After I posted my first list of unsolicited hobby tips, I realized there were a few more that I would like to share. I hope some of these are helpful for anyone getting started with wargaming (specifically painting and modeling).
- Thin your Paints: This should have been my first unsolicited hobby tip. To be honest, I just assumed everyone already knew this, but in case you haven’t heard it before – thin your paints! Always mix a bit of water in with your paint on a palette before applying it to the model. A palette can be as simple as a piece of plastic, parchment paper, a dinner plate, or whatever works for you! This will ensure the paint goes on smoothly, however, you may need two thin coats to achieve full coverage. This tip is a tribute to Duncan Rhodes.
- Don’t Buy a Big Model (Until You’re Ready): I actually just heard this tip recently on the Tabletop Minions YouTube channel and it makes complete sense. When you’re getting started, you don’t need big models like Magnus the Red, a Chaos Knight, Kairos Fateweaver, or Thanquol (on Boneripper). If you’re anything like me, they’ll sit unassembled in their box because a) they won’t get played often because of their points value on the table, and b) you’re afraid you’ll mess up a $100+ model. Both of these reasons are completely valid. Of the big models that I’ve actually assembled and painted, they’ve only been on the table once or twice. I also am terrified to mess up a model after spending countless hours painting it. Sadly I do have all of the mentioned models, all unassembled, all unpainted. Now that I realize what I’ve done, my goal is to get them assembled and painted because I need to stop being afraid of what may or may not happen during painting, and even if they don’t make it to the table, I’m sure they’ll look great on display. I’ve also committed to not buying any more big models until these are all done. The money spent could’ve been four start-collectings, which is a more efficient use of my money. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself)
- Don’t Paint the Eyes: This is another Tabletop Minions tip from his YouTube channel. The problem with painting 28mm scale character eyes is that they often look way too big for the character’s face. It’s very hard to get proportionally correct eyes that look good on the tabletop. (This really only applies to unhelmeted characters; Space Marines, Eldar, etc. all look great with their eye lenses painted). To get around the eyes issue, you can just drop some shade in the eye area, and from 3-4 feet away it’ll look totally fine. Once you’re happier with your skill level, you can always come back and finish the eyes later. Another tip for eyes comes from YouTube’s Lyla Mev (the Mini Witch). She recommends varnishing the face area before starting work on the eyes. You can then remove the paint from the eyes if things go south, and try again. Or, trying to paint the eyes as a first step, before painting anything else. If they end up looking awful, at least you’re not stripping an entire model to correct them.
- Basic Basing is Fine: I always want my bases to tell a story of how the character got to this point. The problem is the bases become extremely cumbersome to make, or I hate the way they end up looking. That being said, I’ve never been disappointed with the PVA glue, sand, gravel, and a couple of grass tufts method. If anything, it’s also the one you’ll see in most White Dwarf magazines.
- Don’t Over-Dry Brush: Dry Brushing when used effectively (and correctly); can enhance a model and provide subtle edge highlights to rough surfaces. The problem with dry brushing is it’s very easy (and quick) to go from a subtle edge highlight to a dusty-all-over figure. Make sure to remove almost all of the paint from the brush, and lightly brush onto the areas to be dry brushed. Before adding more, take a look from a few angles and see if more dry brushing is needed. Remember – it’s easy to add more, but very hard to take away. Another dry brushing tip is to make sure all mold lines have been removed before painting the figure. The fastest way to find an errant mold line is to dry brush the model. It’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
- The Dip Method: I’m not sure which company created it, but I do know that Army Painter popularized it. Basically, the dip method involves prepainting all of the core colors on a model, then dipping the entire thing in a strong ink or wash. Shake off the excess, and you have a model that has appropriate shade in all of the recesses. There is a variation of this method that Games Workshop uses in their hobby videos, where you prepaint the core colors, then Nuln oil wash the entire miniature. This produces essentially the same results. The problem with the dip is it becomes a crutch. You find yourself dipping every miniature because it’s an easy way to get some shading into all of the recesses. This is true, but it also darkens the tone of every color on the model. Sometimes you get way too much dip or Nuln oil on the miniature and it creates large dark splotches. The trick to using this method is recognizing when it’s an effective tool, and when to skip it entirely. I’ve found where it’s most effective is when painting grungy races like Skaven or Orks. It’s also the method I’ve been using on my Thousand Sons (because I followed the GW tutorial), but after seeing some more “pure” Thousand Sons Blue armies lately, I wish I’d skipped the dip. If you’re considering dipping, a good tip is to use a test model, which is actually in my first Unsolicited Hobby Tips post.
- Use a Wet Palette: I think the Midwinter Minis channel is fantastic, but I have to disagree with Guy’s assessment of wet palettes. I’m colorblind like he is, but I still love my wet palette. The only thing I have to remember is to change the paper sheet more often. Basically, I’ll batch paint an entire squad, then swap to a new sheet. The reason I love the wet palette isn’t that I can store paints long-term, but because I have more working time for blending or shading. When I’m painting I put all of the paint pots for that particular project beside the palette, so I have a good reference of what’s actually on the palette. If there’s any doubt, I just start a new paint swatch somewhere else on the palette; most of the time I only have twelve or so paints for one particular project so there’s lots of room left-over on the palette.
- Paint With a Friend: This is really hard to do during covid, but I’ve found that the best way to get past the grind of batch painting a large squad is to hang out with a wargaming buddy (or buddies) and make it a social event. I say “the grind” because while I find modeling and painting extremely satisfying, it can also be monotonous at times, especially when you’re painting the same miniature, over and over. Hanging out with someone who is going through the same thing means you can show and share, bounce ideas, and pass the time together. When I was younger I did most of my assembly and painting with friends and we always had a local rock station playing in the background. Sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio (Sadly now on an oldies station), and I’ll be taken back in time to my friend’s basement, having a great time painting miniatures.