Monday, 24 July 2017

Bolt Action: Imperial Japanese Army Painting Guide

My IJA LMG section had their first day out last weekend with a try out of Five Men at Kursk

I'm building my Imperial Japanese Army initially for the Malaya campaign, with an eye towards later use in the South Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War. It'll be a rather long project, so this post is to remind myself what paints I used for the first lot. Hopefully others may find it helpful, too.

Nakanishi's Japanese Infantry Arms In World War II
I wanted my Japanese to have the green-hued uniforms that one can see in Osprey Warrior 95 Japanese Infantryman 1937-45 and Ritta Nakanishi's excellent, but hard to find, books on Japanese uniforms and arms.

Vallejo's Model Colour 923 Japanese Uniform WWII is rather yellow and didn't bear much resemblance to those reference pictures. There's plenty of debate on forums on whether it's useful or not, with the 'I don't care' camp largely favouring its usage. I've seen a few people mention that it's closer in colour to the uniforms used in the invasion of China in the late 1930s. It happens to be similar to the khaki worn by Chinese troops of that period, too.

Since there's a consensus that Japanese uniform colours varied over the course of the war due to supply issues and wear and tear, I think I have a pretty free hand within the khaki to green spectrum. I'll probably do at least one unit in Vallejo 923 for the China theatre, but the bulk will be in English Uniform green.

Yup, you read it right. After a week of research on the forums and half an hour eyeballing a full Vallejo paints rack at Wira Hobbies, it seems that Vallejo Model Colour 921 English Uniform comes closest. There's probably another hue, but my eyes gave out after a while and, as expected, the Army Painter Strong Tone would deepen the hue substantially.

Here's the paints that I used:

  • Basecoat, belt, shoes, ammo pouches, rifle stock: Army Painter Leather Brown Spray, edging highlights in 50/50 Vallejo Beasty Brown (a match for the base spray) and Foundry North African Flesh B
  • Uniform: Vallejo Model Colour 921 English Uniform, third highlights in 75/25 English Uniform and Pale Sand
  • Puttees, bread bags, webbing: German Camo Ochre Orange, third highlights in 75/25 German Camo Ochre Orange and Pale Sand
  • Rifle metal, bayonet scabbard: Black with highlights in Gunmetal Grey
  • NCO's shin gunto: based in black then Gunmetal Grey and highlights in Silver
  • Skin: Foundry North African Flesh B
  • Helmet, water flask: olive drab (VMC 921 English Uniform with a touch of black)

Colours are Vallejo unless otherwise stated.

Here's how they looked after the base colours were blocked in:

The uniform looks too bright, but here is where the Army Painter Strong Tone wash comes in. A good coating was applied all over the figure, with particular attention to guide the wash to settle in the appropriate creases.

After the wash dried for over 24 hours the figures had a nice rich olive tone, and a tad glossy. I was just using the wash, mind you, not the dip.

Even like this they looked pretty good, if you consider grubby to be good. I recently watched Oba: The Last Samurai, a biopic of IJA troops on Saipan who refused to surrender after the war was over. The actors looked really grubby with their clothes and skin darker than what I achieved above. At a certain point in the story they clean up and wash their kit and they resemble a light khaki. For my purposes, grubby is good, so this scheme seems promising.

I decided to press on with highlights to order to make the details pop out better. I went over the raised areas with the original base colour - English Uniform - for much of it, then touched up the very highest points with a 75/25 mix of English Uniform and Pale Sand. Some guides recommended 50/50, but that looked too bright.

I initially felt the highlights were too strong (under my daylight bulb), but they looked balanced on the games table. Here's the full Type B squad of 13 men with an LMG section.

Here's another shot of them out on their first foray in a learn-by-playing session of Five Men at Kursk.

I have to say that at the block colour stage I was getting bored out of my mind painting the figures in their dull, muted schemes. How I longed for the brightness of ancients! But after the wash and final touches I feel enthused to finish my platoon project.

Still remaining:
2 x IJA LMG sections
1 x IJA grenedier section
1 x MMG section
Type 97 Chi-Ha

I'll ordering a few more top ups to round out the forces for a variety of theatres and historical battles, but it does feel achievable. It's also got me motivated to make progress with my 28mm ancients. While the WW2 project is a collective endeavour, 28mm ancients doesn't appeal to most local players and it's largely a labour of love on my part.

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