Tools of the Trade

This brush is frayed but still good for very small drybrushing jobs or positioning decals.


One trend that I have seen over and over is that as the painter gets more and more into painting, they go on this quest for smaller and smaller brushes. A collection of many #10/0 brushes is soon amassed. The serious even track #15/0 and sometimes #20/0 brushes! Eventually, they come full circle, start acquiring good quality brushes in in the range of #000 to #3, and those micro brushes will hardly ever see use again. I do most of painting with a good #1 brush and use a #0 brush for most of the fine work. For eyes and occasional detail area where I am afraid of slipping, I use a #000 brush. Why? It's no big secret. Despite appearances, those micro-brushes do not provide finer detail. Once you get down to a good quality #0, those micro-brushes will not have a finer tip than the #0, and that's all that matters for detail. You paint most detail with the tip. The real difference with those tiny brushes is that they hold less paint. If you are trying to do smooth, fine detail, especially any kind of lining, you want more paint, since every time you move your hand away from your figure to put more paint on your brush, your inviting errors. Once brushes fray, keep them around for applying inks and varnishes, drybrushing, and work on your terrain.


Spray Varnishes

After you finish painting a figure, always clear coat it. Without some kind of clear coat, your masterpiece paint job will quickly wear off with normal handling. Traditionally, flat coats look better, but gloss coats protect better. Most hobby flat coats are so thin that they barely offer any kind of protection. The best solution I have found for this is to first spray the figures with a gloss coat, and when the figure is completely dry, spray the figure again, this time with a flat coat to deaden the gloss. You will want to use spray varnishes for this to maintain an even coating. Brush-on varnishes are much more difficult to get a smooth even coat on your minis. With glosses, be careful not to spray them on too thick, otherwise they might yellow as they dry. Model sprays seem to have less of a problem with this than hardware store brands, but it can still happen. I use Testor's GlossCote. Because I don't like the dead flat finishes on many figures, instead of a normal flat or matte spray, I use Krylon's Matte Finish clear coat. It is more of a semi-flat, leaving the figures looking a bit more animated. It is also a thicker coating, meaning that my figures are that much more protected.



The cheapest, best palettes I have found are spare bathroom tiles. The ones I use are just over four inches square, and I got them for free from a local ColorTile store. I just went in and asked for a couple of spare tiles, and they had a number of spare sample pieces that they were willing to part with. Make sure you get the smooth, flat, white variety. The smooth tiles are easy to clean, and the white tiles will give you a truer idea of your colors. To clean the palette, scrub lightly under warm running water. The water will soften the paint enough that most acrylics slough right off. I strongly recommend using a palette. Paint from it and not from your jars. It will allow you to more easily mix colors for blending, and will let you thin the paints.


Future Floor Wax

I use a solution of four parts water to one part Future Floor Wax as a flow agent when I paint. I thin all of my paints with this solution. It improves the flow characteristics of the paint better than straight water by breaking the surface tension of the the paint. You can also use commercial versions of the same product, such as Liquitex's Flo-Aid, but I'll stick with this handy solution. Make sure you get a squeeze bottle to pre-mix a batch of the solution as seen in this photo - otherwise it can be a little cumbersome...


Canned Air

I tend to have many projects going on at once, and my figures often get bits of lint or dust on them. Primered dust is very aggravating, and it gets in the way of painting as well. I use to use a small make-up brush to 'dust' the figures, but it doesn't work nearly as well as a short burst of canned air.



These figures have been attached to the tops of these dried paint jars by a small ball of Bule Tac adhesive.

Blue Tac

Remember that failed idea of temporary adhesive that was so advertised in the early to mid eighties? It looked like blue sticky putty that supposedly didn't stain walls (but it did). Well, it failed at keeping posters on the wall, but it's great for holding figures to surfaces while you paint them. I blu-tac my GW figs to old, dried-up PollyS bottles (the size is perfect) when I'm painting them. That way you can manipulate the figure without touching it and damaging your still unsealed paint job. The stuff lasts for ages, too. I have been using this stuff for about ten years or so, and have only ever bought two packages. The only reason I even bought a second pack is that I left mine at home when I went off to school, so I went and bought another package. I'm still using both packages. And it's cheap - about $2 US. Look for it in hobby or craft stores or on the stationary aisle of most large drug stores.



I always spray primer my figures. The figures really need to be primed before you paint them, and brush on primers just don't cut it. I usually prime with black, though sometimes I will use gray or even white, depending on the final effect I want. But almost always, I use black. In particular, I use Citadel black. It takes paint well, and goes on fairly thin. Floguil black takes paint even better, but is just too thick. Armory is sometimes ok, but I have had a lot of assorted problems with this brand. I will no longer use it for figures, but sometimes I still use it on terrain. Floguil light gray is very good, and is light enough that I reccomend it over a straight white primer. Apply primer in light quick coats from a distance of at least eight inches away.



There are a number of ways of basing your figures. The typical Games Workshop method involves painting white glue onto the base, then dipping the base into sand. Once the glue dries, paint the sanded base dark green and dry brush over that with light green. I have a number of different grades of sand so that I can base my figures with different textures depending on the effect I desire. I use the superfine sand mixed with a little medium sand from my desert bases.



You're going to stay up late and paint miniatures. You need caffeine. Sure you can pop the No-Doze or brew a pot of coffee, but that doesn't appease the Soda Gods in a proper fashion. And beware the dark path. Drink not of the Pepsi elixer, or forever will it taint your soul.