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.



The Cheap Gamer – Plan your buying (and willpower!)

Well, this is the first real post in the Cheap Gamer series, and will focus on ways of saving money as you look at buying models and terrain.  Some of the concepts here will be expanded out in separate articles, like looking at different sorts of terrain available in more detail, and so on, and how to work with 2nd hand models.  However, the core concept we’re going to explore here is a simple one – just planning your buying rather than grabbing things by impulse.

It sounds totally obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many hobby purchases are spur of the moment things.  If you’re an experienced hobbyist, look back over the last month.  How much did you buy because GW popped up a preorder?  Or when you saw something cool in a store?

Even planned purchases often break down and don’t work right because of insufficient planning!  Take Blood Bowl, for me.  I have picked up a fair few of the plastic teams released, and it feels like I have a mountain of Blood Bowl stuff to tackle.  It’s actually put me off painting them.  If I’d just bought a team when I finished one, I’d be much further along and not spent any more money.  Saving money on bulk buys only works if it doesn’t put you off tackling them all!  I’ve spent more money, as I’ve ended up picking up other hobby stuff to work on instead!  That’s very much down to the individual, as some people are fantastic at tackling large armies, while others are best of going unit by unit.  Know yourself on that one!

OK, now lets get planning … and we need to plan out more than you might think if we want to maximise our savings!

We need to plan:

  • Our eventual army, and the order we will buy the models.
  • Our gaming table, and the amount of terrain we’ll need to play our chosen game.
  • Our planned model bases, ideally to match our gaming table in style
  • The colours (and quantities) we’ll need to paint all the above.
  • The tools and brushes we’ll need to put it all together

It sounds really obvious, but its actually pretty rare that people do this and stick to it.  If you are a gamer already, you’ll probably have a games table already!  You’ll probably have a fair chunk of terrain.  In that case, its done!  We might add a specific piece if we need to for a narrative game, or as a fortification in an army list, but don’t look to add things for the sake of it.  You might be starting this half way through an army, and need some inspiration – look at ways of using the models you have first.

The more you plan and account for, the less you’ll find yourself buying things urgently – and that tends to mean paying full price for often less choice!

Planning an army

Well, first, one expense you’ll probably have to suck up is the relevant codex or index (or other army list) style book.  You need to plan your army.  If possible, try to borrow one from a friend as you juggle with army ideas.  You’ll need one of your own eventually, but there’s nothing more frustrating than buying a codex, flicking through it, and realising the army just doesn’t do it for you.  If you can’t borrow one from a friend, at least try to pop into a GW and have a flick through a copy first to make sure it looks like the right one for you.

Look at the sort of maximum points or power level you’ll play, and build an army list that you find exciting.  Avoid getting over excited, though!  Don’t think “I’ll build a company of Space Marines!”.  Focus very much on the forces you will genuinely field and probably enjoy playing.

Tools like Battlescribe can help juggle army ideas around here, but pen and paper will generally work fine.

One key question here – do you plan your army around available box sets to save money, or do you plan your army to be your preferred choices, and maybe pay a bit more?  Honestly, thats up to you to some degree, and on how fast you paint!  If you can cope with a bigger chunk of models and not give up, and have the financial reserves to pay up front, it can definitely pay off.  Start Collecting boxes and the boxed games from GW, for example, will save you tons over buying units separately.  On the flip side, buying an army unit by unit is less intimidating, lets you see constant progress with less up front investment, and lets you change tack if the army isn’t quite to your taste as it develops.

The real key either way is having a solid plan to work to.  Once you’ve picked a force, you know exactly what you’ll need to buy.  Avoid just splurging on cool models.  Pick a force you think you’ll enjoy playing – buying and painting models that will only ever sit on the bench may be fun, but it sure isn’t the Cheap Gamer way!

Our Games Table and Terrain

This is often overlooked when planning our hobby spending.  There are loads of terrain options available at a range of different prices, but just like when buying an army, the real key is planning.

You may already have a games table and enough terrain.  If so, great!  Skip to the next stage!  Don’t buy more stuff if you don’t need it!

If you do need a games table and/or terrain, though, plan out how much you need for your chosen game.  Skirmish games like Shadow War will need more terrain than 40k.  There are lots of options for cheap terrain, and you can build your own games table, but you need to know how much you’ll need to buy and paint.

Our model bases

It tends to look a lot better if your model bases resemble, or at least don’t massively contrast, the games tables where you play regularly.  It can make a big difference to how you plan to base your models at low cost, and it’ll certainly affect the paint choices for the bases!  You’ll need to take this into account!

Cork bases are quite popular at the moment, but sometimes looked down on.  Slate bases are always in, but working with the tougher material can be harder and need more in the way of pinning and tools.  PVA and sand or similar is always a classic, and generally looks pretty good, especially with some mud style paints and combined with cheap flock from railway hobby stores.  You can get all the basics for these pretty cheap online or from DIY stores.


Well, you have a planned army, terrain and bases at this point.  Now you have to work out how to turn them into glorious colour!  One main suggestion that’s worked really well for me here is …. don’t worry about cost.  Plan it out in the easiest way possible.  If you have GW paint schemes to follow, work out all the GW paints you’ll need.

But that’ll be expensive, I hear you cry! 

There are two responses to that.  The first is that by exactly planning all the paints we’ll actually need, rather than just going out and buying big sets of paints, we’ll probably save money anyway.  The second is that just because we’ve worked out all the colours we need, doesn’t mean those are the ones we’ll actually buy.  If I know I need XYZ, I can use paint colour matching tools to pick up alternatives.  Its a heck of a lot easier to start with known paints and find alternatives than it is to jump into the unknown realm of a million different paint providers and try to work out schemes from scratch!

Planning is also the key.  If we know we need certain paints for the basic units and bases, and others we’ll only need for particular HQ units, well heck!  Lets wait until we buy the HQ unit to get those paints!  Its very true with Space Marine types, for example,  that special characters like librarians (blue), chaplains (black), apothecaries (white) will need certain paint selections you probably won’t need elsewhere. 

You might find that the colours you need do overlap heavily with a particular paint set, and that might save significant amounts.  You won’t know that unless you’ve planned out the complete range of paints you’ll want to use.

If you are going all in on cheap gaming, and just want tabletop standard stuff, you can simplify the range of paints you’ll need by minimising the number of layers and washes you’ll use (like many of the lazy mini painter techniques).  For many though, that reduces the fun of painting, and that’s not what we’re about – we want to make sure we’re as efficient as possible to achieve the results we want, not really about reducing our fun in the game.

Where we will probably compromise more, though, is on things like primer.  Using great, cheap primer is a fantastic cost saver – we’re probably going to have to settle for neutral (grey, black or white) primers and take more time painting colours on.  We’re going to spend time rather than money quite often.

Tools and Brushes!

We’ll explore options for tools and brushes in more detail, but you do need to think about the basic tools and brushes you’ll need to complete the project.  You’ll need tools to cut models off sprues, to strip 2nd hand or old models from eBay or your collection, to clean up mold lines, to apply glue, to pin models, maybe magnets to optimise your weapons load out rather than buying several versions, different glues for assembly.  You’ll need brushes of a decent enough standard to be fun to paint with, and reliable enough to last a decent time.  Buying really cheap brushes isn’t recommended by the  Cheap Gamer, oddly enough – by the time you’ve bought 3 sets, you’ve probably spent more than buying some decent brushes in the first place!

You’ll find decent, cheap, and reliable versions of most of the stuff you need is available from DIY stores.

Again, you may have much of this stuff already.  Great!  We don’t need to go out and buy more.  Go through your tools, and work out what does need to be replaced or added.  If your cutters are rubbish, for example, then it probably is worth spending a few pounds replacing them rather than destroying tens of pounds of minis!  We need to be smart and minimise our overall costs, rather than saving pennies and wasting pounds.

Obviously, you’ll need different tools for some of this stuff depending on how you plan to pick up the minis.  You might be going to eBay to find all the minis, in which case you’ll need tools to repair models and strip paint.  If you are buying new models, you’ll need more assembly tools.  We’ll cover those options in more depth later – the important thing really is getting a feel for what tools you’re likely to need for which units.

The Project

By this sort of point, if you’ve gone through the whole process, you should have a good idea of what models you’ll need, what amount of terrain you’ll need, the paint range you’ll need, and the tools you’ll need to pick up.   Its also worth looking at the different bits and looking at what you’ll need at which stage.   If you stick to the plan, you’ll probably already be saving enormous amounts compared to a standard hobby project where you end up with loads of unessential extras.

No project plan is perfect though.  One really important trick for the Cheap Gamer is to have patience.  If you need an extra paint or tool, wait until you can get a good deal for that paint, or see if a cheaper alternative might work.  Don’t just pop straight into a store in a rush and pay full price.  Be methodical.

We can work with the plan – once we know what units we need, we can start scouring eBay, and then maybe falling back to online sellers at 20-25% discounts.  We might see if anyone on twitter has those models they’d be willing to part with, or check Facebook seller groups.  We can pop to DIY or railway hobby stores to get tools and terrain bits for much lower costs.  We can look at different brushes to get quality for less.  We could look at paint matching tools to get good matches with cheaper (or higher volume) paint ranges – if we pay the same but get 20ml instead of 12ml, we might only need half the replacement pots for the project.  But we need a starting point to maximise this process.

I hope this has been interesting.  Willpower and planning are the two main tools of the Cheap Gamer.  We’ll look at specific gains and projects over time, but just working out exactly what you want rather than chasing hobby shiny is really the core of saving your money!

The Cheap Gamer – Introduction

Well, alongside my Lazy Mini Painter posts, I’ve been quite inspired to look at how to hobby without breaking the bank.  You’ll find the two lines of articles will contradict each other quite a lot, though, and that isn’t an accident.  There are probably 5 main factors in the hobby.

  1. The time you have available to hobby.
  2. The money you have available for hobby.
  3. The quality of models and work you are willing to settle for.
  4. The experience you have in the hobby
  5. Your raw talent at the hobby

Generally, its not worth worrying about 4 and 5.  You can’t improve your raw talent at all, and experience just comes with time and practice.  So the first three are the important areas, where you can juggle your priorities.

Normally, you can’t really maximise all of 1 -3.  Its a compromise between time, money and quality.  Take bases.  You can save time on bases by using the GW texture paints and ready to stick tufts.  You can save money on nice bases by using things like sand, slate or cork and raiding DIY stores rather than hobby shops for those elements.  You can go all out for quality with a mix of custom resin bases and a whole range of customisations combined with painstaking paintjobs.

What you can’t do is get the absolutely best golden demon type base done in almost no time for little cost.  Its all about compromise.

This series is going to focus on saving money.  It’ll accept compromises on time, and to a certain degree, on quality (though it will try for a basic decent standard at least). We’re looking at decent tabletop gaming rather than Golden Demon standard hobby.

Its also going to focus on the purchase, preparation, and painting of models and terrain, rather than the actual gaming side.  Gaming is really down to taste, and these articles are going to be focussed on suggestions to game your way, but reduce the cost where possible.  Even minimising costs, it isn’t a cheap hobby! 

What sort of stuff will we cover?  Well, I’m afraid it probably won’t be great for a die hard GW fan – we’re going to be looking at cheaper options for paints, terrain, and ways of saving a little when we buy models.  GW are fantastic … what they aren’t is cheap!  This isn’t knocking them – if money is less important than time and quality, buying a full battle board and GW terrain is amazing to play on!    The GW paint range is top notch, but is also one of the most expensive.  And while we’ll still be looking at getting official models to allow us to go to tournaments and things, we’ll be looking at games stores that give decent discounts or recovering 2nd hand models from eBay.

Hopefully some people will find this a bit useful, and it’ll help me put my own thoughts and concepts into a decent structure for gaming as money gets tighter!

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!

Painting 101 – Lesson 0 – Picking the models – Practical!

Well, I’m 2 theoreticals in, and not actually made any start at all.  In honour of a hopeful Easter hobby weekend though, I am making a mini start (pun intended), and picking some models to illustrate the concepts I’m discussing.  the final goal is to paint Roboute Guilleman, so that’s one model, but what will our practice ones be?

I’m actually going to do 10 models (including the primarch) in total, but here’s the twist for the other 9.  I’m going to do three more models, but I’m going to do them three times each in different styles to match different armies and concepts.

First off, I’m going to do the plastic Inquisitor Greyfax from the first Triumvirate.  I’m also going to do 2 metal female inquisitors, which I see as similar models in lineage, Greyfax being their spiritual successor.  I’m going to do the armour on all three in the silver and gold of the Greyfax box art, but the robes on the metal Inquisitors will match the 2 armies of sisters of battle I own – green and white respectively.

Second, I’m going to do Canoness Viridya in Resin thrice over.  One version will be an attempt to match the box art/blanche artwork, while the other two will match my sisters armies with white and green on one, and silver and white on the other.

Finally, I’m going to do a new plastic Cypher, as well as two metal Cyphers.  A plastic and metal one will be done to GW imagery, but then the third will be done with a touch more work and made to look like his Inquisitor persona.  I’m thinking I might go silver and gold armour rather than black, and replace the skulls and DA imagery with Inquisition icons.

So why am I doing this?  It should illustrate resin, metal and plastic minis.  It should highlight differences and similarities working with the different models, and show different outcomes to similar starting points!  And the range of techniques should help us prep for the big guy as the finale!

I’m going to revisit this post with some illustrative photos of the models in question, so do check back!

Painting 101 – Lesson 2 – Priming the Model – Theoretical

Well, I’m aware I haven’t done the first practical yet, but some of the points to think about in the first theoretical haven’t really been covered.  We discussed assembling the model in sections based on ease of painting and priming – but we haven’t discussed our basic priming and painting options!  Although this is the second practical stage to implement, it’s something we need to think about before we even put the model together.

Priming (or undercoating) a model

Why do we prime a model?  2 main reasons.  First, it is designed to grip to the surface of the miniature and provide a good surface for the rest of the paints.  A good primer will minimise chipping, and the more “grippy” the primer, the better the paint job will tend to do with the rigours of play.  Why not just use the strongest grip primer?  Well, we’ll discuss the impact of colour later, but some technical effects actually rely on less grippy surfaces.  Most of the “crackle” effect mediums designed to look like broken earth as it dries won’t work well on a very grippy primer – the effect is minimised.  The paint tries to pull apart as it dries, and the primer holds it tight.

Second, the primer offers a consistent colour to layer our paints over.  Because they underlay the others, they subtly affect the overall scheme.  The three most common colours of primer used when miniature painting are black, white and grey.  Black is very common currently, as it leads to slightly muted colours and fits well with a realistic or grim war environment.  White, on the other hand, is a fantastic platform for bright and brilliant colours.  Grey is neutral, allowing you to highlight or darken down, and in my opinion is the best starting point for a miniature with a wide range of colours.  However, grey is also the most common colour of plastic and resin, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell you have really good coverage.

Matt and gloss makes a difference too.  One of my favourite primers is the Vallejo Gloss Black from their Metal range.  Metals painted over the top just amazingly pop!  But for predominantly flesh and fabric models, you may want to avoid that extra touch of shine.

Not all primers are monochrome, and some acrylic sprays are “grippy” enough to function as primers even if technical just a base coat, like the current coloured spray cans provided by Games Workshop.  Spraying your Stormcast or Rubricae with a gold undercoat can really save time, getting much of the base coat down at the same time as your undercoat.  Companies like Army Painter offer a wide range of spray cans, and  for complex models you could prime different chunks in different colours before you glue them together – a great example of this is in White Dwarf with their recommendations or St Celestine, priming the wings white, the body gold, and so on.

As you look at priming a model, then, you need to look at your intended final colours, and the techniques you plan to use to paint the model.  If you have an airbrush, you’ll have much more control than spray cans, and a much wider range of primer colours, in addition to being able to mix them yourself!  If you want to use washes over a plain undercoat, you’ll generally want white (or maybe grey) as washes over black will barely show up.  You might prime with a brush, and carefully define areas exactly in different underlying tones!

If you really plan to push your painting skills to the absolute max, I favour one colour of primer over the main model.  It sets a consistent tone and it means tricky colours can be applied evenly rather than trying to colour match over black and white.   I like the though of starting at one colour and everything else is down to me!  It means it’ll be longer to finish the model, though, and sometimes may need to be varied for technical effects.  If breaking it down, I’d generally look at:

Prime the base with a less grippy primer if using technical effect paints.  I’m going to cover the base in a separate section of these thoughts.

Prime the head in a grey or black for muted matt effect.  The head generally is a separate part.

Prime the weapon in a gloss black for a shinier metal effect, or a grey or even white for bright power weapons.  The weapon is often separate from the body and arms, or with a distinct section like a blade that lends itself to priming by airbrush.

Prime the body appropriately for the brightness of the main colour to be used, and how dull the material of the model should be – I mean fabric, flesh or armour, not plastic or resin there!  If I was painting metallic alpha legion, I’d go black gloss.  Flesh, fabric or matt ceramite, I’d think grey.  Shiny whites and brilliant blues really pop with white.

Sneaky tricks post priming – Preshading

Once a model is primed, particularly in a monochrome shade, there are some useful tricks to preshade a model before you start applying colours.  Fantastic cheats!  But you need to plan them, particular Zenithal Preshading.

With lighter primers, you can add a dark wash, to act at shadows.  This is before painting any colour over the top – with thin coats, you get graduated highlights and dark recesses showing faintly through, even before you do any real shading or highlighting in the painting stage!

You can airbrush preshading onto the gaps between panels on larger models like tanks! A gentle surface spray of the real colour won’t hit the recesses as hard, leaving a gentle shading effect perfect for tanks.

You can drybrush a lighter colour to act as a subtle highlight and help pick out details on darker primers. This both helps show a gentle highlight through the thin coats of paint you’ll be applying, and also gives you targets for your brush – details can be hard to see on black!

Zenithal PresHading

This is a particular sneaky time saving option, though you will need to have at least dry fitted your model together if not glued it.  Ideally, you use 3 shades of primer (black, grey and white classically).  Cover the entire model with the darkest primer.

Next, pick spot that you want the light to be coming from – straight above is a solid option for tabletop, as it’ll look great from the players perspective.  Spray on the medium primer lightly from the point, but circle the can a bit, rather than keeping it fixed.

Finally, get the lightest primer, and give a light spray from that one light source point – no moving.  You’ll now have a range from dark to light on the model, all aimed towards one point – just as if there was one light source shining down creating shadows.

You can do this with just 2 shades, or even go to more shades, reducing the angle from the light source each time you get lighter.

Its very effective, particularly if you then apply washes, glazes, or just thin coats over the top.  I think its a good time saver


So, priming!   Not just as simple as grabbing a spray can and having at it all the time (though thats still what I normally do!).  We need to pick our primer colour or colours based on our final colour choices and proposed techniques….  so we may have to go another theoretical or 2 before we really work out how to put our models together!   If spraying several different primer colours, we definitely need to assemble in sections to spray easy one.  If using zenithal shading, we need to assemble the whole model (although maybe using temporary connections) or the highlights will look wrong.  If spraying all one colour, the main focus will be assembling in sections to allow easy access for our brush.