Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Painting Shields Step by Step/How To

Painting Shields Step by Step/How To

I have been asked by a few people here and there on social media how I paint shields. I said I would do a step by step of the process I go through so here is it. It is a little long but please bear with me. I started with the wooden undersides of the shields and you may want to skip that part.

Obviously, everyone has their own way of painting and this little article is in no way meant to be prescriptive or didactic. We all have our own way and that is what makes painting toy soldiers such a wonderful hobby. There is always much to learn from others and I myself feel that over the years I picked up a a great deal from simply observing how others go about their business.

AS I said, the article is in two stages, the first about painting 'underside' of the shields. This step that I often omit entirely as only the most 'anorak' of wargamers would look too closely at the back side of your shields. Having said that, I do sometimes paint the underside of a shield and, though this is certainly going to be nothing new to anyone who paints degree of regularly, I thought I would include it for the sake of completeness. If you are not interested in this part, please feel free to skip to the second section of this piece, Painting Shields Part Two- Topside- Patterns and Metallics below.

Painting Shields Part One- Underside

First things first, Spray both sides of the shield with a black primer. I do this by using a tiny piece of Bluetac to hold the shields in place on a piece of cardboard, leave to dry, turn over and repeat. After the black primer spray I then use a flat matt black as an undercoat. The advantage of using a very flat matt when painting is huge. It allows a high degree of detail to be seen as well as providing a great basecoat that suits my painting style. If you're used to using a semi matt or satin matt black undercoat I would urge you to try Black Gesso or andrea Matt Black as it really does make the world of difference.

In the picture below I have used Vallejo Matt Black as described above It really does dry to a superb flat matt finish. On a miniature I would more often then not use a high quality black gesso but there's really no need on very flat surfaces like shields.


Drybrush Version:

Next up. This shield had a lot of fine raised detail so all that was really necessary was a basecoat and two layers of drybrushing. I use VMC Dark Black Brown German Cammo- as the basecoat (or whatever it is called) All the shields are given a the same basecoat as it is dark enough to offer a good contrast with the abutting layers.

A quick drybrush of VMC Iraqui Sand.

Another quick lighter drybrush of Pale Sand. I then painted the straps black again and using a base of VGC Charred Brown and Dark Fleshtone around the edges. Finally a small black dot with a highlight of any metal paint you deem suitable.

Layered Teardrop Shield:

Again, a VMC Dark Black Brown German Cammo basecoat over the Andrea Matt Black. You could of course miss out the Andrea Matt Black stage and jump straight to the VMC Dark Black Brown German Cammo basecoat. I tend not to do this as I'm a creature of habit!

Paint rough 'planks' on with Foundry Spearshaft A.

Highlight each side of the planks with Foundry Spearshaft B. There is really no need to be too neat, just try to avoid painting over the areas painted in with VMC Dark Black Brown German Cammo or things will begin to look confused and messy.

Layered Round Shield:

Exactly the same process as with the Layered Teardrop Shield only this time I used Foundry Bleached Bone A and B.

I then as I'm going to be painting the business end of the shields tomorrow I add a layer of VGC Gloss Varnish and leave overnight to dry. As the varnish water based is will have gone completely off in this time. The water based varnish is not the most protective but it is enough to bypass the annoying paint chips that the Bluetac I am using to hold the shields to the background! Nothing worse then chipped paint! 

Painting Shields Part Two- Topside- Patterns and Metallics

I already have the black undercoat of my choice Case Andrea Matt Black as a base. I order Andrea singles pots in batches as they can be a little expensive postage wise. Usually about six pots at a time with the black as I use quite a lot of it.

The first thing to do is to have a picture in your mind as to what pattern/design you want the shield to have. At this stage it do not need a concrete concept as if you are not happy and feel you need to change it this is the ideal stage to do just that. Changing the shape of the shield other then the basic design will  be harder as the stages progress. There is no need to be overly neat as mistakes can be easily remedied.

Gripping Beast Round Stage 1:

This was simply sketched out using one of the Andrea Reds (No 2) from the Andrea Red Set. Not all painters will be familiar with the Andrea paints (they really are very good!) The nearest approximate alternatives would be Vallejo would be VMC Burnt Cadmium Red and VGC Scar Red.

Gripping Beast Round Stage 2:

I have added a little VMC Pale Sand to the Andrea Matt Black and feathered it in. A little VMC Amaranth Red to the Andrea Red keeping the highlights going in the same direction and leaving a similar pattern the the 'negative spaces'. Things still look a little "sketchy" but are starting to take shape a little. The Andrea Black is mixed with a little VMC Pale Sand for the darker highlight.

Crusader Teardrop Shield Stage 1:

I sketched out the form of one of the beasties as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry using VMC Dark Sand. As you can see, the sketch is quite rough but this can be neatened up at the next stage.

As a side note, I tend to use a lot of colours like VMC Dark Sand, VMC Pale Sand, VMC Ivory and VMC Pale Flesh to 'lighten' colours as it avoids the finish being too stark in appearance which is often the case when adding pure white. 
(This is a trick I learned more a few decades ago at college. We used a lot of Lead White as opposed to Titanium White when painting The difference was really noticeable and it kind of stuck with me).

Crusader Teardrop Shield Stage 2:

I went around the edges of the basic design with VMC Dark Sea Green and added a highlight of VMC Dark Sand with VMC Pale Sand 25/75 respectively. This is a larger jump in tone than I would normally go for on a basic shield pattern but I was looking for a bit of extra contrast in tone.

Crusader Teardrop Shield Stage 3:

I then added a highlight of almost pure VMC Pale Sand mixed with a tiny amount of VMC Dark Sand to render the shape on the wee beastie a little more. It is a little hard to see on the above image but there is a subtle jump in tone.

Crusader Teardrop Shield Stage 4:

Finally, I added one layer of VMC Dark Sea Green mixed with Andrea Blue (the lightest blue from the set) and finally more Andrea Blue to the mix for the final highlight. A good equivalent for the Andrea Blue is, surprisingly, VMC Andrea Blue though the latter is definitely a more vibrant blue and might need toning down a little.

Crusader Round Stage 1:

The general shape sketched out out again. This time in Andrea Green (from the Green set- did I mention they are very good paints?!) The nearest approximate alternatives would be VMC Extra Dark Green with a pinch of a yellow mixed in to lighten. Make sure you do not add a yellow that veers towards orange/red or you will create a muddy looking grey. (mixing "greys" is actually a very useful "thing" but is way beyond the scope of this article.) Of course, any darkish green would do.

Crusader Round Stage 2:

The black was once again highlighted with VMC Pale Sand and the Green with the same. Highlighting with the same hue can often tie the colour together. 

Crusader Round Stage 3:

I added more VMC Pale Sand to the Andrea Green and highlighted up again occasionally leaving space to allow some of the previous highlight to show through. Same with the Andrea Black. In the image the highlights might seem a little stark but when placed on a miniature or on a casualty base it will blend in to the overall paint scheme. I hope! 

Gripping Beast Plastic Stage 1:

The same green as above but I am going to do the other side with a base of VMC Dark Sand- yeah, I forgot to take a photograph!

Gripping Beast Plastic Stage 2:

As you can see in the early stages I am not very concerned with keeping things overly neat. There is really no need as things can be tidied up at a later stage. To do so now would just waste time as more mistakes are inevitable and would just waste time. 

Gripping Beast Plastic Stage 3:

Again, both the Andrea Green and the VMC Dark Sand are highlighted up with VMC Pale Sand. 

On completing the main colours for the shields I tidied them up a little by going around the edges of the Plastic Gripping Beast Shield where the Rawhide edging is and around each boss on each shield ready for the metallics.

I use a variety of metallic paint. Army Painter do some great 'silvery' paints and Vallejo Game Colour do some great Bronzes and Golds, but I do still like the Citadel Metals.  I think this is just down to familiarity as I do find the Army Painter metallics to be superior to that of the Citadel paints. 

It is Citadel Leadbelcher, Citadel Ironbreaker, Citadel Runefang Steel then finally Citadel Runefang Steel  with a little white added. all the metallics have been painted as if the light source was coming from above in the images.

Here are all four of the shields with the metal elements painting in and tidied up a little with Andrea Matt Black. 

As all of these shields will be finding their way onto the bases of casualty markers/vignettes I would normally be happy to give them a quick varnish of water based VGC Gloss Varnish then give them a spray of Windsor and Newton Professional Matt Varnish tomorrow. However, I am now the proud owner of some of the new MIG's Ultra Matt Lucky Varnish of which I have heard very good things about so I'm going to apply some tonight straight onto the shields with no gloss underneath.

I will edit this post and put up the images of the varnished shields tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed!

OK. The results of using the MIG's Ultra Matt Lucky Varnish have turned out rather well. There are a couple of issues that I will get to in a moment. Firstly here are the matted down shields:

The first thing I should point out is that I added the 'varnish' is actually an Acrylic Matt Medium and not an Acrylic Matt Varnish. It is meant to be airbrushed onto any given model as a varnish or mixed with paint as a matting agent. The results are not bad at all but I noticed that there was some speckling on the miniatures. This could be down to a few things; 

* The 'varnish' was put on neat neat from the bottle with the brush being slightly moist and may have   needed some water in the mix
* The varnish was painted on shortly after painting and the acrylic paint. With both the paint and   varnish there may have been a degree if interreaction. 
* I have not tried this over an enamel gloss varnish as of yet- this will be the real test as all my models     are varnished with Humbrol brush on Gloss Enamel for the best protection against chips etc.

At this point it is probably better for you to make your own minds up about the results. Such a paucity of experience with this 'varnish' on my part is not a good indicator of an end result and as I have pointed out, the real test will come when I try it on an old model that has been glossed. I will do this as soon as possible as it may be useful to anyone thinking giving MIG's Ultra Matt Lucky Varnish a try out.

That is it for now. Apologies for the article being as long as it turned out to be. I wanted to include as much info as possible.


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers Jose. and keep up the excellent TYW painting yourself.

  2. thank you, very useful article

  3. Replies
    1. Cheers Paul. Hope all is well on the other side of the pond?

  4. Very interesting post and so well illustrated. One thing: if Bluetac removes your paintwork you need a better primer!

    1. Hi Martin,


      If you read the post I mention priming before undercoating. The water based gloss was just used as a temporary varnish on the undersides of the shields to move the demo along. I normally use Humbrol DIY Enamel Gloss brushed on. Best I have found well over two decades.


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