Painting Your Miniatures
Okay, we're ready to do our first miniature. These techniques should work with virtually any type or size of figure. Your preferred techniques may vary.
1. Now that you have your figure you first want to get an idea of how you need to paint the figure. If it's historical, you'll want to look through your books and pictures. Once you've found them, you'll want to make sure you have the desired colors. Keep this near your table somewhere. I often find myself referring to my pictures while I paint.
2. This is not neccessary, but I like to get my units together so I can paint by units.
3. Clean your figures. Miniatures have mold areas on them where the molds press together. Some times there is a leak in that area or slipage creating what is referred to as Flash. This is the metal that has slipped out of the mold and can disfigure your figure. I generally check for this when I buy my figures because cleaning is time consuming. Some of the companies I purchase figures from are because they have a high quality of clean moldings, and good detail.
Use your Xacto knife to cut away large pieces of flash. Don't cut too deep and be careful not to cut away the details of your figure. I find the worst place to be the bottom of the figure, which will need to be smoothed out before you can glue it to a stand or base. That's where the big file comes in handy. Cut across the underside of the figure base to remove big chunks of flash. Then use your file to smooth the bottom. Small gap areas, such as arm pits, bends in the arm, or crotches sometimes collect more flash than the rest of the figure, and you may have to cut away the flash before using your finer files to smooth the areas. You'll want to use the fine files to smooth out areas you cut, and the less flashy areas. Note: Not all figures require cutting of flash. If you find a good molded figure, you may just have to use your files. Be very careful when you use your files so you don't mark figures or file off any of the detail.
Some figures also contain a mold release. When I paint 6mm range figures I like to wash them to make sure most of the agent is off the figure. The larger figures depend on if I feel some excess on the figure while I'm cleaning. Plastics are the same way. Assemble the figure. I prefer to do this step in most cases after I paint. Some folks prefer to glue the rider to horses rather than painting the rider and horse seperate. Shields and weapons work the same way. Try it each way and see which way you find easier or like. The Zap glue is good for that step. Let the figure dry thoroughly. If you assemble after painting, make sure you didn't get paint on the glue point or scrape that spot off to get good adhesion. Make sure the glue or paint has had enough time to dry before you handle the figure futher or that the paint is dry before you glue. I find this really important for larger models.
Either way, once you've gotten your figure ready to paint use your glue to glue it to the popsicle stick or whatever you want to use to hold your figure while you paint. You don't need glue for the hemostat, but be careful when use the hemostat, and don't forget the rubber bands on the handle to help hold it. I like to mark the stands to indicate units when I do more than one or two figures at a time. Makes it easier to divide them into units on their bases. White glue takes a long time to dry so make sure you allow enough time to dry.
Let dry. After allowing time for the glue to dry, you'll need to prime your figure. No matter if you use brush on primer or spray on, make sure you don't put too much on when you apply. If you're not careful, you can get too much on the figure and loose detail. After the primer has time to dry, you are set to paint.
By now you should have an idea on what you wish the final product to resemble. You're ready to paint now. I have several different methods I like to use. It generally depends on what I'm painting and how big the figure. Don't be afraid to experiment with painting. Try different methods and find out what works best for you style of painting. I like to start with the large areas and work my way out. Then I go back and do the detail work. I start out by painting the shirt, pants, or other large areas. Then get a coat on of the flesh on and hard to reach areas. Generally, what ends up happening is that I start with the large areas, the work my way from the farthest in on the figure or hardest to reach places out. Sometimes you will have to put more than one coat. I generally try to get the whole figure painted the first time, and then go back with the second coat to clean up and improve on the detail. Even if you don't need a second coat, at least go back and take a close look. If you have some color overlapping areas they are not supposed to overlap you'll need to go back with one of the smaller tipped brushes or finer tipped brushes and clean it up. This will improve on the quality of the paint job a great deal. Remember that if you use metalic paint colors that these have flakes in them. You can either have a seperate rinse water for the metalic paings or you can change your water after you use them. Either way, always change your brush cleaning water on a regular basis.
Let dry thoroughly and if you need to do assembly, do it after it has finished drying. Let the glue dry. Once the glue is dry touch up any paint you need to touch up. You're now ready to base your figures. (Caution: Do not handle the figure more than neccessary because you can rub the paint off.)
Basing your figures is really pretty easy. I'm going to explain several materials and methods. You'll need to find one that suits your needs or maybe my thoughts will help you come up with something better. If you do come up with something better, please drop me an email and I'll add it to a FAQ's section as an alternative idea.
The biggest thing you need to know about basing your figures is what set of rules you are going to use. Rules sets have set basing methods and base sizes. Some may give you the options on sizes but some rules are very specific. So you'll want to keep this in mind when you start basing.
My first suggestion on basing which is something I'm just starting to work with is working out a system that allows me to base my figures individually and create movement stands to fit whatever rules set I plan to use. This has two purposes. Some rules allow you to use individual figures, however when they are moving it is a pain to move them one at a time. So I came up with an idea for movement stands. I saw some of these being used at a convention. From that, I figured why should I restrict myself to just using these stands for movement. I can cut them to fit a specific rule set and move units accordingly. Of course, there are some rules that if you really like them, you'll want to just base their way. I came up with my method because I use The Sword and the Flame to play Colonials and I was looking at Piquet and Principle's of War. Since I could use my 25mm figures individually in TSATF, I made movement stands for them to move the whole unit they closed with the enemy or conformed to some sort of terrain piece. Then it occurred to me that some of the other rule sets wanted me to have them based with more than one figure to a base. So I just made a movement stand in the size they specified and put my individual units on them. I'll explain how this is all done further down.
Once you have a unit painted, the rules will tell you how many figures to a stand and how many stands to a unit. You'll want to start basing. The basing instructions and materials will work if you plan on basing them per the rules or working out a system like I am working on. I tend to paint and base in units. If you leave too much sitting out, you'll find it can get damaged or dusty if you don't get to paint every day. If you plan on trying my method so you don't have to rebase when you want to try another rules set, you'll need to find a base size that is small enough to hold your figure but not so big it overlaps your stand. If you don't want to do that, you can just use the base size as specified by the rules. My first set was made for Piquet so I'll show you with a picture what I mean.
Basing materials can come in many forms. It'll help to keep in mind how you plan on storing and transporting your figures before you base them. Your bases may be used to help store your figures.
Pre-cut metal bases are my favorite method. These can be purchased through most retailers or distributors. These bases are made out of metal, which can adhere to magnets. Many of them work with magnets, but you need to make sure when you get them that they will if you plan to use magnets. When you get them pre-cut they are cut to the size you need. Always check and make sure they are the right size by measuring a few. Every now and then I get a batch that have had a problem and are miss cut or not cut evenly. This can happen on occasion but if you find a good supplier it generally won't happen often. A good supplier will be happy to swap out the order for another properly cut batch. These work best if you prime them before you use them.
Plastic Styrene, which is can be flimsy or hard. You can pick this up at most model and train shops. You'll want the harder plastic, which can either be clear or painted. Doesn't really matter because you'll paint it. My rule of thumb is the more you have to put on a stand or bigger the figure determines how thick I go. This is something you can cut to size yourself with your X-Acto knife. Just always remember to use a cutting board. You can also make movement stands for these. You can also put magnets on the bottom of them.
Soft wood or Balsa wood is another method used. You can use the harder woods. If you have the equipment you can use a thicker piece of wood, shape, and sand it to look very nice under your figures. You can use this to base your figures or make some rally nice movement stands. I wouldn't go too thick though, you'll find that when you play with someone not using them it looks a bit odd. Also, make very sure you sand the bottom of them smooth as splinters could damage what you are using for terrain. Varnishing them is a bit of work, but makes for a nice movement stands and they move on fabric nicely. However, if you intend to base your figure on them you may not want to varnish the top so you can paint the top and put on flocking or static grass. Varnish before you put the figure on.
You'll also need some sort of flocking or static grass if you want to make it really look nice. You can also use things like sand, train scenery materials, and flocking gels which come in a variety of textures.
You also need your paint and brushes again. You'll want a little bit bigger brush. I find the 5/0 and 4/0 brushes good for this but I still use the smaller brush around the legs of the figure. You can use the more worn brushes can get used as long as hairs aren't coming out of them.
Now that you have your base and figure, use your Zap or other glue to glue
the figure to the stand. I always place all the figures on the stand to get
an idea of how I position them on the stand. (Note:
watch lances and weapons that stick out. When you move these figures you sometimes
have to place them with bases touching each other and you will want to base
them so that they won't scratch each other.) Some figures have
a specific way to put the figures on the stand. Check your rules. (Note:
I don't recommend using Elmer's glue to glue the figure to the base. Stick
with a super glue or Zap.)
2. Let the glue dry thoroughly.
3. I find the static grass and flocking materials work best if I put them in something the size of a shoebox. You can find these in almost any store for about a 1.00, and it has a lid so you can store my material in it. This makes the job a bit cleaner and easier to work with. You can get this ready while the glue is drying or have it ready before hand.
4. If you have a lot of gap between the bottom of your figure and the base, you may want to use a filler such as putty to close the gap. In some cases I find that this looks better since the flocking tends to show this up. If you plan on using the flocking gel then you can use this. The flocking gel and putty both will dry hard. The flocking gel is a thicker mixture. Some brands are already mixed with color and some come in white. When they dry they harden. They have texture and you can paint over them or mix the color you want with them if you start with white. As I have recently started using these, I'll have to comment more on them later. You can find modeling putty just about anywhere that sells models or paints for models. Train shops also sell it. The flocking gel, you may have to order from a retailer or hobby shop. I've seen one called Decorative snow sold at the craft store and I've used it, but they don't seem to carry other textures yet. If you do mix paint with a white flocking gel remember that the white will lighten it so you will want to use a darker color.
5. Once you are certain the glue is dry and any other materials you've added to the base, pick the color you want on your base. I often use Howard Hues green or brown because they match our Geo-Hex, and are a bit thicker. You want to stick with a ground color. Green tends to make the static grass or flocking appear darker especially if it's a dark green. Brown looks like earth if you leave any bare spots.
Depending on what you based the figure on and the paint, you may have to use more than one coat. I generally let this coat dry then do a second coat. I find I like the way that looks. You want to make sure no metal or the base color shows through since sometimes there are small gaps in your flocking or static grass.
6. If you decide to use two coats of paint you will want to let the first coat dry. Either way you'll need to dip the base into your flocking material while the paint is wet. If you are using two coats you will do this after applying the second coat. Be careful not to get any paint on the legs of the figure unless you want to have grass on the figure's leg or the bottom of your figure. Cover the base well and make sure you go between the legs of the figure or other gaps at the bottom of the figure. Be careful not to slide the flocking off the wet paint. Coat it well and let it set. I generally get it on them and leave the figures sitting in the flocking for about 5 minutes while the paint starts to dry. Then I lift it out and set it on a board or piece of paper till it finishes drying. Be careful and don't touch or blow any flocking off yet. Let it dry. I generally let it dry half an hour to an hour sometimes longer. It really depends on the weather and humidity. Paint takes longer to dry depending on the humidity.
7. Once this has dried, I hold the figure over my box or a piece of paper and tap the bottom till some of the excess falls off. Make sure you don't bang the edge of the base on the table to knock it off. You'll find this can knock the paint of the edge of the base if you took the time to paint it. Watch closely to see if the paint is in fact dry. When you get too much paint in an area and a lot of flocking it may take longer to dry so watch for this so you don't mess the figure up. Once you have the big portions of the material removed then you'll still need to get some of the excess off. You can blow on the base, be careful and don't do this over your box of flocking or over the paper that the flocking is on, but you will want to use something to catch the flocking. I've also started using canned air which does tend to blow the material everywhere so pick a good place to do it so you don't get it every where. If you are using static grass, when you start blowing or using the canned air your static grass will stand up more like real grass.
8. Once you have the excess basing material off the base, you are ready for your sealer step.
Variations: There are a number of variations to basing a figure. It all depends on what you prefer and want to try. Some folks will use scenery rocks to mark the units but still keep the base looking attractive. Some don't flock at all and just brush paint over the texture paint. There are a lot of things you can do. You can find most of the materials you need at a train shop or some place that carries railroad scenery. I don't recommend lichen. Lichen tends to dry out and change color and unless that is something you want happening I wouldn't use it. Also, you can use thinned Elmer's glue. I've never used the glue method but I think you'll want to put a coat of paint on the base first.
is something you can really have fun with and get some really nice results.
This is a big area for experimentation if you really want to get creative.
Back to top.
As you can see, even if you change or skip some of the steps above you still spend a lot of time working on your figure. Because of this you want to find a way to protect your figures. You'll want seal them and find a safe way to store them.
To seal your figure there are a few things you'll need to know. First of all, make sure the figure is dry. Then use a clean dry brush to dust the figure off. Brush gently, so you don't damage the paint job. This is to make sure you have any missed static grass or basing material off the figure. If you don't, the gloss coat and dullcote will glue it to the figure. I tend to use a brush I never paint with for this job.
Once you are sure the figure is clean, you will need to decide if you want to use a gloss coat or a dullcote. First of all clear gloss tends to leave the figure looking shiny. I personally don't really care for this but some people do. On the other hand, the oils from your hands break down the dullcote.
No matter how careful you are, there are going to be times when you touch the figure. After enough times, you'll find that the dullcote seems to be wearing off and possibly your paint. To keep this from happening I use 2 coats.
Always make sure you spray in a well-ventilated area. Don't spray around vehicles, as there are some particles of paint floating in the air as you spray. Don't hold the can too close and try not to hold it too far. After a few attempts you'll get the feel for the best way to spray.
Avoid spraying when it is really humid out. This can cause the paint not to dry properly and the figure could remain tacky. If you store your paint outside and it's cold out, bring them inside to warm up before using it.
As for spraying in the cold there are mixed feelings about this. I have seen the cold cause the spray to frost on the figure. In some cases this is actually a neat way to give reentry burns to a spaceship if you want that, but it's not good for your soldiers. I prefer to play it safe and wait till I get a good warm day.
You may want to avoid spraying late in the evening in the summer time. I did that one year while trying to get ready for a convention and I went out and found a few of the figures had acquired bug bodies. I was able to clean them off but I thought I'd mention it.
You want to avoid spraying with high winds. Things can blow onto your figures while they are wet and ruin them.
If you want to, you can try making a spray box out of an empty box. Basically, you cut one side out of a box and turn it upside down over where you are spraying your figures. The only draw back is that you have to move the box to spray all of the sides.
My first coat is the clear gloss coat. This is a time where I don't mind using the cheap store spray paints. Just make sure you get clear and always spray on a board or something before spraying your figures. Get into a habit of doing this. I ruined batch of figures because I accidentally sprayed Olive Drab all over my just finished figures thinking it was dull coat.
Put the figures on a board. Keep them separated. Put some distance between each so that they don't block each other as you spray them. I tend to do a lot at a time so I tend to stagger them so I can make sure I spray each figure as I spray them all.
I try to spray the gloss coat evenly and try not to put it on too heavily. You want to make sure you get it on your figure, base and all but if you get too much you may end up with a tacky figure or yellowing depending on the brand of paint. You will want to make sure you get all of the sides and the top of the figure as well as the base. If you have to spray more than one side of the figure, you can wait till it is dry to turn it over and spray the other.
Give it time to thoroughly dry. Once they are dry you are ready to apply the dullcote. If you do not want to dull the glossy finish then I suggest you apply a second coat of gloss coat at this point instead of the dullcote.
Which ever you decide, you'll be applying your second coat. This should be enough to protect the figure. This will also help hold your basing materials to the base. Now, I have had to add a 2nd dullcote layer on occasion but it is because I don't like the glossy look and I didn't get enough on when I put the first coat of dullcote on.
Just remember that you do not want to get your paint on too heavy. It can ruin the figure.