Set on a Pedestal: Gene Archibald on How to Model a Roman Statue

Hi, I’m Paul, and welcome to the latest masterpiece from Sculpting, Painting and Gaming.

Part of the enjoyment of gaming comes from the environment in which our toy soldiers fight their little wars. If you like fielding your miniatures on an appealing gaming table decorated with attractive buildings and / or terrain, then you’ll find this piece by Gene Archibald very interesting. His article on building a Roman sculpture—and how to create a marble plinth on which to stand it—is both well crafted and beautifully finished.  Much like the subject matter.




Roman sculptors were lauded for their skill at portraiture, and the statues that graced the great city reflected the glory of the Empire as a whole. Including these figures of marble on your own table will play a part in setting the stage, and enhancing your gang’s adventures in the Eternal City. Painting marble can be intimidating but, a pleasing effect is possible with even very basic methods.

Research is vital prior to starting a project. Mine usually doesn’t amount to more than a couple Google searches so it doesn’t require a Masters in Classical History. Most of my fact checking is for inspirational purposes, and get to a feel for what I’m working with. It turns out a Roman statue is an excellent project to demonstrate that historical accuracy and immersion can take divergent paths.

The internet provided a wide selection of Roman statuary to consider. Along with the eye candy I learned that only the purest marble is white, and that the Romans painted their statues. The former remark gave me some leeway in my colour choices, while the latter prompted me to invoke a design / creative control clause. The examples of painted Roman statues I saw looked very flat. Imagining them on the table, I thought; they would look like nothing more than basecoated models! I am more interested in the feel of Rome rather than a true historical interpretation.

My prospective statue was a 54mm 1st century Auxilia Officer. This set him outside of the time frame I’d imagined; I was shooting for period covered in the TV series Rome, but most people wouldn’t pick up on this, so it seemed forgivable. It’s a finely detailed and imposing figure when compared to my 28mm gangs, but it still needed a plinth to be worthy of Rome.


Part One: Construction

I built my plinth from scrap plasticard. With the impressive figure I could get away with a very low plinth, so some offcuts from older projects were sufficient. I also had some spare 40mm bases with bevelled edges to cap the ends of my plinth. I tested the height of my plinth before I started cutting and measuring and then placed some scrap foam board between the two bases and decided my box shape would be 20mm high.

The box would be joined with the bases on the narrow ends so I took a measurement for the lengths of the styrene arriving at 36mm. Lastly, I traced the bottom of the base onto the styrene sheet because the plinth needed a topper to hide the texture on the underside of the base.

Two of the parts were designated front and back. To account for the thickness of the styrene I cut 2mm from each of the side pieces. I shortened the sides to hide any potential seams from the golden angle at the front of the statue. With all sides measured, I cut and bonded them to the lower base and to each other. My statue was rather heavy, so I reinforced the corners of the box with offcuts of sprue. Once the box had some time to set I glued the remaining 40mm base – with its topper – to the remaining assembly. The completed plinth was superglued to the base of the 54mm figure.


Part Two: Painting

The complete statue was primed, and then sprayed with beige paint. The majority of the project was completed with a Reaper bone triad. The important thing was that the beige tones have three values consistent with one another. If you would prefer a bright marble statue you might consider three values of greys or blue-greys instead. I chose beige to invoke the grimy, mean streets of Rome I imagined.

To begin I applied a generous coat of brown wash over the beige basecoat. The shade flooded the deepest recesses in the statue’s sharply defined lines and details. In the case of more pristine marble you might consider a dilute blue or black wash instead.

Once the wash had dried I used a drybrush to apply the mid tone from my three colour triad. It’s important to hold off on that darkest tone; that will be used to represent the veining on the marble. On the statue I used the drybrush normally to brighten up the raised areas. The plinth is composed of flat smooth surfaces so it needed something a little different. I did use the drybrush conventionally on the hard edges of the plinth, but switched to stippling on the surfaces. With no texture to speak of the flat plastic box needed to suggest the depth of marble. I daubed uneven patches of my mid-tone on some areas of surfaces whilst leaving the base beige exposed in others.

I followed up with my bone highlight. Again the statue and corners of the plinth were treated as a regular drybrush, while the surfaces were subjected to another stippled coat. I made a point of applying the second stipple so it overlapped both of the proceeding colours, travelling between them, and contributing the illusion of depth in the stone.

At this point it was time to add some veining to the marble. I put aside my drybrush and used one with a fine detail point. There are different ways to represent veining depending on the surface area you have available and the desired intricacy. The lines in marble are mineral impurities captured in the metamorphic transformation into marble, so the finest stone might have very little at all. In the case of my statue the figure allowed me very little room to place marks, so most of the veining was depicted on the plinth. If someone criticises the lack of unity I will assure them the sculptor used the finest stone for his subject and that the plinth was made from seconds.








On another marbling project I used simple diagonal lines. In this case I looked at the paper I used as a photo backdrop for this project and tried to suggest the curling lines. I applied the paint in jagged strokes rather than laying the brush down and producing a fine line. I thought the abrupt marks better simulated the whorls and deposits in the stone. As I still had some of dark beige on the pallet I tinted it with some black paint and picked out portions of the lines painted earlier. I chose areas of the veining where I felt the material would be more concentrated. This darkened shade was added as fine dots, gradually building up the marks.








I finished the piece with an application of pure white. I hit the corners and the uppermost parts of the statue hardest to represent sharp corners and light doing its work. With the statue looking suitably crisp and reasonably clean I cut the white with some water for some final clouding. I daubed the thinned paint as I had with the proceeding stipples on the plinth, adding a final level of murk and depth to the finished project.

The simple methods used to paint this statue can be used to embellish all manner of structure. With a little patience and perseverance almost anyone should be able to achieve similar results and produce an urban environment worth fighting for. Have a go, have some fun and remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day…

…And neither were its statues.



Gene Archibald has been painting and modelling in miniature for more than thirty years. Whilst he considers gaming a tertiary activity, he enjoys the forging of narratives that tabletop gaming can bring. His interest in miniatures and gaming spans many genres, which explains why he can’t keep a steady audience on his blog. One part hobby butterfly, one part self-proclaimed hobby evil genius (with the cat to match!) his work can be found on his blog, Void Spaces; enter at your peril!


If you don’t fancy constructing your own plinth, why not use the Statue Plinths set from Sarissa Precision? Featuring two MDF plinths, this set is an excellent way to mount your would-be marble statues.

You can see the Streets of Rome range on Sarissa’s webstore, as well as an expansive catalogue of buildings and accessories for games as varied as Test of Honour, Star Wars: LegionSaga and many more.

Better yet, postage is only £2.50 worldwide, whatever you order, wherever you live.


We’re currently open to submissions, so if you have an article about sculpting, painting or gaming, then please do send it our way. From historical to sci-fi, battle reports to painting tips, modelling to terrain and all points in between, we’d love to hear from you. See our submissions guidelines for more details.

About the Author

Paul L. Mathews
A born-again wargamer since 2015, Paul L. Mathews is now the editor at War Banner. He is also the head honcho at his own freelance enterprise, Tabletop Creative. A dull boy, Paul's interests include editing and staying up past his bedtime

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