Painting Miniatures: the complete guide

Painting Miniatures: The Complete Guide to Get Started

Painting miniatures is a fascinating and enjoyable artistic activity that requires creativity, both artistic and technical skills, and a lot of dedication and attention to detail.

It's a niche hobby but it is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the development of digital sculpting and improvements in technology related to 3D printers and synthetic filament brushes for miniatures

These new tools make miniature painting accessible to anyone. However, we need to do some considerations : when you decide to paint miniatures, you have to evaluate the tools that need to be used and the ideal brushes for achieving satisfactory results.

Miniature painting therefore requires patience, dedication, and a decent amount of artistic talent. However, even beginners can achieve excellent results by choosing the right tools and following the guidelines we will describe.

In this article, we will describe what you need to paint captivating miniatures, including the best brushes for miniatures, outlining the process to follow to achieve the desired result.

Painting Miniatures: The Complete Guide to Get Started - Borciani e Bonazzi

Painting Miniatures: What You Need to Get Started

Painting miniatures requires only three tools: primer, paints, and brushes.

Painting miniatures may seem like a difficult and complex activity, especially when looking at some miniatures created by the best artists in the field. It's clear that achieving comparable results requires time, consistency, as well as a certain artistic inclination.

You can start by creating simple work and investing in the bare essentials to paint miniatures without worries. In fact, all you need are a primer, paints, and one or more brushes.

These tools are more than enough to get started. Let's look at them in detail.

Painting Miniatures: Primer for Miniatures

The primer is the base color applied to the miniature and serves as the layer onto which subsequent layers of paint will adhere. It's typically applied using a spray can or an airbrush with appropriately diluted liquid primer, with a brush used to cover any areas that may have been missed.

Applying primer with an airbrush or spray can is more precise compared to brush application because it allows for creating a uniform layer without creating build-up in the miniature's small recesses.

The colors commonly used for primer are white and black, depending on the colors that will be applied later. It's recommended to avoid spraying too many times with the spray can, as this could create a thick layer of paint that might cover the finer details.

If the miniatures you're painting need to be assembled, you'll also need the following tools:

  • Plastic glue
  • Precision hobby knife
  • Fine sandpaper or file

Painting Miniatures: The Colors

Acrylic paints are perfect for painting miniatures: they are vibrant, long-lasting, and can be applied directly onto plastic and metal.

The choice of colors is crucial in achieving a perfect miniature. The advice is to opt for quality colors and identify the colors you'll need.

In addition to traditional colors, you may consider purchasing shader colors, which are diluted colors that easily create shadows when applied over already painted areas. Typically, the main colors to purchase include:

  • Primary colors: yellow, red, and blue
  • White and black
  • Secondary colors: purple, orange, and green
  • Silver and gold
  • Flesh tone
  • Brown and black shaders

Painting Miniatures: The Brushes

Choosing the right brush is also crucial for achieving satisfactory results.

Choosing the right brush is also crucial for achieving satisfactory results. Painting miniatures becomes much easier when using quality brushes for miniatures specifically designed for this technique.

It's not just the size of the brush that matters, but especially when painting the smallest details, the quality of the tip is crucial. Borciani e Bonazzi have been developing technologically advanced synthetic brushes for miniatures suitable for both beginner and experienced artists in miniature painting.

Series 20 brushes for miniatures - Borciani e Bonazzi

Gold fiber: gold fiber is elastic and moderately soft, a characteristic that makes it suitable for all paint techniques without thickness, such as miniature painting.

It's a synthetic fiber used in synthetic brushes as an alternative to ox hair brushes. The perfect brushes for miniature painting with gold fiber are the series 20, the series 21 and the series 10.

They are small and manageable, with a fine tip perfect for painting miniatures.

IL PRECISO Top Graphic series 605 brushes for miniatures - Borciani e Bonazzi

Dark red violet fiber: dark red violet fiber is a tough and durable synthetic fiber, comparable to bristle.

Brushes with this kind of fiber maintain elasticity and trace in the paint material and are suitable for textured techniques and rough backgrounds.

Perfect for painting miniatures when color needs to be moved while maintaining a visible paint trace. For painting details in miniatures, the ideal synthetic brush is IL PRECISO Top Graphic series 605.

Painting miniatures with borciani e bonazzi brushes - Borciani e Bonazzi

Painting Miniatures: Step-by-Step Guide

Every artist has a personalized process for painting miniatures.

There is no fixed scheme for painting miniatures. Each artist has their own tricks and methods, and it's perfectly okay to experiment, finding a solution that fits your personal style.

Especially for beginners, it's advantageous to have guidelines to follow to avoid beginner mistakes. The following is not a rigid and immutable structure; instead, it's a guide that we encourage you to personalize and integrate, creating a creative process entirely your own.

Step 1: Miniature Preparation

The first step in painting miniatures is to prepare your workstation and the miniature itself for painting. Clear your workspace and cover all surfaces with a sheet of newspaper. Gather your paints, a palette, and a glass of water, and ensure that the area where you'll be working is well-lit.

If the miniatures need assembly, consider whether it's better to paint them separately or not. Some areas might be challenging to reach if you decide to paint them after assembly.

Before you begin painting, make sure to remove any mold lines or seam lines using a hobby knife or blade. This step is crucial because if not removed, the paint will tend to highlight them, spoiling the final result.

While newspaper sheets are sufficient for beginners, if painting miniatures is a hobby you're really interested in, we recommend purchasing dedicated supports, available in various materials such as cork, plastic, metal, or 3D-printed PLA. A miniature holder will help keep the figure steady at different angles, simplifying the process and reducing drying times.

Step 2: Applying the Primer

At this point, we can apply the base color, or primer. This is the first layer of paint and acts as a binder, meaning it's the layer of paint onto which subsequent colors will adhere.

It should be applied using an airbrush or a spray can, and the most commonly used colors are black and white. When using it, it's important to pay attention to the distance from which it's applied and the external temperature. The ideal distance is 20-30 cm; applying it too closely risks damaging the miniatures due to excess paint.

Regarding temperature, it's advisable to work in cooler environments. Heat tends to dry the paint quickly, creating a rough miniature with clusters of paint on its surface.

How to use brushes to paint miniatures - Borciani e Bonazzi

Step 3: Painting the Miniature

After applying the primer, we can proceed to apply the base colors, working area by area.

The advice is to start with the recessed parts and then move on to the raised ones, using medium tones of color. Precision is not crucial at this stage, as any mistakes can be corrected once the paint is dry.

It's crucial at this stage to dilute the colors and not use them directly from the jar. Excessively thick paint would cover the details of the miniature, removing its three-dimensionality.

Acrylic paints are the preferred choice for painting miniatures. Acrylic paints dry quickly, can be thinned with water, and, most importantly, have excellent adhesion to plastic and metal.

Some artists, to showcase their painting skills, choose to use oil paints. However, we do not recommend these paints, as miniatures painted with oil paint tend to be delicate and have less vibrant colors.

Using dedicated miniature brushes with fine tips, such as synthetic brushes with gold fiber from series 20, series 21 and series 10, allows for achieving a uniform and clean result. Alternatively, as we've seen, an airbrush can also be used, but this requires high technical proficiency in its use.

Step 4: Shaders and Creating Dimensionality

Shaders are highly diluted colors that become liquid and transparent. These characteristics allow these colors to settle into crevices and recesses, easily creating shading and depth.

You can use a thin brush, such as series 20 and series 21 pto apply the shader to the appropriate areas, creating the shading effect. Typically, dark tones like black or neutral tones like brown or sepia are used.

If you want to add brightness to the miniature, use lighter shades where the shader hasn't been applied, gradually progressing with a precision miniature brush, creating a luminous and three-dimensional effect.

Step 5: Finishing Touches and Details

The final step is to add the smallest and most intricate details, such as eyes, ornamental objects, and tiny light sources. For these details, it's ideal to use a brush like IL PRECISO Top Graphic series 605, capable of creating three-dimensional textural effects, bringing the miniature to life.

Brushes to paint details on miniatures - Borciani e Bonazzi

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