Subject: Miniatures Painting Guide and FAQ
Summary: Tips and info for painters
Author: email@example.com - with tips gathered from posts on rec.games.miniatures and
from readers of that group
Comment: Available for FTP from rtfm.mit.edu in
usenet/rec/games/miniatures or from http://agora.rdrop.com/users/tierna/Painting_Guide
or by email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
html coding was done by Deane P. Goodwin
Frequently Asked Items
This document is presented to help the
inexperienced miniatures painter get a grasp of the basics. Most answers given were
collected from months of discussion on rec.games.miniatures and represent the experiences
and tips of a great many people. The rest of the answers are Britt's, compiled from hours
and hours of experimentation and practice. Many answers are not absolute. Painting is an
art and in art there are few absolutes.
An informal format is being used because it's easier.
NOTICE: This document is Copyright (c) 1995/1998/2008
by B. Klein. Use and copying of this information is permitted, so long as the
following conditions are met:
* no fees or compensation are charged for use, copies or access to this information beyond
* this copyright notice is included intact
IMPORTANT CHANGE: The email address of the FAQ
maintainer is now: email@example.com
Extremely Important Information:
This document is over ten years old. Many of the products mentioned within are no longer available and the compiler of the document isn't in the loop about what companies are still out there producing what anymore. Please keep this in mind as you proceed to read.
1. How do I get started painting?
1.A. Are there books on painting available?
1.B. What kind of paints should I use?
1.C. What kind of brushes should I use?
1.C.a. How should I clean my brushes?
1.D. What other equipment do I need?
2. Should I prime? (Also, what
should I do to the miniature before priming?)
2.A. Black, white, or gray?
3. What's the first step after priming?
4. What are shading, washing, drybrushing, highlighting and glazing?
4.A. How do I wash?
4.B. How do I drybrush?
4.C. How do I highlight?
4.D. What are inks, should I use them, and if so how?
4.E. What colours should I use for detail work?
5. What should I use for bases?
5.A. What's the best stuff to cover bases with?
6. How do I strip paint?
7. What kind of miniatures should I start with?
7.A. Metal or plastic?
7.A.a. My miniature came in multiple parts, now what?
7.A.b What is pinning and how is it done?
8. What is kitbashing?
8.A. How do I convert miniatures?
8.B. What kind of glue should I use?
9. How can I paint details?
9.A. How do I paint faces?
9.A.a. How do I paint eyes?
9.A.b. How do I paint hair?
9.B. How do I paint insignia?
9.C. How do I paint armour?
9.D. What other detailing can I do?
9.D.a. Can I use anything besides paint and ink for details?
10. What is an overcoat and should
I use one?
11. How do I keep paint from
12. How do I use an airbrush for
13. How/where do I get miniatures?
13.A. Is there a list of
Questions and Answers
1. How do I get
Get some paint, brushes, miniatures, and a space
to do your work. There is no `secret formula' involved, and despite all the advice and
information you'll get from this FAQ and other sources, the best method of painting is the
one that works for you. If you prefer one type of paint to another, that's great. Painting
is a hobby, not an exact science. Pick and choose, practice, relax, and enjoy yourself.
Take advice only if you feel right about it. Be patient with yourself. Most painters have
a box of the stuff they learned on, or have removed old paint and redone several of their
miniatures. Good painting's a skill. Remember: PRACTICE. Try different materials and
techniques. Don't take anyone else's word for it unless you're sure - and the practice
will do you good.
1.A. Are there books on painting available?
There are several, though probably not all
publications will meet all painters' needs. The best descriptions and information
available at this time are listed below:
(Ming-Hua Kao provided this wonderful information.)
_Guide_to_Miniature_Painting_ by Ken Carpenter,
published by Alderac Entertainment Group, 1996. The cover price is $9.95. It's a full
colour, soft cover booklet of about 167x260 mm. It has 64 pages (excluding back and
cover), of which 8 are full paged advertisements, and handles basic and advanced painting
techniques. All is explained quite clearly and demonstrated on miniatures from several
brands. As far as I'm concerned it's one of the better books on the subject.
Citadel produces a Painting Guide which is a $1
pamphlet. It was also reprinted in the back of _Golden_Demon_Awards_, which covers the
finalists and many entries in the 198? Golden Demon Awards , and also in
_Fantasy_Miniatures_, which is likely a later printing of Awards.
Citadel currently produces a book for its games
called _'Eavy_Metal_. The book retails around $20 US and has a lot of excellent
information, if you remember that the only standards you need to adhere to are your own.
Some people love the way GW- painted miniatures look, others hate them. It's all a matter
The first edition of _BattleSystem_ (TSR,
trademark, blah-blah) had a nice, though thin, intro to painting with pictures of a work
in progress. (Thanks, Coyt!)
(David Lee McLellan is to be thanked for finding
the next two titles.)
A 24-page pamphlet which costs $3.00 US. They also do a painting guide to horses which
costs $2.00 US. Both are aimed at the wargaming audience.
_Building_and_Painting_Scale_Figures_ by Sheperd
Paine, available from Kalmbach Publishing.
(Steve Gill kindly listed the following from his
_Making_Model_Soldiers_of_the_World_ by Jack
Cassin-Scott pub: John Bartholomew and son Ltd 1973, 1977 Quite a good little book, covers
design, sculpting and casting of figures as well as sections on painting. Due to it's
emphasis on 54mm Napoleonic figures it has a very good section on horses.
_The_Encyclopedia_of_Military_Modelling_ gen ed
Vic Smeed, con ed Alec Gee pub: Octopus Books 1981, Peerage Books 1985 Large coffee table
size book: has sections on all the major historical periods, the different types of
figures available, equipment, vehicles, dioramas and displays. Sort of a collection of
long articles from the Military Modeling magazine crowd.
by Ian Weekley pub: B.T.Batsford Ltd 1989 Covers Ian Weekleys building techniques, more is
spent on describing the subject than the techniques used, unfortunately, but very
(Gary Leitzell himself kindly provided the
information about his book.)
_Brush_Strokes_. Has been advertised in Military
History Magazine, had reviews in MWAN and The Courier and had an article published in
issue 61 of Courier on painting. Mail orders to World Games Network, P.O. Box 15834,
Pittsburgh, PA 15244. Include $12.95 per copy, which includes shipping and handling, in
check or money order.
Also, Renaissance Ink publishes a monthly
newsletter that covers painting techniques (12 issues $15.00). We also offer a pocket
miniatures painting guide with shading and highlighting chart for paints and inks ($0.50).
To receive these publications mail:
335 Torrance Ave
Vestal, NY 13850
More information can also be obtained from Jay
Worth, publisher of the newsletter, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that this is an old address - please notify email@example.com if it fails.
1.B. What kind
of paint should I use?
This question has sparked some vigorous
discussion from two major camps: acrylics and enamels. First, a description of what these
Oil- or solvent-based. These tend to be a bit thicker than acrylics and require that you
have thinner on hand for washing, thinning, and brush cleaning. These paints are often
referred to as enamels, but some acrylics can be enamels as well, so when in doubt, read
Acrylic paint is water-base and tends to be
smoother, though if it gets dry it can become grainy. All you need to thin or clean up
with this stuff is tap water. Discussion on the newsgroup rec.games.miniatures has
uncovered that more posters prefer the acrylics to oils. (This author uses acrylics.)
Again, a matter of taste.
The basic colours from which just about anything
can be mixed are white, black, brown (you can mix this yourself, but it's a pain), red,
yellow, blue, and gray (same as above). Metallics, various shades and hues, practically
anything you can think of is available through one company or another. Start with the
basics and expand as you feel you need it. Soon enough you'll have more paint than you
ever imagined you'd need, and likely use every one.
Most like-type (acrylic or oil) can be mixed
regardless of brand, but be cautious at first as some brands are incompatible.
Companies which manufacture miniature-formulated
Ral Partha (acrylics and dragonscale metallic creams)
Floquil/Polly S (acrylics and oil-base)
Pactra (acrylic enamels)
Model Master (oil-base and acrylic)
Dragon Colour (acrylic)
Citadel (acrylics and specially-formulated inks)
Howard Hues (acrylic)
Tamiya (fine acrylics, almost transparent)
Gunze Sangyo's Aqueous Hobby Colour (fine acrylics)
Horizon (acrylics for vinyl models - good on primed surfaces)
Accuflex (acrylics - formulated for airbrushing, also makes a good primer)
There are other companies, of course, these are
just the ones the author could think of right now. Most paints are available at your local
hobby or gaming shop, and places that specialize in miniature railroad equipment often
have the best selection. Railroad paints are often oil-based, but primers and sealers of
that type are usually quite good at preserving detail. Paints may be bought by the
individual bottle (usually under $2 US per) or in sets. If you buy a set, be sure that you
can _see_ all the paints before purchase. This way, you'll assure that you get what you're
looking for and that the consistencies are good. SHAKE all paint before purchase, to make
sure they mix up well.
1.C. What kind of brushes should I use?
Brushes come in a myriad of sizes and several
different materials. Sizes range from 1" to 20/0 or more. The more 0s the smaller the
brush, generally, however companies vary in size so the only true scale is to look and
Materials are sable, fox, camel hair (which is actually squirrel tail, BTW), ox hair, and
nylon. Round and flat are also available.
Red sable is the painters' choice, usually. A large brush for primering and large areas,
something between a 000 and 5/0 for smaller areas, and anything from a 10/0 to a 20/0 for
Drybrushing destroys good brushes so a couple
camel hair for drybrushing is a good idea. Again, look at them before you buy. Make sure
the tips are smooth and end in a point and the sizes are right. A good brush retails
anywhere from $3 to $8, so it's a purchase to take time over. Brushes are available at
hobby and game shops, often at crafts stores at a better price.
should I clean my brushes?
It depends on your paint type, mostly. For
acrylics which are water-based, a good careful washing with warm water and dish detergent
is fine. Remember to re-form the tips into points before storage. For oil-based paints,
your best bet by far is to buy a bottle of thinner made by the same company as your
paints. Not all paint is formulated the same and thinner is often product-specific. Also,
Badger brand "Air-Opaque ready-to-use- cleaner" for airbrushes does a wonderful
job of getting dried paint off of paintbrush bristles, either acrylic or oil-based. It
costs $4 for 16oz. (Thanks to Bill Gilliland for that tip.)
While we're at it, there are three `nevers' to
Never let your brush rest in the water or thinner on its tip. That's the surest way
possible to lose a fine point.
Never scrub a good brush across either miniature
Never let paint dry on your brush. This'll fray
the bristles into an unusable mass.
When cleaning a brush while painting, gently
rotate it against the side of the solvent/water container until the bristles stop exuding
paint. A gentle wipe across the blotter before washing the paint out of the bristles both
saves solvent/water from clouding prematurely and helps get rid of traces of paint you
can't readily see. A clear solvent/water container is desirable so you can monitor its
cloudiness and how clean the brush is coming.
other equipment do I need?
Not much. Something to hold your water/solvent
(two of them if you're working with metallics, one for the regular paint and one for the
metallic - keeps flecks out of the other stuff, and change often to keep from muddying
your colours), a palette of some sort (professional, ceramic tile, old plate, even the
plastic bubble from a large miniature or two - Coyt suggests the plastic lid from a large
margarine tub or the like covered with foil. When done, strip the foil off and discard),
and GOOD LIGHTING. Against a window is ideal, if not a good overhead light or adjustable
lamp is a must.
Paper towels or napkins - some for blotting your brushes on and some extras for the
inevitable spill or splatter. Time - never enough of that so learn to paint bits at a time
(also good so that one layer can dry before you put on another).
Ventilation, ventilation, VENTILATION! All paints give off noxious fumes, whether you can
smell them or not, and unless you like having headaches, you'll want lots of space, open
windows, even a fan or two.
The above are the _needed_ things. Below are optional:
A magnifying glass - useful for seeing fine
[A tip from Coyt D Watters which might be useful:
"I started using a magifying visor (jewelers) which gives me 2x and flips up out of
the way. Gee what a difference! Now I can easily detail those little things like dart
feathers, buttons, and laces. My 0 brush looks about 5" around though. They are a
little expensive, but a good quality one can be purchased from Micro-Mark for under $20.
And, because it's on my head, I don't have to move around to get a good clear view, nor is
a magnifying glass in the way of my brushes."]
An X-acto blade can be helpful, tweezers can be
invaluable if you'll be gluing, files and emery boards are used to remove sprue, mold
lines, and anything else you don't want. Nail scissors get into places larger ones can't.
As you get more practiced you'll start finding other things to use in your painting
pursuits (such as toothpicks and small brushes), so you'll acquire your own personal array
2. Should I prime? (Also,
what should I do to the miniature before priming?)
Yes. Primer not only assures for good paint
adhesion, but it also brings up detail more starkly than on an unprimered miniature. Now
that that's settled, we go into another major area of controversy among painters: how? The
only thing painters seem to agree upon is that a spray primer is best, and the primers
specifically formulated for miniatures are better at retaining detail. Some folks use
Krylon with very good results, but it takes a light and even spray to retain detail.
Companies that put out good spray primers are Ral Partha, Armory, Floquil, Model Master,
Testors, and Citadel. Krylon is the best of the non-hobbyist primers, but other store
brands are in the same league. If you use sandable primer, be especially careful to use
thin coats so as to not obscure detail. (Many department stores and most home improvement
centers carry spray primer at much lower cost than hobby and other specialty shops.)
BEFORE APPLYING PRIMER you will need to clean up any bad lines on the miniature (use a
small file, X-acto knife, or emery board), making sure you get rid of the bump under the
base, if your miniature has a self-molded base (sandpaper is excellent for this), then
WASH it in a little soap and water. Various substances are used on miniatures to make them
come free of the mold, as well as the fact that hand oils get on the miniature as it's
handled, and these will interfere with paint adhesion unless cleaned off. Now, use a
little white glue (or rubber cement - thanks Ed Sharpe!) and glue the miniature to a base
of cardboard, cork, wood strip, popsicle stick, ruler, plastic bottle cap... Anything you
can safely handle without touching the figure. This assures that you can handle the
miniature during the painting process without touching wet paint. Even a freshly dry coat
will rub off without the slightest provocation.
Methods of applying primer are spraying and brushing on. If you're using a brush-on
primer, make certain it flows well without being too thin and use a semi-large brush to
brush over your miniature from top to bottom. If you're spraying, set up a large box
enclosed on three sides in which to place your miniatures for priming. This will keep the
paint from going everywhere and also tends to give a better coat. Make _sure_ you have
good ventilation, outdoors or in a window or set up a fan. Spray paint is nasty. On the
subject of technique, the best advice I've seen came from Deep Six, as
posted to rec.games.miniatures, and is edited and used here without permission:
"First, be sure you shake the paint well. It
says on the can you should shake it for a full minute, so I do it for two minutes. Shake
during use, too. The second thing is spraying the figures with the `good' stream of spray.
You do this by starting the spray before it hits the figs and stopping the spray after it
hits the figs. The spray that comes out of the can when you first start spraying and when
you stop spraying is incomplete -- it has too much or too little paint, and/or too much or
too little carrier. What I do is put the figs out on newspaper and start spraying the
newspaper to one side of the figs, when the spray has been coming out for a half-second or
so, I pass the spray over the figs, and when the spray has passed over the figs, I stop.
This assures that only properly mixed paint is falling on the figs. It takes longer and
wastes some paint, but the finish is worth it to me. Next, keep the can as upright as
possible, and keep the nozzle about 10 inches from the figs. Any closer and it's too hard
to control the amount of paint on the figs. Any further and the paint starts to dry before
it hits the figs. And finally, IMO you should never use a whole can of paint (on figs
anyway). It seems like when the can is about 3/4 of the way empty, the paint is really
crappy, uneven and it comes out of the can in spurts. And Coyt reminds us to always make
sure you get the underside of the miniature as well, particularly if it's a figure in a
cloak or the like. Spray upward and at an angle and make passes from all sides to assure
white, or gray?
A thousand answers exist for this one. The best
advice available seems to be use what you prefer. White primer makes colours go on
brighter and is best for anything on which you want that effect. Black primer gives good
shadows and is commonly used to base modern military and skeleton figures. Gray is rather
neutral allowing for brighter light colours and decent shading. The best tip so far is to
experiment and see what you like. Also, and the author likes this effect, prime in black
and then drybrush raised areas in white before painting. This allows for the depth of the
darker shade but gives the lighter base for the brighter colors.
3. What's the
first step after priming?
Pick the colours you want for the major areas
(skin, each piece of clothing and armour, hair, shield) and paint them on in layers. Think
of dressing the miniature. Start with eyes, move on to face and hands, then clothing,
armour, hair, lastly weapons. You aren't going for massive detail just now, you're only
setting each area's base colour. Make certain the paint goes on smoothly and remember to
paint from top to bottom. Once you have this part done, it's time for detailing. This is
achieved by many different techniques such as drybrushing, washing, shading, and
4. What are
shading, washing, drybrushing, highlighting and glazing?
These are techniques to give a little realism to
% Shading and
highlighting give the illusion that there is lightshining upon the figure. Shading details
the folds and shadows and highlighting picks out the brighter, better lit areas. Washing,
glazing, outlining and blending are all methods of shading. (See below.)
% Drybrushing is a
highlighting method, as is simply accentuating the high spots with a bit of paint a bit
lighter than the base.
(See section 4.B.)
% Glazing is done
with inks, as can be washing and outlining.
(See section 4.D.)
% Outlining is
simply picking out the line between two separate parts of the miniature (i.e. sleeve and
arm) and painting or inking in a fine line of either black or a darkened shade of the base
in order to bring out the division between the two sections.
% Blending is rather
difficult and takes much practice. To blend one changes the tone of the paint as it
crosses the surface of any non-detailed section, as Mecha armour or unscaled hide. Darker
shades are laid into any depressions and carefully thinned and blended into the
surrounding areas using a damp brush. (This is NOT a technique for beginners. The author
still has trouble getting her blending to look good, and finds nothing wrong with not
shading miniatures at all. Again, try it and see if you want to practice the technique or
not. Another personal-choice situation.)
Some excellent advice from Coyt D Watters:
"If you're using acrylics, you can pick up several TONING MEDIUMs, which alter the
brightness of the paint without the headache of black. I've started using a drop of white,
a drop of black, and a drop of toning and mixing all four with equal parts of the color
I'm using, so I get light - color - toned color - dark My first attempt was on one of the
mages in Partha's Forgotten Realms set, and the cloak looks better than anything I've
done, and I haven't drybrushed or washed it yet."]
And a tip from Christian Widmer:
"Use a slower on acrylic colours. This slows them from
drying but they do still not cover if they didn't before. Warning, oil colours tend to
lose their colours and go brown-grey when I try this."
shares his methods, which are far better than anything the author could provide (used
without permission): "The way I always do blending is to put a smudge of the two end
colors in a strip, separated about 1.5 inches. I then use a slightly moist brush to mix
them together into a spectrum. The colors near the original smudge will be closer to that
color, the colors in the middle should be fairly even mixes of the two. You then have a
nearly infinite palette of color to use. You can do a nice blend with only 5 or so shades
that looks really good unless you magnify it. Alternatively: Say you want to go up red to
yellow. Paint the entire area yellow. Put a block of watery red on the top. Slowly draw a
moist brush down the area, drawing the red pigment with it. If you're patient, this method
will bring the best results (but if you're not, you'll get a big mess)."
Kenneth Creta also has
two good techniques: "This idea was suggested by Tom Harris and I added a little of
my own touches. Let's say you want to fade from green to black. Just paint the whole darn
thing green. At the point where you want it to fade, wash with a black ink. When dry, wash
again but a little farther down and so on until the bottom is black. The first ink is not
a smooth transition so when the washes are done, go back and dry-brush green over the
first ink line and this will smooth it out. The washes may be diluted to the desired
"Start by painting a band at the bottom in dark green. While it's still wet, add some
white and paint the slightly lighter green band above it. Use a second brush and paint
along the line between. If the paint is still wet, they should blend together pretty good.
I use a slightly damp brush. If you get enough bands, it's looks like a gradual color
change. The hardest part is the blending between the bands."
Here's another banding method from Roxanne
Reid-Bennett : "I have a Water Elemental that was
done in this style (Rafm). The typical way of handling this is to "blend" two
colors together (which I have a LOT of trouble with). What I did was to paint the base
(bottom 1/2") dark blue (RP Paladin) then used graduated shades of blue (about 5
different) up towards the top of the figure where I used a light blue (Sky) for the upper
torso of the elemental. After the bands were in place I went back and used mixed
intermediates on the band overlap areas. I kept this up until the graduated shading looked
right. Some of the intermediates I watered down some so they wouldn't go on very thick. I
really wish I could "blend" like the books and FAQ say - by mixing the two wet
paints in the middle - but so far haven't succeeded. "For finishing work I used a
slightly darker blue for wash on the torso to bring out the muscles. I used white on the
tips of the water waves and washed in blue. Just for final effect I washed the whole
figure in Pearl White (RP). Gives the figure a nice wet look - even with a flat seal
cover. "So the hard way is to literally to paint stripes on the figure in shades
close enough to each other that our (human) eyes can't see the distinct lines."
And here's a rather advanced
shading/blending/tinting method from John Colasante, used
without permission: "Lets say you want to paint an orange tunic on a figure. Mix the
base color and plop a pile on your pallette. Next to it, plop down a dark tint and a light
tint. For orange, lets say dark brown and yellowish-white. It doesn't matter what kind of
pigment you use, water base or oil base. Now, tint the base color with the dark tint and
paint the entire tunic, or even drybrush the tunic if painting over a dark primer. When
dry, paint the basecoat over the dark tint, BUT NOT ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGES. Also, leave
tinted dark shade in the folds. Next, tint light and highlight the center and high spots.
Note: this is similar to drybrush except you are painting color here, not actually
drybrushing, so you get a certain effect which it different than pure drybrush. In fact,
it often looks nice when there is a clear demarcation between the tinted shades on certain
surfaces, almost like color contours. Use more than three tint levels for certain effects.
It sounds tedious but if you use the palette it's _very_ fast and the results often look
much better than the purely drybrushed highlights, especially for larger, flat areas where
drybrushing might miss."
4.A. How do I
Washing comes before drybrushing. Take a shade
darker than your
base color and dilute it until it's about the
consistency of milk. Now, brush it across,
gently. It'll flow into folds and crevasses.
Makes cloth look real good. Remember, you can always add wash, so start light and work your way up. Don't be afraid to wash, then darken and wash again, until you've reached the
effect you like. Wash yellows with
yellow-orange or yellow-brown, flesh with
light brown, white with bluish-white or gray. Experiment, only you can set your style.
do my washes dry badly?
It seems that once in a while, even though the
inks and washes have been mixed properly,
they end up drying, not in the low spots like
they should, but on the high contours. It has
something to do with the density of the wash and the slickness of the surface; on matte surface the effect is more prominent than on glossy surfaces. It happens
because a pool of wash in a recess starts to dry
from the edges, then the rest of the paint in
the wash adheres to the already dry paint,
producing a ring of paint around the recess.
There are four methods that can help solve the problem:
1) Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the
wash. It lowers the surface tension, and
dries faster. This may be a drawback for some painters. Some model railroaders have been
doing this for a while now. (Thanks to Coyt D
Watters for this tip.)
2) Add a little dishwashing detergent to the wash.
It helps the wash stick better. (Coyt
3) Use small amounts of wash, allowing each to dry
before applying the next. Blow gently on the wash
after applying, from the top, to keep the pools
in the recesses where they belong. If the wash is
thin enough, it'll dry with a minimum of blowing.
4) Mix a new wash, thicker. It might work better,
being thick enough to keep from creeping, or
maybe with just little different density.
4.B. How do I
First off, drybrushing is most effective when
used with a colour a shade or two lighter
than the base. White drybrushed over black
primer also makes for a very good painting base. It also looks good as a stand-alone colour scheme on some figures.
Take your desired colour and an old brush, as
drybrushing wears brushes out and tears them
up (the author has had good success in using
cheap watercolour brushes for large drybrushing projects with acrylic paints, but for smaller areas a
better-quality brush is still necessary). Dip
it into the paint until the tip is saturated,
then blot on a paper towel until no paint can be seen on a dark brush, or a light one looks pretty clean. Take the brush and gently draw it along the raised parts
you want highlighted. A little paint will
stay on the highest edges and give great
depth. Many painters like to highlight in
stages, lightening the shade a little with
each level. This can be either overkill and a pain or an excellent technique for brightening and preserving detail. Practice yourself and decide.
4.C. How do I
Drybrushing is the best method of highlighting
any large area or area with repetitive
detail, such as armour. For faces, hands, buckles
and the like, highlighting can be achieved by taking a slightly lighter shade of the base (mixed with white or a lighter tone) and going along the raised areas lightly. A fine
brush point is required, as is a steady hand.
For faces highlight the chin, nose, and
cheeks. For hands go along the backs and each finger. For other detail, pick the spots that should show up best and give them the lightest highlights. It's common to
highlight twice, each time getting lighter in
tone and finer in line. A bit of blending is
required to keep things looking natural, but this
blending is easier than the large-surface technique. Simply keep a damp brush handy and brush very lightly toward the
darker areas. Again, this technique takes practice, but is worth the
effort when the miniature is completed.
4.D. What are
inks, should I use them, and if so, how?
Inks are just that, semi-transparent tones that
can be used to add colour and shading to a
miniature. If you wish to go beyond the range
of paints, you might wish to try working with them. Unless using for outlining, inks should always be thinned slightly for glazing and rather a lot for washing. A
milk-like consistency is best for washing (or
even thinner, since you can always wash again
if more is needed) and about 50-50 ink and water is best for glazing. If you do not
get the specially formulated for miniatures inks (the only brand known to the author is Citadel, and they're very good), then the best information available comes from Wade
Hutchison, as posted to
rec.games. miniatures and is edited and used
here without permission: "A tip about
Inks. If you go to the art supply store to buy your inks, be sure and get _pigmented_ inks, not transparent ones. Pigmented inks, especially brown, work much better
for a wash than the transparent ones. Red and
blue don't seem to matter as much. For
shading white, there is a really good ink color
called "Payne's Grey" whick is a kind of blue-grey. It does a much better job than black when washing white or
very light tans and greys." Recommended also have been Windsor & Newton inks.
Inks are best used as washes, for outlining, and as
glazes. When washing with inks on a matte
surface (or on any other, actually), a gentle
blowing of air from the top to the bottom of
the miniature helps keep the ink from drying back up into the raised areas. The author usually blows lightly until the
wash stops looking slick-wet.
% Glazing is done with inks. In this technique, a slightly
darker tone than the base is thinned and then
brushed over the entire surface and allowed
to dry. Glazing brings out a richness of colour
not possible with paint alone. Glazing should be done after highlighting and shading and tends to bring up detail of these well.
colours should I use for detail work?
Here's a standard chart on what looks good
together (remember, nothing is absolute. Try
new blends and develop your own preferences):
Base colour Highlight Shade ----------- --------- -----
White (none) Gray or blue-gray Light gray White Dark Gray Dark gray Light gray Black Red Red-orange Red brown Red brown Orange-brown Dark brown Dark brown Light brown Black Pink Pink+white Red Human flesh Flesh+white or tan Red brown Tan Orange+yellow+white Brown+orange Black
Black+green or blue (none) Light blue Light
blue+white Medium blue Medium blue Medium
blue+white Dark Blue Dark blue Medium blue
Dark blue+black Purple Purple+white
Purple+dark blue or black Bright green
Green+yellow+white Medium green or dark green Medium
green Green+yellow+white Dark green Dark
green Medium green Dark green+black Yellow
Yellow+white Yellow+brown Orange
Orange+yellow Orange+red-brown or red Gold
Gold+silver+yellow Orange-brown Silver (none)
Black+blue Brass or copper base colour+gold
base colour+black NOTE: colour+colour means
two or more colours mixed, colour-colour means
either a commercial shade of that name or colours mixed.
5. What should
I use for bases?
This depends entirely on what you're using the
miniature for. If it's a display model, then
you can get fancy. If it's for military gaming,
you'll want a durable, realistic look. If it's for fantasy play you'll want durability and likely not too much fuss.
Standard materials for bases are: the plastic
slottabases many companies both supply with
their products and sell separately, pennies or flat washers, cardboard (not recommended - bends too easily), tiles, wood, sheet metal, matte board (available at art supply stores),
and magnetic strips (often bonded to one of
the above materials). Filler and water putty
have both been used with success, and someone also has claimed to make his own bases out of hot glue. The general rule, of course, is the more use the miniature
gets, the stronger the base material should
the best stuff to cover bases with?
Again, a matter of how natural-looking and/or
durable you want the base to be. For foliage,
the hands-down favourite material is the
model railroader's ground covering. Woodland Scenics has an excellent selection and it's inexpensive (particularly
when you figure that the small bags of the
stuff can do 100 miniature bases or more).
Bill Gilliland uses something
called GRASS (es, all caps) from Life-Like Scenery, which is ultra-fine sawdust which has been coloured. Verlinden is another recommended brand, available in
Europe. A product called Basetex, from Colour
Party Paints, comes in various colours and is
available in the UK. Other materials that can
be used are sand, sifted clay cat litter (not
the scoopable stuff), aquarium bottom material, or sawdust. First, paint the base a neutral-type or natural colour.
When it dries, take an old brush (or a cheap
watercolour brush) and paint a 50/50 mix of
white glue and water over the surface you want to cover. Painting the glue on gives more precise coverage than simply squirting it on. The base covering material may be
applied either by having it in a tray about
1/4" deep and dipping the glue-covered
bases into it or by shaking a spoonful over the wet glue. Give it an hour or so to dry and shake the miniature over the container holding the rest of the base covering. If
needed, just dab the bare spots with a little
more glue and reapply the covering. Mix
different colours or drybrush for an irregular look, if wanted. Apply details, like
rocks and the like (also available from model railroad
suppliers) by dipping into the glue and setting in place with tweezers. Here are some specific methods used by gamers: Bill Gilliland contributes:
"It is handy is to keep a dry brush handy while
you're doing this, and if you get flock on wrong areas, flick it off with the second
brush. Old red-sable brushes will work for painting the glue on, but they're kind of soft
and they can be hard to get the glue right where you want it. I use nylon brushes, they're
stiffer. And painting the base before flocking is important. I use Citadel Goblin Green
which is the same color as the WD photos, but I've used black before and that works fine as well." Joshua
Buergel adds: "As
for the sand method, I've used it on a couple of titans I painted, as the bigger area you
cover with this particular variety of flock, the sillier it starts to look. I use aquarium
sand from a pet store and do the above process, only dipping the miniature in sand. After waiting a couple of hours or more for the glue
to dry (if you don't, when you do the next process the sand starts coming off), I use a
heavily watered down woodland green and paint all of the sand. After again waiting a long
time for this to dry completely, I dry brush sunburst yellow on top. "Dry
brushing" isn't entirely accurate, though, as I do not wipe the paint off the brush
completely. Rather, I take one swipe on a piece of paper to rid the brush of a little
paint, and then use a dry brushing sort of motion.
This makes the top of the sand yellow but leaves the bottom bits clearly green." Then
back to Bill: "I use this method on all
my 28mm models and titan-bases. The stuff was
white sand (I forget if it was coral or dune sand) and 3$ got me about 4 kilograms. I've
also used sand from playgrounds, but this is more irregular than aquarium sand. Again,
flick off sand then let dry. "Painting
28 mm bases can be done any number of ways. For fantasy I paint Goblin Green all over the
sand and sides, then `damp brush' (as Josh
described, pretty much) `bilious green' on the top of the sand. This provides a neutral
texture to accentuate the model yet not
detract from it. "For 40K-types I do the
same, but when I'm done I go over the side with black paint. This is because I started
painting for space hulk, and this looks better in the corridors, but on the table both
black and green edges look fine. "Also, the best looking 28mm bases I've ever done
were painted all black to begin with, then
drybrushed dark green-mid green-yellow green-yellow, and the edges were kept black, but
this took FOREVER to do. "You can also
just paint the base black and have unpainted sand on the top (sandbox sand looks better
than white sand -- it's speckled) I did this
on all my Blood Bowl miniatures and it looks fine. "But whatever specific method you
choose, try to do the same thing to all the models in an army, and at least the same thing
to all the models in a unit. A simple unit with neatly done bases often looks better than
a well-painted unit with sloppy or completely unpainted bases."
6. How do I
There are several substances which will work,
outlined below. Other than the top two (which
are the author's personal default choices), they're in no particular order. a) Pine Sol for a 24-hour soak then brush off remaining
paint with a soft toothbrush. Works great on metal. Brian Lojeck ran extensive tests on
Citadel plastic genestealers and Pine Sol for
paint removal. Here are his results: "I soaked the plastic genestealer in about 50-50 Pine
Sol/water solution for 7-8 hours (a nights
sleep). The plastic didn't seem softer, the detail didn't seem any worse, and the paint
came off pretty well (as it always does with Pine Sol. it was hard getting the paint out
of the cracks (I soaked in acetone to do that)." Then he soaked some unpainted Citadel plastic figures in another 50-50 Pine Sol/water solution: "The figure survived whole, without softening or loss
of detail. The solution turned milky white
about 30 minutes after the experiment started, but had cleared back to golden by
morning." <Britt's note - that's the
standard Pine Sol reaction in water, does same when I'm cleaning the toilet.> Brian
left the figures soaking another 48 hours and they didn't mar under the toothbrush bristles, but he was able to stick his fingernail into the
plastic about 1/16". It looks like the
50-50 mix is the key. Certain other pine-oil cleaners of less strength than Pine Sol are
on the market. Anyone who tests these on
plastic figures is encouraged to send the
author your results for inclusion here. b)
Chameleon model paint stripper from Custom Hobbyist, Inc. found in model railroad shops.
Sort of expensive, but _reusable_, water soluble, and really fast. c) Floquil/Polly S Dio-Sol. Also purportedly dissolves
glue. Won't harm your plastic as much as Pine
Sol, but reportedly loses detail due to the
amount of scrubbing necessary for the recesses. d) Brake fluid. Won't melt your plastic, but might melt your hands... 2-3 hour soak _maximum_, usually works faster. e) Dettol, the pharmaceutical cleaner. Works much like
Pine Sol, but I have no information on its potential to melt plastic. Though it didn't melt the base on the test figure, bases probably
aren't polystyrene. It did remove glue,
though. (Thanks to Steve Gill for this bit.)
f) "The Sainsbury's home brand pine
disinfectant (UK). It actually gives pine oil
as one of it's ingredients. In testing it
works very well and costs roughly 99p per 750ml bottle." (More thanks to Steve Gill who found this product and tested
it.) g) Acetone nail polish remover. Smells,
peels skin, melts plastic, takes paint off metal like a champ. h) Isopropyl alcohol, the stronger the better. Lab grade,
if you can get it. This seems to be the
safest product for use on plastic miniatures,
and also the most universally available. "It takes off acrylic paints in almost no
time, but reportedly doesn't do as good a job
in crevices as Pine Sol does. As for oil-based paints... "after several days of
soaking, renewing renewing the solution, scrubbing... the figurine I tested has still a
good portion of its paint on, mainly on the zones that I cannot access with a
toothbrush." - Magali Mathieu i) Easy-Off oven cleaner. And wear gloves. It
reportedly will not harm metal or plastic
minis. Remember to use GOOD ventilation. (Thanks
to Richard Kurtin for this information.) j)
"Bix Paint Stripper. Buy the sprayable, rather than the jelly mix. It smells bad, is
volatile, and will go after your skin if you forget your gloves. It will remove enamel
paint with minimal scrubbing, and does a pretty good job on acrylic. It _WILL_ eat
plastic, so don't even think about putting your Genestealers (tm) in it. Also, you'll
probably find yourself replacing your toothbrush more often." - Pete Siekierski k)
"Methylene Chloride. One of the components of Bix Paint Stripper, MC is rarely
available in its purest form (I've no idea where my dad got his can, and neither does
he!). It is extremely volatile. Do not light up near a can of methylene chloride! It will
also do a number on your skin, making it wrinkled like you've been all day in the bath.
Wear gloves! Also, be sure not to wear metal jewelry. Because of its high rate of
evaporation, MC "chills" metal, and this can be very uncomfortable if you
immerse a ring in it... On the plus side,
pure methylene chloride is even more effective than Bix, which contains only a small amount. It burns right through any kind of
paint that you'd care to put on a miniature, and will reduce plastic Genestealers (tm) to
shapeless lumps (big deal, heavy flamers do that too!). It will "chill" lead or
pewter miniatures, so they will feel cold to the touch, but in a room- temperature environment, this will wear off quickly. Like
the Bix stripper, you'll find yourself replacing your toothbrushes more often." -
Pete Siekierski <> (Archiver's
note: Proper dental hygiene suggest that you replace your toothbrushes every other month anyway...) l) Poxy Scum < in Australia also
offers this info: "I found that
Rexona(tm) Sport pump spray, not the aerosol works quite well, almost immediately on
acrylic Citadel paints. It is best used for spot cleaning as it works almost instantly to
soften paint and is quite safe on plastic and metal. As you can see, there are a lot of
products that will remove paint. Most are
caustic. The author recommends a non-caustic product. Pine oil cleaner will remove any
type of paint (acrylic, oil-based, Rust-O-Leum, fingernail polish, etc.) from miniatures
with no loss of detail, no caustic residue, and no hazardous fumes. It's safe for metal
miniatures and will not dissolve the glue
holding parts together. Pine-Sol is the best brand, as it's 19.9% pine oil, but any
percentage over 5% pine oil will strip paint (it just requires a longer soak in the
less-powerful cleaners). It also works on paint that's been on for several years (the
author successfully removed 10-year old Testors from a metal miniature with a 2-day
Pine-Sol soak). For plastic miniatures, Pine
Sol in a 50-50 solution with water, else isopropyl
alcohol is your best bet. Dettol, a product
from the UK, seems to work as the US Pine-Sol does in preliminary testing. More information will be made available as testing continues. Simply place the miniature in a container which will allow full coverage, pour in enough pine oil cleaner to cover, and
let it soak for 24 hours or more. The longer
the soak, the better the stripping (the
author has soaked metal miniatures for over a week with no damage resulting). If you're doing multiple miniatures, it's best
to soak them separately, if possible. Once
the paint starts to dissolve, it causes a
sliminess that can get on the others. After
the soaking, take an old toothbrush (dry) and scrub. A soft bristled toothbrush is best, however using soft then stiff
will get most everything without special
work. The finest details are kept, the paint
comes off easily, and the smell doesn't try to knock you out. If some paint remains
stubborn, another soak will do the trick. (The tip of a toothpick is also good for
crevasse-cleaning as are standard pipe cleaners.) Do wear gloves if you're skin-conscious.
The author doesn't and has never suffered for
it, but others report peeling and irritated
skin. NOTE: Many people have complained about
the pine-cleaner soak darkening the metal of the miniature. The author just finished
cleaning a lead miniature on which the acrylic paint
had been for two years. It soaked for 24
hours and was first scrubbed with a soft
toothbrush then a stiff one until all the paint was removed. Then the soft brush was washed clean and hand soap (the
bar of Ivory by the sink) was applied to the
brush and the miniature was brushed down vigorously, as one would do teeth. It took about
5 minutes, but the lead shined up as good as
the fresh-from-the-package figures it ended
up beside on the shelf. So the `dark metal' syndrome
can be taken care of, if it's important to you and you care to spend the time.
7. What kind of
miniatures should I start with?
25mm is easier to detail than 12mm or 6mm, some
miniatures are less or more detailed than
others. Again, this is much a matter of personal preference and what you want the miniatures for. Look over as much as you can before selecting starter miniatures, unless you
have your heart set on something. Just don't
pick something so fussy or detailed that
you'll get frustrated with your new hobby on your first project. Also, refrain from doing that `special' one until you've
had a little practice. Some offerings of types in the 25-30mm range are: Citadel: tend to have large areas and broad features, and
are recommended `beginner' pieces if you can't find
something better. Once you have the feel of
painting, can be masterpieces. Heartbreaker:
Everything good about Citadel plus some of the most excellent modeling ever done in this style of figure. And costs less, too. Metal
Magic: again, heavier features, thus good for the novice. Mithril: pre-primered and a little above 25mm, broad
detail Ral Partha: tend to have sharp detail,
good once you have the basics down. Grenadier: detail can be hard to follow, but that can be a
plus. Soldiers & Swords: Good variety in
both individual figures and quality. Some are
excellent, some aren't worth the purchase. Simtac:
Good figures with fine features and nice detail. A little difficult for the beginner. Various military miniatures: varies greatly, use your own
7.A. Metal or
Opinion varies. Some favour plastic because it's
cheaper, some prefer metal for better detail.
Choose according to your own budget and
miniature came in multiple parts, now what?
Get the smallest file you can find, a pair of
scissors, and some glue. If it's a plastic
miniature, you can use model cement or super
glue, if it's metal use Zap-A-Gap, super glue,
or any model formulated cyanoacrylate. On plastic, first clip in as close as possible with
scissors (nail scissors are excellent) then
file. On metal, carefully file the edges. The
goal is to get the pieces to fit together as closely as possible. Once they do, clean them with soap and water to
remove all shavings, dry, and glue. Hold for about
twice as long as is recommended for the glue
to set. The innovative miniaturist can come
up with a great many ways to clamp, fasten,
or hold parts together until everything's dry. (Regretfully, the author has forgotten who posted this tip [likely it was Tom Harris], but it's excellent:
"A little note, if you're working with super
glue keep a wet tea bag handy. If you spill
super glue on your hands wipe it on the tea
bag and the tea bag will absorb it - tea bags
are highly absorbent of chemicals. It works great
for me and I don't end up with shells on the ends of my fingers of dried super glue.") (This one comes from John F. Bailey <: "If you do become adhered to yourself or pieces via
super glue (cyanoacrylate), most of them can be
dissolved with acetone. May take a little soaking, but it works. Unfortunately it also
removes skin oils almost completely. Follow
it with isopropyl alcohol to neutralize the acetone then lots of soap and water to neutralize the alcohol, and then a good moisturizing lotion to replenish skin oils and
avoid those nasty dry skin diseases (eczema, etc.).
A bit of a pain, and it eats most plastics,
but a whole lot better than surgery to remove that battle-axe. A preventive technique is
to use "barrier cream", not a lot of mechanics in this country use it even
though it is very common in the UK, but I
have obtained it by asking for it in pharmacies/drug stores. You put it on like hand
lotion before you get into something. It
dries to a thin film that protects your skin from most solvents, gas, oil, etc., and
washes off with soap and water.") Note:
If working with cyanoacrylate, have the acetone (nail polish remover is the most available form) on hand and nearby. When you aren't prepared, you'll end up stuck to
something. Murphy loves modelers. Once the
glue has dried, take an X-acto blade or razor blade and carefully clean off the excess glue, if any. A file or emery board will also do the trick. You'll have to wash the miniature again before primering,
to remove hand oils and glue remains. After you've gotten the basics of gluing your miniatures,
the best stuff you can use is epoxy. It's permanent, filable, and works exceptionally well on miniatures that will get a
lot of handling.
is pinning and how is it done?
Pinning is a method of securing multiple-piece
miniatures by drilling small holes and
inserting wire before gluing in order to
reinforce the joint. Required are a pin vise, suitable
size drill bit, thin wire (copper wire, paper clip wire, anything like that) and either cyanoacrylate model glue or epoxy. Complete instructions come courtesy of
Bill Thacker: "Either
adhesive, properly applied (that is, to
_clean_ surfaces) will give you a joint strong enough to withstand normal handling.
Neither is guaranteed against serious abuse
(poorly-packed figures rattling around the trunk of your car, or being carried `by the
handful'). If you want a _very_ strong joint, get a very fine drill and some piano wire.
Using a shoulder joint as an example: drill a hole in the center of the joint, a quarter
inch or so into the body of the figure. Insert the piano wire into the hole (you want a
gauge of wire that fits well, but not so
snugly that you have to force it in the hole) and, using side-cutting pliers, snip it off
flush with the hole. This will leave you with a chisel-point on the piano wire, just
slightly protruding from the hole. "Now
take the loose arm, align it to the figure the way you want it set up, and press firmly.
The chisel-tip on the piano wire will have left a nice gouge showing you where to drill
the mating hole. Remove the piano wire and discard it; drill the mating hole about a
quarter inch into the arm (or as deep as the
figure allows). Cut another piece of piano wire, a half inch or more, and insert it into the figure; then attach
the arm. You may need to trim this down until the arm fits flush with the shoulder joint.
Epoxy or super glue this in place and the joint will never fail. "This technique is rarely needed for something like
an arm or hand, but for assembling large figures (dragon wings!) it's invaluable."
8. What is
Kitbashing is the colloquialism used by
miniaturists to describe the process by which
a miniature is converted from its original form to another permutation, such as taking a fantasy miniature and making it into a figure for superhero roleplaying, or changing
gender. Most properly, it refers to the
instances when two or more figures are used for
components in the final version.
8.A. How do I
It's an acquired skill. To convert a miniature
requires a lot of imagination, steady hands,
patience, and a few out-of-the-ordinary tools.
Costumes have to be obliterated, faces changed, weapons removed or added or changed. In all honesty, the processes
involved are more numerous than can be addressed in
this FAQ. Therefore, only the most common
modifications will be addressed. Tools: To
properly modify a miniature, you're going to need: files (round, triangular, square, flat), the smaller the better X-acto knife and several replacement blades glue, preferably Zap-A-Gap, possibly epoxy nail scissors or tiny wire cutters needle-nose pliers, the smaller the better sandpaper and/or emery boards a hacksaw, the finest you can get any new pieces you want to add (weapons, etc.)
% The most common modification is to change
one weapon for another. For purposes of
explanation, a fantasy figure will be used, the change being from sword to battle axe, assuming the sword had been molded as one with the hand. First, clip or cut the sword
off on either side of the hand, being very
careful not to damage the hand. The new piece
may be one cut from another miniature, or one acquired
from a weapons pack. If it is the latter, you will need to measure it against the hand and cut out part of the
handle to compensate. The next step is to
make holes in either side of the hand where
the handle enters in order to insert the new parts. An X-acto blade or file may be used. A pin drill would come in handy about now. Once the holes are made, a drop of glue is placed in each one, then the handles are carefully set in place. The glue should
show, as the extra is needed to keep the
parts in place. Hold until set, possibly
reinforce with a little tape, a brace, or some sort of clamping arrangement, and let set. After the glue is thoroughly dry, a file or emery board can be used to clean up the
excess, Avoid using a knife or razor blade,
as you're likely to take off too much glue
and the weapon will simply fall off again. % Another common modification is to make a miniature suitable for superhero use. The easiest way to do this is to file and
sand the clothing smooth with the rest of the
body, then paint on the costume of your
choice. A note on drilling, thanks to Andrew
useful tip for figure converters and folks drilling out spears to replace them with wire. Before drilling (with
either pin vice or dremel tool) dip the bit in Johnson's tube wax (what the pros in the
machine shop use), dried-out Simonize car wax (my
choice), or other wax. Even a bar of soap may
work. "Since a buddy of mine who spent his career in machine shop recommended this, I've cut bit breakage down by a huge fraction, and starting and drilling are
both much easier. I use to break my .014 bits, used for starter wholes in tough 15mm jobs,
about once every ten holes - well that's an
exaggeration, but I did break a lot of bits... The wax lubricates the bit, and "keeps the flutes from filling/jamming", allowing the cutting end of the bit
to do the job more effectively." Brian Oplinger says that
turpentine, mineral spirits, and paint
thinner also make good bit lubricants. If
things get hot, though... And remember to ventilate.
8.B. What kind
of glue should I use?
The common miniaturists glue is Zap-A-Gap,
available at nearly all stores which sell
paints. It's thick, holds well on both metal and
plastic, and fills gaps and cracks. Also of this type are a line of cyanoacrylates which come in various-coloured
bottles, each coded to its type, and a blank
space for the local store's name or Wargames
West (in the US, of course). Super glue is often used to join pieces; it dries brittle and
a good drop might snap the connection. Its
redeeming feature is speed of bonding. Epoxy is excellent for permanent bonding and building up areas when modifying. The bonds it makes don't break when jarred, and
almost nothing will remove it once it has set
(the author has never heard of set epoxy
being removed, but refuses to use absolutes and be later proven wrong). Epoxy also comes in different formulas for different materials. Duco cement is a good all-purpose
bonding agent. White glue, such as Elmer's or
Aleen's Tacky, is good for adhering paper and
ground covering to plastic and metal surfaces. White glue does fatigue, however, so if it is used, a sealing agent overall will help keep your pieces together. For building up areas and the like, nothing beats ribbon
epoxy. For more information on cyanoacrylate
see section 7.A.a. above.
9. How can I
Finest brush you can get, a steady hand, lots of
patience, and good lighting. Fine detailing
includes (but is by no means restricted to) faces,
eyes, jewelry, shield devices and banners, small clothing details, weapon decoration, insignia, and armour detail.
For many of these, some of the
highlighting/washing/drybrushing tips above apply, for others a whole new range of techniques are necessary.
9.A. How do I
Start with the eyes. Then do the face in whatever
shade you choose. Now add a touch of white to
the flesh tone to get a slightly lighter
shade and go back over the nose and cheekbones. A light orange makes defined but natural-looking lips. Remember, red lips are a product of makeup, not nature. Some painters prefer to put the eyes on last, but others
say it's too hard to keep from making the
effect pop-eyed when done last. Try whatever
method you prefer. Mustaches are best if
dry-brushed, paint beards a slightly redder or
darker shade than the hair and dry brush with the same colour you use on the hair. There's nothing wrong with a
5-o'clock shadow on an appropriate figure,
either. Dry-brush it on in a shade slightly
darker than the hair. Once you get comfortable with faces, experiment with scars or tattoos. You might amaze yourself.
do I paint eyes?
Depending on the size of the miniature, there are
a couple of good methods. On a 15mm or
smaller miniature, don't try too hard for absolute detail until you've gotten a lot of
practice in. On 25mm and larger, though, eyes can be done rather easily (with practice, of
course). Below are several methods: % Before painting the face, paint the eyes white. When
that's dry, dot them black. Then paint a slightly darker shade than you're going to use
for the rest of the face around the eyes to define them (mix a touch of brown or tan into
the flesh tone for this). Then paint the rest of the face. % [This method is courtesy of Andrew Cameron Willshire:
"Another easy way is to paint the white of the eye
with a brush. Let it dry. Then, take a tech pen (architectural or engineering) and draw
the iris. With another tech pen, dot in the pupil. Note that this requires a few different
pens since you'll want a few different colours - say black, blue, brown and maybe green.
"This is a really easy technique, and since the
ink is water based if you muck up you can just rinse it off (this is assuming you use
enamels for the rest of the figure, like I do)." [Author's note: even if you use
acrylics, if the white is already dry you can still blot the ink off with a damp Q-tip or
the tip of a damp, fine brush.] "It also works great on monsters, say orcs. However,
they tend to look better with `reds' instead of `whites' in their eyes, then having a
white iris and black pupil - very nasty looking! Tech pens may be a little pricey to pick
up, but you can easily find sets with a few in them that are reasonably cheap. They also
work magnificently for such things as flag details, shield heraldry and so forth." %
Steve Harvey has some advice regarding affordable tech pens: "Most tech pens are obscenely expensive, but
there are two brands of non- refillable tech
pens that I am aware of. Sakura makes an
excellent series of tech pens called Pigma - these come in a variety of colors, in sizes
ranging from .005mm to .8, and cost about $2 each. I like these so much that even though I
have a set of Pentel professional tech pens, I
use these instead. Schwan/Stabilo also makes a series of pens called OHPen 96 (or at least
that's what it says on the barrel of mine...) which also come in numerous colors and several sizes. They are not as fine as a true tech
pen, but they will write on ANYTHING - glass,
plastic, etc. without the ink beading. The one thing to watch out for is that they come
with either permanent or water-soluble ink; the latter are popular as overhead
transparency markers, but for miniature work, the permanent is what you want."
% [This method is given by Allan Wright
and has been edited]:
"I paint eyes on 25mm (and 15mm officers, standard bearers, etc) with a technique
taught to me by a friend. 1. Fill the eye
socket with white. I use an OOO brush, one stroke horizontally across each socket. Be
sloppy, it's OK. 2. Paint the middle of the
eye, Black, Dark brown or Dark blue. Paint a vertical stripe down the center of the eye -
taking up the middle third of the eye socket - don't worry about going over the top/bottom
edges. Again I use an OOO brush. In both let the brush 'fan out' 3. Eyebrow - paint with hair color of your choice. Paint
the eyebrow on the ridge above the eye socket in a slight crescent shape, cover the white
and black from 1 & 2. 4. Under eye: use
tan or slightly darkened skin color (under the
eye is usually darker or shadowed). Cover the white and black from 1 & 2 with a slightly crescent
stroke." [The author has adapted this
method slightly and finds it most effective
thus far. Suggest you try this at least once.] % Bill Gilliland says: "For humans, I paint the entire eye socket black. Then, on either side
of the center where the pupil is, I put a small
white dot to show the whites of the eyes. On character models, I paint the iris a solid
circle (usually blue or green) with a highlight in an upper corner, then put a smaller dot
of black in the center. This method gives you outlining of the eye for very little effort.
"For evil creatures (such as orcs) I paint the
socket black, then put a white oval inside,
leaving an outline all around. The white is
then over painted with red. On characters the corners of the eye are spotted with a
translucent yellow to accentuate the red pupil." % Derek Kingsley Schubert explains his method: "Faces/eyes: Shade/highlight the face
completely first. Paint dark brown or black in an area just slightly larger than the eye
itself. Then paint white for the eye, and finish with a dot of dark brown or black for the
iris. Colored irises don't look good unless surrounded by a dark ring to set them off from
the white; but this is darn tricky, so new painters should paint only dark irises on
figures that should have humanlike "white-and-iris" eyes."
do I paint hair?
It's honestly not as hard as it looks, though you
do need to both wash and drybrush it. Base in
a good neutral tone for the colour you want
(a dark yellow for blondes [tan, dun, khaki,
yellow], dark red for redheads, lighter for
auburn, orange for strawberry blondes, any shade of brown for brunettes, and black or dark blue for black hair). Then darken it or select
something a couple of shades darker and wash. Let
that dry, then wash thicker and darker. Let
that dry and drybrush with the original colour. Then a lighter shade. (For black hair, drybrush in dark blue and leave it at
that, drybrush in dark gray, white or light for salt-and- pepper, or don't even bother to drybrush if you like
the colour it ends up after washing.) Black hair can honestly be achieved with a dark, dark blue
base, two black washes (one light and one heavy),
then a very light dark blue drybrush. A royal
blue drybrush achieves a nice punkish-look.
Blonde starts out best with a dark base then
lightening with dry brushes. Wash chestnut or
light brown. Redheads are best if understated
a little. Don't use red unless you want
something impossible to nature. Dark red-browns
are best (Polly S Demon Deep Red is great, too) washed in brown and highlighted with first the original shade, then something lighter in that line, then perhaps
a dark orange or yellow-brown brushed very, very
lightly. Here are some extremely good tips
from Chris Pierson <> for specific hair colors: "Golden blond: Polly S Canine Yellow-Brown, drybrush
with Polly S Griffin Hide (_don't_ use the "real" yellow as a base coat. That
oughta keep it from looking like Loni Anderson. :) ) This one works well for elves.
Ash blond: Sort of a Norse-type blond, very pale.
Polly S Manticora Tan (a light tan), drybrush with Ral Partha Ivory. I've got three redhead styles: Auburn (dark redhead): Base coat Ral Partha Dark Brown or
Polly S Kobold Dark Red-Brown. Drybrush with Ral Partha Red- Brown. Redhead (standard): Base coat Partha Red-Brown. Drybrush
with Polly S Rust. Strawberry Blond (light
goldy red): Base coat Polly S Rust. Drybrush with Polly S Manticora Tan. For the Polly S impaired, Rust = reddish tan; Manticora
Tan = light sandy tan." Griffin Hide = dusty yellow
9.B. How do I
Two good methods have been presented in
rec.games.miniatures. The first comes from
Steven Loren Lane, and is used without permission: %
"Well, on top of getting the smallest brushes available, you can always cut them down to an even smaller size. I have
several brushes that have only a few hairs on
them. These are very useful brushes. I would
also recommend for the very fine detail to set the object up so you can use both hands to hold the paint brush as still as possible." And was followed up by Steve Gill: % "Another useful tool is a 0.13 mm spirograph ink
pen, a couple of splodges of colour in the
right place and you can pretty it up with the
pen. I used this technique for 6mm heraldry." Yet another use for tech pens. They are also very good for shield devices and clothing patterning.
9.C. How do I
For fantasy and historical, some suggest not
priming the miniature, then washing or drybrushing (or both) the bare metal, but to others
this looks sloppy and unfinished. Besides, not much
armour looks like lead, and lead certainly doesn't make good armour (nor do any of the
alloys of which miniatures are cast). Paint
the armour a base-metal colour, usually silver or one of the like tones, and let it dry. Don't be afraid to use bronze,
or gild it, though. Then take a black wash
(ink is excellent for this) and go over it
carefully. Let that dry, then take either your original colour or a lighter shade and drybrush. Remember to use a
separate water/thinner for the brush you're
working the metallics with, so as to not get
flecks in the other colours. Steve Gill
shares his method of painting chain mail: a) If the links are sculpted clearly enough that you can
see the leather underneath then base coat should be leather (whatever colour required by
the figure). If not ignore this step only paint leather around the edges where it should
show under the links. b) The links are
painted in dark metal. c) Drybrush the links
in lighter metal. d) Highlight drybrush in
very light metal. In general I would choose
gun metal as the dark metal, steel as the lighter
colour. Heroic figures could use steel with silver, but try to keep this rare. Darker chain mail is probably much more historically
correct than the usual Hollywood style silver
armour. Dan Evans has
a method suitable for SF figures as well as
fantasy: "I've come up with a way to get interesting results with metallic colors.
(Maybe someone else has done this before...) Basically, the trick is just two steps:
1) paint your figure (or part of it) silver. 2) when it's dry, apply colored ink (I have the Citadel
set) over the silver. The cool part is, you get unusual control over the degree of tint by
applying the ink straight from the bottle or by watering it down (a wash.) Another cool
part is, you can blend one color into another. Suppose you have a warrior with a shield,
and you want it to fade from metallic blue at the top to metallic green at the bottom.
Paint the whole shield silver first, and then when it's dry, apply blue ink to the top
half. Next, apply green ink to the bottom
half, mixing it up with the blue in the middle. "Yet another cool part is light-to-dark shading done this way: Suppose you have a Space Marine and three shades of silver
paint. (The shades of silver may be sold as
"aged metal" or "chain mail" or "gun metal" or "silver". Use your eyes: buy a blackish
silver, a dark silver, and plain old silver.) I'll just call them dark, medium, and light.
1) Paint the entire figure with the dark silver and let it dry. 2) Drybrush the entire
figure with the medium silver and let it dry. 3) Drybrush the entire figure again,
concentrating on raised details, with the light silver and let it dry. 4) Right now your
Space Marine should have a pretty nice shaded metal look. Now go over the whole figure
with red ink, and you'll have a shaded RED metal Space Marine. Hey, you could even try
technique B at this point, maybe with purple or orange blended into the red." There
is a caveat to this, however. Be careful using inks with acrylic metallics. There is often
a reaction between the two which give some nasty effects. At the very least allow the
metallic to dry for 24 hours before adding
inks. Some people have had only bad results from inking over acrylic metallics... Test it before you begin your
other detailing can I do?
Get in the light and give your miniature a good
look-over. Usually a dot of paint or careful
drybrushing will bring out the final details.
Certain specialized questions have been asked, the answers to which are given below: % Does anyone have a decent method for painting torches? This answer came from D.R. Splatt:
best I've personally seen was to paint the flames red at the base, orange for highlights, yellow for the bulk of the
flame and a light drybrush of white (or black
for a smoky flame). Try to get the flames
predominately yellow, eg:
| <--------- White
| | <--------- Yellow
| ._| |
| | |<-|--------- Orange
Also a 'ragged' orange layer looks
good." % From Kent Reuber:
doing micro-armor have been using this sort of thing to simulate burning tanks for quite a while. Paint the torch
itself black. Then tear off a small bit of
cotton, paint the upper part grey-black and
the lower part red-orange. Glue this bit of cotton onto the torch." 9.D.a. Can I use anything besides paint and ink for details?
Of course you can. The simplest are decals,
which are sold by the sheet and have many different styles to choose from. Technical pens can be used for a lot of intricate work, as
can fine tip permanent markers. There's a catch to
the markers, though, they can bleed when
overcoated. Alec Habig
has a good remedy:
"I used some fine tip permanent markers to do letters and lines on some miniatures.
This works well, giving better results than painting the same sort of stuff. The problem -
the marker would bleed when I coated the minis with the obligatory DullCote lacquer. The
solution - I rubbed a little bit of good old Elmer's white glue on the spot that I'd
lettered with the marker. Just a bit, and rubbed it around till I couldn't see it anymore.
This stopped the bleeding, without altering the finish in any noticeable way."
Mariano Flores gives
these tips for decals (used without
permission): "For best results of decals adhering to the surface of your miniatures:
1. Spray miniature with a shiny gloss coat (I use
Testors Gloss Coat). You will find that decals
adhere better to smooth surfaces. 2. Let gloss coat dry, maybe an hour or two. I usually let the coat dry for a whole day. 3. Apply decals to model. It is suggested to use distilled water, since tap water is not that pure and may contain some contamination (i.e. iron).
4. Let decal dry for a day. The wrinkling effect on
decals is usually caused by applying the dull coat
or semi-gloss coat to a decal that still contains
some moisture. 5. Apply dull coat to model. These
procedures seem a bit drawn out, but patience is a virtue. These procedures work for me." There are probably dozens of other common and unusual detailing tips out there
that the author hasn't heard of yet. She'd love to have them sent in for inclusion here.
10. What is an
overcoat and should I use one?
An overcoat is a coat of clear paint that
protects those colours you so carefully put
onto your miniature. Even an unhandled figure will begin to dull after awhile, and one in regular use will lose its paint even faster from hand and carrying case friction. So you
should put a protective coat over the
miniature to make sure the paint remains unmarred.
Overcoats come in three (possibly four) types:
gloss, matte, flat, and lusterless. Though
four types are named, one company's matte is another's
flat, flat and lusterless are often interchanged, and matte occasionally is labeled semi-gloss. When in doubt, test or
ask. Overcoats also come in two different
applications, brush-on and spray. Spray is
easier to use when you want a uniform coating, brush-on is good for when you only want certain parts covered.
Spraying overcoat on a miniature is much like
spraying primer, though 3-5 coats is recommended
for maximum protection. Remember to begin and end the spray beyond the miniature in order to get the cleanest application. Gloss is just that, shiny. It is most usually used on cars
and other items that should shine. Semi-gloss (satin, sometimes called matte) is low-luster,
and very durable on a figure that will be
getting a lot of handling. Unfortunately, it
tends to look artificial on humans and some animals. It's excellent on scales, however, and hard leather. Flat (also sometimes matte) is nearly without shine. It's
a good all-around people coating, exceptional
on animals, where it simulates fur's natural
shine. Lusterless is absolutely flat, it
doesn't even look like it's there. It's
perfect for people and cloth and anything else that should have no shine whatsoever. Several coats can be applied and it
never shows. A good method of overcoating a
realistic-looking human/humanoid is to use a
spray lusterless overcoat and put on 3-5 coats, then after the last coat is dry, use a brush-on matte or gloss to go back
over all metallics, jewelry, eyes, lips, and
anything else that should have a shine to it.
This is the author's favourite method. Companies
making overcoats are (+ denotes brush-on, = is spray): Armory (water-based acrylic): Glass
- a high-gloss + Matte Sealer - low gloss =
Floquil (oil-based enamels): Flat Finish -
completely lusterless + High Gloss - very
shiny, looks wet + Crystal-Cote - not quite
as shiny + Al-Pro-Cote - flat finish +
Glaze - a lovely matte/satin finish + Figure Flat - a low-shine matte = Floquil Flo-Stain (oil-based, for wood or over paint):
Glaze - as above (I use this) + Crystal-Cote
- also as above + Al-Pro-Cote - flat finish,
no shine + Humbrol (oil based): Dull Cote -
flat finish + Krylon (spray only) Clear Matte
- low gloss = Model Master (oil-based):
Lusterless - another lusterless = Gloss
Finish - high-shine = Pactra (water-based
enamels): Flat Clear - lusterless + Gloss
Clear - shiny + Polly S (water-based
acrylic): Gloss Finish - high shine + Flat
Finish - lusterless + Ral Partha (acrylic)
Spray Clear Matte Sealer - low gloss = Clear
Sealer - matte finish + Testers (Oil-based
enamels): Flat Finish - again, lusterless + Gloss
Finish - shiny = DullCote - absolutely flat =
There are others, of course, these are only what the
author knows about.
11. How do I
keep paint from drying out?
Shake or stir them often, put plastic wrap
between the cap and bottle on paints that
come in glass jars. Acrylics reconstitute fairly well with the addition of water and a good stirring. Oil-based do same with thinner. Try and keep your paints in a place where
temperature remains fairly stable. Users of both Polly S and Humbrol have had good results
from storing their paint upside-down. The
paint itself augments the seal and keeps all
12. How do I
use an airbrush for miniatures?
The best paints for airbrushing are Accuflex and
Humbrol, with Polly S and Testors each
selling an airbrush thinner for their paints. That's
the bulk of what the author knows on the subject. Some excellent information was posted to
rec.games.miniatures by Mike N. Tassano
, much in regard to advising a novice airbrush painter, and is reproduced here without permission and with minor editing: "I've done a lot of airbrush as well as regular air
gun painting, so maybe I can get you pointed
in the right direction. "There is a
relationship between the air pressure used and the rate at which the thinner evaporates. Ideally, the carrier or
thinner is still liquid when the paint
strikes the surface to be coated, but not so liquid
it runs off. Inks have a really slow thinner, relatively, but since you're doing a wash, you don't care if it's really
wet on contact. The idea is to puddle ink in
the low spots anyway. "The primers
usually have a fast thinner, allowing a good coating without running. Spray cans _usually_ are balanced between pressure and range and thinner and particle size. "Second, the pressure in the air-cans varies wildly
as you use it up. And as the temperature
changes. (So does the moisture content from condensation
caused by cold air) Even the best airbrush will behave in a cranky way with canned air. "Third,
the type of paint or ink used may not be too friendly to airbrushing. Particle size needs to be pretty consistent
for spraying. A lot more consistent than
brushing requires. If you intend to stay with
airbrush priming, I can offer some possible helps: "1. If you can ONLY use canned air, shoot for shorter sessions. Let the can warm back up a little more. "2. Try an alternate air source, a compressor or an
inner tube filled at a service station. You
want as little pressure difference between your
air source and the spraying pressure as you can manage. "3. Use a primer designed for spraying. There are
some hobbyist brands around that might be
available where you are. "4. Practice,
practice, practice!" And a word about
priming, thinning and cleaning from Ed Sharpe
, which is also edited and used without permission: "After
carefully cleaning, washing and drying the figures, I prime them with Testor's flat white mixed 50/50 with airbrush
thinner by Testors. I apply the paint using
an air brush. It usually takes 2 to 4 coats.
Take your time and do not rush any of the steps. I use the Testor's air brush thinner only to thin the paint. I use general paint thinner from the hardware store to clean my air
do I get miniatures?
Game stores are, naturally, the best choice. Some
comic and hobby shops deal in miniatures, so
ask around. And a lot of companies do mail-order
for those who live bereft of their product sold locally. The yellow pages is where to start, after that you get the
feel of where to look.
there a list of companies?
There was, but it's so out of date it's useless now. Originally produced in 1992, the last update was 1996 and since then all but two of the companies on the list (Reaper and Ral Partha) have disappeared, changed names, been absorbed into other companies, or otherwise become unavailable. If anyone is interested in setting up a new list, please do, and contact me so I can add it to this section.