GTM #203 - By the Numbers - Miniature Painting Techniques Part 1
by Corey Perez & Luke Hardy

Everyone prefers a painted figure over an unpainted one.  They are easier to distinguish, each painted figure possesses its own sense of character and uniqueness, and, generally, painted figures improve the gaming experience for all involved.

The benefits of painting aren’t just limited to hobby war games either.  Roleplaying games and even board games can get a boost out of it, as well.  I know if I see a board game with lots of well crafted, highly detailed figures for playing, the first thing I want to do is paint them to make the game that much more visually engaging.

Now, it’s important to remember, especially as one gets started, painting is not just about creating great works of art or museum-quality displays.  Painting is first, foremost, and always about your enjoyment with the creative process.   

So, how do we get started?

Fortunately, there are options available to make it easier to build both your skill and your available palette of colors:  Paint Sets.

Assembled with a given theme, or type of miniature in mind, paint sets lower the bar for entry into painting by making it simple for beginners and enthusiasts with little to no experience in painting to pick up what they need to get started.

In this, and upcoming installments, we are going to examine some of these paint sets, what kind of projects they are most useful for, and include some samples of how they can be used to increase your skill set and spread the enjoyment of painted figures.

For our first entry into this article series, we will begin with the Game Color: Avatar Set from Acrylicos Vallejo (VAL 72211).  With a MSRP of $49.05, this set is a complete package: it comes with eight 17 ml. game color paint bottles, a Toray brush, plastic palette for mixing, a metal miniature, and a painting guide. 

The eight colors included in the Game Color: Avatar Set are:

  • 72.010 Bloody Red
  • 72.030 Goblin Green
  • 72.038 Scrofulous Brown
  • 72.051 Black
  • 72.098 Elfic Flesh
  • 72.140 Heavy Skintone
  • 72.153 Heavy Brown
  • 72.154 Heavy Siena

This set’s most obvious use is as an introductory to painting, but it also has value for anyone with some painting experience who may want to broaden their skills and will serve our purposes. (though, I will “cheat” by using some additional materials as you will see below!)   

The painting guide enclosed in this paint set has clear instructions on paint mixing, layering paint to create shading, proportions for mixing to produce the desired colors, and will even show you the basics of creating non-metallic metal effects.  Best of all, the mixing proportions are given as percentages, allowing you to use the dropper bottles to dole out the proper amounts of each color with no guesswork needed!

I began by cleaning the miniature, filing down any mold lines, and affixing the figure to its base.  Once that was finished, I moved into priming the figure.  While not included in the paint set, the Vallejo White Primer is recommended for highly detailed miniatures as the spray pattern is very fine and even, allowing for good coverage while not covering up detail.  After the primer dried I moved straight into the base coating.

To start, I followed the recommended mixing suggestions for the base colors on the figure.  A good, deep brown color, that’s not too dark, like this is a great start for the kind of final effect I want. The reddish-brown color for the hair will give me a nice red tinge to the hair color without looking too cartoonish. Goblin Green with a bit of Black is a great base color for the Goblin head. (Under the left foot!)

After letting the basecoat dry, I went back over, and started applying layers of color, going from darker to lighter, over the initial colors using a drybrush technique.  While not something that’s covered in the instructions, I find the technique useful for quickly and easily picking out raised details, or creating a blended gradation of color when working on fleshy areas.  It’s also easier for beginners.

Using this method I was able to bring the overall color of the model to a nice flesh tone, while keeping the folds of skin darker to give the figure more depth.  The hair looks like a more natural brown color with a reddish undertone.

After that layer dried, I moved on to smoothing the flesh tone into a more even color. I did this first by creating a wash by heavily diluting the Heavy Sienna paint and going over the miniature, and then by applying a really light layer of dry brushing with a brush almost entirely devoid of paint.  Repeated motions over the figure let me get it to the final color I wanted.  Using this wash on the hair and beard I was able to darken up the red undertone a bit to help it blend in more to the highlights.

Now I move to filling in the model’s details.  The paint set instructions will show you how to create a nice metal effect without metallic paints, but I have other things in mind for this miniature (I also plan to make use of this figure doing some special effects work at a later time – stay tuned!), so I cheated again at this stage by reaching into my other paints for some nice Bronze.  Bronze is a great color for showing age on items, without making them look like they were not cared for. 

With the bronze in place on the hammer, cuffs, and beard adornments, I went back and lay down a layer of black on the haft, gauntlet, and fur cuffs of the boots and then colored the Dwarf’s (very) prominent eyebrows.  I then went back to wash I’d made previously and I used this to bring some depth and a slight tarnish effect to the bronze sections.

Next, I went in do so some of the final details.  I mixed a deep grey color to brush over the chain and gauntlet to give it the appearance of iron.  Mixing some of the Elfin Flesh with a bit of Bloody Red gave me a nice, fleshy pink color for the inside of the goblin’s mouth.  A bit more of the red mixed with water, let me put a finishing wash on it.  Dry brushing brown on the haft gives me a leather and wood look, while dry brushing the grey on the boot cuffs finishes the fur.

Finally, taking the Elfin Flesh and lining the raised areas and edges on the flesh of the skin gives the figure more definition and makes the features pop.  A slightly heavier line along the scar across the right eye makes it really stand out.  A couple of quick drybrush layers on the skull worked it up to a good bone color. Finally, I went over the gauntlet with the grey color I mixed to highlight it’s edges. I finished it off by painting the base in preparation for any future basing.  When everything is dried, I put a nice matte sealer on it to preserve the work.

Overall, this is definitely a quick and easy-to-use set.   The included instructions are easy to understand and follow, and they clearly demonstrate how to make the most versatile use of the included materials.  Other than the Primer, Sealer, and Bronze color, all the painting I did here used only the materials that came in the set.

Painting and modeling can be one of the most intimidating parts of gaming but it can also be one of the most rewarding! In my experience, I have found that the look of pride in a gamer’s eyes the first time they play with a miniature that they painted is worth the time and investment. I hope that the advice and techniques described in this article have helped to inspire you to pick up the brush and grab some paints!