Saturday, 6 May 2006

Foundry Dallimore painting book

Having been painting for years in what is now generally accepted to be the _Foundry style_, as 'invented' and pioneered by the illustrious Kevin Dallimore, I was very interested to see that Foundry had a book planned written by Dallimore about his, or the Foundry's, painting style. Of course, there's a gap the size of a healthy [narwhal]( between Foundry _planning_ to release a book, and actually releasing it (just look at what they did / are doing to the late Terry Gore _Ancient Warfare_ and _Medieval Warfare_ rules), so it took quite a while for the book to actually appear. However, I ordered a copy once it became available on the [Foundry site](

I had high hopes for this book, but I came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is of course the ultimate in what is often referred to as 'wargames porn', i.e. lots of pictures of truly amazingly painted figures, the likes of which are hardly ever seen in real life (another parallel there). If you want to ogle at hundreds of exquisitely painted figures and vehicles, this book is your ticket to nirvana.

On the other hand, I had hoped that Mr. Dallimore would have explained his technique a bit more. Now, there are of course lots of step by step photographs of miniatures being painted in his style, which illustrate the basic 'three layer' concept quite clearly, but face it - the basic three layer concept is exceedingly easy to grasp: you put three layers of paint on and you're done. You do not need seventeen step by step photo series to get that.

What I would have liked to see, and did not find in the book, is the two things that make or break a three layer paint job: colour choice and topography of the paint job. Or in plain English: what colours to use (in terms of value and chroma difference between the three colour layers) and where to put them. That is never explained, possibly because it is very difficult to explain.

The colour choice (not the colour balance of the entire figure, but the amount of difference between the three layers) is more or less implied by the book's use of the Foundry Paint System colours. The assumption is that as Dallimore has designed the colours himself, they represent the 'correct' colours to use. For example, as I have [remarked earlier](, the shade colour is already quite light, a fact that I had not appreciated before. In effect, my 'three' layer paint jobs are mostly two layer paint jobs, as my shade is usually so dark as to be indistinguishable from the black base coat once the highlights are applied. This is probably the reason why the shade colour in the Foundry Paint System is so light, and presumably why Mr. Dallimore formulated it that way. However, none of this is mentioned explicitely in the book, which is something I had expected.

The second point, where to put highlights and how much of the underlying layer to cover, is also not explicited anywhere. You can infer some of this from the step by step pictures, but again it is never stated (beyond the occasional tantalizingly short remark).

Now, perhaps I expected too much from this, and indeed the two areas that left me wanting are very difficult to explain, but I had expected a bit more. Too bad.

What I did pick up from the book is what colours to use in an intentional two layer paint job. I have been using two layer paint jobs increasingly on figures (see, for example the latest bunch of [Celts]( whose skins are simple two layer jobs) but have been struggling with getting them to 'pop' as much as a three layer job, mostly by not knowing which colours to use as the two colours in question. The book's section on two layer paint jobs, in concord with some areas in the rest of the book have helped me in deciding this - skip the highlight colour and treat the shade as 'mid' colour, i.e. leave fairly noticeable areas of black.

That's it for me - mixed feelings for the book. I've lent the book to Alan, so I'm curious as to what he thinks of it (Alan, that's your cue :) )


  1. Hi Bart,
    I couldn't agree more about the Dallimore painting book. Dave Jackson picked up a copy at Salute and while very attractive, I was most disappointed, for the same reasons as you were. Additionally, I didn't appreciate the fact that much of the material was simply taken off the Foundry website catalogue of Dallimore articles. In essence, very little was new...

  2. Hi Bart, JP
    Actually I find it a very useful book, with good step by step instructions and lots of interesting extra bits and pieces. I am particularly happy that the author 'allows' me not to paint in eyes, even using the two layer method, as I simply don't have the steady hand to do this.
    I guess that for expert painters like Bart and JP (don't react guys, it's a fact) the book adds little new, but for novices and less competent painters it's jolly useful.

  3. I tend to agree with Alan -- probably nothing new for the experts, but useful stuff for the novice or mediocre painters (like me :-) ). Experts don't write books for other experts, they write books for novices.
    Anyway, the only painting guide I ever read and learned from was a 2-page blurb in an old Citadel Journal back in the 80s in which drybrushing and washing was explained. I've stuck to that ever since. Any other technique seemed too complicated for me ;-)