The Lazy Mini Painter – Drybrushing

Drybrushing.  Its a technique that’s been popular for decades, but of late its been generally replaced by more layering, blending, and edge highlights.  So why are we mentioning it?

Well, first, its a really quick, easy technique to add depth to models, and quick and easy is really what we’re all about!   The results look very natural and organic, so these days they tend to be used only on materials like hair, or fur, but can be used all over a model for a quick result.

How can we use the technique to produce really nice modern looking minis?  Well, there obviously for natural areas like fur and hair, we’d probably use dry brushing anyway.

For armour, we’ll probably stick with a few edge highlights and a wash.  BUT!  There is a great sneaky way of using drybrushing that looks great on armour too.  Instead of using dry brushing as a tool to apply highlights on the raised edges, we can use dry brushing to simulate wear.

Take an Imperial Fist in yellow.  If we drybrush with a lighter yellow instead of highlighting or layering, it’ll look OK, but a little old school.  Its a quick result, though.  If we drybrush quickly and lightly with a metal, like silver or gun metal, it’ll look like the paints rubbed off on the edges in the battlefield.  Fast, quick, efficient, and looks great and also in line with a more modern look.  Do it after a few key edge highlights, and you have a modern looking, weathered mini in very little time.

We’ll also probably want to use dry brushing on our bases to add a little more depth quickly – drybrushing an ochre over brown is a fantastic mud effect and so easy to do.

Another useful trick comes closer to layering than dry brushing.  If you have a bit more paint on the brush than just the tiny amount you normally use for dry brushing, and apply it a bit more heavily, you actually get an effect much more like a slightly sloppy layer rather than dry brushing.  This looks pretty good on cloth – trousers, cloaks and the like, especially before a wash to unify the colours.  Quick, fast, effective.  Its the Lazy Mini Painter way!

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 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 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 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!

 Mymeara Eldar!

In an effort to at least pretend to practice what I’m preaching, I thought I’d start posting up some details of current hobby plans for 8th Edition 40K, and take a look of ways of approaching it under both the Cheap Gamer and Lazy Mini Painter philosophies.

I managed to snag a whole batch of Eldar from Doc Bungle which were partially painted in Mymeara colours, and I had already decided that Eldar (or at least Aeldari across the factions) would be my choice for 8th edition, so I’m going to start with these, and build up to a chosen list.  I’m looking to start for a trial game around 50-65PL (probably the upper end of that, as my opponent will be fielding thousand sons and under 65PL is very hard to actually get anything like a test army in!).

I’ll then build to a 100PL list.  At that point … Well, I might go higher, or I might start on a diffferent faction.

We have painted realistic 71 power level:

HQ

Avatar of Khaine (13PL)

Fast Attack

6 Warp Spiders for 10PL (or a unit of 5 for 5PL)

Hornet (9PL)

Troops

10 Dire Avengers (6PL) 

Elites

6 Shadow Spectres (19PL or 5 for 10PL)

Flyer

Hemlock Wraithfighter (10PL)

Heavy Support

Fire Prism (9PL)

Dedicated Transport

Wave Serpent (9PL)

 It makes sense to extend the army and expand out up the detachments to gain a few extra CP!  The next stage is to add another HQ, 2 more troops unit and move up to a Battalion detachment.  We might then look at another HQ, and go for a second detachment if the battalion doesn’t give enough flexibility.

Asurmen (9PL) and 2 squads of 5 Dire Avengers (6PL) would get us into Battalion territory without needing to buy any more troops, and take us to 86PL.

An Autarch (5PL), and 3 warlocks (9PL) would take us all the way to 100PL, and finishing off the remaining 2 warlocks and a farseer would give us some options (up to 112PL).  And a unit of Guardian Defenders (4PL) would take it to 116PL 

Lazy Mini Painter

With our targets in mind, how can we get there the easy way!  Well, a simple spray blue would give us a great undercoat for all those models.  Some artic blue on the plates with a little lighter highlighting, some yellow soulstones, white helmets and gun metal weapons, a simple wash, some quick basing!  We’re going to try to turn them out as fast as possible!

 Cheap Gamer

Well, from a cheap gamer perspective:

  • I’m using all models I already have.  I don’t need to buy any more for this project yet
  • I’m using a macragge blue spray I already have.  It’s the easy option, but I don’t need to spend any more either. Win win!
  • I will need some paints, but I’ve identified a particular range of paints.  I know exactly what I need to get – basically the mymeara arctic and turquoise colours.  I’m also using lazy options to paint them, so reducing numbers of layer paints and things I  biggest expense is I may need to buy GW brand paints for some colours if I want to paint some in store.

And so, it begins!
 

The Lazy Mini Painter – Proper Priming

OK!  Lets get this series started properly, and where’s better to start than proper priming!  Of course, I mean proper in the Lazy Mini Painter way!  Normally I’ll be posting these on a Monday, but as we’ve just had an introduction and no real content, I thought, what the hell!

Most minis tend to be primed in monochrome – white, black or grey – as a blank canvas for the colours to go on.  If you want to get models that look amazing, where every colour choice is perfectly balanced, thats definitely the way forward.

Me, though, I want to get things on the field ASAP.  They are going to be looked at from 3 feet away.  If the flesh tone is fractionally off, well, hell, no one will notice and people have different skin tones anyway!  Lets look at priming with coloured primer!  Thats a massive chunk of time saved – at least one base coat colour already done!

What colour should we prime models with?  The obvious answer is the one that makes up most of the models area, to save the most time.  However, the obvious answer isn’t always the right one.

The real key to saving time is to think about:

  1. The colour that is in the hardest to reach fiddly places.  Painting fiddly tiny areas actually takes far more time than slapping some more green on easy to reach armour plates.
  2. The colour that is hardest to get good coverage with from  a pot.  You’ve probably heard the phrase “two thin coats” is better than one thick one.  It is, but it takes twice the time.  If much of model is a light colour like yellow, or zhandri dust for Cadians, you can be better off priming with that for a quick, consistent finish, rather than spraying green for the bulk of the armour.
  3. The colour that goes under your other colours best.  I know, we’ve just discounted grey, black and white (well, unless they hit the other criteria, of course!), but the way colours go together is still important.  If you are doing mostly metals, priming in gold or silver is fine.  If you want to use glazes or gem paints, base coating with a metallic look is superb.  But if the model is mostly matt, lighter colours, you really don’t want to base coat with a metal, as you’ll find a slightly higher shine coming through.  If you are painting Cadians with khaki fatigues and bright red armour, you’ll find it hard to cover red with khaki than the other way around.

It often is still the obviously choice.  I’d base coat Sisters of Silence and Adeptus Custodes in gold, Grey Knights in Silver, and so on.  But black goes on really easily, looks nice and glossy over metal, and silver looks good in joints (and is fiddly to reach) with a wash.  You might want to think about using a silver or gun metal primer for Death Watch, not black, even though its mostly just the arm at first glance.  As a rule of thumb, priming with lighter colours will save you more time than darker ones.

So we’ve primed our models, and got a chunk of the base coat down … and the hardest part of the base coat too.  Is there any other ways we can speed things up during priming?

Well, its really a trick during model assembly, not priming.  Build the model in sections, and prime the sections in different colours!  You don’t want to be spending more time doing sections separately than it takes to use a brush, of course – that takes away the whole point!  But there are a few key assemblages that can really save time.

As a rule of thumb for infantry, you can probably assemble the bulk of the model.  There are three bits you might want to look at priming separately:

  1. Heads.  Now, I wouldn’t normally bother for marine helmets – they’ll match the armour (unless its something like blood angels with blue yellow helmets in an assault squad!)  But in the case of armoured models with an unarmored head, spraying the heads separately with a flesh tone, then gluing them in place afterwards, saves buckets of time.  It can be a bit painful to paint lighter flesh tones, and we’re probably going to be looking at dips and washes, and not waste too much time on layering, so lighter tones are what we need!  Its also easier to do different hair shades over a lighter flesh.  Painting blondes over a dark or metal colour is painful!
  2. Backpacks.  Why backpacks, I hear you ask?  Aren’t they the same colour as the rest of the model normally?  Indeed they are, but in 40k, particularly for marine types, they are bulky awkward things that are painful to spray around.  You’ll often find you waste loads of time touching up fiddly areas that haven’t got great coverage because of these.   You’ll probably save more time giving them a quick spray front and back separately (with a blob of bluetack or playdoh to let you glue the contact point).   It also lets you use a different colour if that’s useful – Dark Angel veterans are sometimes easier to base coat for their robes, and then you can save time on the backpacks in dark green.
  3. Weapons.  Why weapons?  Because these are generally gun metal regardless of the rest of the model, and like the backpacks, block the sprays coverage quite a lot if attached.  You can get your weapon base colour down as well as your core models, cover the whole model better with primer, and waste less time touching up fiddly bits that are hard to reach with a brush.

If you do this, priming (and assembly) will probably take a little longer.  But base coating, the dullest part of painting models, will generally be between 50-75% complete before you even pick up a brush.  And if you want to get a game in sooner rather than later, you aren’t fielding grey plastic already or plain black primed models even at this stage.  Even better, unlike brush work, spraying is just as easy with a whole army full of models as doing a unit of 5.  If you have to manually slap one colour of paint on 100 models, it can be soul destroying – most people find doing a unit is about as much as they can cope with at a batch.

We’ve talked about priming in colours – where can we get them?  I love the GW metal aerosol sprays, and the small range of coloured sprays match their paints, of course.  For general coloured spray primers, I get on with Army Painter sprays, though some people don’t like them.  And if you have an airbrush, you can even mix your own coloured primers, as well as exploiting Vallejo’s extensive range.

Fantastic.  Its what the Lazy Mini Painter is all about – getting armies ready to go!

The Lazy Mini Painter – introduction

I often see guides and tutorials on all sorts of techniques to paint minis better and better.  Fantastic convoluted techniques that take you to the golden demon awards and back.  And if you master them, your minis will look truly fantastic.  

That isn’t what this is all about.  Like many gamers out there, my hobby time is limited, and I like to play with armies that look pretty good on the tabletop.  I’m getting better as a painter, and I like to push my limits on occasion, but I just don’t have time to do that on a regular basis.  So how the hell do I get armies out to play?

This is where the Lazy Mini Painter comes in.  There are fantastic techniques to paint models quickly and efficiently, that look at least OK.  These are great tricks to have in your arsenal.  Some people will look down on some of the shortcuts – but as long as you’re ok with a solid tabletop army, who cares!  I honestly believe as long as you do the painting yourself, it’s not cheating – it’s just a different approach.  There’s nothing “better” about doing everything painstakingly with a brush.

Don’t expect anything too revolutionary – a lot of these will be techniques you already know, but applied to minimise the amount of time needed.

Priming, washes, dips, drybrushing, highlighting, quick basing, combining techniques.  It’s all to come.  The plan is to publish a timesaving article every Monday, to inspire those who haven’t achieved a #miniaturemonday tweet this week!  And for those more interested in painting as well as possible, it’s still worth a read.  The theory behind the techniques can still be bloody useful!