How to Paint Napoleon

How to Paint Napoleon in 25 or 28mm

How to Paint NapoleonAs the central figure of the Napoleonic Wars, it’s likely that Napoleon is the most popular single miniature for the period. For this reason (and that I had an unpainted miniature of him sitting and waiting) I have decided to do a how to guide on painting the great man.

This figure of Napoleon is a metal 25mm from Old Glory although he seems to be of a similar proportion to the 28mm French that I have so it may be fine to use this miniature in conjunction with them. I have a comparison shot towards the bottom of the guide so you can see for yourselves.  As this is one of the larger scales of miniature I will be using a different method of painting compared to some of my smaller miniature guides.


I use the same tools essentially for all my miniatures so you can check out my other posts to see a more in depth discussion on what tools to use.

I have used two different things for this larger miniature which are:

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Water Colour Brush (size 2)

If you read my other how to painting guides for the smaller models you will notice that I use the size 1 brush. The size 2 is a larger brush and so can hold more paint and cover a greater amount of the figure at a time. Because this is a larger miniature I tend to use the size 2 brush for the larger areas of coverage such as the great coat and the horse.

I still use the size 1 however for the intricate detail such as faces and straps. This brush can be found on Amazon here.


The Army Painter Matt White Spray Can Primer

This is the spray I used to cover the Napoleon figure, however there are plenty of options out there for spray including the Citadel variety which also give an excellent cover.

This spray can be found here.


Paints for Napoleon
Some of the paints used

I use a few paints here, some from Games Workshop’s citadel range, but most from Vallejo paints which I think are just better quality paints to be honest. The colours I will be using are sky grey, Iraqui sand, black, white, Russian Uniform Green, Evil Sunz Scarlet, flat brown and silver. I also use a black ink from the army painter so as to give nice shading.

One new thing that I use for the larger models is the Army Painter dark tone ink. This is their version of black ink and can be used generously on the miniature when painting.


The Process

Okay then now that we have seen the tools that we’ll need to get started lets go over the process of doing it. Like I said above the process for this miniature will be different to the one used for the smaller scales. The first thing I did was to find pictures of inspiration to make sure I would get the uniform correct. These are the pictures I chose to base the paint job on.

Meissonier 1814 Campagne de France painting

Napoleons return from Elba








With that in mind this is the process I used to paint the miniature:


Step 1. Cut away any flash and stick togetherMetal Napoleon Miniature with no paint

The flash is the extra bits of metal sticking out wherever they are not wanted. These are created by the moulding process and will generally appear on most miniatures whether plastic or metal. I just trim them away with my sprue cutters to make sure it all looks good. The next step is sticking Napoleon to his horse using super glue. As the miniature only comes in two parts – Napoleon in his saddle and the horse it is easy to stick together.


Step 2. Stick to something for spraying

Metal Napoleon Miniature sprayed white
Metal Napoleon Miniature sprayed white

As with all my miniatures I use an old DVD cover that I don’t need any more and which I don’t mind being covered in spray. I used blue tac to stick Napoleon to the DVD cover and then sprayed him over a couple of times making sure to keep about 20cm away so I didn’t ruin any detail with too much paint!

You may have to do this a couple of times as sometimes I miss the odd patch and there is nothing more annoying then a small bit of silver on a vital part of the model.

Once this is done just leave to dry for at least 30-60 mins before you start painting.


Step 3. Paint the Grey

Metal Napoleon Miniature with Greatcoat painted
Greatcoat painted Grey using Sky Grey

The first step I decided on with Napoleon was painting his grey greatcoat as it is one of the larger blocks of colour that I will be doing. I use Sky Grey for this – it is a very light grey, perhaps too light on its own, however by using the black ink later on the grey will look darker and a better colour. I also paint the hair of the horse grey at this time. As the main colour of the horse is white we can leave most of it as the spray has already done this for us.


Step 5. Paint the Brown

Metal Napoleon Miniature with brown painted
Flat Brown painted on telescope and strap

The next step I use is to paint the Flat Brown colours. I use this for the telescope in Napoleon’s hand and for the strap running across his chest. This is fairly quick to do as there is not much brown in Napoleon’s uniform.

Step 6. Paint the Green


Metal Napoleon Miniature with Green painted
Dark Green painted on to the Jacket

Napoleon wears a dark green jacket underneath his greatcoat which I paint next. I use Russian Uniform Green for this colour however judging by the picture a more deep green colour would be a better match as the Russian Unfiform Green is more of a muddy green colour. This is however the closest colour I have to the green and the reason why I have used it – perhaps you have a better match in which case you may want to use that instead. As with the brown there is not much to paint here and so it is finished quickly.


Step 7. Paint the skin

Metal Napoleon Miniature with Flesh paint added
The Skin colour is added to face and hands

For Napoleon the skin shade I begin with is Kislev Flesh from Citadel. It is a slightly darker shade than is required and the ink process will darken it further, however I will be back to highlight with a lighter colour further on. I do the face and the hands here.


Step 8. Paint the Gold


Metal Napoleon Miniature with gold paint added
Gold added to the trimmings of the saddle

There is not much gold to paint on Napoleon however it is noticeable without it. The gold is actually on his saddle and even then only on the trimmings. It is fairly quick to paint these parts and they look excellent when washed in the black ink later. The gold I used is by Vallejo and is not the easiest to use – it tends to be fairly clumpy and harder to spread, although I think this is a problem with metallic paints in general and not necessarily with just Vallejo paints.


Step 9. Paint the red

Metal Napoleon Miniature with red paint added
Red is added to the collar, saddle and cockade

Napoleon’s uniform has some minor amounts of red. I use evil sunz scarlet to paint his collar and the red cockade on his hat. The saddle also requires red. Again these parts are fairly quick to paint and the Evil Sunz Scarlet is easy to use.


Step 10. Paint the Black

Metal Napoleon Miniature with black paint added
Black paint added for hat, boots, hooves and straps
Metal Napoleon Miniature with black paint added
Black paint from rear view

Black is another block colour on Napoleon. It is used on his hat, hair and boots. It is also used on the horses straps and on its hooves. Normally I would do the big blocks of colour first however I left black towards the end because I found myself holding Napoleon by the head and to put the paint on early would have meant it rubbing off as I did the other parts of the miniature. You can even see this in later pictures.

Step 11. Paint the silver

Metal Napoleon Miniature with silver paint added
Silver added to some straps and to the boots

The final part of the first round of painting is to add the little silver parts to the uniform. In this case I added it to the metal straps around the boots, the ends of the telescope, part of the cockade on his hat and some of the metallic parts of the horse’s straps.

Step 12. Using the Ink

Metal Napoleon Miniature with ink added
Black Ink is used to wash the model
Metal Napoleon Miniature with ink added
Rear view
Metal Napoleon Miniature with ink added
Side view






In this step I use the Army Painter black ink.
The black ink is very runny which is good. What you want to happen in this part is for the ink to run into all the cracks and grooves of the model and darken it. For this step I apply the ink very generously with extra focus on areas such as the face, hands, the uniform and areas with “trimmings”. This is so that the ink can seep in and bring the detail to the front so that the highlighting process (next step) can really bring the miniature to life.

Step 13. Highlighting the miniature

Metal Napoleon Miniature Face with ink added
Face with Black Ink
Metal Napoleon Miniature Face with Flesh added
Face Highlighted with Kislev Flesh
Metal Napoleon Miniature Face with Iraqui Sand added
Face with Iraqui Sand highlight






In this part I re-paint the areas that I want the brighter colour to shine through. For example I pick our parts of the face especially around the nose, forehead and cheeks to make the skin tone lighter but also the detail more distinct from the shaded areas.

Most of the highlighting is done using the white colour and the skin tones. I was originally going to highlight the grey on the greatcoat however it looks perfect just being washed with the ink so I decided to leave it as it.

Step 14. Touch ups

Napoleon Finishing Touches
Black top up and Brown Base painted

The final step is to look where I may have missed any spots or where paint had come off. The main area was Napoleon’s hat where some of the paint had rubbed away when I was painting so I just re-added some black there. I also painted the base brown to complete the look and to make Napoleon ready for basing.



Basing is up to you. I have not decided as yet on how I am going to base Napoleon yet but my general process is to pick an appropriate sized base for whatever rules you are playing. This is my process for basing miniatures whatever rules you play:

Step 1.

I use PVA glue to stick down some coarse sand.

Step 2.

Once the sand has stuck firmly – I let mine set overnight – I then painted it in a watered down brown.

Step 3.

Once the sand is dry I then dry-brush it with Iraqi Sand to highlight the rocks.

Step 4.

The final step is using PVA glue to stick down some static grass.


Finished Product

Napoleon Painted
Finished Napoleon
Napoleon Painted
Finished Napoleon

Napoleon has come out pretty well! I’m sure there are much more detailed and professional ways to paint the larger models however I find using the black ink is my favourite method – it is pretty quick too and this Napoleon figure took me under 2 hours to d
o (I’m a very slow painter).

The miniature itself is nice with decent detail although I would have expected to see some buttons on his uniform at this scale. I like the fact that the figure comes formed with the saddle and that the horse is also formed as a whole unit. This makes the assembling part of the process super easy.

The horse is well detailed and you can pick out the eyes and straps if you wish to. Overall a good miniature to paint.

Napoleon Scale Match Infantry
Napoleon next to a 28mm Perry Infantry

To the right you can compare the scale of this miniature to  28mm Perry French infantry. I would say that the scales match.

If you want to check out any other painting guides you can have a look at my page on painting miniatures here.

If you have any comments or if you want to share any other methods that you think are great as well just comment below and let me know!


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