Ethiopian miniatures



When looking to put together troops for an Ethiopian army there are a few options. The main source of figures for my troops come from Empress Miniatures (Paul Hicks sculpts) combined with Askari miniatures. Some useful cavalry can be garnered from Castaway Arts and the Perry Mahdist Baggara  cavalry and Beja foot round out my main source of minis.

I often (mostly) use Army Painter dip methods combined with traditional painting styles to get subtle shades without the multi layer paint style that can be slow and often hard to do correctly.  So washes, dips and shades are what I mostly use to get the figures complete in short order but still achieve a ‘high quality’ result for gaming and ‘photo work’.

The combination of using the three army painter dips along with their water based small wash pots provides the flexibility to achieve different effects instead of just dumping on one army painter dip, though sometimes this is appropriate. In this way the figures appear to be more than just a one trick ‘army dip’ pony as they blends several styles of painting on the one miniature.

However, or white or light coated troops, like the vast bulk of Ethiopians,  I use a home brew dip as I find the Army dip shades not as effective. My ‘mix’ is a water based floor polish product that gives me a more subtle effect for white and off-white coloured clothing. White is one of the hardest colours to get right when it comes to washes and inks and I’ve found my home brew product works well.



three pots I use for this process.


I make up small shading dip pots ready for use when I need it. It uses the Driftwood colour  above as the main base and then the other two colours to tint the base colour to achieve the brown you see in the pic below. Add merbau first then the charcoal as it is quite strong and darkens the mix if too much is used. This is very much an imperfect science so experimenting is the key. You get stacks of shade mix out of this so experimenting ‘accidents’ are no issue.

As an aside the Charcoal is an excellent ‘black’ shader for mid tone dark coloured clothing as the texture of the floor polish does not discolour the base of the figure very much at all. See this pic for an example. This is same lack of discolouration on application is used to effect on the white coated infantry as well. I call this unholy broth a ‘magic goop’.



Make sure you have a container with a good seal or it will dry out.


So here is a white undercoated figure that’s had an ‘all over’ base colour of Formula P3 Paint – Menoth White Highlight. Wargames Foundry Boneyard 9C also has a nice off-white colouring both off which give a warmer white shade. You can use the magic goop directly over a cold white undercoat also and it works equally as well but gives of a slightly different look.



Magic goop texture – when you apply this mix you need to allow the goop to puddle and then you must draw off the excess goop applied to a figure. If not it an pool heavily and cover detail. The stuff actually dries fairly quickly so I recommend you don’t do too many figures in a row..maybe 12-15 and that way you can still go back and ensure you grab excess goop of the first figures. Use water on the end of a brush to loosen it up a bit if it starts to dry.

Also, once the figures is dry the figure has a smooth sheen that is not always ideal for painting on.  For figures that are completely undercoated in white and only have the flesh and rifles to paint, like most Ethiopians, it’s OK to paint over the ‘magic gooped’ figure but where more detailed work is required on webbing, belting, etc I prefer to let the entire figure dry (12hrs+) and then hit it with a matt spray which then makes the paint go on nicely.


Here you can see a selection of figures that have been shaded with different base colours. The three left most figures have had a base colour of undercoat white…just a plain old white spray paint. The figures to the right of the other three have had the warm white Menoth Highlight base colour as a base colour before the magic goop wash. One gives a slightly ‘colder white’ look and the other warmer…I think you can see the difference. I painted directly over the magic goop to finish these figures, not needing to do the interim step of a matt spray as there are in fact so few extra details to add.


This whole process allows for a very fast and easy application of a subtle shade for white/off-white clothing that for these simple tribal figures allows for the final details to be blocked in and rapid painting with good results.

Once the goop is dry and the figures are blocked in I use the army painter ‘oil based’ dips to then shade the details such as the rifle, flesh, packs, etc. I do this directly with a brush – literally pain it on. Thus I combine the subtle shading of the magic goop with the more aggressive shading of the army painter dips which is good for small details and more easily runs into the figure detail.

Lastly, should it be required, I use inks to add some small shading to areas that need it or require a touch up perhaps or shade in a different way to the above processes. This all sounds like its hard work but in fact it is quite quick to do and the ink and magic goop are both fast drying water based products.

As a final step I may add some direct base and colour highlight in the traditional ‘Dallimore’ style where I’m after specific colour control if needed or maybe where it’s just as fast to do. The Wargames Foundry paints are great for this as they are all ready to go into triad colour sets.

Once it’s all dry then hit it with a matt spray paint, I use army painter, but testers dullcote will do just as well.


So, that’s how I get the effect I do on many, if not all, of the figures you see here. So without further ado, here are some samples to show of the styles and combinations working together.









Here you can see I’ve base coated with shades of light brown for some variation. This is a good way to get subtle variation in a unit but still have an overall look that is ‘cohesive’.











…close up of the shade effect.



Perry Mahdists – really quick to paint and the skin colour contrasts really nicely with the subtle shading I think.





3 thoughts on “Ethiopian miniatures

  1. A simple trick I discovered: instead of painting the Ethiopians white, prime with dark gray. Paint overall with a light gray–which, in the absence of true white, looks white. Finally, dry brush a few highlights in white. Also fast.


  2. Good tip. I’m a ‘wash & dips’ kinda guy but your style works well too 😉😉

    Thanks for popping in for a look and comment 👌


  3. @HappyW, I checked out your Abyssinian Crisis blog and I must say it’s very well done sir. I love the How To article as well the other posts, very motivational! This is a very interesting subject with tons of gaming possibilities. I look forward to your next post on this period.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s