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"What Color Is Your Bow?" Topic

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18 May 2020 12:51 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian18 May 2020 12:49 p.m. PST

Imagine that your buddy calls you up. He's a new wargamer, says he's painting up some generic bowmen, what color should he paint the bow?

Or, in other words, what is your default color for a standard bow in the ancient/medieval period?

* black
* dark brown
* brown
* tan
* leather brown

Huscarle18 May 2020 1:04 p.m. PST

Various wood browns for short or longbows.
Normally bone colour for composite bows.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 1:10 p.m. PST

Usually use a medium brown

I have also used a bone colour with a sepia wash for longbows

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 1:14 p.m. PST

old wood mostly

Knob18 May 2020 1:16 p.m. PST

That's a bit personal don't ya think? ;)

Glengarry518 May 2020 1:21 p.m. PST

I saw what you did there!

Corporal Fagen18 May 2020 1:22 p.m. PST

Ceramcoat Raw Sienna

MajorB18 May 2020 1:23 p.m. PST

If it's an English longbow (more properly a warbow) then the heart wood (on the inside) is a nice red-brown and the sap wood (on the outside) is a pale cream colour.

Glengarry518 May 2020 1:36 p.m. PST

Americana Milk Chocolate

Legionarius18 May 2020 1:54 p.m. PST

This is a question of preference. Various browns, light yellows and tans are all good. In some cases they can even be decorated.

Who cares? Real legionnaires don't use bows! ;)

dilettante Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 1:57 p.m. PST


Actually, I'd do a variety of shades or colors.

377CSG Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 2:16 p.m. PST

Panzer Aces – New Wood and good for musket stocks.

coopman18 May 2020 2:33 p.m. PST

I have been using Khaki for bows and spears for several years now.

TNE230018 May 2020 3:04 p.m. PST

were medieval bow ever painted or stained?

rustymusket18 May 2020 3:24 p.m. PST

lighter than tan.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP18 May 2020 4:49 p.m. PST

Various shades of brown.

More professional troops and troops that are very close to home will have only two different colours. The further from those criteria, the more colours.

However many colours of bow a unit has, it will have more different colours of arrow shaft.

Nutmeg brown is my favourite.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 5:02 p.m. PST

Tan, almost yellow.

Yesthatphil18 May 2020 5:03 p.m. PST

Light tan/sand, with a tinted wash, for most bows, light on the outside with a red-brown on the inside for English longbows (also with the wash). That's for 15 and 28. I have some 2s and 6s they just got one colour + the wash.

The jury is out for 10mm (I'm doing some and haven't decided).

I think the 2 tones are important for longbows as it what is (frequently) shown in art (so people must have understood it to be a feature of the weapon) …


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2020 6:19 p.m. PST

Depends. Some are in the tan spectrum, some are brown, some are dark brown. But I'm usually consistent within a given unit.

KSmyth18 May 2020 7:07 p.m. PST

I use buff.

Royston Papworth19 May 2020 3:11 a.m. PST

Interestingly, YTP's illustration shows spears in the same yellow -Brown combo As the warbows…

I wonder if that is just the way they do weapons in art?

Yesthatphil19 May 2020 3:45 a.m. PST

Good point, Royston … perhaps not the best illustration to use given (as you point out) the artists seems to use the same tones for shading …

How about this

… as a depiction of this …

I think the two tones of the traditionally constructed longbow are something artists knew about and copied.


French Wargame Holidays19 May 2020 3:50 a.m. PST

light brown red inner and bone outer on 28mm for English Yew Longbow

beige brown for European continental longbow

black brown for eurasian

bone/black or bone/brown for recurve horse bows


Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2020 7:50 a.m. PST

I was lead to believe that the two tones were to represent heart wood and sap wood and that the best bows were made across the junction of the two woods making the use of differing properties of the woods. I have seen works casting dought on this so are not sure.


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2020 9:13 a.m. PST

I generally use a light to medium brown.

Royston Papworth19 May 2020 10:26 a.m. PST

Hi Phil,

Much clearer. 👍

I never knew about the two colours… I just use Foundry Spearshaft for bows.

However, I won't be going back and repainting my Yorkist WotR army! 😂

MajorB19 May 2020 10:58 a.m. PST

I was lead to believe that the two tones were to represent heart wood and sap wood and that the best bows were made across the junction of the two woods making the use of differing properties of the woods.

Correct. Ask anyone who makes longbows.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2020 11:21 a.m. PST

To be honest, I have more important concerns. Any shade of brown will work.

Similarly questions regarding the precise color for any given uniform, is too much, IMO. Prior to the 20th century, all fabrics were dyed using natural, organic dyes. No two dye batches were exactly the same color. The dye decreased in color with each item soaked in the bath!

Took a class on natural dyes a few years ago. Saw it firsthand, experienced it firsthand, dyeing wool myself. There is tremendous variance in all natural dye batches, even within each item dyed in the same vat, with the same dye batch!

Only with using modern synthetic dyes, can the colors be precisely controlled, and repeatable. Even with brute-force, synthetic dyes, the colors will fade differently with each item.

Fretting over getting "the right shade", is a bit unrealistic, and not historically accurate. Do what you will, but if you want realistic shading, make every single figure a slightly different shade. ;-) Cheers!

Cerdic19 May 2020 11:23 a.m. PST

Mine's green.

But then, it's not a historical replica. Just a cheap modern one…

CeruLucifus19 May 2020 11:30 p.m. PST

I have found lighter colors show up well so any offwhite, cream, tan, light brown, lighter redbrown, even yellow. This lets me use brown wash to darken and shade.

Did not know about the 2 colors of wood in longbows, so thanks for that. Will try to paint my next bow figures that way.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2020 1:21 p.m. PST


Cerdic22 May 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

…so you can find it in the snow. Right Gunny mate?

von Schwartz30 May 2020 6:18 p.m. PST

old wood mostly


Is it just me that finds that comment somewhat suggestive?

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