So You Want to Paint Miniatures?
You're finally taking the plunge. Someone or something has gotten you all excited about miniatures and you're all ready to head out to the local game store, buy the coolest miniature you can find, a basket full of painting supplies, and go to town? Right? Hold on for a second?
Put down the box of Chaos Terminators, place the Deamon Prince back on the rack, and step away from the counter. While this might sound a little heretical, it will help you in the long run if you take a little bit of time to warm up and understand some of the fundamentals of miniatures painting.
While you are at the game store, you might want to pick up a couple of things:
Create A Basic Tool Kit
Before you get settled in, you probably want to pick up a couple of basics.
- Basic paint set. Games Workshop sells one for $25 but you can find an equivalent one from Privateer Press or Rackham. A basic paint set isn't too bad as it comes with a number of colors you'll generally need and a brush. For an additional $20, you could buy the GW Hobby Starter kit which comes with 9 paints, glue, flocking, and clippers. Actually not a bad deal.
- Spray primer. You can pick up white or black. I'll suggest black for now. You can buy automotive primer from any DIY store.
- Hobby Clippers. You'll need clippers to get plastics off the sprue or to clean up some little things off metal figures.
- Hobby Knife. The knife will be used to prep your miniatures and clean up mould lines
- Flat files. Like the hobby knife, you'll need files to clean up mould lines
- Gel superglue and model cement. If you are working with plastics, you'll want model glue. If you're working with metal, you'll want Superglue.
- A nice quiet place to paint. This last piece shouldn't be overlooked. Find a nice spot where you can work undisturbed and leave works in progress out. The dining room table might look like a great place, until it's dinner time and your Mom chases you off your painting table.
- An online community. Don't forget the social aspect of the hobby. More selfishly, the online communities are a great way to get comments and suggestions on your painting, advice and ideas, or find inspiration from the work of others. Recently, I've probably been the most active on Warseer and DakkaDakka
A general note. The hobby companies have gotten smart. All of them offer a line of hobby tools: cutters, knives, glues, files, clamps, saws, etc ... at a fair mark up. It's really up to you. You can pay 2X for tools at the hobby store or you can shop a bit and find the equivalents at your local DIY store like Home Depot or even Target. That being said, it is awfully convenient to buy everything at one store.
Acquire Some Training Miniatures
I forgot something ... the miniatures. This may sound crazy, but find a handful (literally) of old, unpainted miniatures that no one wants anymore. You might be able to get some at your local game store and your friends will most certainly have some. Metal or plastic, it doesn't matter, but make sure they have some detail. The reason I want you to find unwanted miniatures, is because I want to you to learn some basic techniques without worrying about wrecking a miniature.
In fact, even for experienced painters, having a couple of throw away figures available to try out different colors schemes and techniques never hurts. You're better off figuring out two colors suck on a test figure then on your squad leader.
Get Familiar With Some Fundamentals
Now that you have everything, here's what I want you to do:
- Grab your clipper, files, and knife and prepare 5-6 of your miniatures for priming. Make sure you've smoothed down any mould lines and nubs of sprue with your files and hobby knife.
- Find some newspaper and a nice sunny day and spray prime your figures black. Lay them down on some newspaper and spray botton, right, top, left and then turn them over once they've dried. Repeat the process on their backs.
- Here's where we change things up a bit. Grab your brush and the white paint and practice drybrushing. Before you start with the paint though, develop a feel for the right amount of force you want to use, run the brush over the back of your hand. You want to use about as much force as you would use to pet a cat ... or that's what I told my kids. Try this out with more or less amounts of paint on your brush and on large and small sections of miniatures. Practice this a bit. This should dramatically illustrate for you what drybrushing will do for you.
- Let's reverse this now. Basecoat the entire miniature in white or grey. If you bought the white spray primer, you can just spray it white. Do you understand now, why I told you to find miniatures you wouldn't care about?
- Now that you've basecoated your miniature, we're going to wash the miniature to show you what a wash will do. Mix some black or blue paint with some water so that it's about the consistancy of milk and brush it over your white basecoated model and see how the paint flows into the low areas. Again, try this on large and small areas with varying amounts of wash on the brush.
That's it. You've successfully navigated your training mission. Now get yourself back down to the hobby store and grab that squad box you've been eyeing.