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Painting A Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) Force For Bolt Action


So, last time I got a bucket load of Germans cleaned up and assembled ready for painting. Now for the actual painting part, AKA the worst bit. Sorry to drop such a spicy potato early in the article but generally wargamers fall into two categories when it comes to painting:

Category one - Those who enjoy the process of painting as well as or even more than gaming itself. These are the folks who can settle in for a good few hours and get all zen over pushing paint around a model. Often these sorts are brimming with a variety of techniques and styles, and are the most likely to crank out some really impressive models.

Category two - the sort who view painting as a necessary evil which must be endured to get to the gaming. These sorts are more accustomed to the clickyclack of a shaking fist of dice rather than the tickyclack of a mixing ball bouncing round in a can of primer. These are the sorts who are far more likely to turn up to a gaming table with unfinished or even unstarted models with missing arms and plenty of excuses. I’ll get to it, the primer I want is out of stock, I find painting to be a soul crushing experience which I beg you to not have me endure, etc. Also, hello I am one of these people.

Each to their own of course but I am all about those fast and dirty tricks to get those minimum requirements achieved to fast track my war bois to the table ASAP. So come with me reader and glimpse into my toolbox of laziness as I half ass my way through the part of the hobby that interests me the least. Remember, so long as they look about right from 3 feet away on the table then that counts as a win.


Look my dudes, if you have been hanging round the Youtube of late then you may well have heard of “Slap Chop” which is fast becoming the most fun painting technique to say out loud. For those not down with the kids this is some variant of priming models in black and then dry brushing in progressively lighter shades of grey to get “free highlights” which you then paint over in thin layers of some kind to preserve that under shading beneath. I gave serious consideration to this approach this time round but settled on priming in white only instead and skipped the dry brushing all together because I don’t want to and you can’t make me. I used Vallejo White Primer as it’s my ol’ reliable. But what about dem free highlights and shadows from slap chopping you ask? Well dear reader, spare a moment for our lord and saviour Speed Paints?

Painting them lads

I am a real convert to Army Painter’s Speed Paint range this last year or so. While the first release had some reactivity issues with water I have since found their rereleased versions to punch colour and do all my heavy lifting for me. Now I look for any opportunity to use 1 Speed Paint instead of 3 other “normal” paints as a base, shade, and highlight. Ontop of just a white prime I think they leave plenty of shadow and pull back off the raised edges just enough to give you adequate highlights too. You won’t win any painting competitions but when you can smash out an army in a single day then you are winning on a whole different level, right?

So the question remains - which Speed Paint matches the DAK uniform the closest? With previous armies I have deployed the barest minimum of Googlemancey to discover the exact shade worn by that force in the chosen theatre at any given point. Turns out DAK uniforms don’t play that game. So I Google DAK uniforms, slide on over to the image tab, and get an eyeful of their green desert uniforms. Huh. Confuse. I am going to spare you the history lesson (which is easily discovered for yourself online) but most nations had issues getting a consistent quality and colour across all manufacturing sites. Then you still have to get them in adequate sizes, correct camo patterns, and in the required numbers to the troops in the field. When your nation is at war, your economy is in a dire state, and quite frankly other goods are more important, you get an idea of how uniforms got a bit mismatched in the field.

When the Germans decided to get involved in North Africa they just supplied their troops with an existing uniform that they considered appropriate rather than begin manufacturing in an additional colour. Unfortunately the uniform already in use was developed for somewhere with a lot more grass and considerably less sand. This led some troops to making modifications in the field to try and blend in more effectively with the local surroundings. What transpired was a myriad hodgepodge from one soldier to another with tans, beiges, light greens, mustard yellows and just about everything in between. Quite often multiple of these colours existing on the same soldier. So basically - paint your DAK whatever colour you like.

So what colour best suits my DAK? I am not aiming for any particular battle or unit so I can focus entirely on what colour combos pop the most to my eye. After perusing the suitable colours available within the Army Painter Speedpaint range I settled on the following scheme for the bois:

Uniform/cloth - Ochre Clay

Straps/leather - Hardened Leather

Wood - Ruddy Fur

Skin - Crusader Skin

I also ended up using some normal people paints for a few of the details which I just had on hand:

Equipment/ammo boxes - Vallejo German Dark Yellow surface primer

Metal - Vallejo Color steel then wash in Vallejo Sepia wash

Glass - AK 3rd gen - Russian blue

Goggles/lenses - AK 3rd Gen Medium Orange and wash in Vallejo Sepia

For the equipment and ammo boxes I used the same primer I intend to use on the vehicles because it’s a nice little way to tie my wider force together. Another thing to note is that Medium Orange used for the goggles is a hella bright colour. Most of the reference photos I found for goggles were a dark sepia type tone to block out the blearing desert sun but I wanted a little more pazaz on my guys so when I found a single photo of a kind of orangey set of lenses I went yes that but times a thousand please. When this dried my officer looked like Cyclops from Xmen so a cheeky Vallejo Sepia Wash later and I had that toned back down to the realms of unlikely but not historically impossible.

Achievement unlocked - [Own a fully painted DAK force for Bolt Action]

Back to BASEics, bit forced but works.

But wait! There’s more! Still got to base these guys yet so let’s talk about sand. If you are new to the hobby or desert biome then you will be amazed at how many techniques and products we have for doing sand. Most of them tend to be a variation on 2 themes:

Use a premixed basing product. This is usually an adhesive mixed with paint for colour and sand or similar for texture. These products are smeared on the base directly.

Cover the base in glue (usually PVA) and sprinkle or dunk in sand. Often several grits of sand are used in either a mix or alongside each other to give some variety in texture.

I have always been of the later group with a penchant for the dunk over the sprinkle. That said, new army new me. Let’s push some hobby comfort zones a little. I bought myself the AK Interactive Terrains - Desert Sand spreadable paste to find out if these gloop tubs really are a wonder product. Afterall, they combine my previse glue then dunk in sand into a single step. If this works out my whole life has been a lie. Well, let’s just say expectations were not met.

It is fine…. The thing is I have seen this product and those like it hailed as a one step process to great results. To be fair you end up with a base that is both textured and coloured so I can’t deny it meets minimum requirements. The disappointment starts to seep in when you realise you are only getting one colour. When you base oldschool with glue and sand you end up benefiting from the natural variations in the sand for a much more realistic finish. I found AK’s paste looked more like a terrible interior design choice rather than a desert surface. Also, with this particular product I felt the sand was a very bright shade and a bit too yellow for my taste. Not to say such places don’t exist in the meat space but just not what i was looking for.

So I mulled for a few days, grappling with a bit of analysis paralysis along the way before setting on a compromise. I applied a small amount of additional basing paste to each mini to cover aprox. 50% of the base. Then I sprinkled some Coarse Army Sand from Scenics over the wet paste and let that set. Coarse Army Sand is a nice blend of difference sand grains and would set into the paste as it dried. This gave a nice balance of the lighter paste beneath and more earthy toned natural sands above. Turns out making things look like sand remains as easy as use sand. I’ll skip the paste next time. I’m sure there are uses for it and some will certainly prefer the convenience or look of the stuff but not for me.

The R word

So nearly there…. Last thing to finish these (literally) bad boys off is to rim those bases - this is the term given to painted the edges of the plastic bases my dudes are stood on. As with the equipment I use Vallejo German Dark Yellow surface primer in two coats. I think using the armour (tanks, etc.) colour for base rims really helps to tie the infantry and vehicles together on the tabletop. Once dry I give these fellas a blast of Army Painter Matt Varnish in a well ventilated space. For me that’s the garden as this is the only time I get the sky vitamin. While they dry overnight I do some light gloating in the Discord as an attempt to spur the other players on, particularly Kevin because he deserves it, and then I get to pondering how I am going to get my vehicles up to speedpaint - sorry not sorry.

Tune in next time for some suuuuuuuuper lazy ways to get vehicles looking not great but OK actually and bear witness as I ruin 30% of all decals I get in proximity with.