Painting miniatures can be painful for your hands and wrists. This is in part due to the fact that you have to maintain a firm grip on a small object for a long time. The bones, joints, and muscles in your hands aren’t designed to do this. Enter the usefulness of miniature painting handles and holders. Do you paint Warhammer 40k or other tabletop wargaming miniatures? The best model painting handles have modular components and can hold a wide variety of model sizes. They are also made of durable materials and shaped to fit the normal curvature of your gripping hand.
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to the Citadel Painting handle, or want to upgrade from your DIY miniature painting handle, I’m sure you’ll find this post useful!
In this article, I review the 17 best painting handles and holders for miniatures and models.
As someone who paints a lot of models (hundreds at a time for some commission projects), I’m always looking for useful gadgets to make my job easier and more comfortable. Whether you paint models for Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, Bolt Action, Infinity the game, Warmachine/Hordes, or board game minis, I hope this info is useful to you.
In a hurry? Check out the top 3 picks! 🏆
Here are the top 17 recommend model painting and sculpting miniature holders for hobbyists:
- GameCraft Miniatures Figure Holder for Painting and Sculpting
- Games Workshop Citadel Painting Handle
- Games Workshop Citadel Painting Handle XL
- Citadel Assembly Handle
- Hands Free Universal Work Holder
- Universal Work Holder PEG CLAMP VISE
- Adjustable Helping Hand With Magnifying Glass
- Tamiya Model Stand
- Game Envy Hobby Holder
- Rathcore V3 Series Miniature Holders & Grips
- Alligator Clip Sticks with Base Holder for Airbrushing, Painting, and Assembly
- Green Stuff World Work Holder on Stand for Sculpting Support Miniature Hobby
- Miniature Painting Holder from Fat Dragon Games for Dungeons and Dragons
- Rotating Model Handle Kit
- Miniature Painting Holder 1″ Miniature
- Green Stuff World Universal Work Holder for Irregular Pieces – Sculpting Tools Set
- Garfy’s Get-a-Grip Miniature Model Holder Handle (3D printable)
Keep reading below for more details, or skip ahead here to the review of the best 17 painting handles and holders for miniatures.
Are DIY miniature painting handles worth it?
For years, I used the cap of a spray can with sticky tack to hold miniatures while I painted.
This DIY “painting holder” was great for a while. That is, until I started painting on commission and had a lot of different models to paint.
It takes a bit of work to make a DIY holder out of normal household products. You can use various objects with round features, like bottles, caps, and even old wine corks.
The best materials to make a DIY miniature painting handle are those you have nearby, and feel comfortable in your hand. Naturally, once you have identified a suitable “handle”, you need to figure out the best way to attach your model to the top of that object.
This involves using various sticky adhesives or attachment devices, e.g., sticky tack, magnets, glues, or pins.
But, of course, they can’t be too sticky. You’ll need to remove your model after you’re done painting!
Can you already tell that making a DIY handle for miniatures is a hassle?
Here are some reasons why I don’t use a DIY handle for working with miniatures:
- Requires sticky adhesives that don’t last very long
- Creates a haphazard, messy desktop (e.g., bottle and caps of various things lying around)
- Inefficient for working with multiple painting projects at the same time
- Risk of damage to models
- Poor option for painting larger models
Overall, I don’t think the DIY painting holder option is worth the long term effort. If you’re serious about the hobby and paint or sculpt a lot, you’ll want a dedicated miniature painting holder and handle system.
Health reasons for using a miniature painting handle
I’m not a medical professional, but using common sense tells you that repetitive use of your hands can lead to pain and other problems.
For example, I’ll point out a common risk for those of us who work long hours with miniatures.
We are at risk for repetitive strain injury (RSI), which is also known as a repetitive stress injury. In RSI, the repetitive motion and stress on our body gradually adds up and damages muscles, tendons, and nerves (source).
When we paint or sculpt, our non-dominant hand (the one holding the model) is constantly shifting grip on the miniature.
Because miniatures have small surface area, we don’t have a lot of space to move our fingers around to change grip.
The lack of grip space on a miniature therefore leads to a constant, unchanging stress on our hands, fingers, and wrist.
The natural solution to this problem is to increase the surface area that we use to hold our miniatures.
You can do this many ways, including the DIY options I mention above.
Fun fact: Barbers use hair cutting shears that weigh significantly less than normal household scissors. Many professional stylists use expensive tools ($$$) made of extremely durable, light-weight materials, because they reduce the risk for RSI.
As long as the object you’re using to hold the miniature fits comfortably in your hand and allows multiple fingers to grasp it, you will significantly reduce the focal stress that could lead to RSI.
I would also add that the less your painting handle or holder weighs, the more comfortable they will be for long periods of use.
Why do you need a painting handle?
Here are the key reasons you need a model painting handle or holder:
- Reduce injury and pain
- Improve comfort
- Lengthen your work session
- Better painting or sculpting outcome
Reduce injury and pain
Holding models for a long period of time becomes painful and uncomfortable. Your hands, fingers, and wrists will get tired gripping the small surface area of a miniature. For some, if you ignore this pain and don’t take breaks often, this can lead to repetitive stress injury. And, in some cases could lead to permanent damage in your hands.
Don’t believe me? Check out “trigger finger“.
If you’re prone to sweaty hands, then you’re already aware of the need for improving comfort while painting miniatures. Gripping models firmly for a long time will not only strain your fingers, but also make you sweat.
Your grip on your model will become slippery. And, all this does is make your grip your model more tightly!
A miniature painting handle can reduce the effect of sweat and over-grip, leading to better comfort in the long run.
Lengthen your painting session
An ergonomic painting handle will naturally allow you to paint longer. This is because you’ll be more comfortable and experience less fatigue.
Did you know that good ergonomics can improve your productivity by up to 25% (source)?
So, if you’re looking to make that final push for your unpainted collection of models, using a hobby handle or painting handle can be that extra boost you need.
Paint or sculpt better
You’ll naturally perform better work on miniatures and models if you’re more comfortable. And, if you’re able to change your grip to more angles, you’ll have more freedom to access different parts of your model with less effort (and pain).
The other way to say this is that a painting handle will give you a greater degree of freedom. Look for painting handles that securely hold your miniature. When your turning your model upside down, this way and that, you won’t want it to drop the floor!
Finally, a painting handle will help you avoid touching your model directly. The oils on your fingers and hand don’t mix well with water-based acrylic paints. The last you want is to rub off any of paint you’ve already applied. Those smooth paint blends and glazes are fragile.
The less directly touching and handling of your work-in-progress model, the better your final result.
Bonus Benefit of Painting Handles and Stands (Clean Hands)
Allergic to latex? Don’t want to get your hands dirty?
If you’re airbrushing or priming with a spray can, a painting handle or holder can act as an overspray shield.
With some holders, you’ll be able to continue painting without getting any pigment on your hands, even if you’re using spray applications. Check out the Tamiya Painting Stand, for example. For large models, such as vehicles, these model paint stands or clipping holders are super useful and keep both your hands free.
What to look for in an ideal painting handle?
There are 5 features you’ll want to look for in the best miniature painting handle or holder:
- Build Material and Construction
- Model Security
- Ergonomics (comfort)
1. Build material and construction
You want a well-built, durable paint handle that will handle abuse.
Traveling? You should be able to throw your model holder into a bag or case without worrying about breaking it. Most handles are made of plastic or wood.
2. Model security
The ideal painting handle will securely hold your model in place. You must be able to move the model in all directions without any concern it will fall out. Most DIY painting handles rely on sticky tack or other adhesives, which are reliable for the first few sessions, and then gradually wear off.
A good painting handle system should securely hold your model no matter the shape (or even size) of its base, e.g., oval, round, or square.
Heavy models made of solid resin or metal pewter will require stronger painting holder mechanisms, like springs or screw clamps (see these options below).
You should be able to insert and remove your model easily from a good painting handle. Ideally, you should be able to operate the entire painting handle with a single hand. Only the Citadel Painting Handle has this as a possibility (see a full review of the Citadel Handles here).
Accessibility is also important for those of you who work on multiple miniature projects at the same time. When you need to switch out models, being able to remove and insert a miniature without tools or much effort becomes even more useful.
Ultimately, a useful painting handle should be easy to operate without much effort from the user.
4. Ergonomics (comfort)
The best painting handle or holder will be personal. What you find comfortable will be different than me, and vice versa.
Ergonomics is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products (source).
Keep in mind these three ergonomic features when looking for the ideal painting handle for model hobby work:
The shape of the painting handle will affect how your hand wraps around the tool. The texture relates to how the surface of the painting handle feels to you. You may prefer a wooden texture, whereas someone else may prefer a smooth plastic handle.
Of course, the overall weight of the handle will affect not only comfort of using it over a long period of time, but also how stable your painting handle will be.
A heavier painting handle will be more stable in the short term, according to a published scientific study (source). But, over the long term, you will develop fatigue at a quicker rate when using a heavy holder tool. Some of the model holder devices I review below are fairly heavy metal holders, but come with features that help you reduce fatigue.
Can the painting handle do other things besides hold models and miniatures?
Some painting handles are built-in clips that help you assemble and glue model kits together.
In some cases, a painting handle may be useful for hands-off airbrushing or spray can priming (more about priming here). They can hold subassembly parts while you spray paint.
Because painting handles are usually meant to hold things for you in a stable position, some of them may be useful for soldering (if you’re installing electronics), or even photography.
Some hobby model holders also have modular parts that allow you to switch out components. This may permit you to secure different sized models without having to buy different painting handles.
17 best painting handles and holders for miniatures and models
There are many types of handles and holder systems for working with miniatures and scale models. Check them out here:
The GameCraft Figure Holder is a step above DIY options. Made of laser cut MDF, the GameCraft holder requires the use of sticky tack to hold miniatures in place. It also may not accommodate larger or taller models.
On the flip side, you have a “finger rest” armature that wraps around the top of the holder. This is a great feature for giving you more grip options to hold the model. This would also be a fairly light weight and comfortable painting handle for the price.
Finally, this holder works in conjunction with GameCraft paint racks and storage organizers.
The Games Workshop Citadel Painting Handle is the handle by which to measure all other miniature painting handles.
I own several of these painting handles to help me with my commission work. They are great for working on multiple paint jobs at the same time. Not only are the Citadel Painting Handles easy to use, but models are securely held in place.
The spring-loaded clamp is fairly strong, but you can still operate it with one hand. The holder also accommodates several different size and shaped miniature bases, including square and round bases. Although large models may make this holder top heavy, it is balanced well and comfortable to hold.
If you’re looking for a better way for holding miniatures while painting, especially larger models, then the Citadel Painting Handle XL is for you. The design is similar to the standard Citadel miniature painting handle (#2), with the exception that the XL version can hold larger models.
The spring loaded clamp is built larger. Of course, this means that the top heavy feel will be exaggerated with the Citadel XL painting handle.
Interestingly, the different clamps on all of the Citadel Painting Handle versions are interchangeable. All you have to is unscrew the top of the miniature painting handle and switch in the clamp that you need.
I find this feature useful when I need to let a model dry, but want to start working on another. I can leave a model clamped-in, put the assembly aside, and swap in a fresh empty clamp.
Holding miniatures while painting them is one thing, but what about assembly? The Citadel Assembly Handle is built to fill this need and more.
Of all the Citadel painting handle versions (or other handles on this list), this is probably the most versatile miniature painting handle, because it can help you assemble models, too. The two flexible arms swing into place on either side allowing you to hold subassembly parts during gluing.
The arms are stiff enough to stay where you put them, and the clips have enough force to hold fairly heavy part (as long as they aren’t too big).
I also happen to use the Citadel Assembly Handle as a poor man’s spray paint holder. I put this painting handle (holding my miniature) in my spray booth for airbrushing. Because the arms holds the model off the ground, I can spray underneath parts more easily.
Overall, this is a great tool to have in your miniature painting kit.
The Hands Free Universal Work Holder is exactly what its name means. It is a universal holder for any scale model work you may want to do. Most miniature painting handles suffer from securing irregular shaped objects.
But, this universal holder has the ability to securely hold almost any shape you can image (within the size of the vise). The Hands Free Universal Work Holder comes with metal pins that you insert into the vise-plate. Depending on the size and shape of the miniature or model you’re working with, the pins will use friction to hold things in place.
The screw-in vise system allows you to use external or internal force (pins push inward or outward against your model/object) to keep things in place.
Moreover, the holder is attached to a swivel arm on a heavy metal base. This is not a holder you lift from your table. For an example of what I use this Universal Holder for, check out this article. You can see me use it in some of the photos and videos.
The Universal Work Holder is similar to the stand version (#5), except it has a wooden handle. This allows you to manipulate the handle at almost any angle. Additionally, the pin vise system allows you to grip irregular or oddly shaped miniature bases.
This makes the Universal Work Holder a great miniature painting handle for scale model sub-assembled parts and scatter terrain.
The vise is strong, producing enough friction to clamp on pins (that you might insert into the feet of your figures). This way you can hold miniatures you haven’t glued to a base, yet. Some miniature painters prefer to paint their model before assembling.
Universal work holders are great for this kind of pre-assembled paint work, because they aren’t dependent on the presence of a base.
The Adjustable Helping Hand with Magnifying Glass is a great tool for holding models while you paint. The clips won’t be able to hold entire models by themselves. But, smaller parts or subassembly painting will work great with this holder.
Notice that the magnifying glass slides along a rail, with the two clips on either end. This means that you’ll be limited in how you use the lens for your work. I’d recommend a dedicated magnifying visor like these affordable ones, or a good magnifying lamp.
The base-stand setup also precludes you from using this handheld. You’ll have to leave this on a tabletop or other flat surface. On the bright side, I find these kinds of painting and model holders as very useful for spray or airbrush application.
The Tamiya Model Stand is the only model holder that isn’t exactly “holding” your models. But, I highly recommend having a Tamiya Model Stand if you’re painting large models, like vehicles or flyers, e.g., Warhammer tanks or airships.
The stands have a turnstile underneath the platform, which lets you rotate your model 360 degrees without touching the working surface. If you’re airbrushing or spraying with a spray can, this is great!
It allows you to turn the model without getting wet paint on your fingers.
This set comes with two rotating stands. One stand has a conventional platform with alligator clips you can insert on the sides (for painting those smaller parts). The second stand has two metal arms that elevate and gently secure your your model. This latter stand allows you to spray paint under and within your model (if it is hollow).
This isn’t the best option for small models, e.g., troopers, space marines. It doesn’t have a way to secure these models down. Moreover, these stands are designed to rest on a tabletop, which limits your ability move your smaller miniatures in different angles for regular brush painting.
Nonetheless, if you’re spray painting, these are a must-have holder/stand for your miniature hobby work.
The Game Envy Hobby Holder started as a successful Kickstarter project with 3D printed prototypes. The company has grown since that launch and the hobby holder is by far one of the most popular products for miniature painters.
The design is simple. A model attached (e.g., glue or sticky tack) to a normal bottle cap is screwed onto the hobby holder. The handle and the finger rest “armature” are modular and you can adjust these to your needs. There is also a turnstile built into the frame, which allows you to rotate the model with your forefinger. Nifty!
The requirement of a bottle cap holder is a double-edged sword. It’s both easy to use, convenient and intuitive. But, you’ll also need to adhere models to the cap before using the hobby holder. If you’re working on many miniatures at the same time, this means you’ll need multiple bottle caps (easy), but won’t be able to “use or play with” partially painted models until you remove the cap from the base.
For more details and additional features with the Hobby Holder system, check out the Game Envy site.
The Rathcore V3 Series Miniature Holders & Grips are a beautiful line of miniature painting handles. These are as bespoke as you can get in terms of aesthetic.
As with the Hobby Holder, Rathcore V3 holders and grips began as a successful Kickstarter (which I backed). The holders come in various configurations depending on the kind of miniature you plan to paint, or your preferred attachment method.
The wood is a smooth, varnished surface and feels great in your hand. Each holder is light enough to handle for long periods of time, but provide great balance and stability. The metal finger rests are incredibly useful for painting models at any angle you need. They are also removable should you want more space to work.
These are a pricier miniature painting handle option than other options, but hold great value because of their versatility and the comfortable feel. The cork inserts are easy to use, but a consumable aspect (you’ll need to replace corks as they wear out).
You can attach miniatures with pins (inserted into the cork), or miniatures attached to square or round bases (which are friction secured in the holder).
The V3 Series of holders allow you to paint without touching your miniatures and assist you with precision applications on miniatures, sculpts, and figures. For more details, check out the Rathcore site.
The Alligator Clip Sticks with Base Holder for Airbrushing, Painting, and Assembly is a utilitarian tool for those looking to paint small parts or subassemblies.
I use one of these for spray paint or airbrushing applications on small bits. The sticks insert into a flat base board, which allows you to pick up (and put down) whatever you’re painting like a lollipop.
For someone who works with subassemblies, this painting holder/handle system is useful across a wide variety of jobs. If you need to wait for glue to dry on something, you can clip it at whatever angle you need. I’ll use one or more of these alligator clips and use them to “dip models” while I’m speed painting board game minis.
Of course, this isn’t designed to hold based miniatures or large models. Instead, focus on using this as a helping hand for those smaller bits you’re working on.
If you’re looking for a holder for multiple assembled miniatures, Citadel has a useful Color Spray Stick.
The Green Stuff World Work Holder on Stand is a direct competitive with the off-brand Universal Work Holder (#5). However, the prices for these two products fluctuates and they are both great miniature painting holders.
The design is similar in that the Green Stuff World Holder uses a pin-vise clamping mechanism attached to swivel arm on a heavy-weighted stand.
You can tightly holder irregular shaped miniatures, models, bases, and other objects in this model work holder.
To see more features, check out the review of the Universal Work Holder.
The Miniature Painting Holder from Fat Dragon Games is a 3D printed product. It is well designed for holding models with 1″ and 2″ bases. The miniature painting handle is marketed toward painting DnD (Dungeon and Dragon) or other RPG minis, but would be useful for any miniature.
The clamp uses a rubber band to secure the model to the handle. For most miniatures, this is more than sufficient. If you’re painting heavier miniatures, you will want to use a stronger handle clamp.
For more details and features of this miniature painting handle, check out the Fat Dragon Games Etsy shop.
If you want to 3D print the painting handle yourself, you can purchase the STL file from Drive Thru RPG.
The great thing about buying the STL is you can 3D print as many painting handles as you want.
The Rotating Model Handle Kit is not exactly a standalone miniature painting handle. It is an adapter you use along with your Citadel Painting Handle. This allows you to rotate the top of your painting handle 360 degrees without moving your hand.
I added this to the list because of some individuals mentioning the lack of a rotational system for the Citadel Painting Handle. In this regard, this enhancement may be useful if you find yourself constantly turning your miniature painting handle in your grip.
For some, using your forefinger to rotate your miniature is a more comfortable way to access different parts of your model while you’re painting.
The Miniature Painting Holder 1″ Miniature is another 3D printed design available on Etsy. The painting holder comes in 4 parts you assemble when you receive it. You will need a rubber band to provide the clamping force. The cool thing about this holder is that it has a base insert so it can freely stand upright.
The Miniature Painting Holder is about 2″ wide x 2″ long x 2-1/2″ tall. On it’s base it is about 2-1/2″ Dia x 2-3/4″ tall.
The painting holder is particular designed for painting miniatures (which are usually small) for role playing games such as Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons.
For more details, check out the Etsy shop.
The Green Stuff World Universal Holder is nearly the same as the Universal Work Holder (#6). All the features, advantages and limitations are the same as the Universal World Holder. The only difference may be in the price.
The Green Stuff World Universal Holder will hold irregular shaped miniatures and models, such as scatter terrain, un-based minis, and other subassemblies. The pin-vise clamp is strong and will securely hold whatever you need.
The wooden grip makes a great miniature painting handle and will be comfortable for most people with small or large hands. Of course, the metal clamp will be top heavy and there is no base/stand, so you will have to rest this handle sideways on your table.
Garfy’s Get-a-Grip Miniature Model Holder Handle is a very popular choice among miniature painters. The first design MK1 is a freely available 3D printable file on Thingiverse. You can also download the STL from our shop.
The MK1 grip shown here is designed to holder Games Workshop miniatures with base sizes between 25mm and 50mm. 3D printed shims will allow you to adapt for the different model base sizes.
If you prefer, you can also use a regular wine cork (straight sided) in the base to hold your pinned model. You’ll need a set of 3 nuts and bolts (M3 nuts and M3x12 bolts). This miniature painting handle is designed for comfort and utility.
I’ve followed Garfy’s design work on these miniature painting handles over the years. These are ergonomically designed for comfortably long painting sessions without placing undue strain on your fingers, hands, and wrists.
For the latest MKIII version of this grip or all the shims for different kinds of bases go to: www.ebay.co.uk/sch/Garfy
Painting miniatures is hard (even painful) without the right tools. A good miniature painting handle will improve your long-term comfort and even your projects’ results.
Remember that the ideal handle or holder for painting or sculpting miniatures will help you in several ways:
- Reduce injury and pain
- Improve comfort
- Lengthen your work session
- Better painting or sculpting outcome
I hope this overview was helpful! Please let me know if you have any other gadgets that help you work in your hobby more comfortably. I’d love to check them out.