I’ve been asked a few times lately to do tutorials on how I paint, and was even asked to join in on a class teaching. And sometime soon I may start doing that. But I thought it might be useful to first talk about painting style and techniques first. Well, at least my painting style and techniques. I really can’t speak for how anyone else goes about it.
And the first thing that needs to be said is…there is no right or wrong way to go about painting a miniature, as long as you are pleased with the results. I know, I know… that sounds like a cop-out. But it’s true. Sure, you can paint for competitions and have your worked judged, but even competitions are subjective things, and much of what will win or lose is at the whim of judges who’s own styles of painting differ from place to place, and who’s own idea of what constitutes a “good” piece depends on many different factors. In the end, paint for yourself. And if you really are concerned with others liking your work, which is fine and quite expected, well, I’ve found that if I paint something that I am happy with, and that I enjoy looking at, others do as well.
It’s also important to note that painting miniatures is, or at least should be, an evolutionary process. Over time, as you practice and talk to other painters and gamers and see other people’s work, the way you approach painting and the techniques you use will change. I look at miniatures I painted 3 years ago and I’m surprised at how different I would have painted them today.
Also I should mention, very little of my painting techniques are anything amazingly original. Pretty much everything I do I learned from someone else. And I still, honestly and truly, believe I have a long way to go until I will think of myself as a really good painter.
So, let’s talk about my painting “Style”. Or styles, I guess I should say. I think that, generally speaking, I have three ways I paint, depending on the miniature, if it’s an army, if it’s only for display, if it’s for competition, etc.
The first one would be Army Painter Style, or what my friends and I who are using it call the “Imrie Style”, after Saxon Dog David Imrie who first took the time to email me and show me how he did his amazing armies. This technique uses Army Painter Quickshade as the key element to painting and to the final look of the army. Though many of my friends use the colored primers that Army Painter makes, I generally stick to black primer for this. The figure’s colors are block painted in. Then lightly brush on Army Painter Strong Tone. No dipping, no letting huge pools of the stuff build up. After it’s dried, I give a quick dusting of matte varnish, and then start highlighting. And it’s the highlighting that makes all the difference. Because of the time saved shading, I take a little more time with the highlighting and picking out details, eyes being a biggie. I start with the base color I blocked in before the glaze, and then go lighter colors from there if need be. There is no fast rule on how much to highlight. I simply highlight until it looks right to me.
The whole point of this style, for me, is to get armies on the table that look good in a reasonable amount of time. Though not much shorter that other methods because of the highlighting, I really like the final look.
A number of my miniatures are painted in this style. Here are a few-
The next way I paint is what I simply call a 3-Step Style. This is basic miniature painting 101. Start with a shade color, then paint a base color, leaving the shade showing in the deeper recesses, and then paint on a highlight color onto the highest areas. This is the way I first learned to paint, and is still the way I paint many, if not most, of my miniatures. I spend a little more time than just 3 layers of paint, usually. I may prime black, grey, or white.Generally black if it’s a unit. white if I want bright colors, grey if I want the colors to look just like they do in the bottle. I switch it around alot.
And it isn’t always 3 layers. Sometimes I go more. But generally, when I decide to paint something this way, i try to stick to plan. Again, the idea is to paint something that I think looks nice in a reasonable amount of time. To that end, I also sometimes use washes, GW’s Gryphone Sepia, Ogryn Flesh, Badab Black, and Devlan Mud being favorites. Though I used to alot, I generally don’t drybrush anymore. It almost always leaves my figures looking too grainy for my taste. I will still drybrush some, though, when painting this style…especially things like metallics or hair/fur. And I do usually spend more time on faces than 3-layers of paint.
Basically, I paint this way when I wand a cleaner, brighter looking miniature than I can get with Army Painter, and I really want to pay more attention to the details. Again, many of my miniatures are painted this way. Here are a few-
And then, finally, there’s what I call my Going All-Out Style. This is where I spend ridiculous amounts of time on layer after layer, blending down to shadows and blending up to highlights and trying to pick out every detail I can. This is also a “style” that I am nowhere close to being comfortable with, and generally fell like, the entire time I’m painting, that I have no idea what I’m doing. Everytime I spend this much effort on a miniature I’m reminded of how much further i have to go to get to a level I’ll really be happy with. Honestly, I probably never get that good. But that’s okay. I only spend this kind of time and effort on pieces for competitions or display, or the occasional army commander figure. I still have so much to learn, that I would never even venture to try and teach anything. I haven’t won a gold at a competition yet, but I’m still learning and trying. Maybe someday…
edit- “All-Out” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”. I could spend weeks on one figure, and then do the same figure again in a simpler style, and like it much more that way. It really is hit or miss sometimes.
Now, after categorizing all of that, the fist thing I have to admit is, it really isn’t that simple. Of course, nothing is. I may mix a little bit of everything in painting something, plus I have certain approaches to painting gold, for instance, that I use regardless of how I’m painting. But these kind of break down my painting into 3 broad categories, and it sort of helps me manage my time painting a little better if I can look at a group of miniatures and say “This is how I’m going to paint this today”.