I have been painting my Ravenloft miniatures as mentioned in got them bones because I sorted out a method of painting miniatures quickly to a “gaming table” standard.This method doesn’t produce high quality results such as you might see places like Cool Mini or Not, or in the display pages of miniatures companies, but it does produce results comparable to the Rare miniatures from the D&D Miniatures line of products.
This post describes my speed painting method giving photo examples to illustrate. In a glance down the page you will notice there are only 4 photos, that is because there are only 4 steps. The most time-consuming step is actually getting the base coat on the miniature, and the time required to do that depends on the size of the miniature and the amount of detail you intend to paint.
Paints & Brushes
It is worth noting that if you are going to paint miniatures a lot that spending the money on a good set of brushes is worth while. A good sable brush will last you a year or more if you look after it. Most of the major paint suppliers sell appropriate brushes, I picked up the Privateer Press brushes (a Fine Hobby Brush and a Fine Studio Brush) on the weekend as my old brushes had finally passed out of the realm of detail work.
In addition to getting brushes I recommend a white undercoat, any matt finish white spray paint will do. I think I paid $5 for my current undercoat from a local car supply discount store. The acrylic paints you will use to paint miniatures with, regardless of the company you choose, are translucent. This means that the undercoat will show through the paint, especially with the thin coats that this method ends up applying. This has advantages; it means that you can get better graduation of color easily for example.
For paints I have started using Reaper Miniatures, but have long used GWs paints. For this miniature I used Reaper’s Bronzed Flesh, Blood Red, Ancient Bronze, Fallout Grey and Brilliant Blue, GW’s Scorched Brown, Snakebite Leather, Mithril Silver and Burnished Gold and Vallejo’s Black Shade. Companies like Reaper and Vallejo provide their paints in dropper bottles, this has a number of advantages especially in hot climates like mine. With these paints you only need to put a couple of drops out at a time and put the lid back on, GW paints I find need to be open for longer which accelerates their drying out where I live.
The first step in painting a miniature is preparing it. With plastic miniatures the first thing to do is wash them in soapy water (be sure to rinse thoroughly) to remove the grease they seem to accumulate. You can then use a hobby knife or other similar sharp blade to trim down the mold lines (the little ridges that run along some models where their mold was joined together). However as you are not aiming for competition standard this step is only needed if it is particularly bad. Once you have cleaned the mini and removed any mold lines apply undercoat. Hold the spray can about 30cm/1′ away from the miniatures and move it from side to side, don’t just hold it on the mini. Because of this it is best to undercoat a number of miniatures at once.
Once the miniature is undercoated the next step is getting the base colors on. At this stage you need to take your time, getting a good even coat and applying the colors across the areas you intend only is important for the final appearance of the model. If your particular pot of paint turns out to be a little thin it may take a couple of coats to get proper coverage. Take the time to get it right though because with this technique its going to be more important than with more time-consuming techniques.
This step is the easiest, apply a single wash of your choice of black wash. Badab Black from GW or the Vallejo Black Shade I used are both fine. One thing to consider is it may be necessary to dilute the wash further than it is already by adding water. Add at least as much water as you do paint if you decide to do this, even 2 lots of water for 1 lot of paint. The thing is you can always add another coat if you need to darken the shadows further and a thinner coat will get a better effect and may remove a lot of the work in step 4.
In step 4 you are ideally just going back and painting in details. Things like the eyes and teeth, and adding highlights by re-applying the base coat to the high points of the model to make them cleaner. If you want at this stage you can add white to the base colours and pick out highlights, the more gradually you build up these highlights the better the effect.
I know I said 4 steps, but the last step is sealing and basing the model.
Sealing the model means painting it with a matt varnish. Any clear matt varnish in a spray can will do. Give it a coat, wait for it to dry then give it another coat. Multiple thin coats will always be better than a single thick coat. At this stage I haven’t varnished this miniature, that will wait until I do the whole Ravenloft set.
I based the model on a 50mm round base. For models like this I just paint the base green and then once the paint is dry apply flock/static grass. I use a mix of these rather than just a single color/style. So some of my grass is small flock, and then there are different shades of static grass as well. This random mix creates a better look because when you see wild grass it is rarely the uniform color of a well manicured lawn.
For the Ravenloft models I simply painted the base grey and then painted the edge black for monsters, and blue for PCs.
And that’s it. It took about half an hour total of painting time to get this miniature done, and he is quite large with a fair bit of detail that slows the process down. Simpler models (ie ones with less detail) take a lot less time to paint. This is still considerably faster than the 4 or more hours that it would take to produce something above “game table” standard.
That time is also exaggerated because there was no parallel painting. So I didn’t paint 4 of them, just the 1. It would have taken only another 10-20 minutes for each additional model. Painting by more detailed techniques requires the same total time on each model. It is in this assembly line painting that this technique really shines.
Now I just need to get the Ravenloft minis finished.