In this article, I will be covering the basics of painting miniatures, it is aimed at complete beginners with no prior experience painting.

You’ve decided to buy your first mini. First of all congratulations! The whole world of this vast hobby is spreading ahead of you. I know it might feel a bit overwhelming but the best thing you could do is to jump straight in and get your hands dirty (literally).

Unpainted Space Marines

You’ve the glue and assembled the figure/s. Now your gray (blue) space marine, wood elf or a demon is standing on your desk. You are wondering: What are the next steps?

Worry not because you are exactly in the right place!

I have decided to outline 5 basic steps.

  1. Priming
  2. Basecoat
  3. Shading
  4. Highlighting
  5. Basing

Each step is going to cover the essential non-negotiable basic to get your models on the gaming table fast.

Necessary tools for miniature painting every beginner needs.What do you need for this tutorial?

  1. Spraycan of black matt primer – $4-$6
  2. Spraycan of white primer (optional)
  3. Rubber glove
  4. Face mask
  5. Adhesive putty – 0 – $5
  6. Wine corkscrews
  7. Water cup
  8. Wet palette (optional)
  9. Brush with a fine tip – $10
  10. A bigger brush for large surfaces – $3
  11. Older brush for mixing paint – $1 – $2
  12. Dry brush (ragged bristle) – $1 – $2
  13. The primary color in 3 tones – $12
  14. Accent color – $3
  15. Color for accessories (leather) in 3 tones – $12
  16. Metallics base + highlight color – $6
  17. Skin color – $3
  18. Stone color (for base) – $3
  19. Black and white – $6
  20. Washes – $15
  21. PVA glue – $7
  22. Sand (basing material)
  23. Stones (basing material)
  24. Tufts (basing material) – $4

 

The cost of the materials and supplies are estimated based on what is accessible to me. Prices for you may vary based on where you live. I thought this could give you at least a rough estimate.

Primed Space MarinesStep 1: Priming miniatures

To make the paint stick to your miniature, you need to get it coated in a primer. Primer is a preparatory undercoating design to improve the adhesion of your paint to the bare plastic of the model.

 

In general, you have three ways of getting the primer onto the model:Miniature Painting Primer

  • Rattlecan spray paint
  • Brush on primer
  • Airbrush primer (not on the picture)

 

If this is your first miniature, I highly recommend using the first option. Priming your miniature with a rattle-can. You can get either a specialized spray can in a hobby store from brands like Citadel or Army Painter. Alternatively, you can buy a can of matt acrylic primer in a local crafts or construction supplies store.

Spray the model at an arms-length in short bursts and thin layers. Ideally, you can do 2 or three passes to achieve full coverage. Never try to finish the priming in one go, you will only make the paint pool on the model and obscure the details.

Caution

  • Always use rattle can spray in a well-ventilated room or preferably outside.
  • Wear a breathing respirator while working with the spray.

Special tipsUse corkscrews as handles.

  • Use adhesive putty to stick your miniature to something you can hold while spraying.
  • You can use black spray paint first and as a second layer white spray just a bit from above. This method is called a zenithal highlight.

Basecoated Space MarinesStep 2: Basecoat

This is the step where you decide on your basic color scheme. You break out your paints, palette, and brushes and start applying thin coats of paint to your mini.

You do the leather brown, orc skin green, power armor blue, I think you get the point. The most important thing in this step is Basecoating Miniatures for Beginnersproper thining of your paints and practicing tidiness.

Don’t try to use too thick coats to cover the model in one go. Same as with priming, you want to slowly build up the opacity of color with multiple thin layers. Always let the paint fully dry before you try to apply the next one.

Now go ahead and give it a go. I don’t think you need any special instructions to try it out, just don’t be scared its just a paint. You can always fix your errors or strip the paint down.

Special tips

  • Get a wet palette, your paints won’t dry as fast as on a dry one.
  • While loading the brush, try to keep your paint only in the first third or half of the hair. Your brushes will last longer.

Washed Space MarinesStep 3: Painting shades on miniatures

When you are completely satisfied with your color choices and you finished cleaning up all smudges and small mistakes, you can reach out for a special paint pot which is called a wash.

Let’s give some definition to the flat basecoat we have created in a previous step.

Washing Miniatures for BeginnersDon’t dunk the whole mini in the wash and try to be precise instead. Apply the paint in spots you want the mini to have shadings. Its places like underarms, small nooks, crannies or panel lines.

Work with your brush and push the paint into the cavities and away from raised surfaces. Also in this step, you want to work in thin layers and build up opacity.

Special tips

  • You can use any paint as a wash, try adding a little bit more water than usual. For even better result try adding a small drop of dish soap to the water, it will break the surface tension.

Highlighting Miniatures for BeginnersStep 4: Painting highlights on miniatures

You are almost there, this is the last painting step! We are going to make the mini stand out and improve the overall look a lot.

After the shading, everything seems to be a bit dull, so we are going to fix it now. Usually, for highlights, we pick a slightly lighter tone of the same color we have picked for base coating.

In order to apply the highlights, we will be using two distinct painting techniques.

Drybrushing

The first one is called dry-brushing. Its the easiest way of highlighting. It requires almost no skill and yields great rewards.

How do you drybrush?

So how do you drybrush? It is easy, get a really ragged old brush like the one on the photo. Get some paint on it and wipe almost all of the paint onto the kitchen towel. After that, you repeatedly brush fast over the areas you want to make pop (The motion should come from your wrist). The trick is that the brush is going to catch mostly on the raised details.

After a while you should see the result, Your edges and raised details should be highlighted with the color.

Edge highlighting

This technique opposed to drybrushing requires a little bit of practice. You load your regular painting brush with paint. Similar to the basecoating step, but instead of painting the whole areas you only pick out the edges.

Make sure you only paint really thin lines. This is really a very simplistic explanation of this technique as I will be covering each technique in detail in upcoming articles.

Special tips

  • You don’t have to use only one color for your highlights. It could be a progression from your main tone to almost white-ish.

Step 5: Basing the easy way

So the mini is painted. What are we going to do with the base?

Let’s do the most simple thing. We will use material everyone has access to.

What do you need:

  • a bit of dirt or sand
  • a couple of small rocks
  • PVA glue (the one used in arts and crafts)

First off, you need to measure out where your mini is going to stand. You don’t want to put all the rocks and dirt on the base and later realize there is no space for the marine.

Second, you glue on the rocks to give the base a little bit of interest.

Last you smudge the remaining space with the glue and dunk the whole base in the dirt or sand and you are done.

You let the glue dry and finish of the base with the same steps as with painting the mini (priming, basecoating, shading, highlighting). I will let you figure out the specifics on your own.

Special tips

  • For gluing the rocks, super glue could be an even better fit.
  • For highlighting the base, dry brushing is an extremely effective technique.

And we are done!

Finished Primaris Reavers

Miniature Painting for BeginnersMiniature Painting for Beginners

That is it! I hope this guide was helpful for you and thanks for taking the time to read my article.

Stay tuned, more will follow shortly!

If you manage to paint your first batch of minis based on this tutorial, please take a picture and send it to [email protected]. I will feature all of the received pictures at the end of this article.

Next guide?

Signup and receive new miniature painting guide every Friday!

2 thoughts on “Painting miniatures for beginners

  1. Cool post – could you include some kind of summary about prices of the equipment?
    How much would it cost to get all set?

    1. Hey, thanks for the question!

      I have added the estimated costs of the supplies on the list. This could vary based on where you live and what is accessible to you. The total depends on the number of paints as that is probably the most expensive part.

      You could go from somewhere around $50 to $150.

      It is important to note that most of the stuff will last you for months of painting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top