Victorian Science Fiction Painting: Martian Archers

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One of my areas of interest is in "Victorian Science Fiction" or VSF, an alternative history where the scientific understanding of the 19th century is fully true. And beyond that, many of the myths and wild dreams of the age are likewise true and achievable. A common theme in VSF is that inelegant life is common in the solar system. Most notably on Mars. I have chosen to model my armies in 15mm to allow for compatibility with some of my existing model armies. Working in this scale has both advantages and disadvantages.
On the negative side, very few companies make 15mm VSF figures in this scale, and it is, as a result, less popular among VSF players. The figures are quite small, and it is not easy to impart a lot of character on such small castings.
On the positive side, there are lots of other 15mm 19th century figures and a few fantasy figures to use as well. The small scale allows for very easy conversions, often just by a change in painting scheme. Best of all, in 15mm you can afford to buy, store and field a much bigger variety of forces. Despite being only a bit smaller (say about half the size) or 25-28-30mm figures, the price of 15mm figures is often as low as $0.18 USD each. You can have an entire unit in 15mm for the price of a single 25-28-30mm figure.

Figure Selection

For my Martian troops I wanted something exotic, but still quite humanoid. As at the time I started this project few low technology aliens were on the market. I decided to use Elven figures to represent the Martians. I have purchased from a number manufactures, but have found that those produced by "Black Raven Foundry" to be the most suitable for my tastes. They are large 15mm (or 18mm as this size of figures are becoming known) and thus match well with "Old Glory" figures which make up a large part of my collection. The styling of the "High Elves" from the Black Raven Foundry line are quite exotic looks.


The first step in the painting of any figure is to trim and clean the figure. Small files and sharp knives are very useful to remove extra metal the is left over from the molding process (flash). Check especially along the "mold line" the area of the figures surface where the parts of the mold come together. Also remember to flatten the bottom of the base. I next wash the figure in some warm soapy water, rinse well and let air dry. The figure is then secured to a handle to aid in the painting process. Here I like to use small sample bottles. The figures are then given a coat of paint to act as a primer. Most often I simply use a spray primer for this, these are available at auto parts stores as well as many big box discount stores. Some folks like the primers sold by figures or model companies, but I have found these to be of poorer quality then that sold for auto priming. I have not yet experimented with brush on primers, but I have heard that Model Master paints, made by Testers Corp of Rockford IL., offer the best brush on products. The color chose is a matter of painters taste and technique. Black, gray, red brown and white are the most common. I like to use watered down paint, so white primer is my fist chose.


I like to work with a set of 20 figures of identical figures. This allows me to get into a rhythm of painting, while not overwhelming me. With 20 figure I fine that the first figure tends to be dry enough for the nest color by the time I get back to it in the sequence.

I tend to start with the predominant color of the figure, and try to paint completely if not carefully. My goal is to cover every part of the figure that will end up being that color. If some part fall on other areas I do not concern myself with it at this stage.

The next color is chosen based on the idea of inside-out. Start painting those parts that lie in the deepest cuts of the figure. In this case the flesh of the Martian.

The third color finishes most of the remaining exposed primer.

Now we start working on the "details". Here the sash the acts as a belt for the figure.

The small bag, arrow shafts and the base are painted a tan.

And the bow gets a coat of red-brown.
Now is the time to go back over each figure with each color to pickup any missed areas or spots of paint that have gotten onto the wrong place.

Now all of the original primer should be covered, and with any mistakes in the major colors cleaned up. Now it is time for the rest, what can be called details. Items such as sword scabbards, hilt and guard, small bags and straps, ornamentation, such as the crest on the helmet.

With all of the basic painting done it is time to add shading with the Dip Method. This is covered in more depth on my Dip page. But is simply the use of the thin stain to fill the reassessed areas while leaving raised areas much less stained. When using the Minwax, I like to work outdoors do to the solvent the if released.

Even before the Dip has time to dry, you can see the enhancement of the details, such as the fingers of the bow hand seen here.

The Minwax takes quite a few hours to cure. I like to repaint the base of the figure once again to avoid the look of the figure standing in a pool. The figures are now ready for mounting on their bases. In the end I will give then a few quick sprays of the matte finish to cut the shine and to help hold the flock and sand on the base.

Thank you for looking:

To head to my Home go to DyeHard's Home Page.
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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.