Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild is our show where host Will Friedle goes on a journey to learn how to paint miniatures. Last season, he learned basic techniques, and in season 2, he’s be improving his miniature painting skills as guests join him and teach him new tips and techniques. Join him on Alpha paint those #happylittleminis!
Fantasy Flight Games’ newest miniature game, Star Wars: Legion, is set to release next month. Coincidentally, the recent episodes of G&S’s Painter’s Guild cover miniature painting basic skills, with this week’s episode introducing speedpainting skills. It’s the perfect time to master those painting fundamentals and get miniatures painted to tabletop quality quickly.
With this tutorial, you’ll learn to paint white in a way that is quick and easy. This is a shortcut to painting smooth white without doing dozens of thin layered paint coats. Combining these foundational techniques on this beautifully sculpted miniature, you’ll get these Stormtroopers done and on the table shooting Rebel scum faster than you can power up a Deathstar.
Before we get started, remember, to paint minis, you want to use miniature paint. It’s simply far more pigmented. You won’t get the same results with craft paint.
Prerequisite: Prime Black
It may seem intuitive to prime a model that is predominantly white black, but it serves a purpose. Black is a very beginner-friendly priming colour because shadows are dark and places your brush cannot reach will likely be black. In this case, we’re going to harness that property to create the shades and shadows of the armour since the black parts are recessed.
We’re using that black to help give definition to the miniature- the shadows for each armour plate (we’ll refer to them as blacklines moving forward) are much easier to around using foundational techniques (like drybrushing) than they are to paint on. Developing blacklines by working lighter colours up from black rather than painting black onto the model (known as blacklining) is soul crushing. Trust me.
Step 1: Drybrush Grey
Drybrushing is a very simple technique: simply load undiluted paint into a synthetic-fiber brush. Wipe most of the paint off of the brush and onto a paper towel (the brush should barely leave any hint of paint when pulled across the paper towel).
Drag the bristles vigorously across the miniature. It will deposit the paint on the model most heavily where the sculpt is raised, and leave the recessed parts dark. Because drybrushing is the process of depositing paint in this manner, it’s often used to highlight miniatures as when it’s done with a lighter colour on a darker base, it mimics the effect of light and shadow.
For our purposes, the grey will provide some coverage and a transition colour between the black and white, which will help blend out the shadows and keep the white from looking too chalky.
(Just so you know, the best drybrush for miniature painting is a $3 makeup brush called the Eyes Lips Face Contour brush – a brush I discovered for this purpose because it’s a terrible eyeshadow brush and I wanted to repurpose it. I’ve talked about it before here on Geek & Sundry and you can grab it from the cosmetics aisle where they sell ELF makeup or the ELF’s online makeup store.)
Step 2: Drybrush White
You’ll likely want to do a couple drybrush coats. It’s better to work multiple layers upwards and maintain the integrity of the blacklines while still painting quickly. Don’t be tempted to glob paint on heavily at any stage – you will lose the black lines you’re working hard to preserve, and going back to correct isn’t particularly fun.
Take a moment and have a look at how the paint is depositing – that’s where you’ll want to pay particular attention to for the next step.
Step 3: Layer White Paint
When painting layered highlights, you want to thin your paint down to the consistency of skim milk. If it looks like sour cream, that’s fine for drybrushing, but not for this technique.
Take your thinned paint, and apply it to highest points of the model and where the most white paint has accumulated thorugh drybrushing (such as the innermost sections of each plate). Focus on maintaining the blacklines you’ve worked hard to develop and preserve throughout this process. If you’re not comfortable layering white paint, focus on keeping it in the middle of the big white areas that you drybrushed. You can even drybrush again to brighten up the areas you’ll want to put this thin layer down.
This layer of paint will serve to smooth out the final effect of the white and highlight the brightest parts of the miniature.
Step 4: Apply a wash of black
Stormtroopers guns are black. But at the scale they’re at, painting them straight black will make them look completely flat and unfinished. Even black items reflect and cast shadows to the eye, so to mimic that on the minaiture, you can simply take a black wash from a miniature paint line, or thin down some black miniature paint in water at a 10:1 ratio so it maintains the water-like consistency and the colour is translucent rather than opaque.
Because you drybrushed the model, its highlights are already highlighted, and its shadows are shaded. Applying a black wash to the weapon will darken it to the point where it looks black from tabletop, but has some depth and looks as though it’s interacting naturally with light. You may need to do a few layers if you overly thinned your wash, but it’s better to work the wash colour up than to put too thick a coat of paint on.
That’s it! It took me about 20 minutes to do the single figure start to finish, but when painted as a batch of 7 minis (the base unit size), I was able to cut down the time to 15 minutes per model. If it looks too easy to be true, check out my video below and see it for yourself.
Want more tips and techniques to develop your miniature painting skills? Watch Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild on Alpha – new episodes go live every Monday. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Get a free 30 day trial at projectalpha.com
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Image Credits: Teri Litorco
Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about painting minis and playing miniature wargames/boardgames. She’s also the author of The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming. She’d love to see pics of your #HappyLittleMinis – send them her way on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.