You probably have some miniatures to paint if you’re into tabletop gaming these days.
You’ve probably picked some up with a board game, but perhaps you’ve gone all in on a fancy Kickstarter, picked up some Warhammer, or want to spice up your roleplaying sessions.
It’s a fantastic hobby, but getting started can be difficult.
This beginner’s guide will take you from bare plastic to finished model in just a few simple steps.
Miniature painting techniques
A short list of items you’ll need to paint your miniatures.
- Preparation: Preparing your miniature for painting.
The first stage, during which the major colors are applied.
- Shading: Adding shade to the model’s recesses to suggest shadow.
- Layering and cleanup: Adding vibrancy and cleaning up places where shade isn’t required.
- Edge highlighting and drybrushing are both explained.
- Detailing: Adding the final touches to the model.
We’ll use a Stormcast Eternal Sequitor from Games Workshop to demonstrate these steps. They’re simple to come by on eBay, and your local game store might even have some for free thanks to a promotional offer from a year or so ago.
Everything in this guide is intended to be general rather than unique to this model, so don’t expect you’ll need it to get started, or even these colors or paints. (Paints will be referred to by general color for clarity, although the Citadel name will be given in brackets.)
Painting Mini Equipment List
The brushes needed for painting minis:
- a brush with a very good tip for details and highlights
- a little one for minor portions of the model
- a larger one for base coating/washing
- a stiff-bristled brush for dry brushing are all essential paint brushes.
A palette for thinning paint is useful, but instead of buying one, you may use the lid of a plastic container or a ceramic tile. If you wish to manufacture or buy a wet palette, it’s a good idea to use a standard palette for metals to prevent them from separating.
When you first start off, acquire a few paints that cover the major components of your selected scheme. For skin, armour, cloth, and other items, a figure will normally have a few primary colors.
You’ll almost always need some metals – gold and silver are popular – as well as a brown for leather and straps, which are another regular model component. Keep it simple at initially and expand as needed; don’t go overboard with six different tones of each color.
Although a can of spray priming isn’t required, it does create such a wonderful basis to work on that it’s difficult to not recommend it.
A damp palette might help keep paint from drying out.
To prepare a model for painting, you must first assemble it. After removing the model off the sprue, mold lines can be scraped away using the back of a craft knife.
No glue was required because our Sequitor was push-fit. Poly cement will be required to bond non-push-fit models together. Superglue will be required to assemble several plastics, as well as resin and metal.
The first step is to use a spray can of black paint to prime the model. If you want to paint a model with a lot of bright colors like yellow or white, you can use grey or white, but black is the most forgiving because any hard-to-reach parts will always appear shadowed.
Games Workshop supplies can be used for priming, although any black spray paint would suffice. Allow roughly 30 minutes for the model to dry after applying a thin and even coat in small bursts from about 15cm to 30cm away.
If you missed any places, repeat the process until the model is completely primed.
The process of painting the fundamental colors on your model is known as basecoating.
The best approach to achieve this is to paint in thin, equal layers and lay down coats of paint smoothly. In general, you should never use paint directly from the bottle; always dilute it with a few drops of water first.
It’s difficult to get the right consistency, but it should be runnier than paint and thicker than water. It’s always worth it to be patient with your layers, and two or three thin layers are preferable to one large coating.
Some of Games Workshop’s paints are labeled as “base colors,” which are thicker and cover better. In general, blue and red paints cover well, whereas yellow pigments do not, but there is no hard and fast rule, so check.
Patience is required to get a smooth coat. It starts out thin and shaky, but a few coats will give you a solid foundation to work with.
When painting, bear in mind that a mistake isn’t the end of the world; simply paint over it, keeping your paint thin.
Your sculpture should be vibrant and colorful at this time, with precise layers of paint. You can stop here if you want, but continuing will greatly improve the model.
The miniature’s armour is basecoated in a rich turquoise (Sotek Green), with silver (Leadblecher) for the iron metallics, gold (Retributor Armour) for the gold details, a blueish off-white (Celestra Grey) for the various cloth material, and a deep burgundy (Screamer Pink) for the various cloth material. (Those with keen eyes will observe that the model’s gauntlet is leather wrapping rather than armour.)
The rocks on the base were painted in a dark grey (Mechanicus Standard), and the dirt was painted in a dark reddish brown (Rhinox Hide).
Because miniatures are so little, light has a different influence on them than it does on bigger objects. Instead than relying on how light interacts with recesses to create shadows, you should paint them in using darker pigments. The simplest way to do this is to tint the model with “washes” or “shade paints.”
These are thin paints that settle in the crevices of models, among other things, to indicate shadows. You can use pre-made washes, such as Games Workshop’s shade paints, or dilute a darker paint with water to achieve a similar effect.
It’s crucial to double-check that no large puddles of wash are drying on flat parts at this point, so do so after you’ve washed it. Use a little water on your brush to distribute a large lump of wash that has accumulated elsewhere.
The armour and linen of the Sequitor were washed with a rich blue-green wash (Coelia Greenshade).
Concentrate solely on nooks and crannies such as textile folds, joints, and locations with several nooks and crannies, such as gauntlets.
Flatter regions will be left intact, allowing armour and textiles to retain their luster.
Whether you cover the entire area or just the recesses depends on your model, but if you want to brighten it up later, you may always layer over a wash with the original color.
A purple wash (Druchii Violet) was put all over the burgundy to tone down the brightness.
You can do more than just make the paint darker when shading a model. To give the shadow more depth, use a contrasting color, such as green on red.
When looking at colored paintings or other models, you’ll notice that shadows are rarely black, but rather contain a tint of color. Googling for color wheels can be a wonderful place to start if you need help choosing complementary or contrasting colors, as there is a lot of theory behind this strategy.
The metal, stone, and dirt were darkened with a very dark brown wash (Nuln Oil) at this stage, which was applied extremely heavily to give the base a dirty aspect. The metal was given the same purple treatment as the cloth.
Purple contrasts with gold a little more, and it also has the added benefit of linking it into the rest of the model’s colors by combining the blue of the armour with the red of the cloak.
Cleaning and layering
Base coating and shading will give you a model that is suitable for most applications, and you may be content to leave it there. It is recommended that you go over any elevated areas that have been washed with the original color to clean them up.
The step where clean colors are built up on the flat planes of the model to strengthen the contrast between the shadows in the recesses and the highlights that will be added later is known as layering.
Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can either layer the higher regions with the same color as the lower areas or a brighter color to increase the contrast.
The white and blue on our Sequitor have been topped back up with the colors we initially base coated them with.
Highlighting, like shading, simulates the look of light shining off an object’s highest points. Edge highlight is the term used to describe the technique of painting these edges to get this effect.
It’s a more delicate technique than shading, but it should still be doable if you keep your paint thin. You can always wipe some of the extra paint off using tissue paper if your paint is too runny.
Focus exclusively on the edges that will catch the light at this point: sharp ridges that make up the higher areas of the folds in the material, as well as ridges on armour, particularly around the fingers.
It’s best to avoid highlighting with the tip of your brush because it’s difficult to control. Instead, slide the flat of your brush along the raised portions; the paint should simply come off onto these edges, freeing you from having to be ultra precise with a brush tip, which can annoy even the finest painters.
This makes highlighting the strands of hair on the top of the helmet a breeze, takes seconds, and improves the readability of the material.
You may always add white paint to your basecoat or layer colors to highlight to save money on paint. (With metallics, this won’t work.) Bottled paint is generally easier for consistency’s sake, with the added benefit that you won’t have to mix to obtain from a brighter or darker color in a different shade.
Each color was accentuated with a slightly lighter paint for our model. The white fabric is a paler off-white, while the armour is accented with a lighter teal (Temple Guard Blue) (Ulthuan Grey).
Pink (Emperor’s Children) is utilized to highlight the folds of the burgundy material, while light brown (Gorthor Brown) is used for the leather straps and gauntlet. Lighter shades of silver and gold are employed for the silver and gold, respectively (Runefang Steel and Liberator Gold).
Sharp highlights won’t work as well on more natural textures like rock, soil, fur, and wood, as well as other rough and textured materials, so you’ll want to dry brush.
Drybrushes are a type of brush with stiff bristles that are commonly used on hobbyist sites. A standard brush can be used for sensitive regions, but a drybrush is recommended for bigger areas.
Simply get a small quantity of paint on your brush and highlight with it to drybrush. Wipe the paint onto a kitchen towel or cardboard to work it into the bristles.
Before applying the brush to the model, make sure it’s barely leaving any paint on the kitchen towel (thus the phrase “drybrushing”).
To drybrush, load a stiff-bristled brush with a small amount of paint and lightly ‘dust’ over the miniature.
To paint the model, simply brush it back and forth quickly, as if dusting it, causing the residual paint to catch on the corners and textures. When you approach close to the model’s actual body, be cautious: drybrushing may be messy, and you don’t want paint to end up somewhere you don’t want it.
If you’re going to drybrush the main body of a model, you might want to do that first before adding any further details.
Dustiness doesn’t always translate to sharp edges of cloth and armour, but try it out to see whether it works.
We utilized a pale grey (Administraum Grey) for the rock and dirt on our model’s base.
The technique produces a lovely textured finish that makes the stones appear more natural and weathered.
When painting a model, it’s generally a good idea to leave some of the details until the rest of the model is finished, so you don’t get paint on the parts that are being worked on the most.
Using a color wheel or looking at what other people have done with their models might help you choose a complementary or contrasting color for your details. You’ll have to make a decision about how prominent you want a certain aspect to be.
In general, you don’t want details to distract from the model’s face.
We picked a really cool green color for the Sequitor (Warpstone Glow). Orange or yellow leaves would probably go better for the Stormcast Eternals’ usual gold armour style.
Finally, to match the highlights on the rest of the model, the crystal was illuminated with a yellowish green (Moot Green). To avoid drawing attention away from the model, the leaves were left without a highlight.
Advanced techniques and finishing touches
Following these instructions will result in a model that is of acceptable quality; an entire unit or army painted in this manner would look fantastic on the table. It’s OK if there are a few details to tidy up and things to correct here, but in a game, people are unlikely to notice.
If you want to take your model even further, focus on deepening the shading or boosting the brightness of the highlights before moving on to more advanced techniques like blending, glazing, and gradients.
The final step was to paint the rim of the base black to make it seem smooth and clean, and our Sequitor was complete!
It’s vital to remember to stop when you’re happy with the miniature, and that they’ll largely be utilized as gaming pieces at the end of the day.
Miniature painting can produce works of art and technical expertise, but the effect of a few well-painted minis on a gaming table is just as good.
For More About The History Of Painting Minis