There are times when I really enjoy painting minis and other times when it is simply a chore (it can switch from one to the other in mid-stride, so mayhap it is that I am bi-polar and painting is just painting). Certain things are more likely to make it a chore; such as painting forty figures with brown trousers and red jackets. Conversely when I am looking at dozens (or hundreds) of figures that are dressed in an irregular manner I am often at a loss as to how to organize the work. Too organized and it may as well be uniforms, too chaotic and it looks as if the troops escaped from Cirque du Soleil (as well as being dreadfully slow to paint). If I try to paint figures one at a time I find that I have gotten a dozen or so finished and a month has passed.
I need discipline, I need structure, I need A METHOD! Fortunately I seem to have found one (that works for me) I call it the Five-by-Five. I can't seem to work on fewer figures without treating them as individual projects; much more and I find it intimidating and I just give up. Twenty five figures is just right for me, the beauty of this system is that you can scale it up or down to suit your style. The central premise is that you will organize your models into five groups of five figures in a pattern of (you guessed it) five x five as depicted in the diagram below. Each circle represents a figure , the upper half the tunic, the lower half the trousers. The small circles are the paint colors chosen.
You now choose five colors for the largest garment the figures are wearing (in the example above that would be the shirt), you arrange these along the vertical side of the grouped figures. Then you choose five more roughly complimentary colors for the second largest item of clothing (the trousers), you arrange these along the lower edge of the formation. You proceed to paint across, and then up the rows of figures. This will give you variety without total chaos as there will be several figures with similar looks but not the same. From time to time you find that one or more of the color combinations produce tragic results, feel free to substitute white or black to avoid eye-jarring combinations like purple and yellow.
I can usually get all twenty-five figures done in an hour or so of painting and then I can move on to details and metals. I almost always paint the flesh first and then move to this method. To get a more unified look try having only three rows for the trousers and seven rows for the tunic and use similar colors for the tunic, I have used this method for painting troops that wear uniforms but who have been on campaign for some time and have undertaken "field repairs". See below, this would be a pattern that I might use for long-serving British troops in the Peninsula in about 1811 or so. Fairly uniform, but not the same.
I hope that you find this useful, anyone else with ideas/methods that help speed the painting process give me an e-mail at daftrica89 at yahoo dot com and I will add your suggestions to the blogs. And no, you can't suggest farming the work out to Malaysia because that is not a painting technique.
I will warrant that it is a good way to get a lot of figures done quickly and at a reasonable price. But it is not a painting technique.