What I’ve Learned about Painting – Part I

I’ve been painting Warmachine/Hordes miniatures for about six months now.  I thought it would be a good time to stop and capture some of my learning process.  I don’t consider myself  a great painter, but perhaps a decent one.  The yardstick I’m using is whether I’m able to achieve the results that I set out for myself.  I’m at the point now where I can do this more often than not.  So, personally, that’s a milestone.

In the past six months, I’ve watched videos, read tutorials online, and scoured the “Forces Of” painting guides.  In that time I’ve painted 30-40 models.  During my limited experience, I picked up a lot of tips and tricks that helped me work faster and more accurately.  Here goes:

  • Thin your paint – forever and always.  Even if it’s just a drop of water, or a slightly loaded brush of water.  Thinned paint flows better and dries slower. 
  • Don’t thin your paint too much – whaaaat?  There’s a happy medium.  Too much water and you don’t get good coverage, the paint runs off the brush and pools everywhere in addition to where you want it.
  • Use flow-aid, especially with metals.  Flow aid reduces the surface tension of the paint and helps it flow off of the brush easier.  It also “smooths out” the paint on the mini surface and helps get more even coverage.  It’s also supposed to retard drying time, but I may not use enough to make a difference.
  • Surface tension sucks – the only time it helps  is with washes, when you want the paint to settle in the cracks.  This is another reason to reduce it with flo-aid, or other means.  
  • Who decides how much paint is on the brush?  I do! – Deliberately load the brush with just the right amount of paint.  I’ve learned that the amount of paint on the brush is just as important as how thin the paint is.  Too much paint and it runs everywhere, too little and it doesn’t flow onto the model and tends to dry on the brush.  I load my brush, then wipe off excess on my palette.
  •  Ceramic palettes rock – ceramic palettes are soooo much easier to clean than the cheap plastic ones.  Soak them in hot water for a few minutes and the paint sloughs right off.  I use a ceramic palette for making washes now.
  • Wet palettes are neat  – I use it for everything but washes now.  The paint won’t dry on the palette as quickly, which is a real big deal.  It also means you don’t need to put as much paint on the palette to keep it wet – so I save paint too.
  • Making washes is hard – I’ve constantly struggled with making washes that do what I want them too.  I’ve tried to emulate the wonderful GW washes, with limited success.  I have seen some improvement lately, when I backed off on the amount of water and leaned towards a darker, but thinner, paint. 
  • Brush ferrules hate paint – don’t get paint in the brush ferrule! 
  • Synthetic brushes are good for metals and drybrushing.  I find I get better results with synthetic brushes and metal paints.  I suspect it’s because the bristles are thicker and there’s more space between them to allow the metal flakes to flow.  When using natural brushes, the flakes don’t flow out along with the pigments as well.  Also – use flow-aid!

This is just part one but I think I’ve covered the fundamentals that I’ve learned in the last six months.

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