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How to paint Hoplite Shields

By Stephen May

Hoplite shields were either painted or covered in a thin sheet of bronze. These could then have an image painted onto its face (or embossed in bronze). I am showing how to paint a white shield, although this method can be adapted for any colour.

I have shown how to do this to a shield that is not attached to a figure for ease of taking photos, it is a lot easier if you have it attached to a figure when you follow this guide as it’s far easier to hold on to!

Although heavily highlighted and coloured shield facings and designs may look nice on the table top, they do not reflect how they would have actually appeared (don’t let this stop you if you really like them though!).

In this guide I will walk you through how I paint shields and how to apply the Warlord Games waterslide transfers, giving a historically accurate appearance.

What you will need:
I generally use Games Workshop’s range of acrylic paints. The colours I’ll be using in this tutorial are:

Transfer application:

  • Small dish of lukewarm water
  • Sharp, fine scissors (I use nail cutting scissors!) or a craft knife
  • Clean soft bristled brush
  • Micro Sol decal solvent (not essential but I find it helps a lot)

Painting the shield face:

Please see my ‘painting Greek hoplites’ guide for the initial stages and then continue here.

Over the Dheneb Stone base coat I add some highlights in a loose circular pattern, following the curve of the shield. I do this by adding progressively more white to each successive highlight, the more white add, the closer to the centre of the shield I apply the highlight.

I don’t want it to look too even, so I apply it quite randomly.

When this is dry, I apply a layer of gloss varnish to the facing. This helps the transfer stick to the shield.

Step 1:

Cut out the design you want to use. Cut as close to the edge as possible following the shape of the design.

Step 2:

Put the transfer face up into the water, leave it for about 20 seconds.

Step 3:

Put your brush underneath it and lift it out of the water. Place the transfer with its backing on the shield face and gently slide the transfer off of the backing and onto the shield.

Step 4:

Gently move it into the correct position with the brush (or with your finger if you are careful!).

Leave it to dry and apply another layer of gloss varnish over the design. Leave that layer to dry and then paint or spray matt varnish over the top to remove the shine.

When using a dark-backed shield, you can sometimes have a ‘silver’ effect left around the design where the layer of decal varnish sits. Before applying the gloss varnish over the design, you can paint the base coat colour over the discolouration.

Applying larger designs.

Some of the larger designs (such as the gorgon faces) can take a little more work than others.

For these I recommend getting a bottle of ‘Mico Sol’ decal solvent. Micro Sol softens the surface of the decal allowing to conform to the shape of the surface it is attaching to. Full instructions are given on the packaging, but I will offer some other tips.

It can help to cut some very small lines around the circumference of the design to help it follow the curve of the shield. Do not cut these too far into the design or it will curl at the edges when the Micro Sol is applied. Also, I suggest giving the whole shield (including the rim) a coat of gloss varnish to help it conform to the shape of the shield.

Given some patience, the bigger designs can fit onto every shield face.


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