On the Painting Table

Not only am I a lazy painter, I’m also conservative and don’t normally change a technique if it works. Nonetheless, I have recently become a bit dissatisfied with my very limited set of skills. Basically, what I do is apply two layers of basecoat, paint the details, apply a wash, varnish. That’s it. This works ok for 15mm, but with 28mm figures, it tends to look a bit sloppy. However, reading about all this fancy shading and highlighting stuff always left me intimitated and being a bit colourblind, I often can’t even tell the difference between photographs of different stages of the painting progress as seen in glossy magazines!

Fortunately, my mate Sigur is a real wizard with the brush – in fact, he’s so good he runs his own figure painting studio, Battle Brush Studios. Two weeks ago, he offered to drop by for an afternoon and give me some basic hands-on introduction into miniature painting. He ended up spending several hours showing me how to layer the colours, how to apply highlights and shading and how to do tricky bits like black surfaces or hair. I have to say that several lights dawned on me when I watched him! Things are so much more comprehensible when someone actually shows and explains them and when you can ask questions. Sigur is a great teacher – maybe he will start to offer workshops. I for one would certainly attend.

This fox from the fantastic Oathsworn Miniatures range was started by Sigur and finished by me. The tunic, the bow, the quiver and the arrows were my first attempts at painting highlights and I think it looks ok.

I’ve slowly started trying the new techniques on some spare Mexican figures. It’s slower than my usual routine, but it’s also fun and rewarding, even if the result is not always as good as I’d wish it to be.


I’m also going to try it on some 15mm figures – there are some more crewmembers for the ship I want to paint.

I’m a gamer at heart and my primary objective has always been to get stuff ready for gaming. I certainly have no ambition to become a first-rate figure painter. It is, however, nice to add new skills to my repertoire and to be able to actually choose what to do (instead of having to default to the one thing I’m capable of). I don’t have to paint highlights, but now I feel I can if I fancy doing it.

Thanks again Sigur for showing me some techniques. Sometimes, old dogs do learn new tricks!

Apart from the painting, I’ve done some quick terrain building for our ACW games. I’ve made two decrepit huts and started to build an emplacment for a large gun guarding the coast or a river.


8 thoughts on “On the Painting Table

  1. Mikko February 3, 2017 / 11:57 am

    Nice work, you’re definitely on the right path! I’ve always enjoyed having someone teach me new things, and having taught some of my friends the basics of painting, I’ve found that it’s really rewarding. Even very small steps in improving can make an immense difference on the finished product.

  2. Nicholas Caldwell February 3, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    Ironically I’m trying to learn to paint LESS details on my 15mm — it’s too easy to try to paint them like larger models! But with the smaller scale, it’s really wasted unless you get REALLY close to the miniatures — and as you say, the primary objective is to game with them.

    That doesn’t take away from your achievement in the slightest! I wish I had a Sigur near me to teach me some new tricks. Nicely done!

  3. stevebaker636 February 3, 2017 / 11:34 pm

    The thing that kinda bothers me about the “shading” thing is that it shouldn’t be necessary.

    The folds in a cloak, say. In the real world, the cloak is all one solid color of cloth. The shape of the folds causes sunlight to cast shadows and make shiney highlights. But on a nicely sculpted miniature, the cloak also has folds – which ought to cast the exact same shadows and make the exact same highlights as the real cloak did – without you having to paint them.

    But worse than that – when you paint in shadows with darker paint – you’re adding more shadow to what would already be shadowed. And worse still, you’re making the shadows as if the light is coming from a particular direction – which is kinda “fighting” the shadows and highlights coming from the actual light cast onto the gaming table.

    I think my conclusion is that we do this to compensate for unnaturally even indoor lighting around the gaming table – and that if we used a strong, single light for lighting the gaming table, you wouldn’t need to paint in those shadows. Of course we don’t want to do that because giant 70′ tall monsters are standing around the field of battle blotting out the sun with their bulk! But maybe if we mounted a powerful light on a stick clamped to one corner of the gaming table, everything would look much better?

    But then that makes me wonder why we don’t paint in shadows cast by buildings – or by a figurine onto it’s base?

    I think we’re somehow missing a level of realism here…and it bothers me!

  4. daggerandbrush February 3, 2017 / 11:52 pm

    Both the miniature and the buildings look very good. I, too, tend to get stuck with one painting technique, but lately branched out in trying my hand at new stuff to paint faster and get better transitions. It always helps if you have someone over to help you or a good YouTube clip or written tut. You could focus on characters and paint them with the new technique and use your usual one on the bulk. This could be a good compromise.

  5. Pete S/ SP February 4, 2017 / 2:04 am

    You have a talented friend who is evidendtly a great teacher as that fox guy is great. I’m rather taken with your ACW gun pit too.



  6. cptshandy February 5, 2017 / 6:38 pm

    I’m just back from a weekend away and chuffed by all the encouraging comments – thanks guys!

    Concerning shading: I concur that insufficient lighting is a problem, at least in our living room (where we play). I really would like to try to game outside once… alas during this years summer gaming event it was too hot to put the table into the direct sun, maybe next year.

  7. Michael Peterson February 9, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    Sigur is a very talented painter – I enjoy following him on Twitter – and you are fortunate to have a great mentor in him. The highlighting efforts you did on that fox figure make it look even better.
    I too am torn between a desire to paint as best I can and to constantly improve, vs. getting figures on the table to actually use in whatever life span I have left. If all I did was paint, then I wouldn’t be a gamer, but the pleasure of the gaming experience for me is visual, so, it’s a tricky balance.
    I do believe we need to aim for a style that is our own. I recall someone complaining that there was a single style, inspired by the likes of Dallimore and other experts, that was dominating the hobby, and I don’t think we need or want just one standard. Painting should be a very personal thing.
    I quite admire your scratch built ACW terrain pieces!

    • cptshandy February 9, 2017 / 4:46 pm

      Thank you Michael! I agree about the personal style – I’ve been quite intimidated by the images I’ve seen of excellently painted figures and I sometimes have a preference for a simple ‘old school’ style of painting (and modeling). Finding out what works best for oneself, from an aesthetic as well as from a practical standpoint, seems like a good way to guarantee the continuous enjoyment of the hobby!

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