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1/16 scratchbuild figures - WW2 Italian tankers

Model Mate

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Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas!


I’m only an occasional visitor here, from the mud ‘n rivets section and there’s been some truly inspirational work going on here recently – nice!

I finished my latest vehicle scratchbuild a little while ago – a 1/16 Italian tankette…



I’d planned from the outset to team this up with some figures, and due to the lack of 1/16 Italian tankette crew figures out there on the market, plus the fact I really want to scratchbuild the lot, I’m planning to sculpt a couple of chaps to keep their little tank company.


The basic armatures are done, using “milli-green” (milliput + greenstuff 50/50 mix) on copper wire.



I’m cheating a bit with heads, hands and feet. For my last sculpt (a pair of WW1 troops) I sculpted their faces, but I’ve a feeling that Shrek and his brother might undermine the realism next to the tankette for this one, so I got some nice 1/16 resin heads and hands. The boots were copied from a pair of Tamiya Germans, which I bought to practice paint as well as pinch body parts.


So before I get stuck into the Fimo, I decided to do a bit of paint practice using these two. I’m happy that I can convey a reasonable sense of reality on vehicles using various, long-honed techniques – washes, dry-brushing, paint chipping, pastel mud and so on, but figures require a whole different set of skills that I simply don’t possess, or at least I’m not very good at. Figures always let the side down a bit for me, and that has to change.


I painted the more aggressive of the pugilists with a variety of Vallejo model colour and model air paints, but as usual, he ended up looking a bit “plastic” (ironically?). The face isn’t too bad I guess, and it is a very old, basic kit, but despite a wet palette and some retarder, I really struggle with blending colours and this is most obvious on faces.



After a bit of reading on Planet figure, I decided to give oils a crack. I use a black, brown and pale yellow oils a lot when weathering vehicles and I really like the way they handle; long drying time and almost infinitely thinnable. The debit card took a hammering, and I got this lot from Windsor and Newton. I’ve got a load of cheap oils, including a few from the Winton range, but I’ve found that there is a significant difference between these and the “artist” range, which explains the massive cost difference I guess. I also got some fine detail Liquin – a medium that reduces drying time, whilst also improving blending capabilities and translucency. I probably didn’t need all of these new colours; once on the palette (jam jar lid) and mixed, I reckon I probably only needed half of them – oh well; my plan is to take away all the excuses and see if I can improve my results. I’ve also got a small set of DaVinci brushes (very nice) to further this aim.



The first thing to try was a subtle touch of oil washes on the first chap to see if this added a bit of depth and improved the acrylic face, and I think it helped a little.



I also beefed up the clothing shadows and highlights using burnt umber and naples yellow respectively, and these have really helped to de-plastify him overall.


And so onto man two. I prepared his face by undercoating him with Vallejo flesh, painting his eyes using the same acrylics, and adding basic shadow and highlights, again using acrylics.



And finally, the oils. Blending is a joy – I can keep fiddling with it for ages. He’s got more than a touch of the “Christopher Lees” about him – a bit pale and cadaverous (and his duelling scar is a bit rakish), but he’s wearing winter garb, so I reckon a Mediterranean tan would be out of place anyway. There’s a far-away look in his eyes that I quite like.



Next to fella one, I think he’s a big improvement, and although there’s a bit more practice needed, I’m really happy with the progress.



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You can definitely see the improvement of the oils and ability to blend… I also just got some da Vinci brush’s (I can recommend their brush soap too) I haven’t had a chance to use them yet… I just ogle them in their plastic cases! They look look amazing. Really tight point with long bristles and still enough belly to deliver paint. 
Good luck with the rest, I admire you ambition with sculpting your own, I’ll stay tuned.


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9 minutes ago, Muchmirth said:

You can definitely see the improvement of the oils and ability to blend… I also just got some da Vinci brush’s (I can recommend their brush soap too) I haven’t had a chance to use them yet… I just ogle them in their plastic cases! They look look amazing. Really tight point with long bristles and still enough belly to deliver paint. 
Good luck with the rest, I admire you ambition with sculpting your own, I’ll stay tuned.


Thanks Paul. You'll love the brushes; they are lovely to use and keep their shape brilliantly.  I've had a go at scratchbuilding figures before and it was a great learning experience, but I hope to get them a bit better this time.

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2 hours ago, Tojo72 said:

Very impressive work on both the figs and the vehicle,scratchbuilt??? I can barely handle a kit.

Thanks. Yes, all scratchbuilt, using plastic card, tube, wire etc. the tracks were 3D prints though, so I’m slowly starting to embrace 21st century methods!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I hope everyone had a good Christmas break – Happy New Year to all the BMers!


Despite the holiday, I didn’t actually get a lot of time for model-making; too much time spent cooking, eating and partying I’m afraid. Still, I did get a bit of time to continue my figure painting practice. Firstly on my test subject No.1, who got finished off. I painted the base colours of his kit, gave it all a Klear coat and then added oils shadows and highlights. For the main figure, I’d applied a primer coat, but for these smaller pieces I didn’t bother, so the Klear gives a little protection to the base colours which have a tendency to rub off a bit too easily without primer.



The finished fella still somehow looks pretty plasticky, but he’s better than my previous efforts I think, and I’m getting more confident using oils for shading.









He could probably use a bit of pastels to dirty him up and I’m considering giving him a very light spray of diluted Tamiya buff, mostly from above, to mute the colours a little, give the impression of a bit of uniform fading and strengthen the highlights.


Subject No.2 has had his camo clothing base colours applied using acrylics and is now ready for oil shading and highlighting.




I outlined the camo patches with pencil before filling them in. The colours a bit larey, but I’m hoping the subsequent oils will tone them down a bit.


Part of my Christmas break was spent visiting family in the Netherlands, and as usual, I got some further practice on the gnome collection…



These might seem a bit trivial, but they do give me chance to practice blending, albeit using (Citadel) acylics, which dry a lot slower than Vallejo, so replicate oils a bit better.

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They weren’t too bad to be honest; just a few flicks with a 00 brush, but then this is 1/16 so pretty big, and they don’t bear close scrutiny - at least a few are a bit dodgy. 
I’m discovering a lot about the oils for shading - I’m not sure if I’m doing it right or if I’ve invented a whole new way of painting (unlikely). There seem to be a number of ways of handling the paint, whereas acrylics only really give you one. To get a thin, translucent acrylic coat you need heavily thinned paint applied in a number of coats to build up colour and coverage. With oils there seem to be other options - heavily thinned as above, or simply really lightly applied, almost dry coat(s) and either way, there’s plenty of time to adjust. It’s a bit like picking up a double action airbrush after using a single action one - there are suddenly so many more possibilities. I really think the liquin helps too. It seems to make the paint stick together better, reducing brush marks and allowing it to blend/feather really well. Still a lot of learning to do, but I’m happy that I’m headed in the right direction.

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Continuing with the procrastination and studiously avoiding committing to clay, the painting experiments carry on….


I thought it might be useful for me to share the process I’ve adopted for the oil shading/highlighting – I’ve no idea if this is common practice, or only me. If it’s good, I’m pleased to share it and if it’s bad (time consuming and unrealistic) then I’ll happily take advice from oil painting and figure painting experts out there.


 To recap; This figure was initially painted using Vallejo acrylics, with no attempt to replicate shadows and highlights in the clothing. Importantly, his uniform isn’t, err, uniform, but rather a complicated mish-mash of a bunch of colours, so I can’t just mix lighter and darker shades of the base coat and apply them as shadows and highlights. Instead, I’ll need to use the paint to apply light and dark filters. These will need to be translucent so as not to obscure the underlying camo pattern, and the dot filter technique often used for aircraft or armour is I suppose, the basis on which I’ve proceeded. Here he is in his raw state:



I added shadows using raw umber – brown with a slight green tint – as opposed to my more usual burnt umber. I didn’t want him turning an overall red/brown colour and thought the raw umber would sit better on the predominantly green uniform. This was mostly done using a small, fairly dry brush, lightly loaded with the paint which was mixed with fine detail liquin and a drop of white spirit. After 5/10 mins I went back to each shadow patch and blended (or rather feathered I guess) the edges of them using a small flat brush. It looks rather like I’ve started the highlights in the picture below, but that’s the sheen of the paint – the liquin makes it all rather glossy, which is a bit of a pain to be honest, because we now have “real” highlights of shiny surfaces and adding fake ones becomes a bit more difficult to see:



Next up are the highlights. Obviously, it’s a good idea to leave a day or so between shadows and highlights, to allow the shadow paint to dry properly. These were done in exactly the same way, using a cream mix of white and ochre and finishing off with a sort of dry-brush swipe to clean them up. The results are very soft and subtle, and thanks to the liquin shine, pretty hard to assess, but I think it’s worked reasonably well and helps to mute and blend the colours overall. In these pics below, the right arm and lower jacket skirt are yet to be done.



I went back with a black pin wash to various parts and here’s where he stands after that:



The white jacket lining that sits inside his hood and the scarfs he’s wrapped around his head are a different proposition altogether, as they are consistent colours, so these were treated to shadows and highlights in much the same way, but I was able to use more colourful mixtures that better match the underlying material and the paint went on a bit thicker. As a result, they’re rather more pronounced than the majority of his uniform.



His hat was given some dark and light grey “Kevin” brush treatment (a thoroughly knackered stiff bristle brush dipped in neat acrylic paint and then dabbed on) to create scratches and followed by burnt umber and sienna oils. It then got a couple of coats of hairspray and then a mix of deck tan and white Tamiya sprayed on (using water to thin).



I could then chip it and stick it on his head at last.



I painted and then gloss coated the kit bags and so on. I added the shadows, and then the highlights – here’s how I tackled that in pictures:


Kit with “highlight” dabs of paint applied.



….and then blended/feathered using a flat brush.



With this lot glued on, he's pretty much there.


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Updates coming thick and fast at the moment....


Ok – schoolboy error time.


There’s always a decision to be made in model-making – glue it all together then paint, or paint up sub-assemblies as you go. I tend towards the latter, particularly for kit on figures, including any weaponry. Unfortunately in this case, I’m left with a figure who is clearly holding a gun, but actually can’t. The gun won’t fit in his hands. Neither will either of the two alternative 1/16 weapons I’ve got. A fraction of a millimetre, and a fraction of a degree off and he just can’t hold a gun. Damn. There’s no way I’m going to try attacking him and/or his gun with knives, files and so on.


Some imagination is called for, and I decided (perhaps sub-consciously influenced by my decision to live on a boat during flood season) that he could, at a pinch, be holding a rope and dragging something out of the water. I cut a length of good old parcel string, and stuffed it in his hands.




I think I might just get away with it, but he’ll now definitely need a base for his tug of war.


I dug out the large pack of Fimo I’ve had for a few years, and immediately saw that it needs replacing before I start on the Italians. Thankfully I picked up some small packs of the stuff recently to do that, but in the spirit of “waste not, want not” I broke up a load of the brittle and crumbly old stuff, and dumped it in the inverted lid of a candle from Aldi. The ripped texture does a reasonable job of pretending to be chunks of soil/rocks I think.



I kneaded some more of the gone-off Fimo, and did eventually get it in a somewhat workable state, draping it over the rocks to make the top ground layer. Our man trod, not-so-lightly on it to leave his boot-prints and I ripped up a couple of other chunks of Fimo for rocks beside him.



After a half hour in the oven, out came my terrain toolbox – tile grout, crushed up cat litter, tea leaves and so on.



This was scattered over dribbles of diluted PVA, and I added some tall grass tufts using an old paintbrush.



I applied a bunch of static grass, from my bag of “left-over” stuff – basically a mixture of different lengths and colours using my home-made static applicator (an old bug-zapper racquet plus tea strainer). I glued on some other pre-made tufts and then coloured the soils and rocks using a variety of well-watered down acrylics in a variety of brown colours. The same colours were dabbed onto the exposed base of the lid (roughened up with sandpaper to try and get some key). Note the small hole drilled in the base.




I applied some oil washes and a bit of drybrushing and glued the ground into the lid. The fella was also glued in place, all this being done with epoxy glue. The rope got a coat of diluted PVA, but will need a bit more, along with some wash/staining before it can be glued in his hands and coiled up on the ground.



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Did this myself and no longer paint sub assembly’s as a result, it annoyed me that much. I painted a bunch of hornets heads and dry fitted connections before hand but once I went to actually attach they would not sit right… so ended up with a few figures who looked very very drunk!

  But very well rescued here! Like the little dio too.


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Meant to say mm with the small base you have made you maybe interested in the mini dioramas proposal for a gb for 2025 (bit far off but gained a lot of interest). I for one would like to see what you would do if you did find it of interest: here’s the link anyways 


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On 10/01/2024 at 11:15, Muchmirth said:

Meant to say mm with the small base you have made you maybe interested in the mini dioramas proposal for a gb for 2025 (bit far off but gained a lot of interest). I for one would like to see what you would do if you did find it of interest: here’s the link anyways 


Thanks Paul - nice idea. I've signed up..... lots of options for "mini" diorama; tiny scale, single figure etc. Should be fun!

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Right – final knockings for this guy.


I revisited his highlights as they got a bit of wear with all the handling, and there was only a homeopathic level of pigment on him to start with.


The rope got fixed in place with more diluted PVA and coiled up on the ground. I left a largish file (of the rasping rather than documentary type) resting on it to flatten it down into/onto the underlying grass while it dried. Once dry, it got an oil paint wash of raw umber and then black, with a focus on a darker colour as the rope rises out of the water.


The whole lot then got a spray of matt varnish. I’ve really struggled to find a proper matt varnish recently – nothing seems to be properly matt. That’s fine (actually good) for vehicles, but for cloth, I really need a proper matt, so I sourced some fresh Windsor & Newton Galleria – it’s the real deal as far as I’m concerned.


I then needed to restore a bit of sheen to leather and wooden bits and so on. His eyes and lips got a drop too, along with his gas mask cannister, using a coat of diluted Klear.



I then added some dirt to his boots, trouser bottoms and knees and elbows using brown pastel dust.


I finished off his gun, using some classy wine (real lead) foil for the strap and fixed it in place propped on the rocks using araldite, and again my trusty weighty file to press it down.



With all this finished, I could finally pour the water.


I mixed up 15mL of “solid water” resin, adding a drop of acrylic flat earth paint, but only a tiny one, just to slightly tint it.


I decided to add some fallen leaves once it was reasonably dry and dug out a nice little stamp I bought from Green-stuff world a while back. I think I only ordered it to bring the value of my combined order up to a “free postage” level, and I’ve not used it ‘till now. It’s a bit too big for 1/35 to be honest but looks just right for 1/16. I painted a piece of baking paper with various acrylic colours, scrunched it up when dry and then punched out a load of leaves. I’m really happy with these – they look great I reckon.



I “folded” each leaf by pressing a pin onto the centre of them on a softish surface and glued them in place using araldite – only because I’d already mixed up a batch for the gun, so it was going begging.



The rope got a fairly heavy coat of Klear as it rises from the water.



Just one last thing to deal with. I want to add some ripples around the rising rope, so did a few trials.


I drew some concentric circles onto a piece of scrap clear acetate using micro Krystal Klear and a toothpick. Pretty rubbish. Each ring sort of collapsed into a rough smear as the Krystal Klear dried. I tried again, using cheapo PVA and suspended it upside down to dry to allow gravity to help avoid collapsing rings. This seemed much better, though the PVA was slightly cloudy/blueish, so I did a third trial, back to the Krystal Klear, but using the anti-gravity drying method. This didn’t work. I guess Krystal Klear shrinks quite a lot as it dries and it resulted in the same smears as when it was the right way up. The bottom right in this pic is the upside-down PVA, and I think will do, so I just need to apply it and dream up a Heath-Robinson method to let the thing dry upside down after I apply it.



RFI pics coming soon…..

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