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Panzerknacker

Panzerknacker

Building a 1/9 Scale Figure

Panzerknackerby David Clarke 

 

The great thing about building and painting figures in 1/9 or 1/6 scale is the unbelievable amount of detail that can be realistically molded: seams and texture in clothing, wonderfully reproduced eyebrows and individual strands of hair, veins in the hands, insignia that is spot on, and easily painted eyes. In general, I find it much easier to paint a figure in this scale than a 1/35 scale figure because everything is readily visible. Every 1/9 scale Warriors figure I have purchased is literally crammed with details that are impossible to mold in smaller scales.

 

The challenge of building a larger scaled figure involves altering one’s painting style to show off all the detail. A Fall SS oak leaf pattern camouflage in a smaller scale is relatively easy to paint using three colors- a gray base, a toned down black, and reddish orange. In reality, this pattern also contained a darker red brown border around the orange, and its difficult to see the contrast between the two in 1/35. Minute splashes and dots of color present in the real camouflage pattern are relatively easy to paint in 1/9 scale. Things like a catch light in the eyes, detailed finger nails, nuances of color in the lips, all have to be presented in 1/9 or 1/6 scale to create a realistic figure, and many figure painters wouldn’t think of trying to replicate any of this in 1/35.

 

All resin figures have seams and resin plugs that have to be removed. This one was no exception. Luckily, the over pours on this figure are confined to places that are easily accessible and don’t affect molded detail when they were removed. A few seams along the torso were quickly sanded off. All of this is easily accomplished with a pair of Xuron flush cutting nippers, a sharp x-acto knife and some sanding sticks in various grades. Most resin figures contain a release agent or resin dust coating the pieces, so I always wash the assembled figure in warm water with dish washing liquid and an old toothbrush before painting. I’ve also found that Pink Soap, a liquid pinkish artist’s cleanser for removing paint from brushes, is also quite good in eliminating contaminants.

 

Once the major pieces have dried overnight, I usually prime the clothed parts of the figure with Floquil or Testors aerosol primer. The trick is to make several light passes instead of one prolonged squirt. I usually don’t prime areas involving flesh tones unless they’re molded in a darker colored resin. Instead, I coat these areas with a heavy wash of Humbrol flesh with a drop or two of Humbrol wood added to tone down the peachy color. Every part of the face is covered with a light coat of paint, though it’s still easy to see detail, highlights, and shadows on a face if the natural light colored resin shows through, so don’t go heavy with the base coat.

 

I almost always concentrate on painting the face before the rest of the figure, although every now and then a challenging camouflage scheme will excite me enough to attempt it first. If the clothing is exceptionally finished, but the face is mediocre, the entire figure is not worth showing. In larger scales, I always use artist’s oil paint to complete faces. I used to limit myself to enamels and some Vallejo or Andrea colors in 1/35 scale, but I’ve recently tried oils on this level with some success as well. Artist’s oil paint takes much longer to dry than enamels and acrylics, so it is easier to create subtle differences in shadow and highlight through feathering. It’s also easy to take a piece of paper towel soaked in thinner and wipe out any mistakes without having to strip the entire face. I’ve come to the conclusion that completely stripping a figure with Easy-off oven cleaner is almost guaranteed in some cases. If a figure, or even an armor kit, doesn’t turn out exactly the way I want it to, I’ll strip it and then put it away until I feel the urge to try again.

 

PanzerknackerI consistently refer to Historical Miniatures Magazine, #14 when painting large scale faces. It has a wonderful article on page 32 on how to use oils for this purpose. I usually mix up my base color from equal parts of mars orange and titanium white with a dab of mars yellow or yellow ochre. While this is still wet, I add more titanium white to the base color for highlights and apply this to the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, chin, ear lobes and the top of the upper lip. Areas that get a lot of light, such as the tip of the nose, the tops of creases in the face, the highest point in the cheek bones, etc, get a light brush of straight titanium white on top of the normal highlights. After twenty minutes or so, feather the base and highlight colors by lightly brushing in a stippling motion along the border where both colors meet. This reduces any sharp variation between base and highlights. Concentrate on the border areas between colors only. Don’t brush nice highlights into oblivion by being overzealous. Subtlety is the key.

 

Shadow colors, and dark colors in general, overpower highlights and lighter colors, so it’s always easier to apply those last. Very little dark brown will quickly obliterate a highlight color, and you will have to add a considerable amount of highlight to tone down a shadow. I’ve seen several Verlinden articles in which the painter started with shadow colors overall and then gradually lightened up the face. I feel that this gives a darker tone to the skin, and European skin tones are consistently pale. Look at any of the black and white close up shots from World War Two. The skin tones are almost translucent. I also find it much easier to see and paint the highlights when they’re not covered in dark paint.

 

To create a basic shadow tone, I mix mars orange and mars brown to make a medium reddish brown color. This goes around the eyes, on the side of the nose, along the hairline, under the bottom lip and below the cheek bones. Hold the face beneath a light. Anywhere you see shadow, that’s where you concentrate. Wait twenty minutes, and feather again. Finally, I add a deep shadow by mixing brown madder alizarin and purple madder alizarin to make a purplish brown color.

 

This goes very sparingly into the deepest creases. This last application involves a very strong color, so a little goes a long way. Feather again, and then look for any areas that need to be accentuated with further highlighting or shadows. Some contrast is necessary to bring a face to life. However, I stay away from the theatrical style of painting in which the depth of tone between shadow and highlight is excessive. Real warriors don’t wear rouge or lip stick, so don’t overdo it.

 

The eyes are always problematic in any scale, though much less difficult in 1/9. The whites of one’s eyes are not really white at all. In fact, avoid white altogether unless you are going for a pop-eyed look. I use a heavy wash of Vallejo or Andrea acrylic off-white/very light gray with a drop of flesh color to fill the eyeball, and then let it dry. If I screw up the eyes later on with oil or enamel paint, I can always use a cue tip dipped in thinner to eliminate the problem without hurting the light base. I start with black to make the basic shape of the eye. Use your own preference for eye color next; I chose a suitable Teutonic blue for this figure.

 

PanzerknackerLeave a black outline when applying the eye’s color. If you’re really looking for a challenge, apply lighter lines of basic eye color within the iris to give the eye a natural depth. A small, translucent half-circle swoosh of titanium white oil paint on the bottom half of the iris imitates sunlight. A black dot in the center makes a good pupil, and a very small dot of white in the middle of that makes a catch light. Both corners of the eyelid get a drop of crimson oil paint where the tear ducts go, and this gets feathered towards the middle of the eye. I usually wait a couple of days for the paint to dry, and then add a light wash of sepia or burnt umber oil paint to accentuate shadows in the eye under the eye lid.

 

 

I was restricted to a fall camouflage pattern on the parka because it has reinforced patches on the elbows. These factory additions were integral to Fall/Winter combination jackets only for some reason. The spring colored jackets didn’t have them. I bought Camouflage Uniforms of the Waffen SS, written by Michael D. Beaver and published by Schiffer, to guarantee that this tidbit of information is correct. Since the patches were molded on and I was striving for complete authenticity, it left me with little choice. If you’re not fussy, paint the jacket in spring colors. After all, who’s going to be geeky enough to point out the discrepancy? Other than winter white, these parkas were only printed in three camouflage patterns for the SS: oak leaf, blurred edge and, rarely, in pea pattern.

 

PanzerknackerThe Wehrmacht used different colors and patterns with straight edged pocket flaps instead of the scalloped SS pocket flaps present on this figure. I used Humbrol medium gray as the base color, though a medium earthy brown would do as well. Despite incredible vibrancy of color and quick water clean up, Andrea or Vallejo acrylics are not useful for brush painting large areas, though Vallejo has recently released airbrush acrylic colors that would do well for a figure this size. However, Vallejo and Andrea acrylics are perfect for reproducing the camouflage pattern.

 

Most SS patterns were extremely vibrant, even in fall colors, and water based Vallejo/Andrea colors reproduce this vibrancy much better than enamels. Over the gray base coat, I applied a darker brown mixed from Vallejo and Andrea colors in large, random splotches until almost half of the base coat was covered with the basic camouflage pattern. Then I added smaller random spots and splotches of the same brown color in between to reproduce the mottling associated with oak leaf camouflage. I dabbed the orange ochre color over the brown, again striving for a random pattern and leaving plenty of the brown in outline.

 

I finished by adding the off-black color in dots, splashes and random dabs all over the base and camouflage colors. Once dry, I mixed a dark gray color from Humbrol paints for shadows, and then added a light wash of sepia oil in places like seams and areas of particularly dark shadows. Highlighting with a light beige gray was kept to a minimum. The pants and field cap were done in Vallejo field gray, and then given a wash of green umber oil paint. Sepia oil paint was added to the darkest shadow areas, and I used a light green-gray from Vallejo to highlight.

 

PanzerknackerGerman belts, boots and shoulder harnesses were usually made of black leather, though field gray webbing was present towards the end of the war.

 

 

I always undercoat black leather with a medium reddish brown. Once dry, I give these areas a heavy wash of black oil paint or matt black Humbrol with a drop of gloss coat, allowing the reddish brown to show through in places. This simulates worn and scuffed leather perfectly.

 

 

 

PanzerknackerThe only thing I had to scratchbuild for this figure was the sling for the MP44, and I used a strip from a 5 by seven index card for this. I cut an appropriately sized strip of paper and dipped in water to make it pliable. When I had it attached to the gun and drooping in the right areas, I let it dry overnight.

 

The next day, I coated the paper with super thin cyanoacrylate super glue, instantly transforming the paper sling into a resin-like substitute that was considerably tougher and easier to paint.

 

German small arms were always semi-gloss black. Look through German Automatic Weapons of World War Two, written by Robert Bruce and published by The Crowood Press. Everything from a Mauser Schnellfeuer to an FG 42 was black! The best way to simulate this is to paint a base coat of Humbrol matt black with a drop or two of gloss varnish, and then dry brush with steel, finished off with a very light dry brushing of silver. I usually paint wooden handgrips with a base coat of semi-gloss yellow. Once dry, I overcoat this with a heavy wash of burnt sienna oil paint to simulate a wooden grained effect. This also works perfectly for the pioneer tools on tanks.

 

PanzerknackerAlthough very large, the base is actually made of light foam resin. Surprisingly, the figure weighs more than the base. I started painting the base with a very dark black-brown earth tone and dry brushed increasingly lighter. I added Custom Dioramics tall grass in clumps, and since this was a fall scene, I made fallen oak leaves from typing paper and painted them in an orange ochre color to match the jacket.

 

This figure is virtually flawless, and I enjoyed building and painting it so much that I am definitely going to order another to make into a much bigger Ardennes scene using other 1/9 scale Warriors figures. The kit even comes with a large decal sheet for the figure, markings on the grenades, and warning labels for the panzerfaust! The retail price might seem a little steep when compared to smaller scale figures or even armor and plane kits, but you get extraordinary value for the money.

 

This kit kept me happily painting for three months, though I’m sure it could be finished in much better time if you didn’t stop to admire the sculpting and inspiring detail as much as I did. I unreservedly recommend this figure to anyone interested in trying out his or her painting skills on something fun and challenging. The finished figure and base will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows. On a side note, I now find myself demanding, and occasionally even getting, the same quality of finish and detail in 1/35 scale figures.

 

Photos by Phil Novak