Sunday, January 23, 2011

On the Table: Muslim Mounted and Foot (Part One)

The idea behind this post is to talk about my latest painting projects. I'd like to discuss both the history behind the figures, the inspiration behind the colors and designs, and the painting techniques that I used. Hopefully this will become a regular feature documenting my projects.

My current project focuses on Crusader era Muslim armies. It is part of a larger project to build a set of Crusader Era armies, including Christian, Muslim, and Mongol armies. Except for the Mongol army, I'm actually pretty close. A lot of my guys are a bit "generic", so I am painting these figures so they are accurate for specific armies and campaigns.

The first batch of figures are actually predate the Crusades. They are Dailami zupin men from Khurasan Miniatures. The Dailami were mountain people from northern Iran that appeared as mercenaries in Muslim armies from the 7th through 12th centuries. The "zupin" was a double headed spear (i.e., had points on both ends) and was their premier weapon. The Dailami had a well deserved reputation as fierce fighters.For these figures, I chose a generic "Middle Eastern" color palette of yellow, red, and blue, with some green and white as accents. These colors are based upon the dyes that would be available in that region: indigo (blue, saffron (yellow), and cochineal (red). I also used some green and white. It would also be common to see some "natural" fiber colors, too. See Dr Brendan Moyle's web site ( for more information.

Since I couldn't find any definite references, I chose basic Islamic designs. I used a couple of designs from Osprey's The Armies of Islam 7th–11th Centuries and a couple from Mayer's Saracenic Heraldry. For the shield colors, I stuck to the generic palette from above, picking shield colors that complement the clothing.I have been experimenting with a new painting technique, and I used it on these figures. I prime the figures white, then wash them with a thin raw umber wash. This helps bring out some details and works well for undyed clothing. It also helps fill in some "cracks" with color, which can be a problem when you prime white, since unpainted areas tend to stand out. I first read about the technique on Simon MacDowall's web site ( and have been really please with the results. After the wash, you paint the figures normally. For me, that means you start at the boots and work your way up the figure, finishing with the shield design. Finally, I base them on 3mm thick bases, apply some Woodland Scenics fine ballast, and then a few tufts of static grass. Voila!

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I'm pretty happy with the results. I think the stands look pretty good, and I now have a core groups of Dailami troops for all of my Muslim armies. I base all of my armies the same way so that they look consistent on the table. They might not always win, but at least they look good!

I also painted a couple of stands of Arab swordsmen from Khurasan. Originally, I was going to use them as Arab auxiliaries, but after seeing them, it was pretty clear that they were really Conquest era troops. I decided to paint and base them that way, so I can use them in early Islamic armies as swordsmen. It also gives me an excuse to build a Conquest army! I use the standard color palette and a lot of "natural" color. In fact, some of the figures are just washed, with no other colors applied to the clothing.

The next batch of figures are Arab archers, also from Khurasan. for these guys, I used the same color palette and the same painting techniques as mentioned above. The figures represent "generic" Arab skirmishing archers, and can be used from the time period of the Islamic Conquest until the 12th or 13th century. Like the swordsmen, I left quite a few of them in natural colors. And like the rest, I based them on thick bases with gravel and static grass.

This post turned out to be a lot longer than I had originally thought, so I'm going to break it up into two posts. The next post will focus on troops specific for the Crusades, which was actually the original point of the project!

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