glass jars (for water)

brush cleaner

paper towels


work table w/good desk lamp

binocular visor

clear sealer


Some words about materials are in order: for the beginning painter, materials are an expense and you may end up skimping to save money. This is fine, but I find that investing a little now will only pay off later. Brushes are a good example of this: I’ve seen what some of those cheap, ‘miniature-company’ brand brushes look like after a few uses. Go to a good art supply store and buy some better brushes! To begin with get sizes 1, 0, 5/0, and 10/0. That’ll give you a good range of large brushes to cover big surfaces and some small ones for detail work. Nylon bristles seem to last longer when painting miniatures; the yellow kind , called "gold taklon", works best for me because it is strong enough to stand up to the abuse, but soft enough to blend with. I recommend Leow-Corneille (they have a great range, including brushes as small as 18/0!), Windsor-Newton, and Grumbacher brushes.


While you’re at the art store, buy some kind of brush cleaner. Two popular kinds are "The Masters" brush cleaner (its a paste that comes in small, tan tubs) and Grumbacher Brush Soap (a round, green bar). A good cleaner is indispensable for keeping your brushes clean and making them last longer! You don't have to use these if you can;t afford them - use some regular soap, just use something! Whatever you use, the procedure's the same: just wet the brush under some running water, swirl it in the cleaner, rub the brush gently in your palm until the cleaner suds up, and rinse with some clean water.

A word of caution, though - with the tiny brushes we use in miniature painting, take care not to get too much brush cleaner or paint into the ferrule (the metal band holding the bristles together)! If too much material gets lodged there and dries up, the bristles will begin fanning out after use and ruin the brush. Try to put paint only on the tip of the brush when painting, to avoid this.


I use acrylic paints exclusively for miniature painting since they are pretty much non-toxic, clean up with water, and dry quickly. Some painters prefer oil or enamel-based paints for their blending ease, but they can take a long time to dry and require solvent-based thinners (turpentine, etc.).

I prefer Ral Partha acrylics over all the other gaming-company brands of paint (The Armory, Chessex, Citadel, etc.). They’re pre-thinned (so they flow well and blend well), have a wide range of colors and come in the best-sealing plastic paint bottles I’ve ever seen (I’ve rarely had these paints dry out on me). You can also use acrylic craft paints (such as Decoart, Ceramcoat, etc.), which are inexpensive and have an even wider range of colors. Be prepared to have a large storage container to keep them in, though, as they have tall bottles. Artists' acrylics in tubes (Liquitex, Windsor Newton, etc.) are great paints also, but are a little too thick to use on figures, though the Liquitex paints in the flip-top jars are thinner in viscosity and work fine.

The brands I’d caution you against are Citadel paints, which can be rather watery in consistency, with resulting coverage problems, and Polly-S Fantasy paints, which are difficult to blend with due to their chalkiness and have a real problem with drying out in the bottle! I recently heard that Polly-S is now no longer being produced, so they won’t be an issue…

That said, however, I have to say that Polly-S had the best metallic acrylics for miniature painting; the metal flakes are extremely fine and cover in one coat! Though Polly-S is now defunct, Floquil (the parent company) still makes most of the metal colors in their new ‘Polly-Scale’ military acrylics line.


You're going to need a pallette, too. Inexpensive, plastic ones are available at hobby or art stores, but if you find yourself painting often, you may want to invest in one of the ceramic palettes made for Japanese ink painting ('Sumi'). This white-porcelain palette cleans up in a snap with just some warm water and the paints don’t stain the ceramic, unlike with a plastic palette. At around $10 it's an option, but a good one in my book.

Also, you might want to invest in a binocular visor (available in hobby or lapidary [gem-working] stores, under such brands as 'Optivisor'). This flip-visor is worn over the head (fits over glasses) on a plastic band and provides 3X magnification on whatever you're working on. Why buy one? If you've got bad eyesight and wear glasses (like I do) it's a real help when blending and also in painting detail work; it saves you from having to hold the miniature a few inches away from your face to squint at it while painting and lets you see tiny elements that you would have otherwise missed.


Set up a good work area to paint at; preferably an uncluttered, flat desk with one or more good desk lamps. I'd recommend you use at least two 60 watt incandescent bulbs for a light source. Ambient room lighting is also helpful, but never paint miniatures directly under a fluorescent light!! Fluorescent bulbs cast a very blue light and fool your eye's color sense. Colors that look great when painted under them look terrible in incandescent light or sunlight. They also tend to deepen shadows, sometimes making what you thought was a good blending job become too subtle to see in normal light!

You'll want to get some jars to keep your brushes in and to use for rinse water. Remember to change this water frequently while painting to avoid muddying your paints. It's also a good idea to have a separate water jar for use with metallic paints, as the metal flakes have a nasty habit of ending up in your regular colors if you use the same rinse water for both. You don't want a maiden's painted rosy cheeks to have shiny silver flakes in them, do you?

Some laid-out newspapers and paper towels will provide protection against paint or water spills, and some sort of organizer will help you keep track of your paints. I use a hardware store "parts organizers" with plastic drawers, into which the Ral Partha bottles fit perfectly, but even an old shoe box is better than nothing. Paint a dab of each color on top of it's bottle lid for quick identification.

When you begin painting, try to avoid stabbing or pressing the brush's bristles into the miniature, otherwise they wear out quickly or develop the dreaded 'hook tip' - the point of the brush bends at a 90 degree angle. Rinse your brushes after each stroke and dry them on a paper towel. After each painting session, rinse your brushes in warm tap water, then swirl them in some brush cleaner until the paint is all gone from the bristles, and rinse them off. This helps preserve the brushes so they’ll last longer (even using dish soap is preferable to nothing at all). Also, never use hot water to do this, as it can melt the glue holding the bristles into the brush's ferrule, making them begin to fall out; not fun!

Finally, keep the figure you're painting attached to its primering bottle, to provide yourself with a handle while painting it. That's much better than holding the miniature with your fingers, because you inevitably rub the primer off somewhere...;^)

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