It’s not your brush, man.

I have a large collection of models that I’ve painted. Too numerous for me to count. The ultimate driving force that motivates me to paint is discovery. Whenever I feel my toes are hanging off the edge of burn-out (e.g., the loss of desire to do anything), I find that I can retreat safely on the knowledge that I have the choice to see new things by changing my perspective. What do I mean?


(left) Standard brush work. (right) Airbrush with bristle brushed accents

I can experiment. I can ask a new question to find new answers. This is essentially how brilliant scientists perform research in a laboratory. Of course, this also relates to painting miniatures!

You start with a blank pewter or plastic sculpt and endeavor to cover it with colorful pigments. The first question you ask yourself without knowing it is whether or not you want this model to look awesome or simply good enough. Most of the time, I answer by saying that I want the model to look good enough.

To accomplish this task of getting a good enough paint job , I’ve learned through experience that you don’t need any fancy tools. None. A styrofoam cup o’ water, a single brush (crappy $5 kind, size 1 synthetic), and 3-5 colors of paint.

If you look at the image up there, you’ll see two vanquishers. I painted the vanquisher on the left with these simple tools (~$10 worth of instruments). The vanquisher on the right was painted with a fancy airbrush (~$350 setup), professional kolinsky sable brushes, including a Raphael 8202 (~$25 brush), and a panel of mixing mediums (~$20).

If you look carefully, you will notice slight differences in color tones and shading, but overall in my book these two models fall into the “good enough” category. One cost me $10 to paint. The other cost about $400. Your tools don’t matter. I’m certain I can paint to a tabletop quality with my fingers!….Yes, see the Phoenix retribution model.


Oil paint applied and blended with a q-tip and finger. Blue oil wash was applied for the runes.

So, the only difference in the two vanquishers are the tools that were used. But, the quality differences in the model paint jobs don’t reflect the quality of the tools. It shouldn’t! The quality of the result is  based 99.9% on the quality of the artist’s vision and his perseverance to make that vision tangible. How much blood, sweat, and tears you are willing to suffer is what determines the quality of the product you can produce.

So, my strongest advice: To get a better vision for painting minis, hence, become a better painter of minis, is that you need to stop thinking too much about the result and what people think, and just crank the painted model out. Do this over and over, until your hands cramp up and you get tendonitis in your shoulders and elbows. There should be blood.

Yes, that is the secret. It’s not your brush.

Okay. So, why should you buy the more expensive equipment?  Because when your vision is clear, you don’t have to spend 30 hours painting a single model.  Better tools make you faster, not better.




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