1/9 V-Bust – Lt. Col. John Frost cmdr 2nd Parachute Battalion – Arnhem 1944

26th March 2016

Ok, next up is the highlighting of the torso…

For this I’m using the English Uniform base colour which has been lightened with Vallejo white.

As you can see below on the palette I’ve got a sort of gradient from English Uniform on the left to a lighter version of it on the right. This is handy because it allows you to pick a tone that is suited to the area you want to paint. You can easily go lighter or darker as you paint without having to mix a new shade.

BTW the paint below is heavily thinned with water to form a glaze.




The highlights are applied as per the shadows by dragging the light glaze from the mid tone areas towards the areas where I want the lights to go.

To begin with I used the middle highlight on the palette in quite a wide area, and then moved to the lighter shade and concentrated this more on the very tips of the highlights.




Here’s the progress after the 2nd lights (lighter highlight) have been added.

Unfortunately the bench lighting and my smartphone camera don’t really show the subtlety of this but believe me when I say the highlights are there. They will be much more evident later when I photograph him under decent lighting with the DSLR.




Here’s a side view. You might be able to see some of the highlights near the seam where the sleeve joins the shoulder, and also on the breast pocket.

Again, I don’t want to go massively contrasty here, I’m trying to keep it a bit subtle.




As usual I decided to sleep on it and come back with fresh eyes.

As usual I was glad I did and decided that the lights needed a little more emphasis – especially on the top of the back and the top of the front where the light would be strongest.

I mixed up a very light tone using English Uniform and Vallejo white and selectively applied this to the highest highlights.




Here’s a view of the shoulders after the latest highlight session, again it’s tricky to see in these photos but it has added a bit more light to the high areas.




Right, that’s the tunic done – time for the buttons to get another go.


Also time for a minor criticism of the sculpt. The figure has buttons visible on the outside of the uniform. As far as I know and according to all my reference photos the battledress blouse would have had the buttons hidden inside. Maybe someone more in the know could correct me if I’m wrong on this one.


I previously painted the buttons using Khaki, however this was very close in tone to English Uniform which meant the buttons looked like they were the same colour as the tunic.

To make them stand out a bit more I decided to paint them with Burnt Umber instead.




Here are the buttons after a coat of Burnt Umber, you can see that they pop out a lot more now. Though they now look like toy buttons as they are just plain brown with no shading.




It’s important to treat all the details on a figure as if they are small models in their own right. If you paint the buttons brown they will look like some buttons that have been painted brown. But if you paint them brown and then apply shadows and highlights, they will start to look like real buttons.

Here the buttons have had some shadows applied by mixing a bit of black with the burnt umber to make a dark brown. The shadows are applied anywhere that would receive a shadow in real life. So in this case because the face of the buttons are concave, the top of the face of the button will be in shadow. The dark burnt umber tone has also been applied to under the bottom edge of the button as this will be in shadow.

Already you can see the buttons area beginning to look more 3D.




Next I mixed a lighter tone by adding Vallejo white to the burnt umber. This was applied anywhere the light would strike the buttons. In this case the top edge of the buttons and the lower part of the front face of the buttons.

Note that I have left the top button quite dark because it would be in the shadow of the tunic lapel.




A really light version of the burnt umber was mixed by adding more white, and some small highlights added to the buttons. As you can see they look a lot more interesting than they did a few frames back when they were just plain brown.

I also created a thin dark brown mix and ran a shadow around and behind each button to help them stand out from the uniform.




And finally some pure white highlights for the buttons here and there, as well as some very dark brown dotted into the button holes to darken them down a bit.




Next job was to look at the lapel tabs (Red Tabs or Gorgets as they are known). These are worn by ranks of Colonel and above, and the colour of the braid on them depends on rank. In this case the braid would be red to denote Lt. Colonel.

As you can see below, the Gorgets have been painted with Citadel Mephiston red, and have had a little shading and highlighting to make them more 3D – treat them like mini models…




While I was at it with the red, I continued with the shoulder badges (mudguards). These have had some light and dark red tones applied as well as some shading to give them a bit of dimension.




The Gorgets are finished by painting in the braids with a dark red tone.

Note that a shadow has been applied to outline the braid and the button on the Gorgets, this adds depth and also makes the buttons look as though they are indenting into the Gorgets somewhat.

To finish them off a little white was added around the edges with the side of the brush.




Next up is a job I haven’t been looking forward to – hand painting “PARACHUTE REGIMENT” on both of the shoulder badges.

This took a bit of trial and error – so you’re going to have to bear with me here…

Well, it would get dull here if I only ever shared the things that worked out 😉


First attempt I decided to use Vallejo white for the lettering, with a bit of Vallejo retarder medium to help keep the paint fluid on the tip of the brush. The hardest thing I find when painting very fine detail is stopping the very tip of the brush drying between dipping it in the paint and getting it to the figure.




For the first attempt I started by painting in the first “P” and the last “T” by eye.




Then looking at a reference photo of a Parachute Regiment badge I worked out (by eye) which letter appears directly in the middle. This was the “E”, so next I painted in the “E”.




Following on using the rule of middle I carried on painting in the middle letter of each section until all the letters were in place.

Here’s my first attempt.

I wasn’t too unhappy with it, especially considering that the badge is 2.3mm high and 16mm wide – the letters are 1mm high. (Think of something about the same size and shape as an untrimmed thumbnail) 😉

However the spacing isn’t great and the word “Parachute” is too straight – it doesn’t follow the curve of the badge.

I also had a lot of trouble with the paint drying on the brush (despite using a #1 Windsor & Newton Series 7 brush and a wet palette).




For the other badge I decided to experiment a bit.

This time rather than spacing and positioning the letters by eye I created a couple of reference photos in Photoshop to help me work out the right spacing.

Below is an image I created in Photoshop which is a photo of the figure with a real badge superimposed on it.




And below is the Photoshopped reference photo for the first side that I did. These reference photos give me a really good visual guide as to where the letters should go and how big they should be.




I also chose to draw in the lettering using a 0.3mm propelling pencil – again easier to see where to put the paint.




And to help with paint flow I chose to try oil paints this time. Their drying time can be measured in days 😉

The oil paint was definitely easier to work with and didn’t dry quite so quickly on the brush tip. But I still had to be quite quick as the tip of the brush still had a tendency to dry on me. Perhaps a bit of linseed oil would have helped in the oil paint, but I didn’t try that – it wasn’t too bad.


I also changed from the #1 brush to a W&N 7 Series #00 brush.


As you can see below the positioning of the text is better, so the reference photos and pencil guide marks definitely helped.

You will notice that the text is a bit scruffy and rough. Don’t worry about that, the next stage is to go back around the letters with red acrylic to sharpen up the edges and tops and bottoms of the letters.

If you go wrong with the red, just go back with the white and keep going back and forth until you get to a point where you’re happy with it.




Below is the left hand shoulder badge after a few touch up sessions. It’s starting to tidy up now…




With the new approach working better for me I went back to the right hand badge and painted over the “PARA” letters, I reckoned I could improve on them.




The oils were better than the Vallejo white with retarder medium, but they were still tricky to work with at this small scale. Also because the oils are so slow to dry I kept smudging the lettering with my thumb while working on the other side (how frustrating). So I chose to try a different approach with acrylics again.

This time the weapon of choice was W&N Artists acrylic Titanium White with W&N Flow Improver.

I have to say this worked beautifully, Titanium White thinned with a little flow improver went on really nicely and premature drying was not much of a problem. You still can’t hang around, but the paint will stay wet on the tip until you touch the figure.




With my technique honed (for the time being) it was fairly painless to carry on touching up the right side badge.

In the photo below I’ve finished the right hand badge. I mixed up a thin mix of Vallejo black and flow improver and painted a very thin black shadow around the sides and lower edge of each letter to make them look a little bit raised.

I also went over the letters with some very thin medium grey acrylic to tone down the white a bit.

Also note some hint of stitching has been added in white around the edge of the badge.




And here’s the finished left hand side badge (maybe it should be a patch in hindsight?).

Same again, shading has been added around the letters to make the badge look a bit more 3D.

I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out, the left hand badge could do with a larger gap between the words “PARACHUTE” and “REGIMENT” but we’re only talking being about 0.5mm out so it’d be difficult to do it right anyway, and not worth starting again! I could paint out the “E” of “PARACHUTE” and re-paint it a little smaller and to the left, but life’s too short 😉



Next update – painting the scarf, a coat of matt cote, brassing up the metalware and attaching the head ready for the final reveal photos…

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I write this blog for fun, to share what I've learned, and to share my builds with you. If you like what you see here please leave a comment, and head over to facebook and like my page!

Cheers - Rich

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