How to Paint and Rig a Sloop

By Guy Rheuark

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Ships are one of the most striking things about Blood & Plunder. Being able to play out an epic duel between two captains, brought to life on a tabletop, is one of the things that brings people into this hobby and this game. The ships serve the purpose of a grand centerpiece for your force, and are customizable and functional, covered in details like wood grain, cannon ports, and hatch grate.

These ships can also be intimidating. It feels like that much blank canvas stares back at you. Taunting you.  Where do you start? What if you mess up? What if you don’t like it? What to do.

To those ends I cataloged myself painting and rigging, as a sort of How-To. The Sloop is the most versatile ship in Blood and Plunder, and is the one I believe most people should start with. Joseph Forester wrote an excellent overview of it, that highlights its flexibility.

Disclaimer: I have no such awards, merits, accords, or prizes for my painting skill. If you know a better, easier, cooler way to do something I do here, I would love to hear about it, as I am always trying to be better.

How to Prep Your Blood & Plunder Sloop

Step 1: Opening the Box

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Open up the sloop box, and gently remove the contents.

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At this point you are just checking to make sure it is all there.

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The paper items are an important part of rigging the ship, and playing the game. Put them somewhere safe, and do not throw them away.

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You should inspect your hull. I’ve never gotten a bad ship from Firelock, as their quality control is very high. Each ship will have minor imperfections, such as bubbles or bends. As you handle your ship, make a mental note of those areas.

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Next look over the accessories you got in the kit. The back of the box tells you what comes with your ship. Take a moment to count your dowels, laser cut rigging, cannons, and swivel guns. Make sure they are all accounted for. Next find your mast and bowsprit. These are the two largest dowels. Fit them into your sloop deck, to make sure they will attach later on.

Step 2: Cleaning

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Tools Needed:

  • Hobby Knife
  • Old Glove for Left Hand
  • Rag
  • Sandpaper
  • Hand Soap
  • Optional Tools:
  • Files

In this step you will get the sloop hull ready to paint.

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When sanding, cutting, or filing, make sure any open containers are far away from your work area.

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After putting on your glove(s) choose a side to work on. Here I chose the larboard side.

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Cute any thin resin from the gun ports. Do not apply too much pressure, as you do not want the knife to slip and mar your hull. If you are filing, you will be able to smooth out the gunports.

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Refer to your mental notes about the bubbles on your hull. While I didn’t photograph it, I use my gloved left hand to hold things that I have to apply pressure to to cut. Nothing stops a person from hobbling for a day like a flesh wound.

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Remove any bubbles in your chain guard holes and mast holes. Have the parts that go in these holes in hand so you can make sure they fit.

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Always put the guard on when you are done using the knife. Not only does this prevent wounds, but helps keep the blade sharp.

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This is the assortment of files that I use for most projects. You can also use an emery board, as resin is quite soft. If your knife work was skilled enough, you can skip the filing.

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Use a large flat file for the gun ports. File the resin down from what you cut out. You do not need them to be perfectly smooth, just get rid of the sharp edges and clean up the corners.

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Use a round file for the hawsepipe. This is the small round hole near the bow that’s intended for the anchor chain to go through.

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Because of small imperfections during casting, most ships rock slightly. To Correct this, to place sandpaper on a firm, level surface. Find the point that your ship rocks from, and apply pressure, sanding the bottom of your ship. Only run your ship over the sandpaper five to eight times before checking if the rocking is gone.

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Wash the resin ship with hand soap and warm (not hot) water. Use a rag to lightly scrub all surfaces.

 If part of your ship is bent, now is when you will correct that. After washing the ship, set the water to hot. Run the bent part under the hot water for a while, being careful not to burn yourself. Immediately after taking it out of the water, slowly bend the part to the correct position. If it doesn’t bend, the water isn’t hot enough or it hasn’t been under the water for long enough.

After washing the hull, towel it off. Set it in a dry place for about a day. Do not place it in direct sunlight. If you notice any water beading in it during the day, shake it off. You need it completely dry for the next step.

Step 3: Priming

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Tools Needed:

  • Neutral Hobby Spray Paint
  • Well Ventilated Low Humidity Area
  • Large Scrap Cardboard Sheet
  • Optional Tools:
  • Black Hobby Spray Paint

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Place the Sloop on its side, on the cardboard. Vigorously shake the spray paint can for 45-60 seconds. Immediately after shaking, spray the hull from about 6” away, in a quick even sweeping motion. After about three passes, shake the can again and admire your work. Do not touch the sloop. Keep spraying until the entire upper side is painted. It does not need to look perfect, just painted.

After waiting about an hour, flip the ship over and repeat this process for the other side.

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After waiting about an hour, put the sloop right side up. Using the same process as above, paint the deck and the inside of the gunwales. Gunwales are the upper edge of the hull. You might need to turn the ship to paint both sides.

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If you have black spray paint, you can save yourself some time by painting the hatch grate. The hatch grate is the checkered square in the middle of the main deck. The low parts are meant to represent the inky black of the hold. Painting them by hand is a pain, as each little hole has five sides to paint, and if you miss one the high contrast black makes it very noticeable.

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Spray the hatch grate in the same manner you sprayed the hull. Spray the paint from directly above for the best coverage. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it is ok to spray more a little outside of the hatch grate.

After waiting for the black to dry, your ship will be ready to detail!

How to Rig Your Blood & Plunder Sloop

Step 4: Assemble the Mast, Bowsprit, Boom, and Gaff

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Tools Needed:

  • Wood Glue
  • Paper Towel
  • Non Porous Drying Area
  • Dowel Guide:
  • (From top to bottom in the above picture)
  • Main Mast
  • Flagstaff
  • Gaff
  • Boom
  • Bowsprit

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Peel the plastic carefully from both sides of the rigging components. These can sometimes break easily, so don’t bend or force them.

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Get out the rigging guide that you got in your box. Note the name of each and where it goes.

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Start with RP1. Apply glue to the inside edge of RP1. I like working with wood glue when I can. It gives one of the best holds for wood parts. Parts do not need to be joined immediately, so you can move them to where you want, or correct a mistake. It’s a slow glue though, taking about a day to cure.

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Attach RP1 to the bowsprit. Use a paper towel to remove any excess glue. I will not be priming these, and paint does not stick well to glue. Make sure RP1 is centered on the dowel.

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Repeat the same process for the Gaff and the Boom. It is a good idea to towel off excess glue, even if you intend to prime the rigging.

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Set the glued parts down on a non porous surface, like plastic. Even with the most care, they will “stick” slightly. Do not let them dry on a wood table.

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While those are drying, fit RP7 and RP10 to your mast, without any glue. If they do not fit, use sandpaper to smooth the dowel till they do.

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Next, fit the Flagstaff into the RP7 and RP10, without glue. You are making sure they fit, and eyeing where you want them.

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Remove RP10. Push RP7 down the Mast slightly. Apply a thin layer of glue where you want RP7 to be.

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Push RP7 up over the glue, to where you want it to be.

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Use a paper towel to remove the excess glue. This is especially important here, because the glue can glob over the holes intended for the rigging.

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Apply another layer of glue for RP10. Attach it in the same way you attached RP7.

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For the flagstaff, apply a layer of glue to the intended holes instead of the flagstaff.

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Gently push it in, and towel off the glue that is smeared on the flagstaff.

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While it’s still wet, look at your mast from the top to make sure everything is straight. Set it down to dry with the other parts you glued.

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Let those pieces cure for a day.

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While you wait, dry fit RP6, the chain guard, to the hull of the sloop. If they fit, take them out and apply a layer of glue. Put RP6 in the slot, and clean any excess glue off the outside.

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If RP6 doesn’t fit, use your files, or a knife, to carve out the space.

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The next day check your work. Attach RP4 to the boom by adding glue to the inside of RP4. Make sure that RP1 on the opposite side of the Boom is facing up. Set it aside to dry and attach RP3 to the Gaff in the same way, making sure to clean any glue off.

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While they dry, pick up the bowsprit. Apply glue to the end and fit it into the hull. Make sure RP1 is facing up.

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You might have to use a stick to clean the glue off the hull.

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Look at the ship from the front to make sure it is straight.

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Check the bow from the back as well. Set the rigging parts aside to cure for a day.

Step 5: Painting the Larboard Side

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Paint Supplies Needed:

  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Non Precious Cup for Water
  • Wet Pallet
  • Paint Rag
  • Poster putty
  • Optional: Large Old Towel

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I used to mount my ships on a large paint jar of gesso. It was inconvenient, and they fell off often, sometimes ruining the coat. I started using a large folded old towel to hold the ship while painting.

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The towel can be rotated, letting you easily get the ship to the right angle for your wrist.

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Using a towel also saves the paint on the other side, as long as you don’t move the ship around on the towel often.

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Start at the hull below the gunwales. Most hulls of the era were painted black below the waterline, to stave off shipworms. Choose whatever color you want.

I use cheap, craft store paint for my basic colors. I can shake them to mix the paint, with few consequences, and paint out of the cap. I will sometimes have to apply multiple coats with lighter colors. For the sake of you following along, I limited my color selection to Delta Ceramcoat paints, and Citadel Paints and Washes.

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When you first start painting your ship, save yourself some time and choose a larger brush for the base coats.

Use the wet pallet to thin your paints. The entire ship is covered with wood grain details, and a thick coat of paint or primer will erase that detail.

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Apply the paint in thin even strokes. Don’t worry about “going over the line”. Use this step to paint the underside of the waterline. The waterline is  the moulding that separates the lower hull from the gunwales.

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When you get to the stern use a smaller brush.  Follow the waterline from the larboard side and paint everything below it.

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Once done, clean off your brush. Go over the area again, with your clean brush, to smooth the paint out. Make sure the paint hasn’t welled up anywhere.

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Check out your work from different angles, to make sure you painted everything.

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Next, choose a brown paint. I went with Mournfang Brown, but any wood brown will work. Do not choose a color that is too dark if you intend to use a wash. Citadel paints, and most acrylic paints, need to be stirred before they are used. I use toothpicks to stir my paint.

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Using the same brush from earlier, paint the gunwales in broad, even strokes.

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Paint the mouldings of the bow, the hawsepipe, the chainguard, the cannon ports, the skids, and the underside of the railing.

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Go over the area with a clean brush like you did with the black hull. Citadel paint dries fast when thinned, so you can find thicker paint by looking for shininess.

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With a smaller brush, paint over any brown paint you got on the black paint.

After you’re done, let the ship sit for 2-3 hours.

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Use Agrax Earthshade for a brown wash. I will use this same wash for the entire ship. A paint wash is essentially watered down paint. It is useful when painting models because it can get into the crevasses and make them darker. As stated, the whole ship is covered with wood grain, and this wash will help that detail show.

Unlike regular Citadel paints it is ok to shake their washes instead of stirring them. Shake each wash a good 5 seconds before use.

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Attach a glob of poster putty to your desk and press the wash firmly into it. This is because it is very easy to tip over the very small pots these come in, especially when focused on painting.

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Use a brush you don’t care about to spread the wash. When putting wash on your brush, run the brush on the inside lip of the wash pot so you don’t put too much wash on at once. Make sure you methodically cover the entire larboard side, adding a heavier concentration under the trim to simulate shadows.

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Wash the black of the hull as well. Wash takes a while to dry, so you can again check if you missed anywhere by looking for shininess.

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Add a heavy layer of wash to the bow. The ornate carving is called a beakhead.

After painting the entire side, let it sit for 2-3 hours to dry.

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After it’s done drying, inspect your work.

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The heavy layers of wash in the bow trim look like shadow and give the detail depth.

If you like the look of your model at this point, you can skip painting the trim.

Next we will be dry brushing. Dry brushing is an important feather in the amateur painters cap. When done well, it is an easy way to add highlights to a model.

The alternative to dry brushing is edge highlighting. Edge highlighting is where you apply a thin line of a brighter color to the areas the sun would hit at high noon. This can be time consuming.

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Get out a paint rag. Dry brushing does not use a wet pallet, and a lot of paint will end upon your rag.

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Choose a large brush that you don’t care about. Dry brushing destroys brushes over time. Do not wet the brush before using it.

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Dry brush Mournfang Brown over the black of the hull. This is the same brown we started with for the gunwales and helps create the effect that it is naturally brown.

If you haven’t used your paint for more than a day, mix your paint. Do not shake Citadel paints. Also, do not use the paintbrush to mix the paint, as that’s a quick way to ruin a good brush.

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After lightly dipping your brush in paint, use your rag to get most of the paint off. Test the brush on areas of the rag you haven’t painted, or even your hand. You want the paint to be barely on the brush.

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Dry brush the entire black area. It’s ok if you think it isn’t showing up.

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To dry brush the gunwales, use a much lighter paint than Mournfang Brown. I used Bambi Brown.

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Dry brush the gunwales, using the same process as you did on the black hull. With a lighter color like this, be extra careful with how much paint is on your brush. Too much paint will ruin the effect.

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Dry brush around all sides of the gunports and the chain guards. Go over the areas until you are happy with it. If you think you put on too much light paint, or you don’t like the look, paint it Mournfang Brown again.

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It is now time to add wear to the gun ports to make them look used. For the gun ports use a dark brown, like Rhinox Hide.

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When dry brushing around the gunports, place your brush in the gun port and brush away from the center of the hole, to simulate the fire and smoke of a cannon being fired. Only add enough to be noticeable.

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This is the larboard side after three stages of dry brushing. All that is left is to paint the trim, railing, and details.

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For the trim and railing use a Bright Red, or another color that you like.

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For this process use a smaller brush. For line work like this, I like using a brush slightly smaller than the area I am painting.

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Start at the bow. The beakhead is going to take the most time to paint. Bright colors need several coats to look even, so do not be frustrated if the color doesn’t show up well after one coat. Only paint the top of the beakhead, leaving your wash below to help contrast the bright color. Also leave the keel brown. The keel is the wood beam that runs along the center bottom of a ship.

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Once the beakhead is done, move on to the trim and railing. Don’t worry about painting the top of the railing, it will be painted when the ship is at a better angle.

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When you’re painting small areas like this, you will mess up occasionally and paint something you don’t want to paint, like I did here. When that happens, don’t panic.

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Wash your brush in your water. Without drying it completely, use the brush to spread water on the area you didn’t want paint. Once the paint is diluted with the water, dry your brush, and use the brush to remove the water.

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The top of the railing will be painted later.

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Paint the hawse pipe and the trim. It might take two to three coats for the color to be even. On the plus side, the red is supposed to look like paint, so if you like how it looks thin in places, leave it that way.

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Paint the skids in the center of the larboard side red all the way into the black of the hull. The skids are where the ship turns from, and it’s important that they are noticeable.

The last thing to do on this side is edge highlight the red. Edge highlighting is a slow process, and if you like how the larboard side of the ship looks, feel free to skip to step 6.

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When adding a highlight, you usually use a lighter version of the same color, like you did on the gunwales. Light reds are usually pink, however, and don’t highlight well. So instead use an adjacent color to red, in this case, a very bright Pumpkin.

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Add an edge highlight to the top of each part that is red. You are trying to simulate the sun coming from above and illuminating the top.

When painting such a small area, brush control is very important. Anchor your arm to the table and use your off hand to steady your wrist. Position the towel perpendicular to your arm.

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Don’t edge highlight the top of the beakhead yet.

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Even though they are slightly recessed, edge highlight the lateral support beams in the beakhead. When edge highlighting circular objects, like the hawse pipe and the curl above the keel, paint the top forty percent.

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Edge highlight the top of the skids and the trim below the gunwales.

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After edge highlighting the stern, the larboard side is complete.

Next we will paint the weather deck. The weather deck, or just deck, are the parts of the ship your models will go on.

Step 6: Paint the Decks

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Paint Supplies Needed:

  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Non Precious Cup for Water
  • Wet Pallet
  • Paint Rag
  • Poster putty
  • Optional: Large Old Towel

Use Mournfang Brown as the base wood tone for the deck. Use a medium sized brush to paint the deck, but do not paint over the hatch grate.

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Paint an even layer over the deck, around the hatch grate. Once you paint the large main deck, paint the smaller poop deck behind it. Once you have painted the poop deck, if any black is showing through the brown paint on the main deck, put another coat of Mournfang Brown on it.

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Use a cleaned brush to make sure there are not any places your paint was put on too thick, like you did on the hull.

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Wait about an hour for the deck to dry.

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Paint the inside of the gunwales next. Roll up the towel the ship is on to prop up one side. Make sure you paint all the edges and beams..

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Slowly make progress around the ship. The inner gunwales will only be painted and washed, so be as thorough as possible.

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Continue around the interior of the ship. Paint the top of the top of the door near the bow as well.

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After painting the main deck, paint the gunwales of the poop deck.

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While the ship dries, move the ship with the towel to make sure you painted everything.

Let the ship dry for 1-2 hours. The next phase is to wash the deck; the gunwales, the bow, the stern, and the wall between the decks.

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Check your ship to make sure the paint on the deck is dry.

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Use Agrax Earthshade for the wash, using putty to attach it to the table like last time.

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Start in a corner of the ship and start washing the deck.