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Monday, September 18, 2023

Bydand! A Painting Guide for the 1st Bn, Gordon Highlanders, Part 1

On Picket Duty

I have probably painted more Highlanders (and clansmen!) than there are currently in the British Army. Let's face it. They add that extra charm to a British force no matter what the era - time to send some to the Northwest Frontier for The Men Who Would be Kings. Over the years I have developed many techniques in painting highlanders. When I was younger (and had younger eyes) they were super detailed. One of the best units I painted was the 42nd Highlanders using the old Minifigs Napoleonic Highlanders in 15mm. When you got up close and looked at them, they looked fantastic. When gaming . . . well, I could tell they were highlanders but you really couldn't see the intricate, detailed painting. Now my preferred technique is to paint figures to what they look like at gaming distance. The above photo is not quite gaming distance but pretty close. By gaming distance I refer to "what does the figure look like when I'm standing or sitting around the gaming table playing a game." When I game, my eyeball is not next to the figure! Anyway, here is a technique, not the technique, but a guide that will hopefully inspire you to get some Highland regiments on the table.

1. Let's do some Perry Miniatures Highlanders. Always, and I mean always, prime your figure. Paint sticks better to paint and it will make your life a lot easier. It really doesn't matter if you use white, black, brown or grey. That's up to you and what style or painting technique you are using. For the Gordons, I'm using white primer as I have been experimenting with GW Contrast paints and they only work with white to grey.

2. I'm using Vallejo Dark Flesh for the base of all skin.

3. Time for some Contrast paint. GW Contrasts and their counterparts with other companies require and different, and faster, painting style than I am used to doing. So far, after practice, they have done the job for my Colonial troops. I used Contrast Skeleton Horde for the helmet, uniform jacket, gaiters, canteen and the cantle (the cantle is the upside down, half moon shaped piece on the front of the kilt on the sporran). As this was a test figure, I forgot to paint the canteen, gaiters and cantle until later.

4. Use Contrast Darkoath (BWAH HAH HAH) Flesh on all of the skin. I feel this does a good job of shading over the Vallejo Dark Flesh. Hey! And we remembered to paint the gaiters.

5. I used Contrast Snakebite Leather for the Slade-Wallace equipment and that dapper mustache on the Perry figurePerry figure.

Here you can see the back of the Slade-Wallace equipment and the hair under the helmet.

Yep. Finally noticed the canteen. As a reminder I used Contrast Skeleton Horde.

Starting to look imposing!  And I noticed the cantle (Contrast Skeleton Horde). The Sergeant Major will be grudgingly proud.

6. Paint the Haversack and associated Haversack straps Vallejo Buff.

Haversack strap in the front.


Okay. Please ignore the completed figure above except for the haversack. I thought the haversack looked a little light in color for my taste. As I checked my paints and notes, I realized that I had painted the haversack with Vallejo Deck Tan instead of Vallejo Buff. After I took all of the photos, I went back and painted it Buff. Nothing wrong with using Deck Tan or something similar; I just think Buff looks better.

Haversack strap in the front painted Vallejo Buff. Yeah. It looks better. All the rest of the photos will have the Deck Tan - just pretend it's Buff.

8. For the base of the kilt I used Vallejo Dark Blue. The actual Gordon kilt should have a darker blue, but I have discovered that some dark colors at a distance just don't look great so I usually make them a shade lighter so you can tell what they are.

9. The mess kit on the back was painted Contrast Basilicanum Grey. Please don't make me research the GW website to figure out what a Basilicanum is one of their universes.

10. For the hose I used Vallejo Flat Red.

11. Pick your silver type metal of choice for the rifle. I used Vallejo Silver and Gold but first painted the areas with Flat Black before applying the silver and gold. Metal colors seem to always look better when painted on black. I also used Flat black for the cross hatch on the hose, the boots, bayonet scabbard and the tail thingies hanging from the gold thingies on the sporran.

I'm not crazy about the cross hatch on the hose.

Somewhere along the way I remembered to paint the straps on the canteen Contrast Snakebite Leather. 

I'm not really excited with the look of the hose so I'm probably going to redo the painting.

In Part 2: Painting the Kilt without going insane.


  1. The kilted preview looks good, I await your method! The truth is, at any reasonable distance most kilts would be a vague impression of the two main colors at most, thus our gamer short cuts on these iconic garments a compromise between appearance, realism, and practicality. More an impression of the Tartan, which works perfectly fine!

    1. I agree. My beautiful 15mm Napoleonic Highlanders looked like that were wearing black kilts while gaming. I usually use just three colors and it looks pretty good at 28mm.

  2. Thanks Neil. Great tutorial on using the contrast paint and regular ones. Curious what color you used for the rifle. I may have missed it. Skeleton Horde is my go to for almost all shading these days.

    1. Whoops! I did leave that out. I used GW Contrast Cygor Brown.