I need some advice on how to paint miniatures

Ethan S.

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Location
Carter County Kentucky
DSC_1120.jpg


So for the first time today, I painted a "miniature". Actually, it's one of those little gray soldiers you buy at Gettysburg souvenir shops. All I had was craft paint and a little-too-big brush. He looks okay, if you stand back, but how do I get results that look like this?

5d66e1f5e264c.image.jpg





One thing I guess I need is good paint, and a smaller brush. What kind of LOW COST paint do you suggest? Any tips on how to use it?



I ask because I bought a set of 10 Confederate soldiers from Perry Miniatures, and I'd like to know what I'm doing, beforehand.
 

Lampasas Bill

Corporal
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Craft paint will do a perfectly good job. I've been painting miniatures for the last fifty years using craft paints with good results. It is best to buy the slightly more expensive brands such as Delta Creamcoat, but brands you can get at Walmart work fine. Don't waste your money on expensive paints, spend it on good quality brushes. For tips on painting check out The Miniature Page.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
I agree.....I use Wal Mart paint, just different shades of Black, grey, blue, brown, tan, white (Antique White works good for haversacks)....In regards to a brush, I use a size "0". Needless to say, I have to use a magnifying glass, but it gets the job done!
Use Tacky glue to glue 2 figures to a popsicle stick, then you can paint them without touching them.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I will, with the utmost respect to all, most politely disagree.

Paint-
The difference between craft paint and hobby paint is the size of the pigment in the paint. Hobby paint has larger pigments and perhaps a thicker 'carrier' that when applied to a figure can hide detail. I use acrylic paint for a number of reasons, the first is it's water based so I can thin the paint with water, clean my brushes with water, use water to retard drying, etc. When I first started painting figures 40 some years ago, acrylic were kind of new to the hobby, most painters then used either oil-based paints, or enamels. Now most have gone to acrylics. I never liked the idea of using a petroleum-based solvent to thin or clean the brushes due to the smell. And I'm largely self-taught; I never took art in school so everything I learned was from some wonderful magazines that used to be available. Now you can learn by looking at You Tube.
The specific paints I use are "Vallejo" which are kind of pricy, but they also have another line called "Model Color" and I don't notice a difference in the quality between them, other than the Model Color might be a little less expensive. Games Workshop also has a line of paints also called Games Workshop. These paints are more intended for role-playing figures, but I really like some of their colors. The company "Citadel" also make a line of colors, and I have some of those. When I first started in the hobby, I used a paint called "Polly S" which went out of business or changed their name years ago. Pretty much any paint you can buy from a store that caters to the role playing, "Dungeons and Dragon" crowd will work. But what I think sets the acrylics apart from oils and enamels is that they dry flat, where the others dry with a gloss or sheen that to my eyes, just doesn't look correct. Look again at the picture you posted of the large diorama. I'm assuming the Union troops were painted with enamels as their blue jackets and kepi's have a glossy look to them. When was the last time you saw wool with a glossy sheen? In most of the painting your going to do, you'll want a flat color because most of the clothing you'll be painting were made with natural fibers of either cotton or wool. In those few times where you want a glossy look, you can either add a gloss overcoat to the flat undercoat, or you simply buy a gloss color. The one difference maybe in a flesh color. With the natural oils on our face, a little sheen there is ok. Or maybe the hair on a horse, or some leather.

Brushes-
I'm pretty hard on mine and the finer the brush, in terms of how many, or few hairs it has, the faster I wear them out. I've got a few that are called "Short Liner" and are 18/0 and 20/0. the bristles are very fine, but also very short, so the paint on the brush dries out quick so I only use them for the finest detail work. I probably use brushes in the 1, 0, 00, and 000 size the most. They normally have synthetic fibers, as I find I wear out something like a badger hair or any natural hair brush pretty fast. These brushes have very fine points, but don't be afraid to trim them a little for your application. I also have a few flat brushes, and I think they call them a "shader" brush. I use this to help blend colors together and for dry brushing and when it starts to wear out I use it for I'll call "grinding." It's sort of like dry brushing, where you load the brush up heavy with paint them rub most of it off on a rag and then lightly run the brush over the figure. My "grinder" technique is somewhat similar except I'll actually use the brush and push it hard into the surface of the figure. It's good for shadows, adding a 5 O'clock shadow to a face, or by varying the pressure and layers you can make a pair of leather leggings looked like the color is fading from a dark green to a lighter one as you paint up the leg.

lighting-
Of course natural lighting is the best, then incandescent lighting, but when I paint at night, I'm finding I'm using LED lighting more. I find that I paint for awhile then stop and come back the next day for a critical look of what I've done the day before. I give the paint 24 hours or so for it to fully dry, even though acrylics dry to the touch pretty fast. I think a 24 hour drying period lets the paint cure and come to it's true color.

Misc.---
There's a lot of miscellaneous stuff to this hobby, and maybe that's one of the attractions for me. I use Yoplait containers to hold my brushes and as water containers. You'll want at least two water containers: one to swish you brush in to clean it as you change colors, and another with clean water to thin the paint. I put a small drop of liquid soap in each so the water flows better, (soap softens the water). My LED light has a magnifier in it, but I also use some high magnification reading glasses (like +300) more than anything. If my painting can pass the reading glass test, it'll look good to the naked eye. You'll need an ex-acto knife and blades. And a rag or two. The rag is made of cotton and I use it to dry my brushes, and to help blend paint with when I do "dry-brushing." And a couple of sheets of paper towels, to dry brushes with, because they do it faster. You'll want to mount the figure to something so your hands aren't touching it, and wash your figure with warm water and soap before you prime it. Oh, you'll want a primer to paint the whole figure with first so the paint will adhere to it better. I like white or a light gray primer, just make sure it's made for figures, again because it has small pigments that won't hide detail, and don't be afraid to prime the figure twice. It may go on heavy but it will thin as it dries. I also like to have a small cardboard box that has a paper town taped to it to use to help hold my hand steady as I try to paint fine detail. You'll want something to paint on. I use a 12" x12" piece of flat floor tile, and a white plastic tupper-wear type container top as my pallet. I'll drip a few drops of paint onto this, maybe a drop of water to thin it, or keep it from drying out, and use it to blend colors on.

Ok, this is enough for now.
In closing, first, thanks for asking. You can buy starter painting kits on Amazon, and they're probably cheaper than if you bought them in a hobby store. I know Vallejo makes a starter kit, and a kit for federal soldiers too, so you can get started with a basic setup for maybe $100.00 which would include a few fine brushes (from Hobby Lobby or Michaels), some paint and primer, and you'd be good to go. I'd start out with the basic colors and learn how to use a color wheel for blending two colors. I have over 100 different paints and washes, because I'm lazy and don't want to blend, but also I'll paint for a few days and then not touch the figure for a week or more. I don't want to try and remember how I got that shade of blue, (did I add 3 or 4 drops of ivory to the Prussian blue?).

As I said earlier, I'm self taught, and maybe that's a good thing. I've got my own way of painting and my own style. It's not better or worse than anyone else's, but it's mine. Someday I'd like to think that some of my figures will be handed down to my grandchilderen.
 
Last edited:

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
I'm self taught as well and agree with Booner . We all probably do things a bit different , but invest in quality paint ( I also use Vallejo and some oils) and have good lighting . I use Winsor and Newton series 7 brushes , but they are expensive and you can get by with cheaper brushes to start . Make sure they have good points . There are many tutorials on YouTube about painting figures , but most are advanced . The Perry miniatures you have are good for their scale and would be a very good starting point . You can slowly work out shading and highlighting . Priming is important before you paint them. Generally speaking , the smaller the scale the more contrast to the shading and highlighting . When you get to large scales such as 120mm you go more subtle . Booner's point about looking at the figure the next day is very good advice . You will catch errors that you weren't aware of .I also take pictures of my completed figures and look at them on the computer to catch any errors .The most important thing is to be creative and have fun .
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I'm self taught as well and agree with Booner . We all probably do things a bit different , but invest in quality paint ( I also use Vallejo and some oils) and have good lighting . I use Winsor and Newton series 7 brushes , but they are expensive and you can get by with cheaper brushes to start . Make sure they have good points . There are many tutorials on YouTube about painting figures , but most are advanced . The Perry miniatures you have are good for their scale and would be a very good starting point . You can slowly work out shading and highlighting . Priming is important before you paint them. Generally speaking , the smaller the scale the more contrast to the shading and highlighting . When you get to large scales such as 120mm you go more subtle . Booner's point about looking at the figure the next day is very good advice . You will catch errors that you weren't aware of .I also take pictures of my completed figures and look at them on the computer to catch any errors .The most important thing is to be creative and have fun .

I'm happy you posted this, as I think you're one of the best painters I've seen. Quality work all the way.
 

rebel brit

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Location
United Kingdom
One thing I guess I need is good paint, and a smaller brush. What kind of LOW COST paint do you suggest? Any tips on how to use it?

Wow some great advice from everyone. My tip would be to invest in some decent sable brushes sizes 1 and 0 .
In regard to paints I'd advise using Acrylics such as Vellejo or Model Color and maybe as a suggestion to keep the cost down perhaps only buy Primary colors and mix the the colors you need yourself. Plenty of tips on YouTube.
The important thing is to enjoy the painting experience.
 

Ethan S.

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Location
Carter County Kentucky
Wow some great advice from everyone. My tip would be to invest in some decent sable brushes sizes 1 and 0 .
In regard to paints I'd advise using Acrylics such as Vellejo or Model Color and maybe as a suggestion to keep the cost down perhaps only buy Primary colors and mix the the colors you need yourself. Plenty of tips on YouTube.
The important thing is to enjoy the painting experience.



For Civil War miniatures, I have a bit of wiggle room because they were so varied. But when I start on the WWII miniatures, that's when I'll have to buy specific paints, because heaven help me if a uniform is one shade off to some, lol!
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
I will, with the utmost respect to all, most politely disagree.

Paint-
The difference between craft paint and hobby paint is the size of the pigment in the paint. Hobby paint has larger pigments and perhaps a thicker 'carrier' that when applied to a figure can hide detail.
I agree that the right paint is important.
When I began building model airplanes 50 years ago, I bought Testors paint at 10 cents. I really messed up a Stuka when I tried mixing colors to make a Tan. I may have mixed two brands but but the colors didnt mix.
I found a better paint that cost me 50 cents. It didnt streak or leave brush marks and drier to a smooth, matte finish. I started using Foquil (I think I spelled it right) which sold a lot of RailRoad model colors. I dont paint much now but I keep a set of Model Master.
I never got into Acrylics.
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
For Civil War miniatures, I have a bit of wiggle room because they were so varied. But when I start on the WWII miniatures, that's when I'll have to buy specific paints, because heaven help me if a uniform is one shade off to some, lol!
There is a lot of color variation in WW2 uniforms as well . I saw a picture on the internet of a collection of German uniforms ( field gray) and NONE of the colors matched each other . U.S. khaki can run from green to brown to tan with every shade in between . That doesn't even account for the weathering the uniforms endured , especially in North Africa and the Pacific . Once again , just have fun and improve your skills and don't get discouraged by so-called experts .
 

Ethan S.

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Location
Carter County Kentucky
There is a lot of color variation in WW2 uniforms as well . I saw a picture on the internet of a collection of German uniforms ( field gray) and NONE of the colors matched each other . U.S. khaki can run from green to brown to tan with every shade in between . That doesn't even account for the weathering the uniforms endured , especially in North Africa and the Pacific . Once again , just have fun and improve your skills and don't get discouraged by so-called experts .


I know that, you know that, Logic knows that, but my buddies on the WWII forum are like hyenas when it comes to proper uniform colors, paints etc. lol!
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
I know that, you know that, Logic knows that, but my buddies on the WWII forum are like hyenas when it comes to proper uniform colors, paints etc. lol!
I noticed that on some other sites because I build a few WW2 armor and airplane kits . If you look at photos from the war you will notice such things as a Sherman tank with one of the tracks put on backwards and very sloppily hand painted invasion stripes on Allied aircraft . I don't think that would do in a modelling contest . There has been a great discussion about exactly what shade a particular RLM Luftwaffe color was . I am a bit of a "button counter" because I want the figure I paint to be sculpted accurately , but colors can vary a lot in reality . I like painting Confederate uniforms because there are so many variations in the grays used . Even Union uniforms vary with blue running from very dark to even slightly purple -blue as they faded . As I said be creative and have fun and don't worry too much about so-called experts .
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Don't waste your money on expensive paints, spend it on good quality brushes. For tips on painting check out The Miniature Page.
I'm responding so that I can agree with the excellent advice offered by Lampasas Bill. I'm not a painter of miniatures, but I'm a career commercial artist / designer/ illustrator. I've also exhibited in numerous gallery shows, so I think I can speak with a little authority. High quality brushes will keep their "spring" long, they'll point better, they'll last longer overall, and they'll just plain work better for you. Of course, you will need to take good care of them. There is nothing wrong with using excellent quality paint, too, but lower cost paints will often work very well. The difference in paints is often the amount of pigment in the blend. More expensive paints will usually have more pigment. This is why some brands of house paint are more expensive than others--they "cover" more easily. Note @Booner's post where he cautions that thicker pigments can hide detail in miniatures. I've seen and held his work in my own hands, and he knows what he is doing! Buy the very best brushes you can find for now.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I know that, you know that, Logic knows that, but my buddies on the WWII forum are like hyenas when it comes to proper uniform colors, paints etc. lol!

Well, I hope your friends on the WWII forums realize there is a difference in the shades of color between a parade ground uniform, and the shades of color in a uniform that's been in use in the field. One would expect that to colors in a parade ground setting would be very similar to each other because they didn't wear that uniform very often. A uniform worn in the field could be anything from newly issued to something pretty faded. I think the longest I wore one set of fatigues was a month before I got the chance to get cleaned up and wear something else. Thank God that we were in the desert so we didn't stink too bad.

Don't over-think this too much. Start off small with a basic paint set and a couple of good brushes and concentrate on your brushwork. Once you've got that down, you can try shading and highlighting, doing that will really improve the look of your figures. For me, the hardest part of painting a figure is the eyes. If they are not right, no matter how well you paint the rest of the figure, it just won't look right. The next hardest thing to paint for me is flesh tones. Every manufacturer makes 2 or 3 "flesh" colors but as the paint comes from the bottle, they just don't look right to me. The closest flesh color as it comes from the bottle to me is a color called "Salmon Rose" from Model Color (paint code 037). This color is the base I use on all flesh, and then I'll blend in other colors, very subtlety, to highlight or darken other areas of the flesh.

But you're starting with Perry Brothers figures, which are really good, but at 25 or 28MM you don't need to worry about all of these fine techiques. They really don't come into play until you start painting larger figures. Just go to Walmart and get a pair of the highest magnification reading glasses, and if your painting looks good at 3X magnification, it will look really good to the naked eye.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
I paint 15mm figures, 16 figures at a time, for my "Johnny Reb III" game table.
Due to the size of the figures and quantity painted at a given time as well as their utilitarian use (the figures get handled a lot), rather than for a "scenario", I find the variation of WalMart paints suit my needs.
For larger scale figures that will be used as art or for a static scenario, I will agree with others that a higher quality paint is needed.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Your figure looks great! Especially for a first outing! My first miniature paints were my Marx "Blue and Gray" playset figures. I painted them one day when I was home sick from school in 7th grade. (All of them - there were what? 80 in the set?) I used tempera poster paint! It gave a great flat finish, but lasted about 48 hours! I have no idea of how many thousands I've painted since then. I have no idea how many figures are on my shelves now! I usually paint with Testors military flats, and use water-based acrylic craft paint for those strange colors that I don't want to custom mix. I paint everything from 6mm to 54mm. I'm a wargamer, so I look at my miniatures as highly embellished pawns. I don't paint faces; I don't do shading and I rarely do washes. So the style I paint in is called "flat style." I'm happy with it, though. I do recommend a coat of clear matte spray when you're done. It'll give the paintjob a harder finish and will make it last longer. Here are a couple recent efforts. The British desert rats I painted about 2 weeks ago. The gangsters are a couple years old, but the game pictured was last weekend.

8th Army patrol.jpg


Dawn at the Farmhouse.jpg
 

rebel brit

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Location
United Kingdom
I've never seen the Gangster figures before and are something a bit different, are these gaming figures also. Nice job on both sets.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Those are recasts of the Marx "Untouchables" figures. They were originally cast in the late 50s, but these particular figures are from the late 90s. You can find them for reasonable prices on ebay. The detail and authenticity is quite good; clothing is accurate; weapons are well defined. Poses are very animated. They were fun to paint. I did a lot of research on 30s men's clothing colors and accessories!
 

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