Author Topic: Modelling and Painting World War 1 Allied Figures - By Mike Butler  (Read 6296 times)

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Modelling and Painting World War 1 Allied Figures - By Mike Butler
« on: September 30, 2022, 06:40:13 PM »
Modelling and Painting World War 1 Allied Figures

By Mike Butler

REVIEWED BY David Wilson

Price: £19.95 print edition; £15.99 eBook digital download.
Stockist: Available through the publisher The Crowood Press website at:

Contents:  208 pages, text, colour images, artwork.

WW1 modelling has enjoyed an amazing renaissance in the past decade or so, thanks in part to the advent of kit manufacturers such as Wingnut Wings whose world class kit quality re-defined the WW1 hobby focus and brought a whole new audience to the hobby.
As more spectacular WW1 kits appeared on the market, coupled with 100th anniversaries of WW1 events, it had a flow-on effect  throughout the hobby and never more so that in the area of scale figures.
Figures and busts have long been their own niche in the modelling hobby but their popularity has expanded into the more mainstream area as modellers seeking quality figures either as standalone pieces or to go with their quality models  encouraged a whole cottage industry to produce more figures. In time model companies started producing high quality WW1 armour and vehicle kits, which further created a demand for figures to enhance dioramas.
Soon, names like Tommy’s War, Model Cellar, MasterBox, Kellerkind and Copper State became identified among the manufacturers of the best WW1 figures.

However a reality in modelling is that modellers who can produce astonishing aircraft or armour models can be novices at painting the WW1 figures to go with them.
How often have we seen spectacular aircraft models accompanied  by figures in glossy painted uniforms with googly eyes?
What we needed was an expert in figure painting to calmly, methodically and simply walk us through the magic of bringing WW1 figures to life.

Meet Mike Butler.

Mike ‘The Kiwi’ Butler, who this reviewer regards as one of the finest WW1 figure painters in the world (he’s also a Forum member!) has been into military modelling for more than 40 years and specialising in figures since the 1990s.
Mike’s 11 year service in the NZ Army has given him the drive to portray military miniature figures in the most authentic and accurate way possible.
Mike’s quest to share the love of figure painting has now culminated in this book, a plain English ‘how to’ practical guide to achieve life-like results from Great War figures.

Specifically Mike has focused on techniques to recreate Allied figures of Great Britain, the Commonwealth ( especially New Zealand), France and Belgium. It also touches on Russia and Italy.
So how can a book teach the novice how to paint a military figure, especially when the internet is filled with ‘how to’ video guides?.
Mike does this by stripping the process back to the bare bones and walking us through the entire painting process, step by step, simply in easy to follow (and well illustrated lessons).
Those whose idea of painting a British soldier is to smother it in Humbrol 26 khaki and Humbrol 61 flesh and call it done will learn how to subtly work in layers, building up tones and textures through brush techniques such as stippling and dabbing ( it’s all explained in the book)

The end result is a book which is going to be THE must-have reference book for anyone wanting to learn how to paint WW1 figures.

Through a carefully worded text and more than 325 quality photographs, this ‘how to’ volume covers useful references for soldiers’ clothing and equipment in WW1, what soldiers looked like in WW1, and then step by step guides on how to recreate these items and accurately capture their tones and colours.
Mike’s techniques span full figures in all the key scales and also busts – taking us through different scales, mediums and especially the materials needed (paints, brushes etc).
His book is sprinkled with tips on painting and clearly explained techniques plus relevant paint and colour callouts where necessary.
In addition to copious colour photos there are useful sketches to highlight specific items such as uniform details or equipment.

In particular he devotes time to capturing the actual colour tones of skin and uniforms, especially recreating the look of soldiers in battle conditions.
A great deal of thought and planning has gone into this work which covers topics as diverse as the different figure kits and busts on the market, basic materials and tools and the many paints and brushes used to bring out the finest details.
The book is refreshingly helpful by walking us through the various types of paints figure modellers use, including oils and acrylics and the various hobby and craft brands now available, such as Jo Sonjas.

Mike walks us through the nuances of painting metal, resin and plastic figures and the challenges each type presents. Dioramas are covered too and everything is complemented by some very useful historical background on uniforms of WW1, illustrated by useful colour photos of re enactors in WW1 gear – essential for getting the detail right on uniforms.

With regard to uniforms it has to be said there’s a lot of focus on New Zealand soldiers, a bit less on British Tommies and a rather surprising four pages devoted to Belgian figures.
At first thought this seems out of whack but I suspect the rationale is to offer a variety of colours other than khaki drab. The Belgian and French figures offer a chance to explore other uniform colours (and they go perfectly with Copper State’s armoured cars and Nieuports).

While there’s also a sample of Italian and Russian figures too the book does not cover American, Canadian, South African or other Allied figures- a surprising omission ( but perhaps these uniforms are so similar to those featured in the book may explain why. Either way, this is not an exhaustive study of every Allied combatant nation in WW1, but the techniques described can be used to detail any figure.

Where it shines is in the way the author does not assume we are familiar with figure painting but carefully explains every aspect to the reader. Materials and tools are discussed, the best putties and so on.

In particular he explores the many paints used - oils, acrylics, gouache and enamels, lacquers, inks. It’s a comprehensive list.
Useful sketches sprinkled through highlight the book’s advice with sketches and photos to illustrate specific painting techniques.
Mike goes into detail on the types of brushes used to achieve different effects and the painting techniques he uses to achieve these results.

Although there’s a strong emphasis on soldiers and ground forces Mike also has useful chapters on painting WW1 pilots, including a detailed walk through of the Lanoe Hawker figure that featured in the Wingnut Wings DH2 release.

Other chapters of interest include converting Tommys War figures and how he painted two specific Tommys War figure conversions. He also details a diorama of NZ troops at Gallipoli, an image of which features on the book’s cover.


This book is clearly aimed at newcomers and explains its points in Plain English. Excellent illustrations and how-to art work combine to make this a winner.


Very Highly recommended. A ‘must have’ for WW1 figure modellers. 

(Review copy courtesy of The Crowood Press. Please support the businesses  that support our Forum)

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