Jeff K
United States
Garner
North Carolina
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Hi Everybody!! I'd like to share my tips tricks and ideas for painting the minis from the fantastic game: War of the Ring (Second Edition). Of course, this guide is also generally applicable to painting.

Yet Another WotR Painting Guide

Yes, I know the number of painting guides on BGG are legion. However, I think there are little in-between steps and tricks that a lot of guides leave out. Hopefully, we can generate some good discourse on best practices. As a disclaimer: I am not an elite painter. Not even close. That said, I have been painting miniatures for well over 30 years. I am also well versed on equipment and supplies, and a lot of this guide will be about those topics. One thing I notice is that there are an awful lot of people having problem with spray paints. Also, dipping seems to be quite en vogue these days, a technique with advantages and disadvantages. Painting is a hobby full of specialty items, some very expensive. If you cannot get some of these specialty items, or do not wish to shell out lots of dough before you know that you even want to "get into" painting, I am going to show you how to do this with simple supplies, in a old-school fashion with great results. Yes, this is going to be a really long article. So, I am going to use an outline so you don't have to suffer through parts of it that you may not need (but there may be a nugget or two in there for you). Or just skip to the end if you want to see some finished product. Here is what we will cover:

I. General Practices
II. Supplies and Equipment
III. Painting Techniques
IV. Recipes
V. My WotR Painting Scheme and Process
VI. Results and Final Thoughts


I. General Practices

There are a lot of guides scattered throughout the 'net with many, many techniques and practices. You will learn your own style, if you are just starting out. But what these guides lack, IMO, is a good starting point. Lots of them are glib in their description, but perhaps not long on specifics. They say: "Oh, just mix it down, " or: "thin your paint with..." And I think: "Thin to what degree?" 1:1? 10:1? 100:1? What the heck!? I am a scientist, particularly a chemist (which is handy as a painter, you will see, hopefully) so I don't need anybody to tell me EXACTLY what to do. But I DO need a starting point. This guide should get you into the ballpark. From there, you will adjust things so that they work for you.

There are certain common things that simply must be done, no matter what else. You don't need to spend a ton of money, but you must at least get decent supplies. You have to be careful of what you dilute and thin paints into. And you MUST prime your figures, some hold this is optional, but you will never hear a master painter claim that. Some people claim that figures should be washed first. I have never in all my years done this or even observed anyone doing it. If you feel compelled to do it, that is up to you, it cannot hurt. However, it is a time consuming and, I feel, needless step, but there are many who insist it is vital. YMMV. I have found that if you have a proper primer, you can start straight from there with great results every time. Bent plastic minis: what I have done with bent minis (non-resin) is the trick where you dunk them in very hot water, bend them straight, then dunk them in ice water. It works wonders. This is not necessary for resin minis such as GW. But often plastic minis in games become bent and plastic has a "memory" which can be erased with hot water.

You should prepare yourself a workspace that is out of the way. You are going to need many sessions. If you get into this, you will always have something being painted, therefore you need a permanent space. You need good light, prefereably a mixture of incandescent and fluorescent. Paints look very different under both these lighting types. Finally, I think it is a good idea to have some test minis. Go to the thrift store and get a game with minis, buy the cheapest clearance minis you can find at your FLGS, or even go to the dollar store and get some army men or dinosaurs or some such. There are also a lot of places on the web you can order bulk minis. The more detailed, the better. Why? This is so you can try your experiments, or experimental formulas, out on something besides the prized mini you would like to paint. Prime these test minis and treat them like any other mini, but you can do and re-do that puppy. And possibly clean it off and do it again (people swear by Simple Green cleaner, a soak and a toothbrush scrub).

This brings me to my last point. I have never gotten myself into a spot that can't be fixed or backed out of, so don't be afraid. Just do. Or do not. There is no try. Actually, feel free to just try as well. You usually can fix it if you don't like it. (Sorry, Yoda). But that is also what the test minis are for, to keep you from ruining something with a bad idea. And speaking of ideas: keep a notebook! You will spend much less time fixing if you have something to remind yourself what you did and recipes you used to achieve it. It may seem like you will remember it (of course you will!), but you will end up trying so many different things that you will end up getting lost and forgetting things that really worked well. Write it down! That's an easy choice for me, hell I can't remember where I was 5 minutes ago... Now where was I? Oh yeah...

II. Supplies and Equipment

The most important part, from a practical standpoint. Let's start with some of the things we mentioned above. Light: I would suggest a nice lighted maginifying glass on a stand. Something like this:



This gives you good direct light and you can see the small details. You WILL need this and I even used one when I was young and my eyes worked correctly. Not just for the aged.

Water
Huh? Yep, I said water. As a chemist, I can tell you that water is the most amazing substance in the universe. You can write a whole book on it. It's properties cannot be ignored, nor can its value be overstated. But what we need to know for painting is this: there is stuff in your water. Never, never, NEVER use tap water to dilute your paints. DON'T DO IT!! Here is what will happen: you will dilute a paint to use as a wash (more on that later, in section III) and the paint will indeed run down into the cracks and crevices of the mini. However, when you come back the next day to look at your handy work: What!?!? The crevices are all whitish and not darkened in the least! That is because minerals and salts in the water have forced your paint out and now sit tightly in the crevice. They appear light. This effect will be much worse if your tap water is "hard" but can even occur in "soft" water (because it is fluoronated, with salts), but you may get away with it.

The real solution is to go out and buy yourself a gallon/liter of distilled water from the grocery store. You will have the same problem with mineral/spring water as tap water, so avoid that. De-ionized water is a fairly acceptable solution, however the DI process still leaves some things behind (ie things that do not ionize in solution), but they are really very minor. Beware of some home purifiers because they return sodium to the water which is, of course a salt! Many of them are not really de-ionizers, but instead ion-exchangers, just know (or find out) what you are dealing with and all will be well.

Diluents
At some point, you will want to dilute your paints. In fact, I now never paint straight from a pot. Partly that is because I insist on using crappy cheap paints, but we'll get to that in a minute. This is probably the most black box, mojo filled part of painting, but I will attempt to de-mystify it.

The idea here is that we want something that will keep the paint in solution. Paint pigments are not naturally soluble materials. This is good, because they dry and are relatively enduring, without easily washing off. This makes a challenge to work with them. What needs to happen is some chemical must be used to keep them in solution. This is commonly known as an emulsifier, because paint is a great example of an emulsification (a poor one, but an emulsion none the less). Emulsions are around you every day: milk, mayonnaise, hand lotion and peanut butter are great examples. The difference between common commercial peanut butter and so called "natural" peanut butter is obvious. The only difference between the two is a chemical has been added which keeps the protein and fats extracted from the peanut from separating from the peanut oil. We need the same thing in our diluent (see, I told you being a chemist has its advantages).

There are some professional grade products and some homemade solutions. I use some homemade and some pro products. But I'll try to keep this brief. There are a lot of products out there and I don't want this to become an exhaustive list. Basically, there are two things you need, a diluting agent, and an agent to improve flow and quality called a flow extender or flow aid.

The gold standard for diluents is something like this:



Liquitex Acrylic Matte medium comes in gel and regular. You do not want the gel. This stuff is great, but it is a little expensive. But you do get a big bottle that probably will last you the rest of your painting career, or a very, very long time, at least. I would highly recommend using this. It is basically a "pigment-less" paint of very high quality. But if you just can't bring yourself to spend the money, you can join the "Magic Wash" movement.

"Magic Wash"
Can't remember exactly when this stuff starting showing up but it was a long time ago. "Magic Wash" (hereafter referred to as MW) is a dilution of acrylic floor wax. It used to be called Future here in the states, but now Johnson owns it. It can be seen here:




The original MW formula is 4 parts water (NOT tap!) to 1 part Future floor wax. From here on, when I refer to MW, it will be to the 4:1 diluted floor wax. In some of the recipes, I will suggest using a 50:50 mix of MW and something else (usually water), and that means you will be diluting the Future even further than the 4:1 it is already diluted.

Why does this stuff work? Do you remember the emulsion part above? The floor wax is simply an emulsifier to allow you to spread the acrylic around on your floor, to make it look shiny. If it can keep acrylic in solution, it will keep your acrylic paints in solution.

People who use this swear by it. I have used it extensively in the past. A $6 bottle will last you a lifetime, but it is not as much a savings over Liquitex to make it indispensable. Use whichever you wish. Also, I am sure acrylic floor wax can be had in other parts of the world besides the US, but I do not know the names. Likely if it is acrylic floor wax of some type, it is mostly the same and will work. There is a huge amount on the web about MW, so Google is your friend and you should read up on it. One undesirable thing I have found about MW is that it ends up looking shiny on your figure! I don't care because the last step will be to use a matte spray coat, or preferably dull coat (we'll get to that later). But Liquitex will not do this. Also, the MW is very foamy when mixed (because of the emulsifier), whereas the Liquitex is much less so. This is not surprising, as many people have used actual soap (a decent emulsifier) in their paint dilutions to do the same job as MW, but I could never bring myself to do this. For one thing, soap never really "dries" very well. But emulsifiers share chemical properties with soaps, so this is completely unsurprising to me, BTW. Also, all of these different additives I have discussed change the surface tension of the paint. Changing the surface tension allows the paint to either "sit up" on the surface or flow down into the cracks. Soap is not really the most desirable additive from a surface tension perspective, and MW has a little bit of the same properties. That may be another plus to use an actual matte medium.

Flow Aid/Flow Extender
Again, Liquitex makes one. It is expensive. In this case, I definitely go for the much cheaper craft brand flow extender, as can be seen in the picture above. The flow extender would also make a great additive for washes, as it also is simply an emulsifier, but it is not always necessary because the highly thinned wash flows pretty well as is. Additionally, it would be rather expensive to do so. Whichever one you use, it is to be added in very small quantities to your paint, roughly 10% (1 drop to 10 drops paint, for example). It will greatly improve the quality of your paint. The last thing you want is your paint to clump up on you as you paint. You want it a little on the thin side. This way you have time to work it an spread it. It can make your paint a little hard to control, but the benefits cannot be ignored, esp. if you (like me) insist on using crappy hobby-store paints. A little flow aid can cure a pigment that wants to go on "chalky" and clump up. You may find this is kind of pigment dependent, not necessarily just paint-quality dependent sometimes. And it only really takes a tiny bit. Maybe on the order of 10% or less of your paint. If you use a palette and squeeze some paint onto it (an mL, at most) then one drop is sufficient.

Some final thoughts on Additives.
What you put in your paint to thin and improve the flow is absolutely critical. It really is the difference between success and failure. This is easily the most important step to painting. And it is the hardest for the novice to conquer, and unfortunately it is the hardest for me to outline here. If you go with expensive paints, this becomes less critical. For example, you could simply use distilled water to thin your quality paints. But with lower quality paints, or difficult to work with pigments (such as the kind that really want to be "chalky" no matter what you do), these really make a difference. The basic thing you need to know is: matte medium or magic wash is for diluting paints and making washes (in higher dilutions). It will keep the acrylic pigments in solution. Flow aid is a substance that reduces surface tension. This can influence whether a pigment will sit on the top of a model or flow into the cracks and crevices, and whether it will stick there. All I can say is that a fair amount of experimentation will help you figure out what works for you, starting with my formulation guidelines below. Don't forget to write down your recipes and the results so you can repeat your successes and avoid your failures! I have detailed what I could in my recipes, but as I said this is really just to get you started.


That brings me to:

Paint
Isn't this the biggest item? Why is it not first? There are a lot of decisions you should make before you decide which paints to buy. You can spend a boat load on paints, if you buy pro paints like Vallejo, P3 (Privateer), Army Paints, Citadel or Reaper. But be aware, these are fabulous paints. There really is an ENORMOUS difference in these paints vs. crappy hobby paints like Folk Art or Apple Barrel. Pro paints come ready to use right out of the pot (but many are WAY too thick to use right out of the pot), they thin well for washes, they cover and spread well, they just generally perform very well.

HOWEVER, and here is the big rub: if you paint a lot, you are going to want lots and lots of colors. Those pro paints add up, and you can spend many hundreds of dollars on a large set that covers the palette you want. That's fine if you are in for the long haul, but it may turn you away if you want to experiment with this hobby. You don't want to go out and drop three Franklins on a great set and then decided afterward you would rather pull your toenails out with a pliers than paint another figure. Of course, you could sell them (to me, I'd give you 150 for it...).

Here is a secret though: the difference in these paints is in the formulation. Not necessarily the pigments themselves, but how they are "packaged." I am going to go out on a limb here with a bizarre analogy, since I have seen this first hand. Bear with me. There was a movement a while back in which people were taking crappy vodkas (I mean really crappy, bargain, well-drink types. You know, Aristocrat...) and doing lots of purifications using water purifiers and even Brita filters to make it like the expensive ones. Now, this makes a lot of sense to me as a chemist. Ethanol is just a chemical. It has absolutely no "quality" to it. One ethanol is EXACTLY like another, thankfully or chemistry would not work. The difference is what is left in the solution during the distillation process. What else is in there? Since the ethanol itself in cheap vs expensive vodka is IDENTICAL, it stands to reason the only difference is how the rest of it is treated. And it turns out this can be a huge variety of ways. What do you put in during distillation (as an azeotrope)? What is left from your raw materials, etc etc.? Cheap vodka can indeed be improved by filtration, maybe only to a point though.

Cheap paints are the same, to a degree. While there actually is some difference in pigments used, the real major difference is the diluent, emulsifiers and the like that are in the paint. How is poor formulation overcome? Well, to a degree, it can be overcome by the additives I have described in the previous section. By using flow aids and acrylic media, the way the paint behaves can be improved dramatically. I mean really dramatically, such that there is relatively little difference for somebody who is not using very advanced techniques, such as wet blending (which I will NOT cover here. Go read some expert's blog for that one, folks). But for the rest of us, crappy paints are eminently usable. It is a fallacy to claim that they are not, IMO. I have used both pro paints and doctored crappy paints, and I have not found too much difference. But you must constantly be adjusting your crappy paints, and they will NOT last more than a few years. Conversely, and I swear this is true, I have opened pots of Ral Partha paints (they went out of business many years ago, BTW) after several DECADES and found usable paint there. THAT is the difference. In fact, I have a pot of flesh tone I have been using since 1979 that I swear is in fine shape. Maybe not as fine as when I bought it, but easily still better than a brand new crappy Folk Art paint. Still, this is the kind of thing I used throughout my project:



Primers and Sealers
Good primer is absolutely critical. I used to prime my minis in white. Now I prime most of them gray. Only reason for the change is it is easier to see the minis details in gray, and if I miss a spot, the white shows through much more brightly. A good rule of thumb is to prime the mini according to your scheme. Gray or even black are good for dark paint schemes (your basic zombies, ghouls, orcs or Nazgûl, hehe), while white may be good for a very bright paint scheme. Gray is often a good middle of the road choice, but even red primer (sort of a rust color, like autos use) would work for specialized circumstances, like a red dragon for instance. Advice on what to get: it MUST be flat. I would urge you heartily to find a purpose made primer. IOW, get a paint that says "primer" on the label, as in this pic:



Modelling stores sell them. If you can't do that, buy a high quality flat can of white, gray or black.

Sealer, OTOH is easy. Just get Dullcote, or a similar item. Really, don't mess with anything else or you will be dissatisfied. Dullcote will take any shininess off of your mini and make it look much more real, AND it will improve the depth. Shiny is the enemy of depth in your model. Also, it will protect your paint from chipping or washing off. Use two coats if you like, but make sure each coat is relatively thin. Too much dull cote can actually make your mini shiny (ironically enough). I ALWAYS dullcote my minis, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. I have had some shiny armored minis that I painted the shiny coat on last (after dull coating the rest), and there have been times I have painted insect-monsters that I actually used glosscote for, to give them that chitin-sheen that made them look real. But these are special circumstance. Most times, even armor gets dullcoted. It just looks better.

One final word on spray paints: NEVER, EVER, EVER (NEVER!!) use Krylon!! Do NOT do it. It is NOT suitable for plastics. I will not warn you again and it is my final word. Not for Primer, not for base coat, not even for matte sealer. NO! Period. If you do, it will be the bane of your existence. You have been warned. If you still just refuse to believe me, just do a search here on the BGG forums for folks that have used Krylon spray paints. Read their horror stories. That could be you.

Note added at the time of this publishing: I went back to some of the figs (for my next game) that I had used Testor's black spray on. These minis, I noticed, were just the slightest bit tacky. Once they were dry-brushed and dull-coted, they were just fine. But it is worth noting that you always have to be careful of your spray enamels. This is what your cheap minis are for, test them! Also note: I have never once had this problem with the Design Masters Primer spray that is shown above. it has performed flawlessly for hundreds upon hundreds of minis.

Brushes
You can spend a lot of money on brushes. In the beginning, I would not do this. But buy decent brushes. Feel them for softness. Taklon are usually good, if you can't afford real sable. There are any number of artificial substances which suffice, there is even a white sable artificial. I would avoid straight up nylon brushes as they tend to be really stiff and do not take paint well. These are like paints. There is no substitute for the good stuff, but you can get by depending on what you are trying to do. Generally you want a couple. A wide one for big minis (and dry-brushing), a good detail one (like a spotter, or size 0), and a general, relatively small-sized one (size 1) for the bulk of your work.

Dry-brushing will destroy your brush! Especially sable, which will die a horrible death immediately! Don't use a good brush like that for this task. Use Taklon for this, that is what I suggest. I have read that Mongoose hair brushes work well for this, and are difficult to kill, but I have no experience with this. Also: clean your brushes with brush soap. It will make them last. Treat them well and they will last, but also know that you will go through brushes. It is quite difficult to keep brushes for a long time, unless you use natural hair brushes, which can last years. And even then you must take very good care of them. Cheap brushes get used up very fast, and they lose shape and generally become less than useful. The ends of the synthetic brushes WILL curl up, no matter what you do. Keep these for dry-brusing, washing, and other menial tasks. It will save you money. Cheap brushes can serve their purpose, if you are not asking too much of them. But, they will rarely ever form a good point after the very first time they are washed, so you will go through them really quickly. As a result, a sable brush may not be any more expensive in the long run. And if you are really, really trying to do detail, anything that requires a point for example, artificial brushes are just going to frustrate you. But I still recommend trying out a couple different materials and seeing first hand how they work for you, especially if you are not sure you want to paint to a great extent. Here is an example of what cheap brushes will (not can) do to you after a relatively short while:





III. Techniques

Base Coating:
Base coating will be the most time consuming part of your painting, assuming you are not doing all one color (as I have cheated and done here!) Basically, painting should be done from the interior of your model towards the exterior. Do not worry too much about getting everything clean and perfect, there are two more steps after base coating which are going to really change the appearance of your model. Concentrate on getting a solid base laid down, with smooth edges and even tone. Avoiding jarring spots of missed shading is the most important thing here. It is quite often necessary to go back and do multiple coats to get solid even coverage, especially if you are like me and insist on using crappy paints which cover poorly. At this point, your model may look very flat. That is fine, we are about to fix that with the next step. Base coat example:


figs on left were primed, figs on right have been base coated. Note that they still look a little "flat"



Washing:
There is probably more to formulating your washes than there is to actually doing the wash. First, choose your wash color, which will likely be a dark shade which complements or highly contrasts with your base coat(s). In the recipe section, I suggested using Liquitex Acrylic Inks (carbon black 337 for general shading, but also transparent burnt umber 130 for flesh wash), but quite satisfactory washes can be made from any old regular acrylic paints. You will want to apply the wash with a loose brush, choose one more or less like a mop head (not a fine point), and slather it on. Brush the wash into and across the crevices and off of the raised surfaces. It won't stick very well because it is very thin (which is the idea) and it will run down into the crevices of the model, accentuating the illusion of shadows. One word of caution, there is a high likelihood you may have to go back over some of your base coating, as it will have been darkened, or possibly even stained, by the wash. This is perfectly fine. I would suggest however, that you wait until after you have dry-brushed the highlight on, as that will complete the blending effect and likely you will have very minimal touch up to do. Alternatively, if you are worried about your base coat (for example, it is a very light color), you may try to place the wash carefully directly in the crevices of your model. Whatever works for the task at hand, although do not be shy, no matter what you will likely have to go back and do touch ups and blending. Wash examples:




Note in this last example, the fig on the right has been base-coated and the one on the left has been washed. Note how flat the fig on the right now looks in comparison.



Dry-brushing:
Dry-brushing is an easy technique to learn which gives a HUGE reward. It will quite literally do all of your blending work for you. Blending is a highly complex technique that I am, alas, ill qualified to detail for you. In all my decades of painting, I have never mastered its use, which is why I use the three easy techniques I have illustrated here. For dry-brushing, choose a fairly stiff (but still soft), wide brush more or less like a broom (mop-like for wash, broom-like for dry-brush). You will apply paint to the brush, and then wipe it off, very thoroughly, until you almost cannot see anything come off on a clean cloth (or your hand). Then, holding the brush stiffly and firmly, rapidly and lightly brush back and forth over the raised surface of the model. You will actually see the colors gradually begin to lighten. Keep going until you are satisfied. Example:


Figure on left is wash only, fig on right is washed then dry-brushed.



You can use white paint (which has its own disadvantages and advantages), or you can use a lighter shade of your base coat, either choosing the shade or mixing some of your base with white until you have a satisfactory differential. A lot of this depends on your base coat scheme. If you have painted the model many different colors, it may be easier to use a wide brush with white paint, which will shade everything white. The disadvantage to that idea is that you may need to go back and touch up with a smaller brush if some of the areas end up with more highlighting than you wish. I have illustrated how that can happen, and how to fix it, with a series of photos here. Note that the good news is that you can ALWAYS go back and fix things you don't like. In fact, I find it is easier to go back and do layers upon layers of dry-brushing to force depth. It really gives your model a very realistic look. For example, I may take a lighter color and dry-brush the model very heavily and firmly, pressing as far down on the model as I can. Then I will follow this up very a very, very light dry-brush of straight white.

Just think about real things that you see in everyday life, they are seldom uniform in their appearance. Layering your dry-brushing and washes can give the appearance of wear and tear, or even dirt build-up. Or, you can go over some of your models parts to simulate the appearance of blood and gore. Such as on a wolf's muzzle, or a zombie's arms. Use this technique to its fullest. Alternatively, you may try to use a smaller (still somewhat stiff) brush and highlight each individual area or color with the highlight that you deem best. Just remember, you will likely have to go back and touch up spots where these areas meet. It is extremely difficult to keep dry-brushing from bleeding from one area to the next. Here is an example:


Continuing on from the last pic, I continued to aggressively dry-brush from the previous state, because I was not yet satisfied with the highlighting on the grey areas. As a result, the orange washed out far more than I wished. Not to worry, I went back over just the orange parts with a smaller brush, using the same dry-brush technique, and the deeper orange hue came right back, leaving the highlights I wanted underneath.



This is the finish of the three steps that I have outlined here, which should be considered the basic mode for painting most minis. The result of these three techniques is that you have created a heightened sense of depth by using three layers of shading, progressing from dark in the interior of your model to light at the outer tips and raised details. The reason that these techniques are so great, IMO, is that you do not have to have the most steady hand to do insane details. You can more or less let broad brush strokes do your work for you. This is great news for those whose eyes (or hands) may not be what they used to be, or folks who just couldn't draw a straight line if they had a ruler to help.

Although this is a really poor before and after photo (before is too blurry), it does give you an idea of the difference in contrast that a painted mini possesses:




And how about this:


I actually had no idea that the Oliphaunts had riders (did you?), despite playing this game for almost 10 years!


IV. Recipes

I am going to urge you to experiment. Please do not take these recipes as the last word, they are merely the first. I am only putting down things that I really have found to work for me. But bear in mind, they might not work for you. You will undoubtedly have a different style, and that may make some of these things unsuitable for you. Tailor them to fit how you like to work. But, a starting point is good, so here are some of my old saws:

"Magic Wash": as already stated, this is 4:1 ratio of water:Future. Make a stock bottle of this dilution and use it where I indicate Magic Wash, or MW.

Black wash: this one really works for me. Washes are hard to learn how to mix well. The benefits of making your own washes should be obvious. You can make any number of custom washes, which could literally save you hundreds of dollars. Here is my basic recipe for a black wash, please note that all of my mixing vials are about 20 mLs:

1 part Liquitex matte medium
3 parts water
20 drops (1 drop per mL) of Liquitex acrylic carbon black ink (337)

A drop out of a dropper bottle is going to be about 0.1mL. (So, 10 drops is a mL) This basic wash recipe can be followed for almost any other color. If you use an acrylic paint instead of ink, I would suggest 30 drops (1.5 drops per mL). The inks tend to be much more concentrated pigment. From what I have read, most folks like to mix the matte medium 50:50 for washes, but that resulted in too thick a solution for my tastes. The matte medium is very opaque and, even though it dries quite clear, it looks like you are brushing milk onto your figure. I did not like it. This recipe did not stain my figure as much as some of the recipes I have seen, and the black flowed into the crevices and dried very vividly without much de-coloring of the surfaces. It is my go-to.

Alternatively, you can use "Magic Wash" as your diluent.

50:50 MW:water
color additive as above

You may notice that the magic wash does not keep your pigment in solution as well as the Liquitex matte medium. I have also seen people use more MW than just 50:50. Maybe try straight MW with 30 drops of paint. Which one you use is largely a matter of personal tastes, you just have to be happy with the consistency.

The only wash that I have really noticed a large difference in is the black wash. In my hands, the Liquitex products (ink and matte) are far superior to any formulation I have ever tried with magic wash and paints. YMMV.

V. My War of the Ring Scheme

The first step was to prep. To make this production line type method work more easily and quickly, I affixed each mini to cardboard strips:


Helps if you are a beer drinker, that's another guide, though.



Yes, that means everybody:



Now, it will be easy to handle the minis and do things such as prime in one step:



This also makes it easy to go down the line and paint your minis very quickly, without smudging what you just painted. This works if you are doing details in different colors, or just monotone as I have done here. The strip method works well when you have 200+ minis, but I would suggest smaller dowel rods for individual figures that you might be working on with a highly detailed scheme.

My WotR scheme is really very, very simple. Each Nation gets painted its nation color. As you can see from the pics, that's about it. I paint each mini with a base coat of the basic nation color (which you should be familiar with if you are familiar with War of the Ring (Second Edition)). But what really makes it pleasing to me is that I worked to bring out the detail with color contrast, monotone as they may be. I made custom washes for each nation (in a darker shade of their nation color) and applied these after the base coat. I then made a custom lighter shade of each nation color to apply a dry-brush coat on, to bring out the highlights, as a last step. The darks can be made by adding black to your base coat, and formulating a wash, or finding a darker shade of the same tone (which is actually what I did most of the time). For lighter shades, simply mix white in to the base shade. Alternatively, you can base coat each nation one color and use black wash and white dry-brushing for a pleasing effect. I find using the colors for dry-brushing and washing made it appear a lot more smooth gradient on the model surface.

What this achieves is basically the same thing as an elite painter would go for, albeit in a much, much more crude fashion. As master painter would blend from the darkest color (in the interior of the mini) continuously until they reached the lightest highlight at the outermost features of the mini. Blending each step as they go, they would create a smooth, flawless gradient. However, for 200 minis, this would take forever to do. My quick and dirty method allows you to knock out entire armies at a whack, albeit sacrificing a lot of detail along the way. Here are the FP army minis:

Dwarves


Elves


Gondor


Rohan


The North



For FP leaders, I painted the figure gray (actually just primed is all) and painted the base the nation color. The figures were washed in black and dry-brushed in white, to achieve the depth I desire in my finished minis:



For the Shadow, I deviated some what from this scheme. Orcs, I feel, should be black. These were relatively easy, as I spray painted them all black (again, as a priming coat) and them dry-brushed them (red for Mordor and gray for Isengard). This is a great boon, as these are the most numerous in the set. They can be done very quickly. The most time consuming part is that I did in fact paint the bases the nation color for them all. I altered the wargs of Isengard, keeping the wargs themselves gray, as a reminder that these can be used in the role of leaders for Isengard. The gray wargs were washed with black and dry-brushed white along with the black orc on its back to bring out the depth. The base was then of course in the nation color. S&E, since they are men, followed the FP mode. However, I could not help but go a little overboard on the S&E elites, as they are really some very cool minis. They got highlights and accents that none of the other minis got. Just because I like them. Lastly, the Nazgul are just black. Always. I painted the bases gray to reflect that they are leaders (like you are going to forget that or something!). The SP:

Sauron


Isengard


Southrons & Easterlings




The Characters and Minions however, are another story. They were treated uniquely, as they are, of course, unique. They got detailed paint schemes, each of them, however always following the base coat, wash and dry-brush method to keep the detail of the mini alive. That, however, is beyond the scope of this already long guide.

An alternative to my method is that one could simply spray paint the base coat for each nation color in place of the primer, then proceed with a wash/dry-brush. This would certainly be less time consuming. the possible draw backs are that you have to find a procure base coat spray in each color (which could be expensive, and hard to find possibly. I would suggest Liquitex Pro acrylic spray, this is not an enamel, but an acrylic, which should be safe, but is slightly expensive. Testors is also a good option, but I have had some slight problem with the black, as noted above. Perhaps a coat of primer might help alleviate this.

Final Thoughts:

Painting is really a rewarding hobby all on its own. And from a practical standpoint, many games (of which WotR is a really great example) can hugely benefit from a color scheme which highlights the different factions or uses for minis. So there are practical as well as aesthetic reasons for painting minis. There is a monthly painting GL to which you may aspire, with really awesome work in it. This is called the Golden Turtleback. I urge you to visit and thumb some of these guys, they are all quite talented. There is also a Painters Guild: Miniature Painters Guild

As I hopefully showed you in this guide, even a relatively simple scheme can make a big difference in your enjoyment of a game. This idea can be applied any number of ways. For example, in a dungeon crawl, monsters all one color and each hero with their own color to tell them apart quickly. Or each hero gets a detailed paint job and monsters are monotone. Having a mini painted even just all one color really brings out the depth and detail in a figure, when compared to the bare plastic which is too shiny to have much contrast. You may actually be surprised at the level of detail you perhaps did not know existed in some of your games. the WotR minis are, I feel, very finely detailed for what they are. Especially when you consider how many there are and of how many different types.

Well that's it, please feel free to comment below. Disagreements, assents, suggestions, questions, they are all welcome. I'd like to thank a couple of people who were kind enough to give this a read through:

Rob W
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(you should too, it probably was less painful after their input! But don't blame them if you disagree with me on any points!) And you can GM me if you have any specific questions. That brings me to my close, I now must turn my attention to my The Battle of Five Armies set, which you may have seen peeking into some of my photos if you are observant, as well as those darn Mice and Mystics figs that you no doubt noticed which have been on my bench for months! I hope this guide has been useful to you. Good luck, thanks so much for reading, and happy painting!!

And finally: here are some shots of the final armies:







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Blair
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A fantastic introduction. I'm proud to have been the first to thumb and tip it.
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Wesley M
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Gary Boyd
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What a great introduction to painting minis. Thanks so much for posting this for those getting into painting.

I wish I'd had something at this level of detail when I started painting.
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Marcel
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My hat's off to you. What a incredible detailed guide. Thanks for this. Especially for the "water part". I never thought about that. I'll have to use the distilled water from our dryer next time.

/edit
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Ze Masqued Cucumber
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Nice guide !

Addenda about the tap water part. It's true in some areas, but far from all.
As a chemist you certainly know that tap water composition highly depends on geography and season of year. Tap water quality is extreme in some areas of the US, with super high organics content and/or hardness. US water processing plants also tends to be heavy-handed with fluorides and chlorides.
In Europe, tap is generally fine for mini painting, no need for distilled or softened water.
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Rob W
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Nice work Jeff! I've been working on my set for a week or so now, using a lot of Jeff's tips here, and a lot of other tips gleaned from other forums.

The best piece of advice here is the primer: Design Masters Primer. I got it at Michael's. On my first trip they were out of it so I got Rustoleum Painter's Touch Primer, but I was wary due to all the WotR painters out there who have had problems with it before. I tried a test spot on the bottom of one of the minis and 3 hours later it was still tacky. So I made a trip to a different Michael's and picked up the Design Masters Primer. It's a bit expensive (~$7.50) but sooo worth it. It dries almost instantly and forms a nice thin, consistent coating.

I'm using Americana and Folk Arts brand acrylic paints for the coloring and making my own washes with Future. I didn't like the way the wash flows with Jeff's recipe for wash, so I've been mixing it heavier on the Future. I've been using 50:50 Future: distilled water (not pre-diluted 4:1 as he suggests and then mixed 50:50). Testors Dullcote for the sealer.

So far I've completed North, Sauron and Isengard with S&E halfway completed.

The other thing I've done that has been really helpful is to hot glue each figure onto the head of a nail, then stick it into a strip of shipping foam. This makes spraying easy like Jeff has done with the strips of cardboard. The other thing I like though, is that you can pull out each figure individually and hold it with the nail and rotate it as you paint. Additionally, I can hold it upside down by the nail and dip the figure into the wash, which makes the wash step quicker.

Jeff, thanks for writing the guide and for answering all of my questions!
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Jeff K
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Thanks everybody! Thanks also adding your tips, that makes this guide even more useful to those who are new to this hobby.

Roolz wrote:
In Europe, tap is generally fine for mini painting, no need for distilled or softened water.
Thanks for the tip. That is interesting, I should perhaps have suspected that fluoridation of water is not done everywhere. I suppose I should also comment that I am not 100% sure that this fluoridation would have a strong impact on the process. It's just something to be aware of.


Porkins_ wrote:
Nice work Jeff!
Thanks! And thanks for your help with the guide!

Porkins_ wrote:
The best piece of advice here is the primer: Design Masters Primer. I got it at Michael's. On my first trip they were out of it so I got Rustoleum Painter's Touch Primer, but I was wary due to all the WotR painters out there who have had problems with it before. I tried a test spot on the bottom of one of the minis and 3 hours later it was still tacky. So I made a trip to a different Michael's and picked up the Design Masters Primer. It's a bit expensive (~$7.50) but sooo worth it. It dries almost instantly and forms a nice thin, consistent coating.
That primer is really fantastic stuff. Thanks for the comment, if people get nothing more than this piece of advice, it will be worth it!

Porkins_ wrote:
I'm using Americana and Folk Arts brand acrylic paints for the coloring and making my own washes with Future. I didn't like the way the wash flows with Jeff's recipe for wash, so I've been mixing it heavier on the Future. I've been using 50:50 Future: distilled water (not pre-diluted 4:1 as he suggests and then mixed 50:50).
Yep, glad you found what works for you! And thanks for sharing your recipe. This is a great point, as I said in the guide: experiment, folks!

Porkins_ wrote:
The other thing I've done that has been really helpful is to hot glue each figure onto the head of a nail, then stick it into a strip of shipping foam. This makes spraying easy like Jeff has done with the strips of cardboard. The other thing I like though, is that you can pull out each figure individually and hold it with the nail and rotate it as you paint. Additionally, I can hold it upside down by the nail and dip the figure into the wash, which makes the wash step quicker.
I saw where somebody used golf tees to hold their minis. Very clever. There are definitely advantages to doing this vs. the strip method. But you have to have a place to hold the 200+ minis, or do them in shifts. Strips can be a little more convenient, in that regard. But, it is not conducive to dipping, as you suggest. A lot of people like to dip, so this is a great point. I still prefer the control of brushing on washes, but to each their own!
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Michael Marvosh
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Xookliba wrote:
Water
Huh? Yep, I said water. As a chemist, I can tell you that water is the most amazing substance in the universe. You can write a whole book on it.

Don't be absurd. You can't write on water.
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Jeff K
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Drinkdrawers wrote:
Xookliba wrote:
Water
Huh? Yep, I said water. As a chemist, I can tell you that water is the most amazing substance in the universe. You can write a whole book on it.

Don't be absurd. You can't write on water.

I disagree.


Course, there's always this too:



But I guess that's writing IN water.
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thank you for this. I plan on painting my set sometime within the next year.
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Jeff K
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Just as an update: I have recently been on the hunt for brushes, having destroyed a good number of mine during this project (well, used very vigorously sounds better, I suppose). A very important fact that I missed, and which ties into a point I made in the article, is that it is no longer possible to acquire the Kolinsky Sable brushes in the US. They have been banned due to the possible endangerment of the Siberian weasel, from whose tails the brushes are made (these being only wild-caught, as the species is not amenable to breeding in captivity).

Alternatively, Red sable is available, as well as what is reported to be the best alternative: Russian Blue Squirrel. Russian Black Sable (Fitch) is also an option. Many brushes I have perused are a mixture of the 3, with some synthetic thrown in to enhance rigidity, durability and springiness. Either way, natural hair brushes have become ungodly expensive, so %18 - $20 US$ seems to be the entry level. (Don't know why Russia seems to be the hotbed of elite quality paint brushes, but, whatever...)
 
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Quote:
I painted the bases [of the Nazgul minis] gray to reflect that they are leaders (like you are going to forget that or something!)

Ha ha! Even though this made me smile, I wouldn't be surprised if this still helps in game play, while scanning the board. I think it would help me and will like copy this idea.

Thanks so much for this guide!
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Jeff K
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Jeegen wrote:
Quote:
I painted the bases [of the Nazgul minis] gray to reflect that they are leaders (like you are going to forget that or something!)

Ha ha! Even though this made me smile, I wouldn't be surprised if this still helps in game play, while scanning the board. I think it would help me and will like copy this idea.

Thanks so much for this guide!

Yes, in all seriousness, I think this is very true. The main reason being that some of the other minis in my paint scheme are very dark or black. it helps at a glance.

Glad you liked it!
 
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Great tutorial Jeff, thanks! I have never painted minis before, but after frustration with the difficulty of IDing the different factions in WoTR, I started looking for some solutions and found this thread. I'm just beginning the painting process, but I'll think about posting some updates as I move through your tutorial. Right now, the armies are all primed and waiting for a few days to fully cure before I start coloring.

As a side question, do you think it would be possible to paint the orcs black and then give them a red or yellow wash to tint them the correct game color? I realize the black may mask the wash color (especially yellow) but perhaps with several wash coats you could see a tint?
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Jeff K
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Just as an update to this thread, I have decided to carry on with painting topic in general in a new blog that I am kicking off.

Also Nathan, sorry for not seeing your post, but I indeed think that would work and it is exactly what I did.
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Michael Flynn
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No problem with " Yet another painting guide"..I love painting miniature figures. I did my first when I was around 10 years old, I am 57 this month. It's always good to read what other people do and maybe get a few ideas to try out.
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