Top painting tips from FTW members

Image courtesy Santa Cruz Warhammer

We all have our little tricks and methods when it comes to painting. It dawned on me the other day that most of us take for granted that everyone else knows the same tricks we do when it comes to painting.
I realised this isn't the case and more often than not, I'm explaining something that I take for granted to someone who's never heard of much less seen the trick before.
So... here are a handful of helpful painting tips from the members of the FTW Blogger Group. Some of these you might know, some you might not.

+ Washes will hide your painting errors, Washes will shade your little terrors, Washes will weather your standard bearers, Washes will make your models fairer.

+ Paint for yourself and no one else.

+ Move the brush in the direction you want the paint to move. So for example if painting shadows start at the lightest point and move towards the darkest. When painting the highlights start in the darkest part and move the brush towards the highest area. This way, the paint will pool in the area requiring the most pigments (and it will help loads with your blending!).

+ Don't obsess over models - sometimes a paint job just isn't working out and you have to call it a learning experience and move on.

+ And as my number one tip, always water down your paints.

+ I hosted a painting day for three new painters yesterday and they said the best advice from the day was not to worry about accidentally getting paint where you don't want it, it can always be touched up. It my painting mantra actually: "It's not how well you paint, it's how well you touch up."

+ Grab a pallete, use a water botlle with a dropper or a cheap pipette, and thin that paint!

+ Don't use a really small brush. A good sized brush (size 1 normally) will cover your model cleaner and will generally have more structure and give you cleaner lines. Only use a fine detail brush for FINE detail - there's a clue there...

+ When I paint, I always have a cocktail stick that I can chew one end. The wet end will easily clean off any paint that accidentally gets on parts of the model you don't want it on.

+ Take your time cleaning and prepping the model. And ALWAYS undercoat a model before painting it. I see so many models that would so much better if only the flashing and had been removed and the paint wasn't wearing away from where people had touched it.

+ Buy yourself a high-quality paintbrush holder.

+ When trying to strip painted models, Concentrated Simple Green is by far the best stuff I have found that works. You can keep your models in it forever and it won't damage plastic, resin, or metal models. When you go to clean them, just run the models under warm water and use an old toothbrush to peel the paint right off. Dip them back into the Simple Green as many times as needed to get all the paint off. Let them dry and after your ready to Prime once more.

+ One thing I learned from somewhere else is that you should always base something before you prime it. It saves on painful painting later. At least my bases look nice if nothing else does.

+ Painting yellow is easy if you do it over light grey.

+ Painting Harlequins can be done if you take it in steps.

+ Washes. Best time-saver there is for doing flesh, fabric, or anything else with folds. Gets the job done quick, fast, and in a hurry.

+ Here are three ways I've learned to paint yellow.

+ One thing that helps me is to only focus on a few models at a time, to take my time, and if I start getting shaky from concentrating I take a break.

+ The nice thing about old paints are that even dried up ones can be revived with a few drops of water and some mixing.

+ Overzealous use of the Citadel Washes. That's the way that I paint pretty much all of my rank and file troops. Wash the whole model with either Badab Black or Devlan Mud with an airbrush. The wash adds in shading without having to worry about blending and highlighting.

+ Keep both hands on whatever you're painting, because people's hands shake in different patterns. Keeping the model in contact with both hands means all the shaking is shared among both hands and the model, and you wont have to correct for it.

+ Always plan before you paint! Having a good idea in your head of how you want the model, unit or army to turn out will save you time and tears in the long run.

+ Basically, you need at least 3 colours on your model. Typically an army has a main colour, an accent colour, and a detail colour. Some careful planning will get you some great results.

+ Natural Light... There is no substitute! Painting in natural light (light from the sun) yields the best results no matter what the skill level. Natural light allows you to see more detail, eliminates reflection common to light bulbs (even the "full spectrum" bulbs) and eliminates most shadows cast on models from directional lighting (natural light fills a room where as a lamp directionally brightens a small area). Try painting during the day in a room filled with natural light, you'll find it hard to paint your models any differently afterward.

+ Start with the basics. Know what you're going to paint and paint a test model.

+ Use surgical spirit (AKA rubbing alcohol) to negate the effects of varnish 'frosting'!

+ Stop worrying and learn to love the color wheel.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. All good tips.

    Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Yes all good tips, but the one that I follow is the second one. I only paint to where I like it. I am the one that has to take it home and look at it there too, so as long as i am happy with the finished product that is all that matters.

    Thanks for all the wonderful tips.

  3. I don't have a tip, but a request for a tip. How do you best water/thin your paint? I add water to my paint when I paint, but it is still hard to get a good combination of flow, cover, and low-failure (paint getting too thin and pooling when you don't want a was effect is, well, not fun).

  4. Well, when I paint, I'm very sparing with the amount on my brush, always licking the brush after removing it from my water, primarily to retain the point of the bristles, but also to get a good amount of moistness. Admittedly, this is practice, and just because it works well for me, doesn't mean it'll work for everyone, so, another tip:

    A friend of mine uses a Flow improver made by Windsor and Newton, that gives him excellent results. The trick is in finding the correct mix of paint, water and FI for the required colour, as, as you are aware, thinning with water causes a loss of colour. Obviously it has mixed results if used on larger models, eg tanks, and I've never seen it used iwth a Wash...:P

    Hope this helps!

  5. Further to my previous comment : - 37% off atm, so you can pick it up cheaply to try it out. :)

    In hindsight, I really should've just put this in the collaborative post in the first place, but I was pretty bust actually painting, and had no time to think of it, ironically!

  6. King Elessar: Thanks for the link!

    Flekkzo: That's a good question. Most of the time, I just paint straight out of the bottle but when I do thin my paint iwht water, I guess it's a 2:1 ratio of paint to water. I use just a little bit to thin the paint down.

    Now if I'm using the paint as a wash, then I really add tons of water. It all depends on "how" you want to use your paint.

  7. I'd agree wholeheartedly that thinning is kind of a separate thing from actually putting paint on a figure it itself and that it all depends on "how" you want to use your paint.

    The bottom line for me is that paint, thinner, and additives are all as much tools in painting as a brush or a palette. You ought to "tweak" your paint consistency and behavior in order to get your paint to do what you want it to do, and not the other way around.

    I'm still in the process of trying to merge my "official" painting website and my blog a bit more seamlessly, but I've got a link here that might also help Flekkzo.

  8. How about some modeling or greenstuff tips please

  9. Now there's a good idea, greenstuff tips...

  10. Oh yes greenstuff tips. those would be good to know, especially since i am looking at doing a bit more greenstuff here in the near future.

  11. Great article - much appreciated

  12. A Greenstuff collaborative effort then Ron? I don't have as much as most to offer, but I'll do what I can :)

  13. Thanks for the great tips. I love painting and I am fond of creating different subjects. I agree with the color wheel. It is the most neglected yet most important. You might want to check out photo to portrait made by expert oil painters. I give them credit for the stunning art paintings they have created.

  14. Thanks for assembling so many tips. I also think it's best to use the biggest brush you can when painting, and use a Size 1 or 0 for most work on my miniatures. But I do find a 00 or 000 useful for touching up mistakes and for lining between color areas, in addition to using it for fine details.

    I use at least 4 or more colors in my paint schemes, adding a Metallic to the main, accent, and detail colors, with the accent and detail colors being more or less "opposite" the main color on the color wheel. I select my metallic tone to align or contrast with the main color and use washes to reinforce it. For example, using red as the main color and gold as the metallic, with a chestnut wash on the gold.

    I also usually add a dark color in there as well, sometimes black, but dark blue, green, or brown are also just as useful depending on the scheme. You can get some pleasing patterns by using the same basic color as the dark and the accent or detail color, like a dark blue/black for boots gloves and a lighter blue for piping, stripes, or unit insignia. I frequently use this detail/dark alignment with the main/metallic alignment to give a mini a detailed but coherent look.

    I agree that natural light is best, but it is tough to hold down most jobs and still create an army in a reasonable amount of time while only painting during daylight hours. And I live in the Great Lakes region of North America, so much of the day is dim and overcast for a go part of the year.

  15. And don't forget green as a spot colour goes with nearly anything it seems.


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