D&D 5E Brand New Newbie Mini-Painter for D&D

rgoodbb

Adventurer
So having just taken up the hobby, I have come to realise that the advice out there on YouTube as well as other areas on the internet can be confusing, even all over the place, and often with information at odds with each other.



On advice, I have bought:

  • Vallejo Grey Primer paint
  • Halfords Primer Spray
  • Reaper Bones starter paint set with three mini’s and a handbook on how to paint them
  • Vallejo 72 paints
  • Vallejo 8 washes
  • Citadel Flesh and Black Wash
  • Numerous brushes of differing mini size and quality
  • An abundance of Minis.


So the general consensus appears to indicate a reasonably set initial order of preparation:



  • Wash/Clean the mini of any excess printing Oils/Juice/Residue…. stuff
  • Deburr/Get rid of/smooth out any excess unwanted plastic
  • Prime (grey seems more popular than black or white although a combo of black and white also seems popular)
  • Basecoat: Paint each area, the colour you want it to end up with


At this point onwards, the advice gets a little…murky. Conflicting advice is to do any/some/all of the following in any order:



Layer Wash Drybrush Highlight



Almost all general consensus after this is:



  • Sort the Eyes out
  • Varnish for protection
So having completed a few mini’s, some of which I am reasonably happy with and others not so much, I am left with a feeling of missing a lack of good, standardised guidelines to follow.



Q Is layering just more basecoat?



Q Is a wash better with “Washes” or with watered down darker equivalent colours of what is already there?



Q Is a wash necessary at all?



Q Can you just follow a basecoat with dry brush after drybrush only?



Q Do I paint individual parts before gluing together or visa-versa?



Q Does ENWorld have an idiot’s definitive guide on D&D miniature Painting?



Ps. I am very aware of another thread called: Painting Minis; Getting Started which seems excellent, however this seems geared towards mecha painting and has some terminology that I am struggling to understand. ENWorld has in the past (and I’m sure will continue to) generate some fabulous guides. Any chance of a guide to painting D&D Minis. Maybe a Basic, and Expert and an Advance (for nostalgia’s sake)? Pictures/examples would also be welcomed.



I know this is an ask. But is anyone/group of folks willing to put something together. This seems the ideal and supportive forum for it. I know I would personally get a lot from it. Would anyone else benefit?

Cheers, rgoodbb
 

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Q Is layering just more basecoat?

A: No, layering should be done with slightly thinned paints, so that each layer doesn't completely cover the basecoat/previous layer. Done correctly you can get a very smooth gradient from the base to the highlights, but it takes some practice.


Q Is a wash better with “Washes” or with watered down darker equivalent colours of what is already there?

A: You can't really go wrong with ready made "washes" and "shade" paints. Simply thinning regular paint with water will often not make a very good wash, since it has a tendency to dry unevenly. If you want to mix your own washes you should look for a product called something like "acrylic retarder", that will make your paint dry slower for a more even result.


Q Is a wash necessary at all?

A: It's not, but washes are the fastest and easiest way to add depth to your miniatures.

Q Can you just follow a basecoat with dry brush after drybrush only?

A: You can, but unless you start with a dark basecoat, your miniatures may look like they lack shading.

Q Do I paint individual parts before gluing together or visa-versa?

A: I prefer to assemble as much as possible before painting. But sometimes painting some pieces separately is the only option if you want to be able to get paint everywhere.

Q Does ENWorld have an idiot’s definitive guide on D&D miniature Painting?

A: I don't think so.

Good luck with your painting!
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
Welcome to the hobby...

As for the other thread, feel free to join in there - it's the only current minis thread on the forum at the moment and we're happy to answer questions. Also, I'd like to invite you to join the Reaper Miniatures painting forums - it's pretty much the ENWorld of the miniature painting hobby, no negativity at all, as everyone there are good people and happy to help out beginners. (Also, a number of professional painters and sculptors regularly hang out there.)


As mentioned, everyone has their own methods of doing things, and sometimes that will also vary with the needs of the particular miniature as well.
(I personally prefer to start with the eyes right after the primer is dry, simply because they always end up taking me so damn long and I usually have to start over on them at least once. But I'm also one of the folks who primarily paints for display rather than tabletop use, so I usually spend more time on the face than most folks spend on an entire figure meant for playing with... If you're just putting on a single dot or two of paint for the eyes, you might prefer to wait until you're done with the figure and have put on a layer of sealer before doing them - it's all personal preference.)



My number one piece of advice to beginners is to completely ignore all the videos out there about advanced techniques and just focus on mastering the basics - primarily brush control. The very first thing to learn about painting minis is how to put the paint on the figure: learning how much pressure to apply with the brush, how much paint to use, learning to be able to paint good clean lines... (When I teach people to paint, I teach them to be able to paint a nice straight line without any variation in the thickness before they ever set a brush to an actual figure.)
Good clean lines are the basis of good-looking minis, and far too many beginners try to rush ahead into fancy techniques that really require you to have mastered how to slap on the paint in the first place before you can make those techniques look good.
Also, brush control is the key to both learning how to touch up your mistakes and, eventually, to smooth blending.
You can get some pretty amazing results with basic techniques like drybrushing and washes if your brush control is good.

As for your other questions, whether to start with a dark basecoat and paint up to the highlights or to start with the base color and both shade and highlight are mainly personal choices, but often can be determined by the miniature as well - particularly if a mini is either multi-part or has lots of areas that are hard to reach. And you may actually decide to do both on different parts of the same figure.
If you're painting mainly for speed - you've got twenty orcs to paint before your game tomorrow night - it's much faster to prime them black or some other dark color, then dry brush both your base coats and your highlights. Or paint in all your base coats and then just apply a wash over the whole figure to shade it before dry brushing highlights. But you might also take the time to put a few finishing touches on the more visible or important areas like faces, weapons or shield emblems. Even on a figure where you're going for quality over speed, sometimes there's an area that you just can't reach well enough to paint nicely, so you just paint it black or some other dark color so it's less noticeable.
For multi-part figures, I personally assemble the parts into several large chunks of the figure and then paint each chunk before assembling them, based on how much you can glue together without making it too hard to paint places obstructed by other parts like arms or shields.

In general, whether you start dark and paint up or start with base coats and shade/highlight, it's usually advisable to paint from the inside out - since the flesh is usually buried under clothing and armor, paint the exposed parts of the flesh first so you don't have to try not to screw up the nice job you did on the armor and clothes while simultaneously trying to reach hard-to-paint areas like faces buried inside cloak hoods or the parts of the arms that are behind a shield. Then after the flesh paint the hair sticking out from under the hood or helmet before painting the hood/helmet. Do the clothing under the armor before the armor, and then the cloak after that, etc.


Feel free to ask any other questions you might have... (I love to type really long posts that make me seem like I know lots of stuff, lol.)
 
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Stormonu

Legend
That's a lot of up front materials for just starting out, I started painting with good ol' Testor's enamels and their crappy brushes in the 80's :). I use rattle can primer, apple barrel paints & Walmart brushes these days myself - but I paint things myself only because it costs too much to get others to do it for me.

It might be helpful to look up the Warhammer related painting tutorials - though their stuff is wildly overpriced, in the past they established a lot of the painting methods used today in the miniature painting hobby. At the least, it should provide a good framework. Oh, and squidmar has some pretty good tutorials (probably better than the Warhammer ones).
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I am a “table-ready” guy not a display guy, so I just want the, to look good enough on the table in use, so not the person to give detailed advice about high quality paint jobs but here is my own approach for what it’s worth.

  • Start with a cheap and simple mini you don’t care too much about. It is good to build up towards more detailed things. And it feels great to look back and compare. My first minis were some mostl naked lizardfolk, which taught me how to drybrush green scales over black for a great textured look.
  • Like Stormonu, I use cheap paints and whatever paints i can get my hands on, craft paints, vallejo, reaper, citadel, whatever works.
  • I prime everything black. I mean, everything.
  • For me a good mini is a done mini and there will always be more, so rather than obsess (i have ruined more than one detail doing it over and over til the face looks like Eric Stoltz in Mask 😂), I move on knowing the next one will be better.
  • Invest in a mini-holder, but some blue tack and a soda bottle cap also works esp. if you end up doing like me and working on 6 to 12 minis at a time.
 


I've gotten into the mini painting hobby recently. Before I built plastic model ww2 airplanes. The only advice I can give is Vellejo, in my experience, has been the easiest paints to get the feel of. I'm going to give Army Painter a go since I ordered all their D&D line of paints. I fought really hard not to get sucked up in minis lol. My family game is what pushed me into it, so I can give the kids their own custom minis to play with.
 

pogre

Legend
Is there a chance you could get together with other more experienced painters and paint? I think the reason my children (adults now) are pretty decent painters is they grew up painting with me. They have all developed their own styles, but they could show me a miniature and ask for advice as they were learning.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Is there a chance you could get together with other more experienced painters and paint? I think the reason my children (adults now) are pretty decent painters is they grew up painting with me. They have all developed their own styles, but they could show me a miniature and ask for advice as they were learning.
I strongly second this, if it's an option for you.

I always muddled along with my minis painting, more of a hobbyist than a pro, but when I started going to paint nights at my FLGS, I really had my eyes opened to a whole gamut of techniques and even got to mess around with an airbrush for the first time (kit-bashed a zombie t-rex).

For the longest time I used a regular artist's palette, until I learned about making a wet palette – at that FLGS paint night I mentioned, then looked up details on YouTube – and that made a world of difference, allowing me to paint for a 30-45 minute window, take a break, and then return with those same color blends still "alive" on my wet palette. Very useful if you don't have long chunks of uninterrupted time to paint.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Re: priming, personally I’m a big fan of priming in black, then dry brushing in white, then painting in very thin layers and/or washes. It’s a convenient sort of cheat for creating a basic “table-ready” shading and hilighting effect.
 

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