The Lazy Mini Painter – Basing

Well, its time to explore basing miniatures the Lazy Mini Painter way!  We want the bases to look reasonably good, and take very little time.  Whats the best way to do that?

Well, for me, the answer is – 

GW texture paints, specifically the microbead options.   Its effectively doing a layer of PVA and glue, at the same time as laying down the colour.  You can get colour matched paint (Dryad Bark matches Stirland Battlemire perfectly) to colour the base first (or just do the outer ring afterwards), and then a quick drybrush when dry with an Ochre looks fantastic, and really matches the early GW terrain packs colours magnificently – which happens to be the colours of my Realm of Battle Battleboard!

You can use the crackle options like Agrellan Earth or Martian Ironcrust, and put a wash over it instead!  That also looks pretty sharp!  Again, quick, easy and simple to colour match.  The problem with the crackle option is it often doesn’t work very well if you’ve used a very grippy primer.

I like to finish any of those with either a little PVA and flock, or some self adhesive tufts.  Quick, simple, effective, done.

No messing around with cork or slate.  No fuss dealing with PVA and sand.  No painstakingly painting tiny resin bases.  Just quick, simple effective techniques that look pretty bloody good over an army.  A Lazy Mini Painter win!

The Cheap Gamer – Buying your minis!

This is probably the real heart of the Cheap Gamer series, so is likely to be updated periodically with new ideas or notes.   Generally the expensive part of this hobby is really buying the miniatures themselves, so how do we really reduce the costs there as much as possible?

Plan what you need, and plan for costs

This point is a bit of a spiral that can drive you to madness 🙂

The real key to saving money is, more than any other tip, just to plan what you actually want, and just do that.  Its easy to see lots of shiny things and just start buying models, or see big box sets and think “oooh, I get so many models for so little”.  In either case, you can often end up with tons of models you never really need, and still need to buy all the models you want for your army separately anyway.

Having said that, you can take advantage of some of savings too – read through the following options and bear them in mind when actually planning your army, and if you take them into account you can really double down on maximising efficiencies.

It does build down to you as an individual – if the prospect of fielding marines in ancient armour is fascinating, you can just go out and grab a couple of Horus Heresy box set games.  If you like Space Marine tanks though, that isn’t a good thing to do.  Balance savings with your enthusiasm for the army, and lean more towards enthusiasm, as it will save you more in the long wrong.  You don’t want to either give up or go out and buy your first choice models after spending loads of money on “deals”

Know what you have

It sounds really, really obvious, but especially if you’ve been in the hobby a while, you’ll have extra boxes of things here and there, maybe a half finished hobby project or two, and definitely some bits boxes of all those extra little bits of models on sprues that you didn’t need for the squads you’ve built.  Seriously, before starting a major project, take some time to go through all of these, sort them out, and note down 

a)  Anything that might be useful for the project directly.

b)  Anything that might be worth trading or eBaying to offset the costs of the project.

Once you know what you already own that you might be able to reuse, you can really narrow down what you need to buy to get to your project goals.  Have a spare tactical squad of marines and building some Deathwatch?  Buy almost any Deathwatch character or vehicle and you’ll get enough pads to equip them.

You might not have anything relevant at all.  If you’ve been collecting Tau and are now starting an Eldar army, for example, your spare bits and any unused squads won’t really help!  But if a friend is starting Tau and been collecting Eldar, you’ll probably be able to trade for some more useful bits and pieces!

You might even find you actually have a few boxes of models you’d forgotten about that would fit perfectly!  Fantastic!

Buy or Trade for Secondhand Models

If you are part of social media communities like Facebook and Twitter,  you can often find great bargains or trades with people in the same boat as yourself.  There are fantastic bargains available on models, some built, some painted and some still on sprues.

In addition, eBay is fantastic for some great bargains (though often some very badly painted and assembled miniatures too).  You can really get superlative deals if you are willing to spend more in one go and pick up a complete army, though you will lose out on your own custom choices if you do that.

Some FLGS actually make a point buying and selling second hand minis too, and these can also be fantastic value, especially as you’ll be able to see exactly what you’ll be buying.

The disadvantages of this approach is that often the models will already be painted, and you’ll probably need to reclaim the models, like our recent goblin guest post.  We’ll cover the techniques in detail in a different article, but you will have to invest in the tools to refurbish them, and the time to do that work.  In addition, you can’t guarantee what models will come up.  If you are determined to field a particular force, and want to do it with second hand models, it might be some time before you can get a particular unit or hero.

One note, though – don’t forget that you can use these channels to sell minis too.  They might be from previous projects that you don’t need, or models from a big box set (like death guard from Dark Imperium if you want Primaris).  You can offset a fair chunk of the cost by getting rid of the bits you don’t need.  It can really reduce the costs of your hobby projects if you are ruthless.

Buy Specific Parts to Augment Kits

You can often get away with augmenting basic cheaper kits with some tactical purchases, rather than spending a lot of money on the more elite options.  Its particularly true if you already have some of the bits you’d need for conversions in your bits box.

What do we mean?  Well, here are some specific examples:

  • Orks!  If you buy a lootaz/burnaz kit, you end up with a complete spare set of weapons.  If you buy 2 of those kits and some Ork Boyz for much less, you can  kit out 8 Lootaz, 8 Burnaz, and 2 Meks.  For £49, you get the equivalent of £62 of models.  And that’s GW prices – if you buy from online GW sellers you can probably get another 20% off that too.  And if you went the Start Collecting box for £75 total, you get a Painboy, a unit of Nobs and a Deff Dread too for under £30 extra (again, before any 20% discount).
  • Space Marines!  if you want a unit of 10 sternguard marines, you can buy 2 boxes of 5 man sternguard for £60.  Or you could buy a unit of Tactical Marines at £25 and a legion Combi-weapon set from Forgeworld at £15, and you have a full unit for £40 instead.  Or go the Start Collecting box and the combo-weapons at £65, but get a dreadnaught and terminator captain as well!
  • Necrons!  If you have a box of Immortals or Death Marks, you have a load of spares for the other.  If you buy 2 of those kits and one box of warriors, you spend £63, and get 2 stands of scarabs, 10 Death Marks and 10 Immortals that all look pretty good, instead of £82 without the scarabs.  You can save even more if you go for the Start Collecting Box instead of the warriors – you spend £91 and get a Triarch Stalker and a Necron Overlord as well as 10 Death Marks and 10 immortals, and the Scarabs.  And thats before looking at online sellers with another 20% or so discount.

You can also look at third party sellers for some of these augmentation options.  If you do, though, you have to be aware you won’t be able to take you models to official GW tournaments or enter some of the more official painting competitions.  This is a particularly good option though if you need some specific parts for conversions for specific odd weapons, especially if you want to improve older armies.  Buying a set of 3 miniguns to add to a box of rubric marines to add a soulreaper cannon to old 9 man thousand sons units is a fantastic way of bringing them up to modern standards, at comparatively low cost, for example.  They are also often fantastic options to convert kits you already own – if you have a leman russ tank already but want a different turret, buying a third party turret is cheaper than buying another tank kit just for a gun!

Buy kits from online sellers where possible

If you buy from places like Games Workshop directly, you’ll be paying a premium.  You can get pretty much their entire range of kits from 10-25% off from online sellers.  Brand new, exactly the same.  If you’re a cheap gamer, it just doesn’t make sense to pass that up.  

There are some models you can only get from the GW store or from Forge World, but they are pretty rare – most of the core lines are available from these suppliers.  You can instantly knock 15-20% off your costs just by planning and buying carefully.

This really maxes out savings when you combine this with the value sets like the boxed games or the start collecting sets.  Fantastic!

Consider alternative models

There are pretty much 2 types of alternative model out there in the marketplace – ranges of models that would fit in 40k but GW simply don’t produce them, and are usually GW prices or actually higher.  As a Cheap Gamer, we’re not too interested in those!  And there are also ranges of models that pretty much overlap with GWs model range, and happen to be far cheaper.

These options are really no good at all for GW tournaments, of course, but for casual or club play, can be a fantastic way of having a different custom army and spending less on it.

Take the Enforcers Mega Force from Mantic.  For £90 (£100RRP) from Firestorm games you get effectively a marine stormtalon (£33), 2 units of tactical marines (£50), 3 dreadnaughts (£84), 8 bikes (£60 for 9), 10 Scouts (£31), a Devastator Squad (28), A sternguard squad (£30), and a unit of terminators (£35).  Thats about £351 at current GW prices.  You may not like the models as much, but that is one heck of a saving.

Dreamforge Stormtroopers make cracking Tempestus Scions, and can be picked up for around £32 for 20.  Tempestus Scions are £21 for 5, or £82 for 20.

You can save a lot, but the models may not be as good, you won’t be able to use them against all opponents and it may be awkward making it clear what weapons the models have in your games.  On the flip side, you can field an army that looks a bit different, and spend a heck of a lot less!  Its not a bad choice, but only recommended for more casual or relaxed club gamers.

Summary

The real key to being a Cheap Gamer buying minis is planning, and the research to support that planning.

Sit down and ask yourself: 

  1. What army is exciting?
  2. What particular units in that army are exciting?
  3. What’s my desired list based on the first two?
  4. Where will I game?  Will I want to go to tournaments, or can I use unofficial minis or bits?
  5. What bits do I have at the moment that are useful or can offset the costs?
  6. Are there any cheeky ways of buying units I like that maximise bits?
  7. Can I see any of the bits I need on eBay, second hand options or through friends?
  8. Can I make any savings on buying box sets for the rest of the models I need? And can I recoup some money by eBaying or trading unwanted bits of the sets?
  9. Can I get the remaining models and box sets from online sellers or for a decent discount from a FLGS?  
  10. If I have to get a model from GW or FW direct, do I really need it?  Is it a key part of the army in my mind?  Or can I kit bash alternatives from bits?

If you go through that process, you can probably reduce the overall costs of your project by a massive margin, and buy parts for a focussed list from the start.

The Cheap Gamer – Saving money building models

Erk, this is a tricky one!  Its pretty difficult to save money actually assembling models.  After all, you already have the models to assemble.  If anything, you probably need to spend MORE money on this bit!

Why?  Well, top quality tools for cutting things of sprues are worth it – though you can pick them up cheaper in a hardware store than a hobby store.  You still need to make sure they are fresh and sharp though, or you’ll be ruining expensive models.

The same is true with glues.  You can probably save a little by getting plastic glue from general hobby stores, and superglue from hardware stores rather than gaming shops, but you need decent quality glues to keep your models together with a good method of application to stop you spraying glue everywhere and ruining models.

Where you can save money, though, is making sure you are taking full advantage of your bits box and kit bashing.  Assemble models you can use, and save money to do it.

Need 2 units of Rubric Marines, one with warpflamers and one with bolters?  If you have a unit of unassembled chaos marines floating around, you can pick up a few heads from either bits resellers or their parties, and kit bash them up. I have absolutely tons of unassembled chaos marines from previous projects, so its a no brainer for me.  Its not worth going out and buying all the bits – that’d cost more than just buying new Rubrics, but if you have them lying around, think about reusing them.  Be careful if buying third party bits though – you aren’t going to tournaments or official painting competitions with those.  If its for casual gaming though, go for it.

One of the single best money savers when it comes to building units is to know exactly what models and parts you actually have already.  Need a Chaos Lord for a game?  You can probably knock one one if you have a fair few custom parts across marines and chaos already.  Seriously.  Spend a few hobby sessions just sorting out your extra bits and boxes of unused models.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve accidentally doubled up on a cool model it turns out I already had.  (I may have 3 Eldrads… and at least 5 Dark Elf Sorceresses.)

Kitbashed models may not look quite as good as some of the brand new models … but then sometimes they can come out looking even better to your eyes, and be genuinely unique.  In addition, moving beyond the Cheap gamer for a moment – practising kit bashing for this sort of thing really improves your conversion skills for actively putting something really special together, without costing much right now.  Save the money for all the bits for your unique centrepiece … but practise putting bits together now.

In addition, there are lots of techniques to improve the finish of kitbashed models.  Drilling out gun barrels is fantastic for top end models, and its better to practise on knocked together bits than a forgeworld special character!  Assembling odd bits often needs filling with green stuff, zap a gap glues or liquid green stuff, and this sort of thing can ruin a model.  Practicing on these simple cheap options can really raise your skills.

The Lazy Mini Painter – How to save assembly time

Honestly, there are only so many things you can do to minimise your assembly time, but it is worth thinking about those things in advance!

First, make sure you have decent, high quality, sharp tools.  If you have really good, sharp sprue cutters, you’ll waste almost no time in cleaning up the  parts afterwards.  If you have old, blunt cutters, you’ll spend more time cleaning up the kit than you do actually cutting the bits off!  Or waiting for replacements if you’ve buggered them up.

Using sharp hobby knives and mould line cleaners also help.  And …. though it burns my mouth to say so … if you are doing a quick tabletop job with modern quality minis, you don’t even really need to worry about mould lines.  At 3 feet distance with modern kits and paint, you won’t see them.  For display and close up photos?  Oh god yeah, and I hate the sight of them.  But honestly, you probably don’t need to bother with the cleverer placement of mould lines on modern plastics, or at least just tackle just the worst examples.

Drilling out gun barrels?  A slow precise task that you can replace by dabbing a little blob of black paint on the end of the gun later in the painting process.  Again, not quite as good, but more than adequate for tabletop level armies.

How can you speed up assembling a unit?  The best trick I’ve come across is the use of the humble egg box (ideally an empty 12 egg box).   As you cut parts off the sprues, put the bits for each man into one of the egg  bits.  It makes such a difference sorting it out and assembling each one rather than trying to cut and glue, or sort through a big mound of parts.

You really should prepare and wash all your models and make sure they are thoroughly free of any oils and release agents, particularly resin.  If you are feeling very lazy, you can actually normally get by without this if you have a really good grippy primer, like Halfords grey.  If you are using GW or Army Painter primers, you can still get away without it for plastics or metals, but you should still clean resin as it can be quite oily.

Other assembly tricks?  Well, if you want to be really lazy, make sure you plan your models out in advance, during non-hobby time.  Try to get parts in one consistent material if you want to kit bash stuff – its a lot easier to glue plastics to plastics than resins to metals!  Don’t fall for the trap of assembling all the models you have – make sure you’re only assembling the ones you need.  If you’ve got a start collecting box but you only want to add the tank from it to your army right now, just build the tank.  It saves time right now, and it also reduces the chances that when you add another model from the kit to your army, you won’t have assembled it earlier with the wrong weapon choices.

On the flip side, if you have a planned army, don’t waste time – assemble everything you have planned, so you can minimise the shared priming afterwards!  The real key is just don’t get distracted by ad hoc assembly and hobby – build the models you need to build.

These tips won’t massively reduce your assembly time.  But reducing it even a little, and actually focusing just on the models you actually need to do makes a difference.  If its just enough time to let you quickly undercoat or prime the models this session, so they can dry properly before your next hobby session, even a few minutes can make the difference between wasting a full hobby session with just a few minutes of priming and then having to wait.  Its all good, and gets us closer to deploying a painted army onto the field.  

The Cheap Gamer – Getting the most out of your hobby stuff – paints, brushes and tools!

One of the surprising things about the Cheap Gamer column is that I’ll often be telling you to spend money.  And why?  Well, spending a little money can often save you a heck of a lot in the long run, especially if they let you get more, better and longer term use out of your hobby kit.

Many of the tools you use to work with miniatures are expensive.  Good brushes are expensive (and regularly replacing cheap ones often more so).  Paints aren’t cheap either, especially if you have a fairly extensive range.  The minis themselves are often pretty dear, and if you screw up a mini by skimping too much on glues or bad paint stripping techniques, you’ll throw all that money away.

Here’s a selection of suggestions to help you get the very longest and best performance out of your hobby tools …. without breaking the bank.

Paints

Well, you probably have a fairly large paint range if you’ve been in the hobby for a while, and fairly often you’ll open up a paint pot and notice its either gone solid or turned into a sludgy mess.  How can we help avoid this?

There are two or three great tricks to preserving your paints.

  1. Add a glass bead to your paint pots!  It really lets you shake your paints to get a good consistency, and helps extend the paint’s life by a fairly significant margin.  Glass beads aren’t dear, and it really does make a big difference.  it addition, it tends to improve your painting, as it gives you paint with a better consistency that covers better too!
  2. Make sure you have some airbrush thinner on hand.  This is fantastic for a last ditch recovery of paints.  As long as they aren’t totally solid, you can often recover them by adding some airbrush thinner, letting is soak in for a while and then giving it a jolly good shake.  If the paint has fully set, this won’t work, but its amazing how many paints can be recovered this way.  Its anecdotal,  but I find a few drops of thinner in the paints seems to keep them liquid longer in the first place too.
  3. Think about minimizing the paints exposure to air.  If you have pop top pots instead of dropper bottles, you really need to minimise the exposure by keeping the pots shut when not in use.  And that means in between getting paint out of the pot and putting it on a palette, not whole painting sessions!  If you have the time and patience, you can buy dropper bottles very cheaply and actually transfer the paints over.  It’ll extend their life, and also allow you to mix recipes much more accurately (as well as being easier to load up airbrushes if you have one).

Brushes

Aha, the joys of the brush!  We’ll be looking at picking brushes in  a different article, but any brush will have a longer lifespan (and so cost less in replacements) if we look after it.  What does that mean?

Well, we should never let paint dry on the brush.  Make sure you clean your brush regularly while painting with clean water.  Don’t put too much paint on the brush, so it dries in the bristles.  Don’t dip your brushes in too deep, as paint drying in the join under the metal holding the bristles in place is the main thing that ruins brushes.

Make sure you use your range of brushes appropriately.  Don’t use small brushes for covering large areas with paint, or you’ll get bored and careless, and end up ruining the brush.  Don’t, for the love of hobby, use a good brush for drybrushing! 

On the flip side of that, don’t get too precious with using brushes for particular tasks.  Is your brush bot holding a point any more?  Well, use it mixing paint or ladling it out, or for drybrushing.  You can get a lot more use out of a brush even after it can’t be used for the main reason you bought it!

Finally, it is really, really, really worth investing in some decent brush soap.  They aren’t dear, and being able to use brush soap to properly clean and condition your brushes can add weeks or months of life to a brush.  Brush soap is well worth investing a little extra in, and only a little will go a long way!

One very useful trick is to colour code your brushes with a little bit of coloured tape on the end of the brush.  Make sure any damaged brushes used for drybrushing or mixing are clearly labelled, so you don’t mix them up with good ones.  If you have one or two really good brushes you only want to use for your very top end painting, colour code them too, so you can clearly see on the end of the brush when its in your hand.  Doing this has saved me more than once when I’ve gone to use a brush and almost used a brand new windsor and newton series 7 for blobbing paint out of a pot!

Other Tools

Tools in general are harder to maintain.  You can’t easily sharpen the blades on a sprue cutter, for example – if they aren’t cutting well, you probably need to replace them.

Some tools you can maintain, though, and its generally worth spending a little more in terms of ongoing maintenance than having to replace them.  Airbrushes, for example.  Regularly cleaning the brush properly, using sonic cleaning devices, ensuring that paint is thinned properly so it doesn’t jam, it all helps make sure your expensive tool keeps running effectively and saves you time and money over the lifespan.  Its very easy to think “oh, I’m out of cleaner, but I’ll do one last spray and clean the airbrush out later.”  It really isn’t worth it!

Make sure you replace cutting blades and drill bits for tools like Dremels, which will save horrible hobby accidents.  A damaged drill bit can jump and ruin expensive plastic and resin models, and costs very little.  Spend a little, and save a lot in both time and money.

Invest in cutting mats to go on hobby desks and paint stations..  It’ll preserve the hobby area, and be a lot cheaper to replace every so often than the whole paint station or desk!

In general, just look after your tools and hobby area, and replace parts (like blades in hobby knives) pretty frequently.  Replaceable parts and cheap tools will cost less to replace than ruining expensive models over time.

 

 

The Lazy Mini Painter – Dips and Washes

Well, this sessions we’re going to be looking at dips and washes.  Dipping models is seen as a massive cheat by many painters.  Its not.  Its just another technique, at least for the Lazy Mini Painter!  Oddly enough, the same people who complain about dipping a model are often the same ones who happily wash a whole model in Agrax Earthshade and then spray on varnish, which does pretty much the same thing.

Lets start by looking at washes.  Washes are really nothing more than a particular tone of paint, heavily watered down.  When you apply it to a part of the model, it darkens it slightly, adds a slight amount of the wash colour to the tone, and pools in the recesses.  Unsurprisingly, you tend to use darker colours!  Lighter colours pooling the recesses can look a little odd!

Now, you can use enormous numbers of washes.  You can use dark blue washes over blue, yellow over yellow, green over green and so on.  Its a fantastic technique that adds a great virtual illusion of depth.  Incidentally, I always recommend mixing some Lahmia medium into the wash.  It tends to flow much much better, and leaves you with a cleaner effect, rather than the slight blobbing straight washes can leave.

However, we’re looking at doing this the Lazy Mini Painter way.  You don’t always need to use lots of washes.  A single wash of a brown or black leaves the whole model with appropriately coloured shadows shading the recesses.  It can work from top to bottom!  The best I’ve found for this are the Army Painter Soft Tone Quickshade, Strong Tone, Dark Tone, the old Devlan Mud from GW, and the current Agrax Earthshade.  My favourite is probably the AP Strong Tone.  Dark Tone is fantastic for metals where you want a darker contrast, though the GW Agrax Earthshade Gloss is probably the best for golds.

Now, if you want to use washes as your main technique for giving you miniatures a feeling of depth, its useful to have painted slightly lighter colours on as the base coat than you actually need.  A complete wash will darken the overall model, not just the recesses, so if you aren’t then going to highlight back up, you need to have started lighter than you actually want it to end up!

Dips are fundamentally the same technique as using a single quickshade across the models.  However, dips are basically a varnish – they combine a final all over wash with a varnish to do 2 stages of the painting process in one.  Despite the name, many painters like myself, tend to apply the dip with a brush.

One useful note – applying the dip gives you a fantastic surface to apply decals, though you will probably want to pop a little dip or varnish over the top of the decal afterwards.

Is this approach going to win you a Golden Demon?  No.  Will it let you get great tabletop quality armies out on the field asap?  Oh yeah, baby!

I tend to compromise – I use these sorts of techniques for troops, and will sometimes break them down.  If I’ve been doing separate heads and weapons with priming and painting, well, I might use 3 different dips!  Soft tone is great for flesh, heads, and light colours, dark tone for gun metal weapons, and strong tone is the general go to for everything else.

I’ll often use a wash rather than a dip, then apply a more matt varnish by a spray, if it matches the gritty feel of an army.  Cadian Infantry can look a bit odd in a shiny gloss.   My Eldar are shiny glory, and I field them lots, so I prefer a more resilient gloss finish for those.

So if we’re putting all our techniques together, we’ve primed up an army and done a load of the base coating in the process.  At some point we should finish off the base coats, and then we might have done a little optimised edge highlighting. We’ve now dipped our models, shading and varnishing in one process.

BONUS EXTRA!

One thing that the dips are fantastic for is for painting marble terrain.  Spray statues or building a plain white primer, making sure you get good coverage – maybe spray it twice.  Apply a load of Strong Tone dip by a brush, and you can a fantastic white rock/marble type look with absolutely minimum effort.  It is a brilliant time saver for big chunks of terrain.  The angel on the fortress of redemption, the marine statue, the lord of the rings walls and statues, they all look absolutely brilliant with very minimum effort.  After they are dry, applying some PVA in lines and flocking it to look like creeping vines is a great bonus extra.

 

 

The Lazy Mini Painter – Technical Pens

Well, the greatest cheat in the history of painting minis is probably … the humble technical pen.  That’s right … forget using a brush at all, and get out your pen!

Not just any pen, of course.  Technical pens are incredibly fine pointed (like 0.05mm) , use a high quality non-fading pigment ink, and are under £2 each.  Is it as fine as the most delicate brushwork by a gifted artist?  No.  Is it as really easy and good enough, and probably better than my normal brushwork?  Hell yeah!

Struggling to dot the centre of eyes without blobbing it?  Technical pen.  

Struggling to write on scrolls and banners?  Technical pen.

Want to do a complex piece of freehand?  Draw it in technical pen, and fill in the lines with the brush afterwards.

Tiny diamonds or celtic designs on Harlequins?  Technical pen.

Imperial Fists logos a pain to paint?  Draw them on.  Technical pen.

Tiny tattoos of Fleur de Lys or Eagles a nightmare by brush?  Technical pen.

Its such a quick, easy, fantastic looking cheat.  And if you practise writing a gothic style of capitals for a bit, its even better.  

Why doesn’t everyone do it, then?  Well, in some ways, this is a bit of a hobby dead end.  The very top end of the hobby goes significantly beyond the effects you can achieve with a technical pen, and unless you keep practising, you won’t get that good.  In addition, it is looked down upon by some others – its not “proper” painting.

Of course, for quick high quality results, we can use this to get minis on the table in a fraction of the time.  Its a easy, quick win.  And if you’re willing to spend a bit of money on it, you aren’t just limited to black pens either!  Its a definite win for the Lazy Mini Painter.

The Cheap Gamer – Picking your Paints

Well, as a Cheap Gamer, picking the paints to use can make or break the costs of a project.  Are there ways of making significant savings?  Of course, though you will need to look beyond the confines of a single provider!

There are three approaches we can take here.  We can:

  1. Simply look for cheaper alternatives for every paint.
  2. Go for the same quality end result, but accept that some things will take longer
  3. Accept a reduced quality end result to save costs.

What do we mean by this?  Well, as an example, lets take priming our models.  

Primers and Aerosols

Lets say we’re painting ultramarines, and usually spray our models with a primer, then a blue aerosol.  We could buy a 400ml can of chaos black or skull white primer for £10.40, and a 400ml macragge blue spray from a GW store at a pretty hefty cost (another £11.75) to do the job right.  We could buy the same cans from an online GW seller at a discount, maybe 10% (say £9.40 and £10.60), but we’ll need to wait for the order to arrive, and might need to put in a combined order with other bits if we don’t lose the saving in shipping costs.  We could look at proper all in one blue primers that aren’t from GW at all, like an Army Painter 400ml, and make a further saving, probably about another 10% on the can, and no need for a separate primer (£8.99).  Or we could really go for savings, and go with a top notch but cheap grey primer (500ml for £7.49) from Halfords, and accept that we’ll have to actually paint the blue onto the models ourselves, not just touch it up.  I haven’t included the cost of the blue pot here, as we’d need it for touch ups any way in all the other cases too.

What option would you pick?  In this case, we need to prime and base coat the model, so there isn’t really a great choice for option 3.  Priming and a basic colour is always going to be necessary!  We can’t easily reduce the quality of our methods (though some would argue the Army Painter primer isn’t as good a spray sometimes.)

The real choice is between option 1 – getting to the same point by looking for cheaper locations for the same paints or a different brand alternative, or option 2 – just priming the models in a standard colour like grey and accepting that we’ll spend more time and paint the base colour on ourselves.  Oddly, option 2 is probably going to lead to a higher quality finished product as well!

In the extreme case of the greatest saving here, we can knock around £15 off the project cost by adding manual painting time and using halfords primer.   In fairness, many people actually use the Macragge blue to prime, even though its not really a fully grippy proper primer, but even in those cases we’re saving a fair few pounds and going for a better colour base for the other colours with the grey.

We’re on our Cheap Gamer journey!

Choosing paints!

Choosing the actual pots of paint to use is a little harder, as we have a much wider range of options.

One of the hardest things here is working out which paints you actually need for the models in the first place.  The best advice I can give is simple.  Don’t worry about cost at this point!  I know that sounds like odd advice for the Cheap Gamer!  The key is making sure we make informed decisions to save money.

Find a paint scheme or recipe that you think will work really well for you.  It might be from a forum, a blog, the pages of white dwarf, whatever.  The exact paint range doesn’t matter at this stage.  The real key is knowing what effect you want to acheive.

Once we have a list of paints we need, we can then …. go all Cheap Gamer!  We can look for cheaper alternatives for each paint.  We can accept some time compromises – going for standard alternative paints rather than base or foundation paints and putting on an extra thin coat or two.  And we can consider either mixing some of our own highlights rather than buying all the pots (risking a little inconsistency over the army), or just skipping some of the full range of layers for a slightly lower quality finish.  You can also skip some of the “technical” options if you are confident.  Honestly, the GW Drybush range is a bit unnecessary!  You can dry brush with just a little paint on the brush after drying it a bit on a paper towel!

In terms of savings by looking at different paint ranges, Vallejo paints, for example, tend to be around 40p cheaper a pot than the Games Workshop equivalent, and contain 17ml rather than 12ml of paint.  Army Painter tends to be around 70p a pot cheaper than GW, and you get 18ml.  P3 is about the same price as GW, but you get 18ml instead of 12, and they have fantastic coverage as a base coat.

The paint matching chart here is an absolutely tremendous resource.  Simply match the colours you need from your chosen scheme against the other ranges!

If you choose to save money by mixing some of your own highlights by adding white or another colour, there are some really useful tricks.  The first is simple!  record the proportions you are using!  If you don’t, you’ll find increasing amounts of variation of your army.  The 2nd is to use paints like Army Painter or Vallejo that come in dropper bottles, as it is just so much easier to remix the proportions again.  And finally, if doing it for a full army, consider mixing up a full pots worth and labelling it.  That’ll guarantee you consistency without remixing.

Once you have your full list of needed paints, I thoroughly recommend checking the available prepackaged paint sets from the various manufacturers.  They can offer major savings, and if your needed range matches quite closely, you can find targeting a particular set works quite well!  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “ooooh, that’s great value, look at all these paints” though.  Unless you are saving money on the actual paints you need, its a waste for now.

And don’t forget to take your existing paints into account.  Check what you have before you start buying!  Its very easy to forget you have paint X if you haven’t used it for a while, or its in an older box of paints.  Make sure you only actually buy what you need. 

There are times you may want to choose a dearer option.  Some paints are difficult ones to work with, like yellows and metals.  That’s down to you.  The trick really is to plan exactly what you want to work with, and think about how you can minimise the costs.  Honestly, just avoiding a situation where you need a paint that afternoon or waste hobby time, so you run out and pay the top whack, will make a big, big difference.

Do remember that even if a paint isn’t quite as good, or doesn’t have as good coverage, applying multiple thin coats will get you to a great result over time.  It might take a little longer, but generally you can achieve great results with pretty much any paint range.  And we’re aiming for good results at minimum costs!

Imagine if you need 10 pots of paint.  Just switching to Vallejo directly could save you £4 on the project over GW.  Army Painter might save you £7 if you can find all the right colours.  Mixing your own highlights and removing the need for just 2 pots could save you another £3.50 to £4.50.  And if we can find a close paint set rather than buying them all individually we might save another £2 or so.  Its not insignificant amounts, and this is just the paints!  We’re starting to see our Cheap Gamer approach pay off!

Again, this isn’t a criticism of GW paints.  They have a fantastic range of colours, excellent coverage and a tremendous range of technical options too.  They just aren’t the cheapest way to paint.

The Lazy Mini Painter – Highlighting

Well, the current style of painting is massively into edge highlights.  Its a terrific technique that really makes hard surfaces pop … and takes absolutely ages.  Heck, at the peak of the art of edge highlighting, you do multiple thickness of edge highlights moving to brighter and brighter edges as they narrow down.  If you want amazing looking models, wow.  If you have limited time and want models to see the tabletop, how the heck can you get this to work.

Highlights do draw the eye, and make a model pop.  Generally, though, its seen as an all or nothing technique.  You do edge highlights?  You highlight every damn edge on the model.  In many ways we’ve forgotten one of the meanings of highlight – to draw attention just to the important or pretty bits.

However …. we want good looking models for the tabletop, right?  Why highlight all of a model.  Instead, we should cherry pick a few spots where we want the eye to be drawn, where there is other details or natural model complexity.  Pick spot easily visible as if looking down at the model at 45˚ angle – shoulder pads, heads, upper chest, backpack top, maybe the gun.  You can reduce your edge highlighting time by a massive amount, still have figures that pop on the battlefield, and look like they’ve been done in a modern style.  Yeah, the legs won’t look anywhere near as good in an eye level display cabinet.  If you put them in a cabinet, put them on a lower shelf.  They will look cracking on the battlefield.

Take standard Cadians, for example.  Highlight the helmet, shoulder pads and gun case with a lighter green, and it’ll look modern and pop.  The foot guards?  Man, overkill.  The chest plate?  Much of that will be covered up anyway when the lasguns go on.  In terms of making a difference to the overall effect, you end up putting in huge amounts of time for minimal gain.

Space Marines can be similar.  Backpacks, helmet, weapon case, maybe shoulder pads depending on insignia.  All the other plates?  minimal difference for loads of effort.

You get much better at edge highlights as you go on – I always suggest edge highlighting, then washing, as it unifies the tone a little more, and makes any slight wobbles on the edges less apparent.  It lets you do them faster and less precise.  Again, thats not necessarily a good thing on a single beautiful model you’ve been painting for weeks.  On your tenth tactical squad of marines?  unless you are superhuman, you’ll be painting quick and make a few slips.

Honestly, for a very large army, you can get away with skipping edge highlights entirely.  For a modern looking army on the field, though, cherry picking your edges, and doing a single colour, not multiples, can actually makes the technique look more effective, matches up with other, more time consuming forces on the table, and is a good compromise on smaller elite forces.  Huzzah!  We can knock these out all day!  Armies are possible … the Lazy Mini Painter way!

The Cheap Gamer – Goblin Restoration

It’s tough being a goblin. A goblin is nearly as low as you can get in greenskin hierarchy. Downtrodden scavengers, who clothe and arm themselves with what they can find, forced to live in the abandoned places of the world and if that wasn’t bad enough they’re always at risk of being eaten by squigs. They are the ultimate rejects.

Back in 2006 the little losers got to feature in the main boxed game again in The Battle for Blood Pass, this time facing the Dwarfs. But 11 years have passed since that edition, and many of the goblins from that box have been consigned to attics, cellars and garages.

So it’s for those reasons I feel sorry for the strangely endearing little blighters. To give them a new lease of life and to save money, I’ve started looking for the abandoned ones. It’s worth mentioning something about Ebay now; items ending on Sundays tend to sell for more than those ending on weekdays. So sellers, schedule your items to end on Sunday. Buyers, look out for the ones that end in the middle of the week, frugal tip. I managed to get a batch of 19 for £3.20. And here is where being a Cheap Gamer conflicts a bit with being a Lazy Gamer. Most of the bargains you find will need a bit of time put into their restoration. Now for me that extra time is no problem. I started the goblin project because I really enjoy restoring. I would place it as one of the main elements of the hobby along with painting, converting, fluff and gaming. It does take a bit of time though. A restorer’s best friends are paint strippers (Dettol, methylated spirits or Biostrip), toothbrushes, cotton buds, kitchen roll, paperclips, pin vices and glue.

I won’t say a bad word about the condition they arrived in because everyone paints to their own standard and at the very least someone made the effort to put colour on them. The boxed game is where lots of beginners start the hobby. My own first minis were from the second edition Warhammer 40,000 box, they were daubed with a centimeter layer of Blood Angels Red, splotched with Choas Black and were the best space marines in the galaxy. What I lacked in painting skill I made up for with enthusiasm. And thick layers paint.

Still, I wanted to give the goblins a nicer coat. I’m an average painter and I can neaten them up a bit to get them back on the board again. They remain wonderful sculpts that fit in with the current range. This is how they ended up with a bit of effort.

I find them all characterful, especially this one who looks a bit hungover, reluctantly taking part in the Waaagh, leaning on their spear for support.

I’ll probably move on to older, vintage minis eventually, but for now I’ll carry on fixing up the Night Goblins until they’re at a full army size. That is unless I get distracted; I’ve just received a 2nd edition Gazghull Thraka, the biggest meanest Ork there ever was.

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