Paint Your Minis!

Dave Lavictoire (

My gaming group has enforced a 'painted minis' rule for years - ever since we started playing miniatures in earnest. Our rule, however, emphasized aesthetic quality as well, and introduced an arbitrary criterion: the eyes on the miniature must be painted!

Despite some grumbling by the less talented painters, we all buckled down to work. Lo and behold, our silly rule brought some really skilled painters out of their cocoons! One player, as a protest, primed his minis and then painted the eyes (and nothing else), but most got into the spirit of things. The games became a painting competition as well as a gaming contest, as players vied for the best-looking army.

We also learned how to economize on detail, and paint good rank-and-file quickly. Incidentally, the skills we learned in 25mm came in handy when we moved on to teeny-weeny (6mm) scale...

The moral of the story: Paint your minis. Encourage, nag, browbeat, entice your friends to do the same. Lead figs looks dumb. Primed figs look dumb. Heck, you paid three bucks for that figure, why waste all that fine detail? At three feet, you won't see it unless it's painted.

Besides, lead is poisonous! Do you want Alzheimer's in forty years 'cause you were too lazy to paint yer minis today? :)

Using Colored Pencils

Scott E. Violette (

A while back, someone asked about painting techniques for body tattoos. Has anyone used watercolor pencils on their miniatures? I came across these last week and have been experimenting with them. There are a couple of ways that they can be used.

  • First is to wet the pencil and then draw on the figure what you like.
  • Another way, which may be best for the swirling body tattoos, is to draw the object with a dry pencil and then with a damp paintbrush follow the pattern. This will blend the object with the surface paint, creating a realistic look. If need be, you can touch-up with a dry pencil.

A dry pencil or the standard colored pencil can also be be used for various applications. I use them for wood grain, and they are especially handy when coloring standards.

Making Your Own Decals

Toh Yung Cheong (

Microscale and Xtradecal sell clear decal film (i.e. 'blank decals'). It's so much easier to draw your design on a flat piece of paper than to draw/paint it in on the model.

Painting Metal/Armor

- cyrnoc - (

I use a flat black base, and drybrush Testors silver (not Model Master). By varying the strokes you use, you can often achieve a range of both shinyness and contrast. It is very forgiving, and very fast when doing mass production.

David Kuijt (

I use the following technique for acrylics (which I got from someone else on the net):

  1. Don't prime the figure.  Clean it, but don't prime.
  2. Apply a wash of Liquitex Payne's Grey (a dark blue/black grey) to the fig (adding a tiny bit of dish soap to decrease surface tension -- a good step with using any wash on water-based paint)

Finished. You can polish a bit if you like to get a bit more highlights.

I've also expanded this technique for fantasy and SF figures where I want golden metal, bluish metal, red/pink metal: just choose a very dark version of the shade desired and use the wash technique above.

Finally, for some figures who have a helmet and little or no other metal armour (especially footmen with bascinets, sallets, and kettle helms from the 15th century), I prime the figure, then file the paint off carefully on the helmet.  This works especially well if the helmet is a bit oversized anyway.  You get a really shiny metal helmet, and the rest of the figure is primed (and so the paint will stick).

I've used the same scrape-down-to-base-metal technique as an easy way to add a precise metal rim to a shield or edge of a wagon-wheel.  With a dental tool it is possible to scrape the rivet-heads on a figure with brigandine armour so they are unpainted and shine.  Works pretty quickly, even on 15mm figures.

Of course, I'm not sure how important it is to have shiny rivets on the brigandine armour of a 15mm figure, but there you are...

Painting Checkers

Toh Yung Cheong (

How about checkered decals? Made by microscale, the smallest is 1/16" squares and they come in a variety of colours. Good for larger areas, though I suppose you have to follow the painting guide for smaller areas, though instead of using a brush to draw the borders, how about a 0.1mm felt tip pen?

Painting Flame Patterns

Toh Yung Cheong (

Use a 0.1mm felt tip pen to draw in the design! Don't confuse them with the 0.1mm rapidograph which costs a bomb, this one costs about $1! Note- the ink doesn't adhere to paint well, so don't run your fingers over it after you've drawn it in. On the other hand, if you make a mistake, you can clean it up pretty easy...

To make it permanent, I suppose clear flat is needed.

Painting Straight Lines

Toh Yung Cheong (

You can cheat by using 'parallel stripe' decals made by Microscale (USA) or XtraDecal (UK). They come in a variety of colours and sizes from 1/2"-1/64" For wide stripes, it is best to use 1/16" decals to establish the borders of the stripe and paint the rest in. (esp if there are rivets etc in between)

Neat Uses in 40K: I use Black and yellow stripes on my Blood Angels Vehicles in addition to the regular BA red. Though technically, that colour is reserved for Terminator first company vehicles :)


John Carroll (

A wash needs two components to be effective: a substrate that accepts a wash and a paint that is capable of giving a good wash. Few, if any, paints can do both. A good basecoat is a paint that dries to a dull matte. Examples are most light tans, like Armory Bay, Ral Partha Leather or Ceramcote Old Parchment. A good stain should be darker and dilute easily. One I use is Liquitex Burnt Umber, the kind that comes in squeeze bottles.

A good rule of thumb is:

Chalky matte = substrate
Dark, easily diluted = wash

I use blister pack plastic for my pallettes. A good #0 or higher brush is dipped in water and slopped into the wash-ee. When I get it to the right consistency (experience is the best guide here), I paint it on with the grain of the folds. Keep another wet brush handy to immediately clean up any over-splash.

A handy trick is to paint substrate coats for tunics, belts, packs, etc. (I do a lot of AWI and FIW) first, and to stain several different colors at once. I have done this with a base coat of Ral Partha Asian Flesh, a tunic of Old Parchment, Ral Partha leather straps and slings, and wash the whole thing with Burnt Umber. Good effect.

Citadel has a series of washes. I like the Black Wash over Armory Concrete for dirty white.

Experiment. That's how good painters are made.

When you paint everything you own, you die.

Danny Weitz (

I am an advocate of buying a quart can of Minwax Polyurethane Wood Stain. I use the Tudor Glossy; you may prefer the flat or some other dark shade.

  1. Mix the can thoroughly.
  2. Take the figures (glued to sticks) and dip the entire figure into the can.
  3. Place on aluminum foil or other suitable surface to drain. Use an old or disposable brush to remove the excess from faces and shields.

Works great.

(This is also a great way of "renewing" old or somewhat beaten up lead, and a shrewd way to integrate figures with different painting styles into the same army!!)

Dealing With Yellow Paint

Toh Yung Cheong (

Throw away -- or give away -- all bottles of Citadel yellow paint you have. Replace with Polly S.

Alternately, undercoat white and use yellow ink. (I found this out like many others, the hard way.)

Last Updates
22 July 1998added Washes
28 April 1998some subjects split off
24 April 1998David Kuijt on Armor
25 December 1997using Lift-Off, paper wraps
20 January 1997restructured
Comments or corrections?