Painting Miniatures - A Great Creative Outlet with a Gaming Twist

You have likely seen beautifully painted miniatures when visiting board game stores or fantasy conventions. If not, maybe you have wondered why you got dull gray miniatures in a board game you purchased. That would be because miniature painting exists as a hobby. Many board game designers recognize this and leave miniatures gray. This way, players can customize miniatures by painting them themselves.

If you wondered how to paint miniatures, it is easy. All you need is a miniature, paint, brushes, and a well-lit room, and you are ready to go. Maybe your first miniatures won’t be masterpieces, but as you learn how to properly base coat, shade, and highlight, your miniatures will start looking much better. 

How to start with Painting Miniatures?

Getting into the hobby of painting miniatures is easy. All you need to start painting your first miniature is some basic equipment and determination. So, how to start painting miniatures, and what kind of equipment do you need? You will need a few brushes. You will need a small brush for tiny parts of a miniature, and a larger brush for coating the base and other sizeable parts. A brush with a fine thin tip is necessary for highlights and details. Finally, it is good to have a stiff-bristled brush for dry brushing. Drybrushing is a technique where you apply a very small amount of lighter paint to highlight raised surfaces and give your miniature a realistic look.

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Other than brushes, you will need some paint and a palette for thinning and mixing colors. Buying or making a wet palette is a good idea. A wet palette keeps your paints wet for longer. This way, you won’t have to re-mix paints often, which ensures a consistent blend of color. A painting handle is another optional piece of equipment that can be immensely helpful. The painting handle lets you turn your miniature around without touching it. This helps you avoid smearing wet paint. If you don’t want to get a painting handle, use a pair of disposable rubber gloves.

The last item on the list is paint. The best mini paints for beginners are sets that include black and white to lighten or darken your colors and derivates from blue, red, and yellow. Other colors you want to have will depend on what colors you want to use on your miniatures. Some people recommend learning how to use contrast paints first. Contrast paints are designed to base coat, shade, and highlight the miniature in a single coat. In my opinion, you should do those things individually because they are a fundamental part of the miniature pointing hobby.

When you get all the basic equipment you need, you are ready to start painting your first miniature. If you want to learn more about specific painting techniques before you start, there are a lot of miniature painting tutorials on YouTube. Once you feel prepared to start painting your first miniature, ensure that your painting area is well lit and enjoy your newly discovered hobby!

Using your miniatures in games

There are two types of people who paint miniatures. One group consists of people who just enjoy painting miniatures as a hobby and don’t use them in games. People in the other group paint miniatures to use in games.

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The most iconic games with miniatures are wargames like Warhammer, but we will talk about those later in the article. Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games don’t come with miniatures, but the experience is greatly improved if you use miniatures and Dungeons & Dragons terrain. If you are one of the people who just paint miniatures, learning how to play D&D is a good way to find a use for your miniatures.

Other than wargames and D&D, many board games require miniatures to play them. Those board games come with miniatures included. Most board games come with gray miniatures, so buying a board game you are interested in is an excellent way to get your first miniatures. Another way to use miniatures you already have is to shine up a board game by replacing the miniatures that come in the box with ones you prefer more. 

3D Printing accessories and miniatures for gaming

3D printing has come a long way since its inception. Printing miniatures is an option that has probably crossed every miniature collector’s mind. There are pros and cons to both printing and buying miniatures.

The most obvious downside is the quality. Printed miniatures have lower quality than the ones you can buy. There are professional SLA printers that can print high-quality miniatures, but those printers are very expensive. You should keep in mind that the quality of miniatures doesn’t come only from material and printer; you need detailed 3D models for printing high-quality miniatures, which can also cost a decent amount of money.

It is also important to note that in many official wargame tournaments, you aren’t allowed to use 3D-printed miniatures. It is good to check out which games allow 3D printed miniatures. If you just intend to use your 3D printed miniatures for D&D, there is nothing to worry about.  Other than quality and restrictions on tournaments, you have to keep in mind that 3D printing is time-consuming.  

If you already have a 3D printer, there is a good use for it. It is a good idea to print some low-quality miniatures to practice painting Dungeons & Dragons miniatures before you move on to painting high-quality miniatures you bought. Another good usage of a 3D printer in this hobby is printing bases for your miniatures. Bases don’t have to be high quality for your miniatures to look beautiful.

Miniature wargaming - where to start

Miniature wargames are strategy games that simulate warfare using physical models to represent military units. Wargaming goes hand in hand with painting miniatures. If you are a newcomer to this hobby, you likely associate wargaming with Games Workshop games.

Warhammer 40k

Warhammer 40k is a wargame set in a dark futuristic setting in a galaxy that has been in a state of total war for thousands of years. Humanity is beset on all sides by mutant and alien races. Warhammer 40k is the most popular wargame, but it might not be the best one for beginners because it requires players to create big armies. If you are set on starting with Warhammer 40k, you should ask experienced players for advice on where to start.

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Age of Sigmar

Age of Sigmar is a fantasy counterpart of Warhammer 40k. The world in the Age of Sigmar is also in a state of total war, but in this case, units utilize medieval weaponry in place of spaceships and laser turrets. When comparing Age of Sigmar vs Warhammer 40k, the biggest difference between the two is the setting. Since the two games have similar rules, Age of Sigmar suffers from the same problem; you will have to create a large army to start playing the game.

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Blood Bowl

Blood Bowl is a game of fantasy football set in the Age of Sigmar. In this game orcs, trolls, humans, elves, dwarfs, and other fantasy races meet on the football field. Some races focus on scoring quickly, while others prefer murdering the opposing team and clearing the field for easy scoring opportunities. This is an excellent miniature game for beginners because you will need only 11 models to create your team. Rules are easy to learn, and if you are unsure about getting the miniatures, there is a video game version of Blood Bowl where you can see if you like the game before buying miniatures.

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Warcry

Warcry is a skirmish-based game that uses miniatures and lore from Age of Sigmar. In Warcry, players use small warbands to fight over the objectives in the game. The objective of the game changes each game, which makes the game dynamic. Warcry is excellent for beginners because of the small number of miniatures (3-15) required to start playing the game. The rules are easy to learn, but the game itself is complex, offering a perfect entry-level experience and making it the best Games Workshop game for new players.  

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Miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG games

Miniatures aren’t necessary for playing Dungeons & Dragons. If you want to start playing D&D all you need is a rulebook, a set of dice, a character sheet, and a pen. That being said, miniatures and terrains bring a lot to the experience. It is aesthetically pleasing to have a beautiful miniature instead of a bottle cap representing your character. 

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Esthetical benefits aren’t the only reason to use miniatures in RPG games. There is often a lot going on in a D&D battle. Recognizing who is who on the map can get hard if you are using coins, bottle caps, or other mundane items to represent your characters and enemies. When using miniatures, it is easy to keep track of who is doing what in the battle, which makes the combat experience smooth.

In conclusion, you don’t need miniatures for playing Dungeons & Dragons, but once you start using them, you will never want to stop using them. You can buy specific miniatures or use miniatures that are included in some board games. Many board games come with miniatures that can be used as good starting D&D miniatures for beginners. 


Author - Ante Radoš

Dungeons and dragonsGames workshop