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Why Do You Suck at Painting? Learning the Hobby

    This one popped up on one of the Facebook groups a while ago.

    New to the game and suck at painting. Any tips for a beginner?

    beginner miniature painter

    Why do you suck at painting?

    Because you’re beginning.

    This is a new hobby. You’ve not done it before. I am not specifically targeting the person in the post, it’s just the first one that I could find.

    I want to use this example to remind us all that we were beginners. And, like anything, being a beginner is hard. Because it’s supposed to be! Because you don’t wake up and decide today you’re going to be a plumber. Because it takes time and study and practice to be able to master any skill. Because there are a million tricks learnt through hard trials and experience.

    miniature painting advice

    Really, the above is true. All it takes is one painted miniature to build an army. Finish one miniature and then repeat it until you have an army.

    You’ll be surprised at the tricks you pick up if you paint the same colour scheme over your whole army. It will be boring and monotonous, but if you have a paint scheme worked out, you can focus on things like getting paint consistency right, brush control and the myriad of little things that will make each miniature better than the last.

    I remember the first ever miniatures I painted. They were a Dungeons and Dragons Adventurers pack with a samurai, a barbarian, a halfling and a thief.

    I begged and pleaded to get some Humbrol enamel paints and proceeded to paint them. At the time, I had no idea about the miracle of acrylic paints.

    You can imagine how they turned out. In fact, they make the example above look like a Monet landscape!

    What advice do I offer our aspiring miniature painter?

    Learn the basics. Be prepared to suck. Don’t give up and keep practising.

    Which is easier said than done.

    Getting online and putting your work out in the public domain can be really demoralising, especially with your first efforts. You’ll find that sometimes the comments and advice are less than helpful.

    In our example, the comments range from “thin your paints” to “watch Warhammer TV”. All are good advice but don’t address the problem in a helpful way. By reading through the comments, we find out

    I’m using cheapy walmart applebarrel paint. Does the gw paint work better or does it matter?

    and the advice to thin paints and use washes and watch YouTube continues.

    Surely the problem, in this case, has nothing to do with thinning paints and watching YouTube? Instead, my advice is: take a look at the tools you are using. 

    Does the GW paint work better?

    In this case, yes, it does. The brand (or type) of paint has a significant impact on the finished result.

    As a new hobbyist, you won’t have the encyclopaedic knowledge of different paint manufacturers and their drawbacks and benefits. A seasoned hobby veteran would have, though. It should be the seasoned veterans to guide you seeking knowledge to the right path.

    learning to paint miniatures

    Beyond “thinning your paint”, “using washes” and “watching YouTube” my advice would be get started with the basic tools of your new hobby and go from there.

    Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Vallejo, Warcolours and others produce some amazing acrylic paints for painting miniatures. Check them out, especially Warcolours.

    Wargaming is a multi-faceted hobby. Playing games and painting miniatures are both parts. And both parts require time and practice to master, just like anything else you’ll do.

    If you’d like some more advice, check out Thor’s tips on becoming a better painter. Also, don’t forget to check out his article on common painting mistakes and how to avoid them.

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    5 years ago

    That’s why I ask questions when someone asks for advice. There’s no sense explaining step #5 when someone hasn’t even reached step #1, or even when it’s the opposite and the person is quick to learn and beyond your advice already.

    5 years ago

    Yep. Paying attention to what the person is actually saying and figuring out where their trouble is coming from is key to being able to give good advice.

    I would also agree that using paints intended for minis helps quite a bit. It’s possible to get good results from generic craft paints, but it’s more difficult and more work. I’d also add Army Painter to the list there. They do good stuff from what I’ve used of their line.

    5 years ago
    Reply to  WestRider

    Army Painter’s older paints were excellent, but their newer line (paint name inside a hex on the label) has a thicker, more “gel”-like consistency. Not nearly as good as it used to be. Luke APS had a good video on mixing up a medium to make it more friendly and I have an electric shaker, so it’s okay for me, but again, unfortunately not a line I’d recommend to beginners anymore.

    5 years ago
    Reply to  Azazel

    Good to know. I only have some old ones and the shades.

    5 years ago

    Generally good advice, and Warcolours paints aren’t bad by any means, but I certainly would not recommend them for a beginner.