WWII Japanese Imperial Army

Bryan’s step by step painting guide

Hi guys, welcome to a step-by-step painting tutorial for the Imperial Japanese Army of WW2. This guide and the techniques within are designed to get your Japanese army painted quickly, but also 'pop' on the tabletop. The two pronged attack of using a coloured spray primer and Army Painter’s Quickshade product will mean that you win that battle against your lead pile that all of us time poor hobbyists face.

Step 1 - Coloured spray primer

As the heading says, I sprayed my miniatures with Army Painter Desert Yellow. This spray is rather thick compared to the rest of the range, so be careful to use short sweeping bursts. This spray will be the primer and one of the main colours in one step, so saves you a lot of time. To save even more time, be sure to add any basing material to your mini prior to applying the spray primer. I added polly-filla and small rocks to texture my bases.

Step 2 - Base colours

Time for some basic block colours. I have used a mix of Vallejo and Citadel (Games Workshop) paints.

Uniform: Desert yellow (Vallejo), note this is already done by the spray primer.

Helmet: US Field Drab (Vallejo)

Webbing straps and backpacks: German Camo Beige (Vallejo)

Leather Ammo pouches and boots: Doombull Brown (Citadel)

Wooden rifle stock: Orange Brown (Vallejo)

Rifle barrel: Leadbelcher (Citadel)

Water Bottle, mess tin & puttess (leg straps): Brown Violet (Vallejo)

Skin: Cadian Fleshtone (Citadel)

Bases: German Camo Dark Brown (Vallejo)

Foliage: Alternate clumps painted with Yellow Green (Vallejo), Olive Grey (Vallejo) and Medium Olive (Vallejo)

Collar tabs: Khorne Red (Citadel)

Step 3 - Highlights

With the basic colours down, it's time for some extreme highlights. In a future step the Strong tone Quickshade that washes the entire model will darken the base colours and highlights, as well as make a blend between these two. So don't worry if these highlights look a little over the top at this stage.

First up, drybrush the bases. This is messy and doing it first saves time cleaning it up as highlights on the boots can cover up any mistakes.

Bases: Brown Sand (Vallejo)

Now, using a small brush with a very good point, carefully highlight the raised areas of the model.

Uniform: Iraqi Sand (Vallejo)

Helmet: Khaki (Vallejo)

Webbing straps and backpacks: (50/50 mix) German Camo Beige (Vallejo) + Skull White (Citadel)

Leather Ammo pouches and boots:  Tuskgor Fur (Citadel)

Wooden rifle stock: Iraqi Sand (Vallejo)

Water Bottle, mess tin & puttess (leg straps): Nurgling Green (Citadel)

Skin: Kislev Flesh (Citadel). Then Flayed One Flesh (Citadel)

Foliage: 50/50 mix of base green colour (see previous step) and Iraqi Sand (Vallejo)

Step 4 (Optional): 'Blackline'

This step is entirely optional but I find it really helps your models 'pop' on the tabletop, so it is well worth the extra effort. I take a fine detail brush and some German Camo Black Brown (Vallejo), then paint a very thin line into the crevasses between major parts of the clothing and equipment. This increases the definition between the various parts of the miniature, especially with uniform schemes that are mostly light colours like these Japanese and many desert troops. The German Camo Black Brown (Vallejo) is already rather watery in consistency, and so is perfect for this job. You can also use black paint, but I find it a bit too harsh, unless you have a dark uniform you are painting. You can see in the photos were I have chosen to paint the 'blackline'.

Step 5 (Optional): 'Helmet chipping'

Next is another optional step, but a very easy one. Using a sponge, over three steps you can give your WW2 helmets a battle worn look like the photos above. First colour to sponge on is  Khaki (Vallejo), second is Iraqi Sand (Vallejo). These colours both highlight and also give texture. Finally in step three, I use a dark colour to add chips, use German Camo Black Brown (Vallejo).

Step 6 Quickshade ‘dip'

The previous base colours and extreme highlights have all been carefully chosen because of this very step, the Strong Tone Quickshade by Army Painter. This is the main time saving part of this painting guide. By only painting a base colour and one highlight, the Quickshade now comes in and blends the two as well as shading the model...effectively saving several stages in between.

Some tips for the Quickshade for those not familiar with it. Shake the tin very well. Wear gloves (this stuff is messy and sticky!) and use a old crappy brush to apply it as it's pretty harsh on brushes. Also have some thinners on hand to wash the brush out, this won't wash out in water.

I used the Strong Tone grade of the Quickshade by Army painter for the Japanese, but you may prefer the Soft Tone depending on your taste. Paint the entire model, don't worry if it goes on thick as it takes 24 hours to touch dry and will slowly slide down the model. This is part of what helps it blend between the base colour and highlight. Just keep an eye on your models after applying the Quickshade for any areas it is pooling excessively, simply use the brush to soak it up and remove it. Now leave your models to dry for three days. Yes, three days. They will be touch dry in 24 hours but are best left to fully set before a spray of matt varnish. I personally used Testors Dullcoate matt varnish.

Step 7 Matt varnish, banners and eyes (optional)

The Quickshade dip is also a gloss varnish, so it will leave your models very shiny. To counter this I spray on a coat of matt varnish. Make sure to wait for 3 days between the Quickshade and applying a spray varnish. I have had bad results if I didn't wait between the steps, with the Quickshade constricting and creating a cracked earth type effect after varnish is applied.

I have added the colour devotional banners and 'good luck' flags made by Warlord Games as coloured printed sheets. They are fiddly to cut out but I think are well worth the effort and add to the unique Japanese look.

Lastly, and this is again optional, I painted the eyes. Using a fine detail brush I paint horizontal white 'lines' and then finish off with a black dot for the pupils. There should be enough depth in the shading from the highlights and Quickshade to get away with not painting the eyes so this is up to you and your tastes and skill level.

Step 8 Jungle bases

I think the key to making great looking jungle bases is to gather a variety of material to use. Having a variety of different 'plants' on the bases gives that feel of a wild jungle. You can see below what I collected to use on mine. There is clump foliage, grass tufts of various colours and sizes from Gamers Grass, lichen and even some plastic aquarium plants. All these material types can be glued on with PVA. For the plastic aquarium plants I cut them into smaller pieces and used a small drill to put a hole into the base first for them to be mounted in. I've found these plastic plant bits break off easy if you don't.

Well that's it for the Japanese Army painting guide. It should help you quickly get a platoon painted and on the table, while still being eye catching. As always, if you have any questions, just comment below!