How to Paint Miniatures: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Paint Miniatures

Painting miniatures is a delightful craft that transforms tiny figures into vivid characters. If you’re a gamer wanting to bring your role-playing sessions to life, a hobbyist looking to decorate your space, or simply someone seeking a relaxing pastime, read this guide till the end. You can give personality to these small models with just a few tools and paintsStarting this can be a bit challenging, but with time and effort, you’ll get the hang of it.

Choose the Perfect Miniature for Your Project

First thing first, pick the right miniature by understanding the material. The scale, style, and theme are critical factors. Also, pay attention to the mold lines and imperfections, which can affect the final painted appearance.

The Paint Debate: Acrylics vs. Enamels

Acrylics: These are water-based paints beloved by many miniature painters. They’re quick to dry, non-toxic, and can be thinned down with water. They come in various colors and are easy to clean off brushes.

Enamels: Oil-based paints tend to dry slower, which is great for blending. They offer a shiny finish and last a long time. However, you’ll need substances such as white spirit or turpentine to dilute them and clean them up.

Types and Sizes for Precise Painting


  1. Round: Versatile and can be used for base coating and finer details.
  2. Flat: Excellent for applying paint over wide areas or making broad strokes.
  3. Dry brush: These have stiffer bristles, perfect for lightly brushing paint across raised details.

Size: Brushes range from 000 (very small) to 2 or 3 (larger). While smaller brushes are perfect for eye details or intricate patterns, larger ones swiftly cover expansive surfaces.

Why Priming is Essential and How to Select the Right One

Primer sets the groundwork for your painting project. It helps paint stick to the miniature’s surface and prevents it from rubbing off with handling. When selecting a primer, consider the final color scheme white primers make colors pop, black primers are great for shadowing and metallics, while grey offers a balanced middle ground.

Wet vs. Dry and Their Uses

  • Wet Palette: A must-have for those who paint over extended periods. It’s made up of a flat container with a moist sponge or paper at its base and baking paper above it. This setup keeps paints moist and blends colors effortlessly.
  • Dry Palette: A flat, non-porous surface to place and mix your paints. It’s simple and effective for short painting sessions.

Magnifying Glass or Visor for Detailing

When dealing with miniatures, some details can be incredibly small. A magnifying tool can help bring those details to the forefront, ensuring precision. While standalone magnifying glasses offer portability, visors or headsets, keep your hands free, providing more control during painting.

Keeping Water Cups & Tools Clean

A water cup is crucial for cleaning brushes, especially when using acrylic paints. Ensure you change the water regularly to avoid muddy colors. Investing in specialized brush cleaners or gentle soaps can prolong the life of your brushes and maintain their shape.

Decide Between Matte and Glossy Finishes

After hours of painstaking painting, you’d want to protect your work. Sealants do just that.

Matte: Ideal for a natural, non-reflective finish, making it the go-to for most fantasy or historical miniatures.

Glossy: Provides a vibrant sheen, perfect for portraying wet, shiny, or slimy surfaces.

Balancing Natural and Artificial Light

Natural Light: It’s always recommended to paint under natural light when possible. It offers unmatched color accuracy and reduces eye strain.

Artificial Light: If natural light isn’t an option, use daylight LED bulbs. Ensure your workspace is well-lit with adjustable lamps to avoid shadows and achieve even illumination.

Preparation Steps to Paint Miniature

How to Paint Miniatures

1. Clean the Miniature Thoroughly

Before painting, it’s essential to rid the miniature of any residual mold-release agents, dust, or oils from handling. Clean the model using a soft brush, warm water, and gentle soap.

2. Assemble the Miniature for Cohesiveness

If your miniature comes in multiple parts, assembly is necessary. For plastic models, opt for plastic cement, while metal and resin benefit from superglue. First, test fit the parts to make sure they match up properly.

3. Base the Miniature for Added Realism

Basing involves setting the miniature on a decorative base to enhance its presentation and ground it within a specific setting. Once your desired base material is glued on, let it dry thoroughly.

4. Apply the Primer to Ensure Paint Adherence

A primer coat ensures your paint adheres to the miniature and is more durable. You can use a brush-on primer or spray primers. 

5. Set Up Your Workspace for Efficiency

A good workspace is essential for a comfortable and efficient painting session. Ensure you have ample lighting, preferably daylight bulbs. Arrange your paints, brushes, and tools for easy accessibility.

6. Master Painting Techniques for Stunning Miniatures

  • Layer for Depth and Gradation

Start with a base color, then apply successive layers, each slightly lighter than the previous one, focusing on raised areas. This technique creates depth and a gradient effect.

  • Dry Brushes for Highlighting

Dip your brush into the paint, wipe off most of it, and then lightly brush across the miniature’s raised details. It’s a great way to highlight textures quickly.

  • Wash for Shadows and Definition

Washes are diluted paints designed to settle into the nooks and crannies of a miniature. They’re used after the base colors to create shadows and add depth. When the wash dries, it leaves a shaded effect, emphasizing the model’s details.

  • Glaze for Smooth Transitions

Glazes are thin, semi-transparent layers of paint. They’re used to smooth transitions between colors or add a tint to certain areas.

  • Blend for Seamless Color Transitions

This technique smoothly transitions one color into another on the miniature’s surface. It’s often used for creating realistic skin tones, fabric gradients, or any texture where a gradual color shift is needed.

Advanced Techniques

  1. Object source lighting (OSL)
  2. Non-metallic metal (NMM)
  3. Wet blending
  4. Freehand detailing
  5. Finishing Touches

Keep brushes in good condition

  1. Thin your paints, not your dreams
  2. Understanding paint consistency
  3. Using a color wheel for harmony
  4. Practice makes perfect: The value of patience and repetition
  5. Building a miniature painting community: Forums and social media groups


The miniature painting combines artistic skill with enduring patience. Every brush movement breathes life into tiny realms. It’s not just about perfect results; it’s about enjoying the process. So, assemble your equipment, tap into your creativity, and dive into painting.

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