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Miniature Figure Painting How-To

Article by Paul Nortness

Miniatures are an excellent way to spruce up your table top gaming experience, and they are fun to paint! Today, I am going to teach you the basics of preparing and painting your first miniature.

First off, you need to pick a miniature. For this article, I have chosen Reaper Miniatures "Harstov, Irongrave Knight Lord". You will also need paint brushes, paints, primer, CA glue (commonly referred to as super glue), clippers, a small file, and a hobby knife. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Painting miniatures is a fun and relaxing hobby. Remember that... have fun and experiment. If you make a mistake, you can just paint over it. No big deal!

The Prep

Before we begin, it is a good idea to give the figure a good bath in warm water with some liquid soap. I would recommend a container with warm water rather than washing in the sink, drains are notorious for eating parts. Washing the miniature is important because it cleans off any remnant of release agents used during the casting process and gives us a nice clean surface to work with.

miniature figurine prep

Once we have cleaned our miniature, we need to prepare it. Start by removing any excess material from the figure with the clippers. Once we have removed everything, we will use the file to take down any seam lines or rough spots on the figure. We just need to make everything nice and smooth. Harstov has his forearms separate from his body so we will need to attach those as well, but to make things easier on us while we paint we will attach them after we finish painting.

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Alright! Harstov is prepared and ready to paint! Let's put some primer on him. Primer comes in a variety of colors based on the effect you want to achieve. A white primer is good for eye popping colors, whereas a black primer will make colors much deeper. Harstov has a fair amount of armor so we will use black. For primer, we will just use Rustoleum spray. It's much cheaper than the "hobby" primers and in my opinion a much better primer. Once the primer is dry, the miniature is ready for paint. I take an old prescription bottle and put some Scotch Adhesive Putty (the stuff to hang posters) and stick the miniature to the top of the bottle. It makes a great handle so you aren't constantly painting your fingers!

Start Painting!

Armor looks best by dry brushing metallic color over black (hence the black primer). Let's start by adding some Folk Art Metallic Pearl White onto your pallet. Let's grab a small brush and dip it into the paint. Now, brush as much of that paint off into a spare paper towel. Once we have removed almost all the paint from the brush, let's lightly brush it across the armor. I want to do something a little different so let's add some Ceramcoat Black Cherry into another cup on the pallet. Let's see what we get when we dry brush a light coat of the Black Cherry over the Pearl White.

miniature figurine painting

Ooohh! I like that. OK, this guy is supposed to be a Knight Lord so let's add a little flash to his armor. I've added some Metallic Gold to our pallet, take a thin lining brush and let's start applying gold to various places.

Very nice! Now Harstov has armor befitting a Knight Lord! Oops, we forgot to address the chain mail below his waist. No problem. Just dry brush the chain with metallic, I prefer Citadel Boltgun Metal for chain mail. Once we have the chain mail taken care of, let's move onto his cloak and fur on his back. Whenever you paint (as opposed to dry brush), you want to thin your paints. Since we are using acrylics, we can thin them with water.

miniature figurine painting 2

I always have two jars of water on my work bench when painting. One for cleaning brushes and the other for thinning paint. Keep the jar for thinning as clean as possible. The last thing you want to do is ruin that perfect coat of yellow because the water had a tint of red in it. With a large clean brush add a few drops of water, then mix. Repeat until the paint is about the consistency of milk. For the cloak, let's thin some Red. Add some Burnt Umber for the fur. Apply thin layers of paint onto the surface and do not worry about covering the black in one coat. The idea here is to get coverage through multiple thin coats as opposed to one thick coat that looks blobby.

Now that we have a red cloak, let's focus on the fur. We will be dry brushing again, so get your small brush. Remember, we used Burnt Umber for our base color so we want to go lighter for our dry brush color so it highlights. Let's use Autumn Brown for our highlight color, with just a touch of white to lighten it a bit more. Here is a tip for mixing colors. Use separate cups on your pallet for each color.

miniature figurine cloak 2

Add your base color to one cup and the mix in color to another. This gives you better control over the amount of paint you mix in because you can grab some color with your brush, stir it in and grab more if needed. Using the same technique as before lightly dry brush our highlight color onto the fur. If it appears too dark, add some more white to the brown.

miniature figurine cloak 3

Alright, so we have our fur done and the cloak has a base coat. Let's create a wash for the cloak. This wash will be a darker color, so let's squirt some of our base color red into our pallet. We need to darken it using a very little amount of black. This will darken it really quickly so just add a drop at the most.

miniature figurine cloak 4

Remember the key rule of painting, use less than you think you will need... you can always go back for more. Let's get a nice dark red and start thinning the paint with water. We want to go to the consistency of water this time. Once we have the right consistency, apply the wash onto the cloak. This wash will pool and puddle into the creases in the cloak. Just let that dry and repeat on the inside of the cloak. Once the wash dries, we can drybrush a highlight color. For our highlight color, we will start with the same red we used on the base. We will mix in some white, but be careful. It doesn't take much to turn red into pink and that isn't very becoming of a Knight Lord! Once we get a good shade of light red, let's dry brush this color onto the cloak. Let's go a little heavier with the drybrush this time. This will cause the paint to pick up a little more than just the highlights. Now, mix in a tad more white and dry brush that lighter color. This time go light on the dry brushing. This will cause a layered highlight affect and add depth to the cloak.

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