Friday, 9 December 2011

Figure Painting Tips and Advice.

In an attempt to pass-on some small 'nuggets' of advice relating to painting miniatures I have listed below some tips on painting miniatures.  Before I start, I need to confirm that I am NOT A GOLDEN DEMON winner or a professional figure painter.  Just someone who enjoys 'prodding paint on small metal figures.'

The impedes for this post came following a request on The Miniatures Page (TMP). See this link

In no particular order;

Light source
A good light source is a must. I use Daylight Bulbs or Blue Natural Bulbs in my overhead anglepoise lamp as well as having my workbench mounted below a North facing window.  I actually have two Daylight Bulbs, one to the right and another to the left but for most figure painting jobs one is enough. Finally as a right hander I find that it is best to have the main light shinning from above and slightly to the left.

Seating position and workbench
I use a comfortable wooden chair with arms, as I like to rest my elbows on the arms to steady my painting and holding hands.  I have also raised my painting workbench so I am not 'hunched over.'

Water (and additives)
There have been many comments about using clean water to paint acrylics.  I am sorry to say that I do not always 'practice what I preach' and there are many occasions when my water jug is filthy.  Never-the-less the sound advice is to have at least two water jars on your painting bench, one for metallics and one for 'normal' paints.

When filling the jars I try to use boiled water rather than tap water - again don't get too worked up over it as I am sure that tap water in the UK is perfectly OK for figure painting.  I also like to use a tiny drop of flow improver, I really do mean a tiny drop. You can find flow improver in your local arts store - a small bottle will last ages. If you cannot find any or maybe think that you can do without flow improver, you can always use a drop of plain washing-up liquid in your water jar. A dilution of one part washing-up liquid to thousands of parts of plain water is enough.

Shake your Paint Pots
OK, once again I have to admit to not always following this piece of advice.  That does not mean that it is bad advice - just that I am lazy!

I label all of my paint pots or bottles with a date purchased mark - just Month/Year will do as it helps to organise your paint collection and obviously you use the earlier date first.

Thin your paints
It is an obvious hint but well worth repeating.  I am not going to give any hard and fast formula, just experiment and remember that three thinned coats will give a better finish that one from the pot - except in the case of WHITE!

Use a good brush.  I am not asking you to go out and spend a fortune of a No.7 Windsor & Newton Sable. I just recommend having a good brush with a good point.

The last time a purchased a standard Games Workshop/Citadel brush I must have driven the salesman mad.  I tried five or six brushed, taking the plastic tube protector off each and examining the bristles and point of each before making my choice.

When was the last time you examined a brush before buying it?

I use a spiral-bound notebook as a palette, they are cheap to buy and when you have finished your current project - just rip the page out and you have a fresh paper palette.

There are many specialised plastic or porcelain palettes available - I know because I have them.  But I still prefer the plain notebook palette to all those fancy ones and they are cheaper.

Brands of Acrylic Paints - which ones are best?
I have no idea!  I am a real paint collector and have paints from dozens of different companies, pots, eye-droppers, tubes and so-called Craft Paints. For me it is using the right colour/consistency for you.  The best advice I can give on choosing paints is to experiment and even then, some companies may well produce Great Metallics (for example GW) but have really washy Yellows and weak Reds.

I would never think of starting any painting project without having Snakebite Leather from GW on my bench.

Painting eyes
I have better things to do with my time!  When it is done properly it is great, but in the main only paint eyes if you have too.

Washes - good or bad thing?
Not sure how to proceed with this one - when washes came out I was an early-adopter and have many pots and bottles on my desk.  However in recent months I have begun to question their worth and how they can make a miniature look 'dirty' or 'grubby'.

One piece of advice I was given some time ago was to water-down your washes with distilled water (the sort you can buy in any discount store or supermarket for topping-up batteries).  Distilled water, flow-improver's and commercial washes make great washes.

Black or White undercoat?
Mainly I use a Black undercoat.  But have been known to use White, Grey and even Dark Brown.  It is purely a matter of personal choice and what effect you are looking to achieve on the miniature. Do not feel that you have to stick with one style of undercoat. Mixing undercoats on figures in the same regiment or even on the same figure is perfectly acceptable.

Paint in small batches
I find that I work best with batches of 4 to 12 figures at a time.  Any more and the task becomes too daunting.

Dallimore Painting Technique
I have all of Kevin Dallimore's Painting Guides and Books.  I do not attempt to copy his style, preferring a hybrid Dallimore and Blending technique.  When the Dallimore technique is done well it produces some quite stunning figures, but although I paint-up over a Black undercoat and in layers. I find that I blend a little more than Kevin.

Colour Theory
I am lucky in that I studied art and colour theory at school.  Therefore in the main it comes naturally. If you want to know more then the Internet or local library are your best sources. You could even look at joining a local art course. Many years ago my Wife enrolled me on one - Painting Watercolours and I had a ball as well as learning loads.

Finally, the best piece of advice I can give is develop your own style and paint for enjoyment.


Andrew Beasley has commented that he uses Bottled Water (sorry no details as to what brand) for thinning acrylic paints and Used CD's as mixing palettes. Both great tips.


Jay said...

Great write up Tony! And much appreciated for a novice with no idea where to start.

BTW, I just saw this Smithsonian article on miniatures you might find interesting.


Ray Rousell said...

All good sound advice!!!!!

Ubique Matt said...

Great 'top tips', very useful.
I have to admit I have received a fair share of funny looks picking brushes from a GW store (especially when I ask if I can lick the tips to see if I can form a proper point).


Willie Anderson said...

Nice effects on those figures!