Help support TMP

5 - The 6mm Sumerian King and His Spears

6mm Sumerian Army Pack
Product #
Suggested Retail Price
£9.00 GBP


Back to Workbench

Bob in Edmonton writes:


I agree with you about visualizing being tough. Baccus is easier than irregular as irregular are more stylized sculpts (maybe stylized is the wrong term—the point being irregular aren't as statue-like as Baccus but both look good (in different ways) at the end).

The white drybrush on black (using a wetter drybrush than when trying to do highlights on a big figure) is really easy. I'm no great painter and if I can, almost anyone can—just on quick drag across the front and back of the row of figures pretty much does it. Suddenly you can tell and arm from a cloak and a spear from flash.

The effect of the white drybrush is that it brightens the paints up on the raised areas and you get almost a shading if any of the paint spills onto the black areas. And lighter paints than real life is a good idea—that whole scale/distance/light diffusion thing.

Anyhow, its fast painting and the effect is a bit more realistic than much of what you see on the irregular website—the figures look a bit caked in paint there and many really lose the depth they have in real life.

Bob in Edmonton

Revision Log
21 October 2005page first published

6,761 hits since 21 Oct 2005
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

I've written a couple of articles now on my quest for a 6mm scale Sumerian army, and I've done my best to communicate my ups and downs along the way - and yet, after the most recent article, someone asked:

Are they difficult to paint?

Which at first frustrated me because it meant I wasn't doing a good job explaining... but then, I thought: Let's try showing the process again, step by step this time.

And at this exact moment, while I'm waiting for more of the "thick" stands from Litko to arrive, there's only one element I'm ready to work on - another Sumerian spears stand, but this time, one that includes the General.

So here's a step-by-step report on painting a strip of 6mm scale Sumerian Front-Rank Spearmen:

Step by Step with the Spearmen

To picture how large these figures actually are, take a ruler and hold it against the monitor. Look where 13mm would be. That's how tall these spearmen actually are, from the bottom of the base to the tip of their spears. The pictures below are highly magnified.

First, I gently straighten out the bent spears, and use a hobby knife to knock the flash off (mostly around the heads). I also file off a tiny ridge at the bottom-back of the strips, so the strips will stand up straight. I have no broken or missing spears this time, but due to casting problems, the spear lengths "slope" from one end of the strip to the other. (This shouldn't be a problem in the future: Ian Kay at Irregular tells me that they've just made new molds for these figures.)

Then I spray prime the strips white, using Krylon Flat White.

Primed spearmen strip

Now I paint the flesh areas, using Apple Barrel Flesh. These front-rankers don't have much flesh, so it's a dot on the front of the head, and a dot on the feet in front. The end figure shows some leg and what might be an arm, so I paint those, too. This painting requires a little bit of precision, but no other talent. grin

Flesh is painted

(Note that I've given up painting the "feet" in the back - I'm not sure they're feet, and for front-rank figures won't be visible anyway with the next rank in the way...)

Now I paint the cloaks. Nobody seems to know much about the cloaks, which I've read might be made of leather or perhaps felt, and might be brown or gray or red or green. I've gone with Delta Ceramcoat Golden Brown for a leather look. At this point, I want to get a good color coat on the cloak so that it doesn't look blotchy, but not so thick that the detail in the cloak (the "holes") are obscured by paint. I try to bring the brown right up to where the white of the shields is, leaving no gaps on the shoulders. Also to paint right up to where the helmets will be, but it doesn't matter if you're a little sloppy here. You can also get some paint onto the "underneath" of the cloaks if you want (though the black wash later may make this unnecessary). Not to make this sound more difficult than it is: You're basically painting a brown strip horizontally across the back of the strip, then making sure to paint up to the right "edges."

Cloaks painted brown

I next paint the spears, using Delta Ceramcoat Maple Sugar Tan. What I try to do is paint the front sides first, then the back sides. Loading my brush with sufficient paint, I start at the bottom and stroke the paint back to the tip. Try not to stray and paint over the cloaks or the faces!

Afterwards, double-check the spears to make sure there aren't any white gaps along the sides.

Spears are painted

(Note: I took the time to carefully paint the spears, in the few cases where they show inbetween the shields. This is probably a waste of time, as it's not visible after the inking.)

Now it's time for helmets and spear tips, which I'm painting FolkArt Solid Bronze. Since starting this army, I've learned the helmets would actually be copper - oh well, I'll fix that on my next army.

This paint is a little tricky with coverage, so I've evolved a procedure that is probably too complex, but it works:

  1. Dot the right side of the head (helmet)
  2. Dot the left side of the head
  3. Dot the back of the head
  4. Paint the top of the head, pulling the paint forward to the front "edge" (to eliminate white "gaps" between helmet and face)

It sounds more difficult than it is. I haven't had to do much helmet touch-up work since I first experimented with this procedure, so I'm sticking with it.

For the spear tips, just try to paint all the spear tips roughly the same size. On a perfectly cast spear, there's a little indent to show where to stop. What I do is dab paint on all of the tip fronts, then do the tip backsides, then double-check to make sure that there are no gaps between my "fronts" and my "backs."

Helmets and spear tips are painted

Lastly, I need to paint the bosses on the shields (the nine button-looking things). These should probably be bronze, but for my convenience, I'm dotting these using a gold-paint pen. The trick is to just touch the pen to the bosses, enough to put some paint on them, but not so much that you get a ring of paint around them. With practice, this has become quick and easy for me:

The shields are dotted with gold

That's it - the "painting" part is complete, except for touch-ups and an ink wash. Painting 6mm scale figures requires some degree of precision and brush control, but the actual painting is pretty simple.

Touch-Ups and Washing

Now I go back to fix any mistakes I've made. Besides any obvious errors, things I try to look for are:

  • gaps of the white undercoat where there should be color
  • stray bronze on the cloaks (since the metallic paint shines in the light, and the error looks pretty bad...)
  • gold shield "dots" which are too wide (use white to cover them up)

On this strip - besides the mistakes listed above - I've actually managed to miss painting an arm (2nd figure from the left), the shields need touch-ups, and I paint some white on some shield top-edges which were accidentally painted brown. Here is the touched-up strip:

Touched-up strip (front)
Touched-up strip (back)

And now, the ink wash. I switch brushes - I've been alternating between a 000 Round (holds more paint) and a 00 Liner (easy to control), but now I use a #5 to mix and brush on the wash. I'm mixing an ink wash at 1 part ink to 4 parts water, then using the brush to transport the wash to the figures, starting across the top, and then across the bottom. You don't really want to be "brushing" the wash on - you're soaking the figures in it, let the excess run off.

If the bottom recesses (under the shields and cloaks) aren't good and dark, I load my brush with 100% black ink and let it run along the bottom of the strip again. Also, if the "holes" in the cloak aren't catching the ink, carefully apply a bit more wash there.

I grabbed my camera quickly after applying the ink wash, so you could see what it looks like while still wet:

Freshly inked (front)
Freshly inked (back)

When the ink wash dries (I leave it overnight, but it drives much faster than that), I do another quick round of touch-ups. First, the shields are now grey, so I paint white strips between the bosses to brighten them back up. Some of the spears have a bit too much shade and need help, and some feet can also use a dot of paint to stand out again...

I also go in with some black paint to make sure the recesses beneath the shields and cloaks are dark enough.

Touched up after the ink wash (front)
Touched up after the ink wash (back)


Now I come along with Americana Mink Tan, paint the "ground" on each strip, then dip the strip in a bucket of sand. I paint the fronts, dip, paint the backs, dip, then do the ends, and dip one more time. The sand adheres to the paint.

Into the sand bucket

I've played a bit with the strips for this base to get an idea where they should go, and have penciled a line across the front of the base. Using thick superglue, I attach two strips of front-rank spearmen, making sure they come all the way to the sides of the base. (I've already painted the wooden base with the Mink Tan.)

Front rankers glued into place

I follow up by gluing in two strips of rear-rankers behind each front-rank strip, and then I glue the general's white donkeys to the middle of the strip. (The horses have been painted using the same techniques discussed in this article.)

More strips glued into place

To smooth the transitions from base to strips, I apply some MinWax Stainable Wood Filler around the sides and into the gaps. I've tried applying this with putty tools and with my finger, but have found that a toothpick works best...

The base is puttied

When the putty begins to dry, I use the toothpick and a hobby knife to cut away the excess. Then, after waiting for the putty to dry, I apply Mink Tan paint and put the base into my bucket of sand.

Then come some minor touch-ups - painting anything that got scraped during the basing, knocking sand from where it shouldn't be, and finally gluing the general and his chariot into place:

The general is glued into place

Later, I'll spray the base with Testors Dull Cote both to protect the figures and to hold the sand down, then put a dash of gloss on the base edges as a finishign touch.

Final (front)
Final (back)

Hopefully, this helps answer the question some of you are wondering: Are they difficult to paint?