Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tips for Great Painting

After painting for a few months now I've picked up a few tips and tricks and I thought might be useful to share. These are not tips specifically on painting techniques, but rather tips around how to set yourself to paint in the best way you can.

1. Make yourself comfortable. By this I mean make sure you’ve got yourself set up in a position where you can paint happily without worrying about where your paints are going to go, where your feet are going to go or your back aching after a couple of minutes. I have tried painting in my front room, feet up on the couch in front of the tv. Not great for the posture. I ended up leaning forwards all the time because it became a strain on the the arm holding the model up to my eye. It was a pain readjusting every time I needed to set up a new colour on my palette. Plus the light wasn’t too great in the evening (see below) and there was often distractions in the form of my wife. So now I pretty much only paint in my office. I have a big desk up there, plenty of space for paints and mini’s, and fewer distractions.

2. Have a plan. And record it. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Any clown can throw three colours onto a mini and call it done. But to make a truly impacting miniature, you need to start with the end in mind. I often see the experts in White Dwarf talk about painting one or two test mini’s in the colour schemes they are considering for an army before committing an entire unit. Those of us without the same budget or staff discount might not want to go this far. But there’s no reason not to at least look at your assembled figures and figure out how you’re going to paint each component - what colours will you use for the armour, its shadow and highlights, the same for cloth, flesh, fur or whatever else your model’s have. If you can think it, you can probably write it. And if you write it down somewhere you’re going to be able to repeat it. Having a notebook will be invaluable as your collection grows as you’re going to pick up tips and colour schemes from all over. You’ll do something you think looks great and a few months down the line want to repeat an effect on another mini. Oh, except you forgot where that article was or what that guy down at the shop said he did. So figure out how you’re going to paint that gorgeous character you’ve picked up or how you’re going to make that unit of 20 warriors tie in together and write it down. There’s no prizes in this game for memorizing it.

3.Keep the paint wet. I’m painting the type pretty much always start with a slightly diluted paint. that is, I start with some games workshop paint, mixing a little bit of water, and I’m good to go. The reason to doing this is slightly watered-down paint flows better on the model, is less likely to gum up any fine details, and and layering effects work better with thinner paint. I start out then, with the best intentions. The problem is our time I’ve done a bit of painting and am keen to the end of the section am working on the paint is often dried out quite a bit, meaning the final few brushstrokes are made with an effectively thicker paint than the first ones were. At this point, with only a few minor details to go perhaps, it can seem like a pain in the backside to re-dilute the paint. Really, this is just plain laziness. I’m basically sacrificing a good quality finish of paint for a few seconds of effort. This may not make a difference if you’re painting models in bulk. But if you are working on a centrepiece model or perhaps something for a competition it really is worth taking the time to make sure that you paint is always the right thickness.

4. Get a light. When I moved my paints up to my desk in the backroom of our house it was late summer. During my best painting time, around 1 till 3 in the afternoon, the sun would be setting behind me and beautiful light streamed into the room. Perfect painting light. Funnily enough, when I tried painting in the same room in the evening - results were not nearly as good. One night I literally painted almost an entire model only to get up in the morning and not be able to recognise the colour scheme. The colours looked totally different at night than they did in the morning’s early light. So I got a lamp. Its just a standard anglepoise with a not-too-bright bulb in there. It means in the evening when I want to paint my station is nicely illuminated. I can see all the details on my models and paint looks like it oughta should.

5. Know when to stop. One of the reasons I love painting is its a chance to switch off from whatever other concerns I have during the day and just lose myself for some time creating something pretty. I love to sit with a video on in the background, my box of paints open and a couple of miniatures to work on and no other distractions. I can easily spend two or three hours like this. problem here is that it’s very difficult to maintain quality over such a long time. It starts to get really tempting to cut corners, maybe just botch a detail here and there, paint a detailed area all in one colour maybe rather than pick out individual parts or textures, that sort of thing.there comes a time when you have to know it’s time to stop. That doesn’t mean you have to stop painting completely, just take a little break. Get up and walk around and. do some stretches. go talk to your better half or just get a fresh drink and some fresh water.the important thing is you give your mind for the rest, time to refresh, and when you go back to your painting its like starting anew.

These steps can all be summarised thus: if you want a good result for your painting, put the effort into making good painting easier. There’s no substitute for skill - a you can’t buy a steady hand. But you can set yourself up to succeed by optimising your environment. So take some time to examine how you paint and where. How you treat your equipment and work. Put a little effort in at the beginning to make the outcome that much better.

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