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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Things I wish I had known sooner

So following on from my Windsor and Newton Series 7 brush review I posted some time ago, it got me thinking.

If I can go years not realizing there was a difference between synthetic and natural brushes, what other gems of knowledge do the pros know that they don't tell you?

I'm not saying its a conspiracy, and that there's an Illuminati of painters that jealousy hold onto the secrets of pro painting, protecting it from the world, I’m just saying there's a lot of things that to them seem like common knowledge and often don't get shared with the new guys.

The information isn't impossible to find if you're looking for it, but you can’t look for what you don't know exists.

So what are the few gems of knowledge I've managed to uncover from the ancient temple of the hobby Pros whilst ducking spears, out running giant boulders and dodging booby traps?

Natural Hair Paint brushes vs Synthetic.

I covered this more in-depth in a previous article, but a quality natural hair brush provides better flow, a sharper tip and does not curl at the end over time. This really was a revelation for me, why was I not told!

Base Coat your Minis

This will seem like a no brainer to most painters, everyone picks this one up pretty quickly, but everyone started out trying to paint directly onto plastic, metal or resin at some point, and while it's possible to produce a decent painted mini with no base coat, you're really just starting your journey with a flat tire.

Every single pro painter will start out with a base coat, it provides a surface for the paint to stick to, so your paint flow is smooth and you're not pushing paint around your mini. Base coats can be applied by brush, airbrush or the most common method, by spray can.

Base-coat colours vary from person to person, white will provide brighter more vibrant colours but will show through if painting is not perfect. Black will help hide any mistakes and gaps in hard to reach areas, but will dull colours slightly. Grey is a good balance between the two. You can also go straight for the colour of the mini, personally, I use German Grey for most projects.

Thin your paints

You will hear this over and over again, but what does this mean? How much do you thin by? What's the ratio? What do you use to thin your paints?

Everyone has a different answer, but the most common one I've found is to thin your paint to about the consistency of milk. Most will use regular plain old tap water, some will swear by only filtered water, others will swear by acrylic medium or Flow improver.

Water will probably do any n00bs well enough, the important thing to remember is to thin your paints. If you feel it could then be improved, try some of the advanced products.

I personally just use tap water with a little drop of washing up liquid to break the surface tension of the water and give better flow once mixed with my paints. Remember its sometimes quicker and easier to paint multiple thin layers than it is to paint one solid block, which can lead to you pushing paint around and leaving an uneven coat.

I will be experimenting with the other products as I experiment with:


Not all secrets are obscured to just n00bs, I've been painting for years, and several times I've experimented with advanced techniques like glazing, that ended disastrously and honestly left me pretty down about my abilities as a painter and I think, leaving me in a place where I feel I can’t progress much further.

This is something I obviously know nothing about, this is my white whale, my holy grail, and yet to find a tutorial that gives me that Eureka moment, perhaps I never will. If anyone wants to give me the miracle answer to this problem I'd love you forever.

Wet Pallet

This was another little Gem I discovered only recently, up until then I had been using pringle lids, ceramic tiles, Tupperware boxes, anything and everything to mix and hold my paint while I painted my minis.

The problem is paint drys, fast, and when your painting up platoons of men and tanks you can be painting for some time.

The Wet Pallet works in such a way that your paint is fed a constant supply of moisture and can last in your pallet for literally months. You will need to change the water after a while so it doesn't go stagnant, but keep your water fresh and your mixed paint will last as long as you need it to.

I found this little bit of wisdome on Minutiae of War through the WWPD Network page, and its changed my painting experience entirely.
Stolen image from Minutiae of War
Its essentially a bit of blister foam/paper towel/sponge in the bottom on a Tupperware box with a sealable lid, with water saturating the foam, it then has a layer of grease-proof paper over the top of it that you use as your pallet surface. Store it with its lid on and your paint will last a long, long time.

2B Pencil

I hate painting metallics, they suck, they behave differently to normal paint and turn to goo and thinning with water tends to break them up, there are ways to prevent this, you can use thinners like the ones mentioned previously.

I like to avoid them entirely when I can. When it comes to battle damage on my tanks or gun barrels on my guys, I like to paint the barrel German Grey and go over it with a soft graphite pencil. The result is something similar to GW Boltgun Metal, but much less hassle and twice as fast.

This doesn't work well for large areas, for instance armour plating on Imperial Roman Legionnaires, and only works for silver metals like steel or iron, but for small areas of battled damaged tanks its great.

Don't Highlight with white

For most of us it seems logical that to lighten a colour you just add white right? The problem is it doesn't work with paint, your nice blood red Blood angels army just turned pink.

I'm sure there's some colour theory in here but I wont go into it, yellow highlights both red and green well, cyan for blue.

Another trap people fall in is highlighting black with white, after all, black has no colour, its very definition is a lack of colour, the problem is pure black doesn't look natural, its tricky to highlight which leads us into:

Near Black

Near Black as its name suggests is not quite black. What people have discovered over the years is black is difficult to shade and highlight. It can lead to a stark difference between the highlight colour and the black base-coat.

Adding in a bit of the Highlight colour to a black base coat helps ease the transition.

For instance when painting GW Necrons all those years ago, my base coat was black with green highlights. Id add a little bit of dark angels green to the black to tint it in the right direction, most people wont notice it wasn't quite black. Id then highlight with progressively brighter shades of green through to nearly yellow.

Personally I like to highlight black with blue, which makes out of the bottle German Grey a perfect substitute for black, its slightly blue tint makes it easy to highlight and a dark wash can still add a little bit of depth to the recesses.

You might want to paint a black cloak on a model with a navy blue tint for a royal or lord, or brown for a commoner or assassin. It depends on the tone your trying to achieve with your model.

So these are the few little bits of information that I've gleamed from the various corners of the world in search of the Painting holy grail. What little bits of info do you wish you had known that seem obvious to you now?

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