Over the years I’ve learned through trial and error some things about collecting and painting Warhammer figures. Sadly, even though I’ve learned these lessons, for some reason I always forget them. So I’ve decided to share them here and hopefully, someone can benefit from my mistakes. Some of these are considered common knowledge in the wargaming community, but in case someone is new to the hobby, I’ll mention them again here.
- Batch Painting: Unless you’re painting a showpiece, painting in small batches (7-10 miniatures at a time) means you can efficiently paint a squad by doing common elements on each miniature. For example, paint all the armor plates on every miniature, and when you’re done with the last model, the first will be ready for a second coat, or another color. Repeat until the entire batch is done. Batches should be a reasonable number; I once tried to paint a batch of 40 Skaven at once and I got halfway finished and gave up. Now I have 40 half-painted Skaven Clanrats.
- Test models: Before you paint an entire squad, use a sacrificial model to test potential color schemes. It doesn’t even need to be the same type of model. For example, you could test a Space Marine color scheme on an old metal Eldar – you’re just trying to figure out what colors work well together. Write down each step of the process so you can duplicate it later. I consistently forget to do this, and now I have 40 half-painted Skaven I can’t remember how I wanted to finish.
- Don’t be afraid to strip: If you mess up, feel free to strip the model and start again. Right now, the stripping medium of choice is “LA’s Totally Awesome Cleaner”, however “Simple Green” gets a lot of love as well. If you anticipate you’ll be doing a lot of stripping, invest in an ultrasonic cleaner. It’ll save a lot of headaches trying to get into each nook and cranny – the paint just bubbles off the model. You may still need some elbow grease with a toothbrush, but generally speaking, an ultrasonic cleaner will work wonders. I picked one up recently because I ignored Tip #2 and am now stripping 50 resin bases that I got halfway through and decided I hated. I apparently also ignored Tip #1.
- Buy only the paints you need: I am one of the worst offenders for this. My collection of paints would put some hobby stores to shame. For a very brief moment in time, I looked upon my collection with pride, but now I look at it with disgust. Half of the paints have clumped up into unusable gunk in the pots and I’ll have to throw them in the garbage. The problem is, every single time I pick up a box of miniatures, I look at the recommended colors and buy the recommended paints. Then I get home and realize I already have 4 pots of retributor armor. There are quite literally apps for this exact issue, but I never remember to use them when I’m heading to a store. The other problem I run into is I may be compulsive purchasing the miniature, with no intention to paint it straight away. So why do I always buy paints? Who really knows?!
- Buy only the miniatures you need: This is a tough one because there isn’t a Warhammer player alive who has ever followed this tip. All I can say is unless you’re buying release-day miniatures you intend to paint right away, there is always a danger that the manufacturer will update the model and you’ll be stuck with the older, completely derpier previous version that nobody wants to buy.
- Don’t buy someone else’s problems: Your mileage may vary with this one. Personally speaking, I’ve been burned too badly on pre-painted trades with the intention to strip and fix the model. You need to decide if taking the time to fully clean up a model someone else painted (and maybe adjust the pose, or fix the horrible assembly job) is worth your time. More often than not, every time I’ve picked up a batch of prepainted models, by the time they’re ready for paint, I wish I’d just bought the new box. However, if you’re looking for test models and someone is letting them go cheap cheap cheap, then by all means. I know this seems to go against Tip #3, but that tip is more for models you’ve built yourself.
- You don’t need all the fancy gadgets: I’m horribly guilty of this one as well. There is a flawed thought process that some people have, myself included, that if you have the best tools, you’ll produce the best results. This is not always the case. Quality results are obtained with practice over time, not by having an Iwata Eclipse airbrush and hundred-dollar sable brushes. Sure you can get great results with those, however, it’s less likely if you haven’t worked yourself up to a skill level to justify having them. I’m not saying people starting in the hobby shouldn’t have decent tools, but I think we all need to step back and say “will this actually improve my hobby?”. I know when I bought my airbrush I expected miracle results right away (I’d been watching way too much Miniac at the time, who uses an airbrush in every video) – instead there was a LOT of swearing and anger, and I had to take a break from the hobby for a while.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect: If you’re painting a named character who is the figurehead of your army, yes – spend all the time you need. If you’re painting a rank and file miniature, of which you’ll have 60 on the board, you can skip some of the fine details. If you want proof of this, the next time you’re at a Games Workshop (or any hobby store for that fact), check out their army display cases. I’ve drooled over the painted miniatures in the case many times, but when I get right up close I can spot lots of imperfections. The thing is, nobody can see them unless they’re really looking, and honestly – nobody cares. It’s completely fair to paint a playable army to tabletop-ready standard. It beats grey plastic, and it’ll look fantastic; even if some minor details were missed. If you spend 15 hours on each marine, you’ll burn out and when they’re all together on the table it won’t look much better than the 45-minute marines.
That’s all I have for right now – I hope these are helpful! If anything, it’s helped me to write them down because I know I habitually forget these tips and I need to remind myself from time to time. If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments.