Richard Johnson
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Around six months ago, after looking at all the wonderful images of painted miniatures here on the Geek, I decided to try and paint some of my miniatures. I had never done anything like this before and I was really intimidated. I read everything I could find and than broke the paints out and painted my miniatures from A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game.


The Result

While not perfect, I was really happy with how they turned out, so I went on to paint other games, including all my Descent miniatures, and even purchasing miniatures for games that do not normally come with them. While I'm still not a fantastic painter, I really enjoy it and feel the games are greatly improved with the added color.

I've decided to share a little bit of what I've learned and walk-through a basic painting technique to encourage other newbies to give it a try.

Equipment
Painting surface or table (this will get messy)
Hobby knife (X-Acto or similar)
Black/White Spray Primer (I use Krylon primer)
Double sided tape
Small mixing pallet (look like little egg cartons)
Future Floor Polish
Containers with water
A good adjustable work light (I use a clamp on adjustable arm light with a nice bright bulb)
Paper towels

Paint brushes
Brushes are going to get their own section. This is one of the most important tools you will be using. You will want a variety of sizes depending on what you are painting. The '0' size is what I use the most, but you will also need some larger brushes for bigger minis. A couple old or cheap brushes are good to have on hand for drybrushing/washes. I mostly use cheap brushes that I buy in larger packs, but they don't last long. They quickly fray and lose their point. As I've gotten better, I've started to get nicer brushes that last a lot longer. To begin though, you will probably ruin your brushes, so don't buy anything too expensive. If you really enjoy painting then it's time to invest in some nice sable brushes.

Paint
When I started out, I just used the crappy acrylic paint you can pick up for a dollar at Wal-Mart. This paint has a lot of issues. It's very difficult to thin down as the pigment is very coarse. It also has worse coverage than better-quality paints, requiring additional coats and more time. I soon became frustrated and went out and bought some higher quality miniature paint. I use two kinds of paint now.

The Citadels Foundation Paint set is a wonderful set of strong base colors. I picked up the entire set, but you can pick up colors individually that you will be using a lot. The nice thing about this paint is it has very strong coverage, often only requiring a single coat to get a color down. While expensive, it has saved me countless hours of painting with its good coverage.

The second paint line I use is Privateer Press P3 paint. The P3 line is just fantastic paint. It flows very well and is a real treat to paint with. I've not seen much of this at local games shops but a number of retailers carry it online.

Preparing

The first step to ensuring you have a good looking miniature is to prepare it. Remove flash and mold lines with your hobby knife and/or file. Look for seams and extra bits of plastic or metal sticking off and shave them down. Be very careful that you don't cut yourself or remove pieces of the mini that you don't want to. Short, controlled cuts are the way to go.

You will then want to clean it to remove any mold-release agents and oils that have collected onto it. Fill a bowl with water and add a little detergent in and let them soak. I use an old toothbrush to scrub them clean and then rinse thoroughly and dry. Make sure they are completely dry before painting (I wait 24 hours or so and go over them with a blow-dryer).

Priming

After the minis are dry, it's time to prime them. Paint doesn't stick very well to metal or (especially) plastic. I mostly use black spray primer, but occasionally will use white if painting very light colors (yellows, whites, and reds). The first thing to do is secure the minis to something (I use cardboard boxes) using double sided tape. I started with blue-tac but found the tape was better at keeping them from falling over or dropping. Shake your primer for a long time and prime them in a well-ventilated area. Make sure it's not too humid or hot out, or you will get an undesirable finish on them. The key here is multiple light passes. You don't want a heavy coat or it will obscure the detail of the mini. Quickly pass over multiple times giving time to dry between coats. Let them dry according to the directions on the can (I usually give them a full 24 hours before painting).

I am painting a Reaper Miniature here that I picked up in anticipation for Tales of the Arabian Nights.


Primed and ready to go

Prepare Work-surface

Before you start painting, make sure you have everything you need handy. Protect your surface if working on nice furniture. A large self-healing cutting mat works well, though I just use a dedicated folding plastic table.

Fill two containers with water, one for cleaning brushes and the other for thinning paint. I also have a container of my "Future wash" made up which I will explain in a later step. Make sure you have some paper towels handy and all of your brushes and paints.

Base Coating

We will now start putting our paint on. The key here is to start on the inside and work out. The skin is the first thing we will want to paint as it's going to be messy and we will get paint on other areas. Go ahead and wet your brush and put a brush full of water in your mixing pallet, and a couple brushes worth of paint in and mix them together. You want the paint to flow well, so a little water is needed to give you the desired consistency. If the paint is too thin, it will go everywhere, and too thick will obscure detail and 'clump' on you. Over time, you will find the consistency that works best for you. Don't worry about getting paint on the outer surfaces, you will be able to cover them up later and just paint the flesh tones onto the mini.


Skin painted

Depending on the paint, it might take a couple of layers to get a smooth opaque layer down. Start with other colors in other areas and slowly build your way up.


Boots


Dark Grey Pants (hard to see in this picture)


Off-White Cloth


Metallic Sword


Gold Hilt and Chain

You will notice here that I got gold paint all over his chest. That's fine, we will be cleaning everything up once everything is done.


Tan vest and black beard and sash

It's starting to look good. Go ahead and clean up the areas that you've spilled over and let the miniature completely dry before the next step.

Wash
Remember that Future Polish listed in the Equipment section? Well it's time to pull that out. You're going to make a mixture of 4 parts water and 1 part Future. I make a big batch of this and keep it in a sealed container for whenever I need it. This is part of the 'Magic Wash' which will give us some nice shadowing effect to make the miniature appear more three-dimensional. In your mixing palette, take around 8 brush-fulls of the water-mixture and one brush-full of a darker paint and mix together. You want the consistency of skim milk. Take a brush and take the wash-mixture and paint it onto the miniature. The paint will flow into the cracks and crevices creating a nice shadow effect. If you put too much paint in the mixture, you will get a 'stained' look that will make things dirty - too little paint and it won't flow into the low points.

The color of paint you choose will depend on the color you are washing. For the white areas, I used a grey wash; for the pants and dark areas a black wash; for the skin, a brown wash. Experiment here for different effects.


Washed mini

Dry-Brushing
Now that we have nice shadows, we want to light up the entire figure and give it nice highlights. The easiest way to do this is dry-brushing. Dry brushing is very simple. Take a brush (Make sure it is not wet) and without thinning your paint, brush this on your paper towel until no more paint appears to be coming off. You now take this brush and run it against the edges of the miniature briskly and quickly. You want to go against the 'grain' here so that the paint only sticks to the raised surfaces. Use a lighter color than the base paint was (I use a pure white on the off white and a light gray on the dark grey, etc). Also use an old and/or cheap brush as dry-brushing will destroy a nice brush.


Drybrushed

Final touches
Look the miniature over and touch up any areas you might have obscured while dry brushing. If you are completely unhappy, you can start over completely by soaking the mini in "Simple Green" for a day or so and scrubbing the paint of with an old toothbrush.

If you are happy with the way things look, spray the mini with a Matte finish to make sure the paint doesn't rub off and enjoy your painted figures!


Finished

Parting thoughts

I am not the best painter around, but I wanted to share a few easy ways to make your games look better. I'm only a couple of months into this, and I'm always finding ways to improve. The key, though, is getting started and just experimenting to see what works for you. Don't be intimidated by others -- just sit down and paint.
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Richard Panek
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Future floor polish is now called "Pledge with Future" or something similar. The word "Future" is still prominent, and afaik its the same stuff.

The brand name in the U.K./E.U. is "Kleer".
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Jeff Wells
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Great post. I've used Future for all the minis I've painted as well as all the plastic models I've put together. Another good paint that I use for both is Tamiya brand, available at local hobby shops and online (www.squadron.com). I personally mix alcohol with my Future (or should I say my future is diluted by alcohol?) for faster drying, but water works great too. Future also makes a great base coat for minis, especially the plastic ones, because it will stick to anything, and the paint sticks to it very well.

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Adrienne
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Great post! Thanks for taking the time to write all of that out.

I've been painting minis for about a year or so. It does take time to learn the ways that work best.

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robert cabrera
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A nice effect for boots , to make them look leathery, is to paint the boots "terracotta" (citadel color, basically and orangy red) and then wash them with brown ink (or watered down brown). Its a very nice.

Also a nice matte or glossy (your preference) varnish will lock in the colors and prevent chipping and pealing of paint from handling.
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Thomas Murray
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Thanks for the tips!
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Christopher Scatliff
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Thanks for this, but I guess I'm a few steps below "newbie" since there are terms here that I don't understand, having never painted before. Can you explain some of these?:

cuzzle wrote:

Go ahead and wet your brush and put a brush full of water in your mixing pallet, and a couple brushes worth of paint in and mix them together.

Could you define "brush full" more specifically? Does that mean just dip a brush in whatever clings to it is a brush full? And how do you get the stuff off the brush in order to get the next "brush full"? I guess this questions boils down to "how does one paint?" Told you. Redefining 'newbie' here.

cuzzle wrote:

Depending on the paint it might take you a couple of layers to get a smooth opaque layer down. Start with other colors in other areas and slowly build you way up.

Go ahead and clean up the areas that you've spilled over and let the miniature completely dry before the next step.

Does each area/colour have to dry completely before doing the next area/colour? Or do you everything at once?

cuzzle wrote:

Dry-Brushing
Take a brush (Make sure it is not wet) and without thinning your paint brush this on your paper towel until no more paint appears to be coming off.

Sorry, not understanding this. You just use a clean dry brush? That can't be right. You put unthinned paint directly on the brush then wipe it off? Can you explain this a little better?

Sorry for the extra-basic level questions, but I've never painted anything before.
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robert cabrera
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Dry brushing is kinda like dusting for fingerprints. You take a dry brush, usually a little puffier than your normal brushes, tad a little paint on it, then dust a paper towel until you cannot see any paint on the toewl. There is still paint on the brush, put very little. When you 'dust' the figure, it will highlight the raised areas. In my opinion, its the best technique for adding details, plus it leaves no brush stroke marks.
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Bob Roberts

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Nicely done.
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robert cabrera
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I also recommend visiting the gamesworkshop.com page. Whether or not you like their products, they still have some awesome tutorials and technique tips from their pro painters.
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robert cabrera
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"Brush full" means, dip the brush in water, and dont drain or dab it, us the amount of water you get when you dunk your brush.

I personally (the OP may differ) let each layer dry a tad, even if its just leting a fan hit it for a few seconds. Really dpends on the thickness of paint you are using.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Now I'm going to disagree with Robert; I generally *don't* like the drybrushed look, because it looks odd - with little dusty speckles of paint left on the figure. There are places - and colours - where this is fine (drybrush silver over black to paint mail, for example), but generally I don't like it. I'm also not a huge fan of dips/washes/inks - though confess that I haven't tried some of the more recent products on the market.

Instead I was converted by Kevin Dallimore's 3-stage painting (and the Foundry paints that are pre-mixed so I don't have to muck about finding the right three shades for any given colour). It's also pretty fast.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Foundry-Miniatures-Painting-Modellin...
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Big Sean
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Nice article, very well put together.

Taking this a little further; if you have LOTS of figures to paint. Check out the ARMY PAINTER products on the WARLORD games site www.warlordgames.co.uk. It really does work.

Basically all you do is spray primer the figures in the predominant colour, pick out the details and highlights then dip them in a wash/stain then varnish.....magic. It works on all scales 28-30mm right down to 6mm micro figures.
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Jeff Wells
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lamplite wrote:
Very nice work and writeup. thumbsup

badfish20 wrote:
Also a nice matte or glossy (your preference) varnish will lock in the colors and prevent chipping and pealing of paint from handling.


I've been considering using varnish as a top coat for added protection since minis are handled so much in games. Do you recommended polyurethane and do you ever use particular tints or just go with clear? Can this be applied with a spray, brushed, or dipped and what are the pros and cons of each method. So much time is spent painting a great looking mini and I want to make sure the last step of top coating is done right for the best look and the best lasting protection.


I personally make a matte coating by mixing Future with and acrylic flat base (I use Tamiya). If you cant find that you could mix a little flat white paint in the future until it's just a wee bit cloudy. Or you can find other brands of matte or clear coat at any hobby or game store. Straight Future brushed on works, but it's really shiny. This makes a nice tough clear coat that stands up to handling really well.

For more on all the uses of Future, check this guy out:

http://www.swannysmodels.com/TheCompleteFuture.html
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robert cabrera
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RDewsbery wrote:
Now I'm going to disagree with Robert; I generally *don't* like the drybrushed look, because it looks odd - with little dusty speckles of paint left on the figure. There are places - and colours - where this is fine (drybrush silver over black to paint mail, for example), but generally I don't like it. I'm also not a huge fan of dips/washes/inks - though confess that I haven't tried some of the more recent products on the market.

Instead I was converted by Kevin Dallimore's 3-stage painting (and the Foundry paints that are pre-mixed so I don't have to muck about finding the right three shades for any given colour). It's also pretty fast.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Foundry-Miniatures-Painting-Modellin...


This method is for rapidly painting several figures at once. (for the impatient painter I guess) If you want to sell your minis for value, I would recommend taking to time to learn all the methods the pros use, that you dont like. But it all depends on your needs.
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Richard Dewsbery
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In terms of knowing the methods, don't worry about me on that account. I've done it old-school, blending and shading (because at the highest levels, techniques like drybrushing and washing can be regarded as amateurish short-cuts). And it takes sodding hours. No, it takes *days*. Sure, the finished result looks incredible - but it's complete overkill, given the viewing distances that are involved once the piece is in use.

You *can* paint detail like eyes - complete with coloured irises - at 28mm scale - and someone giving the figure a close inspection might say "wow" and offer you money. But if that takes days, and an army takes years to complete, my experience is that I just don't have the patience to get it finished. And at arms-length, a 3-layer figure (and without too much fiddly detail - eyes are totally unnecessary) ends up looking *better* thanks to the greater contrast present on the figure.

Painting several figures at once isn't a shortcut for the impatient - it's an absolute necessity for anyone trying to paint a whole army. I've been perfectly happy to lavish enormous amounts of time and effort on a ten-man squad for a small skirmish game, painting them one at a time, but if you've got 150 Romans to paint you'd better do several of them at once or you'll go nuts.

And yes, I've sold my own work for good money. But given the time it takes for me to paint anything, I prefer to keep them.
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robert cabrera
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For your explanation i say, makes sense. Maybe all the 40k painting has turned me super anal, but I need to make sure the details are there. Granted, the smaller the mini, the less you have to worry about this, as they will not be as scrutinized.

If there are unique figures, take your time. If you have 150 guys that are all identical, I guess the details arent as necessary. But I painted several squads that all looked very similiar, but to me, they are artwork more so than they are playing peices I guess. I want to but them on the shelf and go "wow" when I am not using them.

A little different for a boardgame . Personal preference I guess.

edit: I have started painted the War of the Ring minis, and they are different than painting the Lord of the Ring minis from Games workshop. It is almost impossible to get the same detail work on these as it was on those.
 
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Indeed - the casting (or moulding) that you start with can make a difference; something moulded in 20mm slightly soft plastic (like the WotR minis) is going to have a whole lot less there to paint than a GW 28mm white metal casting.

As for "super anal" painting (aka "bloody pointless amounts of detail, but *I* know the detail's there and that's what matters") I know what you mean. My Epic (6mm) Space Marines have details like Chapter symbols, rank badges and squad badges painted on them. How pointless is that?? Completely breaking my rule about painting what you can see. One day I hope to finish the Chapter (though it'll probably take GW revamping the rules *again* to give me the impetus); last time I checked I had well over half a chapter painted. And no opposing forces, which is the daft thing.

Overall, I think that 6mm is probably my favourite scale, but also the scale I paint least well. It's a lack of artistic ability, I suppose. Painting really small figures becomes even less about fine detail, and more about *suggesting* that detail. Which is also important if you're painting a "proper" picture. And that's something I was never very good at.
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Great article!

My wife and I recently discovered this hobby and have been enjoying spending some time painting together. I wrote about it here... http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/408909 ...and included some helpful links for a number of painting websites.
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Newbe question here:

In need of a specific colour I ordered some online.
I must have misread before adding to cart because I received a spray can instead of acrylic.

Do I need to order something else or can I spray some on a piece of paper (or on a container) and dip my brushes in?
Will the consistency be ok or will it ruin my first attempt of painting?


Thanks
 
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The arsol added to the paint won't paint very smooth and well gum up your brush. If you can I'd say one of starter kits from army painter is a good bang for your buck grab that and then a cheap ceramic cup and your good to go. O and the spray paint use it as base coat it will make paint go a lot faster.
 
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