Tips to Help Elevate Your Miniature, Figurine and Model Painting
Model and miniature painting is the heartthrob of art projects for hobbyist and professionals
alike. The delicate art forms, inspired by a miniature painting style that dates back to medieval
ages, are coveted by enthusiasts and collectors around the world. This type of hobby applies a
slight learning curve compared to large-°©scale paintings or projects, though. Some accounts
define models and miniatures as “smaller than 25 square inches,” which fits easily in the palm of
Once you’ve gotten the hang of working with such a small scale project (and purchased the
proper tools, of course), there are a few easy techniques you can implement to improve the
outcome your miniatures and models. In fact, some of these simple techniques can quickly add
a whole new level of livelihood and detail, helping you take your models to the next level.
Never Skip the Primer
Primer is essential for your miniature piece for a few reasons. It helps the paint adhere evenly to
the model, giving you a solid coat all over. It allows the small brush strokes to be evenly
displayed, improving the quality of your detail. Try to think outside of thick white primers like
gesso, and instead opt for spray primers. Definitely don’t be afraid to reach for a black or grey
primer, either, which works well for dark scenes with bold colors and plenty of shadows. A white
primer can be very revealing and is better used for bright or light scenes.
The primer also aids you in building texture, painting smooth surfaces, and blending colors,
which are all fine detail techniques that can be combined to upgrade your models and
Learn to Properly Thin Acrylic Paint
While it may be appropriate to start your model and miniature painting journey with acrylic paint
right out of the bottle, you will eventually find that the paint is often too thick to add precise detail
and texture. Thinning the acrylic paint is an easy loophole that lets you make the paint less
viscid, making it easier to apply in small detail. Thinner pain is easier to layer, too, meaning you
can add a lot of depth to the piece with color play and paint building techniques.
The method you use to think your paint (and how much you thin it down) depends on the
application you wish to use. Experimenting with flow improving products, gesso, water, and
other thinning mediums will let you get a feel for the possible textures and viscosities you could
be working with.
Let There Be Highlight
Adding livelihood to your miniatures means applying the life around you to your painting. One of
the most important aspects of every painting, big or small, is accentuating the highlight and the
shadows to create movement throughout the piece. One of the easiest ways to do this
effectively is to establish a source of light, and therefore the direction light passes through the
model, and then make sure that all light travels in the same direction.
Once you’ve established which areas need highlights and which need shadows, choose your
hues wisely. There is much more to light flow than blacks and whites. Adding blues or other cool
tones to highlights and shadows can create a cool effect throughout the piece, resembling a
snowy setting or cool, cloudy day.
Alternatively, try warming up your highlights with warm tones like gold or yellow to create a sun-°©
brushed look. Adding reds to shadows is a great way to create an ambient effect and add depth
even to the darkest spots.
Don’t Fear the Freehand
Freehand might sound scary, especially if you’re just getting started. As long as you choose
your freehand wisely, though, you should have no problem adding impeccable detail to your
models. For instance, if you are worried about not having a steady hand or the skill set for
freehand, avoid detailed patterns that require symmetry or straight lines. Instead, try odd
patterns like animal skin print or rough brush strokes, like stippling, to create depth and texture.
The 411 on Sealant
There are multiple ways and reasons to use a sealant on your finished project. In fact, it's
practically irresponsible not to apply a sealant after dedicating so much time and patience to
your finished model, since you leave the raw paint open to chipping and cracking when your
model is handled. These quick tips will help you utilize your sealant to enhance your project in
● Alter The Finish: You can use a sealant to change the finish of the projects. If you layer
the sealant on in thick coats, you’ll end up with a very glossy finished project. Many
artists prefer a “dry” look, meaning they apply the sealant in thin coats, allowing the
model to dry completely in between each coat. Choosing a thin sealant is wise since you
can build it a layer at a time to reach your desired gloss effect. A thick sealant may blur
detail on such a small scale. Choose a matte sealant for darker pieces or accenting
shadows, since it won’t reflect as much light.
● Vivacious Color: Applying sealant correctly helps to create vibrant colors and natural
highlights since it can add a light sheen to the paints natural finish. Sometimes you may
want to add more sealant on certain areas and less on others, which can add depth and
emphasize a certain part of the model.
● Sealing As You Go: After you finish a particular part of your model, you may want to
consider adding a single coat of sealant to the area. That way you can go forward in
painting the rest of the model, and any accidents or brush slips can be easily wiped
away from previously finished areas (while the paint is still wet, of course).