Monday, 30 August 2021

Painting Justinian Byzantine Heavy Infantryman Step By Step Part One, Two and Three.

Before I start, it has been a difficult task to find the correct words when describing the way I paint. Like many of you who are reading this, painting is more of an instinctual process after one has been painting for a number of years. Regardless, I hope that some find it useful and you are welcome to leave any comments or questions in the comments boxes below. Or, if you prefer a more private conversation please feel free to contact me vie the Email Form on the right hand side panel on this blog. 

Originally this article was made up of three separate articles. I have amalgamated them all into one so they are more fluent and easier to find.

Step One:

A few weeks ago I took delivery of some miniatures I had had my eye on for a while; namely a decent number of the new Aventine Miniatures Early Byzantine range. I splashed out a bit and bought a unit of Extra Heavy Infantry, two units of Armoured Infantry with archers for the rear ranks, two units of nomad Steppe Horse Archers and a unit of noble Steppe Warriors! Quite a haul really.

On  inspection of the miniatures I was very surprised by the quality of sculpting and the sheer depth of detail on each miniature. The attention to detail and the skill of the sculptor are something to behold. As is the castings which is very crisp with barely and flash at all. Aventine Miniatures are astoundingly good.

I will do a quick review of the miniatures as I come to paint them, but please, take my word for it when I say that these miniatures are superb.

OK, onto the painting! The first twelve models of the unit. One thing I had to bare in mind was that I was painting these miniatures for the table top en masse, thus I needed to take a few shortcuts such not painting in eyes and instead leaving dark brown areas where they eyes settle on the face, dry brushing metals instead of painting in each scale. (I once had a GW High Elf Army in which I had religiously painted in very scale on each model. The army took several years to complete!! Crazy!)

Due to certain health concerns re: Covid, I predicted I not going to be able to get out of the house to get to my usual usual suppliers for paints, aerosols, brushes etc and it might not be long before they were temporarily closed so I managed to grab five Army Painter Matt Black Undercoat via the net just prior to the lockdown. Army Painter is not my first choice for an undercoat as I find it to be quite glossy for a matt black undercoat and altogether unsuitable as a primer due to a lack of "tooth" once it has dried. 

I have a couple of cans of Halfords Matt Black Enamel which was a godsend this saved me from hand priming mini's with Army Painter Matt again. It's a bit like comparing the old Testors Dullcote to the new stuff. No comparison in my humble opinion. Since the writing the original text of this article I have found myself having to use Army Painter Matt Black Undercoat on more than a few occasions as I have not been able to get out and about. I don't think any of us expected the Pandemic to last as long as it has.

I did have a jar of Golden Acrylic Black Gesso, which was applied over the Army Painter Matt Black Undercoat. One might ask, why not just use the Gesso in the first place? My reasons are thus; Gesso gives a beautiful flat matt finish which helps really accentuates the detail on a model. it is quite a fragile coat and can be brushed off quite easily by a stray finger. Thus I prefer to prime with a spray primer (Halfords Matt Black Enamel Primer not Army Painter Matt Black Undercoat) before applying an undercoat, which could be Black Gesso or Scale 75 Black 'Primer' which also dried to a very flat matt just like the Gesso. 

The mail was simply a dry brush of of Citadel Bolt Gun Metal (or equivalent) darkened with VMC Matt Black, then Citadel Bolt Gun Metal, then Citadel Iron Breaker and lastly Citadel Runefang Steel. The whole thing was then given a wash of watered down Nuln Oil. This is not applied to thickly with a little water. It is important to dry brush each layer with a slightly with a lighter touch each time only brush the lighter tones on the highest of ridges (if any) on the armour as you highlight up again using Citadel Bolt Gun Metal, then Citadel Iron Breaker and lastly Citadel Runefang Steel. 

For Iron and Steel I have stuck to using Citadel paints over the years as I have had no problems with coverage or inconsistencies in the pigment. I have used Army Painter Paints which are much smoother and have a good amount of pigment but I was going to be dry brushing so the question of a smooth finish did not enter the equation.

Citadel Paints for the Steel/Iron Armour:

The scale and lamellar armour on these heavily armed Byzantine Infantry would likely have been made of steel or iron plates but equally other metals could have been used. I wanted a bit of a contrast between the the dark hues of the mail and the scale/lamellar so I chose to paint this particular armour as if it had been gilded (or just bronze scales). Opting for a bronze look I picked out a selection of Vallajo Game Colour metals as they are packed with pigment and as I would be dry brushing again this was crucial.

The scale and lamellar was painted with VGC Hammered Copper and when completely dry given a  slightly watered down wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade. It was then just a case of light and lighter dry brushes of VGC Brassy Brass, VGC Bright Bronze and finally a mix of 70% VMC Bright Bronze/30% Polished Gold on the absolute high points on detail. I might end up painting a final highlight of this armour later depending on how the metallic colours work together on the model later on at a later stage in the painting process.

Vallejo Game Colour Paints for the Lamellar/Scale Armour:

The base of the flesh was painted  in with a couple of thin coats of Army Painter Tanned Flesh followed by a watered down wash of Army Painter Flesh Wash then left to completely dry. A layer of Army Painter Barbarian Flesh followed by a layer of Army Painter Elven Flesh on the highest points of the cheek bones, the upper lip and a highlight on the chin (which would be reflected light). Each highlight being applied so's to leave enough layer underneath showing through to give a three dimensional effect. The lips were painted in with VMC Brown Rose and a very fine highlight of Salmon Pink. Finally the eye sockets were given a very think line of Vallejo model Colour German Black Brown Cammo.

Army Painter Paints for the Flesh:

And the Lips:

Front and Back Views of the Miniatures:

Close ups of two of the miniatures so you can see some of the detail!

Afterthoughts? In retrospect I had not considered the size of the extra large shields when it would come to getting the brush into some of the lavish detail so I would have opted to drill and pin but leave the shields aside and glue them in place when the models were complete.

Step Two:

The first thing to do was to choose a colour scheme. I opted for a very simple red and green as both are complimentary to one another. A red was chosen as the main colour scheme as it would go to go with the red as the LBMS Transfers on the large shields.  The chosen red was a match for the red on the transfer. All the colours are depicted below.

I tend to start my painting with quite a dark base as this gives plenty of scope to layer up. If one starts too light it can be difficult to alter without applying another base coat which I want to avoid if I can as more paint means, more obscured detail. The VMC Black Green was mixed with approximately 40/60 with the VMC Bright Cammo Green and painted on the parts of the miniature I imagined would  catch the light thinking of the miniature as a real human being. VMC Pastel Green was added to the mix and painted and a very thin line was painted on both sides of the harness.

The colours are all layered in three to four layers depending on the size and contours of the part of the miniature in question.

Part Three:

Before I start, there are another five spearmen, a back rank officer in charge of five archers to be completed before the unit can be revealed in all the glory an elite Justinian or Heraclian Byzantine unit might expect. 

The process is exactly the same as with step one and two. Keep adding the highlights to a smaller area of the miniature to create that three dimensional effect that we are looking for. 

OK, I've taken pictures of both the command group, sans banner at present and one of each of the spearmen models in order to hopefully pass on an image of how they may look when based up.

One last thing to add. The top half of the shield rims were painted in a red that matched the transfers and given a few highlights toward the top of the shield. 

It took a wee while but when all the miniature were painted up, shield transfers added and based they have quite the aesthetic appeal. 

The Completed Unit with Hand Painted Banner:


  1. Interesting and very beautifully done 👍

    1. Thanks Matt. I hope things were clear- I sometimes find describing painting techniques a little difficult(?)

  2. Lovely painting and a very clear write-up. They do look fantastic all together! I'm not sure if I'm just missing it but I don't think you covered the yellow for the cloaks - they look really great and it would be good to know which colours you use for that.

    1. Thanks. Funny you should mention the yellow. I've been asked a lot about it and will be covering "yellows" in a future article. I'm away from my painting desk for a while so the best I can say is it will be soon.

  3. These are gorgeous! A lovely unit and a great write-up. Thanks for sharing

  4. Hello,

    Thanks for this step by step !! Very interesting !!



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