Monday, 8 April 2013

Painting - a correspondent asks...

RogerBW (who also gets full marks for commenting using OpenID) asks:
any recommendations for "painting for absolute beginners" guides that refer to brands of stuff available in the UK? Or indeed a quick checklist from you? I haven't painted a mini for at least ten years...
I think anyone who's read this blog for any length of time can predict my answer to this, although looking back, I haven't actually summarised my approach in a single post, more captured it in a few 'here's how I painted this' piece. Anyway - here goes:

If I was starting afresh, which I pretty much did when I ditched my reliance on Citadel paints, I'd pick up the Army Painter starter set, a can of black primer and a can of Anti-Shine varnish. You should be able to get these from most reputable UK wargames vendors, and there's a list in the links section top right. If you need any other colours, AP do a wide range, and the Vallejo range is compatible, even more comprehensive (US Army M1943 uniform shirt colour? no problem, sir!) and readily available.

The advantage of the current AP starter set is it contains (as well as the paints) a bottle of their Strong Tone ink, which I now prefer to using their dip as I can be a bit more precise with it. It also, I believe, comes with their how-to guide, which can be downloaded from their site anyway.

From here on, it's simple enough even a klutz like me can do it. Undercoat, leave to dry. Paint the model in block colours, nice and bright, allow to dry. (The ink will darken things, which is why you start off with good, bright colours.) Don't do anything clever with highlights yet.

You can stop here, and you're at the point I got to painting figures for D&D in the '80s.

Now for the good bit. Wash with the Strong Tone ink - let it run into all the shadows, try and work it away from the highlights and carefully coax it out of the places where it's determined to puddle. Once you're happy, leave to dry.

[You can use their dip if you prefer instead of the ink: while it's messier, it does have a slight advantage that it shrinks a little into the shadow detail when drying. Of the two processes AP recommend, I go with slopping it on with a brush rather than the all-out dip method. On the downside, it's messy, your first reaction will be 'oh my God, I've ruined it' and it isn't water based, so brushes take a bit of cleaning.]

You can stop here, and you'll have something that (once you've applied the Anti-Shine) actually looks pretty decent from 2' away. If you want to tart it up a bit further, you can lightly drybrush highlights with the original colour over the ink, before you varnish. This is particularly useful for faces, as the ink does tend to darken those quite a bit. Andy Hawes uses this approach, but he actually uses dip, not ink - even so, the results are stunning.

And there you have it - add basing materials, varnish, and you have figures to wargames standard in really not very long.

There are a couple of tweaks:
  • if you're lazy, like me, pick a primer colour other than black, as that'll save you some of the block work. If you're really clever, you can spray stuff on the sprue (see my Fireforge Sergeants): it doesn't matter if you miss odd bits, as the Army Painter range includes exact matches for each spray for touchup. 
  • get the Soft and Dark inks as well - the Soft works better on whites/yellows/light shades, and the Dark better on really dark shades, and you can wash different parts of the model in different inks - again, see my Sergeants. This is something you really can't do with the dip.
As an aside - I get nothing from Army Painter for this. Just a very happy ordinary wargamer who isn't the best painter in the world, but gets to churn out things I'm mostly not embarrassed to put on a table, with the aid of their excellent stuff.

[News flash, for those doing this with WW2 - Plastic Solider Company have just announced a set of Army-Painter-like spray paints for WW2 stuff - I SHALL be buying loads.]


  1. I've tried a few of these colors and must say that I am absolutely amazed about the quality! The shade is the best that I ever had.

  2. Thanks! That gives me a shopping list. (My paints have dried out, but the brushes are still good.) Anything that goes wrong is now clearly All Your Fault. :-)

    1. Depending on how good your brushes are, Army Painter do do a very good range - the triangular-handled wargamer range are well worth the money.

  3. Vallejo also do starter packs of paints if I remember right.

    That's good advice for someone getting back into painting Mike (or even for someone who has been painting for a while, but only to a basic standard).

    A couple of other tips:
    1. Keep a couple of brushes aside that will only be used for metallic paints
    2. Water cups - you'll need at least 2: one for "dirty rinse" and one for "clean rinse". Some people have a third for "metallic dirty rinse", but I've never encountered any problems with just two.
    3. Buy a small dish of "Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver" soap and clean your brushes with it at the end of every session. It will make them last much longer. There are some good videos on YouTube on how to use it - try the Awesome Paint Job channel.
    4. If you are using black primer, for some colours (white, yellow and orange in particular) you will probably need to do an undercoat before applying them. For white I'd suggest using a light grey; for yellow/orange use something like yellow ochre.
    5. Brushes - a lot of people (myself included) swear by good Kolinsky sable brushes. They are a bit more expensive to buy, but do tend to last a lot longer than standard brushes, and generally retain their points better. They do require a little more care though as they are designed for use with artists' watercolour paints.
    6. Do trawl the internet for hints and tips. There are a number of great websites (eg Dr Faust's Painting Clinic) and YouTube channels that give great advice on how to do various techniques.
    7. Buy a decent desklamp with "daylight" bulbs. It is amazing how much difference it makes to your painting.
    8. Don't worry about mistakes you make early on - with time and practice your painting will improve in leaps and bounds.

  4. After years of experience I'd say go for Vallejo paints and avoid GW paints and brushes like the plague! I also avoid sable as the brushes are expensive and tend to splay more than nylon (which also last longer).

  5. Just a quick note that I do not drybrush the highlights on my models, but I paint them on as a regular layer on top of the dip using the basecoat colour...

    I shall be trying the inks if I can get some at Salute...


Views and opinions expressed here are those of the commenter, not mine. I reserve the right to delete comments if I consider them unacceptable. Unfortunately due to persistent spam from one source, I've been forced to turn on captchas for comments.

Comments on posts older than 7 days will go into a moderation queue.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...