Thursday 7 January 2016

How to Paint 6mm Romans

Its a common misconception that painting 6mm wargaming figures must be incredibly difficult and consequently is only for the eagle eyed 'expert' (or the masochist). This couldn't be further from the truth and if a ham-fisted clod like me can produce acceptable quality figures then anyone can. I'm not an expert but this is my method, it works for me and it may work for you. Hopefully by the end of this guide you will see that painting 6mm is more about having a methodical approach than achieving impossible levels of detail. 

1 - Check and Clean the Models 
Every project starts the same way regardless of how large or small the miniatures. I take my time to examine the figures before I go anywhere near a brush. Then I methodically cleaning flash, mold lines and vents from the figures, After all this handling I wash my models in soapy water to remove any grease from the surface.

2 - Mount Models for Painting
I use a cheap superglue to mount my figures on wooden coffee stirrers or lolly sticks because the models break easily off the wooden sticks when I have finished painting them

3 - Undercoating
I base coat my figures with English Uniform (brown) rather than black paint. Thanks to Tamsin (Wargaming Girl)  for this gem of advice early in my 6mm ancients venture, it really does work well.

4 - Block paint each area 
I usually start with the hardest to reach areas which usually means the hands legs and face. Don't worry about accuracy too much as all sloppiness can be corrected when painting adjacent areas with other colours. I usually apply metallic colours last but that is just a personal preference.

Flesh - Make sure you get those tricky bits like elbows poking out from behind shields. 

Tunics and Armour - These areas are 'deep' and surrounded by raised areas like shields and weapons. I paint these areas now and tidy up mistakes when I work on those outer areas. 

Shields - I paint the front of the shields at this point.  I give these two coats of paint to completely cover the primer.

Cloaks and Scabbards - These are the same color of Blood Red so I do these together. Care is needed not to get paint on surrounding areas with such bold colours. 

Wood - Staffs, spears, the back of shields are painted with Beige brown which is clearly lighter than the darker base-coat. This stage cleans up a lot of the minor mistakes from earlier stages so a steady hand is needed. 
Metal Speartips and Weapons - I use silver rather than Gunmetal...I like my weapons to glint in the sun!

Bronze Armour - Helmets and some shields are bronze. Some helmets also have plumes on them so I do these at this stage as well. 

Shield Bosses - The Roman shield or Scutum had a large round boss in the middle and metal reinforcement along the front spine and the top edge. Great care is needed on this stage as this is the focus of the figures and errors are very visible. 

Leather Straps and Belts - This is an optional stage, mostly because this is very fine work and therefore quite time consuming and tricky. 

Grass - I finish each model by painting the metal base a suitable color of green to match the flock/static grass I'll use later. 

Add shield designs - I use a combination of waterproof ink pens and paint to add fine detailed designs on shields. I do these last to ensure designs don't get smudged or chipped before varnishing. These shields do not have artwork on them so I can skip this stage with these figures. 

At this point I usually leave my models for 24hrs to allow everything to thoroughly dry before moving onto the 'wet' stages of the process. 

5 - Ink Wash 
I use Winsor and Newton calligraphy ink on my figures. It sinks into the creases and crevices of the models without making the raised areas too dirty and dull. My preference is Peat Brown ink rather than black because I find it gives deep dark shading without too much contrast. Sometimes the ink pools too much and needs to be wicked off with a dry brush or the corner of a tissue. Its important to try and do this while the ink is still wet and can be drawn off easily. However after drying sometimes it may be desirable to clean some areas that are dulled by the ink. Shields in particular can look too dirty with a coat of ink on them so I use a clean wet brush to gently rub the ink off these areas. Use gentle brush strokes and clean the brush regularly for best effect. 

6 - Varnishing
I always apply two Coats of Gloss Varnish  and then two coats of Matt Varnish to my models. I use spray varnish rather than brush on varnish mainly because its quicker and gives a consistent finish. I used Winsor and Newton Gloss to give a good hard protective covering to the models and then use Testors Dullcoat to give the figures a completely flat finish. I also use the brush on version of Dullcoat for touching up any gloss areas that get missed by the spray. I usually allow at least four to six hours between varnish coats so this process can take a whole day to complete before moving on to basing the figures but its time well spent.

7 - Break off of mounting stick and superglue to Base 
Slightly flexing the mounting stick breaks most of the superglue bond between the metal and the sticks. Gentle pressure does the rest and I have yet to have a single damaged model when removing them from their mounts. I then arrange the figures as needed on mdf bases using regular superglue to do this. A bit of PVA can also be used to fill small gaps. 

8 - Add basing sand around models - Use PVA glue on the wooden base, carefully avoiding the raised metal base of the figures. The sand brings the surrounding level up roughly to the same height as the figure base and means your little men don't look like they are standing on a blocks when finished.

9- Paint the sand & Base Edges
Carefully paint the sand around your figures and when dry add a little drybrush to highlight the rough 'dirt'. I like my MDF bases to have painted edges. My preference is for a rather dark green. You may need to do this twice as I find the MDF edges soaks up acrylic paint like a sponge and usually need a couple of coats. 

10 - Dress the Base (Static Grass and Rocks) 
Paint PVA glue to 80-90% of the base leaving some areas showing the dirt below. Then add the flock/static grass you desire. I press this down flat because I think it looks better on such small figures. I also add one or two small stones to each base just to make it more interesting. Lastly I add a unit label to the back edge of the base, although this is very much my personal preference. 

The Finished and ready for action

So that is my 'method', such as it is. I hope you have found this guide useful and interesting but more importantly realised that there are no dark arks (or electron microscopes) needed for painting at this scale. For me its all about method rather than skill and painting at 6mm is much much easier than most people realise. Pretty much everything here can be found elsewhere in the inter-web and there are some great YouTube video tutorials available to help newbies get started with 6mm. 


  1. Good tutorial and end results. Can't get round using brown as an undercoat though. Tried it about 30 years ago and wasn't overly enamoured with the results so swapped to black, been there ever since for 6mm.

    1. I've just found it easier to see the detail of the model when painting. Back when I did 28mm and even 15mm figures black was my undercoat of choice, but I'm sold on brown for my 6mm stuff.

  2. Great tutorial, will be referring back when I finally start the large qty of 6mm Ancients and Dark Age figures I have in the lead mountain.

    Cheers, Ross

  3. While I paint in a different way. It is always useful to see how others go about the same task.

    1. What do you do differently? Like I said I'm no expert, this is just the method I have settled on...but I'm always open to new ideas (and probably better) ways of doing things.

    2. Well on 6mms I mostly use grey primer. Then paint the main colour then give a dark wash (colour varies with subject, mostly a black ink though. ) And then work through picking out details. I am no expert but it works for me. I will do some 6mm Malburions before too long snd you will see.

  4. I'm to blame for you using brown primer? Well, if it works :)

    Nice tutorial :)

    1. Pretty sure it was you...must be, says so on the internet!

  5. Wow there's a lot to painting a 6mm mini! :-) Really interesting, not so different from the way I paint a 28mm. Great to see the project coming on so fast!

    What manufacturer is the primer you use please?

    1. I've been using some cans of Bolt Action primer I bought last year. Not sure, but I think its basically re branded Army Painter.

  6. Excellent work and a wonderful tutorial.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always try to reply as soon as I can, so why not pop back later and continue the conversation. In the meantime, check out my YouTube channel Miniature Adventures TV