Using Test Figures
I'm a big proponent of test figures. If I don't know exactly how a paint effect will look, I'll grab a throwaway figure and try it out first before I put paint on a figure that counts. I also use test figures to experiment. So what do I mean by a "test figure"? When I use the term, I do NOT mean the first figure in a unit. A test figure is a figure I really don't care about, but is very useful to see how different paints or techniques turn out. I may use the same figure to test out a number of variations or colors.
Here's a good example. This poor marine from the 3rd edition starter set was used to a) test how my almond spray interacted with my Liquitex and Citadel washes. I also slapped on a couple of other colors just to see what they would look like. It only took a couple of minutes, but gave me information and a reference point before actually trying this out on a "real figure".
You also want to make sure you're testing colors an techniques on a variety of surfaces. For this, I dug out the half-assembled land speeder for the same starter set to test the interaction of washes with some other spray colors. Techniques that work on detailed figures, might not work on vehicles and power armor because of the large smooth areas. Again, you're better off taking a couple of minutes to experiment with a new combination of colors or techniques before you try it out on a real figure and get disappointed with a result you didn't expect.
So where can you get figures that you can use for testing. A lot of people have more figures than they know what to do with, especially from the starter sets. Grab a handful of those, or go to your local game store and see if anyone has extra figures they're willing to give away.
Original article can be found at: http://www.kan.org/michael/mkp/testfigures.php