Theban hamippoi on the painting table

in preparation for the Society of Ancients Mantinea Battle Day, I have been painting up Greek cavalry and light troops to supplement Pete O’Toole’s wonderful 1/72 scale plastic hoplites (see previous posts).

This will be a unit of Theban cavalry accompanied by hamippoi — light infantry trained to work together with cavalry. The figures are all Newline Designs 20mm Greeks (and a couple of Macedonians). I have drawn the troops from several different sets and done a few head swaps.

I almost always paint from the inside out. So I first paint the skin using a pale flesh colour. Then I apply a wash of Games Workshop’s flesh shade. This brings out the detail on the skin and defines the faces as well as giving a slightly darker stain. Afterwards I will touch up the highlights on the faces and paint in a dab of dark brown on the eyes and red-brown on the lips. (See also Painting Tips on my website)

Then comes my favourite part — painting the main clothing colours. I have previously mentioned that I like to keep a limited colour palate when painting non-uniformed troops to give the unit a coherent look. In this case I decided on black cloaks and plumes with various shades of yellow (from cream through to orange) predominating on the tunics. I also decided to add a few shades of green and grey which go well with the other colours. Incidentally black cloaks and yellow tunics are mentioned by Duncan Head as possible colours favoured by young Athenians.

At Mantinea the Theban cavalry painted their helmets white to distinguish themselves from their enemies and I am painting this unit with white helmets. With painted helmets (and other painted armour) I like to give a dry brush of a dark metallic colour to give the impression of places where the paint has worn off. In this case I used an old jar of Citadel ‘Tin Bits’ which I have kept for this purpose. You could use any dark bronze or steel grey and the brush needs to be very dry as you only want a few ‘scratches'. A very light wash of black helps to pick out more of the detail. Later I will touch up the helmets with a bit of white.

Greek horses were apparently mostly light coloured. My first step is to give a base undercoat of various tan and red-brown shades using craft acrylic paints. I paint all over, including manes and tails. If I want black tail and mane then a thin-downed black will allow the brown underneath to stand out as a highlight to give a realistic three dimensional appearance. if I want a lighter tail and mane, a dry brush with the lighter colour achieves the same effect.

Ink washes of Coat d’arms Chestnut, Light brown and Flesh on top of the base undercoat add depth, sheen, and a variety of realistic looking shades.

To paint the saddle cloths and harness I touch up with white, not bothering to do so on the more lightly coloured horses. To give the unit coherence, and to distinguish it from others on the games table, I like to use a single colour for saddle cloths. In this case I decided on a darkish grey which goes well with the overall black and yellow colour scheme.

Once all the straps, belts, spear shafts and other bits and bobs have been painted I give all the figures a very thin wash of Liquitex Raw Umber (see My Secret Ingredient on my website). This really brings out the depth of detail, covers up mistakes, stains the base colours to give a more realistic look and brings everything together. I decided to give the hamippoi plain white shields with a bronze boss. The Raw Umber wash helps to make them look like painted or dyed leather rather than pristine white.

Here is the almost finished unit mounted on their bare bases awaiting texture and scenic effects.

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