Getting back into painting minis, after a fifteen year hiatus, and dealing with vision issues.


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I used to be a fairly prolific painter of miniatures. A good one, if I may flatter myself, although not nearly good enough for competition. I didn't need to be that good; I painted because I enjoyed it, and because completing a miniature gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. It was an actual, physical creation: something of substance from someone who does a lot more thinking about things than actually doing them.

And then I had kids. I took what I thought would be a brief break, so as to not to risk having paint and lead and various chemicals on my hands while holding a baby. And besides, there was a baby to play with!

And so, fifteen years passed. I never quite had the time to paint, and when I considered it I found myself in the uniquely frustrating situation of wanting to want to paint. There was too much to do, and I told myself that I didn't have the time. Over this same span, my vision has deteriorated -- I've always been nearsighted, but for almost a decade now I've needed bifocals. And even with them, it's damned difficult to focus on small details even when I have them close.

This effectively quashed my plans to ever start painting again. What was the point, when I couldn't even see what I was doing? This worked in sync with my growing depression, and the stress of having two special-needs kids, and financial instability, and all the garbage that comes with all of this stuff. There wasn't any point in even trying, right? I have a vast collection of unpainted miniatures -- the legacy of a decade working in a hobby shop -- and I began eBaying them here and there to earn a little bit of badly-needed money. I cursed myself for having removed them all from their package for ease of storage, as it's a lot easier to sell an unopened figure, and what I was able to successfully auction was no more than a drop in a truly enormous bucket.

Two days ago, motivated by I don't know what, I started painting again. There's this resin hovertank from Grenadier castings that I had assembled and primed in black about twenty years ago, and I kept looking at it. And thinking. Maybe? Worth a shot? Probably pointless; after fifteen years of sitting untouched, my paints were surely dried out and useless. And a lot of them were -- I'm going to really miss my Cel-Vinyl "Cartoon Color" paints, as they were amazing to work with (twenty different shades of every color, each a little lighter than the other, made highlighting a dream), but the bottles weren't air-tight enough. But the Reaper bottles, and the Vallejo paints...they're all fine. That special mixture I made of black paint and Future Floor Polish, the "Magic Wash"? Still intact, still works great and settles beautifully into the shadows. The Acrylic Gel Medium that I use for basing? Perfect shape. The only things that did not endure were the glues: I need more Zap-A-Gap, and zip kicker, and miliput, and two-part epoxy.

My eyes still aren't doing great, of course. I can manage the larger stuff, but the details are just too fuzzy for me to see properly. But I'd forgotten that I have an Opti-Visor, and with it I can manage, if only just. Right now, I'm just messing around a little bit. Picking up some partially painted figures and seeing what I'm capable of. I've ordered some flat black spray, and another bottle of Zap-A-Gap, and actually opened up that box of Reaper Bones from the original kickstarter, the one that I'd invested in during an all-too-brief bust of enthusiasm. I'm going to focus on monsters for now, things without a lot of fine detail, and see if I can get my confidence back. I might burn out in the next week or so. I hope not, but depression just plain sucks. Dammit, though: I'm going to at least try.

Tell me, good people: have there been any must-have advances in the hobby over the past decade or so? New paints, techniques, anything? I've not got much in the way of disposable income right now, but I can afford $10 or so here and there if there's something worth getting. And does anyone have any advice for those with vision issues? Does anyone have any experience using X-Acto's "Extra Hand"?

It looks like it might help, and be a little easier for me than the Optivisor.


Registered User
Validated User
When I started tinkering with painting again several years ago, I wasn't able to see/focus either, so I went out to Wal-Mart and bought a cheap pair of reading glasses and that did the trick for me. Not saying it works for everyone, but I've known others who've done the same.

Just another reason getting old sucks.


RPGnet Member
Validated User
I had a similar arc, except I actually gave way all my minis when we started a family and it was twenty years later I came back to rebuild, more than five years ago now. Also my eyesight had always been excellent, until I picked up minis again and realized something had happened to my very close-up vision.

I started with cheap drugstore magnifying reading glasses, which worked okay. I also got my eyes checked. I brought in a miniature to show the opthalmologist and made sure they understood that yes, I really painted this small and this close up.

I work with simple tools that I already had on hand since I’m an artist as my day job. I mix my own colors from about a dozen single-pigment matte acrylic paints and apply ‘em with various sable type brushes, mostly. Simple works for me.

I don’t recommend using floor polish as a painting medium, btw. It’s not formulated for it.


Validated User
I use the floor was as a wash -- I don't remember the exact formulation, but it was a few.drops of pigment, some water, and a little bit of this acrylic floor wax. It creates a wash where the pigment settles almost entirely into the deeper parts of the area, leaving the higher surfaces largely untouched. It lets you get some neat effects.

Does give a glossy finish, but I paint a layer of a flat finish over it, and then Dullcote the whole thing when I'm done. Holds the paint fine, and hasn't yellowed with age.


Registered User
Validated User
So I’ve been a bifocal wearer for a long time, and an Optivisor user for about ten years at this point. You don’t mention this, so please excuse me if this is something you’re already doing...I get a pair of reading glasses made each time my prescription is updated. Wearing the optivisor over the one focal length reading glasses is a lot easier than trying to work them over the progressive bifocals. In fact, I also usually get the reading glasses set to a basic focus distance of about 12” versus the close end of the bifocals at 16-18”. As Arethusa says, taking work to the optometrist to show them why you need what you are asking for can save a bunch of argument. (Although last time I did this, the doc was a needlepoint person, so understood this quickly...)

Also, if you have time for another group (and since you’re working on Bones) I recommend checking out the Reaper forums, which are active, friendly, and all about painting:


Level five vegan
Validated User
I would suggest getting something like this. It's LED technology, which means that the bulbs should last a lifetime, and it's semi-portable (clamps to a table or desk) and may be just the solution you're looking for. A little pricier, but hopefully not out of your ballpark.

Gentleman Highwayman

Registered User
Validated User
Equipment: Bifocal reading glasses, they market them for computer use.

Technique: Layers and washes. Washes will amaze you, but thin layers and paints made for the technique will change your view of painting.

And YouTube. Not sure how to paint something, YouTube will give you varying tutorials of varying levels of painting ability.

Most important--PAINT MORE MINIS! You only get better/faster by doing the work.

Good luck!


A for Aeffort
Validated User
How do you thin your paints?

I've tried a variety of ways, but I haven't really seen the amazing magic really so I assume I'm not doing it the way everyone's thinking of when they recommend it.
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