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Christina is a Christian, gamer. She enjoys playing a variety of tabletop games. Some of her favorite games are Myth, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, MERCS Miniatures, and Lord of the Rings The Card Game.

Painting Miniatures: My Tips for Beginners

I’m not an expert painter when it comes to painting miniatures. I know I don’t have all the answers and there are probably better ways to prepare, paint, and finalize a miniature than my methodology. However, I am always looking at sites that give insight on how I can improve and before I ever started painting miniatures I did research to figure out where to start. I have just recently finished painting my first Warmachine Army, Cygnar. I did some experimentation this time around and I like the results.

painted cygnar

If you are new to miniature painting you probably feel overwhelmed when you see all the awesome painted miniatures out there. My first suggestion to you, don’t compare your skill level to others. Some people get paid to paint miniatures and those are usually the ones you see in the game catalogs. Others have been doing it for awhile and practice makes perfect. You have to start somewhere so just keep painting and you will develop your skill.

prof paint

Besides needing the miniature(s) you intend to paint you will need some supplies to get you started. This is probably the most expensive part about getting into painting miniatures. One thing to keep in mind though is this is a very limited investment. You will use some of the same paints for a long time and some supplies you won’t ever need to replace. Here is what I would recommend for your painting needs:

Paints- I use Game Color but you can use about any paint. However, the cheaper acrylics you get at the craft stores don’t have the greatest quality when compared to Game Color, Citadel, or Reaper paints.

What colors should you start with – I would highly recommend black, white, red, blue, yellow, brown, silver, and gold. These are the ones you should buy at the very least. You can mix about any color out there with these colors. However, if you know that a particular model you are painting uses a lot of one color, lets say green, then I would advise buying a bottle of green paint rather than mixing all the time. You can make your own but it is easier to just buy it.

Some other supplies- Super glue (I like Gorilla Super Glue), needle file, paint brushes, paint pallette, primer or spray paint (I like Rustoleum flat black or white), newspaper, a box, paper towels, and an old cup.

Optional supplies-Clear coat spray, flock, nails, hot glue gun, either a black or brown wash and ballast rocks.

The first thing you have to do is glue your miniatures. To me this is my least favorite part. There are several tips to gluing miniatures. You can breathe on it while holding it to get the glue to dry quicker or use my water trick. You can use the needle file to sand the ends that are being glued together to create a better area for the glue to grab onto.The needle file is also handy for removing excess material called flash from the models. It can also be used to smooth out rough spots that happened during production too.

glued

Some people recommend washing the miniatures with soap and water before you prime or paint to remove any dirt that may cause problems with the paint adhering. I will admit I’ve never done this because I’m usually too excited to start the painting process.

This is a personal choice on how to prepare for priming. One option you could hot glue your minis on a nail (no base attached) poke holes in box then prime them. Another option you could glue the minis on their bases then set them on a box to prime them. I don’t really have a preference because I like both methods.

glue on nails

An option before you prime your mini is to put down the base terrain such as flock and ballast rocks. The primer will seal in the loose flock and ballast and you can paint the terrain later. It is completely optional on putting terrain on the base. You could just paint the base to make things simplier. If you want to put terrain on the base I would recommend using Elmer’s glue using a 3 parts glue to 1 part water to make a nice glue mix you can brush on the base then sprinkle on the flock, ballast rocks, etc.

basing

The next step is giving your minis a nice coat of primer. This is essential to making sure the paint will stick if you are using metal minis but it isn’t a bad idea to prime plastic minis too. I usually put the minis on a box to prime them and to let them dry. This helps so I don’t have to touch the minis while they are drying and possibly ruin the prime job.

primed

Once your prime is dry you can start painting. (Lay down the newspaper to keep your table from getting paint on it.) The biggest advice I can give here is work from the inside out. If your character has a human face paint it first, paint the shirt or armor that is on the inside, then work your way outwards. This helps because the inside paint jobs will typically overflow to the outer surfaces. I would also suggest work with one color at a time because paints dry quickly on the palette. Keep a water cup nearby so you can clean your brush and a paper towel is helpful to clean the excess water off your brush too.

inside out

If you want to get fancy with your painting try dry brushing and washes. These help with pulling out the details in your model. These are completely optional so if you just want to get some color done you can skip these.

Another option is clear coating your minis. Not everyone does this and it isn’t really necessary. I personally clear coat my minis so it seals in the paint and I won’t have to worry as much about the paint chipping. However, if you have a nice way of storing or carrying your minis then you can safely skip this step.

Hopefully you found these tips helpful and you are excited to get started on painting your own minis. I find it is a great way to relax at the end of a stressful day and it is very rewarding seeing your minis painted on your playing table. Just remember to have fun with it and don’t be afraid to experiment.
painted mini

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7 Comments on “Painting Miniatures: My Tips for Beginners”

  1. Charles Hasegawa November 1, 2013 at 1:56 PM #

    Two tricks that I think work better (for all levels).
    Gel Super Glue – ridiculously easy to control and it dries quickly and bonds tightly.

    GESSO – Gesso can be found at art stores and craft stores like hobby lobby in black and white (and sometimes clear and grey). Rather than spray primers, I’ve been using gesso to prime minis. The beauty of gesso is – you just kind of slop the stuff on, coating the miniature and it shrinks as it dries so that you don’t lose details. Here are a couple images that show what I mean – http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1763199
    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1763200
    Gesso is used to prime canvas for acrylic painting, so the surface is perfect for accepting paint. Since you paint it on, you don’t have to deal with a spray box, or heading outside and dealing with the weather.

    • Christina November 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM #

      Charles, actually the super glue I use is gel. It has a really strong hold. I never thought about Gesso for priming. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

      • Christina November 4, 2013 at 1:32 PM #

        CORRECTION: I looked at the glue I use and it is not gel. I will have to try that some time though.

    • Kae November 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM #

      I also never thought about gesso! That’s an awesome tip, thanks for chiming in!

    • Alan September 30, 2014 at 10:05 AM #

      Try Baking Soda to help activate the glue

  2. Ensan3 April 16, 2015 at 3:46 PM #

    Also, an idea would be to magnetize the joints with small earth magnets rather than trying to glue rounded parts to other rounded parts. It’s a bit more work involved, but it can also serve to reduce how much you spend in the long run. Rather than having to buy another model for a different loadout (weaponry, equipment, etc.) – you could just pull that part off and quickly exchange it for another more desired piece.

    It’s something I recently found and looked into and something I will be incorporating into my own miniatures.

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  1. WIP: Armored Fist Squad 317 | Central Wisconsin Table-top Gaming - December 9, 2013

    […] Painting Miniatures: My Tips for Beginners (initiativetabletop.com) […]

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