New to miniature painting and not sure where to start? Or maybe an old hand looking for some tips? Or maybe just changing scales from 28mm or 6mm? Our 15mm Quick & Dirty Basic Painting Guide will see you through!
Using a step-by-step illustrated guide, we're going to go from this:
I chose this particular miniature for this guide since it has some cloth areas, some metal areas and some flesh showing, so we can go over a few different techniques.
First things first, we need brushes. I painted the mini above entirely with a single 000 size brush. For 15mm paiting, I'd recommend a set of three brushes, one each of size 0, size 00, and size 000, with 0 being the largest of the three and 000 being the finest.
Next, a quick word on stlye and technique: lots of people paint in lots of different ways, and strive for very different results. Some prefer a more realistic subtle look, others a very vibrant, eye-grabbing finish. It's all down to personal taste, there's no right or wrong.
Of course, I can't present this guide in any style other than my own, which is a big and bold, very contrast-y cell-shaded look, with bright highlights and deep shadows.
STEP 1: Prepare your miniature for painting
Simply remove any excess material from the casting process that may be lingering on the miniature. A hobby knife will suffice for this.
STEP 2: Prime / Undercoat your miniature
Prime your mini by spraying with a matt aerosol spray paint. I always use black, some people prefer white. Again, it's personal preference, but for the purpose of this guide, we're going to use black. I find it easier to work with, but again, that's mainly due to my painting style.
STEP 3: Base coats
The base coat will eventually end up as the shading on the miniature, so you'll want to make your base coats a good deal darker than the final colours you have in mind for your mini. Most of this coat will be covered by your final colour. Plan your colours ahead and remember to start with a deeper, darker tone so you don't end up with the final colour having to be lighter than expected.
I always start with the flesh parts of the mini. Since this particular soldier is light-skinned, I'm starting with a light brown colour.
Next up, I base coat the tunic. As you can see below, I've used a deep, brick red/brown. My final colour for the tunic will be a bright, vibrant red. I've placed two paint pots in the background, which are the base coat on the right, and the final top coat colour on the left. As you can see, the difference is quite dramatic, which will really bring out the contrast between the highlights and shadows.
Next I select a colour for his trousers and coif, and apply a base coat. Something to take note of is that I leave a very thin line of the black undercoat colour between the places where the colours meet. Again, this really helps achieve a strong, bold, contrasty look. Without these fine lines, the areas where two colours meet can sometimes appear a little unnatural and messy. Though once more, this is just my personal style/preference, but I find it helps create more depth and shadow in the finished miniature.
Now, a simple base coat of a wooden colour for his bill, again leaving a thin line of the undercoat to help visually separate the bill from his hands and tunic:
And the same for the sheath of his sword:
STEP 4: Add highlights
With the base coats complete, it's time to move onto the highlights. This is probably the trickiest stage of the entire process. It can be somewhat difficult to get the hang of at first, particularly in 15mm scale, but with practice and repetition your skill and also your eye for what works well and what doesn't will improve. The more miniatures you paint, the better "feel" you get for it. Don't worry if you make mistakes, you can always reapply your base coat and try again. Besides, making mistakes is the only way to improve!
The technique is really to apply your highlight colour, in this case a bright red, over the vast majority of the brick red base colour, but to leave the base coat exposed in any areas that are recessed to give the impression of light and shadow. Also to leave the base colour showing in any areas that would naturally have a shadow cast on them by another piece of equipment or clothing:
The best piece of advice I can give for this is to plan ahead. Look over the miniature carefully, pick out the folds in the clothing and decide before you apply paint to the brush which areas you are intending to be shaded. Think crooks of elbows, armpits and shadows cast by equipment, aswell as the natural folds of the cloth.
Next I applied the same technique to the coif, leaving shadow in the natural recesses, but also under the chin:
As you can see above, very little of the base coat can be seen now, and the colours are now very bold and bright, despite our base coat being very dark. I decided not to apply a highlight to the trousers and leave the base coat as is, as once it is complete, we want the eye to be drawn to the miniature's face and bright tunic and coif, plus there are very few folds and recesses on his legs.
I achieved the highlight colour of the coif by simply mixing a little white paint with the same colour I used for the base coat.
STEP 5: Metal areas
The penultimate step is to paint the metal areas of his weapons and helmet, again leaving a thin line of the black undercoat to give a little contrast between the staff and blade, and a thin line on the helmet between the rim and the top:
STEP 6: Finishing touches
Finally, the most delicate part, adding the final flesh colour to the hands and face. A steady hand is helpful here, as we need to paint a thin line on each of the fingers, leaving the base coat as shadow between rach digit. The face is also tricky, but the areas to pick out with the flesh tone are the nose, chin, and cheekbones, leaving a shadow beneath the nose and cheekbones, and a thin shaded area to represent the mouth. Don't panic: we're not painting any eyes!
A quick blitz of grass green over the base, and we're finished!
This soldier is now ready for battle! We're finishing the guide here, but we don't have to... from here, if we wanted to, we could go deeper into the rabbit hole and add another, brighter layer of highlight on the raised areas, and the areas that would be hit by the most light, such as elbows, shoulders, his nose, knees etc, and we could also decide to add highlights to his bill staff and trousers. But this is more than good enough for the tabletop.
All that's left to do is give is a quick blast with a matt varnish spray to remove any unwanted shine, then put it in the lightbox and photograph it!