My Painting Techniques, How I paint armour.

My drawing and painting techniques are looked at here. I enjoy using various mediums and get a great satisfaction when learning traditional methods such as the Egg Tempera, Oils and Gold/silver leaf which was used in my small section of the Uccello painting. Also I enjoy using new methods which include the use of marker pens. Much of the work is from a period in my life when I worked profusely and enjoyed learning about various mediums and techniques. Although I do not produce so much work now (Due to ill health) I still enjoy sharing my methods. 

Below you will see 
  • Sketches, 
  • Pen and Ink
  • Watercolours, 
  • Gouache (including my cutaway paintings).
  • Oil painting.
  • Egg tempera (including method of my Paolo Uccello, Battle of San Romano painting)
  • Spectrum Noir pens


My sketches usually begin after some serious research. I do not like to move ahead with a piece until I am reasonably sure that the historical detail is correct. There is nothing more frustrating than spending days on a piece of work only to be told that a particular detail is incorrect.

I usualy use a 3b pencil to begin with, they are soft enough to erase mistakes without damaging the paper or card. A soft erasor is essential and I will also use a putty rubber to get into small areas.

The key figures are roughly sketched using minimum detail until I am happy with the result. The main charecter having the most details then two or three supporting figures having slightly less detail. Background are usualy left till last and usually consist of light shading to represent trees, clouds, grass etc.

Some shading is made to help me when painting but I usualy rely on line drawing alone.

Pen and Ink line drawing

My line drawing are made in the same way as all my sketches. Lots of research followed by drawing simple shapes to get the general form. No details are added untill I am Happy that the shape is correct. I then begin to add details.

When the pencil sketch is complete I use fine liner pens to go over the sketch. Outer lines are made thicker to hold the drawing together. I do this by simply going over the lines a few times untill I get the effect I am looking for.

To see other sketches and artwork click below.

To begin with I would like to say that all of the methods I use are tried and tested painting techniques. My main method of creating illustrations incorporates the use of watercolour and gouache. The subject is researched so that details can be confirmed as being accurate to the given knowledge. Some work has to be conjectural especially when working from a broken or stylised  subject. (See also More of my Sketches for forthcoming book 'Knights of Brass and Stone' Post 24.09.2014)

The Drawing

No detail is added at the beginning as this would effect the way the composition works, I usually work on board or watercolour paper and produce a pencil sketch  using 2B and 3B pencils. The sketch at this early stage is usually a very rough outline that maps out the shape of subject.

I usually build my shapes from simple forms, using tubes and cones to make a very simple figure. I might draw these simple shapes over and over until I have the figure I want. It is only then that I think about drawing the clothing and armour. At this stage I use such light lines that they are barely visible, this is to aid erasing mistakes. I only darken the lines when I am 100% happy with the drawing.

Research is all important and I will often put off drawing until I am happy with the accuracy of all my sources. 

As the composition builds up I add the details until I am happy with the finished pencil sketch. At this point I clean up any rough sketching and erase unwanted lines. The work is now ready to add a simple colour wash.


I usually concentrate on the surrounding colours when painting shiny armour as it gives me a guide to the reflective surfaces, but in the case of the painting of Sir Ralph De Stafford his armour may have been blackened from the forge. The Armoured areas were given a light wash of Ultramarine blue to depict the reflection of the sky. 

When the blue was dry, a layer of water was gently brushed over it and a second wash of blue and burnt umber mixed together was added to the outer edges of the plates. The water enabled a soft blending to happen giving a rounded feel to the armour. Some burnt sienna is added to the face in a very weak wash. and other areas.

The jupon now has its colours added using a flat wash of red and yellow and the sword belt and scabbard are added. the backs of the legs also have a wash of colour added to them.

Colours used on the face are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Umber. washes are added and removed with a damp brush to show highlights.

Darker shadows are made by mixing Burnt Umber with Ultramarine blue, If I want to get really dark areas I use Prussian Blue with Burnt umber.

I NEVER use black but choose to make my darker shades from the Three Primary colours. Red Yellow and Blue. Mixed in the right consistency with a leaning towards the blue and Any shade from deepest black to pale grey can be obtained, browns can be made by reducing the amount of blue.

The mail is painted onto a dark wash that is left to dry, then using white paint and a small brush repeated rows of letter U's are painted in. Each row alternates from the correct way to upside down.

The final piece with an addition of darker shadows to the whole of the painting. Again a light wash of water is added to the area being painted and the shadow colour is added and allowed to blend with the water to give a soft gradation. Finally  highlights are added where the sun hits shiny surfaces using Gouache

To find out more about Ralph de Stafford follow

The same techniques used for watercolour are used with Gouache with the addition of thicker paint to add stronger colours and a more opaque quality to the paint. I usually use a good quality smooth board to paint on but I have used watercolour paper if I require a texture to the paper. 
Richard III Sketch on Board 

Finished work

 Above. Detail 

You can see more info on the above painting by clicking link below.
Above Illustrations of 13th and 14th century knights. Gouache on watercolour paper.

Above and below Late 15th c armour painted in watercolour and gouache.

As I trained in graphic Illustration one of my pleasures is to paint cutaways. This involves having the ability to imagine what an object would look like if it were made from glass and one could see beyond its surface. 

Painting digitally Overlayed onto photograph

Cutaway illustration  of a 17th c close helm and lining. Gouache on paper

The Method of painting a cutaway firstly involves drawing the object (In this case Helmets and their linings) as a solid piece. When I am happy with the drawing I then decide where the cutaway section will be. I lightly erase the lines that cover that area and then draw what I know will be inside. It helps to imaging that you have a clear glass helmet in front of you.

Cutaway painting of a 16th c Jousting helm lining Gouache on paper.

In the case of these helmets the linings needed to be seen clearly within the helmet so they were drawn complete almost as an overlay. When the drawing was complete the lining (and head) was painted without any thought given to the helmet. When completed the areas left on the helmet were painted as if solid and areas of deep shadow and bright highlight added over the lining. This can be seen on the Close helm, which shows the dark lines of the visors edge and bright areas over the lining.
Small sections of solid painting over the visor is then added such as the visors rivets and lifting pegs. 

Pen Drawing of  a 13th c Helm and Lining taken from a statue on Wells cathedral. 

Cutaway of a Bascinet with an unusual visor influenced from the representation of Stafford on a Brass monument. Gouache on paper.

Oil Paints
My illustration of a 16th century armour Oils on Canvas.

Detail of gauntlets

16th century Close Helm

My method of painting in Oils uses a method that dates back to the 18th century. The canvas is Primed with Gesso. This can then be smoothed down with sandpaper or left depending on the amount of texture I wish to use or the amount of detail. When ready a sketch is made which is drawn over using a line wash of burnt umber and Turps or Sansador. This is then covered  with a complete wash of burnt umber to gain the tonal levels of the painting.
1st layer of oil wash
When dry, a  layer of colour is added which establishes the metal and background colours. So far I have used only burnt umber but the metals are made by adding Prussian blue and white to the umber. NO detailing is added at this stage, just light and dark. 

Building up the colours and shape with very loose work.

 The detail is finally added using finer brushes. Adding light and dark lines to the composition helps build up the highlights and shadows especially on the edges of the metal and rivet heads.
Shape of the helmet built up and details added 

My interpretation of a 17th century Dutch Vanitas Still life. This painting follows the same techniques as the previous. the key to this type of painting is to remember that each layer will be covered by the following layer and so a looser style can be used to put down the colours without worrying about detail until the final moments of the painting. It does mean that time is needed to enable each layer to dry  but it ultimately enables me to be less stressed at creating detail in the initial stages of the work.                                                                                                                              

Finished work

Oil painting of Richard III 

Paint applied thicker

Standard added

Crown added

 Final painting

Egg Tempera  

A Triptych painted on wooden panels. 

Unfinished work on wooden panel

This type of painting uses a Gesso covered panel of wood which is drawn on and painted using egg tempera.

Recreating the methods used by Paolo Uccello in his mid 15th century painting
The battle of San Romano.
By Paul F Walker

On June 1st 1432, 30 miles outside Florence, a small skirmish which we now as ‘The Battle of San Romano’ was fought between the forces of Florence and Siena. The Florantine Niccolò da Tolentino and Sienese Francesco Piccinino led the two opposing armies, which consisted of cavalry and infantry. The battle took the form of a series of cavalry charges that lasted for approximately seven hours and culminated in the defeat of the Sienese after the intervention of Micheletto Attendolo with a second Florentine cavalry force.

My version under candlelight.
The Battle of San Romano By Paolo Uccello mid 15th century

To commemorate the battle, the Bartolini Salimbeni family commissioned a set of three large paintings to be produced by Paolo Uccello. These large egg tempera paintings employed the newly discovered use of Perspective to give a sense of depth to the image with the traditional use of gold and silver leaf but in a highly innovative way.  The three images were completed between 1438–1440, and are housed at the National Gallery, London, The Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence and The Musée du Louvre, Paris. (Roy and Gordon 2001, 4-5)
Religious paintings used gold leaf to enhance the brilliance of halo’s and religious symbols but Uccello used the medium to depict the actual metal surfaces of the knight’s armour. This unusual use of metal leaf incorporated punched patterns and glazed shading which enhanced the overall effect.
In 2014, I made the decision to attempt to reproduce the methods used by Paolo Uccello. Previously I had made studies into the methods of 14th century Egg tempera paintings and Traditional 17th century methods in oil painting. I had also created illustrations specifically of armour throughout a 500-year period so the Uccello painting combined the use of all three techniques.
As I have, limited space, I chose to reproduce a small area situated on the right of the National Gallery painting, which depicts two clashing knights. I omitted the lance and the third knight depicted on a black horse choosing to simplify the composition to aid the visual effect.
Whilst the National gallery painting is rendered on a surface that consists of eight planks of poplar wood joined horizontally and reinforced with vertical strips of canvas my painting is on a single panel of poplar wood covered with fine canvas. (Roy and Gordon 2001, 6)
The original uses egg tempera and natural pigments with walnut oil and linseed oil glazes. Where traditional pigments are easily available, I have tried to recreate original colours, but in the interest of my health, some colours, such as lead white and yellow, are replaced by a safe chemical version.
The panel was first prepared with an undercoat or 'Size' made from gelatine which is created by boiling rawhide, this seals the panels grain and when dry a 'gesso ground’ is added.
 The gesso is made from 'Gypsum' mixed into the rawhide size (marble dust can be used), with the addition of titanium white powdered pigment. Traditional methods may have used lead white pigment but Uccello uses Gypsum.
Above. A gesso covered wooden panel. In this work I made a copy of the portrait of Marie de Bourgogne with some small changes. Cracking of the gesso can just be seen as the wood expanded and shrunk before I could complete the work.

The process of making the gesso involves gentle heating of the rawhide over a long period. (Up to four days), this process must be slow as rapid boiling will create bubbles, which ruins the paintings surface by leaving small pit marks.
On the fourth day of heating the size, the Gypsum is gently added and left overnight to cool. The gesso will set to the consistency of a firm jelly but will soften when reheated.
The first layer being rough known as the 'Gesso Grosso’, which, when dry, needs to be sanded, or 'Waterblocked' smooth. This method involves using a hardwood block that is planed perfectly smooth and flat. The block is simply dipped into water and rubbed in small circular motions across the panel to create a smooth surface. Four coats of gesso were applied and 'waterblocked' until the surface was smooth and flat becoming the 'Gesso Sottile'.
Traditional method of drawing used on smooth surfaces include pure soft metals, such as lead, which produces a pale grey line that is easily erasable.   Silver, Tin, Copper and various lead-and-pewter alloys were also used but all need a rough surface and are not erasable. Although the graphite pencil was not used until the end of the 16th century I felt that the drawing methods used would not be compromised by its use.
Uccello uses various aids to create sweeping lines and curves, one simple device being a compass to create the rounded backsides on the horses. His use of perspective is masterly and although very few of his drawings exist, those that do, are concerned with the changing shapes of objects in a three dimensional form.

Gilders Tip and Brushes

When the drawing was complete a red undercoat or 'Bole' made from clay, was added to the areas to be covered with gold or silver. This coating is to give a smooth hard surface to apply the leaf and give warm effect to the gold. The Size in the bole when wetted with alcohol acts as a glue, which holds the leaf.  The method of making bole is similar to creating the gesso but with red clay powder instead of gypsum. 
The ‘bole’ is laid down and smoothed using the same method as the gesso layer; patterning is then added by punching or scoring the surface. Various shaped tools were used to add details such as armour rivets and decoration on the crests. The outlines of the armour were scored with a sharp tool to aid the edging on the silver leaf.
When all the preparatory work was completed the armoured areas were covered with silver leaf and Gold leaf was used on the horse’s decoration and the helmet crests. (The original painting uses silver leaf on the crests).
The leaf is then added using a Gilders ‘Tip’, which is a flat brush of squirrel hair. (Badger hair is also used).
The leaf is incredibly thin, (four millionths of an inch) and just the slightest breath of air will send it blowing away. It is picked up with the Tip and laid down over the area to be covered, after a short drying period the loose leaf can be brushed away with a soft mop brush leaving the area clean. Any gaps or 'Faultings' can be filled with the small bits left over which are called 'Skewings'.

The area is then burnished with a flat rounded tool made from a polished agate stone; the stone can be rubbed on wax to aid the polishing process. The metal should now gleam but a polish with a soft cloth can bring it to a bright shine.
Shadowing was then added to the armour using a burnt umber pigment mixed with oils. This took the form of a glaze that was painted over the armour and removed from the highlights to show the silver leaf. Some of the graduated shading was achieved by dabbing with my fingers, a method used by Uccello which left fingerprints on the work. (Roy and Gordon 2001, 10)
The edging of the armour plates were then enhanced by lining with a fine brush using ink.  Various inks were available in the 15th century such as ‘Bistre’ which is made from the soot that coats the inside of a chimney. Uccello uses Indian ink, which I made from the soot of burned hardwood, traditional woods used were olive and grape vine. The burnt wood is ground down to a fine powder and mixed with vinegar, the mixture needs a binder such as gum Arabic but some woods such as pine contain resins that act as a binder.
When all the armour and gold leaf was complete and the lining dry, the Pigments for the painting were prepared by grinding the colours on a marble slab with a Muller. 

Uccello used colours which were made using various methods. Many colours were achieved using natural pigments, whilst others were chemically made using the technology of the period. In the battle of San Romano, Red lake, Vermilion, Ultramarine blue, lead tin yellow, azurite, yellow ochre, and a variety of natural browns are used. (Roy and Gordon 2001, 16).  The green foliage used 'Verdigris', a pigment that is made from copper. I have made this pigment but do not advise using it, as it is a long process and toxic. The method is simple and can be achieved with copper pipe cut into short lengths. The pipe is sanded clean and suspended  inside a sealable jar with white vinegar. The vinegar must not touch the pipe, as it is the vapour that reacts with the copper. The jar is sealed and put away for at least three months. At this point a green surface of crystals can be seen which when dried can be scrapped into a container and used.  A modern chemical version was used in my painting (for safety).
Other pigments In Uccello’s painting include 'Lead-tin' yellow. This is made by heating lead and tin oxides to various temperatures (Usually between 650 and 800 C) to create differing hues. Lower temps create more orange yellows whilst higher make lemon yellows. Again, I used a modern version.
These greens and yellows were painted on a charcoal black.
 The Blue pigment is Ultramarine mixed with lead white, Ultramarine pigment is made from Lapis lazuli which is a mineral that is mined in the valley of Kokcha in Afganistan. The process of making ultramarine involve grinding the stone into a very fine powder. This is then mixed with water and magnets are used to remove any pyrite particles. The fine powder is then mixed with wax and water and kneaded; this is then pushed through a fine cloth to remove any coarse grains leaving fine grade pigment.
Lead white is made in a similar method to verdigris but again is highly toxic and its manufacture is now banned.
The red pigment of the scabbard and saddle is Vermilion which was made from the mineral Cinnabar which is mined in Almaden, Spain. The mineral is ground heated and washed.
 The foreground horse is painted using white mixed with yellow ochre. Yellow ochre is a natural pigment which is made from clay that can be found throughout the world. The best shades being from Cyprus. The pigment is simply wetted and ground.
Roses and pomegranates use ‘Red lake’ glazes over white and a modern chemical version of Lead tetroxide.  Red lake is commonly known to be made from the cochineal beetle, but this was only used in Europe from the 16th century onwards after the Spanish imported from the new world. Uccello would have probably used Kermes Lake, which is a European form of the beetle that lives in Oak. The beetle would have been scraped from the branches of trees then ground and boiled; the solution is then filtered to remove any unwanted stuff and a solution of water and alum is added. The mixture now needs an alkali such as potash to form a reaction that precipitates the alum. The pigment will settle at the bottom of the mixture. After a process of repeatedly siphoning off the water and replacing it with clear water the pigment can finally be filtered and dried. The powder is then mixed with its medium.
The  Egg Tempera is made from the yolk of an egg mixed with a pigment. It can only be laid down in thin layers and has a very fast drying time thus the modelling of any shadow or form need to be built up from small brush strokes. 
The pigment is added to water and thoroughly mixed; it is then made smoother by grinding it with a Muller. The egg yolk is then separated from white and placed on an absorbent towel. (this removes the small amount of white that is left on the yolk sack. The yolk sack is gently pierced and the yolk added to the pigment mix and thinned to requirements. The amount of yolk in the mix can affect the overall finish with too much leaving a greasy finish and too little giving a chalky finish. The ideal being a slightly glossy finish. The paint can be bottled for use. 

Detail showing the texture caused by dabbing an oil based glaze over the armour. In areas my fingerprints could be made out, which to my surprise is seen on the original.

The paint was first applied to the panel in large areas of flat colour, using the body colour of each segment, Background, Horses, Saddles, Harness and scabbard.  This was then built up in small cross hatched brush strokes to describe highlight and shadow. This process requires patience and an ability to judge the underlying layers tonal quality as it is built upon using stronger colours. Areas of highly saturated colour such as the green in the foliage use glazes to deepen the shade and in Uccello’s original painting the addition of walnut oil to the egg tempera created an increased glossy surface and slowed the drying time.

 The overall effect of the silver leaf is most striking when viewed from different angles under candlelight  as the armour shines but unfortunately it cannot be shown easily in the photographs.

Above. The completed work in daylight
My research on armour for this painting can be found here

Using Spectrum Noir Markers.

My first attempts made with Spectrum Noir (SN) and Docrafts artiste (DA) markers. These Felt pens are designed for card makers and come in sets of six for the SN at around £7.00p. per set and twelve for the DA markers which are around the same price. this is a considerable saving when comparing them to illustrators pens. Both have a wide range of colours with sets that graduate from light to dark tonal differences.

 The SN pens have a fine and chisel nib at either end. 

The two pictures here use 'Cool grey' and 'Brown grey'. NA sets and they blend wonderfully, if you buy the new sets which are hexagonal in profile you(The older pens are square in profile) You can exchange the chisel nib for a brush nib.

They are also refillable with the spirit based inks.

I also purchased the essentials set which has a blender pen which is very useful for making smooth gradations.

Early to mid 15th century harness 
To see another mid 15th century harness click here 

To help the image I used a white pencil to add highlights. This is quite a good technique used by car designers and was especially good for highlighting the edges of armour plates. I also used a fine liner from the Docrafts pens to help with fine line shadows.

The red hose and leather straps plus the wooden cue for the axe use the Docrafts pens with white pencil to add highlights

The trick in using these pens is to firstly use a very smooth paper, I use a smooth Bristol board sketchpad. secondly, always work from the lightest shade changing pens as you go darker and blending as you go. I ignored the lines made by plates joining such as those on the knee and helmet. just blend right through and when happy with the result then add the thin dark line where the plates meet. On top of this I then added white Pencil lines where the light catches on the joints and lastly a gentle blending of white pencil where the light creates highlights.

16th century Close helm

Latest work in progress
The Battle of Shrewsbury, Gouache on board.

First sketch of the battle of Shrewsbury

 This sketch was started late last year but due to a house move It is now on hold.

To find out more about this painting and the history behind it, click this link below

Finished work

You will find these and other artwork throughout my pages by clicking on the yellow links or clicking the contents buttons at the top right of this page.


  1. Beautiful work! Thanks for sharing! :-D

  2. Great Post Sharing Here. Thanks for this post!