Wargaming Tradecraft: Historically Accurate Miniatures


Historically Accurate Miniatures

Last year I donated my painting services to be auctioned for Headshots from the Heart, a marathon I'm involved with in support of the Childs Play charity. The person who won is a bit of a history buff. He's involved in reenactments and plays various historical miniature games.

It took a bit, but he got ahold of the miniature he wanted me to paint: Major-General Sir Isaac Brock. There'a a difference when painting historical miniatures instead fictional ones, mainly that these things happened so there's a certain way they should be painted.Sure, I could paint the clothes whatever I wanted, I could've given him a funny hat and I could even have painted the horse to look like it belongs in Robot Unicorn Attack... But when you factor in the client's importance on history, accuracy becomes even more important.

A Note on Commissions

While not the focus of this post, I do want to touch briefly on doing commission pieces. I may not broadcast it, but I've done a few. The first step is to figure out details your client wants incorporated in to the miniature. Making things easier, I could look up historical details to fill in blanks and the client was able to say things like, "Here's a photo of the jacket he was wearing when he died."

To ensure this model fit with those he'd be riding with, I got a picture of them too..Things like the shade of reigns, hooves, saddle, etc, were all left up in the air. To finish, there were certain requests to be met: grey horse, white pants, darker red sash, gold sword hilt and summer battlefield setting for the base.

If you come across details as you're working and you're not sure if the client has something in mind, best to ask. Many clients will give you a certain level of creative freedom, others can be hands on. In this case, I came across a few details I wanted to check on during the project, incase there was some kind of historical significance to them.


Google is a great resource for this kind of research. I was able to type his name in and find a bunch of information and artwork. Always fact check, mind you... meaning, throw out modern day art, instead keeping photos of paintings by artists during the appropriate era when possible.

Don't just focus on the primary focus of the commission. Your art will appear "disjointed" if you recreated the main detail like the jacket, then winged the rest. Skin tone and hair were next, and I based the colour of the model's hat on the hat depicted with his jacket. I also searched "grey horse" to find examples I could use as inspiration for the mount.
Gather all these photos in one place.

Google Drive offers a lot of convenience in this regards. As I'm sitting at my computer, I can drop files in to a folder and fill it with everything I'll need.

These pics are available from my tablet as well, which with a stand next to my workspace, is great for reference.

If I've missed something, I can find it on the tablet and add it to my Drive. When I wanted to confirm some details with the client, he was within digital reach.


I painted the primer [Gesso] for this miniature on, basically because the weather outside is beyond frightful. (Seriously, I drove 3 hours in weather resembling that, 2 Sundays ago.) Black Gesso goes on so much cleaner than white.

I wanted to paint a face with some colour, akin to the portraits painted of the Major-General. I started with the eyes, then went really pale and added some blush. Next, I shifted away from the grey and highlighted with paint closer to skin tones before finishing off with a wash to clean up the colour and strengthen shadows.

To paint his jacket, I used four main steps. In each of them, I mixed with slo-dri to both thin and smooth the application of the paint as well as help mix in to the previous layer.

I started with GW foundation red, then moved to a brighter one. Things went too bright for the aesthetic I wanted for this miniature though. It still has my current dark shadow style, but softer than the aggressive highlighting on my Hordebloods,

For the final two steps, I mixed in some flesh tones to the red to lighten and ease the colour, then highlight it.

To paint the black on his hat, collar and cuffs, I used some inspiration from Brock's posthumous portrait and went with some deep blues and light cyan highlights.

For his boots, I just went with greys.

To paint the trim on his scabbard, I used something I call MMM - Mixed Metallic Metals. There's a lot I want to say on Metallics, but that's for a later tutorial.

Basically, I used a dark brown base and a medium brown highlight. Then, I painted some of the edge and corner highlights with a couple metallic layers.

This creates a nice contrast between TMM and NMM. (True and Non Metallic Metals.)

For the white of his pants I used pigments to create a nice white highlight. To begin, I painted a base layer, then brushed it with powder to smooth everything out.

What really ties it all together is painting a layer of Matte Varnish over it to blend the pigments in to the lower layer.

More reference photos used while painting the horse.

I began by mixing dark grey and black in various amounts to paint the base layer for the majority of the horse.

Next, I mixed up black, dark grey and light grey in a swirl so each of the colours were still there and sponged this mix on to the fur.

I used a larger brush to stipple the whole horse as a final step to clean up any ugly sponged spots and create a nice overall style for the General's mount.

And so, I give you, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock.


  1. Hi! Kind of a drive-by here since historical aren't generally my thing, but I like your technique on the face here! Essentially painting it in greyscale first is something I hadn't ever thought of doing. But the end result is very dramatic! Sort of like "overpainting" but easier in this scale. I'd love to try it some time though I'm painting mostly 15 mm these days which has a whole other set of tricks... Anyway, great work :)

    1. Thanks! Historical usually isn't my thing either, but as a commission auctioned to charity, I didn't have a choice! (He beat the guy wanting a My Little Pony painted though, thank goodness!)

      I love working work dark shadows. I'm testing grey priming at the moment, but it just doesn't feel the same to me. When working with black primer, it does take some more control to bring lighter colours up, especially since I thin all the paint I work with and use multiple layers. The grey was a little accidental, basically being "too pale" but it ended up in the right place as I love how the face turned out too.


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