"No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy (Do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today)"
- – Old Spanish saying, and the polar opposite of what /tg/ does
WIP is an acronym for the term "Work In Progress" and is used on /tg/ to refer to a thread General where posters are encouraged to share info on their current projects, or ask questions in hopes of getting advice. Said projects are often, but not always, related to Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy by virtue of popularity.
The most important thing in beginning tabletop modeling is this: download books and guides from /tg/ WIP threads, watch youtube channels, and participate in online communities such as the /tg/ WIP threads and DakkaDakka where people actively experiment with new techniques and materials that can put you ahead of even pro painters.
- Tabletop Minions, Uncle Atom gives not only his discoveries but also his opinions on various topics and general tutorial advice alongside commentaries on such topics as trying to clear your backlog of unpainted models or the learning curve of pro painting.
Below is a short summary of advice usually given in WIP threads.
Models do NOT need to be first-hand. Bartertown and eBay are popular resources for obtaining secondhand miniatures. Remember to factor in shipping, as this may be what decides if and how much cheaper buying used is. It is important to remember that in Games Workshop stores, only models made by them may be used. A convenient loophole is Games Workshop does not care what the particular model is. A player wanting Zombies may want to get creative with Empire State Troops, or a player wanting Space Marines may decide to give Dwarfs Pauldrons. Even older lines, like Valley Of The Four Winds (which predated Warhammer) or pre-slotta models are viable. The only requirement in Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k is correct base size; in Age of Sigmar any base, even none at allowed, suffices if you're only interested in open play.
Models which are being sold cheap due to a bad paintjob can be stripped back down to plastic via a day soak in Simple Green (for plastic or un-lacquered paint) or Dettol/Super Clean (for metal models, or paint that just won't come off) or similar products, and a scrub under warm water with a toothbrush.
Generally speaking, a hobbyist interested in miniatures needs the following supplies: sprue cutters, a hobby knife, small paintbrushes, a mixing palette with wells, and paints including primer. Further supplies advanced hobbyists find useful are sandpaper and/or metal files, a supply of kneadite or greenstuff, a magnifying glass or a crocodile-clip magnifier, and podcasts or music to set the mood or entertain for the models being worked on.
Sprue cutters come in two variants; metal and plastic. Metal cutters have less precision but wear out much slower, and are designed for the extreme pressure needed to cut through both metal and thick pieces of resin. Plastic cutters are more precise, but may break or bend if trying to clip anything larger than a thing piece of a parts tree. Another option is wirecutters from the hardware store. Always orient the flat part of the blades of the sprue cutters towards the model, as cutting with the slanted side will leave remaining parts of the sprue and may damage part of the model.
It is important to remember that the company which produced the supplies does not matter; a hobby knife from Revell is the same as a hobby knife from Privateer Press as a hobby knife from The Army Painter or a hobby knife from Games Workshop. Or a hobby knife from the dollar store, for that matter. What DOES matter is that model paint stereotypically associated with Revell-style hard plastic models (enamel) is different from the paints usually used for softer plastic miniatures (acrylic). For more on this, see the Paint section.
Likewise, paint is virtually identical regardless of manufacturer. Some companies have tones that others don't have, but if you're mixing paint then Vallejo is Citadel is Reaper MSP is whatever else on the market. Some people have said they prefer the thickness of one company, some say the only difference is how long its been on the shelf, but the topic is not considered hot enough to be fairly called Skub. Army Painter however can end up being sub-par with no way to tell beforehand whether your paint is supposed to be base (good, opaque cover) or layer (somewhat translucent), prone to undergo phase separation and having a strange, mucky consistency. The positive exception is the Citadel Technical Paints range. Few other companies produce things like blood, rust, brush-on snow, or paints that dry and crack as they dry to produce an effect like mud or dirt, and no other company has the variety of effects. Even the most ardent opponent to buying from Games Workshop will grudgingly admit that Citadel Technical is a great range. Luke's APS of youtube fame has some nice tutorials on how to make substitutes for those at home though. Life Color and Vallejo also both produce environmental paints like mosses and lichen that Games Workshop does not offer.
Container can also make a difference; some cheaper paints may come in containers which are of low quality and let in air despite the paint itself being the same. If you happen to use up paints which come in containers you like, consider saving some to transfer paint from bad containers to (or to mix up a large batch of a custom color you use in bulk). Many have complained of the degradation of quality in Citadel paint pots over the years, as those are designed to leave a little gap when closed without the application of brute force, letting in air and accumulating paint, that prevents the pot from getting properly closed next time.
Sprays also differ far more from company to company. Its important to remember that spray does not immediately mean primer. Primer coats the model in a base color, which will enhance following layers and make them stick to the model better. Spray gives you a basic color and goes on after the primer, representing either a basic color of the model you can work off of to save time or as a color to easily build up to the desired finished color from.
While all models should be rinsed in water and allowed to dry after assembly and before painting, this step refers to removing the imperfections of a model caused by the casting process and the removal of the model from part trees. It is the first, and surprisingly often skipped even by "pro painters", step in finishing a model.
Mold lines and the remainder of sprues (or "parts trees"), called "flash" by some (although the term sometimes is used to refer to chunks of the parts tree), are to be removed via scraping with a hobby knife, sandpaper, or files. All three are viable and come down to preference. What your desired result should be is anything you do not want on the final model to not be present, as the Wash step makes these details very visible, ruining otherwise perfect paintjobs. When choosing metal files, be sure to pick one with a diagonal pattern over a dotted one. The latter can wear out fast. Due to the importance of removing flash, very few (if any) models should be painted on their sprues.
Before any paint is applied, any hobbyist using acrylics should apply a layer of primer to their model (enamel can skip this step, see Painting below). Primer gives a base color which makes further layers more visible, and helps them stick to the model. Metal models should be washed with warm water and let dry prior to this step. Some models should be partially or fully assembled prior to priming (see Assembly below).
There are two methods to priming; spray-on, and brush-on. Neither is actually better than the other, and comes down solely to preference of the hobbyist although spray can save time on large models, and with lots of small models that can be done at the same time. The color of the primer does not matter either, unless the colors are much lighter (bright yellow or white over black) or a different temperature (blue over blood red), in which case it might take more layers for complete opacity, or if one wishes to use undercoat highlighting (Zenithal) for inks or thin layers through an airbrush. If a model is predominantly a color, then using primer of that color can save time. Some hobbyists prefer to start with dark colors first, and paint lighter in layers and do any Wash steps last, and thus prefer black primer. Some do the opposite with the Wash after the priming and base colors, and use white or a light gray. When deciding, it comes down to your plan for painting your model (you do have one, right?).
Spray primer requires an area set aside for the spraying. Cardboard, not newspaper, should be placed well around the area to ensure you are not coloring the ground. Follow the directions on the can (usually to shake well, spray the cardboard until the color comes strong (this is not a waste, it is necessary), clean the nozzle, avoid open flame, not to hold the can between your legs and stab it with a knife on a drunken bet, and not to eat it. Also consider where you live - in high humidy, heat, or cold, having the paint dry before it hits the model or dry in clumps because it froze to itself in the air could cause problems. With proper precautions this can be avoided, but the added effort may not be worth it.
Remember, LESS IS BEST and hold the can further rather than closer to achieve the best results. You can easily spray too much primer causing a blocky resulting look due to thick paint gluing the cracks that makes your model look horrible, requiring you to spend time soaking the model in Simple Green and scrubbing it with a toothbrush or putting the models up for sale for someone cheap to deal with. Do not touch the model to turn it over for spraying the other side(s) until it is fully dried or you may end up with a fingerprint for heraldry. Brush-on primer is much less complicated. Simply follow the instructions for painting below, and cover the whole model. The rule of not touching the painted portion still applies.
The most straightforward part. Remove the flash, glue together as desired.
Glues have a lot of names and qualities, but for most wargamers there's only two important types, Cyano Acetate Cement and Polystyrene Cement.
- Cyano Acetate
A cement, most people are familiar with versions of this substance as "super glue" or "c/krazy glue". Somewhere on the bottle will be the words "cyanoacrylate". It will result in glued elements that you can still split if you use a bit of violence if you need to disassemble the model in the future.
Works well on both metal and hard plastics, as well as human skin and hair and...well, anything other than soft plastics. Having superglue debonder on hand is recommended as opposed to trying to tear something (like fingers) apart after a slight spill.
- "Ultra-thin" is the general version a modeler of Warhammer or similar games is familiar with. Comes in small squeeze tubes. Dries extremely fast, within single digit seconds to minutes. Usually these fuckers will dry out, requiring you to use a sewing needle to keep the opening working which results in pressure so your first attempt to glue again will splat a large drop on your model and fingers. To avoid this, tap the bottle while pointing the top upwards to clear the glue out of the applicator, make sure the seal around where the lid goes is clear of glue, place the lid on tightly, keep them upright when not in use, and consider putting them in the fridge to prolong their lifespan and slow the drying of glue stuck in the applicator.
- "Medium" is rarely seen, and comes similar to the Ultra-thin. This is the kind you'd get from a hardware store rather than a hobby shop. Usually comes in small metal tubes.
- "Thick" is generally called "Gap Filler" and is used at it sounds. It comes in a variety of bottles by company. There is a short window of time between applying it and when it hardens too much to file away and make surfaces flush, so this tends to be a substance only for experienced modelers. Various Activator products are sold that will harden it faster, while Hardeners are sold to make it bond stronger.
- Polystyrene Cement
Another cement. It will say "plastic solvent" or "Warning: solvent". This kind will melt plastics slightly, and is much more permanent. Should only be used for the harder plastics. Drying time varies by mixture. Precision is required for Polystyrene Cements since their nature to melt will result in ANY glue anywhere it shouldn't be leaving a nasty-looking mark that can be worse than any mold line.
- "Thick Tube" versions, which as you may have guess come in a tube like toothpaste, are popular with scale modelers, and are what most people think of with Revell model kits. Thick Tube is the most powerful, and takes hours to even days to dry and can damage a model very badly if it gets anywhere but where you are applying two pieces together.
- "Medium Viscous" come in bottles with extended applicators, and both dry faster and cause less damage if improperly handled. These are the most popular versions used today.
- "Ultra-thin/Liquid Poly" come like paste, sitting in a wide bottle with a brush attached to the lid to use to apply with. The brushes can be cut to be thinner for more precision. Cause the least amount of melting, and dry almost instantly. The version stereotypically associated with Tamiya models.
- Epoxy Resin
Consists of an adhesive and a hardener which are kept separate. Sometimes come in tubes, sometimes in a double syringe form. Must be mixed to be used. Basically like glue Green Stuff/Kneadite. Different mixes produce different drying times, and the longer it takes to dry the stronger the bond. Note that something has to be held in place from hours to days for this to set up, meaning models should be taped or clamped depending on the size of the model.
These are rarely used for tabletop game models, and are more for things that should be airtight like model ships with motors. Still, some models can get use out of it.
- Clear/Canopy Glue
A weaker bond than the cements, but designed to work like them. The cements give off fumes which can
get you high give unwanted foggy effects to transparent glass elements like cockpit glass, so the Canopy Glues are a replacement that doesn't cause the same effect. Not very useful for anything else however.
- Gloss Varnish
Not really a glue, but it can be used as such. Used for holding softer parts to models, like small bits of cloth to Revell kits. Limited use for wargame modelers, who generally don't care if the pilot inside a cockpit looks like he's got real straps holding him into the seat.
- Clear Rubber/Silicone Cement
Domestic glues. Come in "All-purpose" and "Universal" varieties, with the former not being a solvent (read: won't melt parts of the model to make it stick). Their only real use is for softer plastics or things like cloth and rubber, meaning very little use for wargame modelers.
- White/Woodworkers Glue
That stuff you used to love peeling off things as a kid, that you used to make macaroni Valentines Day cards. Basically useless for modelers, although it can technically be used for scenery and basing. In particular clumping up cat litter with woodworkers' glue can make great rubble for scenery and terrain.
- PVA Adhesive/Tacky Glue
The same as the White/Woodworking Glue, but a stronger bond. Basically the same thing, super watery and becomes rubbery when it dries. A decent choice for terrain and basing effects. Pros will mix it with various substances to make their own basing paints like mud or snow effects.
When gluing metal models, use the cement glue and a small single layer of tissue paper between the two metal surfaces. This will make the glue stick.
After assembly, use greenstuff or kneadite to fill in cracks and make the model look like it came in one piece. You should now be ready for priming (the reason you assemble and paint prior to priming is because you don't want a pattern to end between arm and shoulder or body and wing, and priming then assembling pieces that need crack filling require you to then prime again, resulting in a double-primed overlap at the edges).
The following assumes you will be using acrylic paints. Your main two options are acrylic and enamel, the benefits of enamel being crisp colors in one coat, no priming, doesn't chip easy, and no visible brushstrokes. But the downside is it forms a hard coat that is hard to strip, has fumes that will make you sick if not properly ventilated, can really damage your brushes quickly if not cared for, requires chemicals to thin, and has a 24 hour-ish drying time. Enamels are stereotypically Testors brand paints in square bottom glass bottles that are used to paint Revell-style model kits of Sherman tanks and 1960's era cars. These are almost never used with miniatures for games not only for the aforementioned problems, but also because the market for colors and brand variety of acrylics is HUGE. They also can be cheaper. However, enamels are exceptionally good as a basecoat colour for their aforementioned benefits (hard finish, clean surface, can be applied VERY thinly without primer), especially on metal miniatures. A flat black enamel basecoat/primer applied with an airbrush will be superior in every way to even high-end acrylics applied from a spray can. Airbrushed acrylics are a happy middle ground, but still require several coats to form a solid enough layer that is resistant to rubbing. In general, modelers and hobbyists have moved away from enamels and into acrylics. Enamel can be painted on acrylic, or acrylic onto a primer that was put on enamel if you want to mix mediums (the bright pop of some enamel colors can give a sort of "glow" to things like lights or buttons in vehicle cockpits for example). If applying acrylic paints over enamel without an interim primer, make sure the enamel has properly cured (this can take anywhere up to 48 hours). Do not mix the kind of acrylic paint used for canvas with model acrylics. It doesn't really work. If you're good at mixing colors and have balls of steel you can look up how to make your own model-grade acrylics from art acrylics and thinner and save yourself a fuckton of money, but it's less consistent and may be wasteful if you don't have a large number of minis to paint.
See, paints will slowly begin to dry out and get thicker. This results in a chunky, extremely amateurish look that is akin to a crayon drawing of stick figures in the world of miniature painting. There's no set rule to how much to thin. Paint will dry at different speeds, and is obviously not all going to be made the same day. Generally, you do not want to thin in the paint pot itself unless you are trying to extend the life of your paint. Use your palette and put some paint in a well. Add a few drops of water and mix it, then brush the side of the well to observe consistency, which you want the same as milk.
Games Workshop has been known to arbitrarily change the names of their paints, and once even replaced their entire palette with a chemically completely new set. If you use up a pot of paint and have difficulty finding a new one, google it to see if they have changed it recently.
As previously mentioned, you will always want to begin with a primer. Consider a spray or ordinary brush painting the majority color of the model as your next step, which allows you to do models you'll be making many of MUCH faster. Spray Ultramarines a rich blue, spray High Elves blue or white, spray Daemonettes a shade of purple or lilac.
There is a downside to the spray effect however, and that is fine detail. Chainmail often has a second color beneath the silver, usually black, to give it dimension. Gauntlets and other segmented metals can look fantastic if a small amount of black exists between the joints. These effects can be accomplished in other ways, but are worth considering skipping a spray for.
This aspect of the painting process saves time and produces great effects. All three utilize a very old technique of painting used across many cultures in which pigment or paint is mixed with solvent or suspended in a transparent medium, which results in a colored but partially transparent effect. What many don’t know is the actual difference between the three effects and when to use them.
- A “Wash” is a transparent effect which will sink into details of a model, changing the color of raised parts minimally while darkening any recesses. The solution composition is a small amount of large chunks of pigment suspended in water, alcohol, or a similar thin liquid. It will tint the model to some degree. For example, a light brown Wash applied to the hand of a Caucasian miniature man will give him a very faint tan, but will make the definitions of his knuckles and the folds of his palm visible. The artist can then, if they choose, go back with the original skin tone and highlight the top of raised edges to keep the detail definition but lose the tanned coloration.
- An “Ink” is the same as a Wash, but a Wash will dry with a more matte (dull) look and be similar to the degree of shine as what lies underneath (repeated layers of Wash will eventually cause a gloss), while an Ink will immediately cause a gloss effect. Inks are different in structure from a Wash because they contain more pigment, which is also usually smaller in grain than the pigment found in a Wash. Citadel used to produce exclusively Inks, then produced Washes. Now they produce inks again, under the same name as the color of Wash (to much confusion), labeled as a Gloss. For example a black Wash is Nuln Oil, their black Ink is called Nuln Oil Gloss.
- A Glaze does NOT sink into recesses, and can be matte or gloss. It tints the entire area it is applied to. In chemical composition, a Glaze is full of small chunks of pigment like an Ink, but in a smaller amount in a thin liquid like a Wash. For example, when applying a light brown Glaze to a Caucasian miniature man hand it will change his entire skin tone to a brown. Applying a blue Glaze to a white piece of armor will dye the armor blue the same as if you had painted it blue to begin with. Glazes are great for quickly producing a specific color if applied to a light base coat. It can also produce quick and easy blending effects, as the transparency of it will naturally blend what lies below with its own effect. Glazes can be used to lighten or darken, and a Glaze can technically be emulated by adding water to ordinary paint or mixing paint with Gloss Medium or Matte Medium.
Very few models don't need a coat one of the three at some point during the painting process, and for those who are just trying to quickly get miniatures into a decent color scheme for the tabletop they may be the last or second to last step in the process.
Become familiar with your options for these, as you can greatly speed up your painting by picking a wash tone and color that allows you to apply the basic colors of the model (skin, hair, metal, cloth), apply the wash, then only do a small amount of highlight and detail work (eyes, emblems) to finish.
When speedpainting, a glaze and a wash are superficially the same thing. The technical difference is that a glaze consistently coats the model much more while a wash sinks into the cracks and stays light on raised parts; using the example of a white Space Marine pauldron and a medium green, the glaze will turn the entire thing a decent green and successive applications will darken that green where it is applied while the wash will turn it a very light green and bring out the details in dark green immediately. As a result glazing is usually not used in speedpainting unless it replaces the base coat step for the dominant color in the model, while a wash is likely to always be used.
A wash will highlight all the thin details of a model, like cracks in bone or veins in skin. Many modelers accomplish skin tone with a white primer or spray then follow it with a dark wash, saving a great deal of time and effort. Ghostly effects can be accomplished with blue on white spray, and flame effects can begin with red or orange on white. A wash can also give a degree of dimension to a model, as an alternative to the aforementioned "leave some black visible" in the Spray? section.
Inks are not used as often unless intentionally producing a “wet” or metallic effect. Space Marine armor and slimy monsters see the most use of inks, but the popularity of matte effects and only selective use of gloss is favored in the current miniature painting culture. A black ink on grey produces an effect that is reflective without the metallic effects of a silver paint, and is favored by some historical miniature hobbyists or those who prefer a more dull look to their fantasy/sci/-fi.
The Army Painter is the most popular manufacturer of inks and has a far greater variety then most companies, and makes a large can to just dip models in and give a and vigorous quick shake for fast washing of a large number of minis. Citadel and Reaper MSP also produce a large amount of inks and washes.
A lesser used but still entirely true /tg/ WIP meme is that the difference between a shit paint job and a decent one is the use of black wash (AKA Nuln Oil if using Citadel paints).
While it may initially seem that airbrushing is some super expensive thing for pro painters, it surprisingly is quite cheap compared to most things in wargaming.
A decent airbrush will set you back $40-100, and the various other supplies (discussed below) that you will need will cost you around another $40 or so. So...basically around the price of a Warhammer kit. In particular the Airbrush MAS KIT-VC16-B22 Portable Mini Airbrush Air Compressor Kit is a decent starter set for only $50 (do not use that airbrush holder on the compressor, it WILL just fall over).
Actual airbrush use depends on style. It can be easily used to prime models if loaded with a primer, and makes a good middle ground between spray can primer (which can get thick and have issues depending on your climate) and brush-on primer (which takes more time to do). You can also accomplish fantastic lighting effects, such as a light caused by gunfire or a light source (imagine a Space Marine illuminated by the blast from his gun, or an adventurer illuminated by his torch). Transition effects on larger models like dragons, phoenixes, or giant spiders can be done in a way that is arguably far better than could otherwise be done. On smaller models you can use an airbrush to turn your small paint pot color into a spray color, as discussed above, so you can then get into detail work. You can also use a blade to cut designs out of paper to use as a stencil, providing you some do-it-yourself decal work that can produce anything from flame paint on a vehicle to Ork checkerboard patterns to scales on a dragon.
Also, if you're fond of doing arts and crafts for the home you can use a modeling airbrush for just about anything small from holiday decorations (in particular Halloween headstones) to fingernails. Just as an added bonus.
The following is what you need to know for an airbrush:
- They come in Gravity Feed and Bottom Feed variants. Bottom feed requires its own specific bottles, which are premixed although by saving a bottle you can make your own mixes; this isn't really for tabletop miniatures, and is more something for professional or industrial work unless you intend to paint a LOT of things on a ridiculous scale in the same basic colors. You're almost certainly going to want gravity feed, which has a cup at the top where you can pour your paint which is just the same acrylic (it isn't recommended to airbrush with enamel unless you're willing to go through the extended effort in cleanup to ensure it doesn't get gummed up) paint that you use for everything else. Gravity feed works exactly how it sounds, the paint in the cup feeds into the airbrush and is blown out as you press the button. Luckily for you, gravity feed is cheaper!
- Airbrush sizes for tabletop miniatures range from 0.3mm for detail work to 0.5mm for...well, much less detailed work. Luckily this is the cheap end of airbrush sizes, anything larger would increase the price by a fair amount. So lucky for you!
- You will need a proper cleaning substance to run through the airbrush between paint sessions. While some people use simple dishsoap, the Airbrush Cleaner is cheap at $9 and you don't have to worry about longterm buildup or residue. Its strongly recommended that you buy a pot to spray into, which can double as a holder. The Airbrush Deluxe Airbrush 3 in 1 Cleaning Pot with Holder is another cheap option at $14, although the seller also offers a kit with cleaning tools; some people claim the tools are useful, others do not. Do some research to determine if you feel they are useful or not. You will want a station to actually spray your models, and at the highest price range you can buy a laboratory-style hood with a fan for $300...or you can just use a large cardboard box and a lamp. Since acrylic paint is not toxic you don't have to worry about fumes, so long as you aren't literally spraying towards your face. Likewise goggles are not really needed, unless you just feel like you want them. You will want to buy some gloves that offer dexterity, nitrile is recommended although if you have allergies, hate the texture, or want something more eco-friendly there's a world of alternatives.
- Once you get your airbrush, you need to get yourself into an area where you are unlikely to drop anything or have anything roll off and onto the floor, preferably using a large box of some kind, and learn about how your airbrush is put together. Look up the model on youtube for cleaning tutorials and reviews, study any instructions either included or on the website on how it is assembled. You're going to want to take it apart, VERY CAREFULLY and very slowly so you remember how everything went together, and put it back together while seeing how everything works. This is important because it will help you figure out how it is cleaned and will give you some working knowledge of how it operates. The most expensive part of most airbrushes is the inside needle, which is the part that not only can you quite easily stab yourself with (they are very sharp) but one drop and it will likely be destroyed; it is also most likely going to be the first piece to wear out and need to be replaced, although with good care their lifespan can last years and some people have managed to make due with their first for most of their modelling life. Much like a Marine knowing how to disassemble and clean their weapon (remember Forrest Gump?) you need familiarity in order to use the device properly.
- Remember to mount anything you want to airbrush on a wooden stick where it will later be glued (for example an arm should be attached at the shoulder where the blank spot will not be seen), use some kind of tweezers, or have other alternatives to simply touching the model with your hands at the ready. While you can technically airbrush while holding some larger things, it is extremely difficult to work on things like heads this way.
- Before the first time you want to airbush, make sure you have some practice. Set up your station. Use a plastic dropper to put some paint into your pot if its gravity feed, making sure to water it down with another dropper to THIN YOUR PAINT like you would otherwise. On a piece of paper or the surface of your workbench, practice what is called the "dagger technique" where you begin spraying far away, then bring the airbrush closer as you spray sidways creating a line that begins fat and ends sharp. Then do that in reverse, starting with a sharp line and ending in a fat one. Practice trying to shade an area in gradual intensity, experiment spraying from different angles, and do a few designs like writing your name or playing tic tac toe. Then take your cleaning pot and spray out all the leftover paint, fill with cleaning solution and spray that out, then use a soft cloth to clean out the leftover paint.
- Watch online guides and tutorial videos. There's a world of airbrushing techniques, but due to the nature of the way that the device works you want to know what you're doing before you try and do it unless you intend to experiment. If you discover something that there isn't a guide for, consider making your own to help out the modelling community.
Highlighting has two basic approaches: traditional painting, and dry brushing.
- The traditional method is the same as any painting, just use a brighter/lighter regular colour and sparingly apply it only to the higher parts of the model that naturally see more light, compared to recesses.
- Dry brushing is a technique where a very short-haired brush with thick hairs is used. The colour for it can be a regular one, but Games Workshop also sell specific "Dry" colours such as Necron Compound, whose consistency is more like a grainy mass than a liquid. To do this, dip the brush into the colour, then take a tissue and rub the brush into it until only a fine amount of paint is left on it. Then position the brush over the model and move it up-down or side-to-side in an arcing motion, so that with each contact a little bit of paint ends up on the model until you are satisfied with the amount. With this technique, only the higher portions of the model will receive paint, while the recesses remain untouched. The overall effect resembles a layer of dust to some degree, so it depends on the model if the technique is really appropriate, but it is simple and very fast. Some armies, such as Orks, work very well with it.
Detail work is pretty finicky, but there are multiple ways to improve on it:
- basic painting technique: as with any regular painting, press your hands together at the lower palms when you paint, so your hand holding the model and the hand holding the brush can only move in unison, this already prevents shaking and improves the result.
- sculpting: sculpted details are naturally better to paint than flat surface free-hands, so consider modelling them on beforehand.
- decals/stickers: most miniatures for games come with applicable decals, and Games Workshop products are no exception. Rather than doing the detail paiting yourself, put the decal you want in water, wait a lttle until it is ready, then use tweezers to apply it. To improve the effect and reduce the visual issue of it being a glued-on sticker, try varnishing the surface first, then varnish the whole thing again once the decal is in place, and/or apply some paint to the transparent area to match it with the area around it. This generally needs experimenting to get right.
- micro-details: first, get an actual detail brush and make sure all the hairs are pristinely in one spot, maybe consider actually removing a few of the hairs to make it even finer if the results are lacking. Do not bother with paint thinning here, instead use the paint itself sparsely to make up for it. Micro-details are things like eyes, teeth, fingernails/claws and the like. If you paint eyes, use a tiny amount of white for a human miniature for the eyes, then use either black or blue for the iris - paint the eye on your "weak hand side" first, because you are likely to slip up. On the side you are strong, you can then just match, making the miniature look into an actual direction instead of having a Derp face. For creatures like Orks, just use a dot of bright red or something else fitting. Large creatures with big eyes can be more detailed, of course. Claws are best with a beige base and a lighter beige on it, more outward to simulate a small amount of shadow at the base. Same for teeth. Again, do it sparsely, and it should look just fine.
Varnishing can be done in one of three ways. These all have different uses and a variety of ways to apply.
- The first and most common is the spray varnish. This is where the infamously expensive GW Purity Seal comes into play, which is known for being easy to apply, has a nice finish that is somewhere between a matte and a satin, and can be easily painted over. They are, as previously mentioned, easy to apply, but overdoing it can result in a frosted and mottled finish. These come in all finishes, so if you want your Wraithlords to be gloss, that's not a problem.
- The second is to do something very similar, but with a brush. The benefits include a very reduced price (you can easily find a bottle of varnish from you FLGS or a hobby store that is twice the size of GW varnishes for half the price), the ability to manipulate coats more easily, as you can paint over just about any bottled varnish with acrylic paints, and the ability to smooth surfaces more easily to make use of things like decals. The downside is that it takes longer to apply, and if you're not careful, can result in thick layers of varnish.
- The third are some inks and shades. Processes like dipping or quickshades (as Army Painter calls them) have a varnish as part of the mix, so when using them, this will be your last step. The downside is that if you fuck up, there's almost no way to fix it, and if your model is plastic, resin, or failcast, it's almost impossible to strip.
The final step that is skipped by far too many people. Basing a miniature is visually putting them into their world, rather than as a piece on a game board.
The classic basing method is to throw down some PVA glue and top it with soil, sand, flock, or static grass. This is a good way to produce a very convincing effect for a wide variety of environments.
Most large companies, sadly, do not choose to name their variety of paints and modeling supplies for what they are. Here's a quick guide.
The Citadel painting system can sound very confusing and convoluted outside of the 'Eavy Metal "Base, shade, apply at least 14 highlights or until all depth is sufficiently lost" method. While it can seem awful and disorganized, having some knowledge as to what makes certain paints clears it up for general use.
Citadel only produces dedicated primers in rattle cans, which can be quite frustrating if you live in an exceptionally hot, cold, or humid environment. Luckily, many of their "Base" paints stick well to cleaned plastic models. Just avoid the Imperial Primer like the plague.
The citadel range is split between "Base," "Layer," and "Edge" paints. Base and Edge paints both contain more pigment, and so dry more opaque, but Edge paints have less medium and are harder to thin with water. Layer paints are the same as base paints, but have less pigments so require more coats to get an opaque finish. All can be used as a base, layer, or highlight, you just have to layer and thin appropriately.
Citadel produces both inks and washes, but markets them the same way. Inks are usually the same color as the washes, but are marketed as "Gloss."
The contrast system is essentially just very high pigment washes - the paints darken in the recesses and leave a tinted highlight on the high points. Works great with a zenithal highlight, and can be used for various unintended effects.