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Is it possible to learn to paint completely by yourself?


celestialkin
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Hey guys,

 

My title pretty much says it all. Sadly I do not have any local groups or clubs who paint minis anywhere near me, and I am the only person I know who enjoys making his own models for role-playing. Everyone else in all my local stores only buy the premade D&D minis, so I am a bit of an oddity. The owner of the biggest gaming store chain here is even having a hard time "getting rid" of his Reaper minis at his main store, since "nobody wants them". The only painters near here are strictly GW 40K players, and I have some bad history with said group.

 

Basically, whenever I pull out one of my converted and self-painted minis/characters it always gets some attention, even though my painting skills are VERY basic (the only technique I really know is how to drybrush, and even then I don't know how to correctly do it).

 

Anyways, I have just spent most of the day and all of tonight (it's 2:11am) trying to learn how to do the very common painting techniques in your Painting Glossary, but I've gotten nowhere. Even surfing through old threads on here, searching the net, and constantly trying to reference back to your stickies I just don't understand anything. At most I think I am begging to understand how to make a wash, but I have no idea how to use one. I just spent over an hour trying to discover the difference between a wash and an ink (no luck yet >_>).

 

I am also a very big visual learner, and bit of a kinesthetic learner (learning by having something to do physically), so I am confident this is one of my current problems. For example in college I learn very little, if anything, from my textbooks, so I have pretty much stopped reading them.

 

I really enjoy converting all kinds of figures, but converted figures look even worse than normal figures without paint. :rolleyes:

 

 

tl;dr:

I have no one to learn from anywhere near me, so I was wondering if it is possible to learn this hobby completely by yourself. I figured the pros here would be the best people to answer this question.

 

 

Thanks in advance for any advice and opinions!

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100%, emphatically, yes.

 

I think to start with though, you need to readjust your focus. As opposed to trying to learn a technique...forget about it. Just take the paints and start pushing them about on your minis. The terms in the glossary don't really mean a whole heck of a lot (I was using most the techniques long before I had ever heard a term assigned to them). Get a picture of what you want, and try out different methods to try and get that result. You might accidentally come across a technique that you find useful for doing something else as well as figure out how to do what you want.

 

Once you get a handle on figuring out the paints yourself - you can go back and fiddle around with the various articles, tutorials and step-by-steps on the web and in magazines (and the occasional book). The methods will make a bit more sense once you have seen the paint do certain things as opposed to someone saying this is a glaze, now you want to drybrush, now you want to highlight...pretty much worthless for anyone who doesn't know how the paint moves yet.

 

Worse still is that most the terms are blurry and highly subjective. One persons wash is another's dip and yet another's glaze. There is no single answer to any of the questions you have been asking, so each time you ask - it will get a little more confusing...not less.

 

Just play with it a bit - that is what paint stripper is made for you know.

_____________

 

As far as your other issue - where is here? I've been most places and have always managed to find a few people who paint anywhere that a miniature could be bought. There may be another person on this very forum who lives across the street from you who thinks there is no one else who paints minis where they live.

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I would even go as far as to say that you can only really learn to paint on your own. Developing a painting style is about what YOU think looks good (and opinions are very divided here) and how YOU achieve those results (since there are usually techniques that differ to achieve similar aims, and everyone has certain techniques that just dont or really do work for them).

 

Getting inspiration from other miniatures is great, as is the discussion of techniques. It is great to chat about ways to do things, and to see what people have done, and this can be very important. However, I scan the web for this more than actually talking to people 'live'.

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Ink is ink. Ink is stuff- a liquid, with dyes in it. Ink is a tool.

 

A wash is a way of doing something.

 

So you could pick up a bottle- picture it. It has the word "INK" on it, and you think to yourself "This Ink-stuff could be used for the doing of a wash-act."

 

Here's an exercise for you: paint an area with slightly thinned or unthinned paint. When it's dry, mix some paint (especially any of Reaper's "Liners") about 1:3 with water. Slop it on the area. Congratulations, you have "washed" the area. You may have noticed that it was very messy. Think about how you might do it differently, based on looking at the result, and on watching the paint move.

 

Seriously, if you break out some paints and come back, I think we can explain several things for you. That's only us helping you a bit by naming things, though: you learn by doing. I personally have never been shown any painting technique in-person, ever.

 

I have a great explanation for what "layering" is, too...

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Possible? Yes, if you take notes and observe what works and what doesn't work.

 

However, having someone else who can show you techniques and bounce ideas of off (and occasionally other things as well :;):) will make the process faster and more enjoyable. Even having someone at the same level (or even a lower level) will help.

 

Ron

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I have no eye for art, but was able to bring my painting up to a level that others complinmet me on. I did it by comparing my minis to online pics and other well-painted minis I saw. The question I kept asking was, "What do I like so well on this mini that isn't on mine? What did they do that I did not to make it better?" It took quite a while, and lots of practice, since I'm not naturally artistic. In a way, that wasn't learning by myself, since I was constantly referencing the work of others.

 

So, yes, you can learn to paint by yourself. Where possible, attend a class, or just watch someone else paint.

 

Quick tips:

 

Drybrush - use a flat brush. Lay it almost flat on the paper towel to wipe it off - this avoids "big glob of paint" surprises. Less is more - the biggest mistake you can make drybrushing is in having too much paint on the brush. DON'T thin your paint for drybrushing. This is an exception to the "always thin your paint" rule, but thin paint is too wet & runny for drybrushing. The best drybrushing I've ever seen was done with unthinned P3 paints the consistency of thick mustard.

 

Wash - just thin your paint until it's transparent, then slop it on. It will pool in the crevices and darken them (this assumes, of course, that you know to use a darker paint than the base coat). It's a quick and effective way to differentiate the areas of your mini. Ink can be used instead of paint for this.

 

Ink - the main difference between ink & paint is that ink has much more pigment. Therefore, you can thin it down a lot and it will still have good coverage. Example of ink use: http://www.hacklopedia.com/miniatures/mushroom_patch.shtml I don't use inks much, they are a bit tricky. However, Reaper's liners perform a similar function and are easier to work with.

 

Glaze - like a wash, this is an application of thinner than normal paint. However, a wash is meant to darken the model, and is often applied to the entire mini or whole sections. A glaze is LIGHTER paint, always applied selectively to make a raised part of the model stand out. The effect is the opposite of washing. Successive glazes (AKA layering) can be used on even smaller portions to increase highlighting more. This is best accomplished by mixing in a lighter color with your base color, and for each layer, use a lighter color and paint a smaller area. The hard part is using the right brush and the right amount of paint. Too much, and it turns into a wash (of the wrong hue); too little, and you're drybrushing.

 

There you go, a mini-tutorial. Now go practice!

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Yuppers the answer to your question is definitely a yes. Now, you may not get to the level of Haley or Anne completely by yourself, alone. But I didn't have anyone to teach me the ways and within two years I was cranking out some pretty good minis. I did surf this forum a lot for tips and advice but until recently I didn't have anyone to paint with regularly. Also if you can manage to attend cons once in a while and take some classes that way you will improve a bit quicker. But it is definitely possible and probable to learn to paint well by yourself.

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To answer your question ... (as someone else said) emphatically YES!!!

 

I've taught myself (with a lot of reading on the net), and I'm now pretty happy with what I'm producing (when I can find the time).

 

One book that I found useful for very basic stuff, and some terminology, is the Games Workshop one (I find it much easier to have something I can carry with me, and read on the bus). If you want to get results like what you see on this forum, you will have to go beyond what is in that book, but it does give you a starting point. Reaper's Learn to Paint kits are probably an even better idea.

 

The best way to improve, is just to paint minis, and try to make each new one better than the last. Sit back when you are finished, and honestly appraise your work ... see what worked well, and what didn't, and pick on something particular to concentrate on next time.

 

You mentioned the prepainted plastic D&D minis, most of my mini painting is repainting them (I run a painting challenge on one of the DDM websites) - if you are just starting off, it's much more encouraging comparing your paint job to the original factory one, rather than a Reaper mini to the gallery picture (or examples on CMoN) :;):- (the very cheap prices for commons and uncommons helps too).

 

Another suggestion I'd make, is get hold of a digital camera, and learn how to use it to take photos of minis. That way, you can ask for help online when you get stuck on something, or want to know what you should do to improve.

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My thoughts on Madog Barfog's suggestions/comments:

 

Wash - just thin your paint until it's transparent, then slop it on. It will pool in the crevices and darken them (this assumes, of course, that you know to use a darker paint than the base coat). It's a quick and effective way to differentiate the areas of your mini. Ink can be used instead of paint for this.

The MSP liners work very well for shading washes. You will want to play around with the dilution ratios to see what works for you. You'll probably want to start with a more dilute wash until you get a feel for how dark the wash will darken everything.

 

Ink - the main difference between ink & paint is that ink has much more pigment. Therefore, you can thin it down a lot and it will still have good coverage.

My understanding is a bit different. As I understand it, ink is dye in a different base (than is used for paint). Paint is finely ground pigment in a base. Ink will sometimes bleed through to underlying layers and be soluble in water (if you wet it again). Ink also can make things quite shiny.

 

Glaze - like a wash, this is an application of thinner than normal paint. However, a wash is meant to darken the model, and is often applied to the entire mini or whole sections. A glaze is LIGHTER paint, always applied selectively to make a raised part of the model stand out.

 

I also use glazes of the midtone (or base coat) to smooth out the transitions between highlights, midtones, and shadows.

 

Glazes are also useful to tint or shift the color.

 

Ron

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My honest answer is also a yes, with the caveat that if you ARE able to get around some other painters and just see what works for them you are often able to improve faster. For example, I learned a thing or two by myself, then went to one paint night with Jester and my painting improved by leaps and bounds. I was VERY happy with the difference that one night made-now, much of what I learned from him was stuff I could have found on the net, things like "thin your paint", don't use craft paint, use decent brushes, etc. Some of it was stuff that REALLY helped to see though, like HOW thin to thin, or how he placed brushstrokes. About a month later, I went to Reapercon, and that's when my painting skyrocketed again! I've improved steadily since then with practice, practice, practice. I have improved a lot on my own, I have learned a lot from short bursts of watching others and picking their brains.

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Sure, but why would you? Conventions are your holy grail. Online forums are your conscience and guide. Use them!

 

Going it alone isn't so bad...most of us have been there. I whole-heartedly agree with what Joe said about pushing the paints around--this is art, you have tools, work with them and learn what they do...thinner, thicker, different colors over different colors...

 

You might be thinking there is only one way to do a "wash" or one recipe for exact right thinness of paint, but there isn't...thinning the paint to the consistency you want is just that...the way YOU want. When I'm painting, I thin it until it looks like it would work for me...thinner here, a bit less thin there, and I only know by experience, and sometimes I'm just winging it to see if it was enough. No? Maybe do it again and again until it looks good to me. Use some common sense and just play. Online should tell you what a wash is, only you can know it by practicing and gaining experience..but where does wash turn to glaze? Only by your own intent. A wash is a technique to darken the cracks and crevises, a glaze is a technique to change the color of a surface or help blend...the exact thickness of each depends on what you need and how you apply it.

 

Play, work the paint, and soon you'll find that you're doing techniques defined in the Glossary in a way that works for you.

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You also don't say where you're located. There might be someone relatively close that could help you.

 

I started painting 'on my own' and did decently enough but really only started improving to my own satisfaction after working with people.

 

You say your FLGS isn't friendly towards painters. Well, maybe there are others who feel as you do. Put a notice on the board and have your meetings at the library. Most of them have a community room you can use for free.

 

Also, post examples of what you're working on and you'll have this entire community to help you improve.

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Yes, I absolutely think you can learn to paint by yourself, but since you have resources like this forum, and the folks on it that are pretty willing to be helpful, then you don't really have to "go it on your own". A resource like the Reaper Forums will be very useful in the long run. Just be patient and hang in there. Think of your current ability and progress like tossing pebbles in to a bucket. While we can't say how quickly you will be tossing the pebbles in to the bucket, as long as you keep at it, you'll get better.

 

I started painting in a relative vacuum, with very little external help other than an occasional article I happened to find in an old Dragon magazine, or a qucik tip offered over a D&D game. Very early on, the most significant techniques I learned were "applying washes" and "drybrushing". Woooooo.... (the "Sherlock has just uncovered an important clue" music sounds in the background...)

 

I had painted some capes, and I think someone said "Take some darker paint, like brown or black, and water it down, and then 'wash' it over the cape to create the darker shadows in the folds...". Then, I had painted some chainmaille with silver, and someone said: "Try painting the chainmaille black first, and then brushing a little bit of silver paint on top of it, so that the silver only gets on the tops of the rings and not in the holes. That way, it will look like chainmaille!"

 

You know, since I started painting all of those years ago, there have been some significant changes, like uh... THE INTERNET!!! and forums like this. Although I was "top dog" in the small town where I was from, Interent sites like this Reaper forum and Cool Mini or Not have resulted in unbelievable increases in techniques, talent and competition. Although my painting is not yet up to the standards of folks like Jennifer Haley, Alexi Z, Viking Lodge or Meg (fieldarchy) it is still pretty good. The most important thing is that I've never lost the hunger to keep getting better. Looking at all these mini painters' works doesn't discourage me - it just makes me want to keep trying to get better. I encourage you to adopt the same attitude. I think if you do, you can't help but to succeed! ::):

 

Good Luck!!

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While I was on here and we were talking about a the definitions of some techiques, I did want to mention something.

 

Madog Barfog, you stated the following:

 

Glaze - like a wash, this is an application of thinner than normal paint. However, a wash is meant to darken the model, and is often applied to the entire mini or whole sections. A glaze is LIGHTER paint, always applied selectively to make a raised part of the model stand out.

 

I'm not trying to be nit-picky or start a flame, but I don't feel that this is the correct definition for a glaze. I do have a Bachelor's degree in painting, so I'm going to throw a couple of Fine-Art terms out and try to explain them.

 

Glaze - For the purposes of painting minis, most of the time, a glaze and wash can be thought of interchangeably. I said MOST OF THE TIME. To be more specific, in Fine Art terms, a glaze is a term you'd use when painting in oils, and a wash is a term you'd use when painting with watercolors. Both are thinned down paint that is darker than what it is going on top of. With both, you see the "underneath paint" coming through. The technical difference is:

 

With a watercolor wash, the pigment is thinned down with water, goes on the paper, and then the water evaporates, leaving the pigment. It's sitting there basically at the same level as the underneath color, but the underneath color also shows through too.

 

With an oil glaze, the pigment is thinned down the same as with the water, only it is with an "emulsion" that is oily-like. (There are lots of different glaze mediums, but I'm not going to go in to that here.) By looking at images from oil painters like Rembrandt or Van Dyke, you'll see them using tons of dark-brown glazes.

 

A good way to imagine both of these examples is with the following verbal illustration: Imagine you're sitting at the breakfast table, and you're having pancakes with syrup and drinking black coffee. You spill some of the syrup on the red-and-white checkered place matt, and also manage to spill some coffee on it too. After the coffee dries out, you can compare the two spills and see that the red and white checkered pattern is coming through on both of them but the color is now changed where the spills are. The coffee has stained the page. The syrup is sitting on top of the page. BOTH change the color of the checky.

 

Now, here's the big thing... Madog - what you have described is a SCUMBLE. A scumble is where you take thinned down lighter paint and paint it over a dark area. With glazes or washes, you are taking thinned down darker paint and painting it over a lighter area. So, just have some milk with your breakfast and spill it too! ::):

 

It's not that we have to add "scumble" to our glossary of terms here, but it is important to note that the glaze is dark over light, just like a wash.

 

Make sense?

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Worse still is that most the terms are blurry and highly subjective. One persons wash is another's dip and yet another's glaze. There is no single answer to any of the questions you have been asking, so each time you ask - it will get a little more confusing...not less.

 

Hrmmm...

 

Hate quoting myself - but this is why I hate paint glossaries and official definitions. Fact of the matter is that there is no official definition of any art technique. I know a number of people who support themselves entirely through painting (some of them being very, very successful) - and I am not talking about painting miniatures. They often comment about how funny it is to have art instructors correct them when they do little expositions for schools regarding a term they use. Apparently the old adage those who can do, those who can't teach (and quibble over terminology) holds true yet again.

 

Forget about the terms, they really don't mean anything. If linguists didn't feel a need to put it in a dictionary - there wouldn't be any purpose of assigning a word to the technique...you just do it.

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