Painting miniatures quickly and to a decent table top standard.

#StuffOnMyDesk 2016/11/10

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a few hundred models that need paint slapped on them. It’s also safe to say that there are others like me who have a few hundred models on order too. It’s especially easy to have that happen with so many Kickstarter projects that just churn out the models. This year I’m expecting Massmorra, Dark Souls, Mythic Battles, Kingdom Death, among others. So with time at a premium I need to find a way to get the bulk (rank and file) models painted up to a decent table top standard fairly quickly or I’ll never get anything done.

Enter Army Painter…

Painting basics

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, I’m no pro. I rate myself as decidedly average. I do, however, know theory. So let’s cover some of that first. The ‘trick’ to painting miniatures is to try to exaggerate the details. To make things stand out to the eye.

Painting miniatures quickly
I did this outside where my patio gives everything a green tint so please bear with me.

If you look at an unpainted model, up close, you can see the details. If you are looking at the same model on the table the details are lost so you need to make them pop. The way to do that is to add shadows to the details and then add highlights on the points that the light should catch. This makes the details stand out to the human eye at a distance. The techniques of doing this is call Shading and Highlighting. There are various methods of doing this and I’m not going to go into detail here.

Base colours

The first thing that you need to decide is what your main colours for the models are. In this case I spray primed my Lost Patrol Genestealers with Army Painter Skeleton Bone Primer. Then I used a pink to paint in some places that should be flesh (heads, and hands) finally I use red on the tongues. I left the eyes bone though, I figured they would not get too much attention.

Painting miniatures quickly
It’s actually playable with just the base colours but it does look a little flat. Note the lines in the elbow joints, between the fingers and the veins on the head.

I could have added in more colours here but I had 18 models to paint and I just wanted them done ASAP.

Quick Shade

One of the easy methods of providing shading to models is to apply a wash to them. A wash is a type of paint that is very thin and flows into the recesses of the model where it creates shadows. Normally you would shade each section of a model with a matching shade colour but you can get away with a brown or (sometimes) black wash across an entire model.

Army painter have developed a series of washes called quick shade. They are essentially brown washes in 3 different colour intensities. Light, medium and dark. I went with the medium option.

Painting miniatures quickly
Now look at the lines in the elbow joints, between the fingers and the veins on the head.

The instructions for the use of the shade are for you to dip the entire model into the pot and then shake the excess off and leave it to dry. This just sounds very messy and since this stuff is expensive, it is also wasteful. I opted to brush the wash onto the models. In addition to being able to cover more models, I’ll have more control over what happens.

Using an old brush I essentially painted the entire model with the shade. To speed the process up I stuck the models onto some cardboard boxes that I had. This way I could paint them faster without having to touch the models themselves.

Painting miniatures quickly
You can clearly see the high gloss of the shade, but you can also see how it darkens the recesses along the spine.


By its nature the shade is actually a really strong varnish. It is good that the models will have extra protection however it does cure to a high gloss. I can see where that would be handy but not in this case.

Painting miniatures quickly
I’ve hit the models with my varnish and left them to dry.

I used Citadel’s Purity Seal varnish to tone things down. It’s a satin varnish and it worked like a charm. Once the models were dry the details actually started to pop. At this stage I should have gone back to highlight the models. Just to touch up the raised bits with a lighter shade of the base colour but I was actually happy with them. The details were not awesome from a distance but they stood out enough to make them look a lot better while we were playing. Also in game these models won’t be the focal point so I could get away with it.

I did go back and paint the bases to match the Scouts which I painted the long way. 5 scouts took longer to paint that the 18 other models! Mind you they did have a lot more detail that required a lot more individual colours. Although they are not “finished” but I’m done with them. All in all I must have spent the better part of a weekend on these. Using this method you can easily get 30-40 models to table top quality over the course of a weekend.

Painting miniatures quickly
The finished product (bar the base) I really like it.

Tips & observations

Regular miniature paints are water based acrylic paints. This means they can wash away with water. Army painter Quick shade is a polyurethane. If you want to clean up any mess you will need thinners/mineral turpentine. Additionally there’s going to be some fumes that can make you dizzy so:

  • Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. I was outside on my patio but a room with windows and doors open should do.
  • Cover everything with newspaper or something to make clean up easier. The container needs a good shake every so often so when you put the lid down it will drip onto the surface it is on.
  • Use an old brush because it will get damaged.
  • After you paint a model go back and have a look at the last 3-4 models that you have done. The shade has a tendency to pool and collect. You want to spread those out or wipe them off with your brush so you don’t get tide marks or bubbles on your models. You’ve got about 40 or so seconds before it’s too late to go back. Go back constantly to tidy up.
  • Consider getting gloves, getting this stuff on your fingers is nasty if you don’t have solvents to clean it off. Also if your fingers are messed and your phone rings you will be in a real sticky situation. I have decided to get a bulk box of disposable gloves from the local chemist.
  • Have some place to leave the models where they won’t be disturbed and nothing can fall on them and possibly stick to them. I left mine outside until early afternoon then I moved them into my garage and covered them with a box as they were still tacky.
Painting miniatures quickly
From the other side.

I really like the way the shade adds contrast to the models and how it tones down the colours that it is applied to. In future I’m going to try to highlight some models before applying the shade. Something fairly bright and then let the shade bring the colours down and add the extra layer of protection after it dries. I’ve got 15 Pict warriors from CONAN begging for some paint… after I’m done with my Blood Bowl team.

Painting miniatures quickly
I’ve got a desk lamp right behind the genestealers so it kind of washes out the shading but you can still see the details clearly. Everything still looks pretty decent. I’m not happy with what the varnish did to the metal on the scouts though…
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