10 Practical Tips to Improve Your Miniature Painting Skills
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Prep your miniatures properly
  2. Use a wet palette
  3. Try dry brushing
  4. Practice layering
  5. Use washes for shading
  6. Highlight for impact
  7. Paint with a limited palette
  8. Care for your brushes
  9. Experiment with texturing
  10. Always keep learning

Looking to level up your craft? Improving your miniature painting skills can feel like a giant undertaking. But don't worry, with a few practical tips and a bit of dedication, you'll be amazed at how quickly you can progress. Whether you're painting detailed Warhammer figures or creating tiny masterpieces for a dollhouse, these 10 practical tips will guide you towards getting better at miniature painting. Let's get started!

Prep Your Miniatures Properly

Like any good artist, you know that a great piece starts with a well-prepared canvas. Or, in your case, a well-prepared miniature figure. Here's how to ace the prep process:

  • Wash Your Miniatures: Before you even think about picking up a brush, give your miniatures a good wash. This removes any dust, grime, or oils that can prevent paint from sticking properly. A simple mix of warm water and dish soap will do the trick.
  • Trim and File: Next, look out for any excess material left over from the molding process. This can often appear as thin lines or small lumps on your miniature. A pair of fine detail cutters and a small file will help you clean these up.
  • Prime Your Miniatures: Lastly, apply a good quality primer to your miniatures. This gives your paint something to grip onto and ensures your colors come out vibrant and true. There are plenty of miniature primers on the market, but some popular choices include Citadel Primer, Vallejo Surface Primer, or Army Painter Primer.

Remember, preparation is half the battle when it comes to getting better at miniature painting. By taking the time to prep your miniatures properly, you're setting yourself up for a smoother, more enjoyable painting experience, and ultimately, a better end result.

Use a Wet Palette

Now that your miniatures are prepped and ready, let's talk paint. More specifically, let's talk about the magic of a wet palette. If you're serious about getting better at miniature painting, a wet palette is your best friend.

So, what exactly is a wet palette? It's a sealed container with a layer of water underneath a permeable paper or sponge. You apply your paints on top of this. The moisture from below keeps your paints from drying out, extending their lifespan and making them easier to work with. Plus, it's great for mixing colors and achieving that perfect shade.

  • Make Your Own: You can easily make a wet palette at home with a shallow container, a sponge, and parchment paper. Simply wet the sponge, place it in the container, and lay a piece of parchment paper on top. Apply your paints on the paper, and voila! You've got yourself a homemade wet palette.
  • Or Buy One: If DIY isn't your thing, you can always purchase a pre-made wet palette. Brands like Sta-Wet or Redgrass Games offer excellent options.

Using a wet palette can make a world of difference in your miniature painting experience. It's a simple tool, but it can greatly enhance your paint consistency, blending, and color mixing. It may take a bit of getting used to, but once you've tried it, you'll wonder how you ever painted without one.

Try Dry Brushing

One of the most satisfying techniques to master when getting better at miniature painting is dry brushing. It's a fantastic way to highlight the intricate details of your miniatures and give them a professional look.

Dry brushing involves dipping your brush in paint, wiping off most of it on a paper towel, and then lightly sweeping the brush over the raised areas of your miniature. It's called "dry brushing" because you're using such a small amount of paint that the brush is nearly dry. The trick here is that the paint only sticks to the highest parts of the texture, leaving the recesses dark and giving a natural, three-dimensional effect to your miniature.

Here's a step-by-step guide to get you started:

  1. Choose Your Brush: A flat, wide brush works best for dry brushing. It covers a larger area and is less likely to get paint in the recesses of your miniature.
  2. Dip and Wipe: Dip your brush in paint, then wipe off most of it on a paper towel until only a faint amount of paint remains.
  3. Brush Lightly: Lightly brush across the raised areas of your miniature. The minimal paint left on the brush will highlight these areas, bringing out the details.

Remember, less is more when it comes to dry brushing. It's better to build up light layers of paint rather than applying too much at once. This technique can take some practice, but with patience and persistence, you'll see a significant improvement in your miniature painting skills.

Practice Layering

When you're getting better at miniature painting, mastering the art of layering can take your skills to new heights. Layering paints allows you to create depth and gradient effects on your miniatures, making them look more realistic and visually appealing. It's like adding a third dimension to your painting, bringing your miniatures to life.

Here's how you can get started with layering:

  1. Start with a Base Layer: Begin your painting with a solid base layer. This is the main color that will show through the layers you'll add later. This first layer sets the tone for your miniature's overall look.
  2. Add Layers Gradually: Start adding layers of paint, making each one lighter than the one before. You can create lighter tones by mixing your base color with a bit of white paint. Apply these layers to the areas of your miniature where light would naturally hit.
  3. Blend Your Layers: To create a smooth transition between colors, blend your layers while the paint is still wet. This will help you achieve a gradient effect, which can make your miniature look more realistic.

Layering requires patience and precision, but the end result is worth the effort. Remember, getting better at miniature painting isn't a race. Take your time with each layer, and before you know it, you'll see a remarkable improvement in the quality of your work.

Use Washes for Shading

Another key factor in getting better at miniature painting is using washes for shading. If layering is about adding depth, washes are all about bringing out the details. A wash is a very diluted paint that flows into the recesses of your miniature, creating shadows and highlighting the tiniest intricate details. It's like your miniature's own personal spotlight, illuminating all its best features.

So, how do you start using washes for shading? Let's break it down:

  1. Prepare Your Wash: You can buy ready-made washes from any hobby store, or you can make your own. To do this, mix a tiny bit of paint with a lot of water. The result should be a very thin, runny liquid.
  2. Apply the Wash: Use a brush to apply the wash over your miniature. The wash will naturally flow into the crevices, highlighting the details. Allow the wash to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  3. Wipe Away Excess: Sometimes, the wash can pool in certain areas, making the shading look uneven. If this happens, just use a damp brush to wipe away the excess.

Washes can truly make your miniatures come alive, enhancing every minute detail. It's a simple step, but it can have a significant impact on your final result. Just remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to getting better at miniature painting!

Highlight for Impact

When you're working on getting better at miniature painting, don't underestimate the power of highlighting. It's the secret weapon that can take your miniatures from 'good' to 'wow'!

Highlighting is the process of adding lighter shades to the raised surfaces of your miniature. This creates an illusion of light hitting these surfaces, adding a 3D effect to your painting. The contrast between the darker shades in the recesses (thanks to our washes) and the lighter highlights can truly make your miniature pop.

Ready to add some highlights? Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Your Highlight Color: Typically, this would be a lighter shade of the base color you used. For example, if you painted your miniature's cloak in blue, your highlight color could be a lighter blue or even white.
  2. Apply the Highlights: Using a fine-tipped brush, apply the highlight color to the raised surfaces. This could be the edges of a cloak, the top of a helmet, or the ridges of a shield—anywhere light would naturally hit.
  3. Blend Your Highlights: To avoid stark lines between your highlight and base color, gently blend the two together. This will create a smooth transition and add a realistic touch to your painting.

Highlighting can be a bit tricky at first, but trust me, it's a game-changer. It's one of those techniques that can escalate your miniature painting skills to new heights. So, give it a try and watch your miniatures come to life!

Paint with a Limited Palette

It's a common misconception that using a rainbow of colors will automatically improve your miniature painting. However, when it comes to getting better at miniature painting, less is often more.

Using a limited palette doesn’t mean limiting your creativity. In fact, it's a challenge that can deepen your understanding of colors and their relationships. You'll learn how to mix and match, create shades, tints, and tones, and discover a whole new world of possibilities within just a few colors.

Here's how you can start:

  1. Pick Your Colors: Choose three to five colors that you want to work with. This could include one or two main colors, a dark color for shadows, and a light color for highlights.
  2. Get Mixing: Learn how to mix your chosen colors to create others. You'll be surprised at the range you can achieve with just a few base paints.
  3. Create Harmony: Using a limited palette helps maintain color harmony across your miniature, as the same colors and tones are reflected throughout the piece.

Remember, getting better at miniature painting is all about practice and experimentation. So, limit your colors, not your imagination and watch your miniature painting skills flourish!

Care for Your Brushes

When it comes to getting better at miniature painting, it's not only your skills that matter, but also the tools you use. Among these, paintbrushes hold a special place. No matter how well you can blend colors or layer paints, without a well-maintained brush, your effort may not shine through.

But how exactly can you care for your brushes? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don't Dip the Entire Brush: When painting, avoid dipping the entire bristle length into the paint. This can cause the paint to dry near the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles), damaging your brush over time.
  2. Clean Regularly: Always clean your brushes after a painting session. Use warm water and a gentle brush cleaner. Avoid hot water as it can loosen the glue holding the bristles.
  3. Reshape and Dry: After cleaning, reshape the bristles with your fingers and let the brush dry horizontally. Drying it vertically may cause water to seep into the ferrule, leading to loose bristles.
  4. Store Properly: Store your brushes horizontally or with the bristles pointing upwards to maintain their shape. A brush case or holder can be a great investment.

Caring for your brushes may seem like a tedious task, but remember, it's these small efforts that make a big difference in the long run. So, show your brushes a bit of love, and they'll surely reciprocate in the form of improved miniature painting results!

Experiment with Texturing

Getting better at miniature painting is a journey that requires stepping out of your comfort zone. One exciting route to take is the road of texturing. Texturing can add depth and realism to your miniatures, bringing them to life in a way that no amount of color blending can achieve.

First off, what is texturing? In essence, texturing involves creating a tactile or visual 'texture' on the surface of your miniature. This can mimic the look of materials such as fur, metal, wood, or even skin. Here are some ways to start experimenting with texturing:

  1. Use Specialized Paints: Some paints, such as Citadel's Texture Paints, are designed specifically for creating texture. These paints have a thick, gritty consistency that can create effects like rust, dirt, or rough terrain when applied.
  2. Try Dry Brushing: Dry brushing is another technique that can create texture. By applying just a tiny amount of paint to your brush and then brushing over the surface, you can highlight the raised areas, creating a textured look.
  3. Apply Additives: Another way to create texture is by adding substances like sand, baking soda, or even coffee grounds to your paint. When dried, these can give a unique, realistic texture to your miniatures.

Remember, texturing is all about experimentation. So don't be afraid to play around with different techniques and materials. The more you experiment, the better you'll get at creating miniature masterpieces!

Always Keep Learning

Just as in any art form, the key to getting better at miniature painting is continuous learning. The world of miniature painting brims with new techniques, ideas, and inspirations waiting for you to explore.

How do you keep learning in this craft? Here are some practical tips:

  1. Follow Miniature Artists: Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are treasure troves of inspiration. Follow miniature artists who inspire you. Examine their work, learn from their techniques, and don't be shy to ask them questions.
  2. Read Books: Books can provide a wealth of knowledge. Some great titles to start with include "Masterclass in Oils" by James Gurney and "Painting Miniatures" by Paul Davies.
  3. Participate in Communities: Join online forums and communities where fellow miniature painters gather. These platforms provide a great way to learn from others, exchange tips, and get feedback on your work.

And remember, getting better at miniature painting isn't about being perfect—it's about growing, experimenting, and most importantly, enjoying the process. So keep learning, keep painting, and keep having fun!

If you enjoyed these practical tips to improve your miniature painting skills and want to further develop your acrylic painting techniques, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques to enhance your acrylic painting skills and take your miniature painting to the next level.