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10 Tips on How to Keep Your Painting Interest (Stay Motivated!)

    I’m pretty much a collector on a scale that greatly outweighs the ability for any single human to ever catch up. I’ve heard of these mythical creatures that buy a unit and wait until they finish building, converting and painting to buy the next one.  I am not said hobby unicorn.  I have giant piles of sprues reaching upwards to the heavens.  They tell me I need to continue to grow this pile of grey plastic even higher. That’s a goal right? He who dies with the most unpainted miniatures wins?

    Well even with my rabid collecting of way too many projects, I still hate to see my army unpainted on the tabletop. I’m not a golden daemon painter by any means. I also don’t want to be the guy who shows up to a game (or a tourney!) with grey plastic beyond the very early days of testing an army.

    Therefore I need to figure out a way to make progress. And I, like every other hobbyist out there at times gets stuck.  So, in order to continue with my goal of painted armies on the table, I’ve got some ideas I’ve used in order to stay motivated.

    Some of these may work for you, some may not, but I’m sure all of you reading this will have other great ideas to add!

    A Quiet Workbench Is a Boring Work Bench

    My painting room has a stereo in it where music plays constantly while I’m in there. Some people use books on CD, others use podcasts or a movie in the background. Whatever works for you and keeps you entertained while you slog through yet another squad of basic troopers. The only thing that gets the “to be painted” pile done is time putting paint on a model, so make that process as enjoyable as possible.

    If you’re in a slump, try mixing this up a bit. See if you get inspired, or at the very least able to stay painting for “one more song”.

    It’s Okay to Have Multiple Projects on the Go at Once

    I once slogged through just over 200 skaven infantry. The sheer number of similar models was daunting and frankly uninspiring.  I was at the same time building up a MUCH more interesting daemon collection that I enjoyed painting a lot more.  I therefore would alternate between 10 rats and something daemonic. It made the process much more bearable, and gave a reward that was still productive painting-wise.

    Switching between multiple projects (without totally abandoning the uninteresting one!) can keep the production up without burning out.

    Make Something Unique

    I enjoy painting things that are different and uniquely mine. One of the things that I began doing more frequently is converting models, to the point of having entire armies converted from the original along a theme.

    This started simple with head/weapon swaps and has grown over time. If you’re finding it difficult gaining motivation to paint “yet another space marine” try converting the model first into something that isn’t a carbon copy of the rest of the squad.

    If converting isn’t your thing, then try your hand at a new paint scheme or technique.  Something you haven’t tried before could be just the challenge you need!

    Combine Some Fluff

    This goes hand in hand with #3 above and involves having a story for your models, from the individual troopers and their fearless leader, all the way up to the army as a whole. “My guys are salamanders” is fine and all, and shows your love of painting green. However, really breaking down the story of the squads themselves, giving names to the sergeants and characters and a back story to the army can make everything that much more personal. It can stoke the fires of the project and why you originally wanted it to come to fruition in the first place.

    As you play the army, adding models, trophies, vehicle markings that reflect the battles you’ve had is another great way to evolve the force and have it grow over time.

    Track Your Progress and Your Goals

    I work best with lists and target goals. I can’t remember anything if it’s not written down and planned out for me. Just ask my wife.  This works with painting projects as well, where I track not only what I need to purchase, but what’s left to paint to complete the army.

    Yeah right, an army completed… I know, I know.

    I will set targets around tourney dates where I am committed to not only have the army together, but fully painted by that event.  Sure, this has also led to a flurry of painting the final couple days befor. However, if you have set deadlines and targets, and force yourself to stick to them, it does help keeping things on track.

    Brag a Little – or a Lot

    Army painting logs on forums and blogs is a great way to keep motivation up. You’re showing off your work and (hopefully) getting praise and constructive feedback about your creations. The reinforcement from others can help you feel like you’re not in this alone; and there are others who truly want to see this through to the end with you. It’s also nice when you’re feeling down about your progress to have a tangible record of what you’ve accomplished; to look back on when the going gets tough!

    Take pictures of your models and post them online, but also submit into painting competitions. This is another great way to get feedback on your work and some of that motivating positive reinforcement!

    Set Time Aside

    Life is busy. There is always going to be something demanding of your time where hobby can get pushed to the back burner. Setting aside a regular block of time, even just a half hour in the morning or evening can get some real results happening. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s better to paint a little bit than nothing at all, and any progress can be fuel for motivation.

    Play Games

    Momentum can be sometimes achieved by actively playing with the army you’re creating. If you have only 500 points done and 500 bare plastic, then play a game with the whole 1,000 points. Commit to another game, and also commit to having something more painted than last time you played.

    This combines the whole idea of setting goals, as well as building up the story of your army’s exploits.  An active army is one that you want to work on.  An army that sits on the shelf to be completed “someday” is one you can ignore.

    This also gives you the ability to shift gears on the project if you find that in some test games, that awesome idea you had wasn’t so awesome after all.

    Ask for Help

    Everyone gets stuck from time to time; it’s natural for anyone in a creative pursuit. Luckily we’re part of a community (either online or in with real live humans), and for the most part we’re pretty decent helpful people. If you just don’t know where to go with an idea, paint scheme, or army list, post something up online, or ask your gaming buddies what they think.  It’s really easy to just go “ah forget it” and toss a really good potential idea aside and give up.  We all want to see cool ideas come to life. You’d be amazed how much helpful advice there is out there.

    Have a Time Out

    Sometimes you just need to walk away for a bit, do something completely non-gaming related or even (gasp!) head outside for a bit. If you are feeling stuck and just burnt out on a project, or in painting in general you just might need a time out from the brush for a bit.

    You need to be disciplined about this though, as it’s easy for time to slip by and days become weeks then months without any progress. If you need a day, take a day, if you need a week, well take that too. After the break, commit to coming back to revisit the project, even for a half hour, to see if you’re sufficiently rested up to take another kick at the can.


    Any more ideas anyone has for keeping that painting mojo going and getting out of those slumps? Please add in the comments below!

    Also, check out Thor’s article about having a dedicated hobby space for improving painting motivation. Also, he has tips to become a better miniature painter while we’re on the subject of painting.

    Jack Shrapnel

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    7 years ago

    Well said and great article.

    The fluff part is huge for me. I can’t just paint plastic that has no life. What I’m working on has to mean something. I can’t paint plastic dudes that have no value to me beyond their points in the list.

    I generally stick to one painting project unless that project is large, like my Knight. I know I won’t knock the Knight out in a day, so I’ve been mixing in some other painting projects, and some modeling projects, to avoid getting burned out.

    This very blog is where I “brag” and ask for help. I quote brag because I don’t, but I love getting the feedback here. Posting up WIPs and getting opinions here has been very helpful over the years as well.

    Anyway, all great stuff you’ve said that I fully agree with.

    7 years ago
    Reply to  jack shrapnel

    Agreed. In my experience, those who only care about the game for the game are the ones who come and go. If you can’t immerse yourself into all aspects of the hobby then it’s going to become stale.

    A good list only lasts for so long. Whether it’s different opponents, a new codex, new 40K rules, something will impact that list. However, a great paint job stands the test of time, and as you said, is far more rewarding.

    7 years ago
    Reply to  jack shrapnel

    That’s the thing, those guys aren’t invested. They airbrush their army to the 3 color minimum and drag it around to tournaments.

    7 years ago
    Reply to  jack shrapnel

    I know exactly what you mean.

    Joe B
    7 years ago

    Nice list Jack. I know I’ve burned out a few times painting squads of models. I especially like your point on make something unique. Between painting space marines why not build and paint a INQ28 guy? I found it completely freeing and inspiring to just paint whatever color I wanted on a totally unique character.

    I will throw in another: join a challenge. When I first starting getting back into painting I joined a group challenged called Tale of Even More Painters where we challenged each other to get something finished. It was a blast and we all got a ton finished. (a bit self promoting: join Dreadtober!)

    Joe B
    7 years ago
    Reply to  jack shrapnel

    (if Thor doesn’t mind)

    Tournaments are a great milestone for people to aim for. From doing an escalation style build up to paint so much of your army every month.

    Nils Holmbergh
    7 years ago

    Great article about a very good subject that I think all of us have problems with from time to time.

    When it comes to gaming miniatures I get burnt out quite fast. Part of that is because I generally buy too much stuff from the beginning and it feels like the project is too big. It just doesn’t feel like any progress is made. It has happened more than once that I buy most of what’s needed and just end up collecting dust. I have two armies in that state atm that I doubt will get finished anytime soon.

    I’ve tried many times to change so I don’t buy everything at once but it hasn’t worked well yet.

    For my display painting it’s not that bad. I generally get a little bit burnt out at the end and a short time after I finish a figure/bust. I think it’s the part of painting the same figure for that amount of time that does it. I always keep track of my progress with these.

    Nils Holmbergh
    7 years ago
    Reply to  jack shrapnel

    Yea alternating between different kind of miniatures is a must for me as well. Just painting 100+ infantry is torture more or less.

    7 years ago

    I usually use the summer to take a break from painting. It’s nice out and Canada doesn’t have an endless summer. Winter is my painting time. I collected models far faster than I could paint. I’ve sold some to lessen the pressure to complete an army. I am in the process of painting four 40K armies. I’ve tried a different approach with my freshly started Sylvaneth. Paint what I have before buying new models.