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Monday, 1 December 2014
Painting reflection - my top 10 tips to pass on.
This is a bit of an unusual post. Basically I've been rooting through my blood angels in preparation for a clear out / update. Seeing a host of models which I've painted both recently, 5 years ago when I got back into 40k (blood Angels have always been my favourite army) and the odd one from some 20 years ago when I very first discovered 40k put things into perspective for me as to how my painting has improved over time. I've never really followed any painting tutorials as such and so what I've learned I've picked up through experience, trial and error. However, I decided to type up a rundown those things I've found most beneficial in the hope they may be of use to others hoping to improve their painting techniques.
10: Preparation is key
In more ways than one. Having the correct paints, tools, brushes, clean water, a palette and a well lit place to paint is vital. Setting aside a reasonable amount of time (half hour minimum) is also important to actually progress. Music often helps to keep things interesting, and of course having your model prepared so that it is trimmed, based and primed properly is essential. If not, any hard work you put in after that will fall short.
9: Do a test model
If you're starting a new army then forget about batch painting to start with, that can come later. Spend the time doing a test model through to completion and be sure you're happy with the result. Make notes of which paints you used in which order and that way you can always come back to the project later and not forget, thus leaving yourself with models that don't match.
8: Set realistic goals
Slightly ironic tip this one seeing how many models I still have to paint. There's nothing more soul destroying, however, than never seeming to make progress with a project. Organisation, time management and commitment feature heavily in this, but so does being realistic with what you can achieve. Decide on your priorities then take it from there. I for example prefer to tackle a whole army at once, get it all assembled, undercoated then base coated. I will then leave it a while and revisit later knowing in the meantime I can still stick it on a table and game with it. If instead you do a single unit to perfection then you have a gorgeous set of minis but can't use them to game with until they have some buddies.
7: Right tools for the job
This mostly pertains to brushes. Get plenty and treat them well. Cheaper brushes are fine for base coating and drybryshing but for the detail work you need good, fine tipped brushes. At least 3 sizes. Even if you're having a batch painting session, wash the brush out completely every minute at least and redefine the point. Change water frequently, thin the paints with water or thinner and use a mixing palette.
Once the model is appropriately primed of course. Mostly I use army painter black spray and touch up any missed areas with abaddon black. Sometimes white priming is better, such as with yellow. The new base paints (especially in spray format) are ideal for any colour. Best to start with a couple of thinned coats and add any other colour layer to that after. It's vital to get the base coat correct - too thin and every painting step from then onward will suffer for it. Too thick and the mini will be doomed from the start also.
The difference between average and great minis often comes down to highlights. With the ranges available now this is much easier than it used to be as you don't often have to mix colours. I generally use 2 highlights. Move on from your base colour with the next lightest. Sometimes this may only be subtle but make sure you cover all the edges to be highlighted with it. Then I pick the final highlight, a colour which if used as the first highlight would have looked too gaudy and bright. However, by just applying it to the highest raised areas and sharpest corners you can give the impression that light is catching that a little bit more and make your mini stand out. Don't be afraid to invent your own highlight on curved surfaces either. Use a fine brush for all highlights.
Equally as important as highlighting is shading. Some areas will call for being drenched in shade, where others simply call for a delicate application with the detail brush. Consistency is key also, as you want to leave some of the wash behind without drowning the area. Glazes are a bit trickier but can be great for thinning the veil between super bright highlights and dark shading.
3: Batch painting
To tie everything together nicely you can now try doing all of the above to a squad all in one go. Generally you'll apply each stage of each colour to all models at the same time. This allows not only better time efficiency but also saves on paint wastage and allows your unit to develop equally over time. For example you may spend a couple of hours doing all the base colours on a unit of tactical marines then wash at the end. By the time you're done they're tabletops ready. Next time you may do all the highlights. The time after that touch things up, base and varnish.
2: Finishing touches
Speaking of which, time to talk about finishing touches. Depending how you've chosen to do things your model may not even be armed / based by the time it's finished. A good basing theme can make an average army into a great one. Conversely, a poor base can make a great mini look bland. Details such as scrollwork, lenses and decals add to the beauty and interest if the model. Battle damage and weathering are more advanced techniques which can turn a beautiful yet pristine mini into one that really looks like it has fought on the battlefield. Finally, varnish should never be forgotten as without it your poor mini is just asking to be chipped and damaged. I use matt spray (careful to use the right distance and temperature) then touch up shiny areas with a blob of gloss.
1: Learn and grow
I learn new techniques and tricks all the time by either reading blogs or just experimenting. Just because you reach one level doesn't mean you can't be happy with that, but there's always more scope to grow and progress. Set new challenges, find inspiration in wd, try out a new army or expand / ally in an existing one. Without a new challenge things will stagnate and that's when the hobby becomes boring. Things can always be revisited later after a break and there's nothing like an upcoming event or a project log to motivate you to pick up the brush. Share your work, take on compliments and advice and never look upon it as a chore as that's the moment it ceases to be a pleasure.
That's all folks, I hope it's been useful. Cheers.