How Do You Start Painting Minis? Best 15 “Must Haves”
There are several “nice to have” and “very necessary” painting tools to take into account.
The first thing you’ll need is a good workspace, something beginner miniature painters frequently forget about. The kind and quantity of illumination is the most crucial factor when choosing a painting location.
I like to use a combination of fluorescent and incandescent lights.
When I paint, I have two desk lamps on. An incandescent light source is the first.
It does a good job of casting angular shadows, which makes it easier for me to determine where washes should land because they represent areas that are in darkness. For between $10 and $20, you should be able to get a serviceable desk lamp.
I recommend an arm light that you can clamp to your desk or other work area. Since I use a 100 watt soft bulb, I prefer one that is made to take up to 100 watt bulbs.
A fluorescent light that revolves around a magnifying glass serves as the second light I utilize. Since the miniature is well-lit from all sides for general painting work, this works very well.
One of the most crucial components to your success will be good lighting.
Wear anything you don’t mind getting paint on, please. Take the necessary measures since no matter how careful you are, occasionally you will get some on your clothes.
An apron from the kitchen will do. Newspaper should also be placed underneath the workspace so that paint and ink don’t get on your surface.
Again, just some things to think about.
Picking out equipment
I would advise staying away from brand allegiance while choosing the initial equipment. Consider what is most practical for you and the cost when it comes to paints, brushes, and other supplies.
I’ve included a Materials Cost Guide to help you with the many pieces of equipment you’ll need to buy.
You will require a variety of brushes. Size 2, 1,000, and 5/0 are the sizes I would advise.
For the majority of your painting projects, they should be adequate. Check to see that the brushes you are purchasing, especially the smaller ones, come to a good point with no hairs noticeably out of place.
After using a brush for a time, if an unruly hair starts to protrude, use a pair of fingernail clippers to remove it from close to the ferrel of the brush (the metal part). A single hair that is out of place should be the only one you remove.
You should take careful care of your brushes because they can be fairly pricey. Make sure to thoroughly wash them with warm water after each usage to remove any remaining paint.
However, enough of water will typically suffice. You can help clean them out by using some liquid dish soap.
NEVER use hot water to wash a brush!
The adhesive holding the brush’s bristles in place may dissolve. As you paint, hairs will start to come out as a result.
The brush must be discarded because it will be worthless. It is crucial to shape the brush’s tip into a point once it has been washed.
One may say that a brush has a memory since it can recall the shape it was in when it dried the last time. Never let a brush to soak in a jar of water. This will cause the bristles to bend and lose their sharpness, which is crucial for getting crisp lines and being able to access difficult-to-reach areas.
A flat size 2 brush and a flat size 4 brush are required for the process of drybrushing, which we shall cover later. It is my suggestion that these be sable brushes with natural bristles.
The bristles on the round brushes can be synthetic or natural. The man-made bristles tend to be firmer, which is helpful for squeezing into tight spaces, but the natural bristles tend to be softer and work well with blending.
Personally, I nearly solely use red sable natural brushes. Many painters will advise only using red sable, but I believe that this is a question of taste.
I advise beginning with a multipack of brushes from a craft store. This will be significantly less expensive than purchasing them separately.
But to acquire the optimum points for your very delicate brushes, you might want to hand-pick these. It is more crucial that the brush has a sharp edge than it is that it has few hairs.
Red sable is one material I use because, with a little bit of reshaping after each washing, you can almost always get a good point out of a brush.
No amount of reshaping will restore the original shape of bent nylon brush bristles.
Now that we’ve discussed paint types, let’s move on to the following topic. I suggest acrylic paints, such as those available at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, or Jo-Ann Fabrics.
With warm water, they are simple to clean and thin. They can also be cleaned with mild liquid dish soap.
They frequently have a smoother surface and are thinner than enamels.
They are typically less opaque than enamels as well. The warmth or coolness of the paint that is placed on top is greatly influenced by the color of the base coat.
Enamel paints are a favorite among some painters. It must be remembered that enamels are much more problematic because they dry more slowly and cleanup is more challenging.
While enamels might take up to an hour to dry, acrylic paint can cure in about 10 minutes or less (often under 5 minutes). Additionally, paint thinner can damage brushes and exacerbate the fumes issue.
Make sure your workspace has adequate ventilation if you plan to use enamels.
They occasionally outperform acrylics in effectiveness. Enamels perform best in metallic or extremely vivid color schemes.
If metallics and vibrant colors are carefully chosen, acrylic or water-based enamels typically provide effects similar to those of enamels. Enamels are best left to more experienced painters, in my opinion.
With the exception of water-based enamels, I don’t discuss the use of enamels in my presentations.
Some people use oil paints because of their superior blending capabilities. They frequently cost MUCH more than acrylics, call for specialized (and quite pungent) thinners to clean your brushes, and take FOREVER to dry unless you apply an additive to speed up the process.
I’d have to suggest that you should nearly always stay away from oil paints unless you’re an experienced painter. There are benefits to oil paints—they often spread well and tend to cover well—but not enough for me to personally use them.
Water-based enamel paints
Simply told, the greatest paints I have used up to this point have been water-based enamel paints. The metallics I’ve used for water-based enamel contain really small particles and are very shiny.
Bright colors, especially fluorescent ones, have a vivid quality. I’ve had a really difficult time finding and affording water-based enamels.
Water-based enamels are hard to get unless you purchase 6 of one color at once for about $4.00 per huge pot, as I did when I spotted them in a craft store clearance bin. Please send me an email if you discover a source for these kinds of paints, and I will publish the information on this page.
I primarily use Delta Ceramcoat paints, however this isn’t meant to be a commercial for them. For a 2 fluid ounce bottle, I can typically get these on sale for around $1.25 each at craft stores on Amazone.
In contrast, the majority of miniature paints come in .5 fluid ounce vials. I receive four times as much paint with Ceramcoat paint for approximately a third of the price.
Run the numbers. For the same amount of paint, you pay three times as much.
With the exception of the metallic paints, you’re paying at least 12 times as much for acrylic tiny paint, and I can’t tell the difference at all.
At $1.25 per color, it doesn’t cost much to have a wide variety of paints, and with 2-ounce bottles, you won’t run out of color anytime soon.
For painting miniatures, many businesses provide six- or eight-packs of paint. However, when you are just starting out, acquiring a decent set of basic colors might be an affordable way to get started.
I personally prefer to buy precisely the colors that I feel that I will use most frequently.
I use this featured product.
I always turn to Delta Ceramcoat while painting miniatures.
The testing I’ve done reveals that there is actually little to no coverage difference when compared to paints supplied by miniatures companies like Reaper or Vallejo. So you can have a lot of colors for not a significant expenditure.
Because they have been taught that these paints have poor coverage, won’t adhere to miniatures, etc., many miniature painters have never tried them. All of these things are untrue, but choose whichever strategy suits your painting techniques the best.
But if you’re just getting started, I’d suggest giving the Delta Ceramcoat series of paints a shot. You can afford a wider variety of colors to begin with and your initial costs will be lower.
The collection of 16 colors in the purchase link to the right comes highly recommended.
Even though they cost extra, the colors that you might wish to purchase from a miniatures firm are gold and silver. Despite having many hues that are frequently unavailable from miniatures makers, some craft paints perform poorly with metallics.
Cheaper metallics can have coarser metallic particles and don’t always spread or dry uniformly. I have several different types of paints in tubes, squeeze bottles, and pots.
I don’t like using the tiny paint pots to dispense paint because it’s simple to obtain color contamination from one pot to another. One can precisely measure the amount of paint to be applied to the pallet using the squeeze tubes or squeeze bottles.
Since paint is typically used straight from the pot, open pots may over time dry out or become thicker.
When using a product successfully, focus more on the value you are receiving than the company that made it. More color options are available with better value.
If you are painting an army of miniatures and you want them to all have a particular appearance, then is the only situation in which this may not apply.
Okay, I’ll say it straight out: if you’re painting an army for Games Workshop, you might want it to resemble the ones in White Dwarf, their trade publication.
In such scenario, their paint will cost you two or three times as much, but it might be worthwhile to you if you want the exact same result as other Games Workshop armies.
Though (for some odd wiz) you won’t find “Gore Red” or “Bile Green” at a craft store, you should be able to locate a hue that is incredibly close.
Reaper produces excellent paints, and this superb paint set provides you everything you need to get going and get going quickly.
Recommendations for Colors
For a start, I advise buying the following paint hues: flesh, red, yellow, blue, brown, black, white, silver, and gold.
Eventually, you’ll want to make investments in the auxiliary hues of orange, green, and purple. By combining pearlescent white with different hues, you may produce some amazing effects.
You should buy some drying retardant, also referred to as “extender,” if you plan on blending. This prevents the paint from drying as quickly when mixing, allowing you to apply colors that are increasingly closer to the desired color.
Eventually, a decent collection of metallic colors may be something you wish to get. You can create your own mixtures by combining different hues with either silver or gold.
This method works with the majority of metallic hues. However, it is good to be able to precisely match the hue you previously used.
This is particularly helpful if you need to fix a tiny, which is something you frequently do if you handle your pieces a lot.
The size of the metallic particles in the paint and how well the paint covers are things to watch out for with metallic paints that are not produced by miniatures firms.
These characteristics are less significant when painting traditional crafts than when painting miniatures. This is because more traditional craft paints are used to cover bigger areas than one would ordinarily do while painting miniatures.
The ideal paint should have very fine particles and provide good coverage.
Hold the bottle up to your eye and pick it up. Buy with caution if the metallic powder used to produce the paint can be broken down into individual flakes.
Some metallic paints are too thick to use on miniatures because they cover the surface too thickly, making it impossible to discern the miniature’s details. If this describes your paint, thin it out with with water or extender.
The nicest metallic set I have discovered is produced by Armory, but I advise looking at all of the available lines and choosing your colors without regard to simply brand name.
You might wish to buy your skin color and your white from a miniatures maker in addition to metallics. It’s difficult to locate good flesh tones.
The majority of them are too light, making your piece resemble an albino. Remember that if you wash the miniature after painting it—a method we’ll cover later—the actual color you get will be darker than the one you started with.
Make sure the white you buy has enough brightness, especially if you plan to use it as a basecoat. Since most paints are not completely opaque, your colors cannot be any brighter than the basecoat underlying them.
Many whites have a slight yellow tint, which makes it challenging to achieve the bright results you frequently seek. The titanium white that art supply businesses sell in tubes is frequently fairly brilliant.
To remove flash (the mold lines on the miniatures) from figures, you will need to buy a Xacto knife.
A palette is a metal or plastic plate with concave regions for mixing paint that you will need to purchase. If wanted, use an old plate for this.
I recently stopped using typical palettes and started applying my paint directly to a piece of white shower board that I had already cut to size for the area I was painting.
The space I have for the paints I use never runs out (my plastic palettes only had 6 or 12 indentations for paint). With the acrylic paints I use, the paint peels off easily after it dries with only my thumbnail, so this also works nicely for cleanup.
This eliminates the need to often wash palettes at the sink. Additionally, the shower board gives you plenty of space for paint mixing.
Compared to using a metal or other form of palette, the white background makes it easier to see what the color will appear like when applied over a white basecoat of paint. If you plan to use white as your base coat, I advise that whichever palette you choose be as bright a white as possible.
In order for what you see on the palette when mixing colors to match what you will see when the paint is applied to your miniatures, the palette should ideally be the same color as the base coat that you often use.
The color you perceive when applying most paints is only as brilliant as the surface it is painted on or prepared with.
Cleaning The Miniature
To clean the miniature before base-coating it, use an old toothbrush and some regular dish soap. Instead of the soft bristles brushes that dentists advise using to clean your teeth, I’ve found that hard toothbrushes work the best for me.
If you plan to use them to remove old paint, which will be the case, the firm bristles are more abrasive and get into gaps better to remove paint there.
I have discovered that home Pine Sol® is the best and safest substance to use if you want to repaint miniatures that you or another miniature artist have painted in the future. Or if you wish to remove paint off miniatures that have already been painted.
Other pine-based cleansers might be effective, but they might have far less pine oil than Pine Sol, which is the key component for removing paint. Just let the painted miniature sit in Pine Sol for the entire night.
I have never had the pine cleaner hurt a miniature, including plastic miniatures, and it does an excellent job of removing acrylic or enamel paint. Although I have not tested it on the rubbery plastic substance used with the Mage Knight miniatures, I believe it would work just well.
I need to remove paint from some of their miniatures, so I’ll try to remember to come back and publish my findings.
According to some publications I’ve read, brake fluid can be used to remove paint. This seems riskier in my opinion because, as I recall, gloves should be needed while handling brake fluid.
I’m also not sure if it could harm plastic miniatures or the rubber-like material used in Mage Knight miniatures.
To wash your brushes as you go, you’ll need some kind of container that can hold water (or paint thinner, if you’re using non-water-based enamels). Because it is hefty and won’t topple over as readily as a plastic cup, I use a quart-sized canning jar.
You may become utterly hated at home for a while after spilling a whole glass of water with paint on your carpet (or at least that has been my experience). Additionally, you should always have some paper towels or napkins on hand for drybrushing techniques and for drying your brush after washing it.
Super glue or two-part epoxy will both work well for multi-part figures and those that need bases glued on.
While epoxy takes between 5 and 20 minutes to dry, superglue often takes less time (nearly instantly). If you are adhering two smooth, flat surfaces together, super glue works wonderfully.
The multipart miniatures I have bonded with epoxy glue seem to hold together better than the miniatures glued with superglue. For the majority of situations involving smaller figurines, I advise superglue.
Epoxy glue, unlike superglue, fills up gaps when gluing together rough surfaces. Because epoxy is fairly flexible, the difference in durability between it and superglue may be explained.
For larger multipart figures, use epoxy. I favor the 5-minute epoxy in general.
It has shown to be more than capable of supporting the multi-piece miniatures that I have assembled. Epoxy glues that take longer to dry are meant to be stronger, but I haven’t noticed any weakness in the 5-minute epoxy’s strength.
If desired, ribbon tape epoxy, sometimes referred to as “plumber’s putty,” can be used; however, if you require a putty-type epoxy, use Milliput or a comparable modeller’s ribbon epoxy. The typical plumber’s putty can be messy and unpleasant to use.
You’ll need a container of pretty coarse common sand for basing your miniature and a bottle of craft or home glue (Elmer’s Glue-All works nicely).
You’ll need a can of matte-finish (not shiny) spray fixant or sealant. In order to prevent paint damage during handling of the miniature, this is done. Spray fixant ought to be available in any drafting, craft, or hobby shop.
As the spray tends to be finer and more uniform when produced by a miniatures manufacturer, I advise purchasing some of it.
Common spraycan nozzles are designed to cover broad areas rather than small ones, which call for a finer mist. Additionally, you are using far thinner sealant coatings than you would when protecting furniture.
Ask the owner of a hobby shop if you are unsure of what you need, and they can demonstrate what you require.
A small can of sealant sold by a miniatures firm will cost more than a bigger can of regular sealant. You can also use Dullcoat, which is frequently available at hobby shops that sell trains or dollhouses.
You have the option of purchasing inks for washing. This is unnecessary and may be avoided because you will likely want to start off with lower spending.
Drawing inks, which can be bought at a drafting or art supply store, work wonderfully. Brand loyalty is a matter of preference, however I believe Pellican produces nice, reasonably priced ink that is effective for washes and does not suffer from the surface tension issues that some inks do.
I would advise purchasing high-quality red, blue, purple, black, and green inks. Although yellow is largely optional, you could find it handy when scrubbing white areas.
White is useful to have for blending with other ink colors. Your inks now have many of the characteristics of “pigmented” inks.
Since they can have “muddy” coverage and don’t produce as much contrast as non-pigmented inks, I personally prefer not to use pigmented inks. You can add white to the non-pigmented inks to achieve results that are nearly identical if you want your washes to have reduced contrast.
I’ll caution you once more about your attire. Stains leave very little room for error with inks.
Stains should cost around $2.50 per item. This is fairly good considering that a set of six prepared inks from the firms who make miniatures would cost you $15 or more.
When you purchase brand-name drawing inks, you save a little bit of money. But the main savings come from the fact that the drawing inks come in bottles with twice as much ink for the same price or less.
You may also combine and contrast a lot more. I am aware of Pellican producing ten different ink colors, ranging from yellow to black.
Another item you might wish to eventually acquire is something referred to as a “hands free vise.” To steadily hold a miniature in any position as you work on it, it is made out of a sturdy base and one or more arms that project from it.
The one I use and find very helpful is made by Kotto and has its arms’ ends include alligator clips.
It will assist in preventing you from rubbing off painted sections of your figure while working with it or while the miniature is still wet.
When cleaning a miniature, you may frequently need to tilt the tiny at a precise angle while the ink dries to stop the ink from leaking into unwanted places.
You can paint with a steady hand by using a “hands free vise.” One is available on Amazon for between about $20.
In the future, you might need jeweler’s files to attenuate, “convert,” or remove flash from a miniature. Most hobby stores sell these for around $2 each, and you may buy them there.
A hobby knife works nicely for the final touches, although the majority of flash is removed with one.
Furthermore, with some of the harder metals used in the casting of some miniatures, too much flash might be challenging to remove with an X-Acto knife alone. These files are excellent, particularly the curved “riffler files” like the one depicted.
I’ve put together a comprehensive list of all the materials you’ll need, along with an estimate of their cost.
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