Author’s note: While this guide was written for the miniatures made by Wargamer for their proprietary game By Fire and Sword, this guide can ostensibly used for any 15mm miniature or ruleset that takes place in the seventeenth century that features buff coats. For larger scale miniatures, additional intermediate highlight colors between the base coat and the final highlight may be required.
Buff coats are one of the most common armor types seen in western unit types in By Fire and Sword. Reiters, cuirassiers, some infantry (mainly pikemen), and certain officers would have worn buff coats. These are modeled and represented on the miniatures of the game as men with long, thigh-length coats. These can be painted as either buff coats or as regular wool coats, depending on the look you are attempting to achieve for your soldiers. As armies of the period trended away from the heavier full plate armor cuirasses, buff coats became a popular and cheaper alternative, especially with cavalry units. The buff coat was a compromise between the heavy, expensive immobility of a full plated cuirass and the more affordable but significantly more vulnerable wool coat. Buff coats could be seen from units ranging from the Eighty Years War to the English Civil War to the War of Spanish Succession.
If you play By Fire and Sword and have a faction that uses reiters or similar armor types, you will probably find yourself painting buff coats at some point. Buff coats, being made from a tanned animal hide (ranging from ox to elk hide), are usually a brownish-yellowish color.
What you will need:
A unit with a buff coat. Featured in this guide are pikemen from Wargamer’s Imperial infantry set. I’m using a set I initially painted when I new to the hobby, but want to repaint to bring them into line with my recent standard of painting. These are meant to represent infantry from the late Thirty Years’ War period of the 1640s. At this time, plate armor had fallen out of favor with the Imperial pikemen. Even buff coats themselves were becoming less popular in favor of ordinary woolen coats (1).
A black/dark/cold colored spray primer. I used Citadel’s Chaos Black spray, but you may use any black or dark gray spray primer. You may use a painted-on primer if you wish, but a spray primer will save you time.
Paints (duh!). You may choose the paints of whatever paint maker or provider you like, as long as your colors roughly match (To avoid confusion, use https://www.dakkadakka.com/wiki/en/Paint_Range_Compatibility_Chart or a similar paint chart). The paints I typically used were Citadel Steel Legion Drab, Citadel Tallarn Sand, and Vallejo Model Color White.
To paint a buff coat, you have three steps: 1. Priming 2. Base Coat. 3. Highlight
For these figures, the left and right figures will have sleeveless buff coats, while the center figure will wear a plain red wool coat. To paint a full coat, you simply have to include the sleeves in your painting process. To paint a sleeveless buff coat, you only paint the torso, blouse, skirt, and tails of the coat, leaving the arms to be whichever color you desire. Additionally, the figure on the right in the top photograph has a small metal breastplate, which has been burnished in black. While plate armor was falling out of favor with Imperial pikemen, it perhaps would not have been uncommon to see a breastplate or two, especially if a soldier was to be in the front rank.
After having cleaned and primed your miniature, you will need to provide a base coat. For the base coat, I will use Steel Legion Drab. Be sure to thin your paint appropriately (or use a wet palette as I do) to avoid clogging details with excess paint. Once your base coat is down, your next step is the highlight. For 15mm scale, you only have room and detail for one bright highlight typically, as the smaller size of the miniature will mean that the nuance of a two-step highlight is lost. To ensure maximum contrast and attention to detail, you need to make sure your highlight is well chosen and painted. The highlight is best painted on raised areas, such as the ridges of folds in the clothes and the tops of creases. To ensure maximum detail, the highlight should cover the raised areas, but the base coat should still be visible in recessed areas.
To provide a maximum variation between the base coat and the highlight, I use a mix of two parts Tallarn Sand and one part Vallejo Model Color White. While Tallarn Sand by itself can be considered a highlight color for Steel Legion Drab, I find the white provides the extra brightness necessary to stand out from the base coat. If you don’t want to mix colors, you can still use a different yellow color for a highlight, such as Vallejo Model Color Iraqi Sand or Vallejo Model Color Desert Yellow. You could also alternate between using Tallarn Sand/White mix and one of the other desert colors on various models to provide a heterogeneous mix of yellow-brown colored hues, and to avoid an overly uniform shade for your buff wearing troopers.
Bonus: Iron Armor Plate
For the pikemen on the left above, I achieved an iron plate even though the sculpt does not originally feature one by simply painting over the torso where a plate would be with plan Vallejo Model Color Black. This plate covers the front and black. Once I achieved the basic outline of what the plate was, I highlighted it with a mix of 1/3rd White to black. This represents that most armor was simply burnished black to avoid rusting in the field.
1. Vladimir Brnardic, Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years’ War (1): Infantry and Artillery (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009), 33.