How my painting techniques have changed

This just sort of came to me as I was "painting" the other day. I realized that I do more to a model without a "paintbrush" than I do with one these days. Now this isn't the case with every model, but I am finding that I achieve a good amount of the results I do by using other tools/techniques.

I'm fairly sure that most of us used a paintbrush and paint to get our models looking the way we wanted when we first started out. Seems obvious, but stick with me.

Everything you did was done with a paintbrush and paint from a pot. You'd simply dip your brush in the paint and put it on the model. We all had to start somewhere.

And then you get to feeling good about the results you can get or you see something else that was done with a different tool and you decide to give it go.

This was most likely washes. You're still using the paintbrush, but instead of painting your model with paint, you're using a wash and there are different techniques involved.

And it begins... Now you're 95 percent paint and 5 percent other techniques to get the results you want. And it continues.

Next thing you know, you've picked up using inks or maybe you've started dipping your models to get a certain look. Maybe you spray prime your models now with two colors instead of brushing them with one in order to accentuate highlights.

And it keeps going, next thing you know you're 80/20. You've started using sponges to mimic battle damage. You finish off gems and high gloss elements like blood and guts with a gloss clear coat to make them look real.

It doesn't stop either. Your skills keep expanding and improving. You pick up an airbrush for larger models. You start using weathering powders to get subtle environmental effects. You use things like salt and masking glue to get specific results. You're using graphite pencils to show wear and tear along edges. The list keeps going.

Before you know it, actual painting is a small part of your whole approach to "painting." And that's ok. I didn't realize it was happening to me until I looked at the Howling Griffon model I did a few weeks back. There's not much paint on him in the end. Most of the work is done with other techniques.

The more you do it, the more you learn and the better you get at it. Each time I paint something, I refine a previous technique and try something new. I don't always make huge improvements, but looking back, I can tell I've gotten much better at this "painting" thing.

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've noticed that how I paint has changed (NMM and thinning paints), but more goes into pre-painting. I've tried various ways of cutting and reposing models to make them look better. You're right to say that 'painting' is an aggregate of more than just brush and paint, but 'hobbying' is also an enjoyable activity.

  2. what do you use the pencil for? Is that how your getting the dirty metal on the worn spots. Whats coated on top!

  3. I don't think it is just you either Ron. I too am the same and so is GW if you think about it. Only 11-12 years ago or so they were still painting their bases goblin green. Now the base is as integral to the model as the model it's self. The rise of hobby blogging has no doubt accelerated this level of experimentation as well. The sponge battle damage being a perfect example of a technique I learned through blogging. I don't even make a sandwich anymore without sponging it(euphemism not intended)!

    Infact, GW then responded to the blog world with a sponging article of their own in WD.

    It's all good stuff!

  4. So very true.

    I am still not a big wash person - though I use them a lot more than I used to (which was never), but for example this weekend I've started on my tanks/armour and I dont actually pick up a paint brush until I am highlighting - so thats like the last 10% of a given effect.

    I also think the way in which you use paints becomes different as well. For example, you become a lot more open about colours and paints. In the past I'd always use xxx shade of blue over yyy. And I won't necessarily use the same technique to paint it either.

    Its part of the reason why I do say having various painting projects (that maybe overlap, but don't start at the same time) as you expand and diversify - say for example you paint one yellow army, and one blue, your going to use different primes, blends and techniques to finish a model, but you also are working on different colour combo's for cohesion in the model. Its hard not to improve doing that.

  5. Nowdays around 70% of my models total surface is airbrushed on. Well, still using "paint" of course just not with the brush. Also been using a lot of dry pigments lately. Definitely changed the way I paint the last couple of years.

  6. See, I knew I wasn't the only one.

    Heretic: You're absolutely right about the "hobbying" aspect or even just modeling (converting/building) part of it. There's so much out there.

    Black Matt: The pencil is used to recreate the worn down spots on armour. You can draw on the scratches or use the side of the tip to highlight the edges of your armour.

    It can give you a very subtle look to the wear and tear and allow you to get some really sharp edges.

    A thin coat of varnish at the end is usually sufficient to keep everything in place.

    Musings of a Smurf: I'm looking at another method to "sponge" on battle damage with better control. Once I get something I can post, I'll be adding it. I just picked up my new tools last night.

    Bully: I'll agree with you. I think that as you get comfortable in actually applying the paint, you're less worried about getting it on the model and it frees you to try new colors and such.

    The Antipope: 70 percent with just an airbrush? That's great! I think it's cool that there are so many ways out there that each person can find the right ratio for themselves to get the results they like the most.

  7. Thanks Ron, I found that article really interesting. It's great when people point out new ways to think about the hobby.

    That terminator looks great by the way, very original style :)

  8. Wow, great analysis Ron, I was thinking about the same thing today when looking at a daemon prince, most of the painting I am doing now has strayed away from the original brush only work. I think in the 6 months or so I have been painting now my techniques have changed so drastically that I am having to go back and repaint/touch up some of the first squad members I painted as they are now out of date compared to the rest of the army.

    Welcome back as well, I'm glad you've picked up on FTW again!

  9. Funnily I'm going backwards, if you will, relying less on other techniques and trying out more tricks with the brush.
    The last two models I painted would be around 80% brushwork, but a year ago it would be more like 60%.

  10. James S: Thanks. I figured it was something others have gone through as well, I just decided to post about it.

    Red: Resist the urge to go back and repaint everything! Keep something from your beginning, believe me. It will be one of your favorite models later on for no other reason than the paintjob.

    Gotthammer: That's interesting. Going the other direction you say? I've found that my brush work is getting more complex despite it making up less of my painting time.

  11. I will be very curious to see what you come up with for the "sponge damage". I am really looking forward to doing this on many of my Ultramarines models that I am starting soon.

    I have worked it on a few of my Chaos Land Raiders - but I'm not really thrilled with the results so far.

  12. Oh and by the way it PAINED me to give away that Howling Griffon you submitted :(

  13. The IC: I'm working on the sponge thing now, it's not much really, just something I thought of and will be trying out on my models soon enough.
    Worth sharing though.

    And I thought that was the idea of the Howling Griffon model, paint it up and then give it away.

  14. Yep, I'm replacing things I used to do with inks/washes and powders with blending and 'basic' shading.

    I think it's just a stylistic evolution as I've been going for very clean look lately (like these models), compared to gritty and worn as I'd been doing for a long time before.

    I'm sure when I go back to marines it will swing back again, and even further with orks.

  15. Gotthammer: Evolution... that's a good word for it.

    I've been moving the other way from clean to a more gritty look with higher contrast and saturated colors.


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