Painting on a budget and not looking like a total noob.

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. Took a bit of a family vacation and haven’t had a lot of significant Guild Ball activity in recent weeks. HOWEVER I am back and today I would like to give kind of a starter guide to painting models!


So minor disclaimer first off: I am not a master painter and my style is not hyper-realism. I prefer bright, bold color schemes that stand out on the table. This write up is intended for new to intermediate painters who want to add a splash of color to their games. I also prefer to do things on a budget.


First WHAT YOU NEED:  (Pictured: Everything I used to paint Fangtooth aka Squidtooth)


Brushes: You’ll want a decent brush set. For starters there is no need for $10-$15 dollar brushes. In fact I would avoid them. GW or similar “branded” brushes actually aren’t better for starters. Without proper care they will fray easily and you’ll be pissed you ruined your investment. You can run to your local craft store and get a decent brushes for $3-$4 each. I would recommend sticking with the “round” type brushes in size 0, 1, and 2. Also get one larger/flat brush for bigger jobs such as a size 5 or 6. Total investment ~$20.


Paint tray with a reservoir: You can get these super cheap. Personally I use a plastic dixie plate and DOZENS of discarded beer bottle caps. For me, a bottle cap is the perfect size for small amounts of paint and allows for easy mixing and portable access. Total investment Free to $5.


Paint duh: A lot of people will lead you towards high end branded paints such as GW, Army Painter or P3. P3 paints are nice because the tend to come in a set color scheme. GW makes the best washes and metalics in my opinion. Branded paints are high in pigment which means there is more color to water therefore you will get a more solid coat. However, for base coats and even detail work, believe it or not basic acrylic craft paint works just fine with a little prep. I use acrylics for 80% of the work I do. My basic prep entails scooping a few drops of water into your reservoir followed by a decent squirt of paint and a SMALL drop of elmer’s glue. It can take some time to get this right and preferences vary. I like about a 66%/33% paint to water mix. During the holidays I found a great deal on a huge set of about 64 paints for $15 bucks. How many GW paints can you get for that? like 3? I will say you should invest in branded washes. You can make your own but it is really a pain in the ass. I like GW and would recommend you at least purchase Nuln Oil (black) and Reikland Flesh shade (reddish brown). You might want one or two specific colors of washes to match whatever color scheme you’re working on. Aside from washes I would also suggest branded metalic paints. Metalic acylics aren’t very good and its not so simple as adding water to those. Total Investment ~20 to ~$40


Spray on Primer: Again, you can get the branded stuff or use something as simple as Rustolem. If you decide to cheap out, make sure you buy PRIMER because regular spray paint tends to be thick. Personally, as I like bright colors, I lean towards white. White primer makes your colors brighter and requires less layers of painting. However, many professional painters swear by black for a more gritty look. Really boils down to your preference, but good luck painting a yellow color scheme on a black primer.


Extras: Elmers glue, Grass flock or Sand. Matte Sealant.




Once you’ve assembled your model you will want to apply your Primer. Shake up your can as directed and hold it a good 6″-12″ away from the model. All you need is a few quick bursts on each side. Don’t soak the damn thing. If there are a few parts where the metal shows through that is ok. Now you’re ready to add color!


I use a “paint up” method. Basically if you imagine putting clothes on your body, you paint the items closest to your skin first. Think of it like this: Paint your skin first, followed by your underwear and socks, your shirt and pants after that shoes, belt and jacket, followed by jewelry and finally anything you may be holding.


Skin: Personally, I start with the head so I can get to the eyes ASAP. I do my eyes first because they are the least forgiving thing to paint. That is a totally different conversation though. You can afford to be sloppy on your first layer so just get some good skin colored paint on the model in all of the places that need it. Remember washes will always make the end result a little darker, so if you are unsure, go light on the skin tone. This is especially true if you want to paint darker skin tones. If you want fair skin, start off lighter than you think you’ll want your end result, such as a sand color. If you want Darker skin start with a mocha brown. Khaki works for a kind of tanned Mediterranean/Moreno shade.  After you’ve got your base coat down, go to town with your wash. Apply washes liberally! It will fill in the cracks and give you great definition on things like muscle / fat folds / scars etc. After your wash has dried, feel free to highlight as you see fit by returning to your starting color, although personally I don’t highlight much on skin.


Clothes Layer 1: Select whatever color you wish to use (other than black/white, that’s a separate convo) and apply the paint in small amounts. Make sure to keep your brush clean between batches. Dipping the brush in water and wiping off on a paper towel between strokes will prevent paint from drying out on your brush. The smaller the brush the more frequently you need to clean it. Dry paint on your brush will cause streaking. You don’t want streaking. You can do this layer without getting too detailed as again we’re building up, but make sure to avoid the flesh areas you’ve already done. If you botch a little its ok. Quickly use a slightly hydrated back up brush to gently sweep up the misapplication. If you realize the error fast enough you should be able to get the paint off. If you forget about it, or you don’t like the way it looks, you can always touch up the flesh layer. I try to avoid this though because often the re-application and wash can look somewhat noticeable. Apply Wash as desired to fill in wrinkles. As with the flesh, once the wash dries you can highlight. For clothing highlights I prefer the dry brush technique. Return to your original color, get a small amount on your brush and then wipe most of it off on a paper towel. Once it looks like not a lot of paint is going on the paper towel, quickly brush the desired highlight area. For highlights, imagine where the sun would be in relation to your model and the parts of the model facing the sun should be brighter than parts which are shadowed. This simple 3 layer technique will create additional depth to your paint job. Don’t overdo it on the dry brush, just a little is fine.


Clothes Layer 2: This is generally where you need to start paying attention to detail. You might want to move to a smaller brush if that makes you feel more comfortable. Although, special note, a smaller brush is not always the right brush for the job even on fine details. . Its not the size of the brush that matters, but the fineness of the tip. There’s a joke in here somewhere. Often times a size 2 brush will produce a finer tip than a size zero, but I digress, just go with whatever you feel most comfortable with. Select your color and use the same method as layer one.


Detail Layer: A lot of folks get tripped up here. Again it is all about simply taking your time and paying attention. Only use small amounts of paint on your brush. You can always apply more. It is much more difficult to un-apply a mistake. Be even more careful if you opt to use a wash on this layer, because you don’t want the wash running over and getting on your previous layers. This layer also includes paint. Again the same methods apply. Chose a shade or two lighter than you want your end result.


Metal Layer: I tend to paint this layer last because it often includes weapons, chains, trinkets, jewelry etc. Metals are actually super easy. Apply small amounts at a time, then wash with Nuln Oil (black). After this dry brush the areas where the light hits and your metals will look excellent. If you are doing something like a chain with jewels, you may want to swap the order of the detail/metal layers.


Sealing: Purchase a sealant. No. Seriously. PURCHASE A SEALANT. Currently I am using brush on army painter anti-shine, but there are also spay on sealants. This clear layer will prevent your grubby fingers from rubbing off all your hard work. Ok fine, don’t buy sealant. Have fun touching up your models every 2 weeks.


Flocking: Chose a paint color which matches the flock you are using, for example, green for grass. Paint the base and let it try. Then take your beater brush and apply elmer’s glue to the painted area. You want to work somewhat quickly here. After the entire area is covered in glue dip the base of the model in the flock and wiggle it around a little. Pick it up after about 15 seconds or so, and shake off the excess. Blow on it Nintendo style to remove more excess.


And that’s it! You’re done! Enjoy your table ready models! Even if its not the best looking thing in the world, it is something you can be proud of. Just like anything else in life you’ll get better with practice!

– Lon!

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