XGC Painting Guide





This is meant to give you a basic understanding on how to paint your gaming miniatures. These techniques work on all minis, plastic, metal, or resin, and all sizes from 6mm on up to the 28mm ones we use in Warmachine, Warhammer 40,000, and Blood Bowl or bigger. You can Google anything below for more information.



Acrylic paints (water based)
1 and 0 sized Taklon brushes (or other synthetic sable)
Water cup (mugs work great)
SHARP hobby knife (X-Acto or similar)
Replacement blades for knife
Cyanoacrylate glue (superglue)
Polystyrene cement (for plastic minis)
White palette (plastic or tile)

GOOD TO HAVE-- all the above PLUS:
2 size and larger Taklon brushes
Flush-cut sprue nippers
Needle files
Needle-nose pliers
Mold line removal tool

BEST-- All the above PLUS:
Pin vise and drill bits
Razor saw
Jeweler's Saw
SHARP scissors
2-part modeling epoxy (Kneadatite or other brand)
Assorted other brush sizes and styles


Miniatures are sprayed with a release agent to get them out of the mold. This residue needs to come off, because it prevents paint from sticking to the miniature. ALL new minis should be washed in a bath of warm sudsy water and patted dry. Resin miniatures will need a bit of a scrub with a toothbrush while in the water to get all the release agent off, while plastic and metal generally will be fine with a 30-second soak. 

After they are dry, inspect the miniature. There's usually a little excess material, particularly if it's metal or resin. This is called flash. Trim this flash off with a sharp hobby knife or your flush-cut nippers. BE VERY CAREFUL! Always replace dull blades; they will "jump" and cut you.   

Mold lines are formed where the two halves of the mold meet. They leave a fine (or not so fine) line down the side of the figure. Scrape this off with the hobby knife, a mold line remover, or needle files. 

Always use a sharp knife and cut away from you. Dull blades can jump out and cut you very easily.   


Miniatures should be assembled with the correct glue in order to stay together. Metal to metal, metal to plastic, or anything with resin should be glued with CA glue (superglue). This makes a good strong bond.

Plastic minis should be glued together using polystyrene cement, or model glue. The liquid-y kind in the glass bottle with the brush is best, but is hard to find nowadays. The stuff in the tube will do, but use it sparingly. Plastic cement actually melts the two pieces together, making a much stronger, more permanent bond than superglue. NOTE: Some plastics, such as the Star Wars: Legion ones are made of a different plastic than GW ones; you'll need to use superglue on those ones.  

Heavy metal pieces should be pinned together for strength. Pinning involves drilling a hole into each piece of the mini using a pin vise and bits, then taking a metal rod and using it to pin the pieces together. This is a more advanced technique and should probably wait until you're more experienced. 

It is at this point that you may feel the need to modify your minis, either by a simple head/hand/weapon swaps or much more. You may need to sculpt additional details like a bandolier or pouch, or even reconstruct musculature, fur, or chain mail. To do this, you need a 2-part epoxy putty. A commonly used one goes by the name of Kneadatite, often called "green stuff" by hobbyists. Sculpting is a whole new and different thing, so I will skip explaining that for now. Ask me if you have questions.  


Miniatures should be undercoated (primed) before painting. Undercoating is a fine spray or coat of paint that seals the surface of the model and gives the paint a rougher texture to adhere to. It is absolutely necessary.

Black or white?

Many people debate the best color to use for an undercoat. White makes any colors painted over it brighter. All colors paint over white well, and it is good for brighter colored armies like Elves, Empire, or Humans. Sometimes a few coats are necessary to cover white well, though. 

Black gives instant shading, but can be difficult for some weaker pigments to paint over. Yellow in particular does very poorly. You will need several coats of paint to cover black, and it makes colors noticeably darker. A black undercoat works well for evil forces such as Orcs, the Undead, and Chaos. 

Gray primer is also out there, and makes for a nice intermediate between the two. I find myself priming in gray a lot these days.

Spray paints are much quicker and easier, but it is difficult to get full coverage with a spray. Most of the time you will have to do some touch-up with a brush. When using a spray, there's a couple things to keep in mind.  


Make sure it's warm enough. If it's below 65º F, don't bother. It won't cover well.


High humidity makes spray paint grainy and terrible. I try not to use a rattlecan unless the humidity is below 50%.   


Shake thoroughly and spray from about 8-10" away. Continue shaking slightly as you spray.


Spray lightly and in short bursts. Too much will fill in detail.

Zenithal priming is a newer technique to hit the miniatures painting world, although it's been around for a while in large-scale painting circles. Basically, you prime in black, then hit the model from above with white or gray in order to create natural lighting or highlights. I find that it works best with an airbrush, although you can get good results with a spray can.  


Paint the basic colors of your figure as neatly as you can. I like to paint the skin and lighter colors first, as dark colors cover light colors really well. Lighter colors do NOT go over dark so well.

Metallic colors like gold or silver look best over a base coat of black. You may need to paint armored areas and weapons black, then silver. You can also get interesting effects when you paint metallics over other deep colors like green or dark red.

Try not to let colors bleed into each other, and always separate your colors with a darker line. This is called outlining or blacklining. It's a simple, easy thing to do and it really makes the figure look a lot better. Use dark colors like black, brown, or darker shades of the base color for best effect.

Miniatures painted in only base colors can look pretty good. You may want to stop there and get to playing.  OR......


Making your basically-painted models look tons better is just a matter of a few advanced techniques. Washes, glazes, drybrushing, layering, and blending are all techniques that we can use to really make that model shine.


Drybrushing is one of the best, most important techniques to learn. It is also one of the easiest. To drybrush, you get a little paint on the tip of your brush and wipe it off on a paper towel. It'll look like there's no paint on there, but there is. Flick the brush over the surface lightly. Small amounts of color will come off the brush on the high points of the model and really bring out the highlights.

Drybrushing works GREAT on metallic objects, hair, faces, and wood surfaces. However, it ruins a brush quickly, so use older brushes with bristles that have already spread for this.  

This technique is the most useful for beginners, as it's pretty darn easy and has great results. 


Washes are used to apply shading and color to your figure. Darker colors can be thinned way down and applied liberally over a lighter shade. The dark color collects in the low areas like wrinkles, eye sockets, between fingers, etc. The higher details remain lighter in color, and now they stand out a lot better. Most likely you will need to touch up some of the higher points again; this is a pretty messy technique.  


These are the opposite of washes. They are used to add color to highlights that are too bright or too white. They are not as thinned out as washes are. If the highlights are a little too chalky or bleached out from using white, a glaze is just the thing to bring color back into your figure. 


Layering is a slightly easier technique than wet blending. In layering, you use thin, almost translucent layers of paint to build up even transitions in color and highlights. Let one layer dry, then paint another slightly lighter shade on top while leaving a little of the previous layer showing on the edges. By doing this, you can achieve a nice gradation in color that looks really good from arm's length (playing distance). Up close you can often discern the individual layers, so this may not be the best for competition or display pieces. However, it's certainly acceptable for tabletop quality minis.


This is also called wet blending. Blending is a difficult skill, particularly since some paints (Games Workshop, I'm looking at you) have a major tendency to dry up quickly. Basically, you paint a little of the color down, then draw it out thinly with a wet brush. Done correctly you get a nice gradation from dark to light, red to orange to yellow, etc.

This skill is difficult to master, so best of luck.

There are some excellent tutorial videos on YouTube for all of these techniques. Just try Googling it.


Minis look better when they're fighting over grass or soil, not empty black bases. To base your figure, paint a little Elmer's Glue (white stuff) onto the base or flood it with superglue, then dip it into some sand or railroad ballast. I use mixed sizes, but you don't have to. Let it dry.

Once the bottom glue is dry, you might notice that the sand still comes up off the base easily when you paint. To avoid this later, paint over the sand when it is dry with watered-down white glue, a few drops of dark brown or black paint, and two or three drops of dishwashing soap. The detergent helps the glue go right down into the cracks and crevices, and the dark paint adds a little shading. This also seals the sand and keeps it from coming up later when you paint it.

The sand can then be painted and highlighted green for grass, tan or brown for sand, and dark brown for soil. Highlight with a natural color like a pale yellow or a light bone color for a more natural look.

I have taken to basing miniatures before priming. I think this works very well, and avoids possibly ruining a good paint job with wayward strokes of paint when doing the base.   


Paint will chip or rub off over time. Annoying, but a fact of life. To prevent this, spray your finished minis with a varnish spray when done.    

Gloss varnish protects better and is stronger, but makes the mini very shiny. Most people don't like this. Using a matte varnish spray looks more natural and the mini is closer to the actual appearance you were looking for when you actually painted it.  However, matte does rub off over time. You will need to respray it every once in a while.

You can also spray first in gloss, then hit it with matte to return it to the previous appearance. Do be careful; if this is done on a humid day, you can trap moisture underneath the matte layer, making it cloudy.


Always wet your brush before painting. Dry bristles will not let the paint slide off onto your mini, and soaks up the paint, ruining the brush.

Try not to get too much paint on the brush; just a little bit is enough, and NEVER get it up on the ferrule behind your brush bristles. Excess paint soaks into the bristles and is very hard to get out.  This also causes the bristles to spread out when the paint dries. This ruins your brush for anything besides drybrushing.

Never ever store brushes with the bristles down in the water. 
This crushes the shape of the tip and can even bend or break the bristles. Also, always shape the tip of the brush into a point before putting up for the night.

Once you have been painting for a while and feel confident in your skills, you may want to move on from the artificial Taklon to a natural sable or even Kolinsky sable brushes. The Kolinsky brushes are expensive, but will definitely improve your painting. They hold a point longer, and are far better at holding and transferring paint. Just be sure to take very good care of them, as they can be crazy expensive.

Buy a little brush soap and maybe some brush conditioner and clean your brushes after every painting session.

Use a palette when mixing colors. Try to remember or write down the ratio used.  White palettes will show the best, truest colors. Black isn't so great, but clear and grey palettes will do in a pinch. ALWAYS clean it off all the way when you are done. Ceramic palettes are less likely to scratch than plastic. You want to avoid scratching it because scratches can hold old dried-up flecks of paint that can come up and get into the paint you're working, ruining your paint job.

Wet palettes are really easy to make and can keep your paint from drying out for a long time. I think it makes wet-blending a little easier too. Look here for a how-to on it.

Paints should be thinned down on the palette before painting.  Several thin layers of paint are much better than a single thick gloppy one, as an especially thick layer of paint will obscure detail.