Painting Miniatures




About: Jack-of-all trades, master of some. I would probably be much more modest if it wasn't for these delusions of granduer that I suffer from.

One of the best features of tabletop gaming like Warhammer is that you get to personalize your army with how you paint your miniatures. The only limit is your imagination (see step 7).

For this IBLE I will be doing a simple paint job on an Orc Boy from Warhammer Fantasy.

This will be my entry in the Big and Small contest.

Step 1: Brushes and Paint

While you can technically paint a mini with just one brush, it would not be easy. You will want an assortment of brushes depending on what you are doing.

larger stiffer brushes for drybrushing, large softer brushes for applying main colors, small tapered brushes for fine detail painting.

I like to use acrylic paints for painting miniatures for several reasons.

There are tons of variety in the colors available.

The paint is fast drying making it easy to layer paints.

You can easily thin the paint down to use it as a wash (more on that later).

You can usually find the small containers on sale at the local craft store.

Pro tip: An old CD makes a great paint palette.

Step 2: Priming

As with anything else in life, with spray paint you get what you pay for. You can get a can of spray paint really cheap at Walmart, but I prefer to spend a little more to get a brand that I know will be a consistent quality that I have used in the past.

Working with miniatures, you want to use a paint that will not clump or obscure the detail sculpted into the miniature. You are better off making a few light passes to get the right coverage rather than one heavy pass that cause runs and drips or fill in all the sculpted detail of the miniatures.

My typical priming method is to stand up the miniatures and space them out so they aren't blocking each other from the paint. Paint the miniature front, then the back. Once the first coat dries I lay the miniatures down to paint the underside, front and back.

It is important to get a consistent complete coverage of the miniature so that further paint will adhere properly.

Step 3: Drybrushing

Drybrushing is a technique for using a contrasting paint to make details pop out visually.

Because the acrylic paint is a bit on the thin side, it will not completely cover the primer layer in one coat. By using a dark primer and then a light drybrush the top layers of paint will have darker shades in the recesses and lighter shades on the highpoints.

The easiest way I have found to apply drybrushing to a miniature is to get a little bit of paint on the brush and wipe almost all of it off the brush on the palette. I will usually test the paint on my finger before applying it to the minature. Once you have a light enough amount of paint on your brush it is time to drybrush the miniature. slowly bring the brush towards the miniature with a rapid back and forth motion. As soon as the brush starts to make contact with the miniature you will see the details begin to really pop out visually. Now you just need to go over the whole miniature, front, back, top, bottom. You are done with the first miniature... now you get to drybrush the rest of the squad of miniatures.. have fun.

Step 4: Main Colors

Once all the drybrushing is done it is time to move onto applying the colors to the miniature.

For this Orc I went with a dark green skin color and then Drybrushed the skin with a lighter shade of green to help make the details pop.

I used a dark brown for the clothes and the wood handle of the axe. I thought his outfit looked too much like coveralls when it was all the same color so I painted the pants a lighter shade of brown.

Step 5: Details

Now it is time for details.

The blades of his weapons were painted metallic steel color and then detailed with metallic copper on the rivets. The edge of the blades get trimmed with red for bloodstains.

Mouth and eyes got painted red.

Teeth and nails got painted white.

Earrings get painted titanium gold.

Metal plates on the armor got painted metallic steel and then fine details on the plates got painted metallic copper to make it stand out.

Boots and side pouch got painted black so they stand out visually.

Base gets a coat of green paint. (I will have to get more flock to finish the base)

Finally to finish, I thinned down a bit of black paint with water to make a wash and then I applied it over the miniature. Since the wash is very thin is fills in the very fine detail cracks and crevices to add that additional layer of shading that takes the miniature to the next level of detail.

Step 6: Now Do It Again .... a Whole Lot

Now I get to do it 29 more times to finish the squads.

Step 7: Before You Know It, You Made an Army

Here are just a few of my miniatures from my Warhammer 40K Chaos Space Marine army to show some of the variety you can have in your army.

Dreadnaught dedicated to Nurgle

Dreadnaught dedicated to Khorne

Abaddon the Despoiler and Uriah Jacobus (converted to the cause of chaos MUH HA HA HA)

Assorted Chaos Space Marines in different paint jobs to designate different squads

chaos raptor

Khorne Berserker and a Khorne BEEserker :)

Big and Small Contest

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Big and Small Contest



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17 Discussions

Wow this is awesome! I LOVE miniatures. I play DnD a ton, and we just barely started using miniatures to enhance the experience. But I have still have a set of old lead figures from the late 70's early 80s, haha.

4 replies

Very cool. do you have a favorite class to play? I have been teaching my kids how to play D&D and the minis really help them to visualize the battles. At some point I may teach them Warhammer if they are interested. I do have some old Ral Partha minis (now that i have more skill in painting, they can use a new paint job at some point) I love the weight of the old school metal minis, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

I like playing Rangers. But with 5th edition, each class has so much more to offer, which is awesome. One campaign, I have a 10th level Elf Ranger, which we have been playing that campaign for 5 or 6 years. Another campaign I am playing a Human Barbarian, he is only 3rd level. My all time favorite character and hero was a Fighter. I created him when I was like 12 or 13. Good times!! I do like how detailed the plastic ones are getting though. It was hard to get the detail with those old metal lead figures. Have you heard of hero forge?

Nice. I usually ended up playing a cleric (occasionally a druid) because no one else in the party would play a healer. I learned to get very creative with the spells available to me :)
Plastic minis are able to have fantastically high detail which is great, I just like the heftyness of the metal minis. About a decade ago you were able to get random boxes of prepainted plastic D&D minis. Needless to say I now have minis for most of the monsters in the monster manuals :) If all my minis were metal I would have a hernia from trying to transport them hehhee
I have heard of hero forge, but so far I have not ordered anything from there.

That is so awesome you have so many minis! Lucky! I am a bit jealous! haha And yes if they were all metal, that would get really heavy! haha, Cleric's in 5th edition have lots of cool stuff. I really like 5th edition.


6 months ago

Is it strictly necessary to apply a black coat of paint with spray paint, or can you just use normal paint?

1 reply

Reply 6 months ago

In the past when I have used the acrylic paint without a primer layer, I have had issues with the paint chipping off the minis (even with clear coat to protect the paint). The spray paint is formulated to bond to the plastic making a durable base coat.


Tip 6 months ago on Introduction

Wow! This is a great technique! I'd also recommend a clear coat of sealant (I generally use spraypaint too) to keep the acrylic from cracking.

1 reply

Reply 6 months ago

I agree, I was waiting to clear coat the minis until i had the whole squad painted.. If you look at my minis in step 7 you will see that they have all had a few coats of clear coat applied to them to protect the paint jobs.


Question 6 months ago on Step 3

Having done this many years ago,
I never thought you did dry brushing before painting the colors on, where I though it was just for finishing effect -- does it make the detail pop even more or is it just so you can see the detail clearer?

1 answer

Answer 6 months ago

short answer: both.
long answer: By using the black primer and the white drybrush, it has two distinct benefits.
1) it makes it super simple to see all the highspot details.
2) because the acrylic paint is not thick enough to completely cover the mini in one application, you get color bleedthrough from the base layers, so you automatically get highlights and shading in all the right places.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.


6 months ago

Such a great instructable. Ive been painting for years and even I learned something. Thanks.

1 reply

Reply 6 months ago

I'm glad you liked it. If you get a chance please share some of your paint jobs.