How I'm freehanding cool shield designs

I've been painting shields with free-hand designs for the past few months. This figure above is a Ral Partha Sea Elf and I'm inspired by ancient Grecian designs for their paint and shield designs. This shield is one of the better ones that I've done in awhile.

But how did I go from this large design as my inspiration...

To that little shield, which is about 10mm wide?

Trust me, I'm not THAT good to paint it from scratch, so I took a page from some other woodworking projects where I've had to trace letters on a painted surface.

First, I grabbed that image and put it into GIMP (a free Photoshop clone).

In GIMP, I converted the image to 2 color (black/white) to make it easier to use. I then converted it back to RBG colors, and colored in the fins. Why? In looking at this, I figured that I wanted to trace the body, but free-hand the fins. Having colors for the different parts would allow me to trace out the different pieces better. You'll see why below.

I measured the diameter of that shield, which was about 11mm. Since the design had a border, and my shield had a similar border, I felt good about the placement. So, using GIMP, I just scaled the image down to 11mm as well.

Once there, I printed it out and then cut it out, as you can see in this picture.

So when I use this, I have that strip on the top to hold onto while I trace the image on the shield. Or it's there to use sticky tack to hold it to the figure. As you can see, this is pretty frickin' tiny! Having the different colors allows me to trace out the main body accurately, without the fins throwing me off by being the same color.

So how do I get the design onto the shield? I flip it over and color in the entire back with pencil.

Now I put the design over the shield, and lightly trace out the black body area onto the shield. Fill it in with black paint, and then paint in the fins. I have a picture of the full size design by my paint stand as a guide.

And voila:

Now to be sure, it's not going to be as perfect or same for all 6 of these figures, as if I were using decals, but I like the challenge and look of the freehand designs.

What tricks do you use for doing your freehand shields?


  1. Glad you are sticking with it! I know you were hitting that block, I am too. It is nice to take inspiration from people just working through it.

    1. Thanks! Hope you pay it forward when you get your mojo back!

  2. I color laser printed mine (60mm) out on regular paper, cut them out, then I used Mod Podge to decopage them onto my plastic 60mm Viking figures' shields. I play fantasy, and these 60mm Vikings will be painted up as Frost Giants, for use with 25mm Human figures. Simple, and effective. Cheers!

  3. Hey, that is a good trick! It would not work as well with darker shield backgrounds, but it could be made to work.

    Seems like it would be useful for fantasy greek style shields (sort of like yours) or for anything with a pattern.


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