10 Things I Tell People: "How to Paint Miniatures Better?"

Banner 10 tips for improving your miniature painting

I’ve gotten many questions over the years from new hobbyists about what they can do to improve their miniature painting. It’s a common question: “how to paint miniatures better?”. You can watch painting miniature tutorials. Many of these tutorials focus on how to start painting miniatures. But, in general, there are a few key concepts that I keep in mind that have helped me improve my ability to paint miniatures and models.

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RELATED: 50 PROFESSIONAL TIPS FOR PAINTING MINIATURES AND MODELS


Here are the top 10 ways to get better at painting miniatures:

1. Time with a brush is essential

You learn to paint miniatures better by painting miniatures. Experience. Get it. Watching YouTube videos or reading instructional books are great ways to pick up information. But, nothing will improve your work like you actually doing it. Paint to learn to paint!

10 essential miniature painting tips - don't substitute brush work

2. Learn to fail. 

Enjoy your work by disregarding the end-result. In other words, learn how to enjoy the process of finishing something even if the product you end up with isn’t something you’re pleased with. What is important is to “do it”. Learn how to silence the negative voices in your head that try to judge everything you do while painting. Learn to encourage yourself, whether this is positive self-talking, or simply expecting to fail. You will become better with this process and with practice you will become a better miniature painter.

10 essential tips for better miniature painting - learn how to fail

3. Use good tools. 

Whether it is brushes or paint, you should buy the best you can afford. You will get frustrated if the tools you use slow you down or hinder your progress. Take it from me, don’t cheap out, if you want to improve your work. It can make a huge difference in both speed and outcome if your brushes and paint do what you want them to do on a consistent basis.

10 tips for painting miniatures - Use good tools for best results in miniature painting

4. Sharp brush tips.

Keep the tips of your brushes sharp and pointy. You want control and being able to apply paint in a consistent and reliable fashion on miniatures requires a brush that comes to a fine point. The best quality brushes hold their point (these are generally fine-sable brushes with Kolinsky hair bristles). The best classical mainstream brands are: Winsor & Newton Series 7, Raphael 8404, DaVinci Maestro. For hobby-oriented brushes with excellent quality try: Broken Toad or Artis Opus.

How to paint miniatures better - Keep your brushes sharp.

5. You only know what you know. 

Learn from many people. Go to workshops. Ask questions from different artists you admire. Miniature painting has many facets of style and technique. Each painter uses a different approach. Take this in, apply what you think works, but never assume you’re done learning. Another note, don’t think that you need to learn from professionals. You can pick up a lot from other new painters. As they grow, follow them.

10 essential tips for better miniature painting. You be you. Learn from other painters.

6. You are free to do what you want. 

This is artistic license. As a painter, you are an artist and artists have a freedom in their creativity that you should exercise. Just because your miniature painting doesn’t follow convention, doesn’t mean it’s “wrong”. You can paint something realistically, and someone else might paint the same model with a cartoony style. If you want to paint something in a different style, feel free to use reference photos and copy that approach. Mix it up if you want to be different. But your painting is your expression.

Use artistic license to paint miniatures and models

7. Don’t paint yourself into a comfort zone. 

Use paint to add variety into your work. Variety could be from color, tone, and value. Don’t get bogged down by color theory and math. Try out different ways to make your paint work for your model. Paint with colors and shades that you like. If you follow a formula, then you may fall into the trap of a routine.

Leave your comfort zone painting miniatures

8. High contrast is more important than staying in the lines. 

Make sure you keep things bright and dark on the same model. Whether you’re doing an abstract approach or trying to keep the model cleanly painted, make sure your model has a wide dynamic range of bright and dark values. This will make your model “pop” and continue to have that 3D-look that draws the viewers’ interest.

Use more contrast for better miniature painting

9. Squint your eyes and change the perspective. 

Literally, squint your eyes at your piece. Can you distinguish the different parts of the model even with your squinted, fuzzy view? If not, you’ll probably know how to fix that. A model stands out when the viewer is able to distinguish its different parts at-a-glance. Make sure you understand that in some perspectives and viewpoints, the model might look better or worse. Turn the model sideways, upside-down, and every which way.

Keep perspective on painting miniatures and models - 10 tips

10. Do what is comfortable.

Don’t share your work if you think it’s not ready. Don’t paint in a certain style unless you really want to try it. Drinking your cleaning pot full of dirty paint water is gross. Don’t do it.

Be comfortable with your miniature painting work

Final Thoughts

Every veteran miniature painter has come up with some advice for the new hobbyist who is starting their miniature painting journey. It’s only natural to provide technical insight, e.g., “thin your paints!”, but really, I think the best advice is to keep practicing (essentially bullet #1) and have fun. No one is forcing you to paint models and miniatures.

The fact you want to improve means you already have the motivation inside you to act. I hope these 10 tips give you a boost to keep that drive alive.

Happy miniature painting! 

10 ways to improve your miniature painting

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1 thought on “10 Things I Tell People: "How to Paint Miniatures Better?"”

  1. All solid advice; nice job.

    Once I learned to start painting for myself, and not for everyone else’s praise, I learned to enjoy the process more and stopped overthinking it.

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