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Purpose of this Blog is to become a tool and a place where artist that collect and paint flat figures can find interesting links and news about flats, painting techniques, history and various related articles.English speaking related sites are very few but hopefully this blog will provide the collector and the painter with interesting and valuable information about the Art of the Flat Figure and everything related to it.
During the next days I will post any related info I have collected for a long time about various aspects of Flats. Techniques, photos, links, historic articles, anything that is related. Wherever possible I will including the author of the original article. I apologise if sometimes the author's name is not included. It's not intentional but it is lost through time.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Painting Tartans

Painting Tartans
Dr. Mike Thomas
(Published: February, 1981, pp.125-7)

At first sight, the painting of Scottish soldiers may seem to provide, perhaps, too great a challenge for the miniaturist. However, as I hope to be able to show, with some care and thought the difficulties can be overcome. The only materials required, in addition to those normally employed in painting model soldiers, are a pencil and a bottle of black Indian Ink. Fine brushes are a must - preferably 0 or 00 size. Buy the best that you can afford, the cheaper varieties are definitely a false economy, and those supplied by Historex Agents are ideal. All types of paint can be used, although with oil paints some patience must be exercised because time will have to be allowed for the successive coats of paint to dry. The usual rules with regard to the preparation of the painting surface should be followed; the metal surface should be cleaned and primed. For plastic figures, a thin coat of matt white enamel should be applied to act as a "key.” The reason for this will become clear later on.

Fig.I; Dicing on Highland headgear

We will begin at the top of the figure with the headgear. Most articles of headgear worn by the Scottish soldiery have a diced band around the brim and this normally consists of three lines of squares arranged in a chequered pattern of red and white. In some cases, the central line may have red and green or red and blue squares, with the red squares always conforming to the check pattern of the upper and lower lines.

This chequered pattern is first outlined with the black Indian Ink and a fine brush and this is the reason behind keying the plastic surface with matt white paint - the water based ink will not "take" on the untreated plastic surface. The advantage of using the ink, rather than enamel or oil paints, is that the brush will come to a finer point and, because of the longer drying time, a longer line can be painted before having to recharge the brush, so avoiding any "feathering" of the line. When actually painting the pattern, start on the side next to the badge and continue on around. This will avoid having to match up the pattern. Put the horizontal lines in first and then the vertical lines. When completed, each of the squares on the dicing should have approximately 1 mm sides for a 54-mm figure, and about 2-mm for the larger figures. Once the pattern has been completed, the colours can be blocked in, (Fig. I).

We can now turn to the diced hose: these give the appearance of a pattern of diamonds which are actually caused by overlapping diagonal stripes of colour- normally of either red and white or red and black (although scarlet and green is also known). Where the stripes overlap, a combination of the two colours forms, e.g. the red and white will give rise to a pink colour. Because of the irregular shape of the leg, it is extremely difficult to paint in these stripes freehand, so some form of guide is required. This can be provided by a series of faint pencil lines, drawn horizontally and vertically, on which the diagonal stripes can be drawn with the brush and ink. The pencil guidelines are constructed as follows.

Vertical: Eight lines are drawn:-
(a) Down the front and rear of the leg.
(b) At each side of the leg.
(c) Four more lines, halfway between each of these.

Be sure to keep these vertical lines equidistant along their length, i.e. whatever the shape of the leg.
Horizontal: Seven lines are drawn around the leg:-'
(a) Around the centre of the leg, between heel and stocking top.
(b) Two more bands, halfway between this centre line and the top and heel of the stocking.
(c) Four more bands to divide each of the four segments into two.

Note that if the leg is gartered or wearing spats, then these lines should be drawn onto the visible part of the hose, spaced as they would be if the stocking were visible. The above process will now have divided the stocking into a grid with 64 segments, (Fig.II).

Now, using these lines as a guide, ink in the diagonal lines, so that each black line always cuts halfway along the side of a segment. Continue this around the leg until all the lines have been painted in and there should now be a pattern of diamonds. This stage does take some concentration. If you make a mistake, wait for the ink to dry and then paint it out with matt white and start again. With the diagonal lines in place, the colours can be blocked in. Again, some care is needed. It is better to paint the lighter colours in first; if a mistake is made it can then be over-painted with the darker colour. If, for example, the hose are red and white diced, then each red diamond will touch a white diamond at each corner, the same being true for each white diamond, i.e. a red at each corner. The pink diamonds will then lie between each red and white pair along the side. The diagram should make this clear. Instead of painting the leg white, it can be painted pink instead. The guides are constructed as before, and red and white diamonds are then painted in. This cannot be done with red and black dicing, because the guides will not be visible against the darker colours. One of the advantages of using this method is that the pattern will follow the shape of the leg, stretching where this is necessary. The pencil guide lines will, of course, disappear during the painting.

Fig.II; Dicing on Scottish hose

Finally, we come to tartans. A tartan weave is one in which the pattern of coloured threads is repeated in the vertical and horizontal planes. For the miniaturist, therefore, it is a matter of painting a series of coloured lines and stripes. Fortunately, the patterns, or setts, worn by the Scottish Regiments are relatively few in number and fall conveniently into two groups - those based on the so-called "Government Sett" (more commonly known as the Black Watch tartan) and those which are not so based.

First, we shall examine those based on the Black Watch sett where the basic pattern colours are dark blue and green with black. So far as size is concerned, there should be roughly three and a half repeats of the pattern between waist and knee on the kilt (although during the 18th. Century the pattern was apparently smaller, with four repeats). Trews and plaid will have the same spacing, but with more repeats of course. For trews, the material was cut so that both legs were identical. For all of these tartans, the first few steps are the same, thus:

(1) Paint the entire area dark blue.
(2) Paint dark green bands vertically and horizontally so as to divide the blue ground up into equally spaced bands of blue and green. Note that at the rear of a kilt, the pleats will cause the pattern to become incomplete, and this should be remembered when painting.
(3) Where the dark green bands cross, paint a green square, slightly lighter in colour. Do not overdo this lighter colour; add a little yellow to the green paint.
(4) Paint a thin line of a blue/black/green mixture between the green bands and the blue. These lines should be wide enough to reduce the blue and green bands to a bout two thirds of their former width. These dark lines should be made with very thin paint, a wash almost, and should not be black. In fact, the colour beneath should almost show through.
(5) Where the dark lines cross, paint small black squares.

Fig.III Stages in painting the Black Watch tartan

The remaining lines are over-stripes, and differ for the different tartans; the following table shows the number and colours of such lines. They should only be painted on when the main colours have dried. The coloured diagram (Fig. III) shows how the tartan is built up for the Black Watch.

Royal Stewart (See Fig. IV)
(1) Paint the entire area a dark scarlet colour.
(2) Paint on green stripes, so as to divide the area into scarlet and green bands, in the ratio of 2:1:1:1 (scarlet:green:scarlet:green).The green stripes should be a wash only, so that the scarlet colour tends to show through. The inside of each green stripe should then be over-painted, so as to emphasise the green colour more.
(3) Where the emphasised green colour crosses, lighter green squares should be painted.
(4) Edge the outside of each green stripe with a light blue line.
(5) Paint a white line through the centre of each narrow scarlet band.
(6) Paint a white line through the centre of each green stripe.
(7) Between this white line and the blue edge line, paint a thin, pale yellow line.
(8) Finally, paint two fine black lines each side of the white line of Step 6.

Note: if this tartan is not to become a mess, the over-stripes must be kept thin. For small scale figures, Steps 6 and 7 could well be combined and a single cream line painted.

Fig.IV; Stages in painting the ‘Royal Stewart’ tartan.

(1) Paint the entire area mid green.
(2) Paint blue/green bands so as to divide the area into equally spaced green and blue/green bands.
(3) Where the blue/green bands cross, paint blue squares.
(4) Paint a rather wide black line through the centre of each green band.
(5) Paint two thin, light blue lines, either side of the black line.
(6) Paint a thin, white line through the centre of the blue bands.

Hunting Stewart
(1) Paint the entire area mid green.
(2) Paint dark green bands, so as to divide the area into equally-spaced mid and dark green bands.
(3) Paint three fine, light green lines through the dark green bands so as to divide the latter into four.
(4) Paint a thin, red line through every other light green band.
(5) Paint a thin yellow line through the centre of the remaining light green bands.

Dress Erskine
(1) Paint the entire area scarlet.
(2) Paint bands of mid green so as to divide the area into equally spaced scarlet and green bands. This colour should be a wash so that the scarlet colour shows through.
(3) Where the green bands cross, paint green squares so that the scarlet colour no longer shows through.
(4) Paint two fine, green lines, close together, through the centre of each scarlet band.
(5) Paint two fine scarlet lines, close together, through the centre of each green band. With some of these patterns it helps to use the Indian Ink to block in the main pattern after the initial coat of paint has dried. This is particularly important when the second coat is a wash colour, otherwise it is rather difficult to control things because the paint tends to run.

There are many books and pub1ications avai1able which give the modeller details of uniform, what each Regiment wears, kilt or trews, and in what tartan. Regiments of the Scottish Division is available through the National Army Museum, although the samples of tartan shown appear to have been photographed through a peculiar series of filters because the colours are - peculiar! For example the Cameron of Erracht tartan appears to consist of two shades of blue!

Scottish Clans and Tartans by Ian Grimble, published by Hamlyn at about £2, is an excellent little book containing photographs of all the military tartans, with much better colour rendering; these colours conforming with actual samples of tartan in the author's possession.

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