Painting Poorly Vol. 2 - The Finishing Touches

If You Can't Handle Minis at Their Worst...

Okay, so one of the biggest things that is going to separate nice looking minis from NOT so nice looking minis is your attention to detail.  For some minis, it'll be embellishments on armor, others more major things like gold accents, but in every miniature, they are important.  Not taking time on those is like making a multi-million dollar movie with aliens and amazons and cyborgs and forgetting how to digitally remove a mustache...

Like, seriously?!?  THAT'S the BEST they could DO?!?

I mentioned it a little in the previous edition of Painting Poorly, but today we're going to be looking at some of the specific examples of what I mean when I say "Finishing Touches".  Reminder: these are my quick and down and dirty tips on how I get my results.  I never claimed to be an amazing painter.  I simply claim to be a functional one.

In General

The finishing touches are usually the smallest parts of the mini, and can sometimes require the brightest paint to make them stand out.  This is why, TYPICALLY, I paint these segments with undiluted paint, and my smallest brush with the sharpest point.  In the example below, the silver chips in Boba Fett's armor to show damage and the yellow hash marks on the side of his helmet were added after the wash had dried completely, and before the finish matte spray.

For really tricky raised detail, you could also turn the brush on its side, and use the side of the brush to catch the raised details.


Everyone loves the blood and guts part.  Everyone loves them a little TOO much, if you ask me.  Just like in a movie, a little bit of blood is more effective than DRENCHING your minis in the stuff.

There are a few different options, but if you're going the cheap route, you can get a high gloss varnish from Michael's and mix it in a 2 to 1 mix with a red paint.  Applying the blood mix AFTER you spray your mini with matte varnish will let the high gloss finish will let your blood mix dry looking nice and moist.

If you're looking to spend a little money, I suggest Tamiya Clear Red, again applying after you finish spray your mini.  You can get it for about $5, but it looks awesome and it'll last you for a long time if you don't go crazy.  You can see some of the effects below:

More is less with the Zombie above, with just enough drizzle on his mouth/chin and his open wounds and hand.


This is an easy tip.  Don't do them.  At least not the traditional way.  This is going to get me in trouble with a lot of people, but you know what?  I don't care.  I told you all in Volume 1 that I'm not a great painter, but these are some tricks that I use to make me look better than I actually am.

Eyes are some of the most difficult things to do when painting miniatures, and it takes the nerves of a damn brain surgeon to do it properly.  More often than not you're just going to BREATHE wrong and it's going to look AWFUL.  If you don't worry so much about the eyes themselves, and just let the wash/shade on the face do its job, it'll probably turn out just fine. 

"But Mike Meeple, eyes are windows to the soul!  It'll look weird if you don't do them!"

You tell me who looks weirder.  Han Solo:

I've got a baaad feeling about this...

Or my ex-girlfriend Christine:

Hey, there, Mike...  I think we should get back together...

I think I've proven my point.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule.  Visors, goggles, or distinctive eye colors or shapes that are indicative of the character.  What do I mean by that?  Well, let's look at some examples from Stuffed Fables:

Neither Flops nor Theadora would look right if you didn't color in their big black button eyes.  In situations like this, use your detail brush and hold as close to the bristles as you can, so you can have as much control as possible.


Okay, okay.  I know.  I said in Vol. 1 that you didn't HAVE to highlight your minis, and I meant that.  When you're starting off, you can usually get away with just a basecoat and a wash.  But as you grow, you'll probably start to see certain miniatures lose their POP after you put a wash on.  This is especially true for lighter colored base coats like the Imperial Officers below:

While the officer on the left looks FINE, he no longer has the same gray coloring as the unwashed officer on the right.

One of the easiest ways of adding highlights to a miniature is through DRYBRUSHING.  Drybrushing is good for adding quick, uniform highlights to a medium to large single colored section of the miniature, such as cloaks or large portions of skin or fur.  It would take forever to go in and highlight each teeny tiny fur detail, so dry brushing is a quick easy way to do it.

In order to dry brush, load up your flat or wedge shaped brush with some unthinned paint, usually the original basecoat color or even a slightly lighter color, and then brush the paint on a spare paper or the back of your hand, until there's almost no paint still on the brush.  Key word here is ALMOST.  That will leave JUST enough pigment on the brush to transfer to the highest raised details of where you're brushing.  I don't recommend drybrushing for really intricate highlights, but it's great for things like adding white highlights to Mila's cloak above.

For more specific or smaller highlights, the easiest way to apply highlights is to start from the top.  Literally.  Look at the mini from the top down, and reapply your base coat colors to anywhere the wash is lightest.

In the example of the Imperial Officers, that would be his shoulders, his hat (including the bill), and his extended arm, specifically where the clothing bunches near the elbow.  Once you're done with those easier sections, you can start on the less obvious highlights, like the top of the chest or the folds in the kilt/skirt of the officer, just pulling the color down to meet the darkened shade areas.

That just about finishes it up for finishing touches!  If you have any questions, or specific requests for me to cover in the next volume, leave them in the comments section or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.  Until next encounter!

Remember to Share, Comment, and Subscribe!
If you like what I have to say, make sure you follow me on Twitter
or on Facebook!