Miniature Painting Advice: What I Discovered Working as a Commission Artist
Painting Mini figurines, Some of the Questions we’ll go over:
- Why is painting minis so hard?
- What order do you paint miniatures?
- What should I paint first on a miniature?
- Should I paint my miniatures before assembling?
- Do you need primer for Warhammer?
I’ve spent a lot of time painting miniatures. I’ve gathered a number of helpful miniature painting hints along the road.
Offering a miniature painting business has taught me a lot of useful advice. I’ve gained knowledge on how to paint more skillfully throughout the years.
Of course, I’m constantly trying to find methods to make my job better.
I will share my collection of 50 miniature painting tips that I’ve picked up over the years in this article.
I dislike going down well-worn paths. I enjoy going out on my own and experimenting with different approaches to the same issue. Just me, I suppose.
I sincerely hope that these fast miniature painting hints will be useful to you when you begin painting miniatures or take on more difficult painting tasks.
50 Tips for Painting Miniatures
How to paint miniatures, how to paint models and miniatures for Warhammer 40k and tabletop wargames are all covered in the book 50 Miniature Painting Tips: What I Learned as a Commissioned Painter.
My Best 50 Miniature Painting Tips:
1. Black primer will speed up painting.
A model’s darker base color makes it simpler to enhance contrast. You may use a black primer base, for instance, to do zenithal highlighting.
Brighter primers are used in other fast painting techniques, such as using Citadel Contrast Color paints.
However, painting techniques, such as applying highlights using the dry brushing technique, are typically more easier to apply if you start with a black primer.
2. For fundamental and sophisticated painting methods, prime gray or white
The blank canvas (or paper medium) is frequently a vivid hue for traditional painters. The working surface becomes darker with the addition of paint.
Simply imitating how 2D painters operate is a wonderful suggestion for the miniature painter to adopt traditional painting approaches. Start your tiny painting project with a lighter primer color, and with repetition, the workflow will become second nature.
3. Spray primers outperform brush-on primers in quality.
You may evenly apply thin layers of primer to a model by spraying it. With a small spray of primer, you have a lot of control.
Additionally, there is virtually little chance of creating bubbles because the primer is atomized into tiny particles.
Just be aware that applying primer at room temperature (72F or 25C) with relatively low humidity is a good idea for optimal results. View our authoritative introductory guide.
Vallejo Surface Primer is the primer I prefer.
4. Apply a matte sealer to the miniatures you’ve painted.
Use a spray varnish for the best results. As mentioned before, a spray varnish will enable you to treat your model uniformly without risking other issues like bubbling or pooling or obscuring details.
To avoid “frosting,” lacquer your models at a typical room temperature and steer clear of heavy humidity. A premium matte sealer will lessen a model’s uneven reflections and enhance the contrast of your painted design.
Overall, using a camera light box and this technique will help you take better pictures of your models.
5. To help avoid icing from a matte varnish, use a gloss varnish first.
A gloss varnish will lessen the possibility of icing a matte varnish for a variety of reasons. A gloss varnish acts as a basis in traditional art techniques, shielding the paint beneath from any potential damage from the environment that might be applied on top.
6. The benefits of dry brushing
Do not disregard or undervalue the effectiveness of dry brushing when it comes to painting miniatures. In fact, you can use dry brushing to give your miniatures more intricate painting effects.
For instance, object source lighting (OSL) effects can be applied via dry brushing.
7. Use inexpensive synthetic brushes for base coating to save money.
A brush can be destroyed quickly. The worst thing you can do is utilize expensive tools excessively, which will ruin your hobby or business of miniature painting.
The pricey Kolinsky sables or even sable natural hair brushes are not necessary for base coating models. Use synthetic brushes, which are affordable, such as the Artistik Synthetic Brushes Set, durable under abuse, and able to withstand more abrasive cleaning and maintenance.
8. Constantly employ the largest brush that you feel confident handling.
Bigger is usually better!
The adage “the bigger your brush, the bigger your thinking” is true when it comes to painting miniatures. In other words, make sure your brush is big if you want to preserve the big picture in your thoughts.
This philosophy has been of great assistance to me.
The link between your mind and your hand is your brush. Try painting expressive miniatures!
You’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re not preoccupied with minute details. The round brush with a #2 point is significantly more efficient for doing work than the pointed one with a #000 and one hair.
9. Brush soap can be used to clean your natural hair brushes.
With proper maintenance, a high-quality sable hair brush should last you years. Brush soap is wonderful.
Brushes are not only cleaned, but the hairs are also hydrated by conditioning.
Yes, just like the hairs on your head (assuming you don’t have a bald head). You can enjoy painting miniatures for countless hours if you keep your brushes in good shape.
10. No brush or instrument is ideal.
Your tools are exactly that—tools. Never assume a new device or equipment will soon fix your painting issue. Undoubtedly, you’ll need a few necessities to complete particular tasks.
But avoid falling into the trap of acquiring more items in the hope that they would somehow improve you. Never forget that practice is the only thing that can replace using a brush or an airbrush.
Even though I’ve learned a lot about tools, including tricks and tactics for using them, the “pay to win” mentality has had a negative impact on my finances. Avoid the same error I did.
Be prepared to pay for the level of excellence you require, then halt.
11. Practice, exercise, and then more practice!
Hard labor cannot be substituted. None. You must actually start painting if you want to improve; quit reading about painting miniatures or watching videos about it.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the paint seat. My wrists are cramping, my neck hurts, and I have calluses. Do you?
12. Experiment with various methods
On my miniatures, I personally enjoy experimenting with new painting methods. I’m inspired to keep painting by the ongoing discoveries.
Yes, I do avoid using the riskier technical approaches when I’m working on a commission project with specific customer instructions.
But while I’m working on a personal project, I use every piece of advice and trick I’ve picked up from other miniature painters.
13. Reduce your own pressure.
Are you familiar with burnout? Burnout is a typical problem for miniature painters and other artists.
A large portion of it stems from unwarranted expectations one has of oneself or from imagined expectations of others.
Remove the weight. Enjoy the creative process.
Remember that you’re just painting for fun? You’ll work more effectively if you’re having more fun.
14. When painting with water, use small layers, unless you’re wet blending.
Thinner paint coats are generally preferable for optimal outcomes. The paint needs to stay wet longer according to a pro tip for wet blending on a model.
Avoid thinning your paint with water too much in this situation. Paint mixed with water dries more quickly.
This has to do with physics in some way, such increased surface-to-air exposure or decreased surface tension.
Use an acrylic medium or slow-dri retarder to thin your paint if you plan to use wet blending. However, a general guideline for painting with the more complex wet-blending miniature painting technique is to not add excessive amounts of water to your model paint.
15. Avoid trying to use a single painting method in all circumstances.
For instance, having space to move about is ideal while wet blending. The ideal models for wet blending are those with greater surface areas.
Try not to use every sophisticated painting technique in every circumstance.
You’ll discover that some places and times benefit most from simple painting techniques, while other painting techniques are more practical in other situations. You’ll need to practice and pick this up over time.
The more techniques you are familiar with, the less surprises you’ll have while painting a more challenging, uncharted miniature.
16. For painting miniatures, saliva is undoubtedly the best tool for blending paint.
Saliva is the ideal paint blending medium because it is simple to use, always available, and perfectly viscous when combined with high-quality model paints, such as Citadel, P3, Vallejo, and Scale 75. Make sure your paints are non-toxic, and use a clean brush, is what I would advise.
If you decide to use saliva, a pot of clean water would also be helpful (see other amusing brush rinse cups), as would a handle napkin or tissue paper. I frequently use it to paint miniatures.
Simply put, saliva is the finest!
Saliva is the best paint blender.
17. Be sure the paint you use is non-toxic.
Government regulations mandate that paint producers label whether their paints are non-toxic in the majority of developed nations. This guarantees that you, the customer, are able to make wise judgments.
Reducing the likelihood that you will engage in a hobby that will hurt your family, pets, or both makes sense if you have either of these. You might use tiny amounts of paint for various painting styles.
Licking your brushes?
18. Your brushes can safely and healthily handle saliva.
I’ve already mentioned how saliva might be beneficial for your brushes. Saliva contains substances and chemicals that may help the hairs on your brushes last longer.
So, in case you were wondering, it’s absolutely okay to spit on your pricey Kolinsky sables!
19. To preserve paint, use a moist palette.
On a wet palette, paint may be blended easily. But being able to keep your paint wet for a long time is a crucial aspect of a wet palette (even after mixed).
20. To save time, employ a dry palette.
Paint can be mixed and blended just as easily on a dry palette as it can on a wet one. In actuality, a lot of competitive miniature painters favor a dry palette.
In comparison to a wet palette, a dry palette allows you to more accurately forecast the consistency and behavior of paint (which tends to dilute paint unpredictably over time even under good conditions).
Additionally, a dry palette will save you time. A dry palette requires less maintenance than a moist one.
How about combining a wet and dry palette?
21. Investing in more expensive instruments does not necessarily result in better painting.
The most priceless component in painting a miniature is you, not those you employ. Tools that cost more are typically more reliable and won’t let you down unexpectedly.
You’ll be a more trustworthy miniature painter if your tools behave predictably. You’ll paint more effectively.
However, the tool itself won’t improve your painting skills for miniatures. I’ve discovered that practice makes perfect when it comes to achieving better outcomes while painting miniatures.
However, if you want to empty your pocket quickly, check out these pricey hobby items!
22. The paint you use most frequently is the best paint.
Is this all making sense?
You can paint a miniature or model with practically any brand or kind of paint for the greatest effects. A binder medium (often a cocktail of things) and colored pigment are all that is necessary to make paint, which may then be applied with a brush.
Accordingly, you can use oil paintings, watercolors, and acrylic-based paints if you know what you’re doing. It is irrelevant.
Never let anyone tell you which product is optimal for a certain project. The tiny painting world is your oyster unless you’re aiming for a particular “look” or result. Revel!
23. The key is contrast
You’re well on your way to a fantastic paint job if you can keep the contrast on a tiny. Keep in mind that contrast encompasses more than just light and dark.
In contrast, there is also the binary opposition between warm and cold, hard and soft, and other extremes.
The more contrast you can include in your tiny painting, the more intriguing and appealing the finished product will be. Keep in mind that you can paint sloppily and still preserve contrast!
To keep contrast in your miniatures, consider employing photography.
24. Trade off “clean” and color for great contrast
High contrast can be maintained without being a “clean” painter, such as painting within the lines. You don’t need to worry as much about color and sloppy paint for the majority of table top grade paint jobs if contrast is maintained.
Models with strong contrast look great at the typical tabletop game distance.
25. Before assembling and priming, clean your models.
Commercial cast mold processes are frequently used to produce plastic, metal, or resin miniature kits. A mold receives a pour of hot, molten material.
The cast component is removed once it has cooled and solidified. A lubricant is used to help with the removal of these components from the mold.
This lubricant, which can deter adhesives, glues, and primer, may still be present on the surface of your miniature when you buy a model. Simply wash models in warm, soapy water, then dry with a clean cloth to clean them.
A cleaner collection of models and miniatures makes playing with them more enjoyable. In order to help me prepare models for assembly and painting, I frequently use an ultrasonic cleaning.
26. Before painting, fill up spaces and remove mold lines.
The better and simpler it will be for you to paint your miniature, the more effort you put into surface preparation. A hobby knife, a Dremel rotary power tool, or a special mold scraper can all be used to clear mold lines.
You can choose from a variety of gap filling alternatives. Each gap filler has benefits and drawbacks.
27. Employ a hair dryer
Did you know it is a waste of time to wait for paint to dry? You did, of course!
Therefore, use a hairdryer to paint miniatures more quickly. It does not have to be pricey. There are numerous additional applications for a hairdryer in miniature painting, such as enhancing the application of matte varnish.
28. Using a hair dryer will stop varnish from “frosting”
The possibility of “frosting” matte varnish is increased by high humidity. Use a hair dryer to lower the surrounding humidity for a cleaner finish that keeps the strong contrast on which you’ve worked so hard.
Heat is your friend, but use it sparingly. Use the hair dryer sparingly as some plastic or resin miniatures are particularly susceptible to it.
29. Use a low pressure airbrush for greater control.
An airbrush is more prone to clogging at low pressure. However, a low-pressure air flow brush will provide you more control if you’re using an airbrush to paint details or going beyond the basic base coat.
You’ll need to understand how to maintain your paint’s viscosity at a level that allows it to flow freely. If your paint is at a “whole-milk” like consistency, most airbrushes with a 0.3mm nozzle will perform fine at roughly 25 PSI.
30. Use a high-pressure airbrush to avoid clogging
Gain knowledge of how paint viscosity, air pressure, and airbrush nozzle size interact. The more you understand how these three factors interact, the more ready you will be to use your airbrush to paint miniatures.
Airbrushing is a skill that takes practice to master and is extremely different from any other painting equipment you might use for miniature painting.
31. Gain knowledge of how paint viscosity, air pressure, and airbrush nozzle size interact.
The more you understand how these three factors interact, the more ready you will be to use your airbrush to paint miniatures. Airbrushing is a skill that takes practice to master and is extremely different from any other painting equipment you might use for miniature painting.
32. Maintain a clean airbrush
The majority of airbrushing issues are caused by filthy airbrushes. Don’t forget to rinse your airbrush after each painting session and keep it clean.
Use an ultrasonic cleaner or an excellent airbrush cleaner to keep your nozzle clear.
33. Failure is expected
Everyone who attempts to paint a miniature fails to accomplish their goal (or any challenging endeavor). This pastime is just like any other.
There is a skill ceiling, and trying to reach it will always end in failure. Learn to accept failure and be prepared for disappointment. Grit, this is.
Sounds cynical, but knowing that you can learn from your mistakes will make you feel much better. The awesomeness of the hobby of miniature painting comes from this.
Safely failing allows you to keep moving forward while also learning something new.
34. Finishing a model teaches you more than beginning a new one.
Learning through repeated beginnings and restarts is less instructive than going through the complete workflow of beginning a miniature and finishing the piece. The methods you employ at the beginning and completion of a miniature painting project are different.
Avoid being a subpar painter!
You get to see every aspect of painting a miniature by finishing a model. Additionally, as the project progresses, you gain greater insight into your own painting tendencies.
Are you a meticulous, slow painter? Or do you paint on the spur of the moment, following your gut?
By battling through the entire process, you’ll discover more about yourself as an artist!
35. Take a break if you’re feeling uninspired and stop painting.
Everybody burns out. When you’re still not in the mood for your hobby, it’s normal.
Whatever the cause, taking a break can be very beneficial for you.
Since it’s a hobby, it should be enjoyable and a break from other obligations in your life. Give yourself some time to unwind so you don’t turn your creative activity into something you dread doing.
36. Use this productivity hack to simultaneously paint several models.
Most people find that the beginning of a paint job is more enjoyable and thrilling than the middle or end (e.g., blending, dark lining). By moving your painting between multiple models at simultaneously, you can trick yourself into experiencing that exhilaration.
You’ll always feel like you’re beginning again if you do it that way.
When I have a ton of different models to paint and want to feel like I’m moving forward, I utilize this tip. Even though my development hasn’t truly sped up, it keeps me inspired.
37. Pick fewer colors to paint quickly.
Limit the color pallet you use. The more color options you have to apply to your model, the longer it will take.
In miniature painting, analysis paralysis poses a threat to effective output.
The Army Painter Set is what I recommend everyone to start with.
You’ll discover that you paint more quickly and with more originality if you force yourself to use less paints on a single miniature. Humans find limitation to be a wonderful unicorn because it forces us to think creatively.
38. To get around problems with color theory, use photos as references.
Why create anything new when someone else has already done it? Photos not only serve as an inspiration but also as a model for new art.
I discovered that keeping a file of photo references is an excellent advice for miniature painters (either digital or a hardcopy binder).
In reality, by using online color pickers, you can make your own references.
39. Give your miniatures a decorative base to complete them.
Surprisingly, a lot of beginning miniature painters frequently ignore this. A model’s attractive base can help you get fantastic results.
The base serves as the miniature’s background and adds context and atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be difficult.
Anything is preferable to flat, black plastic.
40. The best method is to put your models together first.
In general, it is better to assemble your model first before painting it than to paint sub-assemblies afterward. There is less surface space to paint on an assembled model (e.g., less work).
Additionally, you have a better idea of how the complete model will seem once it is put together, which makes it easier for you to apply paint where it belongs.
41. Getting the glue on painted surfaces.
This is particularly true when painting non-metallic metal (NMM) and trying to emulate reflections. When your model is completely put together, you can more easily imagine how light interacts with it.
The right miniature figurines glue will be your friend.
How are NMM swords painted?
Finally, there is a chance of getting glue on painted surfaces and pieces if you paint a model before putting it together. Just awful.
Personally, I never paint a model before assembling it.
42. Use assistance while performing more difficult assembly or painting.
You can hold small components for assembly or painting with a variety of tools. These include holders for soldering irons or particular hobby items like the Citadel Assembly Handle.
Find a friend who can lend you a hand if you don’t want to use these tools.
43. For enjoyment, proper lighting is essential.
I cannot emphasize enough how crucial good lighting is while painting miniatures. I’ve talked a lot about how important good lighting is for applying color and contrast correctly.
Be sure to purchase the nicest lamps or lights you can afford.
Your eyes will feel less strain from bright, diffuse light that has the perfect color temperature, and you’ll be more confident when it comes to selecting, blending, and applying colors.
44. The ideal color temperature for painting miniatures is provided by daylight lamps.
Daylight bulbs are those kind of lighting fixtures that illuminate your work surface in a manner reminiscent of sunlight.
For correct painting, daylight lamps should have a color temperature between 5000 and 6500K, which is similar to that of sunlight (or Kelvin).
45. Use a magnifying glass to paint details.
Magnification tools are important if you’re working on freehand details or lining an extremely sharp edge on a miniature. These might be magnifying lights or lamps, hands-free visor headbands, or both.
46. Comfort is key for magnifying visors.
You’ll spend a lot of time sitting down while painting miniatures. That also implies that you’ll be donning those headbands for a considerable amount of time if you’re using magnifying visors to aid you.
Working throughout those extended sessions requires comfort. Put a little more money toward comfort.
47. “Done is better than perfect”
One of the best pieces of project management advice I’ve heard is to get things done and not get bogged down in details that can wait. It doesn’t matter if you missed a spot as long as you cross the finish line. Your work can always be fixed afterwards.
This advice is most likely more crucial for the commission artist who has a client deadline to meet. But if you want to be successful at your hobby of miniature painting, you should keep this axiom in mind.
48. Use your creative license.
You can use your imagination. This implies that you are free to act however you like. Avoid fitting into stereotypes and dogmas. Make art and never forget that it is your art.
Do not allow anyone tell you that the way you paint miniatures is incorrect because you are not according to a predetermined framework of technical approaches. Voice, vision, and fashion are all subjective.
49. Give painting lessons to others, and you’ll be surprised at how much you learn, too.
It is ideal to paint miniatures in a group. Sharing your methods, strategy, and vision with those around you improves their experience.
You’ll be surprised at how many new viewpoints will make your hobby experience better if you share how you do things. The finest aspect of having any interest, in the end, may be having a beneficial effect on those who are around you.
50. Enjoy yourself!
Despite being cliche, it should be on this list. This is the ultimate hobby advice.
I have a lot to learn still. I’m hoping that these pointers will encourage you to begin miniature painting or at the very least give you some suggestions for streamlining your present process.
I’ve had to learn how to paint miniatures quickly without losing quality because I work on commission. I’ve gained certain insights from this viewpoint that I attempt to apply to everything I do while working at my painting station.
I’m always seeking for new ways to enjoy the pastime, whether I’m painting at a professional level for a customer or painting miniatures for my own collection.
Have fun drawing!
For More About The History Of Painting Minis