Beginners Guide To Painting Miniatures
By: John Jay Wirth
The following is a list of basic materials needed the hobby of painting miniatures.
There is a wide variety of paints and inks on the market. Acrylic is the most popular for painting miniatures. Acrylics are relatively inexpensive and easy to clean. The basic colors to start with are:
Paint- white, yellow, green, brown, dark blue.
Ink- black, dark brown, green, blue.
(Make sure that your inks are opaque)
As with many paints there are many different types of brushes
on the market. I recommend using two sizes, 1 and 0, to start. Purchase the
bets you can afford as a good quality brush will outlast many brushes of poorer
NOTE: Nylon brushes are the best for painting miniatures. The synthetic bristles hold up to the "poking" motion when painting, better than the red sable.
Jewelers files come in many shapes. If you are not able to purchase a full set, start with a rat tail file. As with most tools, get the best you can afford (I still use my original set and it's over 17 years old).
The craft knife is mainly used along with your files when preparing your miniature. You will also find the craft knife a handy tool when doing conversions and sculpting.
There are many different glues to choose from. To start you will need a good quick drying super glue.
Used to mix colors, this tool is often overlooked. A nonporous material is needed. I have found that on old white dinner plate or floor tile works best. Being nonporous you can easily clean the plate in dish water.
Something big enough to keep all of your paints and tools in order. You can go to a local sporting goods store and purchase a cheap tackle box.
Last on the list of basic materials is the painting area and the light source. It is best to have an area out of the way that is permanently set up. Direct sunlight is best but in an imperfect world artificial light is needed. Get a lamp that you will be comfortable with, fluorescent or incandescent. I find that one of each (combined) gives the best and truest light.
Preparing The Figure
This process will always be the same no matter paint or painting
style is. Start by cleaning flash and mold lines using your craft knife and
files. Take care as these tools are sharp. Pay extra attention under arms and
between legs for flash. Base and prime your miniature. I did not mention primer
in the paint needed, as white paint applied thinly with a flat or shortened
brush will work perfectly.
For ease of handling, you may mount your miniature to a roofing nail before priming. When painting large groups of miniatures, I mount 4 - 8 miniatures to a craft stick mounted to a roofing nail.
Painting The Figure
There are many techniques used in painting miniatures. Some are
dictated by the type of paint you use. For this guide I will describe the most
popular style, The 3 Step Technique.
When painting a miniature it is best to paint in the order it would have dressed. Start with the flesh, shirt, pants, etc. Leave metal, fur, hair and details for last.
The 3 Step Technique starts with painting a base color, adding a shade or a wash, and finishing by highlighting the raised areas. I will use painting a face as my example. Note that these steps apply to all areas
Begin by painting flesh color (base) on the face area. Once dry, use a diluted brown paint or ink wash to give it depth. Don't be afraid to apply generously covering all of the flesh area and letting the color flow into the creases. Let this dry completely. Finishing the steps use a little white mixed with the flesh base color to highlight. Before applying the paint, wipe the color onto a rag so your brush is dry. Lightly drag the brush across the raised areas leaving the lightened color only on the high points. This type of highlighting is also called dry brushing.
(see shade & highlight chart below for other colors)
|Desired Effect||Acrylic Base Coat||Ink Wash
H20 : Ink
|Black||Dark Grey||Black 6:1||Dark Grey|
|Grey||Dark Grey||Black 6:1||Med Grey|
|Brown||Brown||Brown 3:1||Brown /White or
|Green||Green||Green 2:1||Green /Yellow|
|Blue||Blue||Blue 3:1||Blue /White|
|Red||Red||Brown 3:1||Red /Yellow|
|Yellow||Yellow||Brown 3:1||Yellow /White|
Metal, Fur & Hair
Saving these areas for last, they will be painted in the same manner. Paint the area black (ink from the bottle works great). Be sure to paint along the edges, for example, around the face where the hair touches. Once dry, dry brush with the desired color. Repeat and highlight as desired. Lighten your touch with each pass.
The final touch is to finish fine detail and blackline. Blacklining
is painting a a thin line along the areas where two things meet separating and
defining the detail on a miniature. Small parts such as belts and buttons may
be painted black before you add color so you will not need to blackline.
Once your miniature is completely dry you may want to use a clear protective coating. You have many choices; brush or spray, matte or gloss. By far the best on the market is Krylon Matte Finish #1311. This can be found at professional art stores.
The 3 Step Technique is a style that is easy for a beginner to
learn. With practice using this style you can produce award winning figures.
In future guides I will cover other techniques, styles and areas of interest for painting miniatures.