As a commission miniature painter, there are projects you shouldn’t take due to the immensity of the work. You only have so much time in your day for the side gigs. You trade time for money, but when it comes to painting miniatures, the exchange is often an unfair. This is particularly true if you get a bad client. Painting miniatures, even as a professional brush for hire, needs to come with a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment, too! A bad miniature painting client takes away the joy of painting miniatures.
In this article, I briefly share my thoughts on what makes a bad or good client for a commissioned miniature painting project, as well as my experience with one of the largest commissions projects I’ve completed.
This project included a large number of Warhammer 40k Tyranid miniatures painted to a good tabletop standard. You may find some of these painted Tyranid models in my painting gallery, which I update regularly. Continue reading to learn more about what makes a good or bad miniature painting client, and insider thoughts into a big Warhammer 40k project.
Do you like a good miniature painting challenge?
Let’s say you’re given a large number Warhammer models and need to complete the paintjob in a specific time window. You’re a pro right? As a commissioned miniature painter, you take the jobs as they come. Sometimes you get amazing clients who are reasonable with their expectations and give you the creative freedom to have fun with the project, e.g., color scheme, technique.
But, then once in a while, you get a monster for a client. What makes a horrifying client? Well, high expectations coupled with flaky instructions is a start. Then, tack on vacillating decision-making on what the color scheme should look like, even after you’ve started the painting.
Another bad element I’ve had to deal with is delayed payment due to a number of excuses, including new financial trouble. Look, I understand how finances are tight. But, when you have an expensive hobby (e.g., Warhammer) and ask someone to provide a service on top of your original expenditure, that’s being irresponsible.
How do I handle a “bad client”?
I’m a professional. If I accept a project, I will finish it no matter what. I hate starting things I can’t finish. There’s something awful about loose ends. Kind of like playing computer role playing game and trying to finish all the side quests along with the main story line. If I open a quest line, I will do whatever I can to complete the story.
When it comes to “bad clients”, I approach the project the same way. I will get the job done to the best of my ability, even if it costs me extra time and money that isn’t compensated at the end. Some may disagree that this is a bad business practice, but this keeps my hands clean of any hard feelings from my side of the business table.
After the job is complete, I am free to make new, clear decisions. In this case, with a client whose project did not sit well with me, I will end the business relationship. I will do this even if I know there aren’t anymore projects lined up. I simply don’t need the hassle.
Lastly, I do not complain about bad clients in public unless theft occurs (this has not happened, but I know others who have been burned). When I refer to theft, I mean when a client refuses to pay the agreed amount for the miniature painting service. There are no real repercussions for the client, other than losing the models that the painter-for-hire has been working on.
Here’s what a “good client” looks like for a miniature painting project
I love a good miniature painting challenge. When I receive a project that looks difficult to anyone else, I’m always tempted to take it even if I know I’ll make a poor return on my time investment. For me, miniature painting commissions allow me to paint things that I would never do for myself.
Here, the client asked me to paint a very large Tyranid army.
The project included painting 320 termagants/hormagaunts. Of course, I accepted the job in my mind before I knew how much I would charge for the service (I often figure this out based on things like painting quality and complexity of the project, e.g., freehanding, decals, color scheme).
On top of the sheer number of models in the commission project, I had some concerns with the timeline and painting quality. But, after a brief chat the client, I was given a reasonable amount of time to complete the project (up to 6 months!) and had quite of bit of creative freedom in how to approach the paint job.
It helped that I had a good reputation with other clients who gave a good testimony about my prior work.
And, this is what I considered a great miniature painting client. This client gave me the proper time and liberty to paint using my natural approach and techniques. Not only would I be able to devote the proper time to doing the best work, but I could also explore ways to make the miniatures look really good.
Forget the amount of money you’re paid for painting miniatures. The best clients allow you to be an artist while meeting the challenge. In this project, I had literally hundreds of models to paint. But, I would enjoy the process without the pressure.
Quick overview for the Warhammer 40k Tyranid painting commission
A quick word about Tyranid miniatures: Tyranids are a fascinating alien race that originally hail from the far reaches of the 40k Universe, invading the other regions of other species like locusts, leaving behind barren worlds in their wake. The fluff/lore of this army is compelling and deep. Many of the best stories in the GW Black Library tell of the horrors of Tyranid invasions.
This isn’t necessarily a tutorial of how I painted these models, but more of a principled overview. For this project, I had to adjust my workflow to accommodate the huge number of models. I didn’t want to sacrifice quality, so I had to work out a way to efficiently get the base coat paint on.
To work efficiently on a lot of models, every time you apply a brushstroke, it has to be as close to perfect as possible. Any small mistakes and you’re wasting time. The project involved a litany: make every brushstroke important. Ultimately, this became a test of my patience, perseverance, and proof for myself that I’ve got the guts and mentality to finish very big jobs.
…I was sure to use an airbrush to speed things up, too.
Quick pro tips about airbrushing:
- Don’t use an airbrush for large projects unless you’re prepared to maintain your airbrush so it doesn’t clog
- Use an airbrush with a nozzle size of 3mm or bigger to paint efficiently (here are my favorite workhorse airbrushes)
- Use a proper model paint thinner for airbrushing normal hobby paints, e.g., Citadel, P3, Army Painter, Scale 75 paints
How long does it take to finish a large Warhammer 40k miniature painting project?
Time-wise, it took me about 10-20 minutes to paint a single termagant-sized model to get to a decent tabletop standard (minimum 3 colors, a wash, and basing). I had a system in place at this point. Total time to completion was between 150-200 hours over 3 months. I watched or listened to the entire 7 seasons of the 24 TV show (Kiefer Sutherland/Jack Bauer became my mini painting muse!).
I loved how easy listening to the 24 TV show was for painting miniatures. And, I will always associate the 24 open credit montage with this Tyranid project, the paint color scheme, and the sweet smell of airbrushed paint (e.g., Vallejo model air paints have a fruity fragrance).
In hindsight, I should have taken more photographs! But, seriously, who has time for photos? You can check out my Flickr page for a review of my miniature painting work over the years.
A bad client is never worth the money when it comes to miniature painting commissions. A good client is someone who accepts that painting models for money is a hobby side gig, and something that requires a bit of artistic license to do well.
I’m happy to report that almost all of the commissions projects are from people who understand that I don’t make a living off painting models and minis. I do it for fun and the ultimate challenge of pushing my skills and abilities beyond what I would do with my model collection(s).
If you’re a commissioned miniature painter, or someone who has/will hire someone to paint your models, keep in mind that miniature painting activity should remain enjoyable for everyone involved.
I hope you enjoyed this read. I look forward to sharing more of my experience soon!