Tutorial: The Top Ten

y no means comprehensive, each tip in this list should give your painting at least a small boost. You may not agree with the relevance or order of each item since these have been arranged due to personal preference. Though aimed at the novice or intermediate painter, hopefully even advanced painters can glean some interesting tidbits from this article.

Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Painting
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#10 Steady Yourself and Your Work
Few of us are blessed with the rock solid hands of a surgeon. What makes matters worse is that most people have a penchant for beer, coffee, or caffeinated drinks, all of which can add a slight (and sometimes not so slight) shake to our hands. Take steps to steady your brushwork.

First and foremost, get comfortable, take a few deep breaths, and relax. Stress only adds to shakiness, so let all of that flow right out of you like the ... uh... paint on a dirty brush. Or something. Put at least one hand against the edge of your desk, but don't lean -- you don't want to strain your wrists or arms for the long periods it takes to paint a miniature.

Don't throw those foam inserts away: use them to lean the miniature against. Mount your miniature to an old paint pot or a wooden dowel with a dab from a hot glue gun. This makes it easier to hold, and therefore easier to hold stable.

Don't drink coffee while painting -- the caffeine not only will make your hands shake, it'll also increase your blood pressure and stress. If you must have caffeine, try a good tea. Needless to say, don't drink beer or other alcoholic beverages while painting.

As a corollary to that last statement, do NOT glue your miniatures to your cat. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but it really, really isn't.
#9 Less is More
There are certainly some truly wonderous techniques out there, but too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing.

Gore is an easy one to overdo. A few streaks on a weapon, or a splatter on a cheek can really add a powerful touch. Don't let it get out of your hands. Maybe it starts with a few stains on a weapon, which logically leads to a puddle on the ground beneath said weapon, and then a skull on a pike, and then an opened torso just behind a rock, and then twelve frothing rats tearing a man to shreds. What's one more severed head on the base? Before you know it, you're out stalking the neighborhood with a kitchen knife singing "The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music."

While adding more to a miniature is far easier than removing some from a miniature, know when to stop. Your miniature -- and your neighbors -- will thank you.

#8 Open Your Mind and Challenge Yourself
Don't be frightened to experiment. At worst, you dunk the miniature in acetone, but while you're scrubbing away at the little guy with an old toothbrush and rubber gloves, ask yourself, "Is this really that big of a deal to do?" No! It isn't!

Remember that if you managed to paint it once, you can paint it again. Therefore, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to strip your figure and start over. This is Zen-like: be the master of your miniature, not the other way around.

Believing this should open your mind to ask "what if" when painting. "What if I paint this human with green skin that blends to purple on the extremities! Will that look good?" Well... probably not, but try anyway! Challenge yourself. See if you can make the most off the wall ideas work. If you fail, at least you've learned something, and you have to learn to improve. Of course, if you succeed, you've still learned something (and likely boosted your ego a bit, to boot). It's a no lose situation.

Except for that poor little pewter bastard who keeps getting dunked in the acetone. Probably sucks to be him.

#7 The Right Tool for the Right Job
This applies to everything you use while painting, whether it be glue or brushes or paint. At first, this may seem contrary to #8 "Open Your Mind to Challenge Yourself," but in fact it isn't. Experimentation is a wonderful thing, and through it we learn the capabilities of our tools. When you know what the limits of a particular tool is, then you can work to expand those limits by raw skill and experimentation, or by using a different tool entirely.

For example, improve your array of brushes. While it's in theory possible to base coat a miniature with the same brush you use to dot irises in eyes, you wouldn't want to do that. It's inefficient, a waste of a good brush, and a waste of your time. Use the right tool for the eyes (the smaller brush, or one with a very fine point) and the right tool for basecoating (a larger brush, or one with a wider tip). You've used experimentation to learn what's possible. Now use the right tools to make what's possible more efficient.

There's some blatantly obvious points one could make here. You wouldn't use wood glue to securely fasten two parts of a heavy pewter figure together, would you? Right tool for the right job. But here's a controversial point: Buy better paints. Many make the argument that they can paint to a high level of quality with poor grain paints such as Apple Barrel. While this may or may not be true, a poor quality paint is a handicap. The type of paint is not for the benefit of the miniature, it's for the benefit of the painter and to make his/her work easier to accomplish. That statement can be easily expanded: the type of tool is not for the benefit of the miniature, but for the benefit of the modeler.

Making your work easier with the right tool means it's easier for your creativity to flow.

#6 Avoid Drybrushing
Don't drybrush unless you absolutely have no choice. Drybrushing is a time-saving technique, not one based on achieving a quality appearance. This is not to say that drybrushing is never appropriate, but you will far more often benefit from avoiding it. Save drybrushing for heavily textured but ill-defined areas such as fur, hair, and basing.

In fact, avoiding drybrushing on even the roughest of areas often makes for some interesting effects. Try "anime style" highlights on hair, for example, as I did with the Reaper miniature Terezinya, Necromancer (in the gallery).

...and (drumroll please) the top five on the next page.

If you found this tutorial helpful, why not donate to Necrotales to let me know?

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