Miniatures Painting 1b

OK, so I've given you a few things to think about in regards to your tools in Painting 1a.  Now it's time to apply some of them and actually start painting some miniatures!   You've primed your miniature, assembled your paints and brushes.  Now you ...

Well you better mount your miniature on something.   You can't handle your mini while you're painting it, can you?  If you do, you'll be pulling the drying paint off with your very own fingers!  Mount your mini.....  you know what I mean.  Get your mind outta the gutter.  The lass above has been temporarily mounted on a slotta-base for better handling.  Minis with bases can be mounted on sticks, the tops of paint jars, etc with a dab of glue or "blue tack" putty.  If it's a "slotta-base" mini you can re-use your mom or dad's old roach clip from the 60's to a more legitimate purpose.  Ask 'em first though. 

Use some sort of "paint mover" brush to carefully paint the various parts of the miniature the colors they should be.  Some call this "Block Painting".   That's all there is to this first step.   Mind you, this is hard enough for a beginner, to "color within the lines" like that. Practice, man, practice. You should have this down pat before you move on to anything else. If you don't do this right, your minis will look bad even with advanced techniques applied.  The above is also the typical quality of "complete" paint job you see from beginners, and is typical of a lot of the miniatures you see at public games.  Very basic.  So basic in fact that it doesn't do most minatures justice, so we'll just have to add some more stuff to our bag of tricks!

A "Wash" is essentially thinned-down paint or ink that is applied to the miniature and is allowed to run down and build up in the recesses, leaving the higher raised areas free to shine through.  I love to use Windsor-Newton inks for this purpose.  Experiment with different manufacturers of paint and ink and find something that gives you the result you want.  If you go the route of Windsor Newton, get the above colors, but get six bottles of Peat Brown - it us useful for mass painting, metals, flesh washes, you name it.  You'll be using it again and again. 
You will want to achieve a consistency that allows the base color to shine through.  If not enough shows through, add water.  If too much shows through, add more ink (or paint) or wait.  Below is a picture of an ink wash and a picture of a miniature similar to the one above that has been given an even coat of ink, in this case the versatile "Peat Brown" with very little water added.

Washes & Inks

Quite an improvement, eh?  I would rate this miniature as "acceptable" quality for gaming at this point.  At least you can see some of the details on the mini itself, rather than just "blocks" of color.  Make sure that your coat is nice and even and that raised areas are not overly covered with the wash color.  If your wash is of a decent consistency, then it should behave properly, but if it's too thick you may need to go over it and "mop up" some of the wash with a brush while it's still wet.  

With washes, darker colors are usually thinned down and put over lighter versions of themselves, but if the situation calls for the reverse, feel free to do so.   Lighter colored tan or khaki washes on top of black or gray vehicle tires are a great way to simulate caked-in dust and dirt!

The Wash..... and the figure......

A great example of this technique is wood.  The wooden object starts out a very dark color.  In these cases I have primered them with Krylon Utra-Flat black.  Then they are dry-brushed a dark brown, med brown, and light brown.  You can see from the example that the deeper the recesses, the more pronounced the effect is.   "Yes, but how do I do it?" says you.   "Here's how..." says I....


Washing is the act of putting darker colored paints into the recesses of lighter colored surfaces.  Dry-brushing is the opposite of that.  It is the art of placing lighter colors on top of darker ones while leaving the darker ones alone. This technique works best with rough surfaces or those with strong contour lines.

Get some paint onto your flat brush.  Then wipe most of it off.   You should leave enough on so that you can paint across the surface of your hand and just raise the print in your skin.   More will leave more paint on the mini and will have a pronounced effect, less will add more subtlety to your shading.  The above example shows a proper dry brush applied to a piece of kydex plastic.  The glob on the left is a circular brush stroke, the one on the right was done with a linear up-and-down brushstroke.  That's the one you wanna use.    

Some miniatues, such as ones that simulate wood, have strong contour lines.  If you dry-brush against the contour lines you will achieve the effect you want. 

Since dry-brushing is a dark-to-light technique, the more layers you build up the brighter your miniature will become.  Building up from a dark brown to a light brown in more layers has given the miniature bench on the right a brighter and more contrasted appearance while maintaining the deep recesses of the wood.  You can also start out with a lighter "base" color, and have the overall effect be more subtle and brighter.  Practice among several dark-to-light ranges.  You will need to, as painting hair usually involves very subtle dry-brushing of some kind.  More on this later.

Washing and dry-brushing are complementary.  Both can be used on the same miniature to expand the overall look of the mini and make it "pop".  Just make sure your washes are completely dry before you start dry-brushing that sucker!   Below are some specific example of minis and the techniques involved.

I had to bust out a unit of Kuo-Toa fish men for a game.   So I primered them in black.  Then I dry-brushed the netted tunic various types of khaki and tan.  The shield and spear haft got the standard "wood" technique.  Then I painted the flesh a very light green color and applied Windsor-Newton "Apple Green" ink over it.  The belt was a small swath of yellowish tan with a glob of Peat Brown ink over it.  

Cheapie construction sand for the base, and I was done.  Game never happened, so I eBay'd 'em.  They went for a good price.

No, this is not a drunken hillbilly hoax, it is an ACTUAL BIGFOOT miniature striking a "classic pose" from his performance in a minor art film  back in the 1970's. It was replayed with gusto through such outlets as "In Search Of" with Leonard Nimoy and still finds play today.

It also illustrates the point that dry-brushing isn't just a technique for mass-painting of medium-quality miniatures.  Applied correctly and with practice, it is a top-flight shading technique that can be used with many "rough" surfaces such as fur, grass, etc. 

Several layers and colors were built-up from black.  The base is again the cheapie construction sand with a few garden twigs thrown in.  I bought a packet of teeny-tiny leaves years ago and several have found their place in this homage to homey fall colors.

And lastly we have the "Toxic Spirit" miniature from the old Shadowrun game.  This one started from black and was dry-brushed from bottom to top with odd colors such as charcoal gray, reds, greens and yellows.  The globs were then inked green, orange, and yellow for a rather odd effect.   Yes, dry brushing can be subtle.