What is pro-painted?

Fellow FTW Blogger, The Great Howling posed this question to me the other week actually and I thought it fitting to post here to see what everyone else thinks. With the 2010 North American Golden Demon just finished, it's an interesting question. The model seen above is Todd Swanson's Slayer Sword Winner.

So what constitutes a "pro-painted" model?

Is it defined by the techniques used?
How about the painter's actual profession?
Or does it only count if they make money doing it (they get paid like any other "pro" does)?

What qualities must the model possess to be considered pro-painted? Or better yet, are there qualities that immediately define something as being done by a pro? How about qualities that would immediately disqualify it?

I'm genuinely interested to hear what you all think. I met a bunch of you guys who entered the Golden Demon and who want to improve your painting just like I do. And I know there are tons of people who read and think they could never do it...

And for those who don't already know, the model at the top of the post is Slayer Sword winner for this year's 2010 Baltimore Games Day. It's an absolutely stunning model in real life. It simply comes alive in the cabinet.

Maybe it's as simple as that, it just needs to come alive before your eyes.

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. I'm going to go with the profession of the painter. If an individual paints models as a job (whether primary or supplemental) then I'd call their work pro-painted.

    This is not to somehow denigrate or run down the folks who paint models as a recreational activity; there are definitely some hobbyists out there who can blow professional painters out of the water. In fact, I find their work more impressive, because it is a hobby rather than a job...but I don't think that the term "pro-painted" is correct to apply to their work.

  2. I'm not attaching any value to the term pro-painted, simply because it can mean all of the things you mentioned. It's basically the same as "well painted". To gamers this figure might look awesome, to a showcase painter it's nothing special.

    If I really have to give an explanation for pro-painted I'd say the figure must be painted up to a certain level which is unreachable for the average painter... so a well painted figure :)

  3. I have to agree-- any other definition is subjective.

    I blame eBay sellers for reducing the meaning of "Pro Painted". If you want to describe something as good, why not just call it "good".

  4. Agree with RealGenius, eBay has ruined the term "Pro Painted". Whenever I sell painted stuff there, I specifically comment on how the term is used too much, so I won't use it, but that my minis "would make you proud to field them, well above table-top quality, but not going to win any awards either."

    As for me, I don't necessarily acquaint "pro painted" with the act of earning money for it when it comes to miniatures. For me, "pro painted" is a level of quality, one that is probably subjective and different for every person. For me, its the quality that makes me forward the link to other gaming friends and say "people like this make me sick, if only I had 0.0001% of their talent..."

  5. Firstly, thanks to Ron for posing this one for me, it's much appreciated!

    RealGenius - your point is spot-on! That's what made me think of it. I sell a lot of painted miniatures, but up until my last batch, always refused to list them as 'pro-painted'. I am (if I say so myself) a very good painter when I work at it, but to me I think pro-painted should be reserved for works of the quality that people like Darren Latham, Joe Tomaszewski and Anja Wettergren produce (sorry, just an excuse to list my favourite painters!!).

    The thing is, I've seen 'pro-painted' models on eBay that weren't even FINISHED. Seriously.

    I got so frustrated at poor models being listed as 'pro' that for my last set I thought, you know what, if those people are 'pro', then so am I! Rather annoyingly (although not for my bank balance), the minis I listed as 'pro-painted' weren't anywhere near as good as the ones not listed as 'pro', but they made twice as much money.

    It just goes to show, buyers seem to want 'pro-painted', although I still feel dirty everytime I list something as such...

    Someone once told me (jokingly, I hope) that the definition of 'pro-painted' was 'a miniature painted to a standard higher than that which the buyer could manage'.

    If you look at it like that, we're all pro's!

  6. I class myself as a "pro painter" (I even have a degree in Art) but one thing that bothers me about some "pro painters" is air brushing with minor detailing. Yea it looks really nice and realistic but some painters thats all they do and they class themselves as "pro painters". Anyone even without skills can do it. The masters of painting like Da Vinci or Warhol didnt use an air brush they used various brushes and techniques which made them "masters" and not "pro painters". I also call "pro painters" people who can sculpt and convert and if they are doing a diaroma on their base, people who can set it up to have the conposition to be perfect. I also like "pro painters" to be like comic book artists who think out side of the box given and make it break and bend the borders.

  7. Rather then get into what was already said above I think we should look at the history of the term 'pro-painted' instead of its current degraded and bastardized meaning.

    When models first started showing up on eBay as 'pro-painted' the term was used as an eye catcher, a form of adverising (eg. L@@K, OOP, NIB), but ultimately let you know that the model was painted to a high standard, usually comparable to 'Eavy Metal models.

    Items that carried this term in the title would get viewed more often giving them a better chance of selling. Those selling their models who lack any real hobby ability just adopted the use of the term 'pro-painted' as the eye catching advertisement in hopes of getting more views and ultimately bids on their models.

    So, originally the term had absolutely nothing to do with ones profession or if they were paid to paint said model. It was a term used as an advertisment to denote the exceptional quality of the model, but that quality has now sadly become a shadow of its former standard.

  8. The term pro painted, definitely gets abused on ebay its often boils down to "I sell painted stuff" regardless of quality. Officially..if you're being paid to paint (regardless of quality) you're considered a professional.
    the quality is really in the eye of the purchaser. But I think we all have a pretty solid standard of what "pro painted" should be.

    As for this years GD's while the above model is stunning, IMO the overall quality across the board was not as good as this years Rogue Demon at Adepticon. I think that just has to do with this years location.. expect next's year's Golden Demons at Games Day in Chicago to really bring it all together.

  9. The term pro-painter is a diminutive for professionnal painter which should be someone who paints for living... but today as everyone else said, this term ahs been over abused and doesn't mean anything anymore... As even real professionnal painters don't use that term themselves...

    But it completely has nothing to do with airbrush... that is another debate for another day...

  10. Agree with the above; "Pro-Painted" is a much-abused term that at this point has little meaning. Actually, every time I see that on e-bay, I cringe. If I ever put any of my stuff on e-bay maybe I'll tag it as "Hack-Painted".

  11. Agreed with all the points here. Ebay has really muddied the waters with people calling barely painted miniatures 'pro-painted.'

    I paint army's for people, but I do not consider myself a 'pro.' I get paid for what I do so theoretically I am a pro, but it's not my job, just something I love!

  12. Useless eBay marketing jargon. I've only been in this craziness since 2004 and "pro painted" was already an old joke on the CMON forums back then. Take a look at the auctions from the people whose painting you really respect. How many say "pro painted" I wonder?

  13. I looked at selling some of my comics recently, and being in (what I thought) perfect condition, I was going to list them as 'mint'. However, after a bit of further investigation, I found that there is a very strict set of catagories and characteristics that they must adhere to before being called 'mint', 'near-mint' or anything else for that matter. These include things like staples still being in the dead-centre of the spine, the book laying completely flat when placed down, etc.

    Anyway (I promise this is relevant), maybe everyone should get together and create a 'Ten Commandments' of Pro-Painted miniatures.

    Number One. They must be finished!
    Number Two. They must look... um... nice...?

    Sometimes, I wonder if listing poor-quality stuff as 'pro' doesn't backfire on the seller. Surely people must look at them, tempted to buy, and then think - 'What? Pro-painted? How stupid do you think I am?'

    But anyway, I apologise that this is starting to turn into a rant and that I've yet to attempt to answer the question.


    In my opinion, I think that a Pro-Painted miniature is one which could be looked at by any viewer and be seen as flawless in technique.

    Of course, that's the easy part because, as has been mentioned before, composition, colour, use of lighting, etc. has as much if not more of an effect on the finished piece than how neat your brushwork is.

    Maybe we're all right in thinking that the term 'pro-painted' really does mean nothing at all.

    After all is said and done, I suppose beautiful work will speak for itself...

  14. I think the painting terms used are subjective, but if they must be used, I have always thought of it like this

    unpainted(including primed)
    table top
    golden demon

    I think the top 2 would have to be earned, where pro simply means that it's good enough to have someone pay you for your time.

    I think that a propainted model simply states that someone has the skills to paint a model that you may want to pay more than the model's value for, based on the quality of the paintjob.

    Great topic to think about.

    Santa Cruz Warhammer

  15. I would call pro painted something that scores high on http://www.coolminiornot.com Quality that is a cut above the rest is pro to me.

  16. Regardless of this debate, if someone feels they'll make more money on their mini if they claim it to be pro-painted, then they will make that claim. These people sell minis they've painted, so in the very loosest meaning, they could call themselves professional since they did make money on a mini or three.

    My definition of a pro-painter is someone who is consistently sought out to paint miniatures, even if they do not make money on their minis. The bottom line is that someone has seen their work up close, and were so impressed by it they wanted to take home something of that quality, and were willing to pay for it.

  17. I always thought "pro-painted" was the ebay equivalent of "curvy"...

  18. Having recently started a miniature painting and converting business myself, I find that the term 'pro-painted' is a bit of a stretch in a lot of cases. My painting quality is well above average, but I don't think I'd win a Slayer Sword with my work. Pro-painted in my opinion is over used as a term, especially when I can look on ebay and laugh at the quality of the models sold under that term.

    Not to mention the fact that many of the 'pro-painted' miniatures, and units of miniatures, on there are seriously overpriced for the quality/quantity.

    I have 3 levels of work I do.
    1) Fieldable
    2) Well Painted
    3) Characters

    Each of which has more detail work, layers, blending, shading, etc. I can crank out hundreds of 'Fieldable' level miniatures in a couple days, 30-40 well painted ones in the same time, or 1-2 characters. But then again, most people can't sit down for 16 hours at a time just to paint like I can.

  19. I definitely think "Pro-painted" gets thrown out way to much these days it kinda makes me angry seeing so many half assed models on Ebay titled as "Pro-painted". To me "Pro-painted" means a model/s that have been painted to a higher standard unattainable to the general gaming community. Someone mentioned airbrushing? To me this is the Bob Ross technique of model painting sure the end product looks pretty cool but the technique that's used is like cheating, no time or care gets placed in those models.

    But anyways I really do think that phrase "Pro-painted" needs to be reestablished.

  20. Anon: I don't know if airbrushing is like cheating... I think it is used and sometimes artists rely too heavily on the effect it can create to carry the rest of the model.

    But, I agree, I too think pro-painted is used a bit more often than it should be.


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