A Tale of Two Armies - Painting a 2mm Force

We continue with a series of posts on wargaming in 2mm today, as I build and paint the Prussian and Austrian armies for a future Battle of Lobositz.  You can see the post on organising and building the armies here.

I'm including the painting in such detail, because that's one of the biggest misconceptions about 2mm gaming.  For those who've only ever gamed in 28mm or 20mm, the small blocks of lead can seem like counters.  Why not just play with tokens?  Hopefully this quick post will shed some light on why I love this scale so much.

The key to painting in any scale is to give an impression of reality.  If you look at even the most talented 28mm painters, their models would look terrifyingly unreal if they were scaled up to life size.  Their skill is making them look like they are life sized figures which have been scaled down.  The same is true for 2mm - give an overall impression, and we do that by combining main uniform colours with the occasional tiny detail.  On a 28mm model, that tiny detail might be a badge, the model's eyes, or a wooden stock.  On a 2mm model, it's the heads and the banners.

Often I try and photograph my 2mm models sympathetically, that is, from a distance so you can see how they look on the table.  However, these have been photographed ruthlessly close up, and I've even fiddled with the light levels to show you how much (or rather how little) detail you need on these tiny figures to give a great impression.  I think there's a natural reluctance to show 2mm models at this scale; we try to always give 'finished' impressions of our armies.  Hopefully this will lift the lid on just how small scale painting is done.


This is my temporary paint station, the one I use when I'm staying in the mess at work.  It's pretty basic, but I can be very productive as there's little else to distract me. 
You can see here how things started - a simple hand-painted white undercoat.  I usually undercoat in whatever the army's primary colour is, so red for British, blue for Prussians, etc.  At this scale there's not much call for highlighting so this becomes the main colour.
Only slightly blurry Austrian hussars.  Cavalry are slightly easier in 2mm than infantry, because the figures are separate from one another.  It's the work of a moment to run along the line with a series of colours and 'blob' different horse coats on them.

A slightly better picture of some cuirassiers.  You can see the different horse colours, the white-undercoated tunics, with a black dot on the head to represent the hat.
The same principle applies to infantry.  You can see the main colours, with a line round the bottom half to represent the trouser colour, and a black dot for the hat.  On the left example, you can see how I've left off a lot of the detail as it won't be visible on the tabletop.
And the same from the front.  The front rank get a small blob of flesh paint on the head to give the impression of a face.
This is how it starts to come together - and this is probably as close as these figures will ever be scrutinised on the tabletop.  You can see I give them a light wash of soft tone ink to give them a little depth, which will be built on with the bases when I flock them.


  1. Ed, this is a terrific post! Well done lifting the lid on the art of 2mm painting. Having a production line for 2mm figures/ figure blocks is definately the way to go. At first, I was intrigued that you went for a white undercoat, but I think that works brilliantly for the Austrians of the Seven Years War. Well done!

    1. Thanks Sidney. Yes, I thought it would be helpful to show the painting process 'warts and all'. With undercoats, I try to maximise the detail by minimising the layers, so I try to have one colour, with some extras painted on, followed by a light wash. That seems to do the trick. I'm really impressed by your 2mm work though, particularly the basing!

  2. Good to see your methods here.

    Even with 28mm, on the table you don't see hardly any detail so it's not necessary to paint them. It's for photo op's and personal preference that really people get all fancy and detail oriented.

    (Wish I could paint stuff at my workplace...)

    1. That's a fair point, I suppose you could treat them as almost two completely separate hobbies, painting and gaming.

      I'm lucky to have a paint station here, but on the other hand it has asbestos and rats, so I think it balances out.

    2. Maybe you could recruit the rats to help paint when you aren't in barracks? :)

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