Painting American Indians – Part 1

Someone on TMP (The Miniatures Page) asked for a tutorial on painting American Indians. So, I’ve decided to have a go at it. I have a lot of figures that need painting & I would love to do Plains Indian War game at Texicon next year.

I have 29 28mm Comanche by Conquest & one Old Glory Plains Indian giving a total of 30 figures for this project. Some are in various stages of completion, but there are plenty that don’t have a drop of paint on them.

Work area with the figures for this project.

My painting area is a small little bookshelf desk in a well lit corner of my bedroom. I’m eccentric like Virginia Woolf. I have a small desk & a painting area in my bedroom. Some people have televisions in their bedrooms to watch while they unwind, I write & paint miniatures in mine.

Assembled miniatures at the start of the process.

After removing a miniature from its packaging, I use a hobby knife & file to remove any flash & mould lines. When assembling multi-part models, I pin the parts where possible. The first decisions I have to make are things like attaching weapons & shields & if a mounted figure, whether or not to attach the rider to the his/her mount. If the part doesn’t interfere with painting a detail on the model, I go ahead & attach it.

White glue is used to attach the model to the Litko base.

For most of my models, I use Litko 3mm plywood bases. I use Aleene’s Tacky Glue to attach the miniature to the base.

Drywall spackling used to even out bases.

Often the base that is cast onto the model makes the model look like it is on a dais or platform. If the cast on base can’t be hidden by flock or other basing material, I use drywall spackling to smoothly integrate the model with the base. I know some modelers who remove the figure from the cast on base & pin the model to the base that will be used for the game. But, I’m a bit lazy for that.

This brand of spackling goes on pink & turns white when it is dry.

Once the spackling is dry, I’m ready to prime the model. I use “handi-tack” to attach the model to a bottle cap. I hold the model by the bottle cap when painting so I don’t get fingerprints & oils from my skin on the model. I use gesso or brush on primer. Spray primer works just as well, I just prefer using the brush on products.

Neutral gray gesso & a ceramic palette.

I can’t stress enough that when you use gesso, you must allow it to dry overnight. When applying just a few colors or painting a single miniature, I often use a ceramic palette. For projects with several miniatures, I use a wet palette.

Applying gesso.

You want to use a damp brush when applying gesso. Using an older brush or a brush dedicated to priming is important in that you will often need to push the gesso into some areas of the miniature to get full coverage. It may look like you are losing detail, but when gesso dries, it shrinks & detail stands out just fine.

Freshly primed figures that will be ready to be painted tomorrow.

I need to stop here so I can prime the rest of the figures. Next time, we will tackle the most often asked question when painting American Indians — skin tone. I will show a single color option & present a couple of triad options. Then we will look at face paint.

Feel free to comment on how you prepare your miniatures for painting! There really is no one true way to do things & your technique may fit another person’s style better than the way I do it.

8 comments

  1. Nice post, I base in a similar way. I don’t mean to be rude but I find it a little funny that you talk about not touching the figures and then two pictures later, you’re touching the figure. I do the same thing. Although my main reason is so as not to paint my fingertips as much. Non caucasian skin color is of interest to me as being a middle aged white guy I have a few ingrained hangups about how to portray ethnic figures. One reason why I do fantasy, nobody objects to green orc flesh.

    • Yeah, I find that when painting horses, the tail is too good of a handle to avoid. lol

      What most people don’t realize is that actual American Indian skin color ranges from caucasian skin tones to a reddish bronze. They are actually the same tones you would use for Mexican or Latin American skin. Since so few of us live outdoors, most American Indians I know are just as “white” as I am. But I am 3/16ths, 1/16th Cherokee from my mother’s side & 1/8th Kiowa from my father’s side of the family.

  2. Elaine if you do a Indian attack game at Texicon next year..Are you going to use Six Gun Sound Blaze of Glory rules or a different set of rules instead.Let me know aa I’d be interested in playing in that Indian attack game as I had fun playing in your RSBM game at Texicon.Richard..

    • I haven’t decided yet. It will be either Six Gun Sound: Blaze of Glory or Colonial Adventures. Depends on the size of the game. For instance if I’m doing the “Lost Valley Fight” where a band of Kiowa went toe to toe with Texas Rangers, I’d used Six Gun Sound. If I do a larger engagement such as the battle of “Blanco Canyon” where Quanah Parker led the Kotsoteka & Quahadi Comanche against Mackenzie’s 4th Cav., I would use Colonial Adventures.

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