Top 10 Minipainting tips

Paint faster with black primer

It is easier to add contrast with a darker colored base on a model. For example, you can use a black primer base to perform zenithal highlighting. READ MORE: 8 MUST-KNOW PAINT BLENDING TECHNIQUES FOR MINIATURES Other methods for speed painting do involve brighter primers, such as the use of Citadel Contrast Color paints. But, even so, if you start with a black primer, painting techniques are generally much simpler to apply, e.g., highlights application with dry brushing technique.

Prime gray or white for general and advanced painting techniques

For the traditional painter, a blank canvas (or paper medium) is often a bright color. The addition of paint darkens the working surface. For the miniature painter, a good tip for applying traditional painting techniques is simply following how 2D painters work. Use a brighter primer color to start your miniature painting work and the workflow will become natural as you practice.

Spray primers are better than brush-on primers

Spraying a primer allows you to evenly coat a model in thin layers. You have a lot of control with a light spraying primer. And, because the primer is atomized into small particles, you run almost zero risk of producing bubbles. Just be aware that for best results, a good tip is that you should apply primer at room temperature (72F or 25C) with relatively low humidity. Check out our professional primer guide. My favorite primer is Vallejo Surface Primer (review).

Varnish your miniatures with a matte sealant

For best results, use a spray varnish. As above, a spray varnish will allow you to evenly coat your model without obscuring details or risking other problems like bubbling or pooling. Make sure you varnish your models at normal room temperature, and avoid high humidity at all costs to prevent “frosting”. A high quality matte sealant will reduce uneven reflections on your model and will improve the contrast of your paint job. Overall, this also helps you produce better photographs of your models with a photo light box.

Use a gloss varnish first to help prevent frosting from a matte varnish

There are a number of reasons for how a gloss varnish will reduce the risk for frosting a matte varnish. In traditional art technique, a gloss varnish provides a base that protects the underlying paint from potential environmental insults that could occur on top.

Dry brushing is powerful

Don’t ignore dry brushing or underestimate its power for painting miniatures to a high quality. You can, in fact, use dry brushing to also apply more advanced painting effects on your miniatures. For example, you can use dry brushing to apply object source lighting (OSL) effects.

Save money by using cheap synthetic brushes for base coating

It doesn’t take much to destroy a brush. The worst thing you can do to make your miniature painting hobby or business a budget failure is to use expensive tools unnecessarily. Base coating models doesn’t require the costly kolinsky sables or even sable natural hair brushes at all. Simply use synthetic brushes that last a long time under abuse, inexpensive, and can handle more aggressive cleaning and maintenance.

Always use the largest brush you feel comfortable controlling

Bigger is better! A wise proverb for painting miniatures is that “the bigger your brush, the bigger your thinking”. This means that if you want to keep the big picture in your head, make sure your brush is big, too. It’s a philosophy that has helped me immensely. Your brush is the bridge between your mind and hand. Try expressive miniature painting! You’ll have more fun when you’re not stuck on the small, itty-bitty things. That #2 point round brush is much better for productive work than the #000 pointy thing with a single hair.

Clean your natural hair brushes with brush soap

A high quality sable hair brush should last you years with good care. Brush soap is amazing. It not only cleans brushes, but conditions the hairs so they stay moisturized. Yes, like those hairs on your head (if you’re not bald). Keep your brushes in good condition and they will provide you with hours upon hours of pleasurable miniature painting. Here are more simple brush cleaning tips for your expensive brushes.

There is no perfect brush or tool

Your tools are merely that: tools. Never think a new tool or gadget will quickly solve your problem with a painting. Sure, you’ll need some essentials to get specific tasks done. But don’t get into the trap of buying new things in the hope those products will magically make you better. Whether it’s a brush or airbrush, remember that nothing replaces practice. Although I’ve learned a lot about tools, including tips and techniques working with them, my budget has suffered from the “pay-to-win” mindset. Don’t make my mistake. Be willing to pay for the quality you need, then stop.