How much attention to detail is enough?

November 23, 2008

This is a question I’ve been pondering for the last fortnight and it arose because of the turret of one of the Tigers. To be more precise, it arose because I was painting up a crewman whose head is poking out the cupola of the platoon tank’s cupola.

The crewman is the crewman supplied with the Italeri StuG III kit, and he’s wearing a field cap (feldmutze).  The question was – should I paint on the cockade and national emblem onto the cap, or leave them off? Painting them on would certainly add more detail and realism, but it would be (for me) finicky and difficult…and if I stuffed it up, would require doing the whole cap again. My rule (discussed in a previous post) that near enough is good enough when painting small items of detail (like GrossDeutschland stahlhelms) would also have to apply if I got it to look OK, it would have to stay OK – trying to add to it and make it perfect would probably lead to me over-correcting or over-adding and so ruining the OK effort that I already had.

Remembering to do my research first, I checked the Panzerworld website to check up on Heer Panzer crew headgear. The national emblem would be easy enough – a light grey (I chose Fortress Grey) but the cockade would be Skull White with a Blood Red centre. Still the question remained – to do it, or not? Would it be visible at a range greater than 50cm? Would it really add anything to the overall effect? Would it be worth extra lost time if I made an error? I didn’t do it with my Italeri StuG…should I do it here?

My memory also summoned up the efforts of two WW2 wargaming  colleagues from Nunawading Wargames Association. One turned out functional yet very realistic-looking troops and vehicles. The other turned out technically brilliant work, even perfectly painting on collar patches and shoulder strap rank insignia (no mean feat on 1:72 scale figures!) to his troops – but such tiny detail was lost if you were looking at the troops at any distance greater than half a metre. I had talked with the former at an in-house painting clinic, and he urged against such intricate work as being unnecessary and not as useful as proper shading, highlighting and basing.

Having given all this good consideration, I decided I would. After all, these are Tigers, the most notable German tank of the war and equalizer (for a short while – the T-34 lost all its threat). Also, if the detail on the feldmutze couldn’t be distinguished at range then I would know not to do it again in the future, especially if I didn’t botch painting the cockade and national emblem.

Luckily, I did a better than OK job and have glued the crewman into place. Now I can do all the final anoying details on these Tigers, then do the camouflage pattern, weather them and get them off my hobby table and onto the gaming table!

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