Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Walkthrough of Oiling process

Last Thusday afternoon I decided to oil some figs to show interested painters how it worked for me. This will help to answer some of the questions I've been asked and give a bit more detail than in earlier descriptions (also show that it does work even though a bit of experimenting may be required!)

OK, many of you will know how to oil wash figs so don’t be offended by the following . It’s just a little guide for those not sure if the results are worth the effort . As my decorator always maintains –preparation, preparation then the rest is plain sailing and enjoyable. I also think (from comments received) that the results of my work aren’t half bad!

This process puts more effort into the preparation but the rewards come quickly afterwards. I have many figs already prepared as I regularly do batches so I’m already to go in most  cases.

Grenadiers oiled and underway - notice how the detail is easy to see and begs to be painted!

 I did the following oiling last Thursday afternoon 2.00pm (photos as I did it) and then the black was painted 11.15 the next day, Friday – so this is as it happened starting as you would do if trying out the method.

I always use Humbrol Matt 62 Leather as my undercoat - give it a good stir to get a good matt finish and apply using  largish brush (see pic below for brush I use.) I sometimes give a quick second coat if necesary but not always. Make sure the figure has a good covering of undercoat but don't obscure the detail. When the tin of paint thickens (over time) I add a couple of drops of Humbrol Thinners and stir in. You want the undercoat to go on easily and with little effort.

I'm sure other brown undercoats would work - sprays, Vallejo orange brown, etc... - but as the Humbrol works so well for me I'm sticking with it for now! 

White tile, Rowney Burnt umber Oil, White spirit (not turps), piece of old tee-shirt or suitable material.

Materials used
Mixing the Oil
Oil thinned with white spirit (not turps!) Put a small (depends how many figs you are doing) splodge of oil on the tile and use the brush to add plenty of white spirit to the oil. I tend to pull a small amount of oil away from the splodge and add the white spirit to that. Better to make it too runny than not runny enough as you can always add more oil. Trick is to get a watery consistency that will run over the figure with ease.

Keep the oil mix thin and 'watery'
Oil onto figure
Simply paint oil over whole figure letting the 'runny' consistency do the work.

Rub off
After I've done about 5-8 figs I rub the oil off  (this is for foot figures only - horses are slightly different and I'll look at them another time.)You can rub the oil off almost immediately after applying it or leave it 5 mins or so (don't leave too long though as it may start to dry!)
Using a piece of tee-shirt material rub over the figure removing to remove some of the oil. I give quite a thorough rub but have a practice. I find whether I rub off more or less I still get a good result but experiment and see.

Oil rubbed off
After drying
Leave over night. I usually find I can start painting by afternoon the next day. These I did were dry at 11.00am next day.

Dry figure ready to paint. Notice how the detail stands out and is easy to see and paint!

Black painted
I've painted the black here (at 11.15 am) and we are ready to go!!

Here is another sample I did at the same time

Oil on

Oil off

Oil dry and ready to go

This method I use for foot figs (where the method is approprite, not for figs in large amounts of armour etc)

I'll later explain how I then paint the rest of the figure and will show you how I tackle horses (many of you will already have oil rubbed horses as this has been used for many years by some.)

Some 'Crusader Miniatures' horses done and waiting for Norman Kights

Finished these yesterday.  More on 'Oxford's Blues' later

Couple of examples of finished figs using my method

This method takes longer to describe than do but hope it's been some help. Sorry if it's gone on a bit!!


  1. Would using Army painter brown spray maybe be a cheaper option than the Humbrol pots mate?

  2. It certainly would be alot quicker and I intend to give it a go!
    However, I already have about 40 pots of Humbrol 62 leather so don't need to buy any sprays at the moment.
    Also, the Army painter brown is a little darker and the effect may not be the same. I'll give it a go though.

  3. Excellent walk through ol'boy slight variation to the way I was shown all those years ago and you have better result I think, well done.

  4. Sorry if this is a stupid question. But after oiling do you use acrylic paint. I always thought you could not paint acrylic over oil?

  5. Good question. I only use acrylic paints (Vallejo/ Foundry ....) and never had a problem with any colour I've used.

    Will talk about painting the undercoated figure in a later blog!

  6. Thanks for the tutorial Olddorg - fantastic results. I'm thinking of giving this a go in 15mm - do you feel the technique will transfer to that scale successfully? I'm thinking the rubbing stage may be a bit tricky with 15s?

  7. Great walkthrough. I am going to nick the tile idea - brilliant piece of thinking..


  8. Could be fiddly with 15mm. I've done it successfully with 20mm figs. Perhaps with 15mm the oil would need to be very runny and a good wipe afterwards. Perhaps a slightly lighter undercoat - say Humbrol Sand 63 would help on such a small scale!

    1. In the past I've done 15's by undercoating white (Halford's spray) and then washing the figures in very thin Ivory Black oil paint. Worked fine. Austrian Napoleonic infantry done this way (but with VERY thin Ivory Black oil paint) speeds up the painting job because you only need to highlight the uniform with white (or grey then white if you're not as lazy as me).

      Alternative is to almost reverse the process and undercoat white, block in all the colours and then mix up a wash of about 50:50 clear gloss varnish and just a touch of ivory Black and apply it to the figure.

      You can also combine the two on cavalry by doing the rider and harness etc by the undercoat and this wash method then block paint the horse and give it a wash of (usually) Burnt Umber. Paint in the socks etc, when this is dry, which it does surprisingly quickly because of the thinned paint.

  9. Thanks Olddorg, will have an experiment and see how it comes out. Appreciate your advice.

  10. What a great technique, and stunning results too!!! I was going to ask about 15mm figures, but i see Oswald already asked the question.

  11. Thanks for sharing this technique with the in-depth walk through. I've just discovered your blog, and like it a lot.

  12. Crazy Joe - Welcome advice. Your techniques have been noted and I'll try them when appropriate! Thanks for that.

  13. Great tutorial. Thanks. I'll give it a go. 2 questions:

    1. How long do you leave the leather base to dry before applying the oil?

    2. You mention that you would do a horse tutorial as a follow on. Did you manage to publish this yet?

  14. I leave the Leather base at least over night to dry. Say around 24 hrs to be safe!

    I haven't done a horse tutorial yet but will do one soon, hopefully!

  15. I used Army painter brown spray for an entire army this month and it does not give you the same results as your method, which allows the brown to shade the figure (light on high points, dark in crevasses). You'd have to hit it the AP brown with a brown wash to get shading and the overall effect is much darker that what you have going. You that you have a good thing going on!