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In addition to your unpainted figures you will need:
Depending on the brands and quantity, the starting supplies will run anywhere from $50 to $200.
Varying amounts of preparation is required before a mini can be painted. Some minis come clean cast (no mold lines/seams), cleaned, and pre-primed - ready to paint, but most do not.
There's a large variety of paints out there - from cheap Apple Barrel acrylics to expensive Citadel paints. There is no single best brand; everyone has their preferences and it's entirely dependent upon what you want to get out of your painting. Do you want fast drying or more working time? Do you want dense pigment for coverage in fewer layers or weaker pigment for layering and glazing? All the miniature grade paint brands are roughly cross-compatible, so they can be mixed and matched without any major issues.
New painters should find the largest paint set they can at the lowest price. You don't want to spend more money than you're willing to throw away if you don't stick with the hobby, and you can always buy more paint later.
Which Paint to use
Paints for miniatures will either be "Acrylic" or "Oil" based.Acrylic:
Common brands are: Citadel, Vallejo, Army Painter, P3Oil:
Miniature vs. Craft Paint
It is best to avoid the ultra-cheap "Craft Paints" (Folk Art, Apple Barn, Americana, etc) which aren't inherently suitable for miniatures. Craft Paints are not durable enough for objects meant to be touched and handled, but can be good for new hobbyists "testing the waters" on a budget, albeit with a reduction to quality. The rough texture of these paints can look good on some terrains. Alternatively, an acrylic medium - rather than water, can be used to thin the paint to reduce chalkiness and achieve a more solid/smooth finish at the cost of needing more layers for good coverage.
Miniature paints are pure colors (raw material), while craft paints are usually tints (color mixed with white) and shades (color mixed with black) and more likely to produce muddy colors when mixed than artist acrylics. Craft paints contain more water and less pigment than artist quality acrylics. The suboptimal water to pigment ratio means they lack the rich color and amazing coverage of miniature grade paints. Their pigment particles are also less finely ground and suspended in thick binders that make smooth layers and blends difficult. The thicker consistency in turn is more likley to obscure detail and give a chalky appearance when dry.
In addition to standard paints, some companies have special product lines of that behave differently:
How to Paint
Wet vs. Dry Palette
A dry palette small amount of paint is applied directly from the bottle/container to a dry surface from which a brush can be dipped.
A wet palette uses a shallow container filled with a small amount of water, sponge or damp paper towel covered with parchment paper. A small amount of paint is then applied directly from the bottle/container to the parchment paper. This technique prevents acrylic paint from drying out quickly and allows it to be saved for later (sometimes up to a week). However, this may also water-down the paint.
Brands: Sta-Wet Palette
This is the first color you apply. Just solid color where you want it on the figure. Don't worry about the fine details just yet.
The base color should be slightly darker than what you want for the finished mini so that shadows and highlights in the following steps can pop.
Washes are a darker shade of the base color(s) that has been very watered-down. They are brushed over the figure and flow into the recesses adding shadow to those areas. Don't be afraid - the wash will flow right into the cracks, and you can fix any part that seems too dark later.
Paint-Water vs Ink:
Ink is pigment or dye dissolved in a medium, such as water or alcohol. Inks tend to be more transparent than paint washes while still retaining a good amount of color. Paint pigment mixed with water works just as well as ink, but with a little less color. Ink and paint + water behave differently. Paint once dry, will remain dry. Ink can reactivate if it gets wet, so be careful washing over inks. Inks also have a less-natural, more shiny appearance after they dry. They can be good for simulating oil, grease, slimy creatures and wet surfaces.
Carefully apply a lighter shade of the base color(s) to the raised areas of the figure to highlight the raised parts.
Newcomers may find "Drybrushing" easier - wiping off most of the paint from the brush and gently running the edges over the raised surfaces.
Sealant goes on clear and protects the paint from dirt, sunlight and handling.
There are two types of sealant:
Lacquers generally require alcohol or white spirit to thin and to clean up brushes, but don't require ventilation. Acrylic and polyeurathane can be thinned with water and generally mix with other acrylic and polyeurathane products.
Two types of finishes:
Matte sealant leaves the colors as-is. Gloss is very shiny and the most resilient to handling.
And three ways to apply it:
No matter what brand you choose, always test a product before using it on your miniature. These products have expiration dates, are effected by outside temperatures, and can yellow, frost, or alter colors depending on the brand and possible product defects.
Common brands: Testors Dullcote, Krylon Varnish, Army painter, Mod Podge
Lay down a layer of medium or matte varnish as a pseudo-primer to get your paint to stick. Assuming that you want to maintain the translucency, use washes (may leave brush strokes) or glazes. Most inks will also work because they are properly transparent unlike paints. Some brands, such as Tamiya, have paint lines with transparent colors.
If at any point you're really unsatisfied with the results do not be afraid to repaint. Different people like to use different methods of removing paint from plastic minis, but probably the least toxic method is to take a bottle of "Simple Green" cleaning solution, soak your minis for several hours (if not a full day), and then scrub with an old toothbrush.
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