One of the things that I’ve really loved about the board game industry is the welcoming nature of most publishers, designers and fanatics. While some businesses focus only or primarily on their adult customers, this industry relishes the opportunity to introduce younger people to the variety of offline forms of entertainment. At all sizes of game conventions (national, regional, local), you’ll see people teaching adults and children how to play games, build terrain and paint miniatures. Every year at Origins Game Fair, in addition to playing games and looking to add to their dice collection, the girls look forward to taking a more advanced terrain building class and checking out the latest tips, tricks and products for painting miniatures.
Last year as we were talking to Julie from Greenbrier Games, we were talking about how much fun it has been for the girls. She had some miniatures from Folklore: The Affliction that were damaged so she generously offered them to Madison and Kennedy to hone their painting skills! The first thing the girls had to do was straighten out bent miniatures and that was as easy as giving them a warm bath.
If you’ve ever heard people say that painting miniatures requires an investment, they’re referring to time. You need the patience to take notice of the details on each individual piece and bring out those features. We’re still beginners to this part of the hobby, but we’ve put together some basic tips that we’ve picked up. To get started at painting miniatures, here are some things you’ll want to have on hand.
Beginner Supplies to Paint Miniatures
- Paint set
- 2x Primer
- Fine brush set
- Miscellaneous household items (Cup for rinsing brushes, newspapers to protect the table, etc.)
There are several miniatures you can purchase individually and that might be good for starters. But the best source for finding things to paint are in the games you already own.
While there are a number of paint sets on the market, the Reaper Miniatures Paint Kit is one of the best values. We purchased a Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit Core Skills, Master Series Paint Box Set at the local game store, but you can find them on Amazon as well. It not only contains paints and brushes, but it also includes an instruction book and three miniatures to practice on!
You can purchase special primer for miniatures at your local hobby store, but experience has shown that the 2X primer available at Walmart or Amazon are just as effective and will likely save you a few bucks. The first thing you’ll do before painting your miniatures is add a coat of primer to them. Much like adding primer to the wall of your home, what color you use will vary based on the color of the item you’ll be painting.
As with the primer, you can find brush sets online, at mass merchandisers like Walmart or Target or local art or game stores. Shop around and pick up a couple of sets that include a variety of brush sizes. The important thing to remember about brushes is that you need to rinse them after each use. Dried paint is a bristle’s worst enemy.
Use a disposable cup to rinse your brushes when switching between colors, but rinse brushes thoroughly under running water when you’re done with your painting session. Old medicine bottles or paint stir sticks find new life as a way to hold your miniature without touching the areas you’re trying to paint. All you need to do is use duct tape to temporarily adhere the miniature to the base. Of course, you’ll want an old cardboard box and newspapers to put under your miniatures when spraying the base or painting on the table.
If you remember back to using watercolor sets in elementary school, you probably also recall that you could get one good use out of it before everything started looking dingy. You don’t want that to happen when you’re painting miniatures! One inexpensive trick of the trade is to use more household items to create a wet palette. Find a disposable food storage container (you know, like lunch meat comes in). Fold and wet a couple paper towels and line the bottom of the container. Add a layer of parchment paper to the top to form your wet palette. As you’re ready to use a color, add a small amount to the parchment paper. When you’re done with your session, adhere the lid tightly and you’ll find that your paints don’t dry out. Not only does this extend the life of your paint set, but it also allows you to test different color mixes without wasting much.
As I said, we’re still new to this, but these are a few of the things we’ve already learned. We encourage you to start with something like creating blood-spatter dice then move on to giving your RPG and miniature games a little bit of personalized character!
What’s your best tip for someone who is just starting to paint miniatures?