Humble beginnings : Totenkopf

Hello reader.

I have been very torn about posting this army, as it is not by any means up to my current standards. Still, this Totenkopf panzerkampfgruppe (flames of war, 1/100 scale) painted in late 2012 yelds a lesson or two, or atleast I feel like it taught me some crucial points about painting and modeling at this tiny scale. I finally managed to justify posting my old army, so that maybe someone else might skip these mistakes in their own projects. A cautionary tale of sorts.

First lesson : Basing.
Even if I did use several types of flocking material, static grass and a textured base made with sand and tiny pebbles, in the end it became very monotonous and boring. At this scale basing is as important, if not more important, than the tiny models themselves. Mix it up! Add something that will please the eye! The panzergrenadiers are also glued to the bases rather unimaginatively, making the infantry look very dull overall. On the Nebelwerfer platoon we see a huge improvement and they seem alot more interesting – why? Simply put, the bases of the nebelwerfers have narration, or a story to tell. The burnmarks break the monotonous feel and instantly there is something the eye can latch on to.

Second lesson : Color scales, too.
I painted the army with vallejo colors from the Flames of War -range. While awesome paints, I do think that when painting in such a small scale, the colors straight out of the jars are simply too dark. Consider, that these pictures have been taken under a very strong light setup. Now consider playing with these models in your standard gaming room with its standard ambient lights and shadows. The models really loose their shape and become hard to see in detail. Then there is the fact that if you paint a real tank and a miniature tank with same exact tone, the miniature seems darker because it reflects less light. I have found that to remedy this, all colours applied need to be alot lighter than what the readymade tones have to offer. This army was painted with “standard” tones, which in retrospect was a mistake.

3rd lesson : Less is more.

I tought it would be a good idea to have lots of scrapes, impurities and stains on the tanks to make them more realistic and battleworn. While the idea in itself is good, you really need to moderate yourself when doing detailwork. I used all kinds of methods, like sponge chipping in both dark and light tones, drybrushing and your standard fine detail painting, but all in all the surfaces did not pop – quite the opposite! Infact, it darkened the allready too dark paintwork, and made details you would like to underline for aesthetic reasons like camo etc. seem fuzzy and sloppy. All in all, scratches and dirt is all well and good on tanks, but if you want to make your tanks look aesthetically pleasing you need to tone it down a notch. Miniature painting boils down to tricks that range from basic stuff like simple highlighting to advanced stuff like panel modulation. Its the sort of trickery that will separate a superbly painted army from the masses. Realism is not the most important aspect at 1/100 scale. Also, Allways keep in mind how the army will look from a normal gaming distance. Details are nice and all, but you should not sacrifice the overall feel of the army and units.

So! There you have it. I hope some of you find this information helpfull and I hope I saved you some time trying things that dont work!

– Juha

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