Monday, 14 March 2011

Detail versus simplicity... versus technology...

I've often talked, either on here or elsewhere, about my love of simple miniatures. One of the points that I've often put out there is that for wargaming all that detail is just making our lives difficult. In fact, painting modern minis en masse has been something of a pain. I felt the drive towards it was relentless and was largely due to people seduced by the idea of detailed minis and not really thinking of the consequences of painting them.

We have reached a point where minis are generally hyper-detailed and, for the most part it somewhat annoys me. Mostly because I like painting simple figures even when display painting. But lets go back to army painting. It's a pain. Or is it? The last few years have seen great advances in the quality and level of sculpting but has also brought with it new painting technology. We have Foundation Paints (and similar), Colour Primer sprays, Quickshade Dip and Washes that are formulated to just look good when slapped on. These aren't products designed especially for winning Golden Demon Awards or getting that ten thousand dollar prize at Crystal Brush. No, they're made for getting minis on the table and the dips and washes in particular are making life easier. I've been playing with washes and dips a lot over the last few months, just learning what they can do. Frankly we're at a point where you can pretty much basecoat a miniature quickly and then chuck some sort of wash over and with the minimal care and attention it looks good.

Such techniques are sometimes regarded as cheating. Newsflash, you can't cheat by making your life easier in this way. It's a fun hobby, not a way to torture yourself.

With a little thought you don't even need to do much in the way of highlighting. I've just photographed a couple of examples...

This Bloodletter photographed badly but I can assure you he looks really nice in real life. And that's with my eye as an experienced painter. The figure is sprayed with a red colour primer, the fins and horns painted Scab Red, nails are black and painted the sword gold. Bit of bleached bone on the teeth and eyes. And then Quickshade Strong Tone brushed over the whole figure. Leave for 24 hours and dullcoted. Did the base nicely and he looks nice. I'd have no shame in putting him on a tabletop. A five minute basecoat and then dipped.

This guy photographed a lot better and he's a test for how I may paint a Grey Knight army. Painted the whole fig Mithril Silver, Gold bits painted, Blood Red on a few areas and Adeptus Battle Grey here and there. Little Boltgun Metal on the piping and metal sections of the Bolter. Less than ten minutes to basecoat. Then, flooded him with as much Badab Black Wash as possible. Left it to dry (took a while) and then a little clean up on the blood Red and Bleached Bone. Painted the base brown. Done. Can't wait to try it on a proper Grey Knight.

Neither of these figures will win me a Golden Demon but they're both way better than they should be for the few minutes they took to paint. Hell, I'd be pretty happy with that Grey Knight if he took a couple of hours.

Made possible through technology. The future is getting very interesting...


  1. The Grey Knight in particular looks very nice and en masse I imagine they would make quite a spectacular looking army, produced at a spectacular speed!

    I understand what you mean about detail on miniatures, with some mini's these days it seems that the aim has been to cover every surface with some kind of texture or detail. It makes painting models with larger smoother surfaces a pleasant surprise!

  2. Great post (must learn to spell) sorry I delete last one. I could not agree more how can you cheat when its your hobby and your own figures
    Peace James

  3. Well as I previously said, when it comes to myself (others' feeling may differ) it's somewhat cheating (to me of course, my hobby does not involve others nor their opinions) as I find joy in painting minis and none (for the last 15 years) in gaming so I have no urge of having the same model painted in 5 different poses so I have a squad to play with.

    So bottom line is I don't need to save time on painting cause for me it's a great time, an the one I'll spend with that given mini other than eventually looking at it.

    On the cheating subject again, I know it could be a malicious statement made by some, product of competitivity. I think in the old days it all was more about sharing stuff with people (meeting in person and such) but now as far as there are so much painting contestsarround the world, online tutorials accesible to anyone, rating-based websites and linking to e-commerce it all became (in part) an escalade of who's it bigger and IMHO it even happens to the necest painters out there.

    BTW I know some painters (including me, but as I told I'm kinda sadomasochist concerning to my hobby :) get themselves thru true punishement when just few drybrushed layers and actual metallic paints can do the job too and are quite fun to work with.

    Despite my average at best results (pure awesomeness in my eyes) I put crazy amounts of time painting just one mini, often due poor planning before starting and sometimes feel like "this time I won't be obsessed with the mini" but soon I get sucked in and the process repeats ad nauseam.

    Well, I'm starting to think that all my babbling didn't make any sense even to me but anyway, both minis look fantastic, specially for the time spent on them, and yet have that clean appeal that minis from the late 80s had (eavy metal studio i.e.) wich I love.

    IMHO tech had a lot to say about those two models; techniques and products nowadays like army painter's have proven a great tool to achieve above tabletop quality in about no time-effort and that's awesome for gaming and a funny departure to the sometimes so seriously taken task of mini painting, yet I think that not everyone could achieve the same results with the same process and products as I guess your experience and good taste when it comes to painting made those results possible.

    Well, I think that was kind of a compliment.


  4. I love painting figures. I also love playing games involving large numbers of at least decently painted figures.

    So in terms of my own time, I personally enjoy the detailed painting of those figures which I personally love to paint in detail, and I love to quickly paint those figures that I want to get on the table ASAP in a suitability decorated manner ASAP.

    I think I feel what you are getting at here. As a long time painter (25+ years) I remember moving from enamels to acrylics, etc. Learning layering, washes, blending, etc.

    The fact that there are such specialized products as colored primers and washes amazes me and impresses me, rather than turns me off.

    The fact that I can put an ARMY on the table with less effort than my best painted character from 25 years ago is amazing... and I think that is a good thing for the hobby.

    As a devotee of layering, blending and detail, I am getting ready to "dip" my first army. And I am excited about it. :)

  5. i painted mi first toy soldiers probably early 60's - britains sherif of nottingham - not many and not very sophisticated - vast numbers of ACW airfix when i was 14 - even more armies ECW during the 70's - but as mi painting got better and certainly more sophisticated the levels of armies dropped and were surpassed bi smaller numbers - ive never seen minis as something in the show case - theve always occupied a position in mi imagination as a fighting force on the gaming board - yet i do not game - these days i have very little time and even less staying power, so i am on a voyage of discovery to find a happy medium between fast but effective which manifests itself somewhere between dip and multilayering - faces have become more important and i agree with steve bases are also - presentation is all - but im a bit bemused re the word cheating - this suggests there is something wrong with certain techniques yet its up to the individual what they do and how - there can be no such thing as cheating .......

  6. I just like that there are more options now. More ways to paint figures that look nice.

    Most of my painting seems to be either studio paintjobs for my company or Golden Demon entries but I generally have much more fun working out ways to paint quickly and still get a decent result. I paint quite a few of these and very few of them get finished. More in love with the process than having a cabinet of figs.

    As anyone who has visited me will know, I don't have my minis on display.

  7. The miniatures look great for a 'quick' paintjob. I agree that painting for large armies is all about finding the happy medium between fast and effective. It's also surprising how concentrating on the focal points of the miniature 'face and base' really helps to enhance a mini when you are striving for a quick paintjob. Painting minis in this style definitely lets you experiment and try out things that you would not normally do if you were working on a piece that you had spent hours on.

  8. well youve done it now steve - going to paint some with mi son and use this exact scheme - thx - wont be as neat as you tho ......

  9. ure they will look awesome. Got the guys at GW Truro using basically the same technique for their Grey Knight Black Box. Seems to be working well :)

  10. I had a long comment but blogger ate it. Sorry - it will be a short version only now :(

    First of all - great blog, Steve. Learned about it from Ana (which is a shame, as usually it was me who showed her interesting sites and blogs). But it's good to know it - added it to my must reads :)

    Simple sculpts - love them. My painting time is badly limited now, so simple sculpts are what I can hope to ever finish painting. Not that I don't appreciate detailed minis. I only hate to paint them.

    Simpler methods of painting - to me the choice of the right tool for the job is a part of the hobby. I don't feel any worse if I apply basecoat with spray paint (fast and smooth) or use washes (as long as results are good). If you can choose a tool which will make your work easier - go for it! For me it's the result that matters, not proving you can do it the difficult way.

    Maybe you can carve a miniature from stone using only a wooden stick. But will using a putty and more precise tools make your sculpt any worse? Don't think so...

    The grey knight is impressive. Wouldn't have guessed it was painted with such simple methods only!

    Keep these great posts coming!