30 January 2012

Painting Tips For The Average Painter

As evidenced from the photos, some of you are downright fantastic painters.  There are others however, that are more like myself when it comes to painting our models.  My paint jobs aren't terrible so long as you are looking at them from 3feet away.  Upon closer inspection you will often see buckles that aren't quite painted, or small smudges where one items color fades into the next.  This hobby is a fantastic hobby that provides me with a social outlet, creative process, and relaxion.  The problem is with limited time I often find myself having to choose between painting, modeling or playing.  Since playing the game for me is the most enjoyable part of the hobby, next to assembling and modding peices painting often gets left by the wayside.

Enter Goris' Scrum painting challenge.

His challenge has ingnited my competitive nature, my paint jobs won't be the best of the bunch, but I will win by completing a model each week if it kills me.  As the first two weeks have gone by and I begin work on my thrid and fourth Scattergunners I found a few things that are helping me plow through a unit.  Solos and Warbeasts take longer individually to paint because I try harder on them.  For the average unit Grunt though, it just isnt worth the effort.  So before I bore you all to death, here are a few tips and ticks that I use to get me through painting a unit of models that are all nearly identical.

Model Preperation.
I do my prep step all at once, usually long before my models ever get paint because I love the assembly/modding phase.  
1) First I assemble the whole unit sounds simple but I'd rather have them all done at once than just do a few at a time.
2) Cleanup, with a small file I clean up any flashing lines or greenstuff overflow.  This and Step 1 ususally only take me 30 to 60 minutes for a full unit of models (Nyss Hunters do not count... they took forever)
3) Base attachment - okay this part is tricky,  if you glue them on the base too well then you'll have to paint around the base... which is a pain.  SO typically I do a minimal glueing, just enough to barely hold it on so I can play with them before they are fully painted (yeah I know I should just get them painted.  Trust me it's just not going to happen.  I predict that my SOBs are ghosts for at least 12  months before anything but primer gets on them)  This is also so when I do paint them I can take the base back off without breaking the crap out of my models.
4) Prime the models.  I put all the models out on my paint board and prime them all at once.  I prefer white and I'll explain why later.  But most people use either white, black or grey.  Usually it takes me 5 minutes to get the whole unit primed.  Then I go back a few hours (days, weeks, months) and make sure everything got hit and apply a second coat where needed.  I would rather do a second coat of light primer that put on too much and lose model detail.

Model Prep for me is usually the first thing I do with new stuff.  This is typically where there is a HUGE gaping stop in my process.  Because now, even though they aren't painted I can play with them.  This typically stalls painting for quite a bit of time for me. My Scattergunners have been primed now for about... 3 years.

Paint Prep (5-10 minutes)
This part is where I have begun a strange ritual based on my painting preference.  It's hard for me to paint at the same place every time.  So I've made the whole system portable.
Materials -
 1)Water Jar -  I use a small empty canning jar for my water... unless I can't find it, then I use a plastic disposable cup.  I fill it about half way with luke warm, room temperature water
2)Paper Plate or old Cd to mix paint on.  I prefer a paper plate because I keep it so I can see my mixes from the previous model in the unit so I can mix it right for the next model (since usually I only paint one or two at a time)  Yeah some people can crank them out... I can't.
3)Small pad of paper and a pen - I learned this early on.  I will document what colors I use for each part of the model and what step I'm on.  Rarely do I use the colors without mixing them... not sure why that is. 
4) Brushes - I actually only own one good brush that is super tiny for detail stuff, spent almost $20 bucks on it and take really good care of it.  ALL of my other brushes are super cheap and I mutilate the living heck out of them.
5) Cloth - I typcially get a paper towel form the kitchen and use it a little to keep clean at first and ALOT when I drybrush the model.
6) Drink -  I can't paint without a cool refreshing beverage, it's important, i prefer Coke.
7) Paint - Yeah I usually forget it unit I sit down to start.  I keep all my paint in the small battlefoam trays I got at Lock and Load last year.  I love them. 
This whole setup usually take me maybe 10 minutes.

Washes (This Phase typically takes me 15 - 20 mintues per model)
I often take the model off the base and stick it on top of an old paint bottle or cork so I can hold the thing without painting my fingers.
1)The first step I use when painting is what I call the base wash.  Dunno if there are scientific terms.  Typically for me I try to go inside out meaning I paint the parts of the model that would still be there if they were naked, then I paint the next layer of stuff they would put on (like most the scattergunners have a shirt under their armor, and they all have leather pants).  Then armor and weapons.
2) My first wash is The Color I want the item to be + a muted  lighter color (usually quicksilver, morrow white, etc) and water it down a ton.  Then apply it liberally.  Generally I have three different base wash colors.  Skin, interior clothing/items, exterior clothing/items.  I also don't mind if the lines mix, I'm more concerned about making sure all the white primer gets paint on it.
3) My second wash is what I call making shadows.  Here is where a lot of average painters like myself can 'CHEAT' the model into doing the work for you.  This wash is the same color you used for the base wash + a darker color (usually black for me) plus water it down... a lot.  Get a little on the brush and get to washing.  Watering it down helps it sink into the lower parts of the sculpt while leaving the base wash less covered in the high spots.  Ta-Da shadows.  If too much of the second wash goes on where I don't want it I'll use an older dry paint brush and lightly go over it to remove it from the high spots.
4)Sometimes I do a lighter third wash simliar to my first wash mixture if my 'shadow' layer goes on too thick.  This is why I choose White as my primer color because the dark shadow wash goes in better and the raised portions stay lighter.

Dry Brushing (This Phase typically take me 20-30 minutes per model)
This is the part that helps me justify the use of cheap paint brushes.  When I drybursh I KILL the brushes.  1) When mixing a drybrush I try to pick a base color that is similar to the wash being applied to but brighter.  I.E. if I use Sanguine Base for my first wash on a kilt, I'll use Kahdor Red or a Kahdor Red Highlight for the drybrush.  Sometimes I'll even mix the second color with my base wash color to help them match a little better.
2) Get some paint in the brush and I mean in it not just on the end.  Brush should be 'mostly' dry maybe a little damp.
3) Paint lightly on the paper towel to remove the paint from the end of the bristles.
4) Lightly go over the area you are drybrushing.  This is the second place you are 'cheating' the goal is to hit only the raised portions of the area you a drybrushing to finish creating the shadows.  Let the model do the work for you.
5) The harder you press on the brush when drybrushing the more paint you will get on the model.
Typically I will mix the drybrush color light and do it at least twice each time pressing softer on the brush as I 'Sweep' the brush on the areas on I painting.

Finish Work (This Phase varies widly depending on the model.  For Grunts like Scattergunners were talking 10 -20 minutes per model)
1) Here is where I get out the $20 brush.  Since I'm a bad painter I usually only do a few things with it.  Eyes, teeth, buckles.. etc.
2) when doing a grunt model typcially the only parts that get detail work are the eyes, quills, some of the bigger buckles.  And when I'm feelign super ambitious the paid.  (the Forces of Hordes: Trollbloods book has an excellent guide for painting the plaid.
3) I think this part is the difference between me and better painters, but lets face it.  Having a table full of average painted models is better than one or two excellent ones and a bunch of non-painted stuff.

Base (The Phase takes 10 - 15 minutes for a quick base, 30+ for a fancy one)
I want to get fancier on the bases, the recent article on the front page for making wood has me thinking I know what base eGrissel will be standing on.  Typically though I put glue on base, throw down some flocking and slap the model back on.  Other times I'll spend just as much time making the base as I do the model.  In the case of the 2ft Grunt model paint job, it's quick and dirty.

Total Average Time it takes me to paint a 2ft paint job and a Grunt model in a unit  including prep time 60 to 75 minutes.


  1. The big problem I have is my paint always looks so thick, especially up close or in hand.

  2. Yeah this is why I water down a lot of my paint and also why I use a thin coat of white primer.

  3. Thinning paints is something of an art (hyuk hyuk) and there's no really absolute answer to it- it's something you have to learn from experience whether a paint feels too thick, too thin, or just right. For most colors, you should be able to get a reasonably solid coat with a single layer; if you find you're having to do multiple layers just to cover the primer, you probably are doing it too thin... unless you're painting red, yellow, or white, and especially if you're doing any of those colors over black.

    The mantra "as thick as milk" is often repeated, but personally I find it to be fairly useless. Some others swear by it, though.

    Another good indicator is brush strokes- if you can see distinct brush strokes in the color (again, usually aside from white/yellow, which are notoriously difficult), your paint is probably too thick. If your paint is "pooling" in recesses and won't stay where you put it, it's certainly too thin.

  4. Red and yellow on black make my cry until my eyes bleed.

    1. That's why I use grey.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who cheats with glazes though. I'd be disappointed in myself but turning out a decent-looking Coven in four hours with minimal fiddly brushwork is a kind of achievement in its own right, I feel.