Painting African Invaders


Gripping Beast ‘plastic’ Spearmen, commanded by a Eureka leader (white shield) under the eye of Ben Yusuf (GB),
with his champion by his side (Eureka), listening to the word of the Prophet (Artizan).

Color choice for the Almoravids is not as simple as it would seem…although it can be if your not too fussy and want to really fast track your painting.

The image we have of the Berber infantry clad in black garments like those portrayed in the movie El Cid and popularised by the elite African unit the ‘Black Guard’ would suggest that black was the obvious choice. Of course it’s not as simple as that, however, painting Almoravids in black is certainly an option that makes a lot of sense. The ‘black’ that we perceive the uniform/garments of the Berbers to be in is actually a deep/dark blue. 

As I was after a rather sinister look for the Berbers I tried some ‘black clad’ berbers to see how they’d turn out. After having completed some test samples I settled on not doing the army in black and opted for the more historically ‘correct’ colour of deep blue. City dwelling Berber’s could be painted in a more typical white coat but I was going for a fairly ‘non specific’ look that created the sort of force that would look distinctly different to any Taifa Andalusian or Christians. 

Basically, I’m not going to get hung up on which tribes wore what dress etc, etc. I wanted my fanatic North African berbers to be in dark garments and blue to my eye is the best balance between being historically plausible, easy to paint and visually striking. 

Black…nice, but I didn’t think a hundred of these was going to give me ‘the look’.

Another reason I found working against the colour black was that on-table black can rather disappear as a colour and from a painting perspective I find black a very hard color to highlight ‘properly’ using a dry brush technique. From viewing distance on-table I also found figure details got lost a bit with black. I like to be able to ‘see’ the minis I’ve painted from arm’s length and take a few snaps as well so black is probably one of the worst colours for doing that. So rather than go down the easy route of painting all my minis black, dark blue still seems like the best compromise.


This colour is no better shown than by some pics of the Artisan figures below that are very nicely painted in this dark blue colour. These figures give that ‘black’ look but are I think, a bit richer in colour and overall a nicer look….though still quite dark.

pics of Artizan minis from their website.


…and these very nice figures (below) are lovely. In fact it is these which I am going to model my style off..
(I can’t recall what website I found these pics, but for me these pretty much nailed the look in my opinion).
This slightly brighter blue is a better colour to best reflect the actual colour of the Berber infantry viewed from a distance and it’s pretty easy to paint. Painted a bit ‘brighter’ it can still conveys a dark blue colour and a somewhat menacing look, which is what I am trying to achieve with the berbers. Even though I’ve settled on blue for the bulk of the Berbers, other colour combinations can be used, typically white for some tribes, and multi coloured patterns as well, but the dark blue is going to fit the bill and be easy to get volume painting done whilst still retaining some good quality results….dark blue it is.
Taking a very broad brush approach to it all I am going to go for my North African Berbers in a dark coated colour, Andalusians in white-ish colours and Spanish Christians in more earth tone colours. This would create a diverse colour palette on table and make for visually striking least that’s what I hope!
So to that end the colours and method of painting these as a simple as could be.
1. Undercoat Black.
2. Paint the entire figure with Vallejo Prussian Blue, then a dry   brush over that with the same colour lightened up a bit by adding white. You can/should be reasonably aggressive with the dry brush, almost to the point of ‘too much’ to ensure that after the army painter dip is used some highlights still show through.
3. Block in the head scarf colour which I have used Foundry paints Vivid Blue C [22C[.


Berber archers


This stage gets the figures done really quickly as it is just a matter of block painting of the simplest kind.
From there the details are added which really don’t amount to that much. The plastic GB figures are pretty ‘light on’ for details and with the application of just a few shades of brown and some cream coloured belts, etc, the figures is pretty much done…simple but effective. The spear was given a dark brown base and then a buff colour topcoat paying attention to leaving gaps to reflect the look of bamboo, which their spears were made from. When the entire figure is finished the army painter dip will blend it all together.
Spears – You’ll notice in the pic below the spear armed figures is holding a bamboo spear (different to the one in the pic above). This is not what comes with the GB plastic arabs. I drilled out those spears and put in place a Eureka Miniatures bamboo spears which really are quite nice (and sturdy). These are part of an Almoravid range that Eureka has, as mentioned in a previous post. I’ve done this for some but not all of my figures just to see how they came out. Overall I’m please but I don’t have enough for the entire army so won’t be converting all the minis this way.
Bamboo spear added to GB figure on the left, next to the Eureka Almoravid mini.
With the figures all painted the next stage is the army painter dip. The Dark Tone is the shade you are after. A fairly liberal covering is what you’re after, being careful to go back and ‘pick up’ some (not all) of the puddled dip. A little bit of ‘puddling’ in the detail of the figures actually works quite well as the shade for dark blue is black and thus the dip naturally shades the figure and gives it that ‘dark blue’ look I am after. You can see this effect nicely in the pic above.
After it’s all dry (24 hours +) hit it with Army Painter Anti-Shine (very good stuff). As a final option, because the anti-shine is so effective, the figure can appear a bit to ‘dead flat’. This can have the effect of making some of the detail disappear a bit and the coat can lose a bit of ‘depth’. Therefore, I use a finishing coat of an artist’s spray I have that is called a matt varnish but it really is like a very light satin sheen. It just give the final figures a lift and adds some depth to the blue coat which is the majority of the figure that you look at. After all this is complete the figures are ready for the final touches.
Side Note- for me, this system really lends itself to ‘barrage painting’. I have found it’s much easier to paint all the figures in one go, as you really only need to apply just a few colours of paint in each stage before you take a break. This repetition I found made painting them quite easy and produced fast results.


Note the small bits of wire I used on the archers as he draws his bow….a detail that brings the figure a little bit ‘alive’ and makes the figure look a little more dynamic. You can see how ‘flat’ the figures look after the anti-shine is applied.


…all at once! I also ‘paint edge’ the bases before applying the AP anti-shine to give some more added protection to the base colour as well to prevent chipping.

The Shields were very easy to do. Simply paint them in three shade of brown…I used the Foundry triad ‘Bay Brown 42’. Lay them face up (to you) so that when you apply army painter dip it pools and drains such that it gives an even coverage over the shield rather than pooling at the bottom of the shield which is what happens if the shield is affixed to the figure first (vertically) and not after the figure is painted. This is the same technique I have used on my Sumerian shields.
At this stage it’s a simple flock and your off. The basing system I use is to mount units in a sabot for unit based games and still allow for the single figures to be used for skirmish based games. Whilst this might not be best applied to all armies I find that for the investment in 28mm figures this is often a smart approach, at least for the initial stage of an army build, as figure count is usually lower for skirmish based games instead of battle games and you can get going ASAP with some games with individually based minis. The GB plastic arabs take up a lot of the ‘space’ on these bases and still provide good density to the 50mm x 50mm base as well as complete variation as each figure can be swapped and changed as desired.
…these figures have had that finishing ‘matt varnish sheen’ applied and look just a little ‘smoother’ and the blue is just a touch ‘richer’ in colour.
You can see that the steps in painting these are really pretty straight forward and in fact the customisation of the figures and green stuff-ing, etc, really makes them look more Berber than Arab in my opinion and makes the final product look unique and suitably Berberish….is that a word? 😉 post we’ll showcase a few completed units and see how the army is starting to take shape…..


6 thoughts on “Painting African Invaders

  1. Thanks Phil,

    Much appreciated. I am pleased with how they have come out and how they look…very dynamic. En masse, I think they are going to really look the part.


    Happy W


  2. They look great. I did my Berbers in blue and white for no other reason that they made a nice contrast to my red and gold Christian Spanish.
    I was given a berber scarf in Morocco about 20 years ago and you seem to have the rich blue colour nailed.


  3. Hey Scrivs,

    Thanks! Your Almoravids look lovely…a real inspiration… and the blue is a very nice look on-table I think. That berber scarf in Morocco sounds like it comes attached to a story 😉

    …thanks for dropping by…




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