The intricacies of miniature painting can transform good miniatures and 3D prints used in role-playing games, tabletops, or board games into works of art. To unveil the secrets of this craft, this article delves into the essentials required to embark on this cheap hobby and discusses crucial painting techniques that elevate your miniatures and prints from mundane to marvellous.
Assembling a 3D printer is a remarkable feat for people who indulge in tabletops, role-playing games, or board games. The reason behind the printer’s praise is the ability to acquire diverse templates for suitable prints on the World Wide Web. From handy inlays for impeccable organization of figurines, cards, or tokens to obstacles and treasure chests templates; the choices are limitless. Besides, the Dungeons & Dragons universe features a vast collection of creature templates to quench every player’s thirst for a new challenge.
Most 3D printers, alas, have the lamentable limitation of only producing a single, solitary hue. But despair not! You can imbue your creations with a veritable rainbow of colors by taking up the brush yourself. Indeed, the intricate art of miniature painting is a worthy pursuit for novice and veteran alike, whether your model hails from a brick-and-mortar shop or the digital confines of a 3D printer. Fear not, dear reader, for we shall instruct you in the art of coloration, and provide sagacious advice for choosing the hues and accoutrements that will make your work shine – and, as an added bonus, you may even discover some long-forgotten trinkets amidst the detritus surrounding your trusty 3D printer.
What can you print?
3D modeling, an awe-inspiring term, refers to the creation of three-dimensional models from two-dimensional pictures or movies. Be it obstacles, structures, or automobiles, this technology can produce any object you can imagine. The monstrous figurines and spare components are just a few of the numerous possibilities available. You can even find practical accessories, such as sorting boxes or dice towers. A good starting point to enter the world of 3D printing is Thingiverse. Here, you can type in the name of the game and navigate through countless results. The Shapeways marketplace is another excellent place to begin your journey, especially for all the pen & paper role-players. Miguel Zavala, for instance, has made over 1800 monsters from the Dungeon & Dragons universe available there, completely free of charge.
Heroforge, with its outstanding and customizable models, has set a new standard for 3D printing. The S.L.A. printer ensures that the models come out looking sharp and exquisite. Nevertheless, exciting 3D printing and tabletop services have emerged alongside individual projects. At the forefront of this is Heroforge, where you can assemble your figures from countless different elements, which can then be printed or downloaded as STL files. The price starts at around 8 dollars per figure, but the quality of the details is worth every penny. This is ideal for game groups that want to play with their personalized heroes for an extended period. Desktop Hero 3D is another alternative, but it is not as flexible as Heroforge. However, the STL files are free to download.
Behold, I shall recount to thee of Dragonlock, a service so distinct that it may stir your fancy. It presents to you a comprehensive labyrinth explorer, whose sundry elements are wrought by way of a 3D printer. By way of the customary ramparts, the arrangement is further supplemented by treacherous snares, effigies of the gods, and even constituents equipped to host an LED so as to aglow a flaming brand upon the walls. Anent your yearning to erect dungeons replete with mood, verily Dragonlock should seize your attention. Yea, a gratis commencing ensemble is at the ready, should you deem to experiment.
A note on the legality: Even if a model is available for free download from Thingiverse or another site, it is not necessarily free of copyright claims. Games Workshop, the company behind Warhammer, often takes legal action against people who publish copies of their figures without permission. On the other hand, Wizards of the Coast, the owners of D&D, are more permissive. According to a company spokesperson, as long as the artists follow the rules of the Open Gaming License and the guidelines on fan content, they have no problem with the figures.
SLA or FDM: Which technology to use?
When it comes to acquiring a 3D printer, the decision of whether to opt for the FDM or SLA technology can be quite perplexing. The FDM alternative operates by utilizing filament that is heated and thereafter, printed in layers onto a plate. The SLA option, on the other hand, relies on a resin material that the printer illuminates. Each of the technologies has its pros and cons, and deciding which one to choose can be a challenging task.
One significant advantage of the FDM approach is that the filaments are relatively inexpensive and convenient to handle. However, this method is typically unable to capture fine details in the print. Conversely, the output from the SLA printing mechanism boasts of intricate and sophisticated details, which could easily rival those of commercially produced products. Nevertheless, achieving such a level of finesse necessitates the undertaking of special post-treatment procedures and the regular cleaning of the tank. Although the output quality is great, anyone looking to use this technology must ensure that the figures are printed with a base on which they can stand. It is worth noting that unlike FDM, SLA is not easy to paint or glue.
A few things are needed for painting. Unnecessary are paints and brushes; useful things like a wet palette and a holder for the figures. You should not be too thrifty with paints and brushes and go directly to the products of manufacturers who specialize in miniatures. Games Workshop (Citadel), Vallejo, Reaper, or Army Painter. Each offers its paints and has brushes on offer—more on paints below.
The wet palette is enormously helpful so that the colors do not dry out while painting. There are ready-made palettes, but these can also be built easily. You only need a lid, such as ice cream, kitchen roll, and baking paper. Put the kitchen roll under the baking paper. Then you can dab the colors on the baking paper and mix them there or pick them up on the brush.
The second optional but the very good accessory is a holder for the figures. This can also be purchased ready-made or printed. Under the search term “Miniature Painting Handle,” you can find numerous templates on Thingiverse that adapt to different sized figures. We have had very good experiences with this handle. Alternatively, you can stick the figures with double-sided adhesive tape on a yogurt pot.
Preceding any attempt to immerse yourself in the art of painting miniatures, one must first obtain the essential elements for this creative endeavor: paints. Such colors can be procured from various suppliers, and needless to say, the possibilities of obtaining a plethora of hues are practically boundless. As each company offers its distinct chromatic range, the user can be overwhelmed with the decision of which one to purchase. However, fear not, as it is possible to mix and blend the colors to create new ones, and one can experiment by starting with a set of starter colors to test the waters of this vibrant and expressive art form.
As one delves further into the depths of painting, certain brands may capture the artist’s heart and evoke a particular fondness. The Citadel paints are known for their efficient coverage, although other suppliers may require more layers to attain a similar effect. Additionally, the pot design of Citadel paints is notably convenient, as it facilitates the easy extraction of the pigments from the container, and the nose of the pot can be used to swiftly agitate the colors within.
It is crucial to remember that miniature paints can be obtained from an array of manufacturers, and that the colors can be mixed to one’s heart’s content. Suppose you procure paints from Vallejo or Army Painter. In that case, it is recommended to also acquire a package of mixing balls, minuscule steel spheres with a diameter of a few millimeters. These nifty tools, when placed inside the paint bottle, can assist in mixing the pigment, particularly if the colors have been standing for a prolonged period, as the particles may settle at the bottom of the bottle. As one bottle of paint may last a considerable amount of time, it is a wise decision to invest in these diminutive but invaluable mixing balls.
Lastly, for those new to the captivating world of miniature painting, the YouTube channel created by Denis, known as Diced, provides a bounty of knowledge and tips on the art form, ensuring that the artist is well-equipped to commence their creative journey.
The first step in preparing miniatures is to clean them. You can do this by washing them in lukewarm soapy water. Then use a file or side cutter to remove any burrs.
Before painting, a layer of primer paint is applied. This ensures that the next colors hold well and cover solidly. You have several options for priming: You can apply the paint by hand, use an airbrush, or spray-on ready-made primer. However, manual priming should be placed at the back of the list, as inexperienced users can quickly apply too much color. Airbrushing is a subject in itself, which we will look at in more detail in the article Inexpensive airbrush systems for beginners: What matters. First of all, priming works great, but you have to get to grips with the airbrush properly.
The simplest method is primers in spray cans.
These paints are not cheap, but they provide good results quickly. The author likes Citadel’s 500 ml primers because the paint adheres well, does not cover up details, and is easy to apply.
There’s not much to consider when choosing a primer. Ideally, you should use a color that you will use a lot on the model later. But that’s optional; after all, you’ll be painting over it later anyway. You can do relatively little wrong with a white or light gray primer; these are a good base for all kinds of other colors.
Priming the models is simple: Ideally, you stick the figures on a cardboard box with double-sided adhesive tape and place another cardboard box behind it as a catch-all for the colors. Then shake the can until you hear the ball rattling inside, which can take a few minutes. You should test whether the paint is fine enough by spraying it briefly on one part of the cardboard.
Short sprays of the figures from a distance of 10 to 20 cm are then done. Do not switch to continuous fire here; spray briefly, wait, and continue. If you prime too thickly, you won’t see any details later. Ideally, there should be a light film on the models after spraying, through which you can even see the details a little better. Less is more here; in case of doubt, you can also prime in two or three passes. The paint dries comparatively quickly; after about 5 to 10 minutes, you can continue. Since the paint stinks quite a bit, you should go to a dry, well-ventilated place for priming.
After priming, the first colors are applied. Of course, everyone is free to choose how he paints his miniatures. However, it has proven useful to start with the largest surfaces. Is the chest made of wood? Perfect, then perhaps the first coat of brown is a good way to go. That way, you work your way from one surface to the next.
It is important to wash out and dry the respective brush well; it should no longer carry old paint. Some people prefer smaller brushes when they paint. These brushes let you have more control over the color. The important thing is to try out different brushes and find the one that feels best for you. With time, you will feel which brush works best for which situation.
To make sure the color covers well, you should dilute the paint with water before applying it to the wet palette. Let it dry, and then check to see how well it covers. If it doesn’t look good, add another layer of paint. But don’t apply too much paint at once since it will be harder to control how it looks. Especially at the beginning, you might overpaint the details of the model. Therefore, it is better to apply three thin layers than one thick one. The colors change as they dry. Some seem weak and not very opaque at first but tighten up as soon as the paint dries.
The intricacies of painting miniatures are not to be taken lightly. From jewelry to weapons, rivets to eyes, and even locks – every detail must be given the attention it deserves. For those who may have been a bit too liberal with their initial paint application, fear not, for a fresh coat of primer can remedy the situation and provide better adhesion. A word to the wise: precision and diligence are key. Be sure to revisit the same areas multiple times, using a lighter touch each time, to ensure full coverage and a polished final product.
But the painting process doesn’t stop there. Even after large and small areas have been thoroughly painted, the miniature may still lack dimension and depth. Enter the techniques of shading and dry brushing, which add a whole new level of complexity and artistry to the finished product. These methods breathe life into the miniature, imbuing it with a newfound sense of realism and vitality.
Shading with Washes or Shade
Shading is an artifice par excellence that bestows a lifelike appearance to antecedently insipid figures. How is this accomplished, you ask? Through the judicious utilization of specially formulated paints. These marvelous pigments, dubbed Shade (Citadel), Wash (Vallejo), or Quickshade (Army Painter) paints, are available in a cornucopia of colors.
Once applied, these paints infiltrate the crevices and pool there, whilst the elevated areas are imbued with a lighter coat. The end result is a tridimensional effect of shadows, dimples, and raised topography.
When engaging with the utilization of such pigments, it is of paramount importance that due diligence be taken. The chromatic manifestations contained therein, whilst deriving from the primary color space, are invariably imbued with a sense of gloominess that must be given due consideration in any particular color-scheming endeavors. Mind you, this does not necessitate the wholesale acquisition of spectrally matching tones for each and every color within one’s repertoire. In most instances, it would suffice to obtain a modest collection of approximately three to four sufficiently distinctive hues. Be mindful, however, that within the Citadel range of pigments, the Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade hues hold sway over their counterparts, for their versatility and the weathered demeanor they are able to confer upon the surfaces they are brushed onto.
Another trick is dry brushing. This is, very roughly, the opposite of shading. You take a little paint on a bristle brush. Then you clean it almost completely so that there is only a minimal amount of paint left on the brush. Now you wave the brush over the figure or model. This way, the paint sticks to the elevations and gently highlights them. The method is perfect for chainmail, for example, to give it a silvery sheen that stands out over the depths through the shading.
The combination of shading and dry brushing helps almost any model achieve an impressive, three-dimensional look. The techniques are also quick to learn. The more you use them, the better you get and the truer the models look.
With basic colors, shading, and dry brushing, you have three solid techniques at the beginning, with which your first miniatures look good. However, this is by no means the end of the story. If you want to go deeper, you should look at the Youtube mentioned above playlist of Diced. In addition to the three techniques mentioned above, it also explains how to set hard edges, apply layers or design the figures’ bases.
Worth mentioning for those with large figure collections are Citadel’s Contrast Colors. These are specifically designed to get multiple figures “Battle Ready” quickly. To “officially” compete in Warhammer or Warhammer 40K, Games Workshop uses the phrase minimal level of paint. A figure should be painted with a base color and a tone, then the most important features, such as weapons or armor components, should be highlighted. Games Workshop has developed the Citadel Contrast colors to keep this simpler for large armies. These contain the base color and shading in one color in very simplified terms. Accordingly, one saves a work step without the figures looking worse. On the other hand, the contrast colors are more expensive.
3D printing and miniature painting are an exquisite pairing that indulges hobbyists in creativity and relaxation. The author, for one, finds painting a gratifying pastime that offers endless fun. With the vast array of games and systems available, 3D printer miniatures are a much-welcomed addition, presenting a host of opportunities.
Aside from designing Warhammer or Freebooters Fate battlefields with these miniatures, they also provide valuable add-ons for conventional role-playing games or board games such as Settlers of Catan or Gloomhaven. And of course, painting them only enhances their aesthetic appeal and overall realism.
Should you still be in search of the perfect 3D printer, we wholeheartedly suggest exploring our 3D printer theme world, where various websites compare printers that offer both cost-effectiveness and exceptional quality. Additionally, if you happen to miss pen-and-paper role-playing games, fret not, for websites abound with resources that detail how to play these games remotely with others over the Internet.