How to paint 6mm WW2 armies

Painting and basing vehicles - with a vengeance

As Berry in his Baccus 6mm painting guide wrote: what many wargamers 

fail to realise is that painting 6mm castings requires a rethink of techniques and methods of applying paint. As opposed to producing pieces of military sculpture on wargames bases, we are attempting to create an overall effect of a large body of men and are therefore aiming to emphasise only those features that can be picked out from a viewpoint of over a metre away from the figures.

The general rules that I learned when painting 6mm Napoleonics were:

  • use bright colours, brighter than normal. When painting Napoleonics the trick is to paint the miniature in bright colors, to make it stand out. Don't use Napoleonic dark blue, but very bright mid-blue: don't use dark grey, but light grey. Authentic colours often appear as black or brown from a distance.
  • the visual power is the 'mass effect'
  • paint the unit, not the miniature: the overall look of a base is more important than a bi-coloured plume.

I applied these rules to the WW2 vehicles and infantry,

Painting the green allied vehicles

I found a good vehicle tutorial on the GHQ-website. GHQ advised a 3-step painting technique: a dark wash, higlight, details

 

They use grey as highlight for army green tanks. I bought Irregular vehicles (GHQ is too expensive) and used the same technique:

Painting the German vehicles

The Irregular WW2 armoured division bag contained 3 Tiger 1 tanks, 9 Panther tanks, a lot of Panzer IV's, a few tank hunters, guns and transport vehicles. Without description, alas, so I had to sort out the different sculpts and check the internet: is this a Panther? A Panzer 4 Ausfuhrung H? Or a Tiger? That was annoying. (must add that Ian from Irregular responded quickly when I was still in doubt about some of his models)

I primed the vehicles khaki brown. German late war vehicles are Dunkelgelb. a mustard brown. Irregular didn't win the beauty contest after one coat of paint.

I used a deep black wash (GW Nuln Oil) and a yellowish white bone color (Army Painter bleached bone) for highlighting. The black wash revealed previously unseen details and improved the models greatly. The bone colour lightened the models up and gives a better view from a distance. Medium mustard brown is not bright enough for 6mm tabletop.

A good German camo tutorial can be found here.

German tanks in dunkelgelb with brown and green camo.

Below my 6mm interpretation


 

Instead of chocolate brown I used dark red and instead of dark green I used bright green. Effect: the tanks have a clear camo scene. It's exaggerated, extremely, but from 1 metre/3 feet distance it looks like a camo tank. It's not authentic at all, it's meant to be an emulation.

Painting 6mm Wehrmacht Infantry

Field Grey is greenish grey, in varied colours. In some pictures the jacket is greener than the trousers.

  1. Grey basecoat, black wash. I never use black primer on 6mm miniatures. The miniatures will become too dark. I prime grey or brown, or dark green if WW2.
  2. Uniform jacket Vallejo Field Grey. Textbook Germans.
  3. Black guns and boots
  4. Then a dark brown wash on the upper body. (That differed from 6mm Baccus Napoleonics. A post-painting dark wash on bright blue or red dulls a 6mm Napoleonic soldier. On a 7,5 mm green-brown-grey Adler WW2-soldier, it nicely deepens the shadows and improves the contrast and the the lines without spoiling the figure).
  5. Pay some attention to the face. Apply wash to the body, but NOT to the face - or apply wash but paint the face afterwards with a pale flesh colour.
  6. Finally a light grey dot to highlight the helmet. Always highlight the infantry helmet. The helmet is one of the features that you see from a distance from above.

(Not) Painting 6mm Waffen SS Camouflage

As WW2-newbie I'm not very fond of gaming with Waffen SS-troops ('never play with the SS', as they said during the war) but war is hell anyway and every game - this is a dice game - needs its black orcs. Waffen SS in camouflage schmocks battled in Normandy, Arnhem and the Ardennes and these are my preferred battlefields. I can't change history. Below pics of Waffen-SS-in late war camouflage clothing, they wore green and/ or brown camo, impossible to  paint in 6mm. I chose the brown 'sumpfmuster' camo, below.

I didn't want green because, again, I want these miniatures to be different from Americans from a distance. I emulated the brown camo, painting the jackets in a mustard orange (GW Tau Ochre) and a brown wash over the helmet and jacket. With grey trousers and their Stahlhelms they look 'German'. I again highlighted the helmet, this time with ochre.

Painting blue 6mm Fallschirmjäger

The elite Fallschirmjäger had more blue-ish fieldgrey trousers, a jump suit and a pot helmet. And camouflage, after 41:

  • camo on a grey jacket (splittermuster)
  • camo on a red brown jacket (sumpfmuster 43)
  • and camo on a ochre jacket (sumpfmuster 44). See the Farnworth guide, here.

Farnworth's advice (for 28mm)

"To differentiate the Luftwaffe tunic from other German uniforms, I suggest you emphasise the blue. This can be done by mixing blue with Feldgrau or by using Vallejo Field Blue."

Different models below:

Again, I wanted difference. So:

  1. Blue basecoat. Trousers and equipment medium blue, because I exaggerate the blue.
  2. Late war NW Europe (Normandy, Arnhem, Ardennes) had sumpfmuster camo jumpsuits. So just like the SS I painted the jackets Tau Ochre.
  3. The helmet is in some pictures Luftwaffe blue. Luftwaffe blue is however a common mistake, I learned. The Fallschirmjäger helmet was grey or dark grey or green grey or dunkelgelb with camouflage. Dunkelgelb/Tau Ochre was no option, too similar to the SS camo scheme. And with grey they stilll looked like SS with grey helmets. So in the end I painted the helmets Army Painter army green with a grey highlight, to emulate green grey or a greenish camo.
  4. A careful brown wash on the upper body only, don't spill it on the head/face/helmet.
  5. I colour coded the front rim of the base nightshade blue

​Painting British infantry

Easy paintjob.

  1. Medium brown basecoat, then a black wash
  2. yellow brown highlight
  3. black weapons and boots
  4. pale green (Army Green) equipment
  5. pale green helmet with a grey dot
  6. brown wash

Painting 6mm British Para camouflage

British paratroopers and their camouflage jackets caused me headaches in 6mm.

  • this camouflage effect is impossible to paint (yes, everything is possible but this jacket camo is unrecognizable from a distance)
  • their camouflage uniforms are confusing, I found out that paratroopers had a 'green' camo jacket and a more khaki / beige/ brown camo jacket
  • I experimented with bright green jackets but they looked like weird bright green soldiers from Mars. Chinese toy soldiers.
  • monotonous dark green made them look like US soldiers
  • monotonous brown made them look like all other British infantry.
  • I spraypainted the miniatures army green and painted the trousers light, (desert yellow} brown. But even with an emphasized colour difference between the brown trousers and the darker green jackets they were too similar to US soldiers, IMHO. For example, compare the brown/green painted Baccus British paratroopers with US infantry in the same colour scheme, below. Interchangeable, except for the red beret.

So, camouflage, nevertheless? Pictures in 15, 10 and 6mm scale were not really convincing. The smaller the miniature, the less visible any camo effect.

 

So what to do? How to make them different?

  1. The most striking feature is the red beret. As rule #1, I often added one red beret to a base. 6mm is the art of exaggeration. My beret colour is striking red with an orange higlight.
  2. I didn't have enough berets, so with other bases I used Adler parachutes and grass green highlighted canisters, or airborne jeeps for easier identification of the base.
  3. I also used colour coding. I colour coded the front rim red, a thin red line, just as I do with my Napoleonics. Invisible but effective.
  4. And yes, on second thought, camo. So
    1. I primed half of the miniatures brown and painted the jackets dark green. I primed the other half dark green and painted the trousers khaki brown. Then a wash. When mixed, from a distance the miniatures show some green-brown variation.
    2. I added small dots bright grass green, bone yellow and brick red as camouflage colours, as exaggerated versions of the original camouflage colours
  5. I highlighted the helmet bright grass green. 

The camouflage pattern as such is difficult to spot from a difference. But in combination with the grass green highlights and items, the red berets, optional jeeps, the base colour and the red colour code my British airborne is relatively easy to identify.

My 6mm US Infantry Buff Blouson Army

Again, my goal was to make the US soldiers recognizable. Different. Different from other nationalities.

The US uniform changed during the years, according to this very clearly written FOW painting guide or the pics below:

Buff/khaki is the 1941 uniform, olive drab/khaki is 1943, late1944 and 1945 is olive drab all over.

A speedy solution would be army green spray paint and a black wash. Result is just another darkish army in a vaguely green color. Below, two random examples from the web. Tell me, which is the German Wehrmacht and which is the US army?

Besides, olive green is sooo 1945...

(US army on the left, BTW.)

Very typical IMHO is the buff blouson and the brown shoes. Here's what I did to create a generic 1941-1944 US Army, with mixed colours

  • brown undercoat. Just like the Brits.
  • I painted many with an off-white blouson, at least 40%. The others got army green jackets.
  • black weapons
  • chestnut brown for the shoes/boots
  • brown wash
  • helmets: army green with a grey highlight

US Airborne: Pale Riders aka the Unbearable Beings of Lightness

The different painting guides say that the US paratroopers had a more khaki uniform until autumn 1944 and afterwards an olive drab uniform. I chose the light khaki uniform as the most typical, 'Band of Brothers'- uniform.

Painting guides disagree about the right 'colour'. Some describe the light khaki as light khaki green, some as light khaki brown. I didn't want another brown army. The bags, above, are camel. Their helmets are green. The colour is something inbetween. For the 6mm figures I exaggerated the lightness of the US Airborne khaki colour. US paratroopers wore green kneepads.

  • grey primer
  • very watery Tau ochre/army green mix, more a wash
  • helmet: army green, grey highlight
  • brown boots
  • small green dots on the knees.
  • NO dark wash at all.