As a theater of the mind roleplayer and not into wargaming, I did not get into miniatures in my early gaming career. None of my early board games had miniatures nor did any of my friends growing up enjoy miniatures. I had a roommate in college who enjoyed BattleTech, but even then he didn’t have a large collection of miniatures at college. To be honest, it wasn’t until Heroclix that I really got into my first miniatures, and those were pre-painted. My interest in HeroClix waned, so my interest in miniatures did not grow.
Recently, I have played in a Pathfinder and D&D 5e campaign that utilized miniatures, quite a few of my favorite board games in my collection now have very nice miniatures, and I have gotten to know two friends who are avid BattleTech players so we have talked about the game a lot, and I have played in a few grinders. Thus, my exposure to miniatures has been growing. Not surprisingly, the more I have begun to game with miniatures the more I have seen painted miniatures in comparison to unpainted. I have seen some beautifully painted and customized board games (such as Kemet, Adventurers!, Mice & Mystics, Scythe, and more). I have been impressed by some amazingly detailed Mechs that standout on the BattleTech grinder maps. As someone who likes to bling out my own games with custom inserts and such, I have contemplated over the past few years paying to have someone paint the minis in my board games, but the cost to do so has always deterred me.
Where I made my mistake was mentioning my interest in painted miniatures to two of my good friends: Adam Thompson and Daniel Fisher. Yep, I am name dropping them to blame them for what came next. They know it. Both talked about how much they enjoy painting miniatures and playing games with their custom painted miniatures on the table. Adam loves BattleTech and would love for me to play. I even picked up the Introductory Box Set and have been reading it but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. When not busy with InnRoads Ministries, Daniel paints miniatures on commission and loves to talk gaming with me. I have gotten to know Adam and Daniel from two completely different paths, but both are growing to be very close friends of mine. Amazingly, these two guys don’t know each other, but the conspiracy theorist in me ponders that they were somehow in cahoots with each other. Both knew my daughters were heading off to college this Fall and that I had a fleeting interest in miniatures and perhaps learning how to paint them myself. So, what do they do?
During Gen Con, Adam gifts me a starter set of miniature painting and brokers a trade for some BattleTech minis for me to practice on. Daniel talks up gaming with me at Gen Con and offers to mentor me if I get into miniature painting. Even offers to do some web conference painting together after the con In my weakened and impressionable state from an incredible Gen Con 50, I enthusiastically agreed to try this new hobby. It would be something relaxing I could do solo while my wife is resting or doing other things. As a caregiver for someone with Multiple Sclerosis, it is good to have stay-at-home hobbies that you can start and stop easily. Plus, I had grown up building models, and I enjoy crafting. Painting miniatures seemed like a challenging and creative outlet to try my hand at.
Being busy with end of summer, moving my daughters into college, and starting a new position at work, this potential was on hold for a while. So I decided to do some research until I could put paint to brush. I spent weeks watching videos about miniature painting. These three channels taught me so much:
- Tabletop Minions – https://www.youtube.com/user/tabletopminions/videos?disable_polymer=1
- Doctor Faust’s Painting Clinic – https://www.youtube.com/user/ThePaintingClinic/videos?disable_polymer=1
- Lukes Aps (Warning: Occasional Strong Language) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsmD5774MOQhjYBkXqu3Jdw/featured?disable_polymer=1
These videos helped me the most to prepare and feel confident when I started.
- Wet Palette – https://youtu.be/96mjmqWTPfM
- How to Hold on to Your Miniatures – https://youtu.be/tYjLOq2Ktmk
- Color Wheel – https://youtu.be/8b1ujLHwpSs
- Priming with Spray Cans – https://youtu.be/nCenxgOW-fs
- Drybrushing – https://youtu.be/Tj9XNbwfwHo & https://youtu.be/QaEKiuCr7kg
- Inks & Washes – https://youtu.be/vuTCEzyZ50o, https://youtu.be/1wNct6bK7Yg, & https://youtu.be/u5zImAoHQ1M
- Don’t Listen to Paint Job Bullies – https://youtu.be/Vpk-Py1_-qM
So post Gen Con and start of school, I set up a small table in our extra room and stopped by Hobby Lobby for other supplies I would need to go with the Starter Set Adam gifted me. I had learned a lot watching these videos. I wandered the aisles of Hobby Lobby on my cell with Daniel telling me what paints, brushes, and other materials to pick up. Then I ordered a few items from Amazon as well to finalize my set-up. So, a couple weeks ago I finally get started. I picked a set of miniatures to use as training and learning experiences. Each one I would try different techniques on. I got my work space all organized and primed my first miniatures.
Of that first set I chose three to focus on. Two I would paint and one I would try just a wash like I was thinking to do for some board games I own.
I then prepped some wet palettes and got to painting. Because of some complications my wife had with her health, I had to pause my painting quite a few times over the weeks. The wet palettes were wonderful for letting me return to my painting easily and get right back in the groove quickly. These videos were a huge help and really increased my confidence, but nothing prepares you for really putting a brush full of paint to the miniature. I will be honest, I was so nervous. What if I make a mistake? What if I am horrible at this? What if I break the miniature? What if people mock me for my final products?
And because of quite a few long gaps between nights I could paint, doubt started creeping in. What if I get so sidetracked with other things I never finish these miniatures? What if I don’t like the hobby after investing all this time and money? What if I enjoy it too much and get sucked down an expensive and time consuming rabbit hole of a hobby?
Through all of this, my wife was my biggest supporter. She really encouraged me to spend time in this hobby. She knew I needed a creative outlet from my caregiving, and this hobby might be just the thing. She would ask to see my progress and celebrate with me my little successes and be there to uplift me when I got frustrated. Painting miniatures became more than just a solo hobby, but a therapeutic break from my duties as a caregiver, one which my wife fully endorsed and encouraged.
So, you are probably curious by now to see my final results. These are my first three ever painted miniatures. I have learned so much and already have ideas for improving on my next ones.
So, now you see the results of my work. I am not some painting savant who mastered painting in one try. I didn’t expect to. But I did enjoy myself and produced some decent painted miniatures for the first time. In fact, I am very pleased with the first two. I have learned I do enjoy the simpler washing and non-human painting. Painting a person with so many fine details was not as enjoyable for me. That may change over time. And there will be time because I did enjoy myself. I don’t have an urge to paint every day, but I will definitely paint when I have time and projects that interest me. I can tell you that painting miniatures is challenging but not as scary as you think. Now that I can look at these three completed miniatures, I think back and wonder why I was so afraid to start in the first place. If the hobby interests you, it doesn’t cost much at all to get started and learn as you go.
And for those of you who are long time miniature painters, please give me pointers. I would appreciate the constructive criticism so I can get better at my craft. I am definitely hooked on this new hobby and want to get better.
“From all of us here I’d like to wish you happy painting…and God bless my friend.” – Bob Ross