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Total newbie, seeking some advice about starting out


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I want to get into painting metal miniatures, and having found this place, I thought I'd ask for some pointers about getting started.


I'm totally new to it all, and own no minis, paints, brushes or other supplies. I do have a workspace, with natural light, so that's a start I guess!


First of all, I had a look at a lot of minis, painted and as they come, then read some guides online, trying to remember what I can, and bookmarking a couple. This all followed getting really disillusioned with plastic prepaints, really quickly. I mean, nothing against them in theory, but they're just not 'doing it for me'. I need more customisation, more freedom.


Mostly, I'm a roleplaying GM, so that's the primary use these things will get... assuming they turn out alright!


I've got a bit of money to splash around for getting set up, but of course the more I can spend on actual minis, the happier I'll be. :)


If I should've just stuck to reading FAQs or something, point the way and that'll be that. Otherwise, it'd be great to hear what you all have to suggest.



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Well, learn to paint kits and other such products aside...


If you care to say... where are you? Are you aware of any local stores that may host painting clubs or know of other painters in your area that you could meet? The advice and support of others can go a long way toward helping you get on your feet. You may even find someone hosts classes in your area, either for minis specifically or other kinds of modeling (the techniques for which are often applicable to minis).


Game conventions are another option. Anything that gets you in touch with others that share your interest.

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Honestly I'd start with a Learn to Paint kit as it has everything you need to start painting on your own.


If we knew where you were located then as Whiz said we might be able to help you find local painters to help out.


Overall, if I were just starting, I would want these things:


A good brush. Just skip over the cheap ones and buy a Reaper Master brush to start with.

Basic paints. I know there's a couple of threads on essential paints (can't really search for it right now but someone will be along to link it) so you had the bare essentials to start. No point in buying the whole set right from the get-go but if you have the coinage and want it, have at.

Task lighting. Natural light is great. Until it clouds over. Or you want to paint after sunset. Get a task light and at least a natural light bulb. Ott is good but expensive if you're not that into perfect color matching.


Other than that you need minis. Find a couple you like and give it a try.

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If you're building a set of colours, the easiest way is to pick a miniature and buy colours for it. Then repeat for the next one, etc. I did this when I was building plastic model kits, and you can accumulate a nice palette that way without either having heavy upfront costs or being short paints for the project at hand.


If you've got a bit of money and would prefer a larger set, but without spending too much, check out miniature-giant.com. They still have a fair amount of blister packed older Reaper Pro paints for pretty cheap. I just bought a full set and some Reaper Master Brushes from them. The Pro Paints, even ones that have been discontinued for 2 years, were still in perfect shape.

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I'd actually say get one very good brush and one cheaper brush. The cheaper brush will be good for things like washes, drybrushing, inking, and stuff you might not want to subject that more expensive brush to! I also use a cheaper brush for basecoating, as thicker paint can cause the more expensive Kolinsky sable brushes to suffer more wear and age faster.




1. If you are not comfortable with mixing colors, I would say that Buglips has a good philosophy in choosing a miniature first and buying specifically the colors that suit that mini. Then expand your collection with your next mini, and so on!


2. If you are comfortable mixing paints, then just buy a good red, yellow, green, blue, dark brown, light brown, yellow ochre (that mustard color), black, white, and a medium skin tone you like. Make your shadows by mixing black or dark brown in and your highlights by mixing white in (and/or yellow where appropriate!).


3. If you really want instructions from the ground up and a starting selection of colors, the Learn to Paint kits are a pretty good value. They give you a synthetic brush, two miniatures, five full bottles of paint and a bunch of sample colors in little pods, as well as a decent set of instructions on working with the colors in the kit. I would suggest starting with Kit 1 (Armor and Fur) or Kit 2 (Skin and Cloth). The other kits get more advanced from there. Buying both Kit 1 and 2 gives you a decent selection of colors to work with. ::):


You may wish to invest in a palette of some sort for thinning your paints. For detail work and for things like shading and highlighting, thinning your paint at least a little bit is a must. You can also just use a disposable foam or plastic plate or a cheap ceramic tile to start with if you're low on cash and want to experiment before deciding on a real palette. ::):


Hope that all helps! We are all here to help, too, so if you need any advice or feedback as you progress in your decisions and start your journey, just post! ::D:



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I also agree on the learn to paint kits. They were a big help for me starting out, and Anne's instruction in them is top notch. I'm going to buy some to give out as Christmas gifts this year.


And yes, yes, yes, YES! to buying a good Reaper Master kolinsky brush. I stuck with the cheap ones for a long time before finally upgrading to a good one and it is a huge difference. As Anne said, the cheap ones are still good for grunt work (especially drybrushing, since that's the kiss of death for brushes). It cost me $80 worth of cheap brushes to get half the result I got from one good Master brush.


One other item of use if you can find them at a reasonable price is a set of small files. A mix of round and flat ones is good. You'll need these and an X-acto knife (#11 blade will do) in order to prep the minis and remove seams and such. It's pretty easy work with the right tools, and it will substantially improve the finished appearance. Most Reaper minis I've gotten are extremely high quality castings with a minimum of seamlines and flash so you may be able to get away without filing for a little bit, but at some point these will become essential tools.

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All the others have had good suggestions, mine are just on top of theirs.


- Like Whiz said, where are you out of? A good paint club, or even just a fellow painter can speed your progress along nicely.

- I've seen a lot of people go whole hog, and buy everything they need, just to find out they don't enjoy the hobby (not just this hobby). Better off to start small and figure out if you like it first. Then you'll have a better idea of what you want/need to continue on.

- the learn to paint kits are good, my only complaint with them is I don't like the miniatures in them. This is not to fault Reaper, as there is simply no way they could make everyone happy. If you don't care for the minis in the Learn to Paint kits either, buy something similar to work along with - you'll generally be happier painting something you want to paint.

- on the same note - some minis can be deceptively detailed which can make them complex to paint. Reaper did a good job on selecting the minis they put into their Learn to Paint kits - if you do buy a different mini to start with, be aware that one that is too complex or too different could hinder your progress with the kit.

- practice, practice, practice, and don't get discouraged. Scattered around here are posts with some of the first minis that people who are now well known for their skill here, like Phil (flynn), Marike, Anne, etc where they highlight some of their first attempts. One of them even had a post where they had painted another copy of their first mini a year later to show the difference in their skill level. When you look at their humble beginnings, it's a lot easier to feel good about your own. Of course, some of them were just naturally good right out of the box, and disgust me, but that's another topic ::P:

- if you can, set up a permanent painting area, and leave it up. It will make it easier for you to paint for a few minutes at a time, and keep motivated.

- If you'ld like to try and avoid the shelf of shame that most of us mini painters have, don't let your mini buying habits get too far ahead of your ability to paint. Set some arbitrary number, like 5 or 6, and never let more than that number of unpainted minis build up in your collection.

- Good luck trying to keep to the above tip. ::D: Seriously, a good (and more realistic) way to keep a handle on it to begin with is try to keep your ratio of painted to unpainted miniatures to more than 50%. Get the two in your learn to paint kit painted, that will let you go buy two more. Get those two painted, and you can buy four more - etc, etc.

- Keep reading these forums for good tips, and post your works here for feedback. We're pretty gentle on newcomers around here, and everyone we can sucker, ahem, I mean encourage to stick with the hobby is a bonus to us.

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I pruned my shelf of shame from 400 to 200, and then yesterday I bought another $110 of old Ral Partha to start the cycle again.


It's something like having eyes bigger than your stomach. But it's hard to resist, with literally thousands of seriously cool miniatures out there begging to be bought.


I think I'm going to start leaving them in their blisters and dumping them in a box. Then I can have a box of shame, kick it under the table, and not have to look at it and feel guilty. Maybe take it out once a year to ogle my precioussess and then put it away again. ::P:

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I'm lucky in that I severely pruned my Shelf of Shame prior to ReaperCon. And then promptly got the Armies of Shame.


But I also have a number of odd minis that will probably be put into the PnT pool at RastlCon if we don't have enough mini vendors contributing. So that's one way to reduce the numbers.

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I think I'm going to start leaving them in their blisters and dumping them in a box. Then I can have a box of shame, kick it under the table, and not have to look at it and feel guilty.

Yeah, I've done that. Only they take up more space than in my Chessex boxes, and get noticed by my significant other faster. Worse, since they are still in their blisters, the suggestion that I could try and return them is often part of that discussion.


Better to open them and hide them in a mini case somewhere.

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Welcome to the boards and a great hobby! Vutpakdi’s article is probably the best and most accurate “what you need to start article” I have ever read. Everyone so far has offered some pretty good advice that I have very little to add to.


First I will reiterate that if you splurge on any one thing you need for this hobby brushes are it. If you are trying to save money here it will only result in frustration later.


Second when it comes to paint there is really only 6 basic colors you “need”: black, white, brown, red, blue, and yellow. (Brown is optional if you are a hotshot at mixing paint colors.) For ease and consistency, I would add to that orange, green, purple, flesh color, silver metallic, and gold metallic paints. After that add to your collection as your painting projects require. If you do not have a store that sells Reaper Paints, or other paints designed for miniatures, then I would suggest Liquitex artist paints because you can always find art supply stores.


Finally let’s look at your work space. Rastl is right that you will want a task light/ desk lamp. Ott Lights are nice, but real pricey. Also their bulbs are proprietary, so when you have a burn out you will have to replace it with their expensive bulbs. For the same price you can get 3 75W natural light compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and the lamps to put them in. In essence, they are the exact same thing the only difference is that the CFL fits into a standard light bulb socket.

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As someone else mentioned, take care when picking your first mini.


Do not grab the multi-part, crazy fighter with 6 weapons and 27 pouches, all sorts of armor meticulously sculpted, showing each buckle as your first mini to paint. It does take time to work up to that level of detail. You don't need to start with a no-detail robed wizard, but don't go crazy. Having a big cloak or skirt is a nice place to start...good thing to learn control on.


Make sure its something that inspires you. Or very important to your campaign. I started painting minis when my DM stated "If you come to next game with a painted figure, you get a free level." I started with a Citadel learn to paint kit almost 10 years ago. This year I bought 1/2 the Reaper's Master's series line. We won't talk about how much pewter I have sitting around.


Accept that you will have a learning curve. Your first mini will not look like Viaitalla's latest mini. There's a good chance that an 11 year old's mini will look better than yours. (I am always humbled by the Hatchlings entries at GenCon.) However, that's where you start. I remember being really proud of a lot of my first figures. I look at them now and wince. Those first figures, I didn't really have paint go where I didn't want it, but I didn't know what shading, thinning paints, washes, or dry brushing was.


Don't try to do blending, non-metallic metals, lining, lighting effects, and free hand on your first mini. Start with the basics: prime the mini, 'color between the lines', maybe some washes and dry brushing. Post it here, and people will comment on it and offer suggestions. Figure out what you want to work on for your next mini, either by "ooh, cool figure" or "hmm, I want to practice X"


Don't be scared to start. You learn by doing. Yes, read up on FAQ and tutorials. However, all that babble won't make sense until after you've done your first couple of figures. Then that comments will suddenly make a lot more sense. (Why should I spend time prepping my mini? I just want to paint!....oh. that's why.)


Welcome to the addiction.

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