🖌️ Painting

Updated at 2023-03-12 01:02

A note about different techniques in miniature painting.

Most techniques have many names and different groups of people use the same terms for different things. Even schools use different names for the same thing.

Priming means to apply a coat of special primer paint over the whole model. Primer provide a uniform surface to which further paint layers will stick to. Primer is usually applied with a spray can or through an airbrush.

It's fine if the primer coat isn't even or that small spots are missing. The most important is not to apply too much primer.

Undercoat usually means simply "the primer layer", but it can also refer to a more complex shading introduced during the early steps e.g. zenithal highlight where you spray lighter paint on top of a dark primer to form initial highlights.

Undercoat is heavily utilized by the sketch painting method.

Basecoat is an opaque coat of paint on a specific section of the model, providing the base color. Primer can also work as your basecoat if it is the right color.

Even for basecoating, it's good to thin your paint with water and apply two layers.

If you have a wet palette, the optimal basecoat paint consistency is like milk. If you drag the paint on your wet palette, the paint should pull back on itself just a tiny bit but not flow uncontrollably.

To layer, to glaze and to filter all simply mean "apply a layer of paint" and the main difference how thin is the paint being used. It's a spectrum.

  • If you thin your paint just with a tiny bit of water, most would call it a layer.
    • "I want to paint this specific color to the miniature."
  • If you start thinning the paint with water or medium more, it becomes a glaze.
    • "I want to have a minor effect on the pre-existing color."
  • If you thin it down that it barely has any color, it becomes a filter.
    • "I want to have a very subtle effect on the pre-existing color."

Layering (obs. the -ing) means painting opaque layers to create a color transition by painting successive gradations of a color, usually from dark to light.

  • Two tone layering is using just two separate colors in the transition after the basecoat.
  • Multi-tone layering is using a lot of separate colors for the transition.
    • For example, if you have paints x and y, tone mixes could be x 2x1y 1x1y 1x2y y
  • Dramatic layering means using colors that are visibly far apart in the color wheel.
  • Pastel layering is taking 3 harmonious colors and adding a pale base color to them.

Some people enjoy the striped effect that results from harsh layering.

Probably mainly for nostalgia.

Blending is to apply a lighter color to a dry base color and, whilst the paint is still wet, fade out the hard edge by drawing out the paint thinly. This creates a color transition.


Wet blending is a more advanced technique of mixing two wet colors together on the model. You have to either be quick or use paint retarder to increase your working time.


If a glaze is an even, thin coat; a wash is a liberal, opinionated coat that is allowed to run into the recesses. Wash paints are formulated to run into crevices to imitate shadows.

Washes can be properly thinned with water-glue -mixtures or wash mediums. You can turn a wash into a glaze that produces more overall tone by breaking the surface tension e.g. with a tiny-tiny amount of flow improver. You can also wash with oil paints: Thin your dark oil paint mix with white spirits, apply it all over, wait for between 30 minutes and two hours for oil to dry a bit, and finally use sponges and white spirit soaked cotton swabs to remove oil from the highest sections. The key thing is not to let the oil dry for too long. Overnight, they can be further painted with acrylics.

If you apply paint only to the recesses, it's a recess shade. This works with any type of paint but thinned paints and washes are more common. A recess shading communicates in which direction is the light source.

Black lining (or lining-in) is painting a hard dividing line between two sections, usually in the recesses. Black lining is usually done with black inks, washes or oil paints.

With drybrushing, you wipe most of the paint to a paper towel first and just use the residue. If done properly, will make a bit of the paint to stick to the raised features. Be careful with flat areas and only focus on the edges.

Overbrushing is like drybrushing but with more paint on the brush. The intent is to hit a larger area than just the edges. This can be quite messy.

Retouching or clean up is fixing something pre-existing. It can be extending the undercoat on a section that you previously missed or fixing coffee staining of a washed flat area. Usually means "repaint, so it matched the surroundings".

Minor retouching after washing is almost implied.

Staining is applying a translucent but powerful paint over a grayscale area to create a color. While glazes or washes change the underlying color, staining defines the color.

Stippling is a shade or a highlight indicated with a series of dots applied with the tip of a brush. The dot density defines the decree of shade or highlight.

Stippling can also simply mean stabbing paint on with your brush.

Avoid diluting your paint used for stippling if your aim is to create volume.

Highlighting is applying the paint to places where light forms reflections, spheres, planes or wider streaks. It communicates three-dimensionality.

Layering, glazing, blending and drybrushing all can be used for highlighting.

The main thing is that you applying lighter colors over darker colors.

Edge highlighting is applying a narrow layer of paint along edges using the side of your brush. It communicates the separation of sections through simulated reflection.

A very thin white or pale line on the edge is sometimes called "extreme highlight".

Dot highlighting is applying a dot of paint to a few sharp points, edge ends closest to the light. It communicates where exactly is the light source.

Basing means finishing the miniature base with the likes of texture paints and grass tufts. Basing is an art of its own. Remember to paint the rim!

You can add various technical effects on a finished miniature. These various special effects include pigment dusts, rust mixtures, pre-mixed blood, shiny paint for gems, fluorescent paints, etc. Too many to cover briefly.

You can varnish your miniature with a protective coat of matte, satin or gloss varnish. Different sections can be applied different varnishes to get the desired effect.