I’ve recently got my mate Alan into painting minis, and whilst tutoring him on those first tentative steps I was amazed at the knowledge I was taking for granted – the questions that he was asking were all perfectly reasonable, but I think as experienced hobbyists we sometimes forget or don’t realise how much basic knowledge we’ve had to acquire.
So this series is for all the Alans out there, who’re tentatively taking their first steps into what we affectionately call “The Hobby”. If you know an ‘Alan’ I would be very grateful if you could share this page with him/her.
This first entry is all about the most basic tools to start preparing and painting miniatures. I’ve compiled a list for you, complete with a link of where to get them from for a discounted price.
Plastic Clippers – £6.40
Most miniatures you’ll buy come on plastic frames called ‘sprues’. You’ll need to separate your precious mini from this sprue and using plastic clippers is by far the safest way to do this without accidentally cutting yourself. The proper technique here is to not clip flush to your mini, but leave a few mm of sprue between the mini and your cut, thsi way the mini won’t be scarred by the clippers and you can clean up with the next tool on our list: A lovely razer sharp…
Hobby Knife – £4.00
I use my hobby knife for a number of things; as mentioned above its primary function is cleaning the last bits of sprue from plastic and resin minis. However it also serves as a fantastic mold line scraper if you flip it over and using the blunt side of the blade to scrape over mold lines on hard plastic minis.
You can also use your hobby blade to make adjustments to the design of the mini itself, a process known as ‘converting’ more on that another day.
Fresh blades can be bought separately which can be installed into the tool to keep it sharp. Don’t make me say this again: A blunt hobby knife is far more dangerous and ineffective than a sharp one!
Work Horse Brush – £2.75
I call this your work horse brush since you’re probably going to be doing the vast amount of your painting with this tool. A good work horse brush holds a point and has a good ‘paint well’ – I’ll explain those terms in a later dedicated article.
For now, if you’re a newbie all you need to know is that some people spend loads on a good brush, and you don’t need to be one of them. Yet.
Wash Brush – £3.50
You guessed it! A wash brush is for applying washes, shades, inks and glazes. It excels in this area because it has a large ‘paint well’, meaning it holds a lot of paint on it’s bristles, which results in less time spent reloading your brush.
In a pinch, you could use your work horse brush for this if it has a large enough well.
Dry Brush – £4.25
This brush is super important for a very important but basic painting technique called ‘dry brushing’. If you tried to use your normal brush for this you would quickly ruin the tip and render it useless.
The mark of a good dry brush is long soft bristles for the best and most gentle transfer of dried paint.
Plastic Cement – £3.44
Simply put, this is the best way to glue hard plastic minis. It will not work on resin, or metal minis. Or your fingers. That latter point is a good thing!
It works by welding two plastic parts together, gently melting the bonding surfaces to fuse them together into one effective piece.
Consequently you need to be really sparing and precise with where you squirt this, I only ever use plastic cement that has a long needle nose for precision.
Super Glue – £3.20
I once heard that super glue was invented as a tool to stick real soldiers back together in the field, I don’t recommend that you try this.
However, if you want to stick resin or metal soldiers together then this is definitely the tool for the job. You want to use good quality super glues that don’t cure brittle, consequently a slight flex in the glue’s texture is advantageous to the long term health of your minis.
I’ve got another fun fact for you! Super glue activates by the absence of air. So the next time you see someone hastily blowing on a super glued join you have my permission to point and laugh.
Spray Primer – £7.49
Spray primer comes in lots of colours. The colour you want depends on the colour scheme of the model you’re painting. Sounds obvious no?
What’s not obvious is that I generally use white primer, that’s because it creates an excelled base coat to a technique involving painting with washes. I have an article on that here if you’re interested.
Acrylic Paints – £2.00 per bottle
There are a whole bunch of acrylic paint companies out there, be sure to only use acrylic paints that are specifically designed for painting miniatures. These have smaller pigments which means your minutely detailed mini won’t lose it’s detail.
I’ve linked to Vallejo, these are great paints for a couple of reasons; Firstly, they’re cheaper than many paints on the market. Secondly, they come in dropper bottles which allows greater control over how much paint you’re putting on your palette. Finally they come in a massive range – The Game, and Model Colour ranges being their two most well known, the difference between the two is that the Game Colour range tends to be more vivid and closely aligned with Citadel’s paint range.
Washes – £18.00 for the complete set
I love Citadel (Games Workshop) washes, they have a great range and for once; not being in a dropper bottle is advantageous.
Washes are absolutely invaluable, often referred to as “liquid talent” a wash is basically very very thin paint. You typically use these by painting the wash onto the surface of an otherwise painted miniature and the thin wash finds its way into all the recesses and nooks, giving your miniature a very effective illusion of shadow.
A Discounted Hobby Kit – £20
For a lot of you guys there’s an even better option than buying individual tools, you could get a tool kit like this one from Army Painter that comes with a file (I’d consider this an advanced tool, not a basic need), a pin vice (again, advanced tool), clippers, super glue, hobby knife, and tweezers.
Definitely a worthwhile purchase if you’re interested in the advanced tools. I’ll be covering those in another article later.
Don’t paint directly from the bottle, let that be painting lesson one. Sure you might get better coverage, but you’ll also get really thick and clumpy paint jobs. Learn the skill of patience really early on and thin your paints out first on a palette using a dab of water or commercial thinner.
A palette can be anything. You can go buy one from an art store if you want, or you can use a cheap plate you don’t care about, or even a cheap white enameled tile from the DIY store.
A Light Source
If you’re painting in the summer then do so next to a good window, natural light is the best.
If you don’t have a big window, or it’s Winter I strongly advise going out to your local hobby store and buying a ‘sun light’ or something similar. Basically it’s a desk lamp that takes special bright bulbs, simulating natural light.
It’s quite important to be comfortable whilst your painting, bad posture, being hunched over, or precariously trying to balance a tray of hobby tools on your knee is not a viable long term solution in my opinion.
Do your hobbying at a desk. Preferably a dedicated desk so that you can leave your stuff out when your not using it 🙂
Hopefully this list helps you out and demonstrates that you don’t need to break the bank to get into miniature painting. If you’ve liked this list of basic tools to start preparing and painting miniatures, please give us a like on a facebook page and consider “following” the blog to ensure you get new updates.
Honest Disclaimer: I have an affiliation with The Outpost, my Friendly local Gaming Store. I’ve been supporting these guys for years because of their great service and fantastic range of discounts, usually around 20%. If you fancy helping me to keep the lights on around here, it’d be really great if you could use the links provided to buy from them which grants me a small percentage of the revenue. One day I may even get enough cash to buy myself a beer 🙂