A Moment of Zen: Painting Your Miniatures for your RPG games

“Creating artwork allows your mind to be in a safe place while it contemplates the tougher issues you are dealing with. One can use the tools of brush, paint, pastels, crayons etc to expose and even for a short time color those issues in a different light.”
― George E. Miller

Collectors and players that have been involved in the tabletop game hobby all have that shelf, nook, or drawer; gamers know the one I am referring to. That space looks grey from all the plastic armies, figurines, and figures that sit there waiting to be painted and colored. They await there staring, not judging with those grey, lifeless eyes begging for just five minutes of attention. That sensation right there is what many collectors find daunting. It does not feel like a pleasurable activity but a chore, and there is nothing that can guarantee to suck the life out of a passion than it becoming a chore. This does not have to be the case. Take a moment and look at it this way, the quantity does not matter. It’s the journey that’s important.

Mindset: It’s not a chore.

Firstly, let go of the sensation that you’re being obligated by the activity. It’s supposed to be fun, and it is. You’re choosing your colors, how you will present yourself to the enemy. Do not worry about your current skill level, you’re starting off, and unless you’re a professional airbrush artist that does paint jobs on cars, don’t ask too much of yourself. So, relax this is for you; start off with your cheaper plastic miniatures to get a feel for the activity. If you really don’t know where to start off with, there are many videos you can check out to not go in blind. Give yourself the time to do this activity.

Tools of the Trade

The choice has been made; you have mentally programmed a set time to just paint. You’re going to want to choose what paints and tools you’re willing to invest in. A piece of advice is to not go in hard at this stage. Start of light so as not to feel that the money invested was wasted. A good idea might be to pick a color for your armies or figurines and invest in three to five colors. Specialized hobby stores usually have brushes of the correct sizes; choose some comfortable for you to hold. Before breaking down into an airbrush, learn the basics, but bear in mind this will eventually find its place on your workbench.

Lighting is something hobbyists don’t realize it will come into play as you try to brush in those little details. Be it the gold trim on a helmet or that slight grey discoloration on a sword. If your work area lacks lighting, you might want to find a magnifying lamp with a swing arm. There will be various options, measure your work area, make sure you have space, and be comfortable.

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A Moment of Zen

Now you find yourself sitting at your well-lit workstation with all your tools. You have an idea of what you want, and before you stand that first grey figure. Check your phone, turn it off or set it to vibrate; tell your immediate family, roommates, overbearing boss you’re going to be busy and to !#@ off. Now take the brush to the grey plastic, take your time, make each stroke count, learn about pressure, how to push and pull paint around. Lose yourself in the repetitive motions. There is no need to make this a monotonous activity to get some music going. Now, as your mind clears and your first coat is done. Smile, you just started, and it is going great.

Before you know it, you’ll be on your 20th figurine, and your army is looking great. War coloring is coming along, and the pile on the shelf doesn’t look like a daunting mountain waiting to be climbed. Paint fatigue can happen, though, and it is normal. Stop whenever you start feeling uncomfortable.

Keep Going

This is for those collectors who are either starting or have been painting for a while—you are tired of it. There are suddenly many art supplies on your workstation, and once again, that daunting pile of soldiers, monsters, and figurines sit there judging you. Some activities are hard to keep up with, and they can have to do with a lack of inspiration. Miniature painting is an isolating activity, and the answer to this dilemma is finding various activities to stimulate your interests.

  • Find a competition and look around, eventually participate in said competition
  • Join a local miniature painting group
  • Take a painting class
  • Talk to other more experienced painters, get some tips
  • Join a group of people that work together so it can become a group activity