Here’s some extra motivation for painting miniatures! Are you just starting out in the hobby? Got your first models, but not sure if it’s worth investing the time to learn how to paint them well?
Well, I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of skills you will pick up along the way when you learn how to paint miniatures. For starters, you will hone patience, deep introspection, and perseverance, three virtues that will carry you through some dark days.
Here’s my unique write-up about grit.
- Miniature painting is a skill that extends to other hobbies and life experiences
- Learning any artform is valuable
- Expressing your creativity is never a wasted effort
Introduction: Why Paint Miniatures?
With painting miniatures, you’re probably aware of the perception from outsiders.
“Oh, that’s a neat hobby…but, why, what for?”
Then, you have to get into the nitty-gritty about how painted miniatures are cool.
Oh, and the worst: you have to explain about how painted miniatures are better for boardgames, tabletop war games, and role playing games, like Dungeon and Dragons (colloquially known as “D-N-D”).
And…you’ve lost your audience. Their eyes have glazed over.
But, think about it some more for yourself.
There are tons of other skills and things you can do once you learn how to paint miniatures. When you get really good at painting models, you’ll find so much more enriching things you can also do. You’ll be a more versatile person.
Continue reading for the 8 things you can do when you get good at painting miniatures and models!
1. You Have a Strong Base for Enhancing Other Skills
Painting miniatures is a powerful skill. So much goes into painting miniatures or scale models that you’re bound to have picked up numerous physical skills, like fine eye-hand motor dexterity.
Anyone can paint a wall in their home. Dip the giant flat brush into the can or tray, and apply paint to a wall. Avoid making a mess. Add another coat, if necessary.
On the other hand, if you can paint miniatures, you’ve learned how to operate at a very small scale. Sure, any new miniature painter can follow a formula: prime, base coat, layer and seal.
Anyone can assemble a model or paint a mini without grasping the power of how color, contrast, and atmosphere work together to create a powerful diorama.
But, at some point, when you learn how to paint miniatures well, after you’ve gotten the practice, the hours under your belt, you can make art.
When you’ve truly engaged in the act of painting miniatures and understand what it takes to do it well, there are a lot of different activities you will find will also benefit. Painting miniatures internalizes physical and mental skills that translate to your day job.
For example, the act of writing a business letter (e.g., a simple email) requires crafting words in a similar way as applying paint. You start with an idea, adding layers (e.g., sentences) to communicate your thoughts, and do so with the intent to engage your reader (or viewer). When you’re done, you have the sense and patience to give your work the once-over to see if it needs a touch-up.
When you’re painting miniatures, you don’t just put paint on a blank canvas, you investigate the 3D space first. You strengthen your spatial abilities. You see shapes in the world around you in different ways.
Maybe, you handle your tools at work with more deft hands and eyes.
You’re able to switch your perspective in everyday things much more quickly. You solve problems faster.
And, as I’ve mentioned, there are bonus things like better concentration, patience, and perseverance. You handle adversity and become resilient to failure.
Indeed, do not underestimate the other benefits when you are good at painting miniatures.
2. You Can Make Something Tangible
Something that is tangible is perceptible by touch.
When you can create a thing that you can touch with your hands, place on a shelf, or give to someone else, you transcend our digital, throw-away culture.
Of course, you can take a photograph of some place you’ve been. Or, if you draw a place or object, you can record that experience in a two-dimension medium.
But, when you paint a miniature, you literally create a new place. A new 3D world that you can touch.
When you get good at painting miniatures, you realize that a character you’ve seen in a movie or envisioned from reading a book can become real.
Sure, you need to find the sculpt or model, but with 3D printing, you’re not too far away.
No matter what model, sculpt, or miniature you buy, print, or scratch-build…you still need to paint the model.
Science fiction, fantasy, or history.
Whatever your mind fancies, you can make come alive when you can paint miniatures. The ability to paint a blank 3D canvas changes how you manifest that thing in your head into reality.
This is probably why model railroading has a legacy. The scale models and worlds in the hobby of model trains and railroads literally recreates a smaller version of a world that exists prototypically, or simply within the creator’s imagination.
For the miniature painter, it is the same. With our skills as painters and modelers, it does not take too much effort to capture in a tangible form the ideas, visions, or thoughts of things in our heads. And, the 3D space of what we create feels right and good.
With a few exceptions, assembling a scale model or miniature is not truly finished until it has been painted.
Painting miniatures or models is slower than drawing or making a photograph, but it has a depth that is replicated in no other artistic endeavor.
When you are good at painting miniatures, you’ve learned how to make things more tangible. More real.
3. You Can Make Money
Of course, you can take your skills as a good miniature painter and sell your work.
Painting miniatures is a huge business. Game companies are always looking for good painters. They need to keep their products looking good for the consumer.
The box art and website catalogs for these companies all need miniature products painted to a high standard.
Of course, you don’t need to work at a game company studio.
Painting miniatures as a side hustle for a bit of spending money is also an opportunity if you enjoy painting and can do it well (and quickly).
I know a few painters who do very well providing their services to people who have no time to paint or don’t want to paint their models themselves.
I’ve done well myself over the years providing a commissioned painting service.
I even know people who paint roleplaying minis and sell them on eBay or Etsy without engaging with a client at all. They merely paint the miniatures and post them for sale. It works!
When you are good at painting miniatures, not only do the models turn out looking great, you’re efficient. You paint quickly.
You can paint single models to a very high quality, or blaze out a horde army (see my article about speed painting), fully ready for battle on a war gaming tabletop.
My suggestion for those who want to paint miniatures for some side money is to start small with your local community.
Some of you may think you’re not good enough to charge good prices for your painting services, but when people start asking you to paint their miniatures, it’s because they respect your work.
Test the waters. Earn a good reputation. Be a professional and the work will come to you.
4. You Can Enter Competitions or Exhibit Your Work
This is not for everyone. I generally don’t enter painting competitions.
But, for some of you, this may be fun. And, trying to take home a prize isn’t the only reason to submit your painted work to a competition. Miniature painting contests are a great way to exhibit your work to other painters and admirers.
Remember this, too. Not all painting competitions are for professional level painters. Some are designed specifically for the hobbyist who simply enjoys the painting activity and want to gauge how well they are doing. You can receive great, useful feedback about your work when you enter painting contests.
Of course, you do need a level of resilience and grit to compete (true for any contest, painting or otherwise). Suddenly, you work is in the spotlight and judgement of your effort is a real thing. Not just in your head.
When you’re good at painting miniatures, showing off your work is an opportunity to see what you and your talents are made of.
As I’ve said, it’s not for everyone. I used to submit my work to a few local events, but it never became a focus or motivation of my work painting miniatures. I’m actually not sure why…
….though I think I’ve reached a level of miniature painting competence where I could learn a lot from more competitive level painters. And, the best place to meet these masters is at these contests.
It also possible to enter online miniature painting competitions. You may find online painting contests on Facebook, Instagram, or through Twitter. I have some work posted on the Cool Mini or Not website (CMON), which lets other viewers anonymously rate your miniature painted work (1 thru 10; 10 being best).
At the end of the day, as your miniature painting skills increase, you’ll want to interact more with other artists to keep growing. Showing your work off and sharing what you’ve done is probably the easiest way to keep engaging with others in your painting community.
5. You Can Collaborate With Other Miniature Painters
This is an opportunity that arises in other art forms, such as creative writers or illustrators.
Whether you’re painting for fun or for a business, when you’re good at painting miniatures, you can work on collaborative projects.
Sharing your skills with others is a great way to leverage your abilities.
Maybe you’re really good at painting large vehicle models, but get bogged down by smaller trooper models. Maybe you can barter your strengths for the strengths of other painters.
For example, in my case, I don’t enjoy assembling models. I’ve picked up a few assembly tips and tricks along the way, but assembling kits isn’t my forte. This is especially true for resin models, e.g., Forgeworld kits, which tend to require a bit more gap filling application, and more delicate glue work.
In this case, I called on a good friend to help me assemble the tank. In return, I offered to paint something. It was a win-win situation.
In an another cool example, I painted some models for a mechanic friend, who then offered to help me replace a bad starter in my car!
Collaboration is awesome. When you’re good at painting miniatures, you can start using your skills to help others. And, maybe they can help you with something in return.
6. You Can Add Some Flair to Your Office or Home
Do you have a work desk or office that could use some decorative miniatures? Wouldn’t it be better if those toys and displays had a nice paint job?
Go paint miniatures and display them in your home. Try to keep the minis away from sunlit windows, which will fade paint and warp plastic or resin.
Or, if you have a place at work where you spend a lot of time, you can keep things lively with fully-painted models. I keep a few of my favorite D&D characters painted up and on my desk at work. I find it keeps the professional setting from getting too serious.
Your handy work with a brush expresses who you are, and the painted miniatures are a tangible reminder of what you’ve done.
They are achievements, like trophies. Seriously.
On a tough day, take a look and remind yourself of those quiet times. The simplicity of painting miniatures (when you’re good at it) is being able to go from “A” to “B”, confidently.
Life is hard. When you know you can finish something as complex as painting a miniature or model, the reminder can take the hard edge off from a bad day.
The cool part about painting miniatures for decorative purposes is that you’ll never run out. There’s always a reason to display your work.
Is there a special occasion coming up, or a holiday?
Maybe there’s a miniature that will reflect that event. Showcase it with a great paint job!
In fact, I’m sure there’s a miniature or model that will fit right into any environment where you live and work.
7. You Can Make Fancy Gifts
You can buy a gift, or you can make one from scratch.
But, why choose?
With miniatures, you can do both! Buy your friend, loved one, or any special person a miniature that you think they’ll enjoy and paint it up. I’ve received painted miniatures. And, although I love painting them myself, receiving a fully painted model was amazing.
The gift was more than the model itself; it also included the time invested into the paint job. That was what I truly cherished.
The neat part about being able to paint miniatures well, is that you can also gift your unique skills.
Offer to paint a miniature or model for someone as a gift. I’ve done this myself as a painter and I loved doing it. Because you’re gifting your painting skills, you have the opportunity to give someone more than simply a material product, you’re giving a part of yourself.
And, remember, you don’t need to paint miniatures that are deemed ready for a tabletop game or a board game. Though, I’m sure many hobbyists who paint miniatures fall into this camp.
You can create a diorama. Recreate a favorite scene from a movie, book, or show. Or create something unique from your imagination by putting together a scene with fully painted miniatures. It could be humorous or horrifying. You know best!
Do you play role playing games? Does your D&D dungeon master deserve a powerful reminder of how awesome they are for putting up with your party’s shenanigans?
Paint miniatures and give them to your group!
Painting miniatures gives you the ability to give people your time in a novel way. It creates for them a tangible expression of what you’re able to do, and they will have a reminder of how you’ve invested your thought and time for them to enjoy.
8. You Can Paint Miniatures As Self-Expression
Painting miniatures is more than a hobby.
It’s an art. Applying paint to a canvas, whether it is 2D or 3D is a form of communication.
It takes the “you parts”, and places them onto an object for others to see.
Painting miniatures is a way to voice your opinions in a visual way. The great part is that once you’re done with the project, the painted miniature keeps speaking.
I forget who said it, but when we read something written by a dead author, we hear the dead speak.
The dead speak to the living by things they leave behind, whether it’s a written work, or other creative product.
To be less melancholy, painting miniatures allows our voices to go beyond our local space.
Have you seen the art around your city or town? Maybe there’s a sculpture or statue by a civic building. It means something. It’s a symbol.
Well, your work on a miniature, small as it may be is more than simply an object. When you paint that sculpt or model, it become more.
It certainly doesn’t need to change the world. Maybe all your paintings need to do is remind you of how you change over time.
I look back on my older painted miniatures and I am reminded not only of how much struggle went into it, but also what Season it was.
For example, I have a painted 40k Rhino that reminds of a song I was listening to while a particular US Presidential Election night was coming to a close. It was an ironic song given the context.
When you’re good at painting miniatures, you can effect change on the world around you (in small or big ways), and see something you’ve done yourself. Make that things tangible; an expressive reminder and gift to yourself.
Now, go paint rocks.
I love thinking while I paint miniatures. A lot of the articles you read on this site come from the sparks of ideas I have when I’m painting.
Do you have other activities that you’ve been able to enhance through your skills as a miniature painter or modeler?
There are a lot of things you can do when you’re good at painting miniatures. Keep it up!