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Cuig

Learning to paint, looking for advice

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I've just been given an old Warhammer miniature kit and decided to have a go at building it and painting it to see if I enjoy it. I don't actually intend to play tabletop wargames with the minis once they're painted; I'm more interested in learning how to paint them properly.
 
I've been down to my local Games Workshop to get a couple of brushes and some paints - the guy was very helpful in terms of getting everything I'll need to assemble and paint it - I've got some black primer, two brushes (standard and fine detail) and half a dozen little Citadel paint pots (plus things like superglue and a pair of cutters to put it together in the first place).
 
He also gave me a small plastic archer model to practice painting on just in case it all went terribly wrong the first time I tried and said not to worry too much, because it's more about technique than anything. I've done that and it doesn't look too terrible, but I don't really know what kind of technique I'm aiming for. I'll try to get a photo of that when I get home tonight, if anyone reckons it might be useful to see.
 
I've looked around online to see if I can find anything to actually learn how I'm meant to go about painting the mini, but haven't really managed to find anything. Does anyone have any advice for starting out painting minis?


 

OK, here's a few shots of my first mini: Front (1), Front (2), Back

Edited by Cuig
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  If you don't mind spending a little money, I suggest the Dark Sword DVD set by Anne Foester and Jen Haley for a good overview of miniature painting starting with the basics.  There's a lot of videos on Youtube, but they usually cover narrower topics.

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YouTube is a fantastic source for free painting tutorials. My favorite is Dr Faust's Painting Clinic. He has good guides on painting basics, as well as guides on painting specific items (lots of those guides). He's my go-to for painting white ^_^

 

Also useful are the many tutorials you will find pinned at the top of this sub-forum. You may have to sift through some of them, as a number have expired, but I've found excellent toots for painting red, painting black, and painting gemstones. All of which are more difficult than they might seem at first :blink:

 

Also, you can use the search function on this forum to find information on a technique you're looking for. And of course, if you can't find the info you seek that way, post a topic asking your question ^_^ The folks here are veritable fount of painting info!

 

ETA: Also, don't hesitate to post your work asking for advice on where you can improve. That's the fastest, best way to get useful information from these folks! Post a WIP, ask for help, bath in the helpful advice! ^_^

Edited by redambrosia
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Funny enough, finding where to start is possibly the hardest part.  After that it gets easier to target specific improvement areas.  In some ways its a little like teaching a bird how to fly, "jump off high place, try not to die.  Got that? ok now here is how to improve your technique."  In general, the most important things are: Get full coverage in each area you are trying to paint.  thin down your paints on your pallet before putting them on your mini, this results in a nicer surface and doesn't obscure detail.  Try to color within the lines to start, one of the hardest things to acquire is brush control you can get into more advanced techniques later.  Tackle thos fundamentals and you will be doing well.  Then target the thing you dislike the most and ask about how to improve there.  Then you are on the painters hampster wheel of constantly trying to improve :P.

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A few tips for the beginner:

 

1) Gently clean out the flash and mould gates from your fig with your cutter and the backside of an x-acto knife blade.  Consider investing in some micro files to aid in this task.

2) Prime your figures lightly.  You don't need to coat every single micron of the miniature's surface for it to do its job.  Heavy coats of primer will obliterate details and turn your detailed miniature into a snowman.

3) Save yourself some frustration by attaching your miniature to a "handle" to keep your fingers from smearing the wet paint as you're working.  I won't delve into types, as it is a personal preference - I use flexible plastic squares that  I hot glue the miniatures to.

4) Thin your paints with water (at first).  Try and get them to a point where they are fluid (you can run a brush through them without the brush leaving a "trail" through the puddle)  but are not washing out.  This takes practice.

5) Multiple thin coats of paint on the fig are better than one thick coat of paint which obliterates details, and leaves you little room to correct mistakes, etc.

6) Try working from the inside-out.  ie: "dress" the miniature - skin first, then layers of clothing, then gear.

7) Clean your brushes thoroughly at the end of every paint session.  Learning to how to clean and reshape your brushes correctly will save you a lot of time, money, and sanity.

8) Invest in some top coating.  A clear gloss will provide excellent protection for your paint work, and it can be followed by a matt coat to dull down the shine.  Again, opinions vary, so do some reading into the best methods/products to use.

9) Spend some time on-line reading about what other people are doing to get their figs painted, and shamelessly steal their ideas/methods.  This forum is great for that.  However, there is no "right" way to do any of the work, just what works for you.  You'll have to develop your own approach, and that will require a lot of trial and error.

10) Paint.  Reading will only get you so far.  The more you work, the better you'll get.  Do yourself a favour and save that first fig you paint.  Then come back to it every now and then - especially when things are frustrating - to see where you started, and how far you've come along.

 

The Egg

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Expanding on Eggs numbering:

 

11) Light! A good source of light is your friend to really be able to see the details. Also be aware of what sort of light the mini will usually be seen under. If it's always under a fluorescent light, it'll look different than under an incandescent light with lampshade and different than under direct sunlight.

12) Brush technique. Pointy brushes don't like poking. Don't force the paint on the surface with stronger strokes, when you have the right amount of paint in the brush and the right consistency, the paint will flow from the brush to the surface by itself.

13) Washes and highlights. Darker does not mean "more black", brighter does not mean "more white".

14) Remember that you are creating the illusion of a large figure under direct sunlight and the brain is tricked into imagining the rest. So contrasts are exaggerated (deeper shadows, brighter highlights). Same goes with painting "pure" black or "pure" white. You paint the illusion of having all black/white.

 

Did someone mention "Enjoy!" Don't stress at it not looking as best it can. Badly painted is better than no paint at all. Plenty of us have taken old minis, stripped them of their paint and started over, while others keep their old ones to see just ow much progress they've made over time. I know I'll always keep my first mini as is.

Edited by Cranky Dog
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Have fun.

 

Don't worry if you aren't great at first. I'm still not great after years of painting. The only way to improve is to keep painting.

 

I second Dr. Faust's videos on YouTube. There are also some really good WIP tutorials in The Craft section of this website.

 

The most important advice I can give you is to just put paint on a mini, and then worry about improving. Cranky Dog said it best, "Badly painted is better than no paint at all."

 

Also feel free to share photos of what you've painted and ask for c&c. I do. It helps.

 

Cheers.

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Thanks a lot to everyone who's chipped in - I really appreciate it :-) I'll definitely check out Dr Faust on Youtube, that seems like an excellent place to start out.

 

@Egg and Cranky, I think I'll probably get more out of your posts when I've watched the Faust videos so I'll re-read those and reply with any thoughts/questions after I get that done.

 

I'm just updating the first post now with some photos of my first mini which is very roughly painted, if anyone wants to take a look to see where I'm starting from :P

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If you have any trouble seeing small details, start with good light, ideally daylight or a couple of daylight CFL or LED lamps, or even a light that mounts on your head. 

 

If that isn't good enough, and for many it won't be, look at your glasses or contacts, if any, and magnifiers.  A magnifier can make it possible to see details even if you have poor near vision (e.g., farsightedness or presbyopia).  I like magnifying visors, which cover both eyes for depth perception, since I wear glasses, but if your uncorrected sight is good, you can use plain reading glasses which are generally pretty cheap.

 

Light and vision are basically the Rule Zero of painting.  You can't paint well what you can't see well.  Also, if your eyes feel strain after painting or other close work, I have found a magnifier extends how long I can see comfortably.

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I'm just updating the first post now with some photos of my first mini which is very roughly painted, if anyone wants to take a look to see where I'm starting from :P

 

Like with most crafts, it's small steps at the beginning. (Well, it's actually mostly many, many small steps forever, but there you go.  ^_^ )

 

Your work is pretty clean for a new painter, which makes for an excellent place to start. The next things that I'd work on are going back over any place where the paint has drifted out of where you want it (there are only a few that I can see) and start painting in highlights and shadows (as noted above, you have to do that for the figure to look right; you can't just trust to the shape of the figure to give you believable effects).

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YouTube is a fantastic source for free painting tutorials. My favorite is Dr Faust's Painting Clinic. He has good guides on painting basics, as well as guides on painting specific items (lots of those guides). He's my go-to for painting white ^_^

+1 for Dr. Faust. His videos helped me when I was getting into the hobby.

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Practice practice practice! Put paint on minis. Each mini, try at least one new technique. (This'll be really easy for the first few!) Before you know it, you'll have a pretty good grasp on the hobby, and you'll be able to ask more specific questions.

 

Also, once you're sure this is something you enjoy and that you intend to stick with, buy a Kolinsky sable brush. (My preferred brand is Winsor & Newton Series 7, but there are others out there.) A professional-quality brush makes painting so much easier, and your skill will very quickly make a marked improvement. I also suggest trying to use fairly large brushes, since it allows you to keep more paint on the brush at one time, which really does make painting easier. (There are some dissenters who paint entirely with itty-bitty detail brushes, but it's generally agreed that bigger brushes are actually easier.) The key here is that good Kolinsky sable brushes have a razor-sharp point no matter the size, so little tiny "detail" brushes aren't needed. I use a W&N S7 size 1 brush for 99% of my painting. Mid-tier "hobby" brushes like I assume you were provided at GW are fine, and I've seen masterpieces painted even with super-cheap craft brushes, but the better the brush, the easier it becomes to paint, and the better your painting will be as a result.

 

Lastly, I absolutely second the suggestion that you always keep your first mini, and never strip it, sell it, or give it away. It's really nice to be able to see where you started.

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Yeah, for a first figure that's not horrid at all.  Make sure you keep it somewhere safe so you can look at it in a few years and marvel at how much better you've gotten!  : )

 

Brush control looks good, palette looks limited but that's to be expected starting out with a minimal set of paints.  I'd focus on contrast on the next figure, and probably highlights & shading on the one after that.

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An addendum about brush sizes is that they aren't standardized across the industry. One maker's size 0 might be another one's size 1 or 00.

 

Also, itty-bitty detail brushes sound like a good idea, but their problem is that with so little paint on the brush, they can dry out too fast before you can add any proper detail.

Edited by Cranky Dog
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