Over the years, I’ve taught a number of people to paint starting from scratch. It is always fun to watch someone learn a technique and be able to make their minis pop with it. And the truth is, the basic techniques are very simple, and almost everything else a painter does stems from one of those techniques.
Here is an overview of the basic techniques. This is a brief version of a lesson that I would give to any new painter as I walk them through their first mini.
- Priming – You need to cover the mini with a spray primer. The thing to remember here is that you want a very thin layer of primer on your mini- you don’t want to cover up those fine details. One trick you can use is to spray the mini in short bursts, moving the spray can back and forth.
Black primed minis tend to be more forgiving, so I’d start there if I were you, but there are advantages to white primer.
- Base coating – after your prime your mini, you need to paint each area in a solid color. Painting within the lines is really the key here. I normally completely finish one area before basecoating another, but many people prefer to basecoat the entire mini before doing anything else with the colors.
- Shading with washes – If you take any acrylic paints or ink (P3 included) and add some water to it, you’ll get a translucent paint we call a wash. Apply a wash made from a darker color than your base coat and you’ll find it naturally flows into the cracks. For a more advanced version, try applying a wash directly to the shade areas.
- Highlighting by layering – The next thing to do is to layer up with your color. Take a lighter version of base color (often made by mixing the paint with a lighter color) and apply paint directly to the raised areas on the mini. This will give your mini an added sense of depth.
- Note on colors – You can most easily accomplish the steps above by getting three versions of the same color (like a dark red, lighter red, and lightest red). When you feel confident, you’ll find it is fun to mix it up (I love taking a green, shading it with red and highlighting it with a pale blue, and red often can be nicely shaded in brown). You can mix your highlight colors using anything lighter than your base color, really. For many colors, I use bone white as my mix up color (it is very light, and gives every color a sort of warm feel).
- Note on metallic paints – Metallics work exactly the same as other colors, except for one thing. They don’t mix well with other paints. You can shade a metallic metal with another paint, and it will work fine, but when you are highlighting, make sure that you only use metallic paints.