Painting Swedish Veteran Reiters: The cavalry of Charles X Gustav

“Gustav Adolf’s best cavalry were his Swedish nationals… Most feared of all were Stålhandske’s light-armed Finns, the “Hakcapells”(named after their war-cry Hakkaa päälle – Hack ‘em down!) who took no prisoners. The German cavalry were a very mixed bunch, ranging from regiments like Courvill’s and Ohm’s which had fought in the Polish campaign, to hastily recruited units that had yet to be issued standards. On the whole they were distinctly inferior … it was for this reason that Gustav Adolf strengthened them by ‘interlining’ bodies of musketeers between the squadrons.” (1)

Although King Charles X Gustav’s invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was more than two decades after Gustav Adolf’s bloody battle at Lützen, the nature of Sweden’s mounted arm had not drastically changed in the intervening years. From the hard-hitting Finnish veterans to German mercenaries who were recent recruits to the Swedish flag, Charles X Gustav depended on his cavalry for offensive action and charges. In the insurgent war that followed the Swedish occupation of much of the country, in which infantry had a hard time covering the times and spaces needed to confront the cavalry-heavy Poles, Charles X became increasingly reliant on his cavalry arm. It is noteworthy that at the war’s largest battle, Warsaw in 1656, more than two-thirds of the Swedish-Brandenburger army under Charles X’s command were cavalry. Despite their inferiority to their Polish and Imperial counterparts, Swedish cavalry by the time of the Deluge included veteran troops and disciplined commanders who usually acquitted themselves well on the battlefield.

It is only natural that my next painting project will focus on these grizzled units of the Swedish cavalry arm, 15mm veteran reiters for my By Fire and Sword collection (links here for the main store and here for the US store). I’ve done things slightly differently with my painting method, and as a result I am very pleased with the results. I used Vallejo Glaze Medium with my paints and altered my method accordingly. This is for three purposes. I’m not actually using a glazing technique, per se, but I am using the properties of the glaze medium to achieve a kind of wet blend. The glaze medium acts a both a thinner and a retardant, and delays the drying time for the paint. This allows me to mix in highlight colors on raised areas and provides a smoother and less harsh contrast. The glaze medium also provides an excellent texture when dried. I got this idea from watching Miniac’s video on wet blending here. This was my first time using this technique or attempting to ape wet-blending in general. While my results might not be the best example of wet-blending, I like the final finish and I’ve decided to adopt this method going forward.

So in essence: 1. Lay a base color mixed with glaze medium. You want to make sure the pigment is thin but not too thin. If the paint is too runny like a wash or ink, add more of the color to the mix. Clean the brush immediately with clean water (have a cup at your paint station, even if you use a wet palette) and wipe your brush on a paper towel. Then immediately use a mix of a highlight color, base color, and glaze medium blend. Paint this on the raised areas or areas exposed to light, leaving recessed unpainted. Clean the brush. Line (a method opposite of highlighting where you paint darker colors into the recesses) the recessed area with the base color/glaze mix. Clean the brush. Finally, hit the highlight color (or highlight mixed) combined with the medium. on the highest raised areas or the areas that would be most exposed to light. Clean the brush. Further line and apply highlights as necessary.

Using faces as an example (following the adage of “Good Faces, Bases, and Flags”).

Painting the face part 1
Base the face

1. Base coat of Mourfang Brown and glaze mix.

Wet palette. Miniature painting.
Wet palettes help keep paints wet for longer periods and are a nice tool to have. Note water cups to the left.

2. Clean brush applied a 40/60 Brown/Flat Flesh and glaze mix on the cheeks, forehead and nose.

3. Clean brush. Lined the eyes and the bottom creases of the cheeks with Mourfang Brown/glaze mix.

4. Clean brush. Apply a Flat Flesh and glaze mix on the top of the cheeks, nose, and the center of the forehead.

Swedish Reiters
Final Face result
Painting By Fire and Sword
… and from a slightly different angle.

From start to finish, painting this face took about six minutes. This is not as fast as a straight base coat and contrasted highlighted (about three minutes in my case) or using something like a dip or stain (barring the drying times for those methods), but the result is much more nuanced and textured in a manner that it is worth the extra steps and the slight increase in time spent in my opinion.

Painting By Fire and Sword
The paints used for faces:

Refer to paint comparison charts if you need to use a substitute.

What I used: Uses:
Vallejo Glaze Medium As a thinner and retardant to assist with blending, highlighting, lining, and to result in an excellent texture when dry
Vallejo Gloss Varnish First layer of varnish on the miniature. For maximum protection.
Vallejo Matt Varnish Second and final layer of varnish applied to the miniatures twelve hours after the first.
Citadel Chaos Black Spray Primer
Citadel Mourfang Brown Face & fleshtone base color. Also used to base the bay color horses.
Vallejo Model Color Flat Flesh Face & fleshtone highlight color, used to mix highlight with browns for some bay colored horses, though to a lesser extent than the faces.
Vallejo Model Color White Highlight color for cravats and small clothes, and to highlight the base colors for the wool coats, boots, scabbards, and hats.
Citadel Wazdakka Red Base color for red
Vallejo Model Color Hull Red Used to base coat wood on pistols
Vallejo Model Color Mahogany Brown Highlight color on the pistols. Mixed with yellow in 50/50 to highlight leather. Mixed with black to highlight the chestnut colored horse.
Citadel Rhinox Hide Used to base coat leather
Vallejo Model Color Dark Prussian Blue Base color for the blue wool coat
Vallejo Model Color Military Green Base color for the green wool coat
Privateer Press P3 Greatcoat Grey Base color for the gray wool coat
Vallejo Model Color Chocolate Brown Base color for two hats
Privater Press P3 Ironhull Grey Base color for the gray hat and for the cravats and white colors
Vallejo Model Color Oily Steel Used to paint the pistol barrels and gunmetal
Vallejo Model Color Black Base color for boots and scabbards. Also base for the chestnut colored horse.
Vallejo Model Color Brass Base color for sword hilts
Vallejo Model Color White Primer Priming the base for the unit
Vallejo Model Color Flat Earth Base color for the base. Mixed with matt varnish to ensure protection for the base while handling. Drybrush highlight on the base.
Citadel Stirland Mud Texture paint for the base

So from start to finish:

preparing miniatures
Pre-painting preparation

Cleaned the miniatures in a water/dish washing liquid mix and a toothbrush to clear away casting dust and to leave a clean surface for the primer. Cut away mold lines with an X-Acto knife. Super-glued the riders to their horses.

Primed miniatures
Post priming

Used PVA glue to temporarily attach the old rulers and primed.

Swedish reiters
One reiter finished. The second rider has been painted, but still needs his mount painted.

Base color and highlights for the riders. Moved them to an old bottle to use as a paint handle. Painted the riders first, then the horses.

Swedish reiters
The varnishing process has not been shown.
Basing Swedish Reiters
Attached to the base.

Returned to the rulers with PVA glue to varnish. I used paint-on varnish because my area is too hot and humid this time of year to reliably use a spray varnish. Double varnished, with an initial layer of gloss varnish and followed twelve hours later with a matt varnish to kill the glossy effect of the first varnish. Shook the varnish well and slightly thinned with water.

Textured base on Swedish reiters
After an application of Stirland Mud

Super-glued the figures on to the pre-primed base. Applied the base coat/matt varnish mix. After waiting for that to dry, I applied the texture paint carefully to the base, carefully avoiding the attached miniatures with the texture paint. I cleaned up the edge of the base where texture paint wound up on it.

Painted Swedish Reiters, By Fire and Sword.
The finished base

After waiting for the texture base to dry, I applied a drybrush highlight and then static grass and bushes. Voila!

  1. Richard Brzezinski, Lutzen 1632: Climax of the Thirty Years War (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2001), 21.

Painting Buff Coats in By Fire and Sword: A Guide.


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.