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Reducing that Pile of Shame - Tips & Tricks.

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In response to @R2ED's question in another thread about converting that large pile of unpainted minis into a large pile of painted ones, I thought I would create this thread for us all to share our tips. 

Here is what I have found works for me. YMMV, and I hope others share their tips for what works for them, so that everyone can find something that works for them. 

Tip #1: Play games.  My primary motivation for getting things painted is to play on a regular basis.  Nothing motivates me to get a painted mini done like have an upcoming game to use it in. 

Tip #2: Set achievable goals and track them. 


At the end of 2019, I decided that I was going to give myself a hobby goal for 2020 of painting at least 1 RPG related mini, 1 unit for a wargame and 1 terrain piece every month.  

When we moved into our current house about 5 years ago, the previous owner's pool table area became my gaming room/painting area.  At one end of the room they had left a white board on the wall, and I decided to leave it up for gaming related info. To assist with my painting goal, I used that white board and drew a grid on it to track my success.   The pandemic almost killed my drive to paint, and it would have, had I not had this chart to motivate me.  I don't have a picture handy of my 2020 progress, but you can see my 2021 progress below.



You'll note that i wasn't always successful in attaining each monthly goal, but overall, you can see that on average, I exceeded them.  Some of these months I only attained what success I did by grabbing something half painted from that sperate pile of shame of half painted minis, and quickly finishing it. 

I should note that my categories are somewhat flexible here - a Unit can be anything from any wargame rules that can be fielded separately under those rules. So a single hero model for 40k or Star Wars Legions would satisfy my classification as a "unit", and indeed, some months were just that.  Likewise with an RPG model - at first I just meant character models, because I had a bunch of PC & NPC models I needed to finish, but once those were done, I expanded the category to count any model i would paint for an RPG, such as a monster for an encounter. Confession - I do have a couple of months where I was able to count some models twice - both as a unit for a wargame and as RPG models - August and March, IIRC.   I also expanded Terrain to include vehicles. 

I did have to set myself a hard specification on what constitutes a completed mini - for me, that was spraying it with a clear coat. 

Upon reviewing my success with 2021, I decided I want to be a little more ambitious for 2022, so I added two more category goals. 

First category I added was I wanted to try and do at least one display model each quarter. I realized my display models were being ignored in favor of gaming models. 

Second category I added was my 40k Sisters of Battle force.  I was looking at my old 90s era 40k armies, and thought "You know, I'd like to actually finish a couple of these armies."  In looking at the options (Eldar, Imperial Guard, two Space marine Chapters and my Sisters of Battle) I decided that the Sisters of Battle force was the most achievable of the goals this year.  

So here's my chart for 2021. As you can see, I had a good start with January (I did nothing but paint New years weekend), but I'm already falling a little behind with February. 

These charts have helped me get more painted in recent years than I did in the decade preceding them. 


Anyway, that's what I've found has helped me reduce my pile of shame (OK, not really, I'm still buying/printing more than I'm painting). 

What's been working for you? 

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I'll post what I posted in the inspiration thread:

Pick a random model and a random paint, use that colour on the model, finish of that model, then pick a complementary model to work on - typically I also use at least one colour from the first model on the second model.
If the random model is a mook, dig out all matching mooks and do them, then continue above.

Another thing I've been using is that on another forum I'm a member of they have a monthly painting competition (mostly just a bit of fun, the winner gets to pick the next month's theme), so I've been taking part in that.

My normal 'pressure' for getting stuff done is trying to get a new army painted for a Wargaming tournament I would normally attend in January, but I haven't been for the last two years, and I'm also mostly out of models to paint for my preferred game system, so I've reverted to the above methods.

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50 minutes ago, ratsmitglied said:

I'll post what I posted in the inspiration thread:

I was hoping you would, to help move the thread along :poke:

51 minutes ago, ratsmitglied said:

Pick a random model and a random paint, use that colour on the model, finish of that model, then pick a complementary model to work on - typically I also use at least one colour from the first model on the second model.

I've been doing a variant of this for units for my mini agnostic games, like Song of Blades and Heroes or 7tv: Fantasy.  Just picking a group of Bones minis, and painting them thematically to make a "unit" 

I'm starting to get a nice little collection of minis usable in my RPGs for nobleman's retinues, city militias, bandits, king's army, etc, without having to use the same half dozen minis for them over and over. No more players saying "Hey, weren't those bandits once in the king's army?" ::D:

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> Tip #1: Play games. 


Yep! I cranked out mini's for Gloomhaven, although the quality dropped. At least I can, um, paint them more later if I want to!


If you like supporting the "little guy" on KS (or even the big ones), post pics of your KS miniatures when your favorite KS creator runs another project.


Still, with the pandemic, I'm noticing some KS going up in price, particularly plastic, so have been able to cut back on the pledges.

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For me, I find choosing colour schemes to be the secret. Once I've picked the right colour scheme, the minis usually come very quickly afterward. I have a big binder of painted Citadel minis (I use their paints) and browse it when I have a few minutes here and there. It's lots of fun to do when you don't have enough time to actually paint something, but need a relaxing, creative boost. I also like to visit the tale of painters blog once a week and look at the tutorials for ideas. 

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@kristof65let me just say how much i appreciate your input and excellent idea on the boards to track.  It's hard to know how many I'm painting at times.  With a big board that shows hash marks and progress at a glance and the achievement over time.  I love it! 


I'll get a board up to try the same.  I need something to motivate and seeing it like that is a great idea.   


You rock! 

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I set a goal this year to paint 2 minis per week, including 1 mini painted in under 2 hours (to force myself to be ok with good, but not perfect), plus 1 small piece of terrain per week.


So far I’ve found that has been good at motivating me to get stuff painted.


The other thing that’s important is to set time aside in your schedule to paint. Goals are great, but you need to plan out how you’re going to achieve them. Otherwise you’ll just fail and give up.

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I did the RCL last year and it was amazing for my painting progress. I've let off a little this year though in favor of trying to do some higher end pieces. I had set a goal to continue with this but after January I was wiped. I committed to 2 minis and happened to get a commission that will take some time to do so I don't want to commit to more than what I have on my plate already.


I've usually done Minivember in Novembers past but the last couple years I've gotten less and less done due to LifeTM


I like the idea of a physical board. I used to use a digital whiteboard website to track this but I never remember to use it lately. I've also tried OneNote for this and it helps a little if, again, I remember to use it. So a physical board may well help this a lot. Just need to find somewhere to put it.

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1 hour ago, R2ED said:

I'll get a board up to try the same.  I need something to motivate and seeing it like that is a great idea.   

Keep in mind that I used the dry erase board because it was there.  A laminated piece of paper or an 8*10 picture frame would likely be just as effective, as long as you can see it to remind you what you still need to finish for the month.  It doesn't have to be big or fancy.

Also, don't despair if you miss one of your monthly goals - just remember, it's a new month, new goal.  Getting past that the first few I times I missed a goal was hard, but once I learned to let go, it actually became easier to "catch up" by doing extra pieces in later months. 

I sat down tonight with a couple of Bones terrain pieces and the goal of completing at least one of my boxes this evening - it was simple dry brushing, but that got me motivated to do a Werebear that had I needed to do for my RPG, so I got that checked off this evening, too.  

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I might wind up doing some sort of board myself...  At least once the 3d printer is sorted out, since that's taking a good portion of my free time at the moment.  Last year's goal was setting up a space where I can just sit down and work on things here and there, even if it's only 15 minutes a night, and that's been oh so helpful too.

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Great thread.


The speed painting 'monthly goals' thread is brilliant as a motivator.


Having lots of things assembled primed and ready to choose from has really helped me. 

I have moved onto a lot of unit painting which naturally gets things done in a batch and on to the table. 


If I need a single troll for a game and have all the Reaper Bones 5 trolls, for example, I will paint all of them at that time not just the one I need. So you are painting rpg minis and monsters 'as a unit' not just having multiple individual pieces in the queue. 


If you care less about a mini (ie he's standing in the back of a unit or she cost £1 or they will be shot and off the board in 5 minutes) you can do a lot with a coloured or basic prime. Then blocking in the colours. A dark brown wash over everything except skin. Then a reasonably careful skin highlight. Then a 'magic highlight' drybrush with light grey or beige over the whole model. 


If there is a detail you like on a mini (ie he has a chicken in his belt, or they have lots of cool things on their staff) then paint that carefully and intentionally because it will stick out to you more than the other details. 


In my head canon Sci fi models all have black guns and have been given light grey armour that gets a black wash. Quick and easy. 


Also, with fantasy models, to avoid the trap of being stuck picking multiple colours for the same details on multiple minis, tell yourself that they have all gone to the same glove shop, which sells one colour in multiple styles, and has also cornered the market in belts and little pouches. Then do the shoes a different colour. 

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This is a great thread, with a lot of awesome tips & tricks! 😄


For just getting stuff done, finding stuff I can batch paint is really helpful. It's not always X amount of the same mini: Sometimes it's just knowing that two completely different minis are going to be painted the same way. For example, I like my translucent ghost minis to just have a bit of white drybrush to accent their shapes, leaving the translucency, and I would also give a white drybrush to some yeti minis that have been basecoated, so I'll do all of them at the same time. 😄


I also find that if I want to get a lot done, I need to lower my own standards a bit. Maybe it doesn't matter if the paint's gone half a millimeter outside its "designated area" on the mini; Maybe I don't have to use three different shades of brown for different details; Maybe I can just do base coat + drybrush, and skip a couple of other steps; Maybe I don't need to research the historically correct colour of that weird item the one mini has hanging from their belt. Et cetera. The minis will still look great on the table, and I can actually use them instead of a bunch of gray plastic. And if I feel like it, I can always continue the paint job later, improving on them. 🙂

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2 hours ago, Guyra said:

I also find that if I want to get a lot done, I need to lower my own standards a bit.

this is actually a good point. 

I spent 3-4 years trying to get better at painting with no apparent progress - I had hit a wall.  Then I gave up, accepted that what I was doing was good enough and just started concentrating on getting minis painted and on the table. 

And then a funny thing happened. 


About a year later, I noticed I was getting better - I had surpassed that wall that held me up for 3-4 years.  Turns out the key is, as they say, "practice practice, practice."  And I've gotten a little better ever since then. No, wait, that's not true - I'm only marginally better than I was when I had that realization - the biggest difference is that I'm faster at reaching that level of quality. I'm still not at the level many people here are - the best I've gotten in the MSP Open is a Bronze, but I digress - my point is that it's often better to get paint on as many minis as you can than it is to achieve perfection on just a few. 

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I've tried a few different things to motivate myself.  Playing games is the best one. It answers the question of "What do i paint?" and also gives you a deadline.  I still often miss the deadline, but if I've started a mini I tend to finish it.

I used to post in the speed painting monthly goals, and that did a great job for tracking my progress, but after failing to achieve my goals a few times I stopped posting in it.

Been pretty discouraged as I painted substantially less minis last year than I did the year prior.  I just don't have the time or energy I used to have.

I'm hoping the game I'm running will motivate me to get through some more. Also helps that I have loosely color-coded factions. It helps speed up my process to grab some colors ahead of time and then make due with what I've selected.

Also in regards to playing games to motivate painting, I've been using Rangers of Shadow Deep to motivate myself to paint a lot of my classic low-level fantasy creatures, even though I've only played the first two scenarios.

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