 stands to field both armies, with all variants) and painting both armies at once, I hope to actually complete this project.
Pictures of THIS experiment, which I'm actually working on now, will be forthcoming before pics of the speedpainting approach above.
OK, so this looks good. It's an approach that will give me a pair of painted armies, with a good "mass" feel to them, and will let me play games in one of my favorite gaming periods.
But what if it doesn't work? What if I get a short way into this project and some really cool special on the Carthaginian Wars shows up on The History Channel?
Time to talk pro-painting, I think.
The local gaming group recently placed a large order with one of the painting services out of Sri Lanka. They were all quite happy with the speed, quality and price. Now, I have some reservations about contracting my painting out overseas. But, it's hard to argue with the results. The prospect of having fully painted armies ready to play with is haunting me (or there wouldn't be any point to this blog), and this looks like a way to get there.
I've got a massive pile of unpainted lead. By judicious thinning and selling off the extras on GamesOnTheGo or Bartertown, I could raise the capital needed to fund the painting of several armies.
It's an option. I do love the idea of painting my own figures, though.
We'll see how the "hair curler" thing goes, and how it looks on the table.