Guide & Tips for Painting Miniatures with Oils!
The preferred medium for painting miniatures and sculptures is acrylic paint. But did you know that you can also use oil paints to decorate your models?
Amazing effects that can give your miniatures more realism can be produced with oil wash filters and weathering with oil paints.
You’ll discover how to use oil paints for more than just washes. You’ll learn how to set up and incorporate oil paints into your miniature painting workflow in this how-to guide.
Do miniature paintings require oil paints?
Painting miniatures with acrylic paints for years, such as Reaper Master Series or Games Workshop Citadel colours, so I was always interested to hear someone suggest oil paint on a miniature painting forum.
In comparison to acrylic paints, oil paints are well-known for having a longer working time (they dry or cure very slowly, for example) and superior mixing capabilities.
This particularly appealed to me because I had made wet blending my preferred painting method because of how quickly and easily it could be done.
However, I discovered that wet blending wasn’t quite ideal because I had to act quickly before the acrylic paint began to dry.
I tried Ammo Mig Oil brushes, but the color selection—which was better suited painting military models—was unsatisfactory.
After giving up on oil paints for a while, I was recently inspired to try them again in my never-ending search for the Holy Grail of miniature paints after seeing a James Wappel Patreon video titled: “Creating your own oil brushes”!
I used my uncle’s 30+ year old Artist’s Oil Color paints that were stored in a garage drawer to recreate the process.
So, are you interested in trying this technique for miniature oil painting?
How to fill plastic dropper bottles with oil paint
How do you paint miniatures with oil paints? So let’s start by making it simpler.
For simpler application when painting, I suggest putting your oil paints in dropper bottles. Painting miniatures with oil paints is considerably simpler when the paints are transferred into dropper bottles!
Here are the short eight steps for transferring oil paint into dropper bottles:
- Put on reusable gloves.
- Your 20ml dropper bottle should now contain an 8mm agitator hematite bead.
- Using a pipette or syringe, fill 1/3 of the dropper bottle with clear, odorless mineral spirits.
- Oil paint should be put into the dropper bottle.
- Shake HARD the dropper bottle by covering the top with your gloved thumb (e.g., you can also use a powered model paint shaker)
- Repeat step #4 if the paint has combined with the mineral spirits until the dropper bottle is filled.
- The agitator bead should be audible, so listen for it to ensure the oil paint has thinned.
- Your dropper bottle with a label.
Put on gloves
I discovered that putting on a pair of nitrile or latex gloves first makes it the simplest to transfer and prepare oil paint for miniature and model painting. Your fingertips won’t get stained as a result of this.
Mineral spirit and agitator beads should be put in a dropper bottle
Use a plastic syringe or pipette to fill a 20 ml dropper vial roughly 1/3 of the way with artist-grade (NOT hardware-grade) unscented mineral spirits and an 8mm hematite round bead to function as a paint agitator.
Put oil paint in the bottle.
Place the oil paint tube’s mouth inside the dropper bottle’s mouth and squeeze the tube until the paint starts to block the bottle’s neck.
To maximize the suction, it will be extremely beneficial to slightly compress the bottle beforehand and gradually release the pressure as the paint pours in.
Mix oil and mineral spirit by shaking.
Given that the paint is initially very viscous, cover the mouth with your gloved thumb and shake VERY HARD.
For assistance with this stage, you can use a motorized miniature model paint mixer or shaker.
You should finally hear the diluted paint moving around inside like a liquid if you pay close attention.
At this point, you can add additional paint to the bottle and shake it once more to get the hematite bead to start moving once more and the thicker paint mixture to start making a duller sound.
If necessary, keep adding oil paint.
Your mixture is probably too thick and needs further thinning if you cannot hear the bead.
Often, the paint will get stuck in the bottle’s neck. To get the paint to flow again, gently tap the bottle’s bottom against a hard surface.
To avoid paint splatters, I recommend covering the mouth of the bottle with your finger or a napkin.
To prevent getting paint on the bottle or your clothes, wipe your fingers clean with a paper towel or napkin if they have been painted.
It is your intention to produce an oil paint/mineral spirit mixture that resembles gel.
The consistency of your oil paint should essentially be the same as that of regular model acrylic paint.
The bottle’s label
Print some Avery labels (such as sticker labels) to help you identify the colors and finish the oil paint transfer.
This is especially important for the darker oil paints, such as Prussian blue, Van Dyke Brown, Payne’s Gray, and Ivory, or Lamp Black.
To make it simpler to identify colors, consider dipping the dropper bottle cap’s tip in the paint.
This will make it simpler to notice the color within the bottle when viewed from above.
Beware of stains, especially on the fine shirt sleeves, since it may take many days to completely dry.
Is acrylic easier to use than oil paint?
Once you become used to diluting the paint with mineral spirits, oil painting is fairly intuitive.
The greatest oil paints, allow you to create exceptionally smooth mixes that may easily compete with those produced by an airbrush without any of the headaches associated.
With cleaning and maintenance because they include very finely ground pigments.
When using oil paints, you can skip steps that many complex acrylic painting techniques require.
For instance, you don’t have to apply as many layers of acrylic paint as is necessary for effective glazing or layering, and you don’t have to work quickly while wet blending with acrylic paints.
The use of oil paints presents certain special difficulties.
You must comprehend the idea of “thick over thin” oil painting. According to the thick over thin principle, oil paint layers of different consistency won’t stick together.
However, the remedy is to either apply an oil paint coat with a thicker consistency over one that is thinner, or the opposite.
As water and oil don’t mix, cleaning up with oil paints is a little trickier (though still not difficult).
You’ll need soap and/or mineral spirits to clean your brushes, palettes, and other art supplies.
Turpentine is unneeded and produces a potent, dangerous vapor, so I don’t advise using it.
Although I now appreciate oil paints so much more after using acrylic paints for so long, in retrospect, I wish I had started using them much sooner.
Why do oil paints get used by relatively few miniature painters?
For the following reasons, fewer miniature painters employ oil paints:
- Adoption of a new paint medium that needs employing mineral spirits for washing and dilution rather than water, which is far more readily available, is perceived as being difficult.
- If oil paintings are applied in the conventional manner without dilution with mineral spirits, it may take a week or even a month for them to dry.
- The majority of well-known miniature painting YouTube channels, best exemplified by Duncan Rhodes, the former head painting instructor at Games Workshop, employ acrylic paints.
- One notable exception is James Wappel, who encouraged me to try oil painting through his Patreon videos. I strongly recommend watching this expert painter in action if you’re wondering about the effects oil paints may produce.
- A potential financial barrier is the price of a 37 ml oil paint tube, which varies greatly depending on the brand and color you select.
- For example, a Winton 10 paint beginning kit is $39.99, but a 37 ml tube of Windsor & Newton Artist Oil Cobalt Purple costs $61.79 at Michael’s Hobby Center. One oil paint tube can be used to create multiple dropper bottles, which is a plus.
How do you use oil paints to paint miniatures?
While using mineral spirits to clean your brush and thin the paint, painting miniatures using oil paints is similar to painting with acrylics.
Instead of layering the paint like you would with acrylic paints, you can apply two colors close to one another and then blend them together by lightly brushing the region where the two colors meet.
In the context of acrylic paint, this method is known as “wet blending”.
Compared to wet blending with acrylic paints, which necessitates more of a rush to blend before the paint starts to dry, oil paints have a longer working time, so you can apply your shadow or highlight color first.
Followed by the other color, and still have more than enough time to blend them at a leisurely pace.
The ability to quickly clean up any messes on your model using mineral spirits directly sprayed to the surface is another benefit of utilizing oil paints.
Find a scrappy bit or something from your bitz box if you’re hesitant to try it on a new model.
You can try using oil paints and oil blending techniques on power swords or armor parts.
How about oil cleaning?
Making your own oil wash is incredibly simple, especially if you already have the oil paint and the mineral spirits. There are many companies that sell ready-to-use oil washes, like AMMO and AK Interactive.
When you realize how simple it is to move around, oil washes are simpler to use than GW Citadel Washes.
I prefer using oil washes over gw washes for cars or large models because they are more affordable, easier to use, and produce comparable or better results.
The main benefit of using oil washes is the ability to remove the excess paint with a clean brush.
Which prevents the original underlying paint from becoming overly darkened as would happen if you used an acrylic wash like Agrax.
In fact, you may use oil washes as color “filters” to slightly alter the overall mood of your model by utilizing several oil paint colors.
Without taking away from the overall appearance of your models, this adds intrigue.
Ensure that your oil-painted miniatures are varnished.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to varnish your oil painted miniatures if you plan to use them for gaming or tabletop play. I advise using a long-lasting lacquer with an enamel base, such as Testors Dullcote.
Oil paint dries slowly, but by applying heat with a hair dryer, you can hasten the process. Just be careful not to heat the oil up too rapidly or it may cure unevenly and break in the thicker areas.
Miniature painting is an unlimited pastime. Although acrylic model paint is used by the majority of artists, a select minority only utilize oil paints.
If you’ve painted miniatures for some time, you’re probably already familiar with the use of oil washes and filters.
However, it is still true that oil paints are mostly employed to weather scale models or miniatures for wargaming.
The larger miniature painting community still hasn’t embraced the practice of painting complete figures with just oils.
The use of oil washes is covered in a number of miniature oil painting tutorials, which are widely available.
Of course, why follow others’ examples when you can use oil paints to experiment on your own.
The information in this article should help you learn how to use oil paints to paint your miniatures and models as well as be an inspiration for you to give them a try.
Oil paints are fantastic since they take a long time to dry; if you’re not satisfied, you can always shift colors about or remove them entirely with a little mineral spirits.
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