This guide is intended to accompany the French Napoleonic Line Infantry paint set I sell in the Vallejo Paint Sets section of my ebay shop. Click HERE to open the page !
It's not a guide about figure painting techniques (after all, most of you reading it can probably paint better than I can !) - it's to give an idea of why I've selected the colours I have for the set. This isn't one of those generic Napoleonic paint sets with a variety of vaguely appropriate colours; the selection is based upon many years of research, experience as a re-enactor, and hard work making high quality reproduction French Napoleonic uniforms.
The set is ideal for painting both line and leger (light) regiments, including the elite grenadier/carabinier and voltigeur companies attached to each batallion. It can also be used for foot and horse artillery, cuirassiers, and infantry and artillery of the Garde Imperiale, in fact any of the French units where the primary colours were red, white and blue. I'll be creating sets in the near future to cover other units and horses, as well as other nationalities, so feel free to add me to your favourite sellers so you can keep an eye on what I create next !
As a brief word of explanation; I believe that many wargamers paint their Napoleonic collections in colours which are far brighter than is historically accurate. Although it's a matter of personal preference, I tend to think that using authentic colours with an occasional (correct) flash of brightness can look more impressive.
Moving on to the colours themselves, I've used the Game Color range because they seem to provide a closer match to the authentic colours than the Model Color range (which tends to focus on more "modern" colours). I have chosen;
#51 - Black - use for shoes, gaiters (white gaiters were for summer parade wear only), cartridge boxes, shakos or bicornes.
#101 - Offwhite - they didn't have Persil back then ! Although the breeches, shirt, and gilet (sleeved waistcoat) were specified as being white woolen cloth in the regulations, the actual colour was an unbleached "natural" white, usually made even more drab by the rigours and dirt of campaign.
#1 - White - I've included this for certain items where offwhite, although correct, just looks "wrong" on a model; cords and flounders, cockade edges, etc. Personally, I tend to do crossbelts in offwhite, but you might prefer to use pure white to make them stand out more.
#10 - Bloody Red - good for piping on the lapels (which were often piped a brighter scarlet than the cloth used for collars and cuffs), for cockade centres, and as a dry-brushed highlight on the plumes, eppaulettes and other elite distinctions worn by grenadier companies.
#11 - Gory Red - a duller red, for collars and cuffs. Personally, I mix just a little Bloody Red in to give the right colour. Also great as a base coat for grenadier plumes & eppaulettes, which can then be dry-brushed with the brighter #10 to give depth and texture.
#17, Sick Blue & #22, Ultramarine Blue - I've never found a colour I'm totally happy with for the "Bleu National" used in French habits (coats). However, by dulling down #22 with about 1/4 #17, I mix up a colour which works. The reality was that cloth at the time was dyed with natural dyes which faded and weathered fast, but that the blue used was significantly darker (even when moderately faded) than appears on most models or modern prints of the period.
#45 - Charred Brown - for the woodwork of the muskets, which usually preserved with linseed or walnut oil which darkened it down, although there was wide variation in colour. Also useful for knapsacks, which were hide with the hair out, often with patches of cream, black or various browns depending on the colouring of the cow used. Some surviving examples have proven to be goat or pony hide, as well.
#52 - Silver - good for swords and bayonets, and also for the "trimmings" worn by officers of leger regiments, which were silver rather than the gold worn by the line.
#54 - Gunmetal - primarily for the metalwork on the Charleville muskets. This would normally include the 3 bands, which (at least officially !) were only brass for guard muskets and those of certain cavalry and artillery units where corrosion was an issue.
#55 - Polished Gold - this is actually the best colour I've ever found for the "laiton" brass used in shako plates, buttons, pans and trigger guards of muskets, and all the other little brass details on the uniforms. Note that buckles would usually be iron, as this was cheaper at the time !
#39 - Plague Brown - great for the greatcoat (capote) worn by the French line infantry. Only regulated for in April 1806, every man was supposed to have one even before that. The official colour was yellow ochre (not blue - that was reserved for higher status units like the guard, artillery and leger regiments), but this could very immensely. I've seen everything from a dark cream to almost chocolate brown, but it's probably safer to stick to the mid-range, and mix some other colours in to give the variation you'd see even within units. You can also use this colour for bayonet scabbards, which were shades of tan or mid-brown, not the black so often used.
#28, Dark Green, #21, Magic Blue, #8, Orange Fire & #16, Royal Purple - these are for the company coloured pompoms of the 1st-4th fusilier companies respectively. Note that the 2nd company was officially prescribed "sky blue" but this was actually a mid blue rather than the very light one so often pictured. The 3rd company got "aurore", which was a strange shade which was somewhere between a reddish yellow, and an orange-red, and was also the colour used when bicornes were still worn for the ribbon which retained the cockade. The dark green is also ideal for plumes, eppaulettes etc worn by the chasseur (centre) companies of the leger regiments and the voltigeur companies of both light and line.
#29 - Sick Green - useful for highlighting plumes and eppaulettes of light companies.
#6 - Sunblast Yellow - another useful colour for voltigeur companies, who used it extensively in combination with green or red (the latter especially in the leger regiments) on collars, plumes, eppaulettes, swordknots etc. This is a bit "chemical" to be used as the main colour, but is ideal as the base colour or for distinctions such as turnback devices which need to stand out.
#97 - Pale Yellow - although paler than most wargamers use for light company distinctions, this is actually the best shade I've yet found to represent the colour really used. Even modern chemical dyes fade to this kind of colour given enough rain and sunlight ! I tend to use this as a highlight dry-brushed over #6, and often do the collars entirely with this.
These colours should give you a good basis for making your French Napoleonic infantry look really great ! I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have on these uniforms; I can't pretend to be the greatest living expert, but I like to think I've got a good understanding of what they were about !
Please feel free to browse around my ebay shop; just click the link below ! I add new items regularly, and welcome suggestions for new ranges to stock !