Tools and Supplies
One of the things you need is a good well lit place to paint. You need some room to work too. Good lighting is a big plus. I actually have a painting table set up just to paint on, with drop cloth and drawers dedicated to the tasks. I find by the window is really helpful. My table is in the corner, and so is my computer desk. That's where I got the idea for my Corner.
You can spend as much as you want or as little. The basics for painting are good lighting, paints, brushes and something to cut with. Please note, that you don't have to purchase everything from the hobby shop, but many do tend to carry these items. I've made notes on each with alternative purchasing choices. You will also want to make sure you painting area can be well ventilated.
To cut I prefer to use Xacto blade knives as they have very sharp razor blades. They can also be very dangerous, so be careful. I find they work best for cleaning the figure and working some of the bigger parts of the flash off the figure. You can pick Xacto blade knives up at most any craft store, model train store, or Walmart type stores.
I prefer the fatter medium handles with padding rather than just the bare metal knives. After you've cleaned about 25 figures you'll understand why. I also strongly suggest taking breaks between units if you find yourself doing a lot of work. The repetition can get to you after a while. Depending on the time of the year I may work on a unit basis. In the fall, I tend to get a lot ready to paint to last through the winter. **** Caution: when cleaning with the Xacto knife be careful not to cut away parts of the figure you don't want to loose. Also, you want to avoid leaving grooves in the figure that could mark the detail. ****
Extra Xacto blades. Always keep a pack of replacement blades, especially if you plan to clean a lot of figures. Remember to wrap tape around the old blade or something so that if you put your hand in the garbage after tossing one you don't inadvertently cut yourself. You should find them wherever you purchase the knife.
A good set of files. You might even want to make sure you get a few small files. I know when folks think of files, they think of the big files to sharpen lawn mower blades and such. Those type of files are actually useful for smoothing the bottom side of the figures, but you don't want to use them on the rest.
You can get small file sets from hobby shops, train shops, a few hardware shops, and a few tool specific places. They're basically small and easy to handle. They come in various shapes and aren't real thick. Some are smaller than pencils. I find these useful to smooth out mold lines and Xacto blade marks. **** Caution: when cleaning with the files be careful not not to file away parts of the figure you don't want to loose. Also, you want to avoid leaving grooves in the figure that could mark the detail. ****
Quick drying glue is another item that you may have a find you have a preference in using. I use the ZAP series. ZAP by Pacer has several variations of the same glue. The one I prefer is Zap-a-Gap CA+. I find the 5 oz bottle works well and lasts for a while. The bottle has a green label and can be purchased at most model railroad shops, along with hobby shops. You should also pick up the debonder for this. They should also carry that if they carry the glue. You can use other super glues but make sure you purchase some debonder with which ever you choose. ****Caution: when using super glues on painted figures, be careful not to over glue or use too much glue. The fumes can discolor the paint. Use the glue sparingly. Also, remember this glue also has fumes that can harm you if you are not careful.****
Something to temporarily base your figures on while painting. I suggest popsicle sticks or small wooden sticks. These allow you to paint one or more figures at a time. You can purchase a good size box of these at most craft stores. Some people prefer using the tops of other paint bottles, but I don't really like this very much. The glue tends to build up on the top of the bottles. Some folks will used round dowels that you can purchase at hardware stored. They cut them about 5 to 6 inches long. Hemostats are growing in popularity, but are a bit harder to locate. Your best bet will be a place that carries medical supplies. Sometimes, you can locate these at conventions, and sometimes some other places carry them. They can get a bit expensive. Be careful with these because they do have groves on them and can leave marks on the metal. They do have groves on the handle that lock them together. If you decide to use them to hold your miniature, you'll want to put rubber bands around the hand end to help keep it together while you're painting.
These are just a few suggestions. You may find something you like better. I use the popsicle sticks and hemostats. The popsicle sticks I use for the figure, and the hemostats for free things such as shields or weapons I have to glue on. Again, care should be used when using the hemostats to keep from leaving marks on your figures. If you choose to glue your figure to something you may use a small amount of the super glue, but use very little because you'll want to be able to pull the figure off when you finish. You can use white glue, but it takes longer to dry. When using the hemostats, you will find it works best to try and use them on the base rather than the figure itself.
A cutting board of some sort. This can be a small piece of plywood, or other type of wood. You want to have something you can put down under the figure if you have to cut parts away. Paper or padding are too thin. You have to have something solid or you will cut the table. You don't have to get anything expensive. I just recommend something solid and flat.
Paints are a big part of what you will need. These again will be a preference. First, you'll need a primer. You have a choice of white, gray, or black primer. You can pick up primers at your hobby shop. The key to a primer is that that is the first coat of color you will have on the figure. It will help the paint stay on the figure. A key you should know about primers is that if you use black, it'll darken the rest of your colors a bit and also tends to be a bit harder to cover. I prefer to using black primer on 25mm or larger figures, because it helps with the shading. Gray is somewhat neutral and isn't real dark or real light. White will cause the the figure to look lighter. I like to use white with my 15mm and smaller figures. Just remember the darker the undercoat the darker of the overall figure. The lighter the undercoat the lighter the overall figure. I prefer Ral Partha for white primer. Armory makes a black primer I like. Armory also carries white and gray. Most hobby shops can get either brands. Model railroad shops may also carry primers designed for miniatures. Some companies do put out water based brush on primers, but I found the spray on works best. *** I prefer to avoid car primers and spray paints from the store. The pigmentation tends to be larger and you can loose some detail.***
Second, you'll need the paint. You have a lot of options with paints. You can purchase paints designed by Citadel, Ral Partha, Armory, Polly S, Floquil, and several series of craft paints. You can get water based acrylic or enamel. My personal preference are water based paints. My preferences here are varied.
I purchase some from several of these companies as well as other. I suggest sticking with the water based paints. You can use them indoors and most don't have heavy fumes and since they are water based you use water to clean your brushes rather than a thinner or cleaner. My preferences really depends on what I am painting. Howard Hues series is a very nice set of paints. They have some horse colors as well as several nice sets that match historical uniform colors. They also make the Geo Hex series which are good for repairing Geo Hex, and putting on your bases. Armory, has a nice series, and I like the horse colors the make also. Citadel makes a nice series of metal colors. Ral Partha does a real nice Flesh series. These paints are going to be found at your local shop. If not, you'll have to deal direct or get them through your hobby shop.
There are others designed specifically for miniatures, but these are the one's I've used so far. The big problem with these brand paints is that they come in small bottles and tend to be expensive. Howard Hues does allow for purchasing in bigger quantities, but of the small bottles, Armory tends to carry the bigger quantity for the price. I still purchase specific colors from these places, but the bulk of my paints now come from the craft store. Ceramcoat and Apple Barrel both put out a nice series of paints in a 2oz bottle and you can pick them up from $.69 to $1.39 at most craft stores. You also can pick up a wide variety of colors and shades of colors. I find that they work just as well and in some cases better than the ones sold by miniatures companies. The enamel paints are Humbrol and Floquil. I've only used a couple of these but found the water base equivalent as quickly as I could. They tend to dry with a glossy look and you have to use a cleaner to clean the brushes. There are people who prefer using the enamels over water based.
Finally, you need Dullcote and/or Gloss coat(or clear spray paint). These are used to seal the figure and protect your paint job. You can get by with just the Gloss coat but I don't like the shiny look on my figures. So I used the Dullcote to cut that glossiness. The oils in your hands tend to break down the Dullcote as you play with your miniatures, so you'll definitely want to put the gloss coat on first to guarantee your paint jobs are protected. I find that just about any clear spray paint will work for the first coat and Testor's Dullcote good for this. You can pick up the gloss coat from any store and any place that sells models will probably have the Dullcote with their models. The pigmentation doesn't matter since there is not color, but you have to make sure you do not spray it on too heavy.
Brushes are a matter of preference. I prefer fine tip brushes such as 10/0, 15/0, 20/0, and 25/0. These fine thin tip and are not good for dry brushing or large areas. 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 have decent tips and longer bristles, as well as the ability to cover more area. I find that 1/8 or so bigger flat brushes really nice for dry brushing, especially if they are angular. American Painter, Loew Cornell, and Royal Langnickel are pretty nice. Most hobby shops that carry paints also carry brushes. I find craft shops and artist stores also provide a really nice selection. I suggest you try each and see what you prefer. Even if you don't like one for the majority of your painting, you can use it for another job. I primarially use 10/0 for most of my painting. Some folks like the 3/0, 4/0, and 5/0 sizes. Bristle lengths vary. I prefer short because they are easier to control. **** TIP: Always use brushes with nice pointed even tips. Frayed tips tend to paint unevenly and may cause you problems when doing detail work. Always check them when you buy them.****
Measurement tools are needed at some point to measure out terrain or bases. I use a wooden ruler, and sometimes a metal ruler. Metal rulers tend to hold up better but have hard read numbers.
Bases materials come in many forms. You can use hard styrene, wood, or precut metal bases. I prefer precut metal bases. Bases are dictated by the rules you are planning to use. Only the size is determined by the rules. As far as I know, there are no rules that require a specific material.
The rules to dictate the size of the bases and how many figures you place on them. You'll want something hard. Some rules require more than one figure and softer materials will fold under them or bend when you have to set them on an uneven table or terrain. I'll go more into detail with this later.
Basing materials are used to make the base look nicer. You have a large variety of things to work with and try. There are companies that sell materials that you can put on the base to give it texture like ground or sand. You also can also use static grass(looks really nice), colored flocking, rocks, bit's of lichen. Most hobby shops that carry trains carry materials really nice for this. I'll go into using them later.
These are the majority of items I use on a regular basis. I've also got a few other tools and supplies I use, but you don't have to use them. I'd suggest you keep them in mind for futuer projects. White glue or craft glue, has many uses. Hot glue guns are great for some tasks such as a temporary adhesive to hold your figures to popsicle sticks, or even making terrain. Black or brown thread if you want to give bows bow strings. Save the scraps from model kits and other items to make terrain. A Dremel tool, brass wires(hobby shops carry these), sand paper, masking tape, paper towels, and paper plates.
A good set of resource books, which I've listed a few in the painting and resource section. At least get a book with a desciption or pictures of your historical figures. Other websites can also give you some good pictures to use as a painting guide.