Painting Miniatures

Painting miniatures is a hobby that many people are very passionate about. It is something that goes hand in hand with collecting miniatures and people pursue it in different ways. Some people just like to creatively paint their miniatures while others like to achieve a very accurate look with them. This getting an accurate look sometimes takes research to see just what the original looks like. This is particularly true with military miniatures.

There are a few categories that people tend to stay within when it comes to the miniatures and these include war miniatures of many different time periods and gaming miniatures which tend to be fantasy based or science fiction based.

In this overview of painting minatures I will give you the basic information of what the hobby is about, what materials you need and how you can get started. The picture below shows a miniature horse that I am painting.

Painting a Miniature Horse

About the Hobby

One of the wonderful things about this hobby is that it is satisfying on a few different levels and it can easily be paired up with another hobby or pursuit.

Some Miniatures being paintedMany people play table top games like Warhammer or Dungeons & Dragons and these games involve the use of miniatures. Well, it is many a proud gamer who shows off the latest miniatures he or she has painted. There is just a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with custom painted miniatures for your gaming.

And if you are a diorama maker then painting miniatures can also be a large part of that hobby. I personally make a lot of different fantasy dioramas and I love to have fantasy miniatures in the scene. All hand painted of course. And, I also do some military diorama stuff and this too is perfect for miniatures.

If these are things that you don't do it really is ok because many people consider themselves collectors of miniatures and they hand paint their various miniatures then put them on display.


And here are some german soldiers in the process of being painted.





Guidelines and Process of Painting the Miniatures


Here is an overview of the basic process of what you do.

Inspecting/Trimming After selecting the miniature you are going to paint you should inspect it carefully. Often times during the molding process there will be small pieces of excess metal or plastic on the miniature. This is called sprue and flashing and it is normal part of the molding process. You should carefull remove these with a sharp hobby knife. the picture on the left shows various bits of flashing and sprue.




Priming The next step of the process would be to apply a primer to whole surface of the miniature. This priming is also called undercoating. You can use a paint on primer or a spray on primer (undercoat) I recommend you use the spray on. It is much easier. This step is often skipped by painters but you really should do this step. It will make a significant difference in how well the miniature ends up looking.

Undercoats come in different colors, typically white, grey, and black. It is a matter of personal preference but I prefer the grey. It just seems to give more definition to the miniature and make it easier to paint.


BasePainting The next step in the process would be to paint the major large areas of the miniature. The picture at left goes a bit beyond base painting. These large areas are typically a good portion of the mini. In the case of the horse it would be a lot of the brown of the horse skin and tail and the saddle and metal accoutrements.

Once all the base painting is done you would move on to a lot of the detail work such as the blues, hooves and gold in the details of the saddle.



Further Techniques in Painting

Once all of this painting is done you could be finished with the miniature if you wanted to. You would just need to spray it with some kind of sealer or fixative and it would be ready for display or use. But there are some techniques that are used that will take your miniature to new heights of realism. I will give you a quick review of some of these techniques.

  • Dry Brushing - This is a technique where you apply a liberal amount of paint to your brush (without watering the paint down) and then brush off most of the paint onto a paper towel or sponge. Then you lightly brush over the miniature with that brush. What happens is that small amounts of the color are transferred onto the high points of the mini. This technique looks fantastic and is especially well suited for things like chainmail.
  • Washing - This is a technique where you use a very wet and dark color like black, mix the black with lots of water and then brush this right onto the mini. The black settles into the deepest cracks and crevices of the mini. Typically, after I apply a colored wash I then clean my brush and do another wash with just water. You will be very pleased with how this looks. The black settles into the deepest cracks and gives a lot of resolution to the mini.
  • Color Layering - This is a technique where you go over an area that has been base painted. You paint portions of the area with variations of the same color just with a different shade. Let's say the area is brown. You paint portions with a lighter or a darker brown. This brings out variations in the shape nicely.



What do you need? Tools and materials


The Basic Materials:

  • Paint
  • Small and fine brushes
  • Primer or Undercoating
  • Sealer
  • A clean work area
  • Water
  • Magnifying glass
  • Small cutting tools like side cutters or an Xacto knife
  • Small Vise or clamp
  • Small pliers
  • Optional but nice to have: Tweezers, sandpaper, emory boards, small files



One of the biggest challenges of working with miniatures is the fact that they are miniature! This poses some challenges for painters. So I recommend you get either a good magnifying glass or better yet a table light with a built in magnifier. I have one and use it all the time. It makes things so much easier. They come in all different shapes, sizes and prices. But are invaluable for the magnification and for the lighting.

This is the one shown in the picture: Professional Fluorescent Magnifier Lamp - Extra-Large 7.5 x 6.25


Dual Helping Hands with Magnifier

You may also want to get one of these helping hands. It's really convenient to be able to clip the miniature solid while you work on it.




If you are on a tight budget you can improvise a nice little clamp like I have done here in the picture on the left. You wrap tape around a piece of wood so that the sticky side is pointing out. Now you can stick your miniature right to the board. This makes it very easy to paint the miniature while holding.









Games Workshop Hobby Starter Set


  • This box set contains nine 12ml pots of Citadel paint, including: Calthan Brown, Iyanden Darksun, Knarloc Green, Tallarn Flesh, Mordian Blue, Undercoat Black, White, Gunmetal and Mechrite Red
  • Also included are a paintbrush, a 20g tube of Plastic Glue, a 20ml tube of PVA glue, one 5g tub of static grass, one 45g tub of sand and a set of Plastic Cutters.


Games Workshop Spray Primer Black



Citadel: Standard Brush





Links, Resources, Books and More

-genres like warhammer, fantasy, war, -genres like warhammer, fantasy, war, -materials brushes and paints and tools - display options-Spinoffs like diorama making and casting your own miniatures-Tips and techniques Makers of paint supplies





This is a fully comprehensive guide to painting and constructing miniature models. This book should help to get you started if you're coming to painting with no experience, and encourage you to try out a few new or different methods if you have painted before. Each technique is described in detail along with pictures to illustrate every step as clearly as possible. There's also a vast array of 'beauty shots' to inspire you to pick up those paint brushes!


How to Paint Citadel Miniatures





Links, Resources, Books and More



Kits to get you started


Reaper Learn to Paint Kit - Intermediate Level Armor This is a nice option to get you started. It has everything you need including miniatures.





Vallejo Game Color Kit

Vallejo Game Color Paint Set: Intro Set (8 Paints w/2Brushes and a Miniature)





Paint Learn to Paint Kit 2 Flesh & Cloth RPR 08902