cork to hold warhammer figurine while painting
History & Paintings How To Paint Miniatures Master your tools for painting figures

A Beginner’s Guide To Figurines Painting – Top 7 Quick Tips

With the health crisis and the various confinements, we find ourselves stuck at home.

As they say, make the best of it! Or as the English say: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

With this article, we should rather say today: When life confines you to the house, take advantage of it to paint figurines.

We must admit that painting is a fabulous activity to clear your mind, to think about something else. It’s almost meditative, like puzzles, all in all.

Puzzles, the amazing comeback of this champion of confinements 

During confinements, puzzles became trendy again. 

Back on a playful activity that became a social phenomenon.

Painting figurines, when you don’t know anything about it, may seem difficult or insurmountable. And yet, with a little technique and material, like any activity, the most difficult thing is to start.

You can already get amazing results with a few basic techniques.

space marines warhammer 40k figures painting

A Guide To Painting Figurines.

Where to start?

To paint figurines, you have to start by finding some… figurines.

If you have a board game at home, chances are there are unpainted miniatures in the box. It’s a big trend in the board game industry.

The vast majority of games launched on Kickstarter include dozens of unpainted miniatures. The reason for this is to allow people to paint them as they wish.

The biggest mistake you could make in painting miniatures is to buy too many miniatures from the start. As you get more comfortable and get the hang of it, you may want to think bigger.

Buy games designed for painting, like Warhammer 40,000 or Star Wars Legion, for example.

To get started, start small. With a handful of miniatures. Qui va piano va sano.

And painting miniatures is a great way to:

1. Listen to music and/or catch up on your podcasts

2. Pimp your board games to give them a unique, personalized look.

A quick overview of what you need to start painting miniatures

2 Quick tips to get you started with Painting minis

Disclaimer: as the title of the article says, this is a quick guide to getting started.

Once you’ve mastered painting miniatures, you may want to look into more advanced and sophisticated techniques.

  1. Find a suitable work space
miniature painting supplies

You shouldn’t need much space to start painting miniatures. You’ll need a comfortable chair, of course, and a sturdy table

2. Also, think about your lighting. It sounds silly, but it plays an important role. Shadows can play with your perception of the figures and their details.

Poor lighting could cause you to miss a spot, and more importantly, it could also cause eye strain. Think about installing some moving lights on “arms” that can move.

Finally also think about the brightness of your lighting, the lumen rating of your bulbs. The higher the lumens, the better, allowing you to better observe the details of your rooms.

How to paint miniatures?

The Best Painting Minis Basic techniques

* Equipment: A small list of things you will need to paint your miniatures.

* Preparation: Prepare your miniature for painting.

* Basic Coating: The first step, where the main colors are applied.

Painting Miniatures 4 Top Advanced techniques

* Shading: To add shadow to the roughness and reinforce the impression of relief.

* Highlighting: To highlight the edges and drybrush.

* Details: To add final details to the figure.

* Finishing touches and advanced techniques: the next steps and finishing touches.

Basic techniques for painting your figures

Best Equipment For Painting Figurines

To paint, you need brushes and paint.

water for miniature painting station

What are the best brushes to paint miniatures?

To start painting miniatures, you don’t need to invest in professional brushes. Inexpensive brushes are all you need to get started.

You can find them in supermarkets or in DIY or decoration stores, or on the internet. Philibert’s game store has a whole section with materials for painting figurines.

Just avoid disposable brushes with thick bristles. It’s better to find thin brushes.

I recommend to take the 2.0 brush size for example, or small size, for details. And then medium sizes for “general” work.

Note that brushes can be of three different hairs:

* Synthetic hair: Generally nylon-based, it is inexpensive and durable, the hairs being very resistant. However, it does not keep its shape for long and tends to leave in a “palm tree” shape.

* Natural hair: It comes from various animals (badger, otter, etc..). It is more flexible than synthetic hair, and the paint will dry less quickly on this brush than on synthetic. Regular use will leave marks in the fineness of the tip. It also has a slight tendency to lose its hairs more easily.

* Marten hair: The marten provides the ideal hair for painting. There are two types of sable hair brushes: the red sable and the Kolinsky.

The latter is the top of the line brush, which is reflected in its price. In both cases, the fineness of the tip and the quality of glide on the figure is incomparable.

The Kolinsky is more resistant than the red sable.

Whichever brush you use, get some special brush soap to clean and prepare your brushes between painting sessions. 

Since acrylic paints tend to dry out while you are using them, a wet palette is necessary to keep them fluid and “soft” while you paint. You can also use any lid from a plastic container rather than a specialized palette that can be expensive, for not much money. 

What is the best paint for painting miniatures?

Finally, you’ll need to buy the right acrylic paints.

There are a number of different brands, including Citadel from Games Workshop and Vallejo. A conversion chart can help you find the colors you need in the brands you want.

No need to buy a thousand bottles! A few primary colors will suffice for skin, fabric, etc.

Also consider paints that give a metallic feel, such as gold or silver. Many miniatures sport jewelry, weapons and armor, when they are not robots or mechs themselves (cuckoo Scythe).

And why not also brown to represent leather, for example.

At the beginning, don’t go too far with the different shades of each color. Keep it simple, and develop later on according to your needs.

How do I prepare for painting minis?

The Preparation

To prepare a miniature for painting, it all depends on the miniature.

The vast majority of unpainted miniatures included in board games are already assembled. It’s a time saver.

Otherwise, in Warhammer 40’000 for example, you have to start by assembling your miniatures. 

Sometimes you may even have to cut the miniature parts, sometimes attached to branches, then sand them before gluing them together if they are not interlocking. For the glue, it all depends on the material of the figure. Superglue should do the trick.

But again, start small. Start with “ready-made” unpainted figures found in many board games.

The first step is to put the undercoat on the figure with a can of black spray paint.

You can use gray or white if you want to paint a model with a lot of bright colors such as yellow or white, but be aware that black is usually the most practical and… forgiving. As the hard-to-reach areas will always be shaded. 

Games Workshop products can be used, but any black spray paint for underlayment will do. Be sure to get a thin, even coat, using short bursts of about 15 cm to 30 cm apart, and let the model dry for about 30 minutes. 

If you missed any areas, repeat the process until you have a fully primed model.

What is Painting miniatures Base Coating?

Base coating is the process of painting the base colors onto your miniature. The best way to do this is to use thin, even layers of paint to smoothly apply the layers of paint. 

In general, avoid applying the paint straight out of the bottle. Consider thinning it with a few drops of water.

Getting the right consistency may seem difficult. It should be just in between, more liquid than paint and thicker than water.

And remember, two or three thin coats are better than one thick coat.

Games Workshop lists some of their paints as “base colors”, which tend to be thicker and cover the miniatures better. In general, blue and red pigments tend to cover very well, unlike yellow.

Check the rendering on your model.

To get a smooth layer, you need patience. And if you make a mistake, don’t worry, just paint over it.

The golden rule: a thin layer.

At this point, your figure should already look good, with bright, clean layers of paint. You can stop here if you like.

Or you can go further to make your figure even more beautiful and detailed.

5 Painting Minis Advanced techniques

  1. Shading

Shading brings precision and a detailed highlighting of your figure, a certain relief to your model. Shading allows you to highlight aspects and roughness of your model.

To generate a shadow impression on your model, you will have to use dark colors. The easiest way to do this is to use “washes” or “shadow paints”.

These are fine paints that settle into the nooks and crannies of the figures. You can use ready-made paints, such as Games Workshop shadow paints, or you can achieve a similar effect by diluting a darker paint with water.

If the paint clumps somewhere in the corner, a small brushstroke with just a drop of water allows you to “smooth out” the paint and correct the shadow.

Focus on recesses, such as fabric folds, around joints and areas that have lots of nooks and crannies, like armor gauntlets. This will leave the larger areas untouched, allowing the armor and fabric to remain shiny.

2. Highlighting

Highlighting the edges

warhammer painting project minis hold by a man

Like shading, highlighting simulates the effect of light reflecting off the highest points of an object. The process of painting these edges to create this effect is often known as edge highlighting.

This is a finer process than shading. Remember to keep your brush and paint thin.

At this point, focus on the edges and ridges of your figure’s details, things that would catch the light “in real life”: the tops of fabric folds, the ridges of armor, etc.

For this edge highlighting, use light colors to represent the light.

3. Dry brushing

Drybrushing is great for covering textures that are rougher in real life, like rock, dirt, fur. To give such an impression, there is nothing like the dry brushing technique.

This technique consists in using a brush with rigid bristles, also called dry brushes. For delicate areas, you can use a regular brush.

However, a dry brush is recommended for large areas.

This technique consists of using a small amount of almost dry paint and briskly brushing the area to be painted with a brush with more or less hard bristles. The paint only settles at the top of the relief, allowing the details to appear more clearly.

By using a light paint, we can achieve a semblance of lighting of the reliefs, and highlight the details and edges of the figure.

To drybrush, simply apply a small amount of paint to your brush. Apply the paint to the bristles of the brush by wiping it on a cloth for example.

Make sure your brush barely leaves any paint on the tea towel. This means that there is very little paint on your brush.

Hence the term dry brushing.

Next, apply your brush to the figure.

To apply the paint to the model, you simply brush back and forth quickly, as if you were removing dust from the figure. This will cause the remaining paint to cling to the edges and textures.

Be careful though, this dry brushing technique is messy. For you and your figurine!

4. Details

The details of your miniature are the icing on the cake. The last element to add, which increases and refines the level of detail of your painting and miniature.

A shirt button here, a sword pommel there. The more time you spend on the various details of your model, the more texture and realism it will gain.

Don’t they say: the devil is in the details?

Although the devil is in the details, it’s mostly the idea that sometimes all it takes is the smallest detail to go wrong. Omitting details on your miniature won’t “ruin” it, but working on them and bringing them up will give your miniature a realistic and breathtaking level of detail (so to speak).

5. Final touches and advanced techniques

If you want to take your painting even further, the next and final step might be to increase the contrast, focusing on increasing the shading or brightness of highlights and edges. Finally, you can get into even more advanced techniques, such as blending, glazing or gradients.

Keep in mind that you are painting figures, not the Sistine Chapel. Your miniatures, no matter how realistic and sumptuous, have one and only one purpose: to give your board games and role playing games a breathtaking and personalized level of realism.

Although, let’s be honest, an afternoon of painting, solo or with the family, is just as exciting as a game.

A very accessible method to quickly paint miniatures

In this video from OnTableTop, the crazy fig people, we can see a very simple and practical technique to paint your miniatures.

A base coat of black and a light spray of gray from top to bottom to serve as shading. From there, we used the “magic” of drybrushing and paint applications for shading.

A little highlighting here and there, and that’s about it. All in all, a very accessible method.

Read Here A Beginners Guide On Everything About Acrylic Paint Techniques and Tools

Amazon’s game store has a few references that can help you get started with miniature painting:

* Army Painter – Warpaints Starter Paint Set. A starter set with basic colors.

* Army Painter – Warpaints Metallics Paint Set. A set that contains 8 metallic paint cans and 16 balls to insert into the cans to facilitate the mixing of pigments.

* Army Painter – Warpaints Mega Paint Set. Attention, heavy, big (expensive). All that is needed as paint. There are… 50!

* Zombicide Black Plague Paint Set. A complete set for the famous Zombicide board game.

* A brush, for the very first coat

* A brush, for the small details

* A brush, medium size for the middle layer

* White paint for the undercoat

* Black paint for the undercoating

For More About The History Of Painting Minis

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