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Painting Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) vehicles for Bolt Action


Welcome back to part three in this omnishambles of hobby meandering as I, a semi competent but very lazy hobbyist, endure the process of completing a Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) force for the thoroughly enjoyable miniature war game Bolt Action. Let me get you up to speed. My force is assembled but only the infantry are painted and based. That just leaves the following vehicles and artillery languishing unpainted in the garage. I have:

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausführung J (hereby referred to as “the Panzer” because this article has a character limit)

● Leichter Panzerspähwagen AKA the Sd.Kfz. 222 (hereby referred to as the 222 because see above)

Opel Blitz (hereby referred to the Opel because I am a bit lazy)

Flak 38 (Hereby referred to as the 38 because I keep forgetting whether Flak has a C in or not and I don’t want to deal with that all review)

Dancing with Dunkelgelb.

Thinking ahead, I need to make this process as easy for myself as possible. As I am a gamer before a painter and have no real love of slapping that pigment about, I need to game my brain before I can game my models. I know that each step I add to the painting process is one more looming excuse to procrastinate. To my mind, fast and easy means getting a little bit grimdark. While this is a term often associated with Warhammer 40K DO NOT PANIC - I will not be painting my tanks blue, adorning my dudes with mechanical floating skull friends, or giving praise to the holiest of terrible father figures. Instead, I will be loosely inspired by the grimey, battered, sepia tones of the earlier artwork of Warhammer 40K because painting messy is a hell of a lot easier than painting neat. Just… just roll with me on this OK?

Also, a small point to note on Speed Paints and vehicles. I think these products shine when applied to textured surfaces or in areas with creases and the like where shadows can pool. Unfortunately, I have yet to have success using them on large flat areas like vehicles. I have seen others who have had success in this regard but I will be giving them a miss for this part of the project.

So with a loose a plan in mind - that is to say minimal effort, maximum BoJack Horseman on in the background, I am going to prime my vehicles in … (Googles spelling) Dunkelgelb. This was the colour used by the Germans to prime there big boy vehicles in real life and is easy to find within many paint ranges as a primer and base layer. My go to range for Primers has always been Vallejo. I have a white, black, and grey which have always performed consistently and given a nice finish to work with at an affordable price. That said, I have been rather impressed with the AK 3rd Gen acrylic paint range recently so I think it’s time to give the AK primers a whirl and I pick up their (Copies and pastes from above) Dunkelgelb primer.

Here is where I alienate a huge portion of the readership with those immortal words “I decide to use my airbrush but you can absolutely do this by hand for the same result.” Look, I’m chronically lazy, of course I bought an airbrush. It’s a cheap one but does just fine for priming and that’s all I need as I will be doing the rest by hand. I load up the AK primer and start blastin’. Turns out AK primer is so accurate to the North African theatre that they decided to include actual sand in the paint. It came out so lumpy and bumpy my vehicles looked like Nurgle was the previous owner. Bewildered, I gave the pot another thorough shake, added some more thinner, and got exactly the same result. Oh dear. Before I slam the product I have to say maybe I got a bad bottle? I know this can happen every now and again but still. I was surprised given my positive experiences of their 3rd gen paints but worst of all I was now left with a very unwell looking 222. Thankfully I noticed the issue after the first vehicle so stopped there but now I needed to pivot. Time to go back to my tried and tested Vallejo who also have a (tries very hard to remember spelling) Derkaghngerber equivalent primer Vallejo German Dark Yellow - their equivalent to Dunclegavin goes on like a charm and dries to a lovely finish. I considered filing the 222 back down to remove those lumps and bumps but it’s just about within the realms of what I can call “weathering” so I am going to leave it. A better man wouldn't. In a few spritzes my vehicles are lined up (mostly) looking like they rolled right out of the factory. Now to make them look like they have limped back from the battlefield.

Defeated by decals

I never bothered with decals when playing other wargames as they always seem like a poor faff to payoff ratio. In a rare instance of foresight I was right. Well done past me, condolences current me. So for those unaware a decal is in simple terms a water activated sticker. It comes on a thin card like material which you cut out then dampen. After a short period the decal can be slid off the card and onto a model with a wet paintbrush. The idea being this is far easier than freehanding all those identification markings. Since playing Bolt Action I have stuck a tentative toe in the murky waters of decal fix fluids and overall my experiences with them have been harrowing.

So here is my process based on a few Youtube vids I watched just before giving it a go:

● Wet a sponge and apply decal face up to wet sponge. Wait about 30 seconds

● Apply Vallejo Decal Fix to area where decal is intended for. I don’t know what this does but all the videos I saw used it and I am a sheeple I guess so I did it too.

● Once ready take a wet brush and try to move the decal slightly. If it doesn’t move then wait a little longer till you can.

● Pick up the card with the decal on it with a pair of tweezer using your non-dominant hand, Pick up a brush with your dominant hand, and hold the model steady with your this hand.

● Gently slide the decal onto the model and realise it is upside down.

● Try not to panic as you realise the decal is no longer moving when you apply pressure with the wet brush.

● Consider using a more robust tool. Apply similar pressure with the tip of the metal tweezers. Note the decal has now torn.

● Remain calm and attempt to adjust the torn decal which is now gliding smoothly wherever it is directed. Tell yourself it will look fine once you apply the weathering

● Turn the model round to apply decal on other side. Realise in doing so you have put your finger on the first decal which is now stuck to you.

● Call out your comfort zone expletives or other suitable terms of great anguish.

● Remove and dispose of upside down, torn, finger decal

● Repeat until out of required decals.

After eventually getting something close to what I was looking for I let the decal dry and then apply a few coats of varnish over the top. This helps to blend the edges of the decal into the models surface and stop it looking like a sticker. By the by, I make no claims that my decals are entirely historically accurate in their selection or arrangement. I looked at the box art and a couple reference photos and sort of vibed it. Remember, I am not putting these models forward for competitive or educational purposes. I will however be making engine noises as a push them round the gaming table as I attend to outflank my mates. It is fair to say “they look about right” but are unlikely to hold up to scrutiny from high command.

Weathering them vehicles

First step is painting the tires so I keep things simple with AK 3rd gen Rubber Black. Side note, I really like it when paint colour names tell me what they are for. Thinking is often hard and not worth the effort. I use the same colour for the tracks because eh. Painting tank tracks is often quite fiddly and the Panzer is no exception. Trying to get those fiddly spokes with little room to manoeuvre is a challenge but I get them eventually… and everything near them too but fret not for it matters not. I also do a light drybrushing around the Dorklesnorkle panels with Vallejo Pale Sands. I keep this fast and light just for some easy highlights.

Next we can do the only part of painting I will readily call fun. I take some Vallejo Metal Color Steel and rip off a bit of sponge - the type you get in miniature blister packs. Taking a pair o-f tweezers I dip the spong into the paint and then smoosh it into a paper towel to remove most of the paint. Next I dab this lightly on the tank to create chips. There are far more realistic ways to achieve this effect, but none quicker. I focus on areas of the tank where chipping is likely so along the edges, near where crew would sit or climb, and along the bottom where stones and the like would be flicking up from the convoy ahead. Make sure to press lightly to give a speckled effect and not too heavily which leaves a smear effect. I then repeat this step with a few biome appropriate shades of tan and light brown to simulate some mode and grime.

The Carwash

Next we need to tie these shades together so the they all get a heavy go over in Vallejo Sepia Wash. This helps create shadow, add all over grime, and get those chipping colours harmonising together. I take care not to let this pool too heavily as that always looks off on scaled down models. If I feel an area is pooling too much I wipe my brush on a paper towel or the back of my partners trousers if I think she won’t notice then I draw up that pooled liquid with the now empty brush. From there I use a little bit of AK Russian Blue Lights acrylic paint to go over any glass like the headlamps etc. and….. That’s basically it. They look…. Entirely fine actually.

Look, if I took this to a painting competition I would be loaded into a real tank and fired out the window. They are not amazing but they are going to look pretty darn good when they are based. For that I follow the same recipe I concocted with my infantry. That’s AK Interactive Terrains - Desert Sand with a sprinkle of plain old and to get some variety of texture. Lastly I hit those rims with two coats of Vallejo German Dark Yellow primer and we call it done. A blast of Army Painter Matt Varnish provides a final layer of protection against Dorito fingers and on the shelf they go.


Hopefully this has been insightful to those of you out there who are put off of wargaming by the effort involved. If you are starting out it’s easy to impose unrealistic standards upon

yourself and easily get overwhelmed or put off before pain even touches your brush. This is particularly easy if you venture on to Youtube and stumble on those top tier painters during your early stages of interest. There is some incredible painting and modelling talent out there though just remember even they started at the bottom and getting all the way up there times time and practice. Or be like me and abandon those heady standards of perfection imposed on yourself to settle into your own comfort zone. However you decide to hobby just make sure you come out the end with net gain in satisfaction.

That said, time to get these bois off the parade ground and onto the battlefield.

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