Friday, 17 September 2010

How I paint miniatures

I’ve had a couple of nice complements on my Lamenter Marines so I thought I’d talk more about my method of painting minis.

There are a few of base rules I use when deciding on a colour scheme and then painting. They are intended to make the minis look good both up-close, and at “gaming range” (the distance at which you normally see minis when they are in play on a gaming table).
  1. Neatness is everything. Try and keep your paintjobs neat. This makes the minis look good up close. I avoid dry-brushing small areas to comply with this.
  2. No dark colours. At close range and under studio lighting, darks are wonderful. Bright or light colours will have the opposite effect.
  3. Limited palette. Minis which are a riot of colour disintegrate a bit at gaming range. Also, keep to the same colours throughout your army as this ties all the minis together. This seems to be more and more common these days amongst painters, but back in the 90s the amount of variety between units was criminal.
  4. Keep your bases neat and homogeneous. This helps the minis look good up close and binds them all together.
  5. Shading is basic. This is the most contentious rule. I keep my shading neat but there is no blending as this takes too much time. If it’s neat it gives an almost “anime”-like cartoon finish. If I am painting a group of minis I lay down the base coat with an airbrush. I often apply shading at the same time. I hit the minis from the top with a slightly lighter version of the base colour.
I am a big fan of breaking conventions, and these are some norms in the world of mini painting I enjoy rebelling against.
  • Realism - Some of examples I have seen are absolutely stunning, but I don’t want my minis to look real. I want them to look like high-definition, Technicolor jewels which sparkle. For this reason I often use bright colours, gloss varnish and sometimes I even add things like little crystals.
  • Materials – I am a child of the 80s and grew up with action figures which always had gimmicks. These often took the form of chromed pieces, transparent bits or sparkles of some kind. I love to include similar bits in my minis.
  • I also like to play with the presentation of minis on the tabletop. This applies mainly to Warhammer, where the little fellows are all ranked up. I like ornate movement trays and lots of banners, so the unit as a whole becomes an object, and not just a collection of tiny things.
  • I like to have fun with is the tabletop on which the game is played. The super-realistic-terrain movement which we are in the midst of is cool, but I like a more representational battlefield. I have a highly polished dining table and this services as a wonderful surface for battles and really set the minis off.
  • I have also considered other wacky things like enclosing minis in blocks of clear resin to make them indestructible, or using paper standees which are pimped-out with various layers and accoutrement's to make them less 2D.
Here are some miniature painters who employ some of the things I strive towards:
  • ManU26 has amazingly cohesive colour schemes and also plays with imagery a lot (he adds smiley faces to his Marines!)
  • Pitcube plays a lot with presentation and adds various materials to his minis
  • Jody Tucker's Cult of Fire is just bat-shit mental and shows what you can do with LEDs
  • Caiman keeps all his minis very homogeneous
  • Johnny Wong (who, alas, does not seem to have much on the interwebs) is also one of my biggest painting heroes.
I leave you with some high rez shots of some of my single minis.

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