Whether you’re a traveling wargamer or just a hobbyist who likes to paint miniatures, there’s always the challenge of how to set up your painting area when you’re away from home. I recently attended a gaming convention and brought my miniature painting supplies with me, so I thought I’d share my experience (and some solutions) for anyone else who might be in the same situation.
Hotel room miniature painting can be challenging, but with some careful planning it can definitely be done! Read on to learn more about the challenges, compromises, and tips for making it work.
Your miniature painting hobby may be a bit unconventional when you’re traveling but if you plan carefully and bring the right supplies, you can turn any hotel room into your own personal mini painting studio.
SUMMARY (Tl;DR): Tips for Traveling WITH YOUR MINIATURE PAINTING HOBBY
- Bring only the hobby essentials like glue, brush soap, paint colors, wet palette, brushes, etc.
- Rely on hotel amenities as much as possible, e.g., wash cup, paper towel, dry palettes
- Learn to surface prime models with a regular paint brush
- Take a compact, portable hobby light with you
- Pack light and stay organized
Why I decided to bring my painting supplies with me to a gaming convention
I attended a tabletop hobby gaming convention that was an absolute blast! But after a full day of exploring, adventuring and playing at the con, I wanted something to counterbalance all the thrills.
Maybe, some quiet time with a brush, some music and a cup of coffee would work? I knew that if I took my miniature painting supplies with me, I could get a few hours of focused painting done.
That’s why I decided to bring my miniature painting supplies with me. And while it was challenging, I’m glad that I did.
For me, miniature painting is a way to decompress after all the crowds and excitement of the show by allowing me to indulge in something sentimental and worthwhile.
Not only was it enjoyable having some captive free time to focus on a project when I returned to my hotel room each night.
How long are you staying away from home?
Hey, so before I get into more nuts and bolts, I think it’s important to note that the amount of time you spend painting away from home has a huge impact on the supplies that you will need to bring with you.
If you are only going to be away from home for a 2 or 3 days, then you may not want to bring any supplies with you at all. Just come to grips that you’re not painting anything for those few days. There’s no getting around the fact that taking miniature painting stuff with you anywhere by car, train, or plane won’t be as simple you may think it is.
On the other hand, if you are going to be away from home for a several days, even a week or longer then it may make more sense to bring some supplies along with you. The good (or bad) news is that you probably won’t have time to paint as many models as you think…. So taking less “stuff” with you may actually be a better option.
How to Decide What to Bring or Leave at Home
Compromises will be made. To know exactly whether you should cut or include supplies will depend on several factors:
- Size and Weight: Consider the size and weight of the items you need to transport. A few light and portable items like paintbrushes, small containers of paints, small containers of glue or putty, and a wet palette are going to be much easier to transport than a large airbrush system and a heavy drying cabinet.
- Time: How long will you be away from home? For me it was just for the weekend but if I had been away for an entire week, then I would have had to bring more supplies with me.
- Project scope: What projects will you be focusing on? Are you hoping to paint some things casually? I know that I wanted to have something simple to paint during the downtime in the evenings, so my project needs weren’t demanding. However, if you’re planning on completing larger scale projects then you will need to bring more supplies.
- Space limitations: How much space will you have in the hotel room? Will you have roommates? Is there a desk or table you can use and how big is it?
- Budget: The last factor to consider is budget. When you travel, there are certain things that can help you out a lot! For instance, a small travel lamp, an organizer, and a hobby case would all help to keep your supplies organized and safe. But these things cost money and depending on how often you need them, will determine whether they are worth buying. You could get away with zip lock bags, cardboard boxes, or a simple foam-lined hard case (they come in many sizes and makes) that you retrofit to store your stuff while you travel.
10 Challenges to Consider When Painting Miniatures in a Hotel Room
- Limited space to set up painting area
- Poor lighting for accurate color judgement
- Lack of desk space to lay out supplies
- Not enough room to spread out without bothering roommates
- Having to travel light and stay organized with tools and paints
- Air travel can cause some paints to separate or leak from their bottles (source)
- Unfamiliar surroundings can affect comfort level
- Being unable to use airbrush due to traveling restrictions
- Possibility of disturbing others in the hotel with noise or bright lights
- Risk of damaging items or furniture in the hotel room from hobby supplies, e.g., hobby knives, paint solvents, glues
The Challenges I Experienced Painting at Local Convention in my Hotel Room
A hotel room provides a space to crash after a long day at a convention, but painting miniatures in that same hotel room presents quite the challenge!
I attended a tabletop hobby gaming convention recently and wanted to make use of what little downtime I could find to work on my miniatures.
But since I was traveling from state-to-state, my airbrush was not an option and I lacked the desk space normally available for me to lay out all my painting supplies–I’ve been to this convention center hotel before so I knew the space.
Not only that, but poor lighting for accurate color judgement meant I had to be extra careful when mixing and blending. The lights in a hotel room are great for that cozy ambience and home-y feel, but less than ideal for painting miniatures.
RELATED: NEED A PORTABLE MINIATURE PAINTING LIGHT? CHECK OUT THIS TINY LAMP
“MINIMALISM” IS THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL WITH YOUR MINIATURE PAINTING HOBBY
To combat this situation I did my best to travel with minimal supplies, with an organized set of paints, brushes, and tools that provided me with as much artistic freedom as possible in the given circumstances.
Note that I had the entire room to myself, so I didn’t have to worry about bothering my roommates or being too loud, knocking things around, or having the lights on too bright.
I was also able to spread out my stuff across the desk and countertops. You may not have this luxury , so it’s best to be considerate of your roommates.
How to travel with your miniatures and hobby supplies?
Some miniatures you take with you may be unassembled and still new in box (NIB). In this case, taking the models with you is easy–stick the box(es) in your suitcase or luggage and they will be safe when you arrive.
On the other hand, if your models are assembled and you plan to paint them at the convention or meeting, then you’ll need a good way to safely pack them away to travel. This is especially important when your models have paint on them already, and are a work-in-progress (without varnish).
Acrylic hobby paint on a model is a fragile–that thin layer of color can easily rub off or chip if you pack them away haphazardly.
PORTABLE MINIATURE STORAGE AND TRAVEL SOLUTIONS (TIPS)
My recommendation is to get a good miniature carry case that uses foam or some soft material to keep your models safe and secure.
There are many types of miniature transport cases and bags you can choose from. I went with a Citadel Case using their proprietary foam trays.
Magnetic Travel Systems for Miniatures and Models?
I’ll note that there are more advanced ways to take your models with you, including magnetic tray storage systems. These are great because they provide a secure way to lock in your miniatures while they are inside the transport bag.
With a good setup, you can pack and deploy your painted models easily and quickly, without pushing and tugging at the delicate surfaces.
However, the disadvantage of magnetic carry cases and tray systems is that they are generally much heavier, and larger to take with you. They are also much more expensive than regular cases. Additionally, they require manual setup and installation (most magnetic cases do).
While this may be a good option for people who need to transport large amounts of hobby “hardware”, if you are just looking for a way to keep your models safe and sound on the road, this may be an overkill .
As you may already know, too–You’ll also have to glue the small, but powerful neodymium magnets to the bases of your miniatures before you travel. If you’ve already assembled you miniature army and have magnets glue on, these systems are the way to go.
Regular cases and backpacks are a more feasible option for those who are looking for convenience. They are lighter, less expensive, and require minimal setup.
Quick Tips for Traveling with your Miniature Painting Hobby
- Traveling with miniatures and painting supplies can be done by packing them in a suitcase or luggage if they are still unassembled and new in box.
- To protect the models while they are on the road, it is best to use a miniature carry case that uses foam or some other soft material to keep the models safe and secure.
- More advanced methods of transport include magnetic tray systems which provide a secure way to lock in the miniatures while they are inside the bag, but are heavier and require additional preparation before traveling.
- Stay organized with your tools and paints when traveling–a portable hobby workstation can help you stay organized and keep your items secure
- Travel lightly and safely with your miniatures, as well as a few basic supplies such as paint brushes, paints, tweezers, scissors etc. to avoid any hassle or missing items
- Be mindful of any restrictions that may affect your ability to use an airbrush (I generally don’t recommend bringing any spray application supplies)
- Protect the items in the hotel room from hobby supplies by using protective mats and covers where possible–clean up after yourselves
How I overcame traveling limitations with my miniature painting hobby
Traveling with my miniature painting supplies proved to be an exciting challenge for me. I knew that it was important to bring a travel ready painting case. Inside, I packed everything that I would need to get the miniatures completed at the convention.
Before I arrived at the hotel, I knew that I needed a suitable workspace and lighting to make sure that my painting was as accurate and tidy as possible. To help me achieve this, I recommend having a hobby paint station which is lightweight and has enough room for your mini painting supplies.
Additionally, your travel case or whatever means you take your hobby supplies with you should have designated compartments for each type of supply–i.e., paint, glue, primer, rag for wiping away dried paint splotches, hobby knife, etc.
Essential Supplies and Equipment
I also will tell you that having your paint bottles and pots stored inside an extra-large plastic zipper bag with everything you need for your project is invaluable. These are the zip lock bags that I use.
Make sure you take a portable hobby lamp for extra lighting; you’ll need it!
Bring a small wet palette (or none at all if you don’t tend to use them) and keep your sponge damp, not soaked to avoid the mess of moving it around. Although toilet paper and tissues are a good standby for a paper towel, these paper products can shed tiny paper-fibers and lint into your paints, which make for a horrid experience.
Bring your own paper towels or an actual towel to wipe your brushes between color changes or when you wash the bristles.
Bring your best brushes that you’re prepared to damage. Traveling with brushes is easy, if you have a way to protect them. Either use paint brush tubes, brush carry cases, or the plastic tube caps that you place over the bristles and ferrule to keep them safe.
MOnEY SAVING Tip: Clean Your Room
You don’t need me to tell you that you should clean up your mess and don’t leave a disaster behind you. I’m sure you left a deposit for the room, and getting that money back is a must.
Wipe down countertops, desks, and pay special attention to the sink and anywhere you’ve been washing your brushes and supplies.
Make sure to do a full sweep of the room and dust off any little pieces of debris or paint flecks that may have ended up on the floor or furniture.
Did you get paint on the room towels? Try your best to wash those paint stains off. While I’m sure there are worse things to leave behind on a towel, I respect the hard work that the hotel staff puts into making sure that all of their guests have a clean, comfortable stay.
Bonus tip: To avoid losing your stuff when it comes time to clean up and check-out of your room, make sure you stay organized. Go through your things and put them all in their proper place in your bag, case, whatever.
Although losing a paint bottle, or a brush isn’t the end of the world, it’s kind of annoying to arrive home and realize that something is missing.
So stay organized and don’t forget to double check your things before you leave!
Well, what did you think?
Do you think it was worth bringing my hobby paint supplies to a convention? Did painting a hotel room scratch the itch to get something painted while away from home?
Absolutely, yes! Overall, I’m really glad I decided to bring my miniature painting supplies with me to the convention. It was a great way to relax in between all of the excitement and fun of the convention itself.
Even though there were some challenges that I had to overcome, it was ultimately very rewarding and satisfying to finish painting my miniatures. If you’re considering bringing your own tabletop gaming supplies with you on a trip, I would definitely recommend it – just be prepared for some potential obstacles along the way!
Thanks for reading! Until next time, happy painting!
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