Mini Painting Rookie Style


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I am now entering the world of minis with Rackham's Confrontation. I was inspired by their catalog, and I saw how really amazing a well-painted mini can be.

I have spent hours on, and I need some advice. I am a little intimidated by the quality of work that is out there, and I am a little worried that my work will be so subpar that I will not play the game! Part of what draws me to the game is how amazing the minis CAN look, along with the strategic aspects of it, and if i get some cool minis and demolish them with poor painting, I feel like I would have ruined part of the experience.

So my question to you is this; is the quality of the mini work a player puts out totally defined by their artistic skill and practice, or can you help improve your art by getting the best supplies possible? What can I do to help insure that I can play with at least "table-top" quality minis?

I am not looking for a magic bullet, just some advice. If the only answer is practice, practice, practice, then that is what I will do. If you have a recommendation on good supplies, and maybe some good practice and instructional kits, that would help me too.

Thanks in advance for your help!


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"Is the quality of the mini work a player puts out totally defined by their artistic skill and practice, or can you help improve your art by getting the best supplies possible?"

Better tools can help. Good paintbrushes in varying sizes can help you get different effects from your painting. You will always be boosted/limited by talent but practice and getting others to show you their techniques can pretty much improve anyone's painting skills.

"What can I do to help insure that I can play with at least "table-top" quality minis?"

I'm personally a big fan of dry-brushing. I had been painting for about 6 months and it would take me a long time to finish a single mini. I had a friend who had never painted before get a single quick lesson in dry-brushing. That mini he painted looked better than the ones I normally did and he had only put about 10 minutes into the job. The key is to learn the various techniques and what works best for you. Drybrushing and proper use of inks/washes (a skill I stink at after 5 years of painting) can really push your productivity and level of basic painting up quite a bit.

"If you have a recommendation on good supplies, and maybe some good practice and instructional kits, that would help me too."

Some folks will tell you to buy top of the line (price-wise) for brushes and paint. I'm a cheapskate and use the hobby paint brushes and craft paints in the Wal-Mart craft section. It's a personal preference and economic choice but my stuff is generally as nicely as painted (or better) than the average player at the FLGS. You may get slightly better performance out of buying a paint container with an official company color but it's up to you to determine if that price differential is worth it to you. I'd look at both types of paints to compare price and color selection before I dropped any cash.


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Well, it's definitely better to use high quality paint than not - for instance, Vallejo vs Wal-Mart brand latex wall paint (don't use latex wall paint) - and good brushes work better than cheap ones, and last longer as well, but beyond that... *shrug*

Most of it comes down to practice and to becoming familiar with the basic techniques. Once you know how to to do something, you then have to practice until you know how to do it well.

And lo, a pretty mini is born. :)


The Lord of Ulamos
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I am by no means an expert. I'm fairly close to rookie status myself. There are some people who can paint professional quality stuff with the worst of supplies, but overall it doesn't hurt to have the better supplies.

An ex-roommate of mine who I got a bit into Warhammer could best my painting skills on his first try but that's mainly because he's got an eye for art and steady hand. So, an art background helps. However, if you're like me and can't draw let alone write words legibly, it just takes some time and practice. The thing to remind yourself about is that you're going to make mistakes in painting. Some paint is going to end up in spots you don't want it to be. Some paint is going to be to thick and some is going to be too thin. Patience is definitely a virtue here!


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Practice, Practice, Practice *is* the biggest thing you can do, at the end of the day, but a few things Ive picked up over time that I wish Id have known right away:

*Use seperate water if you use Metalics so you dont get metal flake contamination in your other water/paint.

*Dont worry about getting super fine brushes right away, they just waist money cause they'll probably get ruined. Stick with some 0, 1, and 10/0 brushes. After a while you will probably want to get the finer brushes and by then you'll probably have good brush habits and wont ruin your good fine detail ones.

*When it comes to brushes, you get what you pay for (usually; there are some exceptions...).

*Use brush soap. I use a cake of "The Masters" to wash my brushes with. When I first started painting my 40k minis, I was burning through brushes, but now with the soap, even my cheapy ones are still in pretty good shape.

*Try to get most of your suplies at art stores. Not only do they have a better selection, but they are usually cheaper. Except for paint usually. For paint I usually stick to the Gamer paint brands in game stores (GW, Vallejo, Reaper), even if it is more expensive. Paint is one of those things that is all opinion so youre on your own on figuring out what works for you.

*Thin your paints. I actually knew this from HS art class, but its good advice anyway. There are people that paint straight from the pot, but its so much harder to get a good finish that way. Are there good paint jobs using undiluted paint? Yes, but most people that dont thin usually get clumpy gummy finishes. Personally, I think you would probably save yourself agravation (and cash techncally) in the long run.

*If you can, use distilled water over tap. This probably varies depending on where you live. My tap water is "slimy" and gives me a really shitty finish, so I use distilled water instead. Not an issue if you have good tap water.

*Set painting "goals" when it comes to techniques. Dont try to do wetblending, feathering, lining and all the other stuff out there right away. Just pick one and practice and then move on to the next.

*No matter what any one says, Drybrushing *is not Evil*. I dont use it for everything, but its not the mark of a crappy or lazy painter. Anyone that trys to tell you that Drybrushing is lazy/cheating/amaturish/crap is just being ignorant.

The two biggest suggestions that I got that gave me painting Zen was:

1.) Dont try to paint Golden Deamon quality right away when you start, youll never do it and just be disappointed with everything you paint.


2.) Paint to a standard *you* are happy with and to hell with what others think.



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FruitSmack! said:
2.) Paint to a standard *you* are happy with and to hell with what others think.
Actually, there's a lot to be said for this. You're never going to be completely happy, particularly when you're first starting, but having stuff done can be very motivational.

I'm stuck in a major rut of having a bunch of random crap kicking around, half done, but nowhere near an army for any game, and it's very difficult to get motivated, knowing I'll never get all of these projects finished.


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Wow, great advice, everyone. Thank you. Please feel free to keep it coming. I am sure there are a lot of rookies ou there who can benefit from all this help, not the least of which is me.

I am taking notes with each post.


C. different
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From someone who has only very recently graduated from rookie status:

1. Good supplies. My painting "skill" went up dramatically when a friend of mine took pity on me and donated a small collection of good art brushes.

2. Patience will make up for lack of skill. I've done things I didn't think possible by going very, very slowly.

3. Paint with people. It helps, and more experienced players can provide good advice.

4. Thin your paints. Don't be afraid to use two thin coats over one thick one.

5. Learn to use inks. Along with drybrushing, this is the next most important intro painting technique. I know many excellent painters who, when painting "rank and file", stick to a combintion of inks and dry brushing to get a fast, fair looking miniature.

6. Stay away from Coolminiornot, the Bolter and Chainsword painting forum, and the Golden Demon art pages right before or after you paint. Feel free to browse them for techniques and inspiration, but they always give me an inferiority complex, and I start hating minis that 15 minutes ago I thought were pretty kick-ass.

7. DO browse those places, here, and other internet sites. When you see a mini you like, ask the person how they painted it. Most people are more than happy to tell you.


C. different
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Forgot one....

Whenever you get a new set of minis or whatever, or you have a couple extra from a unit, set one aside. On occasion, take a break from unit painting, and paint the figure in a wildly different scheme etc. It's useful for RPGs, and I've found it's a great way to learn new techniques. I've sat down with a spare horse from a unit and said "Today, I learn how to highlight".

It takes the pressure off doing it for a whole unit, and prevents a subtle drifting of style as you try out new techniques on an existing army.


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Miniatures only need to look good on the tabletop three feet away.

There is a (misplaced) emphasis on fine detail work in this hobby. And, yes, if you can paint that well, then feel free. But all that detail disappears when you're standing at a table pushing minis around. Likewise, those who can paint to the 'three-feet' level of skill will generally turn out miniatures faster than those who worry about getting the shading right on the underside of the nose and chin.

Detail is something you work up to. Overall painting skills will still get you a beautiful army to PLAY with.
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