Painting Wargame Terrain
By Greg Nichols, H.A.T.S.O.F.F.

The Editorial staff of the HAHMGS newsletter, The CommuniquŽ, sent out a request to the membership and the local wargame populace for articles for the issue following the May 2001 convention. When advised this issue would entail a listing of 'How-Too' reports, I thought this would be a good time to jump in with a CommuniquŽ (get it?) on how I paint wargame buildings, and other terrain features.

Depending on the piece being painted, be it buildings, walls, trenches, rivers, etc., the first thing to be addressed of course, is whether there is any "flash" on the item. By running one's finger over the piece, and/or eyeballing it under good light, you can see or feel if there is a need to remove any excess. This removal is often accomplished easily enough with an Exacto type hobby knife or even a small file. Some items will give a feel of having a film or powdery substance on them. This means they need to be cleaned. Either by washing with soap and water or a simply wiped off with a damp cloth. Personally, I seldom have to do this, but instead can go right to the priming stage.

The priming of any wargame piece, be it figures or a terrain feature, is of the utmost importance as far as I am concerned. Primer creates a bond between the figure and the painting colors to be used, be they enamels or water-based acrylics.

When painting buildings or other terrain, the item itself will determine what color of primer I will use. For example, when painting buildings that will have colors that I want to stand out, I will prime with white paint. If priming walls or buildings I want to look dull, I will prime with black paint. I recommend that one always take the time to look over the piece and get a 'feel' for what you think the finished product will look like before you start the process.

The different types of primers you can use are as varied as the number of painters in the hobby (notice I said painters, not wargamers, as there are certainly a lot more of one than the other). Some painters will use brush on primers, such as the old 'Gesso' from years and years ago. This is certainly the cheapest way, and a bottle of primer can last from ten to twenty years. Just ask Dan Groves.

Others use spray primers. These are much more expensive, but are less time consuming and a lot cleaner, if you put on a pair of latex gloves before starting. Spray primers come in many forms. They range from enamel primers picked up at the local hardware store, such as Krylon's Rustoleum, all the way to the specific wargame hobby primers made by companies like Armory or Citadel. Personally, I used to like the old Floquil spray hobby primers; they came in white, gray or black. However, they are now next to impossible to acquire, so I have switched to the Citadel brand. These come in rather large cans, with a good supply of aerosol so you get the full use of the contents.

Always remember when using spray primers, they cover best when applied at 12-18 inches from the target. Also, do your spraying in a place where you do nothing else, as the spraying will leave a fine mist of paint dust on everything within about a six to ten foot radius. I have a large old box, placed on its side, that I aim the spray at when spraying the piece I am working on. Once the primer is applied, I usually let the piece set overnight to insure the paint is dry, but also to let the bond completely set.

Following the priming stage, I begin the process of putting colors on the building. I paint terrain the same way I paint figures, from the inside to the outside. I like to go over white primed items with a watered down solution (made by adding one or two drops of water to the paint on your palette) of raw umber. I will paint this over windows, on doors, roofs, along any timber framing or any other outstanding feature of the building. This allows for these items to give the appearance of separation from the other colors when the building is complete. By this I mean it will help outline the different features of the piece.

Next I usually do the roofs of buildings. Although they can be done last, I like to start with the roof because personally I think they are the hardest to paint. I like to get the hard part out of the way. Also, by painting the roof first, any wet paint that runs down onto the sides of the building will not cover up something that was already painted and now is in need of a touch-up.

I paint roofs by first brushing down the tiles of the roof from the peak to the eaves. Once that is done, I will go back and paint horizontally across the tiles to fill in where I missed with the vertical strokes. This method gives a good effect, and allows the raw umber to bleed through and/or outline the individual traits of the roofing.

Following the roofing color, I apply the main color(s) to the sides of the building itself. I like to apply the first coat with a little water mixed in it (just one or two drops as before), in case I hit some of the areas with the raw umber on them. This way the raw umber will bleed thru and still give it's effect when the proper color is applied to it. I then go back over the sides with a thicker coat of the same color, using a little more care and detail. I then apply the wood colors over window slats, doors and timbered parts of the building if appropriate. This too is watered down some, as I want the raw umber to bleed thru and give a more weathered, as well as shaded effect.

Next, I paint by 'drybrushing' any exposed brickwork, being careful to leave a raw umber outline for effect. Then, depending on need, I paint any metallic colors onto the building; door handles, down spouts, etc. Finally, I paint green any ground cover, and a dirt color any paths or tracks, as outlined on the piece.

Once this is all dried, I go back over any green/ground cover I've painted with a solution of Elmer's glue and water (50/50 ratio), and then sprinkle Woodland Scenics 'flocking' over the glued area, shaking off the excess when finished. This gives a good final effect. If the piece has a well or horse trough, or any other water on it, I will brush Enviro-Tex on these parts to give the appearance of water in/on them.

Well, there you have it, how I paint terrain pieces. One bit of advice I would give to other painters is not to put a clearcoat on terrain pieces. This is just my personal preference. But I think with the extensive usage terrain pieces get, they will need to be touched up on a regular basis. If you have put a clearcoat on them, this will leave another layer that must be filled in when doing the touchup work. I don't like the appearance this gives, but I'm sure it is just my being picky.

I would say this about clearcoating however. If you are going to clearcoat the piece, do so BEFORE adding your flocking, not afterwards. Also, let the piece dry for a day or two before adding the flocking or you will have a completely flocked item.

Anyway, give some of these techniques a try, and I think you will be pleased with the effect of the finished product on the tabletop. Thanx for reading this.