Keeping Going: Miniature Figure Painting Tips from My Friends

About a month ago, I posted about how I assembled and began painting a single Space Marine miniature. The result was good, but a bit dodgy, especially when I took a high resolution photo of the miniature.

So I asked for help.

And the great thing is, I got it. From Blake, the manager of the Games Workshop Hobby Centre in Cairns, who showed me how to shade and highlight. From Nathaniel (former manager of the Games Workshop Hobby Centre in Cairns), the Chief Slave of the Slave to Painting web site, my old RPG mate Simon Taylor and a local gent by the name of Scott Collingwood (check the thread of painting advice on Facebook here).

I even broke out my partway-painted Mobile Infantry miniatures from back when I tried my hand at GMing Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game and gave them a shading and highlighting treatment. They still look a bit dull compared to the primary-colour brightness of the Space Marines, though.

Miniature Figure Painting Tips

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the last month of painting:

I Still Prefer White Primer

Four Mobile Infantry miniatures from Mongoose Publishing's Starship Troopers miniatures game with four Space Marine miniatures from Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 miniatures game..
Ahh, the age old question: Who Would Win?

You’ll notice in the picture opposite that the colours of the Marine on the bottom left are just that bit brighter than those on the other three. Tis in part because the other Marines have only had a single base coat and a shading wash, but I reckon it’s also because I used white primer on that Marine and black on all the others.

Look, I know that black is more forgiving; missed spots stand out like crazy on miniatures primed in white while they just look like shading on black-primed ones. But…

Damn it, I’m doing this to please myself, and I love strong colours. So unless I’m making a Deathwatch Marine (and maybe not even then), I’m going to prime in white and live with correct my mistakes as I go.

Watering Down

(I’m trying to work a rabbit joke in here, but I’m drawing a blank. So, moving on:)

Space Marine with basic shading and highlights
My first run at painting and highlighting using un-watered paint. You can see why that was a mistake, can’t you?

In all my years as a teen reading White Dwarf magazines, I either never saw a single piece of advice about watering down every paint, whether primer, base coat, shade or highlight or somehow thought it was bollocks and ignored it.

Nathaniel, Blake, the Chief Slave and Simon set me straight on this. I should mix one part paint to one part water for normal coats and highlighting, whilst mixing three parts ink with one water for shading.

Using un-thinned paint is the reason why my first Space Marine looks so dodgy in that photo; the paint is so thick that the edges of each layer are clearly visible. Not only that, it makes my pots of paint and my brushes last a lot longer (thank you again, Blake).

Shades and Highlighting

Another thing I have to thank Blake at Games Workshop for is showing me how to shade and highlight to maximum effect.

In case you’re wondering, the words mean pretty much what you’d think; applying paint to a miniature so that the little details, both the raised surfaces and the cracks and crevices, stand out as they should. Yes, a miniature is a 3D model, but because of its size the small details tend to blend in together.

When I stopped in at the Games Workshop hobby centre a couple of weeks ago with my base-coated Marines, Blake gave me a little watered down Carroburg Crimson to shade them with; I applied it liberally across all their surfaces. The colour was a great choice; the dark red came up as a purple shade on the blue parts of my Marines’ backpacks and shoulder pads.

Rather than splurge on a dark green shading wash for my Mobile Infantry, I mixed some Reaper Miniatures’ Kilt Green paint with GW’s Abaddon Black, then watered liberally before applying. The results mightn’t be the same quality as those with a shading ink, but they’re still good enough for me.

Four Tactical Space Marines looking about how I want them.
Four Tactical Space Marines looking about how I want them. See the difference between the Marine in the pic above and now (he’s the one at top left)?

That day at the shop, Blake took a fine detail brush dipped in Lothian Blue to the eyes of my first Marine and then ran the length of the brush along the edges of the shoulder pads to bring them out. I’ve applied that trick with some Reaper Miniatures’ Dragon Blue and Dragon White paint mixed together; if you look at this picture of my Marines after a couple of highlighting passes, you’ll notice how the top of the top-right Marine’s knee pad stands out.

Asking for Help

So I ens by going back to the beginning. Written instructions sometimes aren’t enough; sometimes you just have to ask your nearest expert, whether online or near you, for help.

The good news is, people like to help, especially in a hobby like this. Ask politely. Outline your problem clearly. Take your miniature with you. You never know what a fresh pair of eyes may be able to spot – and you never know just who will turn around with some extra advice!

What next?

I’m not yet done with these Marines; their guns could use some more highlighting (I may have to get a stronger metal paint than Repaer’s Gunmetal), their various accessories (holsters, puches, purity badges) need attention and I want to try my hand at hand painting Tactical Squad arrows on their right shoulder pads.

Then there’s the noble art of basing, where I make the  paint-spattered black bases the Marines are standing on look much more presentable, usually by applying sand to the tops before painting them green.

But what comes after I’m done with these four (or perhaps even sooner)?

That, I’ll save for another post…

Are you producing?

What was the most recent miniature or playing piece or toy or picture or anything else that you’ve painted?

Are you keen?

What painted item are you most proud of?

What do you want to try your brush at next?


Slave to Painting

Games Workshop

Warhammer 40,000

Reaper Miniatures

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