Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners
Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners. In this tutorial we are painting the mighty Drogon from CMON’s ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ game. Painting dragon miniatures can be quite the challenge! It’s size and reptilian features can be strange for newer painters or those used to armor/people. However, as with most miniatures, especially for beginner painters, using the basics still helps! Follow our guide, and some tips, and master dragons every time.
Table of Contents
Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners: GETTING STARTED
Step one, I glued the mini together. There wasn’t much to do in terms of assembly, so you can’t really go wrong here! For plastic models use a plastic cement glue for better joins and fewer gaps. Also trimming and shaving off any mould lines and sprue ‘flash’ leaves a nicer finish too. I use my RGG Precision Nippers as they cut so close it leaves very little tidying to do. Which is great, because if you’re like me, you’re not great at the construction phase of miniature painting! My RGG360 painting handle came in handy to hold the dragon during the painting session afterwards.
Next, I primed the model. A good priming layer should be thin, but helps your subsequent acrylic layers adhere better to the model. I did the usual spray of black primer, but experiment as there are a variety available. Grey primer is good for detailed character models. White primer is good for bold primary color schemes. You can also mix primers! Personally wherever possible I like to use ‘rattle can’ or aerosol primers as they are quick and easy. They give a thin, consistent coverage which is ideal. If you do prime by brush, try to keep the layer thin, and use a brush like the RGG Size 2 as it has a big belly and covers more model faster. You don’t want to get tired painting the priming coat!
WHAT DO I WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS MINIATURE?
Always start a project by thinking 'what do I want to get from this experience?' Painting is not just a physical experience, and doesn't just have a physical outcome of a painted mini. There may be multiple mental considerations. But there should always be an end-goal (e.g. battle ready), and also a technical area you wish to hone. For me on this project, I wanted a cool display piece. It would be accompanying the Khaleesi model I have already painted from this set but should be easy for beginner painters to replicate too.
Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners: Use a dry brush!
…Even if you are not using the ‘dry brush’ technique. If you are not used to larger models, especially after lots of 28/32mm scale humanoids, overbrushing with a drybrush can help beat the fatigue. Here I used a blue-black on my RGG drybrush for all the black and scaly parts of the model for quick, thin coverage. The ‘overbrush’ technique for the scales and leathery parts of the wings, but that is not all. A drybrush forces you to use thin coats of paint, and layer, so it’s great also for getting to grips with blending and transitions. Here I used my RGG dry brush on the wing tips to gradually add in the transition from black to red on the wing tips. You don’t need years of experience to execute nice transitions if you can use your dry brush in unexpected ways!
A Redgrass Games wet palette is also incredibly helpful, regardless of your relative skill level. It helps keep that acrylic paint workable longer whilst out of the pot! I always recommend not painting straight from the pot as the paint needs thinning and mixing. That is especially useful here as we move from darker reds to eventually hot oranges for the wing tips. We can blend old and new colors together on the palette for better color transitions without having to try and fail on the model itself.
Beginner techniques need not be basic. They’re useful to learn first for a reason. Washes and shades teach us about shadows and definition, they make great contrasts and that is so important in miniature painting. Washes also tend to be very beginner friendly, even if you use them years later as a pro! When used correctly, they settle in recesses and panel lines, and can help smooth transitions by ‘glazing’ two areas together. I used washes here because it is such a large model compared to standard 28mm scale wargame figurines. It helps give an effective ‘pop’ to the model faster, and that is important when you’re on a deadline to a match game. You can see the black wash has added lots of definition back to the scales and cracks in the wings, as well as the facial features. And it took barely any time or skill! You do have to be patient with drying times, though. Let it fully dry, and for best effects, apply two layers of wash. I like to make my own washes from paints, but you can buy pre-mixes from several paint companies, too.
Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners: Highlights
Contrast in miniature painting is important. With washes, we make shadows, so we also need highlights. Darkness, and light! Not only is contrast a generally desirable trait in any creative arts, here it also helps key details stand out on any tabletop battlefield! For Drogon, we also want some hot/cold contrast. We can use hot orange highlights for the reds, and cool blue-gray highlights for the blacker areas.
I did another round of drybrushing on the model, but I’d like to do some edge highlighting too. On a model like this, its a good ‘canvas’ for newer painters to practise. Edge Highlighting can be tricky, but thanks to all the sharp, angled scales here, it should be easy enough for us to hone that skill. Angle your brush approach toward the edge you wish to highlight- the more acute, the thinner the edge will be. Thin your paint but only a little, so it flows easily and consistently from your brush strokes onto the edge in question. Finally, apply the highlight with the side of the brush, rather than the tip. This will ensure a more consistent and smoother highlight. Relying on the tip of your brush for this method can be difficult if you have shaky hands, so using the side can negate this.
Lastly is the key details that help finish the piece. I used my 00 for all the sharpest edge highlights or spot highlights. For example I used a small dot of pale yellow and white for the eyes and teeth. Also I based the model on a sandy, tan colored rock for contrast with the rest of the model. If you don’t like the ‘sheen’ from the washes, you can matte this down with a matte varnish. Equally, you can add a layer of sandy colored pigment powder over the top for a realistic matte effect. Simple!
Miniature Painting Tips For Beginners: COMPLETED PIECE!
And there you go! Drogon is ready to fly off and start fires. A lot of today’s tips would apply to dragon models in general, and not just ASOIAF dragons. Or indeed, they also apply to all models you paint! Master these beginner tips and you’re ready to tackle more complex techniques. You can always read our other articles, here. – James.