Unhappy or Frustrated With Miniature Painting? How to Be More Satisfied

Unhappy or Frustrated With Miniature Painting? How to Be More Satisfied - banner

Do you find yourself unhappy with your miniature painting? There are many reasons you may not be satisfied with your paintings. Maybe you’re unhappy with how the colors turned out, or thinking you used the wrong paint scheme. It could be that they made a mistake and now their piece couldn’t be used for its original intention. There are projects that took a long time to finish and you feel that you didn’t get back the time you invested. Sometimes those long hours at the hobby desk don’t feel as good as the first few when you’re excited to express your creativity.

In this article I will explain how I became satisfied with my miniature painting after being unsatisfied for so long. It all started from the idea that I would never be satisfied with my painting. This caused me to paint less and less until I just stopped painting miniatures completely for about six months.

Read on to see my thoughts about the common feeling of dissatisfaction with painting miniatures, and 7 practical tips for how to feel better about your results in miniature painting hobby.

My Experience with Disappointment with Miniature Painting Projects

Sometimes, what matters the most is the amount of effort you put into a project rather than how successful it turns out to be. To begin with, I have been working on a set of models that consist of a multitude of textures and colors which was very challenging for me. I had to work on mastering the colors and painting methods before tackling this big project.

Unhappy or Frustrated With Miniature Painting? How to Be More Satisfied - alpha legion space marines work in progress from warhammer 40k games workshop citadel painting
A new Warhammer 40k miniature painting project started out slow and sluggish. But, as I got rolling, my enthusiasm for the work improved. I think this happened in part because I stopped worrying about trying to meet the unrealistic expectations I set for myself. Of course, I still struggle, but I’m coping with the self-worry much better now.

I tried a lot of new things, such as using thinned out layers of paint, e.g., glazing to add some interesting color, and modifying my base coats with washes while focusing more on blending multiple shades together while painting skin. All of this in combination can be challenging for even the most experienced painters. However, I believe that being unsatisfied with my work was what made me put in all this effort into this project.

My Years Have Not Diminished the Fear of Failure

I have been painting miniatures for many years now and regularly display some of them on my Instagram page, but recently I stopped posting pictures of my painted miniatures on social media. This has in turn increased my satisfaction with my work.

Unhappy or Frustrated With Miniature Painting? How to Be More Satisfied - magnification brush painting models
Maybe this is a metaphor?

I have taken a break from posting pictures of the miniatures that I paint on social media to cut down my workload and also because it is satisfying enough for me to look at them myself. Admittedly, I post some of my work here as examples to help communicate my thoughts.

Removing the pressure of social media has helped me focus more on improving my painting skills rather than trying to produce perfect or amazing results all the time. Pulling back from sharing too much has taken a lot of pressure off me and also made it easier for me to enjoy painting.

I am still fearful of poor results, at least to my standard. Even though I paint a lot, I still procrastinate to avoid the anxiety of painting a model that I think may end up poorly. But, I’ve picked up a bunch of mind tricks to help me push through the negativity of my own mind.

My Current Mindset for Painting Miniatures

Now, I paint with the mindset that this will not be the best thing that I have ever painted; however, I will give it my all and learn as much as possible from this project. There is no such thing as perfect and it is important to be satisfied with what you have built up until this point of your miniature painting journey. I continue to document my work so that I will get a better feel for the true progress I’m make.

Look, I am aware that I will never be satisfied with every miniature and with every project that I have worked on, but once in a while when I look back at my old projects and see the progress I have made over the years it’s very satisfying and provides me with inspiration for future projects.

I know from experience that being unsatisfied with your painting might cause you to lose motivation and decrease your overall satisfaction. But forcing yourself to be satisfied with your work will put too much pressure on you. Being able to enjoy painting miniatures is one of the most important aspects of the tabletop gaming and painting hobby. It is something I realized in the past few years as situations reduced the ability to play games on any regular basis.

7 Practical Tips to Feel More Satisfied with Painting Miniatures

1. Embrace Imperfections

Try embracing the imperfections. Some of these imperfections may be intentional additions to the design. A lot of people don’t care for painting over mistakes with a light color or trying to make them blend in by adding more layers on top of it. If you’re not sure if a mistake is a change you intended, give it some time and see what happens. Happy accidents are real!

2. Take an Objective Look

Don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to your final work. Take a step back and judge your miniature painting with an objective perspective. Evaluate your painting’s merits based on what you were aiming for. If you wanted a dark and moody atmosphere, but ended up with something that looks happy-go-lucky, try deciding whether or not this was an intentional element or a mistake. Sometimes our painting styles emerge from the creative process.

3. Paint More, Think Less

This may come off as an oxymoron. Yet, I think it is your logical mind that creates the harsh judgement that leads to anxiety with your work. Keeping this in mind, try to paint more and not think so much about the process. Try and finish with a few editorial or judgmental thoughts as possible. Yes, it’s easier to find mistakes when you’ve made a fair share of them already. But, it is also easier to overlook mistakes when you’ve made so many, too! Patience and persistence is key here.

4. Don’t Compare

Try not to compare your work too much with others’ paintings. The most popular painters don’t always produce great works of art just because they’re famous. They are more often than not, following their own rules of art and miniatures painting. And, realize that most of the fantastic art you find online are just the tip of the iceberg. Those artists and painters are not sharing their poor results, or the ones they aren’t proud of.

Ultimately, you don’t see the hard work, suffering, and pain that other painters have gone through to achieve the results you so admire. In fact, I wish more miniature painters would share their works in progress and even the failures. I know I do (here and there!)

5. Paint for Yourself

Unless you’re in the profession of painting miniatures to meet a client’s expectations, you should focus on painting yourself. You need to focus on the reason why you paint in the first place. What is the big picture for doing any hobby? Well, it should be your contentment because that is “the why” anyone should do anything “fun”.

Try to paint for yourself if you want to get the most out of painting. If your end goal is getting a lot of appreciation or money from miniature painting, you may find yourself increasingly unsatisfied with your work over time. If you paint for yourself, your satisfaction comes from completing a painting and seeing it come to life in the form of a colored miniature model.

6. Take a Break

Burnout is a real phenomenon. There are many reasons why you should stop painting and take a break. A bit of rest and relaxation (R & R) can really put the fire back into your work and help you be more satisfied with the end result. If you are unhappy painting miniatures learn how to take a break.

I take 1-2 week breaks from miniature painting, even when I haven’t reached the end of my rope. I know that if I mindfully stop working regularly, I can prevent the dreaded drops in motivation. I’m a much steadier creator when I put rest in my routine.

Unhappy or Frustrated With Miniature Painting? How to Be More Satisfied - taking breaks is important
I should probably emphasize the need for taking regular breaks from any kind of work or hobbies. We as a human species aren’t built to work non-stop. At some point, we wear ourselves out and don’t find any personal reward for doing the things we want or need to do.

Some of us are workaholics. We think that satisfaction eludes us because we’re not working hard enough. How wrong is this thinking! Look, I understand. It’s easy to get discouraged when you haven’t painted anything for a while and then try to get back into it. Take your time with every new piece after a break to make sure you don’t rush back into it too much.

7. Focus on the Process, Not Product

Try to find joy in the journey rather than the destination. Painting miniatures is an on-going process with a need to continue until you physically can’t…. It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t reach a personal best. But it’s equally rewarding to see a miniature painting evolve from a tiny little blob of color into a well-painted piece of art.

What Would I Like to Improve in My Miniature Painting?

Okay, so I must admit there are areas in my miniature painting work that I want to improve. Would getting better in these areas make me more satisfied or happy with my painting? Maybe, but I am not going to put a lot of weight into getting much better at the moment.

If there was one thing I’d love to learn how to do with some level of competency is “free-handing”. That is, I want to be able to draw on my miniature with paint. There are many great special effects and designs that I think could take my miniature painting to another level if I could freehand better.

But, in the back of my mind, I know the amount of effort and time it would learn how to do this properly. I’m not the kind of painter who can watch videos and follow along with tutorials. I’m quite bad at focusing very long on any one topic. I think free-handing is one of those applications you need to work on daily and with concerted focus to really grasp.

Yeah, I don’t have it in me. But, that’s okay 😮‍💨.

With the idea of staying content in mind, I feel best when I’m trying to improve when my miniature painting learning is done for the sake of discovery alone. I’m content with my current skill level and abilities with a brush. I already know a lot of techniques and fun ways to paint models. I even paint minis with oil paints on a regular basis, which isn’t so conventional.

Maybe, one day, there’ll be an incentive to try even more advanced techniques, e.g., free-handing or NMM on an entire model. But, until that time, I’ll keep going with what I enjoy 😇.


How do you feel satisfied about your miniature painting, even if it’s far from perfect? There’s no simple answer. If you’re curious about the miniatures I’ve painted and feel good about, you can check out my gallery which also has links to other photos of the work I’ve done.

I hope that by sharing my experiences, ideas, and thoughts in this article it helps at least someone else to become happier and enjoy painting. This is a very rewarding hobby and I would like to invite you all to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading this article!

Are you unsatisfied with your miniature painting? Do you think that taking a break from painting will help you improve your skills? How do you feel about the models you paint? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think!

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