When I was learning how to improve my miniature painting, I was always on the look-out for resources to learn from. Of course, there are many ways to learn how to paint miniatures: you can watch YouTube videos, take classes, join a club, find online tutorials, or look for books.
As I was searching the Amazon bookstore, I stumbled upon a fairly large selection of different books for painting miniatures. To my delight, many of them are really cheap or free.
In this post, I list 21 books that you might find helpful for learning how to paint miniatures and models.
Whether you’re a beginner and just starting out in the hobby, finding resources that you find helpful can be daunting (the internet is a HUGE place). Hopefully, this article (and others on this site) are useful for you.
What to look for in “how-to books” for painting miniatures and models?
- High resolution pictures
- List of tools and materials
- Easy to follow instructions
- Brush technique
- Airbrushing technique
- Commentary on color choice
- Weathering, decals, detailing tips
- Basing, terrain, and diorama guide
RELATED: TOP 3 RECOMMENDED WEBSITES FOR PAINTING NON-METALLIC METAL (NMM)
Listen or Watch on the “Go”
When I paint miniatures, I generally listen to something….anything.
There’s something relaxing about a quiet night with a bunch of models that need work and a streaming story. I especially like movies or audiobooks that don’t require me to actually “watch”.
While painting miniatures, some good listening include entire TV seasons of the classic Twilight zone and “24”. You don’t need to “see” these shows to follow the narrative, which is awesome for while you’re painting and modeling!
Click here to dive deeper into a 30-Day Free Trial for Amazon Prime — stream movies!
As mentioned, I’m sorta into the older stuff. Partly because I’ve already watched them already and listening to them again is just a different experience that I don’t need to focus on.
Of course, I’ve listened to all of the James Cameron directed films, e.g., Aliens, Terminator, Avatar, and Titanic, many times over. Just because I love movies, too.
I’ll have my iPad tablet propped up on my painting desk and stream away.
I did at one point try to see if there were any audiobooks for painting miniatures.
There aren’t any instructional audiobooks for painting miniatures….
But, I suppose this isn’t surprising. I listed a few things above for what I look for in a how-to book for painting minis. An audiobook isn’t the right medium for teaching how to paint miniatures. You need pictures!
On the other hand, an audiobook is superb for story listens.
When I’m painting minis, I’ll listen to an audiobook. Science Fiction novels by Andy Weir, or Thrillers/Horrors by Stephen King are my favorites. I’ve been using Audible books for more than two years.
For Warhammer 40k fans, audiobooks are a great way to absorb the lore wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
These kinds of audiobooks are light reads (listens) that get you out of the World and into that other mind space for creative work. If you want to give Audible a try for yourself, I would highly-recommend them!
Look for voice narrators like R.C. Bray or Ray Porter (awesome voice work).
You can learn more about Audible and sign up for 2 free books here in a 30 day free trial. Keep the audiobooks even if you decide to cancel.
I’ve read a lot of books on miniature painting, but I need more recommendations!
Please comment with any suggestions!
Now, let’s get into the 21 books I found for how to paint miniatures and models.
21 Best Books for Painting Miniatures and Models
Okay, I’ve looked around a bit, but I might have missed a few. Please let me know if you know of any gems and I can update this list!
This is only available as an eb0ok, but is pretty much a free book! The book guides you on how to paint miniatures and improving your hobby skills. This includes building miniatures, assembly, and painting. The book focuses on gothic models (aka Games Workshop Warhammer 40k and Fantasy), the principles in the book can extend to other miniature figures for tabletop games, such as RPGs, scale modeling, and other kits.
The book is FREE with Kindle Unlimited (30 day free trial). It’s a fairly short book, but it’s great for beginners! It has easy to follow instructions, pictures with what-to-do instructions, and a list of needed starting materials. This checks off most of the things I look for in an instructional book for painting miniatures. Again, it’s pretty hard to beat free.
In this book, Paul Davies, takes you through the steps for making the basic battlefield landscape on your tabletop. He goes through the techniques of making a beautiful miniature landscape for your war games. There are specific chapters for different historical periods and geographic locations, e.g., urban, farmland, deserts. There are also detailed instructions on how to add vegetation, building, roadways, trench systems (WW1 anyone?), etc. This book contains beautiful photographs (eye-level and above) of the work-in-progress as well as finished terrain set pieces!
This ebook is part of a series from Hellfire Painting. All of the “basics” books in the series contain easy to follow instructions that teach the simple techniques for painting your miniatures. This book on “Basecoats” shows you the fundamentals for basecoating your models, the first steps for painting any model. The cool part of these book series is that they are all free with Kindle Unlimited. You can sign up here for a free 30 day trial and get all these books!!!
As mentioned, this is part of the ebook series by Hellfire Painting. This book focuses on the assembly of your models. I’ve written some of the aspects for assembling your models, including what glues or fillers to use. This book is a focused instructional on how to assemble plastic and metal miniatures. Assembly is an essential aspect of the miniature and modeling hobby. The book is free with Kindle Unlimited. The author, Max Dubois, is a miniature enthusiast from Canada and has written the entire series as a primer for those of us who are starting out in the hobby or need a refresher. As a free or 0.99 cent book, this value as an easy to reach reference.
As part of the basic ebook series by Hellfire Painting, this book focuses on “Painting Urban Bases”. That means stone, concrete, and asphalt landscapes on your miniature bases. Filled with photos and easy to follow instructions on making your models stand out in an urban battlescape, this book could be your perfect guide. This free book is awesome.
Ever wanted to paint your entire Army, but didn’t have the motivation or idea of how to do so quickly? Here’s a no nonsense book for army-wide painting–get going quick and finish!).
These are the simple 10 steps in the book to get your stuff painted up!
- Master the Mancave
- The Masterplan
- Picked a Limited Palette (I agree 100%)
- Write that Down
- Spray and Pray
- Assembly Line Painting
- Stick to the Basics
- Removing the Ache from Mistakes
- Flock it Like You Mean It
- Until Death Do You Part
What do all these steps mean? Obviously, it’s how you should approach and think about getting your models painted. And, if you want the details you’ll have to get the book. It’s free with Kindle Unlimited!
Ever wanted to turn your hobby in a side cash business? This book could be for you. I’ve written about what to look for when hiring a miniature painter. This book takes the other side about “How to Become a Successful Professional Miniature Painter”. It’s a business guide on the professional aspects of being a commissioned miniature painter. The book covers every aspect of the business of commission painting and provides a good baseline for growing a mini painting business. It doesn’t matter what your skill levels are, this book can take your talents and make the best use of them for building that business.
This book is Free with Kindle Unlimited!
A slight change in pace. One of the biggest problems facing war gamers is finding the time to actually play. I found this book thinking it was about miniature painting the figures in war games. But, I ended up discovering that it’s about the rules-writing aspect of strategy gaming. It’s a fascinating book, which I’m sure a lot of miniature hobbyists with a busy responsible life would be interested in. How to get the most out of your gaming and hobby time! There are a lot of beautiful photos in this book. You can check it out on Amazon where it is highly recommended!
Five stars on Amazon. This book gives a complete introduction to the hobby of wargaming with miniatures. Packed with color photographs, maps and diagrams, the book is a visual treat, but one built on the solid foundations of a highly literate and engaging text that does not ‘dumb down’ the hobby.
Every aspect is explained clearly and in a way that both informs and entertains, with plenty of personality, gentle humor and a lightness of touch.
The book includes:
- Brief history of the development of wargaming
- Choice of periods, from ancient times to science fiction scenarios
- The question of scale (not only of the miniatures, but also of the battle sizes, e.g., skirmish to epic battles)
- Terrain choices
- Buying and painting miniatures
- Creating scenarios for wargames
- Running a campaign
- Solo wargaming
All in all, this book is chock full of awesome information about tabletop wargaming and miniatures.
Hellfire Painting presents a miniature painting basics book on “Dry Brushing”. Dry brushing is a key technique in all aspects of miniature painting. Whether you’re new to the hobby or a veteran, being able to dry brush well serves an important purpose in painting your models. This book goes through the theory behind the technique, a list of do’s and don’ts, and provides examples of where and how to the use the dry brushing technique.
This free eBook (Kindle Unlimited) shows you through a 12-step process how to make “rock themed” bases for your miniatures. It is a simple, straightforward book. The process is easy that any painter, even on a budget, can repeat the process of rock-basing their models with these methods. The base of your models are a key part of making striking miniature pieces for your collection or tabletop army.
This book is a great example of a step-by-step guide with photographs. In this book, both beginners and intermediate modelers will learn techniques to complete a figure from start-to-finish! There are instructions on how to select, prepare, assemble, modify (convert) and paint figures in a realistic manner.
There is also a neat round-up of figure available on the market. There’s an in depth discussion about scale and how to work with them. Detailing tools and techniques are covered with a simple narrative that helps you get going quickly.
If you’re looking to gain confidence in painting larger scale miniatures, I would highly recommend this book.
Similar to other Hellfire Painting books on basing, this one focuses on how to create snow theme bases. “Painting Snow Bases” is an ebook with a simple to follow instructional style that will help you get you winter/cold themed miniatures looking like they truly belong there.
Snow brings an eerie and deadly feel to your models. Think Game of Thrones for medieval-fantastic, WWII Battle of Bastogne for historic, or Hoth from Star Wars in a Sci-fi context (source).
The eBook is $0.99 cents or free with Kindle Unlimited. You can sign up for a Free 30-Day Trial here.
This is one of my favorite books so far in the miniature hobby. The book is written by Angel Giraldez, lead studio artist for Corvus Belli (creators of “Infinity the Game”). You can see some of the approaches I learned from this book in my Gallery.
The book has stunning photos that lead you through a step-by-step process of how to paint science fiction miniatures.
- Explains new techniques
- Tips through hundreds of pictures of the painting process
- Tutorial guides about how to paint all the different Infinity armies
The techniques you learn are versatile, applicable in any miniature painting or modeling project. Especially helpful for me were the techniques of how to combine the use of an airbrush with traditional brushwork. In combination, applying multiple tools to a miniature can be powerful. You’ll create high-contrast, pop-off the page, painted miniatures that you’ll be proud to display. I love this book and hope there’ll be more in the series!
Whether you’re a historical modeler, a tabletop gamer (Warhammer 40k anyone?), knowing how-to paint armored vehicles is an awesome skill to have. In this book by FineScale Modeler (they have tons of great books for modelers, by the way), you’ll learn tips and techniques for building and painting military armored vehicles with realism in-mind.
There are projects in here that all the top armor modelers use for their display pieces. The techniques will come in handy for any type of vehicular type model. I’ve used many of the techniques taught in this book for my own work.
Worth every cent. The cost of this book is about equivalent to some medium-sized vehicles in the Game Workshop model line (i.e., Rhino or Razorback). But the information in this book is invaluable for your entire hobby. I’ve learned a ton about modeling vehicles for different tabletop miniatures. Hands-down any instructional from Vallejo is top-notch . The photos and the easy to follow instructions are the best in the industry.
Similar to the Vallejo tutorial book above, this book shows you everything else you need to know about airbrushing scale models. This would certainly come in handy for learning how to airbrush realistic looking sci-fi or fantasy models, too. Painting miniatures with an airbrush is a technical skill that differs from regular brush work. Airbrushing does take some practice and these kinds of how-to books offer some shortcuts to advancing along that airbrush learning curve. The photographs in this book are stunning.
Airbrushing is a specialized skill in the miniature painting and modeling hobby. In this book, you’ll get insight into the indispensible use of the airbrush tool. You’ll find advice on how to model armor, aircraft, automobiles, figures, ships and more! There are hundreds of step-by-step photos. This book is huge! And, there are practical, simple techniques outlined for every scale modeler and miniature hobbyist. In short, this is an important omnibus for those of us who want to know about how to apply airbrushing in the miniature and modeling hobby.
There are a ton of instructional videos and written tutorials online about how to paint and weather models. But, if you really go back in history, it was model railroaders who really advanced the push for realism in the hobby. This book is for ANY modeler who wants to paint, decal, or weather their trains (or other models). There are a lot of how-to techniques that apply weathering and decals to models.
Applying wet-slide transfer decals is one of those things that I know miniature hobbyists generally don’t like. They wrinkle, warp, and generally cause all sorts of headaches. This book helps you resolve those hiccups.
Although the focus is on miniature trains, you’ll find that all of the common and key techniques apply to miniatures of any genre. There is a basic-through-advanced instructional on airbrushing, brush-painting, decaling, and weathering. There is even a section with tips on adding graffiti (from miniature vandals!), placards, and other decal details.
I think the coolest part about this book is the in-depth guide on the use chalks, pastels, acrylic paints, and oil colors for adding realism to your miniatures.
There are 184 pages in this book with more than 450 photograph! This is the book for you if you’re interested in the Steampunk art genre. Produced by Scale 75, world renown for their modeling paint line and scaled figures, this book is a highly rated painting guide about Steampunk miniatures. The photos inside the book are beautiful, clearly laid-out, and stand as strong visual reference for your painting hobby. Although the focus is on larger scale miniatures, 50-75mm, color principle and technical application work across all types of models sizes and genres. I would definitely take a closer look at this book!
I love how-to books.
I especially like ones with a lot of pictures and easy to follow instructions. As I get more practice, I don’t rely on the books as much. But, they are an awesome reference on my shelf when I need them (and I often flip back to a few pages now-and-then to refresh myself on how to do a certain detail or apply a specific technique).
A quick noted advantage of books over that of videos and other media is that you can carry books with you, and surf quietly at a leisurely pace. They aren’t expensive and are a small investment compared to the time and money spent on other aspects of the hobby. Of course, if you’re a digital book collector, you have the advantage of carrying the books where ever you go!
Do you enjoy books on painting and the hobby? I might have missed a few references. Let me know with a comment below.
8 thoughts on “21 Great How-To Books for Painting Miniatures (So Far)”
James Gurney’s books are not on miniature painting, but the insights they provide on painting colour and light are invaluable.
I will check it out!
Figopedia by Jeremie Tebouf is outstanding. Lots of theory presented in a practical way.
I will be writing an updated article with more in depth specifics on books. I’ll take a look at Figopedia, too! Thanks for the heads up 🙂
I’m not sure if it’s in print anymore, but I really enjoyed How to Paint Citadel Miniatures by Games Workshop. Especially that it was a lay flat design, meant to be used at the painting table! Good layout of theory, basic techniques and tools, as well as specific tutorials on miniatures in the GW line.
Thanks for the comment and reminder! Yeah, I remember that book! Unfortunately, it’s not in print anymore. Citadel doesn’t keep a lot of the old, good stuff available for long do they?
For those looking, you could try and find a used version of the “How to Paint Citadel Miniatures” book. I’ve always used Amazon or eBay to find old, out-of-print textbooks. Also, if you’re savvy, there may be a PDF copy of it floating around.
I was going to mention Figopedia but looks like someone beat me to the punch. Excellent book that focuses more on theory than actual step by steps for specific models. Love the site!
Thanks! I have to check out that book and get it reviewed 🙂