A Few Thoughts on Painting
These are just a few of my thoughts on painting. As time allows I will also be doing somea few how-to articles. If you would like to know something specific, drop me a line.
1. Use good tools. Yes, you can paint with inexpensive brushes and craft paints but if you are looking for laser sharp accuracy, seamless blending and glass like finishes you will probably need to upgrade to high-quality paints designed for miniature painting, like Vallejos; and good-quality brushes.
Not every brush works for every job. Get yourself a variety of brushes from flats for blending over large smooth areas to spotters for tight work like eyes and those little fiddly bits that GW and Rackham are so fond of.
The exception to the high-priced tools: I use less expensive paints for basing and some undercoating – depends on the fig; and inexpensive brushes for just plain slopping on paints. Nothing will make a me cry faster than ruining the point on an $5.00 spotter painting a Garrity female mini’s hair. If you ever get to Model Hobbyist type shops, invest in those Q-tip like brushes. They come 10 to pack for under $2.00 and are great for getting paint into areas that would destroy a normal brush.
2. LIGHTS! Can’t say too much on this point other than without good light, it is impossible to see and accurately paint fine detail, judge your highlights, or your color. Highly recommended are the GE Reveal bulbs which provide a more natural light filtering out much of the yellow tint found with standard incandescents. Also swing arm desk lamps are great as you can move them around and get just the exact spot you need lit up like a christmas tree.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, it isn’t a bad idea as you’re painting to get up and walk around checking your work under varying lighting conditions. What may look fabu under your perfect lighting may later look like chit when you take it down to the local gaming store painting contest. Trust me, I know. ;p
3. Perfect paint. I have no idea where I picked this up but someone said the two most important things about painting are controlling the amount of liquidity of your paints – how wet – and controlling the amount of paint on your brush. I don’t have any formulas for how wet or how much, as it changes with circumstances. It is one of the things I always kept in mind though as I was trying to improve my painting, and it has helped immeasurably.
4. Patience. Painting is learnable and it takes time, practice and patience. Even painting a single figure is an exercise in patience. If you start to rush it, it’ll show. Again, trust me, I know. ;p
5. Color theory. Or get thee to a color wheel! You can find a good introduction to the use of color at Color Matters and there are a great many excellent books on color theory also. For most people though, a little online reading and a Color Wheel will be all you’ll need to really start putting together wonderful color combinations. You can find Color Wheels at most craft and art stores and they usually cost less than $5.00.
6. Feedback. Get feedback on your work if possible. Online: posting to the mini-painter group will usually net you one or two solid reviews and sometimes it results in a flurry of comments. I want to thank Craig Stocks and Holger Schmidt (if I have not spelled the names correctly.. huge aplogies!) for critical bits of advice on an early figure that have stood me in good stead for many more. Sites like cool mini or not can also be useful if you talk with people and ask for advice. Be warned though, while you may get some very useful advice, the anonimity of the system lends itself to people making thoughtless and sometimes downright cruel comments. Take it all with a grain of salt though… it is just more evidence that Bell Curve Theory is true.
If you can get real world feedback, even better. Pictures both help and hurt minis and there is nothing quite like seeing it up close and personal to get the real scoop. If you don’t know of any painters, try asking at local gaming stores if they might have painting nights or know of local painters that they might be able to put you in contact with.
7. Water. A lot of people ask me how I do my water bases. I use a product called Water Effects from Woodland Scenics. They make many excellent terrain supplies for Model Train enthusiasts that work equally well for miniature basing and gaming. The next time I do a water base, I will be sure to take some WIP pics and do a tutorial on how I work on them.
8. Pssst… they’re just toys. Relax, enjoy. Though it seems to frequently get lost in the struggle to do better and the competitivess of significant portions of the online community, when all is said and done.. miniatures are little metal toys.