Or, how to paint your minis quickly, so you can get to the fun part!

I love being a wargamer. You get to spend hours researching (or making up) your army’s background and putting together killer lists. You kitbash your models and then you get to play with them, in what amounts to a politer version of when you used to smash your toys together as a kid.

On the down side, you also have to paint the gits, an activity I find extraordinarily boring and unrewarding (Ed – For Shame!), due to me taking ages to paint models to a level of what others would consider acceptable. But I do so dislike playing with unpainted models, too*. So over the years, I’ve developed a few tips and techniques that help get all my minis to just above tabletop standard in not a lot of time at all:

Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)

An ex-friend once passive aggressively** tried to insult my painting skills by saying that my figures always look great from a distance, but they fall apart when looked at too closely. To which I replied, “Yes, but at least I have a painted army”.

Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about this statement and apart from concluding that my reply was a sick burn, I’ve also realised this is nothing to be ashamed of. Simple paint schemes work and can even look better than complicated ones. In an era where model detail is increasing, it’s tempting to focus on the micro scale rather than the macro. Which is where the simple paint job comes in.

Let’s take the DeathWatch. They’re black with silver and gold highlighted details. It’s a sleek paint scheme due to the emphasis the black provides to the model. Yet GW painters seem to want to focus on the fact they carry so much shit about.

The DeathWatch, they who have more pouches on them than Cable.

Instead, I submit my own (far quicker to paint) scheme.

Far more in keeping with the original ethos of the DeathWatch theme, quicker to paint and less of a bugger when your squad gets removed on the first turn because some git decided to spring a Titan legion on you.

Make a production line

It’s a tip most people will have probably heard of already, but there’s a reason it remains well worn advice. There is nothing more demoralising than spending an hour or two on a model, only to realise you have another 9-19 left to do in the unit. If you paint in stages, you can see your progress across the unit gradually come on.

More than that, it’s easier to get each step finished for all of your models when you can tell yourself something like “this session I’ll paint all of the skin on my models”.

It really brings out the Ahhhhhh! in their eyes

Let washes and drybrushing be your friends

Until a few years ago, I never knew the joys of inks when it came to saving time painting. Whereas now if I’m in a rush and want to add some depth to a model, pick out details or just cover up some sloppy work, I can use the appropriate ink!

For me, this saves time over trying to focus on capturing every small detail with a fifth successive highlighted layer in the way you’re supposed to do it. Instead I can be moving onto the next model.

Before I knew about inks though, I drybrushed things. A handy technique for combining with a black underspray coat that will pick out details and leave recesses unfilled, giving the illusion of some fancy brushwork, it was a ‘go-to’ when it came to plowing through hoard forces.

I once started (and finished) an army two days before a tournament due to drybrushing everything. Whilst I’ve never quite matched that feat since,*** it shows you what is possible if you have time, focus and a quick method of painting 50 Plague Marines.

A few years on and even with my slowly improving painting skills, I still have some minis that look pretty good because of it.

Don’t worry about being messy

This goes hand in hand with drybrushing, but you can apply this to any stage of painting – just focus on getting the paint you want on the mini rather than making it look perfect. There’s always time to do a final sweep of the model to clean up any egregious errors later on – and if you’ve kept things simple, most issues can be covered over by the application of the base colour of the scheme you are using.

Paint in small amounts and often.

My most important tip. If you can do marathon painting sessions, then I admire you. As I’ve gotten older I just don’t have the time or the mental energy available anymore to do them. So I find that painting for 20- 30 minutes a day gives me steady enough progress that I want to come back and do the same the next day.

Combine this with the other tips I’ve mentioned and every session you sit down for should be making progress. Not necessarily significant and it won’t result in earth-shatteringly good paint schemes. But it will mean you spend less time hunched over your models and instead start using them for what they were made for – to be played with!


*My wife cannot understand why I get so anxious about using the wrong kind of base for models in a game. This is just to illustrate I’m one of those people.

**We’re British. It’s how we communicate.

***Probably because I spent the tournament weekend falling asleep mid game.

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