I’ve been painting fantasy & historical figures on and off for over 20 years and can, I think, paint to a better than average standard, although not particularly quickly. On top of that, I’ve tended to paint in fits & starts, meaning that very few projects were ever completed, resulting in half finished forces being sold on or shelved for “another day”. Being part of a regular gaming group just seemed to exacerbate the problem, with whatever everyone else was doing looking much more appealing than my current project.
For a number of reasons most of my current and immediate future gaming is likely to be either solo play or occasional one-on-one games with my son, meaning that I’ll need to provide, and paint, both sides for whatever period/genre I’m doing. Faced with this I needed to ensure that I didn’t end up with yet more unfinished projects and mountains of unpainted metal.
I decided to focus on a few key projects and work out a method of painting lots of 15mm & 28mm figures quickly and, more importantly, to a standard I was happy with.
After reading loads of painting articles, on Blogs & in gaming magazines, as well as experimenting with various techniques, I finally settled on the following method, which gives good results and is quick and easy to do.
Excluding undercoating, the miniature below took about 15 minutes from start to finish - not too bad for a 25mm figure!!
Stage 1: Clean and assemble your miniatures.
I wash my miniatures in a solution of warm water with a little washing up liquid, rinsing them thoroughly before placing them on an old towel to dry.
I then assemble my miniatures using an appropriate adhesive; UHU for metal miniatures, and polystyrene cement for plastic miniatures. I attach all shields etc at this point too. I do 15-20 at at time.
Stage 2: Undercoating.
I used to use Games Workshop’s Chaos Black spray paint to undercoat my miniatures but found that getting 100% coverage was an issue, and by the time I’d touched up any bits I’d missed I wasn’t actually saving much time. I didn’t find this particularly cost effective either.
I now use Daler Rowney System 3 Acrylic Mars Black: it’s an inexpensive artists colour which is thick and needs to be diluted with quite a bit of water. It covers well though and works out very cheap per figure. Once undercoated, I set the miniatures aside to dry, usually overnight. I tend to undercoat my miniatures in batches of 15-20.
Stage 3: White Drybrush.
This stage was the discovery for me, and was the key to increasing my output.
Using an old brush give the undercoated model a heavy drybrush with white paint, then set this aside to dry. The idea behind this is that when you block in your base colours at the next stage, the white & black undercoat will create natural looking highlights and areas of shadow. You don’t have to use white - I used GW’s Fortress Grey as the drybrush colour on my Perry ACW infantry, and the resulting highlights on those are very subtle. I guess you could take this a stage or two further, adding extra layers of highlights by drybrushing with progressively lighter colours; dark grey, grey, white for example..
Stage 4: Base Colours
Dilute your base colours with slightly more water than you would ordinarily and block paint your miniature (the white you drybrushed on earlier has the added advantage of making detail easier to see..) Although you won’t necessarily notice it too much at this point, the base colour will be slightly lighter where you’ve painted over the parts of the miniature you dry brushed with the white paint at the last stage.
Stage 5: Highlighting (optional)
By this point the base colour over the drybrushed miniature should provide enough highlighting, certainly for your rank & file troops, and you can just go straight to the next stage if you like. At this point I mix a little white into my base flesh colour, and quickly paint it on to the nose, cheeks, knuckles and any obvious muscled areas (I usually just lightly drybrush it on and don’t worry too much about being overly precise).
Stage 6: Klear Wash
Once the paint has dried I give the entire miniature a wash with a mix of Klear Floor Polish (at least that’s what it’s called in the UK – I think it’s called Future in the US), water and Winsor & Newton Peat Brown Ink. I find that 1 part Klear to 4 parts water and 1 part ink is a decent ratio (feel free to experiment but keep it light to start with – you can always do further washes). The capillary action of the polish pulls the pigment into the recesses, eye sockets etc, creating shade, which further accentuates the highlights.
The wash dries to a tough gloss finish (not too high a gloss) so I don’t bother with varnish.
Stage 7: Basing
As per my basing “How to”
Using this method won't win you any painting awards, but it will enable you to get nice looking units painted quickly and on the table...