8 Key Techniques for Perfect Miniature Painting
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Choose the right brushes
  2. Prepare your miniature
  3. Use a priming coat
  4. Apply your base colors
  5. Layer and blend colors
  6. Use dry brushing technique
  7. Highlight details
  8. Seal and protect your work

Imagine holding a tiny world in the palm of your hand, every detail meticulously crafted, each color carefully chosen. That's the magic of miniature painting. To help you capture this magic, we've put together a simple guide on miniature painting techniques. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, these tips will help you paint miniatures like a master.

Choose the right brushes

Just as a musician needs the right instrument to create a symphony, as a miniature painter, the right brushes are your key tool. Let's go through the basics:

  • Size Matters: Use smaller brushes for precision details and larger brushes for broad strokes. A good starting point is to have a size 0 for fine details, a size 1 or 2 for general painting, and a size 3 or 4 for large areas.
  • Quality Counts: Quality brushes hold their shape during painting, enabling you to get sharp lines and avoid unwanted smudges. Look for brushes with synthetic or sable bristles, as they tend to keep their shape better.
  • Keep Them Clean: Maintain your brushes by cleaning them after each use. Not only will this extend the life of your brush, but it will also ensure more accurate color application in your miniature painting techniques.

Remember, the right brushes may seem like a small thing, but they can have a big impact on your results. So, take time to choose wisely, care for them, and they will take good care of your miniature painting techniques.

Prepare your miniature

Now that you've got your brushes ready, the next step in perfecting your miniature painting techniques is to prepare your miniature. Similar to a chef preparing ingredients before cooking, this step will ensure your work will turn out as good as you envision.

  • Remove the Mold Lines: Mold lines, those tiny lines left from when the miniature was cast, can interrupt the smoothness of your paint job. Use a hobby knife or a file to gently scrape off these lines.
  • Wash Your Miniature: Residues or oils on the miniature can prevent the paint from sticking properly. Gently wash it with a bit of mild dish soap and warm water, then let it dry completely before moving on.
  • Fix the Miniature to a Holder: This is a neat trick that can help you handle the miniature without actually touching it, avoiding smudges or fingerprints. You can use anything from a cork to an old paint pot as a holder. Just secure your miniature to the top with a bit of adhesive putty.

Properly preparing your miniature might seem like an extra step, but trust me, it's worth the effort. It will make your painting process smoother and the final result more professional. After all, every great masterpiece starts with a clean canvas, right?

Use a priming coat

After preparing your miniature, the next stop on our miniature painting techniques journey is the priming coat. Why is this important? Well, think of it as the base layer that helps your paints stick better and look more vibrant. Without it, your paints might not adhere properly to the miniature's surface, leading to patchy and uneven results.

  • Choose Your Primer: Primers come in different colors — white, black, and gray being the most common. White makes colors pop and is great for brighter color schemes. Black gives a shadowy effect and is best for darker color schemes. Gray is a middle ground, working well with most colors. So choose according to your project's needs.
  • Applying the Primer: You can use a brush or a spray can to apply your primer. Make sure to evenly coat the miniature but avoid applying too much primer; it could fill in the fine details. Allow it to dry completely before proceeding.
  • Consider the Environment: If you're using a spray primer, remember that weather conditions can affect the finish. Avoid spraying in high humidity or extreme temperatures. The ideal conditions are a mild and dry day.

Priming might seem like a tedious step, but it's one of the most vital miniature painting techniques. It's the difference between a beginner's work and a professional-looking project. So, do your miniatures a favor and don't skip the primer!

Apply your base colors

Once your primer is dry, it's time to lay the foundation of your design with base colors. This is the moment when your miniature starts to come alive. But how do you ensure your colors stand out and your overall design looks cohesive? Here are some pointers.

  • Choose Your Paints: There's a broad range of paints available for miniature painting, but acrylics are the most popular. They're water-based, easy to mix, clean up nicely, and come in a wide variety of vibrant colors.
  • Thin Your Paints: One of the key miniature painting techniques is thinning your paints. It might take longer to build up the color, but the results are worth it. Thinned down paint flows better, avoids leaving brush marks, and doesn't obscure the miniature's details. A good rule of thumb is to aim for the consistency of skimmed milk.
  • Apply in Layers: Start with darker shades and gradually build up to lighter ones. This method, known as layering, gives depth and dimension to your design. Be patient, let each layer dry before applying the next one.

Applying base colors is like setting the stage for your miniature's personality to shine through. If done right, it can make your painting job easier and your miniature more eye-catching. So take your time, experiment with colors, and above all, enjoy the process!

Layer and blend colors

Now that your base colors are down, it's time to take your miniature painting techniques to the next level. Layering and blending colors can bring an extra level of depth and realism to your miniatures, making them pop off the gaming table.

  • Layering Colors: Layering is about building up thin coats of progressively lighter colors to create a gradient effect. Start with your base color, then add a lighter shade, focusing on the areas where light would naturally hit. Remember, the key to successful layering is using thin coats and allowing each layer to dry before adding the next.
  • Blending Colors: Blending is a technique used to create smooth transitions between colors. It can be a bit tricky to master but once you get the hang of it, it can add a new level of sophistication to your painting. Wet blending and glazing are two commonly used blending techniques in miniature painting. With wet blending, two colors are mixed directly on the miniature while they are still wet. Glazing, on the other hand, involves applying a very thin, transparent layer of paint to smooth out the transition between colors.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts at layering and blending don't turn out exactly as you hoped. The more you practice these miniature painting techniques, the more natural they'll become. And before you know it, you'll be creating miniatures that are not only game-ready, but also little works of art!

Use dry brushing technique

Once you've mastered the art of layering and blending, you're ready to explore the dry brushing technique. This is one of those miniature painting techniques that can really make your miniatures stand out with a distinctly textured look.

Here's how it works:

  1. Start with a dry brush: The name says it all, right? You'll want to use a brush that's dry and a bit stiff. It needs to be clean too, so make sure to clean it thoroughly after each use.
  2. Dip in paint: Dip your dry brush in a bit of paint and then wipe off most of it on a paper towel. The idea is to have just a trace amount of paint left on the bristles.
  3. Brush over the miniature: Lightly brush over the areas of your miniature where you want to highlight the texture. The remaining paint on the bristles will catch on the raised surfaces, enhancing the details.

Remember, dry brushing is all about subtlety. If you apply too much paint, you might lose the fine details of your miniature. So, always start with less paint—you can always add more, but taking paint off is a whole other story!

So, ready to give your miniatures that extra oomph with dry brushing? This is one of those miniature painting techniques that, once mastered, can really take your game pieces from cool to "wow, did you really paint that?". Happy painting!

Highlight details

Now that your miniature has color and texture, it's time to make those intricate details pop. Highlighting is a pivotal miniature painting technique that can transform your miniature from flat to three-dimensional. It's all about creating contrast and giving your miniatures that extra level of realism.

Here's a simple way to do it:

  1. Choose a lighter shade: Pick a color that's lighter than your base color. This will be your highlighting color.
  2. Less is more: Remember, you don't need a lot of paint on your brush. A little goes a long way when highlighting.
  3. Focus on raised areas: You want to apply your lighter color to the parts of the miniature that would naturally catch light. Think of areas like the nose, cheekbones, knuckles, and any other raised details.

Be patient with yourself—highlighting requires a steady hand and a bit of practice. But once you get the hang of it, you'll see a significant difference in your miniatures. They'll start to come alive before your eyes, and others will wonder how you managed to paint with such precision and skill. Because that's what miniature painting techniques like highlighting can do—they can turn you into a miniature painting wizard!

Seal and protect your work

As you reach the end of your miniature painting journey, there's one final step to ensure your masterpiece stands the test of time. That's where sealing comes in, one of the most vital miniature painting techniques to safeguard your hard work.

Here's a quick rundown on how to do it effectively:

  1. Select the right sealant: You have two options—matte or glossy. Matte sealants give a non-reflective finish, while glossy ones provide a shiny finish. Your choice depends on the final look you're aiming for.
  2. Test it first: Before you apply the sealant to your miniature, test it on a small piece of plastic or metal. This way, you can see how it dries and ensure it gives the finish you want.
  3. Apply evenly: When applying the sealant, make sure to cover all areas of your miniature evenly. Missed spots can lead to uneven protection, which might damage your miniature over time.

Sealing might appear as just an optional final touch, but it's more than that—it's your miniature's shield, its armor against wear and tear. So, take the time to do it right. After all, your miniature deserves the best protection, doesn't it?

And there you have it, from choosing the right brushes to sealing your work, these are some key techniques to perfect your miniature painting. Remember, mastering these miniature painting techniques takes time and patience, but the results will be well worth the effort. Happy painting!

If you enjoyed learning about miniature painting techniques and want to further enhance your skills, be sure to check out the workshop 'How to Paint 3Dimensionally' by David Shepherd. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques on painting three-dimensional objects, which can be applied to your miniature painting projects. Don't miss out on this opportunity to take your miniature painting skills to the next level!