anybody can paint minis: part two

To be a good mini-painter, all you have to do is paint ten miniatures.

That is my bold blogging statement for the week. Usually they encourage you to say dramatic and impassioned things in your blog posts so that people keep returning to the blog to either feel passionate agreement or to progressively get more pissed off in their disagreement with the the bold statement. The problem with the above statement is that it isn’t really all that bold, it is more just a matter of truth behind what happens when you gain skill. And I don’t mean this for those who are mildly “creative” or “artistic”. Even the most graphically tone-deaf person who has never lifted a pencil or brush before in their life can do this.


Painting ten miniatures, start to finish, on separate occasions, is all you need to do to call yourself a “good” miniature painter. Those ten attempts at painting a little pewter figure will guarantee the development of at least a little bit of ongoing skill at the task. Even if you are dunking them into a pot of paint and letting them dry without any brushwork, you are bound to start dunking them in different pots of colors and start making a layer-cake arrangement of stratified colors on the mini. (That actually sound pretty cool, come to think of it.) Somehow those successive minis will get better and better until number ten. And then BAM, you are a good miniature painter.

In the process of painting your ten, maybe on miniature number four or five, dabbing at your chartreuse owl-bear, you may say to me: “This isn’t good miniature painting, this is just painting them slightly less crappy than before.” And I will reply: Yes, that is exactly so. By the time you finish number ten, it will be so “less-crappy” that it will qualify as “good”. It will all be downhill from there, nothing but learning a few slight tips and tricks after that, the hard part will be over.

Now, I need to be very specific about what qualifies as the “ten”. Remember that I said they had to be start to finish, on separate occasions. You can not do all ten minis at once, in one sitting. You need to begin, work on, and complete each miniature so you can learn from your mistakes and victories at each of the steps, in ten sessions. You can paint more than one miniature at each of the sessions, but you need the passage of time between sittings for the skills to sink in. Sat & Sun would work for two sessions. I recommend working on two to three minis at a session so you can switch between the choices while they dry out, but you can go with more. Ten at a sitting can be tiresome if you are doing something other than the discussed dunking method.

Once you are done with one of your ten minis, you absolutely must plop it on the table at the next game, if only to show it off. You need to take pride in your work and use your toy for playing with. Showing off and playing with friends is what it is all about.

So steel yourself for the grand creative adventure, or just get ready for your 3D coloring book. Next post I will give you the bare minimum list of materials and steps to get that mini on the table. More arcane advice to follow after that.

8 Responses to “anybody can paint minis: part two”

  1. August 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Today’s mini painting session was hella fun! Thanks, Greengoat.

  2. 2 blizack
    August 29, 2010 at 12:11 am

    I wish I could have made it to your session, so I suppose this blog post will have to do. Sigh.

  3. 3 FredH
    August 29, 2010 at 2:07 am

    I am so sorry I missed your tutorial today; had been looking forward to it.

  4. August 29, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Maybe so, but even my 100th mini isn’t going to look half as good as that one you have in the picture.

  5. 5 Naked
    August 30, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Greengoat comes highly recommended as a teacher. His patience is unparalleled. He didn’t even get upset when we huffed half the green paint (you did notice this, didn’t you?). He knows his stuff: as he said, miniature paint is not for huffing. I didn’t catch his recommendations, however.

    Seriously, I learned a great deal in just one day. I found I can paint semi-credible miniatures, despite vast room for improvement. I look forward to touching up the three I worked on and start on my two black-covered dudes.

  6. 6 cr0m
    August 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve painted exactly 5 miniatures. Period. Does anyone else find that the quality of their painting is all over the place? My first mini was okay. My second one was a little better and my third was about the same. My fourth was a total disaster (I had to give it to a friend to strip and repaint). And my fifth was a total disaster that I rescued and turned into an acceptable disaster.

    I’m all over the place!

    Also as a follow-up, where do you guys get your color ideas from? My best minis are the ones where I have a clear idea of the color scheme before I start painting. But I usually don’t have a clear idea.

  7. 7 Greengoat
    August 30, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    After a while you just come to expect that some minis are more difficult to paint and find color schemes for. The level of detail or the break-down of the different shapes can just be hard to get to or to plan for. With a little practice you begin to see what areas will give you trouble and which will be easy to take care of.

    You make a good point about choosing colors to use. Sometimes you can just wing the color choices as you go but most of the time it takes some forethought. Try painting out some bands of color combinations on a white piece of paper to see how the different possible hues go together. The common mistake that I have seen is when a painter tries to throw too many colors onto the mini because they think every item has to be a different hue. A good rule of thumb is to pick two or three main hues (blue, green, red etc.) for the major parts of the mini and then perhaps use a few other hues in smaller details.

    The elf pictured above has two main contrasting hues, the blue of the armor and the brown of the leather bits. Brown is a type of orange hue and so it gives a nice slight contrast with the complimentary blue. Pick one “strong” color and one or two desaturated or “weak” colors to contrast. Three main colors tops until you get used to it.

  8. August 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    The quality of a mini is often connected to the complexity of the project. I’ve found that getting flesh tones in general, and faces in particular, to come out right is very difficult, and as a result my best pieces are usually those with little exposed flesh: armored figures, especially those with helmets; cowled figures in heavy robes; and various sorts of monsters.

    Humanoids, like orcs and goblins and such, are fun because you can give them weird alien flesh tones (like green or blue), and you can give them RED GLOWING EYES that don’t need details like irises and pupils.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

August 2010

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