I’ve said it a number of times on The Independent Characters but I truly believe that anyone out there can paint their models to a better than table top standard. Quite easily too. Good Lord I cannot believe I am about to write a painting article…

What does this guy have to do with painting? Read on!

The fact is that I am NOT a great painter, though within my group I am probably considered one of the better ones. I have won a Best Painted Award at Dundracon (A smaller tournament to be sure but I’m going to hang onto that as my claim to fame!) and I regularly receive positive comments on my models wether they are online, at a game store, or at a tournament. So I’m going to go ahead and say I am comfortable with the level I am painting at.

So how did I get to this point? Easy. I watched lots of tutorials online, I talk to someone who knows more about painting than I do (though I feel that gap is closing and we are now more about sharing ideas), and I am willing to try new things. That’s it. You want to improve your painting? Here are your four steps towards painting success:

  1. Research Tutorials Online (Especially YouTube!). There are SO many tutorials for how to paint figures online it is amazing. Even if you don’t want to follow one tutorial exactly, you can mix and match ways that people achieved their various effects. Once you have achieved the “paint by numbers” level, you can then step it up to applying the techniques you have now learned to other projects.
  2. Make a plan, but be willing to change it if it isn’t working out. Always approach a miniature with a plan in mind. “I’m going to paint the armor blue, the head and chest white, the affectations silver, the laurels green and the cloth white.” Once you have that in hand, think about how you are going to achieve each of those colors you want to do. “I’m going to prime white, then I’m going to basecoat the model Ultramarine Blue with my airbrush, do a Badab Black wash over the whole thing and then go over the blue areas with Ultramarine Blue again but avoid recesses to represent shadows.” If you have a plan in advance it will make painting a model a WHOLE lot easier – and it will come together much better for you in the end.
  3. Find a mentor who knows more about painting than you do. This can be a friend or someone at a local game store who is willing to sit and talk with you, or better yet, even SHOW you how they achieved certain effects. In fact, this doesn’t have to even be local to you as you can now use webcams and Skype to talk about this stuff!
  4. Try new techniques, practice and be willing to fail. There are times where things are just NOT coming together as planned. Be willing to step back and start all over again. You won’t have to do this often, but progress towards something you don’t want isn’t really progress at all is it? Be willing to try new things, new ideas, and eventually even combinations of the two!

Pretty close to my original vision!

Take the Work In Progress model to the right. My Terminator Sergeant. I knew this guy wasn’t going to be wearing a helmet. This is a source of anxiety for me as I think I can paint armor to a higher standard than I can flesh. But I was determined not to let that set me back and I had a vision for this guy that I wanted to see through. So how do you paint the best head you can Carl?

First I came up with a concept for the guy I wanted to paint. I knew I wanted him to have a military style mohawk, much like the character Soap from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has. I think this is a great look for a Space Marine!

The next thing I did was take a look and talk briefly with Big Jim of Galaxy In Flames fame. Fortunately, he is somewhat local to me, but I just spoke with him over Instant Messenger a bit about it and asked how he approached his faces. He is known for painting them quite well.

Next, I looked for some resources online where I could see the steps involved in doing this. I took a look at an article written by Ron of From The Warp (a great resource that, if you are looking at this blog I am sure you are already aware of!) on how to paint faces and facial stubble. What? You use grey to do stubble? Wow ok!

Finally, I just gave it a go. You can see the results for my FIRST ATTEMPT to really step up my game in painting faces. How close to the original concept art does it look to you? I’m telling you guys it just isn’t that hard.

I hear people all the time say things like “I can’t paint that well…” or “I wish my paintjob could look that good…” I’m here to tell you it really CAN. It just takes a bit of upfront time and a little practice.

I was never what I would consider an artistic kind of guy but with resources at my disposal, I have done a good job of faking it. Heck I have even fooled some of you!