Friday 19 November 2010

Painting British Infantry: Part 2

NOTE: Part 1 has also been updated, while the Italian Theatre content has been moved to Part 2 and expanded a little.

Following on from Part 1, Part 2 will focus on painting British Infantry for the Mediterranean Theatre, in particular forces in Sicily and Italy from 1943-45.

British Infantryman, Italy (Spring & Summer) 1943-45

Figures from Battlefront, from their British in the Mediterranean range, blister BR762. IMHO the best British infantry figures they produce (I’ve just received some figure from the Guards Rifle Platoon and they might be even better). These are in light kit, wearing Khaki Drill shirts seen in warmer times: not particularly suitable for fighting in winter, for instance. Colours use are detailed largely in Part 1, with a few additions for the Italian Theatre:

Khaki Drill Shirt (Greener)
Shadow: 887 Brown Violet
Base: 50/50 Brown Violet and Khaki
Highlight: 988 Khaki

Khaki Drill Shirt (Tan)
Shadow: VPA 314 Canvas
Base: 988 Khaki
Highlight: 50/50 Khaki & White

Webbing (alternate, lighter variant)
Shadow: 988 Khaki
Base: 884 Stone Grey
Highlight: 50/50 884 Stone Grey and White

After clean-up the figures are undercoated black.

The flesh was shadow VGC Tan, base Dwarf Skintone. Brown Violet was then used as a shadow colour for both the Khaki Drill shirt and the webbing.

US Olive Drab provided the shadow for the Battledress, canteen and wood on the rifle and entrenching tool. The webbing was painted Khaki, followed by English Uniform for the trousers and Vallejo Model Air Olive Grey (or any dark green) for the PIAT shadow (below).

The shirt was then painted with a 50/50 mix of Brown Violet and Khaki.

The webbing highlighted (confined mostly to the edges) with US Tankcrew Highlight. Wood and canteen Flat Brown, PIAT and case VGC Cayman Green, metal areas and boots black, then German Grey. The Flesh was also highlighted with VGC Elf Skintone.

The shirt was then highlighted with pure Khaki, trousers with Khaki Grey, wood with VPA New Wood, the canteen with Flat Earth with some US Tankcrew Highlight mixed-in. Metal highlighted with London Grey, Painted metal (PIAT, etc) with VPA Italian Tankcrew (confined to edges).

(Click for double-sized versions)

An alternate scheme for the shirt (more Tan in colour) is a base of VPA Canvas on the shirt while the webbing was done in the lighter variant, Stone Grey over a Khaki shadow colour.

The shirt was then painted Khaki, while the PIAT was painted in English Uniform followed by Khaki Grey as an (incorrect, as it turns out) colour for SCC2 Brown*.

*SCC 2 Brown was the colour British Equipment was painted for units serving in the Tunisian British 1st Army as well as most lend-lease equipment sent to the Soviet Union. The correct mix from Mike Starmer: ‘SCC 2 brown is Vallejo 3 parts 873 US Field Drab + 2 parts 871 Leather Brown’: or, for a sufficiently-accurate out-of-the-bottle colour, 826 German Camo Medium Brown.

*An alternate colour for painted equipment in Sicily and Italy, particularly for 1943-44, is Light Mud, Vallejo 988 Khaki.

The shirt was highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Khaki and white, while the webbing was also highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Stone Grey and White. The painted equipment was also highlighted a little with 914 Green Ochre to add a little distinction from the trousers.

(Click to expand)

The finished figures show BD trousers with KD shirt and very sun-bleached webbing. Equipment also is in the older SCC 2 Brown, carried over from Tunisia perhaps? Note that the KD shirt can be painted with English Uniform as Battledress with rolled-up sleeves just as easily, as shown on the Sikh figures below. One point I will make is this: if the colours used for the KD shirt and the webbing are too close, they will 'morph' into each other: picking lighter colours can help differentiate between the areas which, IMO, is on of the main points of painting 15mm effectively.

Painting the SMLE No 1, Mk. III Rifle

The British largely used two bolt-action rifles during the Second World War: The SMLE (Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield), more properly known as No. 1 Mk. III and the later variation, the No. 4 Mk. I. The former was the most common in the Mediterranean, while the No. 4 was issued largely to the divisions intended for the invasion of France, making an appearance in other theatres later.

If you look at a picture of the No. 1 MK III (top picture), you’ll notice along the top of the rifle there are several sections which, unfortunately, most painters seem to simply ignore and paint metal. However, the appearance of the rifle is greatly improved if a little attention is paid to the weapon. The details on the BF models are often obscured by mound-lines, but they are visible on most examples, just faint. Before undercoating in the clean-up stage I try to emphasise these, cutting in lightly with a blade and attempting to re-form any detail obscured after removing the mould line. Generally, I do this on all areas e.g. webbing, sleeves, etc., but especially on weapons.

On to painting: the picture above shows a simple method I use for the No. 1 MK III to give the rifle a distinct look from the No. 4. The metal band midway down the rifle I tend to ignore, simply hinting at it with the shadow from the wood. Also note in the picture above the metal band between the trigger mechanism and the breach which, if visible on the figure, adds further detail.

The metal was painted black, then German Grey and finally London Grey/Codex Grey for highlights. A few well-placed highlights can really emphasise small details like the magazine and trigger guard. The final result is not a perfect representation, but a little time spent in an attempt to portray more accurate weapons is, I feel, well worth it.

Painting Indian Infantry, Italy 1943-45

Serving in Italy under British Command were Commonwealth forces from many countries. Some of the most unique (at least from a painting perspective) were those from India. The 4th, 8th and 10th Indian Divisions all saw combat in Italy and were comprised of a myriad of troops from different ethnic backgrounds such as Ghurkhas, Punjabis, Marathas, Sikhs, and so on. For the most part they wore standard British uniforms, wore Mk II helmets and used British equipment. Battlefront however chose to make a separate range to cover the Sikhs, with Sikh soldiers wearing the Pugri, a turban-like piece of headgear which makes their figures rather distinct. These figures are taken from Battlefront’s BR782 blister. While visually attractive, the Pugri is a pain to paint properly, and one must always remember that that vast majority of Indian troops simply wore helmets.

One of the more difficult propositions when painting Indian infantry is the colour to use for flesh: the wrong brown looks ‘wooden’, too dark and the colour doesn’t show up clearly, too light and they look more Caucasian. However, there was (and is) a great variety in shades of skin in India according to different ethnic backgrounds: from very fair to very dark and every hue in between. Suffice to say I went for an abstracted approach to painting Indian skintone, much like painting Caucasian really.

A darker variant starts with 825 German Camo Pale Brown over a general shadow of 941 Burnt Umber. This was then highlighted with 874 US Tan Earth, and the rest of the figure completed to put the flesh colour in perspective

Shadow: 941 Burnt Umber
Base: 825 German Camo Pale Brown
Highlight: 874 US Tan Earth

(Click to expand)

An alternate, lighter scheme starts again with a shadow of Burnt Umber, followed by US Tan Earth and a 70/30 mix of 874 US Tan Earth and 918 Ivory as a highlight.

Shadow: 941 Burnt Umber
Base: 874 US Tan Earth
Highlight: 70/30 mix of 874 US Tan Earth and 918 Ivory

(Click to expand)

Which colours you use will depend largely on the unit you’re representing or personal choice. These were just a few of the schemes I have used and I am quite sure there are many other alternatives.

In Part 3 I’ll get to a few other points such as Commando webbing, Berets and painting Denison Airborne Smocks in 15mm.

As always, questions, comments and feedback welcome.



  1. Yet again,great tutorial!


  2. Chev,

    Great tutorial.

    What size brushes do you use?

    Do you find it easier to "base" on smaller items to paint? I use Popsicle sticks with some decent control.

    Are you using any magnification help or just "by eye" ? Either way they are truly awesome.

  3. Cheers Christopher ;)

    Hey Joe,

    Brush sizes are generally 000 to about a 0: it's the point that really matters for the most part. However, when painting smaller areas/details I tend to resort to a 000 or 00 out of habit: they hold less paint and I find that I make less mistakes this way.

    Obviously, better brushes cost more, but these were painted with fairly average brushes as I've been too scared to risk the good ones on 15mm so far ;)

    I find it much easier to base figures individually when painting, on the small pieces of round artist board/card shown: cheap and disposable. Basing individually also allows me to work around a figure and get to places which might be harder to reach on a Popsicle stick.

    No magnification, just by eye: In my mind if I can't see it, then I don't really want to bother painting it.


  4. Thanks for the response .... I have a 000 and a 00 .... no 0. But they are due to be "buried by the artist" soon ... lol.

  5. Amazing, especially when you consider that you're doing this for free. So saintly!

    Will you be doing a similar tutorial for vehicles?

  6. Thanks. Maybe sometime in the future I'll do something on vehicles.


  7. Hi

    Fantastic work - You keep me up at night trying to learn.

    I have a question for you - On the British in Italy and Tunesia - the infantry with the rolled up shirts - would one paint ranks? Do you now if the infantry shirts also had rank markings?

    thank you - and again absolutely fantastic work!

    /Jacob - Denmark

  8. Hi Jacob,

    Thanks for the comment. To answer your question:

    In Tunisia most British infantry are shown in pictures with long sleeves (i.e. wearing Battledress). The divisions in the British 1st Army were fresh from the UK, so very often show markings, divisional and ranks (Sergeant and Corporal chevrons, etc.) . Later in Sicily and Italy, I've seen very few unit markings and ranks, though they do become more common over the winter of 1943/44.

    So in short, I'd tend to ignore markings if painting figures with rolled-up sleeves as markings were seldom seen on KD (khaki drill) shirts. Even if you paint the upper part of these figures as standard Battledress, the nature of the figure makes painting markings quite difficult. As most NCO ranks were sewn-on about half-way between the shoulder and elbow, you would at best see the top of the chevrons, and thus I ignored them here. If painting as Battledress, you could paint a divisional patch instead, though they are really fiddly at this scale.

    Hope that helps somewhat.


  9. Hi Cdlt

    Thank you for the quick respons.

    I will follow your adwise. Mayby convert a few british miniatures from Normandy and change the heads.

    Just curious - how many armys do you have and play?


  10. Hi Jacob,

    If you're looking for alternate miniatures wearing long sleeved Battledress, might I suggest Forged in Battle's British Rifle Platoon blister (B-INF-01)). They are pretty similar size-wise with Battlefront's Mediterranean Theatre British. Although I'd bin the FiB Bren gunners, the riflemen are quite usable except that the rifles are No. 4 Mk I whereas BF's are equipped with the No. 1 Mk III. However, a bit of work with a blade and a close match can be made. Pretty cheap from Maelstrom Games as well (£8.10 for a platoon). BF's "Late War" British from the BR702 blister could work, though they are more cartoony than the Mediterranean Range and the FiB stuff.

    I play MW British Crusaders and DAK Shutzen, LW British Commandos, 7th Armoured Cromwells, Panzer Lehr Armoured Panzergrenadiers...working on Hungarians (for MW & LW) and 3. FJ Div from hell's Highway over the next year. That's about it, though new projects can start without warning!


  11. Hi CdlT,
    Your minis are fantastic,

    I do have a question on your Sikhs. I'm painting mine up with Casino in mind and was wondering what colors you would use for the tops. Do you advise going with the all "English Uni" look or should I do the Khaki tops look?

    not sure what they were dressed in as all the pics I seem to find are in b&w


  12. Thanks Dave.

    On the Sikhs, the pictures I've seen of Sikh troops in Italy all show light-coloured Pugri (Pugria?) being

    worn. For instance, you can see in this picture:


    ...that the Pugri is lighter than the surrounding BD while the Sikh on the left appear also to be wearing a

    KD overall of very similar colour. The BF figures are either in battledress with rolled up sleeves (best look IMHO) or in BD trousers with Khaki-Drill shirts (I've not seen any example of Sikhs in this).

    In this picture of Indian troops on Snake's Head Ridge:


    ...again the Pugri appear to be a similar hue to the webbing which looks quite sun-bleached as it is.

    Long story short: I would definitely use the same colour as I used above for webbing and the Pugri, as it

    definitely is not "English Uniform/Battledress" in colour. So, either Stone Grey & white, or the Khaki w/US

    Tankcrew Highlights mix, though I prefer the former.

    Hope that helps.


    PS. a good read, if you haven't seen it:

  13. CdlT,

    Thank you, this is quite informative. Time to get started then.


    PS. Looks like a good read

  14. CdlT,

    I have a question. I am starting to paint an army for the Tunisia period. I have tried the colors recommended by FlamesofWar but the result is pretty more green than I expect.

    They used English Uniform (921) for trousers, Khaki (988) for shirts and Khaki Grey (880) for helmets.

    Do you think that these colors are the right ones?

    Thanks a lot for your precious advice,


    1. Hi Mattieu,

      In Tunisia you can see a wide variety of equipment, but more often than not you see plain Battledress (e.g. English Uniform Trousers and Shirt) and less Khaki Drill stuff (e.g. Khaki shirts). You do see the lighter shirts in evidence, but just more plain Battledress in my experience, so I would go with all/mostly Battledress/English Uniform for painting. Tunisia was not a desert, temperatures could drop very low and even greatcoats are in evidence for some periods.

      The equipment colour used by the British First Army for painted equipment was generally SCC2 Brown. As you say, BF recommends VMC 880 Khaki Grey, but this is too light and a different (“wrong”) colour according to Mike Starmer. He recommends a good match as VMC 826 German Camo Medium Brown. Same colour for helmets, mortars, anti-tank guns and other painted equipment. This is a fair bit darker and definitely does not have the “green” undertone, so I would go with it.

      Hope that helps a bit.


    2. Hi CdlT,

      Yes it helps a lot! Unfortunately it means that I do not used the proper color.

      For guns I used 879 Green Brown I do not know what you think of it... As you said I think it is way to light.

      For the trousers I will use what you recommended to me, but for the shirt under the vest I thing khaki is better.

      I have a last question : the webbing is Stone Grey 884... sound right to you?

      Thanks a lot for you help!!!


    3. Hi Mattieu,

      VMC 879 Green Brown is a very, very similar colour to 880 Khaki Grey, just a little “greener”. The 826 colour is more correct, but if you’ve done stuff in another colour then it’s up to you whether to re-paint, etc. It's not the end of the world if you don't and sometimes more trouble than it's worth. Before I learned of the correct colour for SCC2 Brown I also used Khaki Grey for vehicles, such as the Churchill Mk IIIs on this blog.

      Stone Grey is fine for webbing; you could go darker (new/”blancoed” webbing) but I tend to like a lighter colour for more faded webbing (VMC Stone Grey or Panzer Aces US Tankcrew Highlight is what I use); helps it stand out a bit better on small 15mm figures which helps.


  15. Cdc, all your picture links are broken. That's such a pity. I am starting a 28mm FFL force equipped with British uniforms :(

    1. Yeah...bloody Photobucket. I think I have the pics saved still, will try to fix in a bit.


    2. Pics should be back now, I'll fix the others as I can. Thanks for letting me know, I had completely forgotten these were hosted in the old dark ages of PB.


    3. thanks a ton, super elegant painting as usual :)

  16. Great stuff!
    Are you thinking of doing a part 4 for the desert?

    1. Thanks Paul: not at the moment I'm afraid, most of my desert stuff is early and still in regular Battledress.



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