Hello and welcome to our new series focused on the hobbyist side of gaming! Painting your gaming figures can be a rewarding activity. Not only as a means to bring your tabletop displays to life but also for the enjoyment of painting itself. On this section of the website we hope to encourage you to paint, whether beginner or veteran.
Our “Happy Little Treants” series will focus on getting you started with miniature painting from the ground up. As always, feel free to join us in store on the first Sunday of every month for our paint ‘n take or shoot me (Scott) a message on Facebook or email to set up a session!
So with that, let’s get started with episode 1!
In my opinion, the most important place to start with miniature painting is with thinning your paints and brush control. Many times you may hear “don’t forget to water down your paints!” and “use smooth even strokes!” but not understand how or why. This episode will focus on both concepts in detail.
Depending on the type of technique you are using (base coat, layering, drybrush, etc. – we will focus on these in later episodes) how you thin your paint and control your brush may change. For purposes of this episode which focuses on both concepts generally we will be base coating.
For my examples, I have assembled a few dryads and base coated them with a white primer spray. Priming your model is the first thing you’re going to do before you start painting. You might ask, “well why didn’t you start with that!” Well, we will cover priming later. The reason is – the concepts we discuss here are all about applying our paint smoothly and evenly. By understanding why, it will help you have an eye for applying primer, too!
The first thing we’re going to do is get some paint on our palette. The palette is useful in helping us control the consistency of our paint and how much is on our brush. Together with brush control this will help us get that smooth even look that doesn’t clog up any detail. To get any idea of why this is, let’s first try taking some paint directly from the pot and applying it to the miniature.
You can see that the paint is very thick and glob-like on my brush. I can use the side of the pot to manage this a little but it’s not as ideal as a palette.
Applying paint in this way means it will clump, cover up details, and leave brush strokes visible. An artist like Van Gogh might use this to his advantage in a technique called “impasto.”
However, we don’t want our paint to dry thickly to the point that it creates texture or clumps. We want all the beautiful details the sculpture of our model gave us to show through!
To achieve this, we’re going to start by using a palette. With the paint on my palette, I can easily control how much is on my brush. By twisting my brush and dragging it along the palette I not only control the amount of paint I have but also maintain a point with my bristles – which is important for brush control as I apply the paint. Look at how little paint is on my brush compared to when I loaded it directly from the pot. This is plenty – what we’re going to paint is not very big!
As I twist my brush and do a few strokes on the palette you can see that it is still clumpy and leaving streaks – my brush strokes – where I apply it. This is where the water comes in. We are going to add water to our paint directly on the palette. We will do this to achieve a “milky” or “creamy” consistency. I’m just going to dip my brush into the water, then start loading my brush with paint. No more than that will be necessary. Take a look.
Compare the eight brush strokes, side by side. You can see that by just dipping my brush in water before loading it up, twisting it to a point, and then drawing strokes over the palette my paint is much smoother. My strokes are uniform, the pigment does not clump, and rather than brushstrokes I’m left but nothing but even color. You can see that even with that little water my paint is running to the point where I might have even added too much! You’ll need to play with your ratio of water to paint to find how you like it best. I personally prefer more water!
Before we put this on the model, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum – because there is such a thing as TOO much water.
Look at the comparison now that I have mixed this paint with five times as much water as before. You can see that it is very difficult to control, as it is mostly water. The pigment runs as the water pleases and there is little consistency in the color. Look at how it appears on the model.
It flows into all of my details leaving little pigment elsewhere. While it is possible to paint a base coat at this consistency, it would require many additional layers and start to pool in my details. This particular ratio of paint to water is more ideal for a technique called a “wash” which we will cover in a later episode.
Let’s go back to our “milky” consistency and apply that to the model.
There! We’re starting to get a nice green color without our paint running or clogging any of the detail. I say “starting” because as you’ll notice, some of the white is still showing through! That’s okay, because we’ll do a second coat. In the realm of miniature painting, “less is more.” What I mean to say is, it’s easier to add paint later then it is to take paint off. I’d much rather need a second coat and maintain my model’s details than do a single coat but have my paint dry clumpy. Scroll up and look again at the very first application of paint – I can’t see any of the grooves in the bark on her leg! So, as you are applying your first base coat – do not worry if you’re not covering all of your primer color!
Now that I have let the first coat dry, I am now going to apply a second coat.
All done! Now I have a smooth, dark green color.
What about the process of applying the paint itself? That’s where brush control comes in. Once we have our paint to a consistency we like, and we have our brush drawn to a tip, we then apply the paint to the model with smooth and even strokes. You do not need to “push” the paint onto the model – just draw the brush gently over the surface.
This is where it is very important to not worry about covering everything in one stroke. If you try and force the paint to cover, you will end up with blotches and streaks, and your paint will dry like that! Just be consistent and remember: it’s easy to add another layer after your first has dried.
I’m going to go ahead and do that now.
This is a very difficult concept to convey through images alone, so by all means come to the store in person during one of our paint ‘n takes and ask me about the technique and we can work on it! Or, shoot me a message on the store’s Facebook page/email and we can arrange a paint thinning and brush control session.
So to summarize:
Thin your paints with a little water, to about a milky consistency, just enough so that it flows consistently and doesn’t clog up the detail.
Apply your paint with smooth, even strokes so that it goes on uniform and doesn’t streak.
The materials I used are:
Dryad (Games Workshop Model)
White Primer (Citadel Spray)
Caliban Green (Citadel Base Paint)
Palette Pad (Citadel)
Size 4 Brush (da Vinci)
Have fun and remember that improvement comes with practice!