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Hack Mini Painter

10 Rookie Tips... From a Rookie

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Hi All,

I'm a rookie, and this is not a "HOW TO".  

 

Now that we've got that out of the way, I thought I'd share some things I've learned over the last couple (2) of years. Yes there are more experienced people out there, yest I'm sure they're full of wisdom, and yes I read what they say (the webs are an awesome resource) BUT, sometime it's hard to remember where you started (anyone who's ever tried to hire someone will know what I'm talking about). I just got back into things after 20+ years away, so I thought I might share some thoughts (the world of painting has changed a lot). I'm sure this kind of thing has been done before, take it or leave it, it's the internet, everyone's got a soapbox...

 

In no particular order:

 

1. Aim low, and meet your expectations. This sounds bad, but really, if you're a rookie you gotta keep your expectations in line. The webs are full of truly epic painters, you're not going to hit it out of the park on the first try. If you use the web as your benchmark, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. This doesn't mean don't try, just take smaller bites. For each mini pick ONE part, then try and crush it! Then crank out the rest of the mini in a reasonable amount of time so you can move on. By way of example I offer my IMEF guards ,

Exhibit 1:  http://hackminipainter.blogspot.com/2017/01/in-beginning.html

I really wanted to make the visors awesome, and I tried really hard, and they came out sort of just above brutal, YAY. The rest I just got done. One of my favorite lines is "Don't Miss good While Looking For Perfect" (DMGWLFP), everyone has their own "Good", the heck with what the others think.

 

2. Paint squads! Practice makes perfect. Perfect is a strong word, but you know what I mean. Painting a whole whack of marines is hard, but by the end the last will probably look better than the first (TAKE NOTES). If you do them one at a time you can see what worked and what didn't and then adjust accordingly.  Exhibit 2: see if you can figure out first from last without going to older pages (the photo is poor, but I can tell).

http://hackminipainter.blogspot.com/2017/04/space-hulk-blood-angels-painting-guide.html

 

3. This follows from the last sentence above. YOU, will always see all the errors that YOU think you made! It's good to be aware of your mistakes, but just as importantly, if you get criticism from someone, positive or negative (take a breather to get emotions out of the way) really try and see it from their point of view. They might just be on to something. That said, I don't recommend going back into "finished pieces", because unless you've got a wall of trophies, nothing is ever finished. Take the points (good/bad) and try and incorporate them in a later mini.

 

4. Celebrate the wins! Exhibit 3: http://hackminipainter.blogspot.com/2017/02/slaughterpriest-hakblade-and-wrath.html

When more than one thing meets your expectations, have a party. Put that little guy on display proudly, and show it off. I'm STILL stoked about this guy.

 

5. Sometimes try to paint fast. Painting fast is easy, painting fast and not making a total mess is HARD. Doing hard stuff makes you better (or it crushes your soul). Exhibit 4: I was going home for the winter break and my bro was bringing his Skaven team. I had to have the Dwarfs ready. Painting for table top is a GREAT way to work on your basics. Keep the paint "in the lines", push those highlights and shadows, and some might even end up not terrible. Exhibit 4: http://hackminipainter.blogspot.com/2018/01/blood-bowl-dwarf-team.html

 

6. Try all kinds of stuff. Out of vogue stuff, stupid stuff, whatever. Try mixing metallic paints with other metallic paints and see what happens. Try mixing metallic paints with colors. See if you can seamlessly blend orange into blue (if that works out start at red and go through the whole rainbow, ROYGBIV). The list goes on and on... Experiments are just that, EXPERIMENTS! They don't always work out. Nothing can make you want to soil your pants like trying to add dirt and grime on top of what YOU think is an epic job. Exhibit 5: http://hackminipainter.blogspot.com/2018/07/dirt.html (I tried to add dirt to, what I thought were awesome, home made cobble stones).

 

7. Get a good brush. Given the number of hours you're going to devote to staring at little blobs of metal a $20-30 or more,  (100% sable is what you want in size 1-4, all the rest are garbage), brush ends up being super cheap. Furthermore, a good brush will last through 10s of more minis than a crap one. In my experience the GW brushes are not totally garbage, but for 3-4 times the price you can get something that lasts 10x longer, and is all around better. When I got a good brush EVERYTHING changed. I literally had to readjust my style and expectations.

 

8. Thin your paint, use less  paint on the brush, and clean your brush often (with artist rush cleaner)! If your paint is thicker than cream, you're waaaaayyy off. If your brush has paint up to the metal bit, you're waaaaayyy off. If you only have 1 "rinse" pot, you're waaaaayyy off.

 

9. Save stuff for later. I have a whole whack of mins I'm saving for "later". Only you will know when "later" is, but don't be afraid to put guys on ice while you hone your skills.

 

10. Study your surroundings. Seriously, really try and look at stuff, possibly like you've never done before, just stare at things, just like some kind of stoner on the subway. Stare at faces (staring at actual people just makes you weird, use photos), check out chrome bumpers on old cars (or use silverware/rings etc. for NMM inspiration), look at ads (this is especially stupid sounding but magazine ads are edited by pro photographers/editors/makeup artists/etc), check out the color use on faces and eyes and look at the composition (car ads for SUVs are great for studying terrain. the car always "fits" in with the terrain, and the terrain doesn't take away from the surroundings).

 

I'll stop there, and I'll finish by reiterating how  started. I'm a rookie and this is what I've been doing (trying to do), and by looking at my work (through MY eye's), things are getting better. If you find anything here that resonates, great! If you think I'm full of it, great!

 

Remember, DMGWLFP (see 1).

 

Cheers,
H

 

 

Edited by Hack Mini Painter
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I'd add;

 

11. There's no shame in using the 'tub of shame', aka the paint removal of your choice. 

(A couple days soak in Simple green, or a few minutes in an Acetone-free nailppolish remover does wonders for removing messed up paint)   But really, if it was just a stray brushstroke, paint over it. These paints are so thin that you can put several coats of base colours on without obscuring any but the very finest details.  (Unless you intend to go from a dark colour to a very light/transparent colour, of course. )

 

12. Keep your first finished mini. DO NOT repaint it, recycle it, sell it or anything. In a year, place it next to your latest finished mini and see how much you've improved.   

 

13. It's OK to 'cheat' sometimes. Vallejo have many primer colours, including 'skeletal bone' and 'chainmail'... If you're doing a skeletal army that's halfway there...  

Using white, gray and black primers, with Black wherever a dark or metallic colour is to be used will improve the results. 

(There's also zenithal priming, but that's an advanced topic)

 

14. Use more purple.   

Yes, really. 

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Excellent advice for a new painter. I'd use different language and say some things more or less forcefully, but in general I agree strongly.

 

6 hours ago, Hack Mini Painter said:

unless you've got a wall of trophies, nothing is ever finished.

 

FTFY. No piece of art is ever finished, just abandoned. As you get better, you can see more and more things that you want to fix. You will never get all of these perfect. The trick is to figure out when the right time has come for abandonment.

 

There's a scene in Tim Powers's The Drawing of the Dark, where the protagonist goes into the room of a dead (IIRC) seer and there's a wall that looks entirely black. It turns out that the seer had been working on a scene from one of his persistent visions and he kept adding details until that whole wall was obscured. That was not the right time. :rolleyes:

 

6 hours ago, Hack Mini Painter said:

9. Save stuff for later. I have a whole whack of mins I'm saving for "later". Only you will know when "later" is, but don't be afraid to put guys on ice while you hone your skills.

 

This one is dangerous. I know this because I do it, as do many painters. I've come to believe almost exactly the opposite: Never save stuff 'until you're good enough'. Paint the miniatures that inspire you the most right now. If you fail, you can clean the figure and start again, buy another copy of the same figure, or failing those, there will always be more figures that you want to paint.

 

Life is too short for painting figures you don't love.

 

I know this; now I just have to be more diligent about following my own advice. <_<

 

NB: With exceptions for armies, of course, because there the game is more important than the process of painting.

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Doug and I are in complete agreement, for once. ::P:

 

I assure you that even those painters with walls of trophies have the same doubts and insecurities about their work as every other painter. I don't think you ever lose that feeling of "maybe if I just do this..." Becoming more experienced at painting just brings a better understanding of when to put something aside. Sometimes that's just to come back to it with fresh eyes and sometimes that is to call it "done" but just because someone gives you an award for something, doesn't mean that the figure suddenly becomes perfect in your eyes.

 

And yeah, as Doug says, saving figures for when you're good enough can very much be a dangerous thing. I don't think there's a problem with saving a couple of very special figures for when you feel like you're more able to do them justice in your own eyes. The problem occurs when those couple of figures turn into a dozen figures and then a few dozen and then hundreds. Next thing you know, you're painting figures that you actively dislike just because you don't care if you "mess them up" and that will absolutely kill your motivation. Been there, done that. Now the only reason I will paint a figure that I don't love is if it's the right figure to go with an idea that I do love. Similarly, people who paint for tabletop may paint a bunch of figures that they don't love because it's for the love of the game that they're painting them for. But if you have figures that inspire you and you're just putting them all aside for "some day" you're genuinely doing yourself a disservice. 

 

However, I do think it's ok to say, for instance, "I really want to paint this figure with NMM, but I need to learn NMM first." Then, yeah, probably it's best for you to learn NMM first so that you know how to do the technique that you wanted to do on that special figure. I feel like this is more the sentiment that you were going for. But it is definitely a topic that can have a very slippery slope and I think that most people need to be wary of falling into the aforementioned trap of demotivating yourself by not painting figures that you love.

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4 hours ago, Gadgetman! said:

 

12. Keep your first finished mini. DO NOT repaint it, recycle it, sell it or anything. In a year, place it next to your latest finished mini and see how much you've improved.   

 

 

I am coming up on 2 years painting around Feb/March and I really want to go back and repaint my first mini (well get the same mini and paint it, not actually repaint my first one).  I meant to do it at a year but I had other things to paint ::):  I can see improvement comparing my first to my most recent paint job but I would like to do a more apples to apples comparison.

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If you are going to repaint a figure, get a new copy of it (if you can). Easy with most 28-32mm scale stuff due to low cost of a single figure. 

 

I disagree with painting squads, but I have zero interest in that sort of thing. If it floats your boat, it would be good practice. I learned by painting entirely too many of Sandra Garrity's women wearing lots of cloth. 

 

Add: pick things to focus on learning sometimes, pick times to Do Your Best (until Good Enough is achieved), and pick times to just sling paint. Having that goal lets you set the pressure you want. On the "learning something" it might be that you spend a ton of time painting the hair of a figure, but are simple on the clothes, just so you get out a figure when the goal is to do better on hair. Next figure can have a different learning goal. A favorite figure may demand that sort of time on all parts. Follow it up with a goofball figure. 

 

4 hours ago, Gadgetman! said:

 

14. Use more purple.   

Yes, really. 

 

YES. Vehemently, yes. And purple comes in many flavors. Try all the purples and for many different purposes. 

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1 hour ago, Cyradis said:

If you are going to repaint a figure, get a new copy of it (if you can). Easy with most 28-32mm scale stuff due to low cost of a single figure. 

 

 

This is what I plan to do and it should be low cost since it was a Bones figure.  I just can't remember what he is called but I am sure I can track it down.

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2 hours ago, Cyradis said:

If you are going to repaint a figure, get a new copy of it (if you can). Easy with most 28-32mm scale stuff due to low cost of a single figure. 

 

 

This is something I wish I had learned early on.  I started out with tabletop wargames and on a tight budget, and stripped whole squads to repaint when I changed things or over time, and honestly I kind of regret doing that.  Yes, it saved a few bucks,  (and some company's wargames miniatures can push the budget up there) but I now don't have or can't find anything I painted in my first year or two of painting miniatures.

 

Though I do have a couple of ceramic dragons at my parent's house that I painted several years before discovering plastic, I should get those out some time.

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3 hours ago, thelonegoldfish said:

1. Aim low, and meet your expectations.

 

The only other painter I compare myself to are prepainted minis.

 

There's low, and then there's shooting yourself in the foot...  

 

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13 hours ago, Hack Mini Painter said:

One of my favorite lines is "Don't Miss good While Looking For Perfect" (DMGWLFP), everyone has their own "Good", the heck with what the others think.

 

I've heard Vince Venturella say, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good" and 'Uncle Atom' from Table Top Minions say, "The cost of perfection is prohibitive". I think these axioms are extremely valid.

 

I also like the phrase, "Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to who you were the day before."

 

6 hours ago, Doug Sundseth said:

This one is dangerous. I know this because I do it, as do many painters. I've come to believe almost exactly the opposite: Never save stuff 'until you're good enough'.

 

Guilty as charged. I try to meet somewhere in the middle now and save some "fodder" or less-loved minis for newer techniques or experiments, and save the minis for the things that "I don't want to mess up" after I feel somewhat comfortable when establishing a technique or color scheme. Just a personal guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule though.

 

Edited by Al Capwn
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10 hours ago, Guindyloo said:

But it is definitely a topic that can have a very slippery slope and I think that most people need to be wary of falling into the aforementioned trap of demotivating yourself by not painting figures that you love.

I've seen a number of people fall into this trap...  Some might even argue I've done the same (with at least a single mini, my Minotaur Demon Lord) but even in that case it's more I assembled him, now I need to fill in the gaps, then... I really should have at least an idea of what colour I want him to be (not "normal" brown, and definitely not black, I've done enough in black, lol).  Arguably the same way with Wyrmgear, but it's more because right now I know each time I work on him it's a large chunk of time - that and I'm mulling over a few different ideas first. 

 

Worst I've seen though is someone locally got a mini, but then would barely even take it out of the box to look at it because she "wasn't a good enough painter and wouldn't do it justice".  She's the one who introduced me to Wyrmgear oddly enough...  Meanwhile I have no idea what I'm doing with sculpting and am effectively "winging it" but I'm having a blast... 

 

Paint and enjoy it I say, and it's eerily amazing how steady work helps bring you skills up.  Might not be fully visible from the previous mini to the current one, but it's definitely noticeable over time... 

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12 hours ago, Cyradis said:

Add: pick things to focus on learning sometimes, pick times to Do Your Best (until Good Enough is achieved), and pick times to just sling paint. Having that goal lets you set the pressure you want. On the "learning something" it might be that you spend a ton of time painting the hair of a figure, but are simple on the clothes, just so you get out a figure when the goal is to do better on hair. Next figure can have a different learning goal. A favorite figure may demand that sort of time on all parts. Follow it up with a goofball figure.

That's what I was getting at with tip 1. Pick a part like the goggles, or a cape, or sword and go for it with all your might, then finish up the rest.

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14 hours ago, Doug Sundseth said:

This one is dangerous. I know this because I do it, as do many painters. I've come to believe almost exactly the opposite: Never save stuff 'until you're good enough'. Paint the miniatures that inspire you the most right now. If you fail, you can clean the figure and start again, buy another copy of the same figure, or failing those, there will always be more figures that you want to paint.

 

I wasn't really suggesting that people should be hoarding minis. But sometimes I'll put aside a mini that I really like, and think about it a bit more, and consider things like color and technique. Then, once I decide what I'm going to do I try out said technique or color scheme on another piece to see how it looks. If I like the scheme, or if I think I pulled off the blends that I need then I'll go for it! Generally I like to tell myself that if I did it once I can do it again. :)

13 hours ago, Guindyloo said:

However, I do think it's ok to say, for instance, "I really want to paint this figure with NMM, but I need to learn NMM first." Then, yeah, probably it's best for you to learn NMM first so that you know how to do the technique that you wanted to do on that special figure. I feel like this is more the sentiment that you were going for. But it is definitely a topic that can have a very slippery slope and I think that most people need to be wary of falling into the aforementioned trap of demotivating yourself by not painting figures that you love.

This is what I was going for. Sometimes a little more planning or practice is required. But you are 100% right, don't buy minis you're not into. You'll never care enough and it's not a job (for most of us). :D Painting minis you dig will keep you pumped.

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23 hours ago, Gadgetman! said:

 

There's low, and then there's shooting yourself in the foot...  

  

 

It means I'm happy and actually get stuff on the table instead of endlessly re-doing the same mini. Doesn't mean I won't try new techniques, but for example if my attempt at shading TMM doesn't have as much contrast as I like, as long as the thing still reads like a sword I'll move on to the next one. It's not like I don't have 2.8 kickstarters more minis to try things on or anything?

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