Four guys who want to win at painting... AT ALL COSTS!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ten "Pro" Painting Tips the Experts Never Tell You

I'm not going to do a big "I'm baaaack" post, I'm going to jump right back into the action.

Here is a list of important painting tips/habits that will make your projects more successful, but are usually things that are 'missed steps' when you look at online tutorials or videos.  Man, I should do a video... someday.

What does this picture have to do with the list?  Nothing, but it's friggin' awesome!  The list begins after the break:

Ten "Pro" Painting Tips the Experts Never Tell You:

1. NEVER STOP LEARNING!  This is without a doubt the most important step of them all.  If I had to do a Top One, this would be it.  I paint minis almost everyday, and I still find time to go through blogs, forums and YouTube for painting tutorials.  I'd easily say for every forum thread, blog or podcast that Wallshammer reads about tactics and battle reports, I read/watch at least that many on painting.  You are NEVER smart enough.  You NEVER know everything.  I watched a YouTube video this morning on how to paint a Dark Vengeance Chaos Chosen Marine, and learned at least half a dozen new little tricks.  And I've been doing this for YEARS.  Watch/read, learn, absorb.  Take notes if it helps.  Speaking of which:

2. WRITE STUFF DOWN!  Nothing is worse than moving on from a project half-way through, then coming back to that project, looking at some of the finished models and saying to yourself: "How the heck did I paint this?"  Make yourself a master list of the colours you used on the models.  If you need to, make a master list of the painting techniques you used.  The more organized you are up front, the easier the back nine of the project is going to be.  And speaking of making things easier:

3. LIMIT YOUR COLOUR PALETTE.  You know why those 'Eavy Metal models look so sharp?  Limited colour palette.  An Ultramarine looks sharp because it is mostly blue, with a black dark contrast and a gold light contrast.  Same thing goes with any model you paint.  Pick a dominant colour.  Especially when you are starting out, make it a single colour.  "I want my Dark Elves to be red", not "I want my Dark Elves to be red with splashed of green gore and purple tunics and pink hair and....".  The best paint-jobs are most time the simplest.  You're not trying to get into an art gallery.  You're trying to make your models look good on the table, and maybe impress your friends.  I'm not saying every model needs to look exactly like it does in it's army book, but when you try to do your own thing, K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Sucka!).  Speaking of colours:

4. CONTRAST!  Do you know why a Khorne Berserker looks good?  Contrast!  A bright red and a solid gold are pleasing to the eye.  They look good together, and they make your paint-job look better because of it.  My advice.  Pick your single colour, let's say blue in this example.  Once you've picked that, find 2 contrast colours, a light and a dark.  PRO TIP: Black is always a great dark contrast colour.  Seriously, it goes with everything.  Then your light contrast colour would be a Yellow.  Don't believe?  Google "Colour Wheel" or "Colour Theory".  Go on, I'll wait. (Or better yet, I'll put it above this number... who loves ya, baby?)  Back?  Great.  The colour wheel is an amazing resource for planning your colours.  Moving on:

5. MAKE IT BRIGHT!  I've noticed in this area of the world, painted models look very dark.  At first I thought it was the crappy lighting in most places, but then I realized that most models look like they were base-coated in the colour the painter wanted them to be, then washed with black and 'job's a good'un, boss'.  Now I'm not going all high and mighty.  It's a perfectly viable way to paint, and it is a million times better than facing an army of plastic grey.  But, if you want your models to stand out, try this: Paint your models a lot brighter than they would normally be, then wash them.  I bet they'll end up being closer to what you saw in your mind's eye at the beginning.  This really goes back to point 4.  You need contrast.  If EVERYTHING on the models is dark, there is no contrast.  You shouldn't have a dark on a model without a bright.  It's how the two play against each other on the model that catches a person's eye.  PRO TIP: Paint your mid-tone on first, then paint a darker version of that colour into the recesses of the model, and a lighter version on to the top edges.  This is by no means the most efficient way to paint a model, but as an exercise, it will not only teach you how contrast works, but also teach you how to recognize where those highlight's a low-lights are on a model.  Speaking of Lights:

6. USE GOOD LIGHTS.  If you paint in your living room, with the lights off and are hunched over a reading lamp, you don't have enough light.  If your main source of light is your computer monitor, you don't have enough light.  Get your butt down to WalMart and buy a fluorescent desk lamp.  It'll be the best 20 bucks you've ever spent (they might be 25 now.  It's been a very long time since I've bought a new lamp.  Mine's lasted forever and it's still on the original bulb).  Get one with a scissor-neck and a long tube, so that you get even coverage over your painting station.  If possible, get a 'daylight' bulb for the lamp, if it doesn't come with one.  This mimics natural sunlight, which is actually quite a cold light.  That might seem a like strange advice, but if you paint with an even, but cool light source, when you get that model under warmer light it'll bring out the colours more.  PLUS, most of the places you'll be gaming publicly (your local gaming stores) will be using fluorescent light any ways, so your model will look closer to how you painted it.  It's another trick of the eye.  Things look completely different based on your light source.  Want to make sure people see the model as you saw it while painting it, paint under a similar light.  Am I actually going to talk about painting now?  You better believe it:

7. CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES OFTEN.  This is a tip that I feel is the most obvious, yet gets overlooked the most.  Shake your paint pot well, dip your brush in so that half of the bristles get paint.  Do not dip all the way to the metal part.  Put your paint down on your palette (the online tutorial I watched this morning used a disposable foam plate... BRILLIANT!  Why didn't I think of that?), then CLEAN YOUR BRUSH!  Now wipe off most of the excess water from your brush, but not all of it, and use that extra water to slightly thin your paint.  Paint a SINGLE model in a SINGLE area in the colour you are using.  CLEAN YOUR BRUSH!  Go back for more paint, do the next model (or next colour if you are doing single models).  The more often you clean your brush, the longer it will last.  And keep a good point.  Especially if you don't let the paint soak back up in to the brush handle.  Never let your paint go more than about 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way up the bristles.  Your brush is your best friend, but if you don't treat it right it becomes your worst enemy.  While we're on the subject of tools:

8. HAVE YOUR PALETTE MATCH YOUR PRIMER.  As I said earlier about colours and your eye, light tricks them.  So do the colours right next to the one you're looking at.  If I took the same colour, let's say Yellow, and put a black border around one swatch of of paint, then a white border around another, the white one will look brighter, even though they are the same colour.  Why?  Your eye never looks at a single colour in isolation.  It looks at everything around it as well, and interprets that colour based on it's surroundings.  How does this apply to painting?  If you paint with black primer, but have a white palette, you'll find the colour doesn't look as light as it did on the palette once it's on the model.  If you have a black palette, and are using black primer, the colour will look more or less the same on the palette and on the model.  PRO-TIP: sheet protectors.  You can get them at office supply stores in big bundles.  Then get construction paper to match your primer.  I actually have a black table, so I just paint on the protector without anything in it.  But if I'm doing a white-primed model, I stick a sheet of white printer paper in the sheet protector.  BAM!  White palette.  Uh-oh, terrible segue:

9. FIND YOUR RHYTHM.  Some people can paint 30 models at a time.  I can't.  And it took me a long time to figure that out.  I got REALLY burned out painting long chunks of models at a time.  My poor, poor Orcs.  Eventually I figured out that I work best on three models at a time.  That speeds up my efficiency over doing single models, but not so much that I fee like an assembly line.  I have no other advice here than to experiment and find what pace works best for you.  If you find thinking about painting seems like a chore, do less models.  Start with a single, then try two, then three, and keep going until you start to get that 'ugh' feeling again, and go back a model or two.  If you're still reading this, you're a BAMF:

10. WATCH YOUR BACKGROUND NOISE.  I know a lot of people will turn on the TV as they paint.  Throw on a movie or sit at their computer desk with a podcast on in the background.  Here's the trick: Don't watch or listen to anything you care about.  If you start watching Dexter, and find you're really getting into the story, then that is not good painting background noise.  It will slow you down.  This is truly my biggest vice.  I blame my wife.  She doesn't like watching repeats for the most part, and has a lot of shows she watches.  Inevitably, I get sucked in and start watching when I should be painting.  Bad Green Feevah!  Recently, I started 'Sh**ty Movie Night'.  I invite a few people over, we find some real cinematic suppositories and leave that on in the background as we all paint/assemble our models.  I know it's helped me get a lot more done.  I hope it's helped my friends get stuff done.  The point of what I'm saying here though is that watching a bad movie is GREAT background noise.  Because I don't care about it.  It's literally just noise to me.  So I can concentrate on my painting, and only look up for the 'good parts', usually when someone else points out how awful something is and starts laughing at it.  Off-topic, but seriously?  Movie shows up with red squigglies?  Movie isn't in my computer's dictionary?  What is this, the Forties?

So there you have it.  Ten  tips to make your painting experience more successful.  If you look hard, you'll notice almost none of them have anything to do with technique.  I might cover that another day.  Not that it really matters.  Technique mostly comes from education, practice and time.  Everything I've covered is organizational in nature.  Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, blah, blah, blah.  It's a stupid cliché  but it's true.  You follow these tips and your painting sessions will be more productive.  And I find getting stuff done is a BIG motivator for me to get more done.

A couple of things to leave you with: After the move, I lost my light box, a unfortunate victim of not enough space.. I'll miss you, little buddy!  But I'm going to build another one (actually I'm pretty darned inspired to do it right now!), and once it's up and running, I'll be flooding the blog with the work I've done over the last several months.  Plus, I'll give a breakdown of what I've done, because a lot of that work isn't in my hands any more.  Also, I'll post about Green Feevah Customs, my new painting service.  And lastly, I'm not going to tell Wallshammer or Fear I posted, and see how long it takes them to figure out I did!  I might just take this place over!  MWA HA HA HA HA!  Post you later!

1 comment:

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