One of the more interesting aspects of painting figures & models has been the rise of color modulation, pre-shading and other techniques designed to more-realistically replicate the tones of scale vehicles, aircraft, ships, and especially, figures. Using straight Field Gray on a uniform, for example, produces an realistic "fake" look. Not only are different fabrics different shades of the same color, depending on fading, sunlight, age, dirt, etc., but the folds in clothing have an overall different look depending on their position on the body.
Figure painters know you can't rely on natural shadows to deepen color tones; you must come up with an artifice to replicate nature and especially, depth and shadows.
The best figure modelers develop their own shadings and tricks, but we mere mortals are always looking for shortcuts to help us bridge the gap between our talent and what we see the master modelers doing. Color modulation deepens the shadings in shadow and folds, while highlights are handled with much lighter tones. The question is just: how do you do it without going to art school?
All manner of tutorials have come out attempting to teach the basics of color modulation and figure painting in general, but applying the techniques requires practice and runs the risk of ruining a perfectly good figure. As a result, paint manufacturers have picked up on this trend by offering sets of uniform colors that not only take the guesswork out of what color to paint various uniforms, but now are bringing the basics of color modulation to the process.
No company has jumped in quite so forcefully as Acrylicos Vallejo
, who has released several sets designed to make painting uniforms second nature to modelers, now with two new sets for German regular troops and Waffen-SS
Inside a long pasteboard box is a set of eight Vallejo
70830 German Field Gray WWII
70868 Dark Sea Green
70845 Sunny Skin Tone
70885 Pastel Green
70892 Yellow Oliva [sp]
70897 Bronze Green
70905 Pale Blue Grey
Included as well is a long two-sided instruction sheet with ample color photos showing how to apply the colors.
One thing I have learned reacently is that Acrylicos Vallejo
paints change hue radically when thinned: there are really 2-3 colors per bottle, depending on whether the paint is used straight or is reduced with water. Combining the primary colors in the set with other colors then gives the modeler a very broad and sensitive palette.
The premise to this set is that modelers can achieve more realistic results by first laying down a primer/undercoat, then building up layers of highlights, followed by layers of shadows. Carefully blending the various layers and relying on the natural variability of the Vallejo
paints will (at least in theory) bring your techniques closer to those of the master figure painters as pictured in the instruction sheet.
The accompanying sheet does a nice job of walking painters through the various steps of applying a base coat and subsequent layers. The mixing instructions are straightforward, and the results are superior to applying the color straight from the bottle. However, the technique isn't foolproof: you will need to play around with the colors, the application and the blending of the layers in order to get the best results.
In order to test the paints and the technique, I chose two random styrene figures from my spares box. The first is a Tamiya officer figure; it's about as ****ty a test bed as I could come up with because the figure has few crisp details and almost no folds to the uniform. The enlisted figure is from Dragon, and has abundant folds and recesses. As you can see, the officer figure doesn't allow for the highlights and shadows to stand out. On the other hand, the enlisted figure's uniform fairly cries out for highlighting and shading.
My conclusion is that this set works best on figures that provide enough physical detail to take advantage of the paints and their hues. I did not attempt to exploit the set's techniques beyond the basic application instructions. Acrylicos Vallejo
encourages the modeler to play around with the various colors and find the optimal way to blend the various shades into a seamless flow. While I don't think that's going to be impossible for the average modeler, it's not going to happen on your very first try.
But given the continuing improvement in styrene figure makers, as well as the expansion of the resin figure market into 1/35th scale, I would definitely recommend this set, especially to modelers who want to "up their game" and improve their techniques. And given the wide variability of uniform hues, even among soldiers in the same unit, there really isn't a bad way to use this set.
While this isn't a panacea, it's a great way to take your German figure painting to a higher level. The value for money is also good, with a savings on getting all the paints in one box.
Thanks to Acrylicos Vallejo for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw this set reviewed here on Armorama when ordering one of your own.