A little while ago I made a case for why you should paint minis. When I wrote that article though I did not give anyone much instruction on what to do. I would like to talk a little bit today and remedy that situation for anyone interested in getting into painting.
The first thing we need to talk about is the materials we need. You’ll want brushes to start our with. There is a lot options for brushes and a lot of different prices out there. My first attempts with painting were with cheap brushes that you could find at any hobby store. As you paint you may end up with a favorite brand of some fancier brushes, but since we are considering the buy in here anything that paints will do. You have to be careful though or you will end up having to buy more brushes. For sizes I would suggest anything from size zero to size five with a pointed tip and moving out from there.
Another concern is your palette. Whenever you paint minis you want to make sure that you are not getting your paints straight out of your paint pot. Painting straight from the pot is a great way to dry out your paints. Use a light amount of water and mix it with a couple of drops of paint. This will make the paints last longer and you can do more with mixing as well. Eventually you will probably start looking into wet palettes and how fancy they are, but for now I would like to encourage you to pick a cheaper pallet that is white in color, has a wide surface to test paint colors, and can hold at least eight colors but the more the better.
Get some cups that you do not mind getting dirty too. You will need to clean your brushes and it is way better than running to the sink and back. You will also need a soft cloth or if you are using some cheaper brushes then a paper towel can work as well. One last thing you need is something that will keep your brushes upright. When storing your brushes they need to be vertical. If they are kept sideways the brushes will bend and that will ruin the brushes.
Finally you should buy paints. Pick the colors you need and buy just those. If you buy two different colors of the same shade then when you combine them in the right amounts then you can make any color in between. Don’t think that you can make a color lighter by putting white in it or darker with black. These combinations can more often than not can end up making a grey or black. I prefer the Citidel paint brand. You can find a link to their products on amazon here.
So now that we have done that we can get to the painting parts! Painting is so much fun but it will require patience more than anything. Keep going though and know that you will get better as you practice.
The zeroth step is cleaning, cutting, and priming your minis. Most plastic minis will come with factory imperfections and in shipment they can get dusty. Soak your mini in slightly soapy water and let it dry. Then find any of the factory faults and carefully remove them with an exacto knife or anything of that sort. Then use a primer so that your paints will stick to the minis. If you are using spray primer then take a few test shots at a piece of cardboard to get the right distance. Too close and your mini will lose its details and if you spray too far then the primer will go on flaky and can ruin a mini.
The first thing you need to do is take a picture of your mini in the light and unpainted. I know it sounds weird but the light on the mini will help you with shading and where to pay attention for lighting the colors on your shading step.
My second step is something that I like to do, but it is nothing that is too necessary. I like to cover my minis with a light Nuln oil. This helps me find all the nooks and crannies in a mini and really brings out the details that you are going to paint.
The third step is to start painting base colors. Carefully pick and choose the colors you want to put on your mini and start putting them on there. Get everything down on the mini and cover all of your details before moving on. This will be the first place that your patience pays off. Make the mini look clean and go back over the details to make them right. When you are applying your paints here make sure they are slightly watered down but not so much so that the paint starts to bead up. I suggest getting a clean sheet of printer paper and doing a few “test strokes” to make sure that the paint is concentrated enough. Doing this will make it so that you have to layer more, but you can cover your mistakes easier and you will save more details that are easily covered in your mini.
Step four is a simple process. Wash your mini! I’m not talking about the soapy water again though. I’m talking about paint washes like Nuln Oil. These paint washes are a very diluted paint the will concentrate in the nooks and crannies of your mini and bring out a lot of detail. These paints are so diluted that you can use the pot for painting instead of your palette. Also you need to pay attention to the pooling of the wash. You do not want too much wash to pool in an awkward spot. You can use your unpainted reference pictures of your minis to determine where you want the was to pool at and brush towards those areas. Also when you wash your minis you’ll see that some of the errors in your paintings will be covered by the wash.
Step five is shading the mini back up. “But Nick we already painted and washed our minis. You want us to paint again!?” Shading the mini is a little more complicated than getting rid of the washes affect on plain areas of your mini though. Shading up will help the mini have a more lifelike appearance. Consider a pair of jeans. If you lay them flat and shine a light on top of them the jeans will be a straight color. Now If you wrinkle the jeans even a little you will notice a darker color inside the wrinkle then outside the wrinkle. Well minis have all sorts of wrinkles in them. Their cloaks, capes, pants, faces, hands, boots, and even the ground they stand on all have shades to them. Use your base color first to take away the effects of the wash on flat or larger unwrinkled parts of your mini. The shade up with a lighter color until your mini has varying shades on them. This is a second part where patience will help you. If you mess up the mini though do not panic. You can always redo anything you need to do to get the mini back up to standards. Apply washes and base colors as needed but BE PATIENT. If you do not let the mini dry between mistakes you will make more mistakes than you are covering up… believe me. Be subtle with your shadings and as the get lighter apply them to less pieces of the mini.
Once you are done clean your brushes and let the mini dry completely. Once the mini is totally dried up then use a matte acrylic finish to keep your paints from chipping and to keep the mini from looking too shiny. Do test sprays with this too because you can spray too much.
From here you will have a proud new painted mini. Good luck all of you aspiring artists. I hope this article helps you in your endeavors!
Thank your for reading my article. I hope it helped you with your painting or at least made you feel more comfortable taking that plunge into such a great hobby! If you liked our article then let us know in the comments below, or by sharing our article with any of your friends looking to potentially get into the hobby. If you have any questions, or you want to show off your mini prowess than follow us on Facebook and Twitter @nblogcollective. We love providing you guys with awesome articles that cover all sorts of nerdy topics. To help us do this better we have a Patreon Page that has great benefits that will help us review board games and RPGs, along with producing other great sources of content. Thank you everyone again for reading, and as always,