Okay, so you may have read my first article on a Poor Man’s Guide to Painting Miniatures, which has hopefully got you prepped and ready to paint your plastic, without breaking the bank. Now, I’d like to give you a brief guide on how to get your minis up to a decent standard. I'll share a few of the tips and tricks that I picked up as I was learning.
A quick tip before we delve into any of the painting aspects, though: if you're needing to build a miniature before you paint, be mindful of what you're sticking together. It's easy for limbs or cloaks to obscure other parts of the mini and make the painting a real pain. It might be worth putting together the final pieces after most of the painting is done or, if it's a push-fit model, only glueing it together at the end so you can still disassemble things as you need to.
Okay, so before you put any of your paint to the model, you’re going to need to prime your model. This means spray painting your mini so the rest of your paint stays on properly.
Once you’ve selected your spray, be that a cheaper one from your local store, or one of Citadel’s own cans, apply the following rules and you’ll be golden:
- You’re going to need ventilation for this because the fumes aren’t good for you. I typically spray outdoors or out of a window.
- I think the best way to contain your paint is to tear a couple of sides from a cardboard box so you’re working with the remaining three sides. Alternatively, you can use a strip of cardboard, as long it’s firm enough to hold the weight of your minis. Spray some small puddles of paint and place your minis into it firmly. Let it dry and it should allow for just enough grip to prevent the air from your can from pushing your minis around.
- Shake your can. Apparently, this is important. I'm not sure what happens if you don't - I'm too scared to find out.
- Appropriate distance. About 20cm away from your mini is best. Much closer and you're going to drench the little dude or dudette and you'll mask all the detailed features. If you're too far away, your paint will start to dry before it hits the mini and you'll end up with a dusty texture on it.
- Spray in bursts. Seriously, it's the best decision you can make. If you've messed up on any of the previous points, it gives you a chance to correct things before you ruin it. Plus, it doesn't take much paint to get a good coat anyway.
- Now, I've spray-painted in a range of weathers, though rarely the extremes, with no difficulties. I believe the same issue with the dusty texture can result if things are out of whack, so ideally follow the advice on your can.
- All angles. After you think that you're done, let the mini dry a bit and examine it from every angle. There's nearly always one little direction I've messed and it's typically from below.
Great stuff! Now let that bad boy/girl dry and then you can get down to the good stuff.
Okay, so your mini is primed and you're ready to actually use a paintbrush. This is the stage where you're going to put in all the basic colours you want to use. There's a good chance that your mini will look a bit bland at the end of this - very 2D looking. Fear not, the shading phase afterwards will make everything pop, honest.
Okay so here are some tips for this part:
● Paint choice. I won't labour on this too much because it's mostly preference. I'm a Citadel guy myself, and I've admittedly used very few competing brands. I would like to give a shout out to the contrast range though, which might make painting miniatures quicker and easier if you're just getting started. Any of the "flesh" paint colours, such as Guilliman Flesh, will make painting faces far, far easier for you. Equally, a brown paint like Wyldwood will make painting wooden objects quick, easy and great looking.
● Shake your paints. This goes double for metallic paints - shake them real good. You don't want your brush to miss out on that sweet, sweet pigment because you've used a watery, translucent part of the pot.
● Use a palette. This might seem obvious but I'd hate to miss it off. You don't want to be using paint straight out of the pot, due to varying paint thickness and poor control of how much is on your brush. This gives you a surface to mix your paints, if you'd like, too. Some people use plastic or a ceramic tile for this. If you use something like cardboard, your paint will lose moisture to the palette surface, drying it out faster and changing the consistency. I prefer a wet palette, which has a thin wet sponge on the bottom and a semi-permeable sheet of paper on top - might be a bit extra for a first outing.
● Water down your paints. Following on pretty nicely from your palette, water down your paints, if only a little. I'm pretty certain I mentioned this in my previous article, but it's just that important. A lot of people's first minis, often when they're young, look very splodged. If your paint is too thick, you'll obscure the details and make visible brush strokes, so mix a tiny bit of water from your brush and test it out. This isn't an exact science, so I can't give you an appropriate ratio of paint to water. You'll just have to experiment a little and develop a feel for it.
● Beware of overload. Overloading your brush is simply having too much paint on there. You'll lose control, obscure details and make a mess of things. Use your palette to wipe some away, so you don't just have a dollop hanging from there.
● Sharp brush tip. You want to be working with a pointed brush tip to give you plenty of accuracy, especially when painting the detailed parts. Rotate your brush on the palette when you're wiping away excess paint to create a good point.
● Brush size. A rookie error when first painting miniatures is using a brush that's too small. Just because your canvas is miniature doesn't mean you should reach for the smallest brush you own. If your brush is too small, it's going to take much longer than it needs to to get the same job done. Brush size is normally numerical, and a size 2 is about what you'll use for most of your heavy lifting. Save the small ones for the finicky details.
● Fancy techniques. You'll see all sorts of fancy techniques for painting miniatures on YouTube, like wet blending, two brush blending and more. Don't stress about learning these just yet. I've gotten by without dedicating much time to them and they're a bit out of the scope of a beginner's guide anyway.
● Don't worry! You'll make mistakes here and that's fine. You can easily paint over what you've done and the next step, shading, hides all manner of sins.
This is probably my favourite step of the process. You get such an incredible result with relatively minimal time and effort. Shading generally involves coating the miniature with a “shade” paint, which flows into the recesses of the mini, making the details really stand out. You don’t need to be too neat with this one, but there are still some tips for you to get the best results:
● Official paints. Please learn from my mistake. Black paint with ample added water does not a shade paint make! The water tension won't be right when you merely water down a dark paint. It'll be patchy and look very uncool. Use citadel shade paints, like Agrax Earthshade or Nuln Oil.
● Pooling. This paint can pool on the flatter parts of your model, which you obviously don't want. Just be mindful of this as you're painting and mop up the excess you don't want.
Generally the final step of your model, this stage involves brightening this up again after the last step. You can use some of your original colours that you used in the base paint step to cover any shading that you didn't want. You also want some that are brighter so things can really pop. There are a few techniques that I like to use, and I think these are probably the main ones in most painters' repertoires:
- This is probably the one I use the most. It involves layering on brighter colours, one on top of the other, to highlight your surfaces. The Citadel layer paint range is slightly translucent, so using multiple layers will gradually brighten the area.
- Dry brushing. This involves using a broader, flat-tipped brush and removing most of the paint on your brush. Swirling your brush on kitchen roll and wiping until only a little comes off will prep your brush for action. Then lightly brushing over parts of the model will make the raised parts catch the paint pigments, leaving the recesses alone. This is handy for brightening up rougher, uneven parts of the mini.
- Edge highlighting. Just as it sounds, edge highlighting involves highlighting the edges of your mini. Drag the side of your brush along the edges to catch the paint and make those ridges stand out.
And that's all of the stages of painting miniatures. I generally find this last one the longest for the most subtle reward, but it's really what makes the mini shine. There's also an argument for performing some of the highlight steps before shading, as that shade paint can help bring all of the colours together, making the highlight more subtle. There's plenty of other ways of painting miniatures though and If you're keen on getting involved in the hobby, I encourage you to check out video tutorials on YouTube, which have been a huge help to me. Happy painting!
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