Painting for Yourself

Posted by Chris Hobday on

Gustav Corbet Self Portrait

When it comes to miniature painting, maybe we should worry less about competing with the masters and focus instead on just enjoying the process.


OK, I’ll be honest. I’m not a good painter. I’m fast and some of my minis might look alright from ten feet away, but get close and you’ll see how scrappy the execution tends to be. Not always, of course; sometimes I can push myself and come up with something that’s actually not too bad. But more often than not the miniatures I produce have a paintjob that can best be described as rough and ready.

Chris MeekRebel Taskmaster

Don't get too close!

The thing is, I’m content with this. I’d love to be able to paint like the astounding superhuman geniuses whose work burns bright on social media, and I get a lot of joy looking at their work. I own a fantastic painting guide by Angel Giraldez and while it helped me improve, I’m still light years behind anything of that standard. Exposure to this kind of talent certainly helps the rest of us develop better technique as we squint at the pics and marvel at the smooth transitions and detail work. But I know that I’ve reached a plateau from which I can’t really rise without herculean effort, and just as I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be able to sing like Chris Cornell, play guitar like Billy Corgan or dance like Michael Stipe (OK, maybe I can dance like Michael Stipe) I’m also happy to admit that I’m just not gonna ‘git gud’ at this aspect of the hobby.

Angel Giraldez Infinity Seraph TAG

Angel Giraldez is renowned for his world-class paintjobs. Just look at it!

The beauty of the hobby is that it’s broad enough for us all to focus on the aspects we enjoy the most. We shouldn’t feel pressure to paint models if we don’t want to. But some people simply bail on painting not because they hate it but because they feel pressure to attain a level that they think is beyond them. They see the stunning achievements of Samuel Benson or any of the brilliant artists who are constantly redefining what’s possible with a paintbrush and say, ‘I can’t compete with that so I’ll just stick with bare metal or plastic.’

Samuel Benson is just bonkers. I think he might be from the future.

I always think that’s a shame, because the point of painting a miniature is not always to impress one’s fellow gamers. Sitting down and applying paint to a mini is a wonderfully relaxing thing, truly therapeutic, a surefire way of letting the stress of the day just melt away. There’s solid psychology behind this too. When you’re fully immersed in a task you can enter what’s called flow which enables you to operate on a whole different level. You’re calmer, more productive and less angst-ridden. Until you start on the 39th Ork, and then you probably snap. But that’s understandable.

A small squad of Ork Boyz. No, really. That is a Small. Squad. Of. Ork. Boyz.

Painting your minis isn’t just a good thing for hippy reasons. It’s also financially sensible. If all you do is buy and assemble miniatures, you’re going to be scouring the internet for more shinies before the glue’s dried. But the painting process interrupts the desire to buy all the things, slowing down the accumulation of models. Sure, you need to buy paints, but they tend to cost less than armies, don’t they?

Reaper Bones

It's fine. I'll paint them tomorrow.

Then there’s the sheer joy of self-expression that we discover through painting. We might often follow the herd when it comes to colour schemes, but even if we do, we tend to add a bit of flair to set our models apart. That said, I love seeing fresh takes on colour schemes - check out Riotgrrl Painting to see how radical vision and technical skill go hand-in-hand in producing something truly spectacular - and I like how the community encourages those who put so much passion into their work. Sure, seeing these paintjobs might be humbling for those of us without that kind of talent, but we often forget how friendly our gaming communities are. Even if we show up with an army that’s simply been undercoated, washed and drybrushed in a lunch break, our opponents will appreciate the effort. They might even praise our choice of colours. There’s always something positive to say about any labour of love, right?

Riotgrrl Painting Szalamandra Infinity Corvus Belli

Mind-blowing and awesome stuff from Riotgrrl Painting.

It would be great to hear what drives you as miniature painters. Maybe you’re one of those crazy people (like me) who even paints pre-painted X-Wing models. However you feel about giving a metal dude a lick of paint, the floor is now yours! Do you strive for excellence, paint for fun or is it an aspect of the hobby you tend to ignore? 



While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Art of War Studios Black Friday sale which goes live on Friday. So if you play Necromunda, Guild Ball, X-Wing 2.0, Nightvault, KeyForge, Kill Team, Infinity and more, stop by the website and take advantage of some amazing deals!


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  • Hi – really enjoyed this post. At heart, I’m definitely more of a painter than a gamer (although Necromunda and Warhammer Underworlds have helped with allowing me to play more games given model count is not an issue). One of the most helpful advice I can give to fellow gamers who find painting a bit daunting is to keep the paint job neat (i.e. thin coats, taking care to paint over any mistakes and use wash/ink to effectively ‘hide’ minor mistakes made between two areas of a miniature). A neat paint job will always earn some praise. Keep the fancy techniques to a minimal and don’t try to paint outside your ability. With the exception of truly masterclass painters, treat it as a craft more than an art and you’ll find your ability/confidence to grow gradually over time.

    You’re always your worst critic when it comes to painting.

    Louis on

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