Painting 6mm Napoleonics: fast, but how fast? A test

(updated) Some time ago I started a big 6mm project for my favorite Napoleonic game, Blücher. 'Big' means: 6 Baccus armies, 2 British,  2 French, 2 Prussian and a Dutch army. Each army has 240 infantry figures and 108 cavalry, plus some artillery and commanders - about 1750 infantry and 750 cavalry. I paint every evening these days, when work is done, my kids are asleep and my wife is watching television. In fact I MUST if I want to conquer this mountain of lead within reasonable time.

15mm was my favorite scale, but for post-1720 battles I prefer the 6mm mass effect. And 28mm? 28mm figures are toy soldiers. Good for skirmishes only. I want a toy ARMY.

Ëverybody says that 6mm is easy and quick to paint. I thought so, but I wanted to test it. I'm an experienced 15mm speedpainter and I painted and based two 15mm musketeer armies in about 47 hours, about 12-13 minutes per miniature including basing. I wanted a comparison.

So yesterday evening I painted a French 3-base regiment: two line infantry bases plus one skirmish base. I glue 4 strips on a 15x40mm line base and one line (grenadiers) and one skirmish (voltigueurs) strip on a 20x40mm skirmish base. Thats ten strips / 40 miniatures in total. I checked the time of each layer and this small project as a whole. I'm not an ambitious pro painter, just mediocre, one meter distance tabletop quality is good enough for me. This French army is the 5th army in my 6mm-career. 

A few pics and comments:

I use a standard medium brush and sometimes a fine brush. I used to prime the miniatures black but discovered last month that brown with a black wash shows more detail when painting. Besides I don't need to paint the brown rifles and knapsacks anymore.

Above: my 40 thieves, primed brown


Above: layer 1 (white) and 2 (blue). 15 minutes each. I lightly paint the miniatures, kind of drybrushing.

Above:  layer 3 (red) and 4 (flesh). 15 minutes each.

Above: layer 5-7 (black. shako's, boots, ammo box: grey rolled coat: silver gun barrel): 20 minutes

Above: layer 8: small details (gold, cords: white dots) 20 minutes

Above: layer 9: finishing, detailing officers, drummers, grenadiers. skirmishers: 20 minutes

Above: finally: basing & the flag (10 minutes). Warning: don't zoom in, it looks blobby from nearby :-) I was shocked myself. Couldn't sleep.

But this is the result from some distance, three bases in a scenic column, a dense unit with recognizable grenadiers and tirailleurs.

Total time: 2hrs 10 minutes.

If these 10 strips with 40 miniatures would be the equivalent of three bases with 10 speedpainted & dipped 15mm miniatures then these ten 15mm miniatures would have cost me approximately120-130 minutes to paint. Same time. The total time per miniature makes a big difference, in about two hours I paint 40 miniatures instead of 10. So, is it quicker? Depends what you count.

I can't really compare it with 28mm, I haven't painted 28mm for 25 years. But what I read on the web is that the really quick 28mm-painters need 15-30 minutes for a simple miniature and that a standard painter finishes a Napoleonic mini in 1-4 hours.

I found a blog of seasoned 6mm painter Dr Mike, who for a change painted a 26-figure Prussian unit. He concluded:

 I reckon a conservative estimate at around 45-50 hours all told to get this one unit finished. In 6mm I could have painted 12-16 units of 48 models and have the core of an army done. One of the sticking points I found was the lack of productivity. In 6mm I would have comfortably seen a unit of 48 models finished every 1-2 evenings.