The idea behind the Paint Machine is to find a middle ground between detailed, high quality painting and "speed painting." It's an attempt at painting better than average armies, but at a pace that allows the painter to get the figures on the table quickly.
My plan is to use the skills and techniques already learned through years of painting, and try to push them further. I will try to keep a list of tips here, and reference this introduction at the top of the page. I plan to update it as I continue to pick up new ideas. I'm calling them rules. But they're not really rules, as such... more like guidelines. ;)
Let me state once again, to be clear. The goal of this blog is to help myself and maybe help others paint armies. Not individual showpieces.
The Rules of Paint Machine:
Last updated: 26 DEC 09
1. Tools and Work Environment
2. General Painting Tips
There are many people with a perfectionist streak when it comes to painting miniatures. That's a great quality for those painting detailed show-pieces or competition entries. For that sort of painting, there are many painting guides that will help you paint at the very best skill level and quality of detail that you can.
I, on the other hand, will tell you to relax and let a few things slide.
The way I look at painting armies for wargaming, there is no right or wrong. There's just a sliding scale of how much time and effort each painter wants to put into their figures. If you want to get armies painted, you've got to be willing to accept that every line, every block of color, etc. may not turn out exactly the way you want.
This is not to say you can't go back and correct something you think looks awful. By all means, paint you figures to meet your requirements. But try to determine a realistic level of quality in the first place, and paint figure that you think look good but to a degree of quality that is realistic in the first place. There are very few armies that look like painting competition winners.
This is important, I think, because I've heard people say, "well, I'm such a perfectionist, I can't paint armies because it takes me a month (or whatever) to do just one figure." The issue here is not necessarily the fact that they are a perfectionist. The problem is an unrealistic concept of what a large army of figures should look like.
Level of Detail
Related to the above comments regarding perfection and what is achievable, I suggest considering what level of detail you consider to be your realistic goal, and set out some guidelines for yourself. Feel free to change this as you are working. If something looks good to you before you're reached your planned level of detail, consider whether you might be willing to stop at that point, and skip a step or two.
As with most other painting considerations, there are no right or wrong ways to paint. Eyes are a good example. Personally, I paint eyes on almost all figures that have them visible. Some people paint the eye areas dark, since realistically, eyes can be hard to pick out from a distance (hence the phrase "don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes.") Other people paint the faces, and let the eyes stand out a bit with a wash on the entire face. In any case, it's about your own preference. Don't try to do anything you don't think looks good to you. I can paint eyes pretty fast, so that's why I usually include that step. But, related to the perfection statement above, I'm also willing to accept that sometimes a few figures may not look quite right. I just make sure they're in the back ranks. ;)
Many other details fall into this category. Shield designs on ancients and medievals, for example -- and whether or not to use hand painted shields or transfers, or just solid colors. Lacing on horse & musket era figures is similar. Insignia on modern figures may be another.
If you're going to be painting a few hundred (or many hundred) figures, take a minute to consider what details will stand out when they're on the table, and what level of detail you'd like to see, and most importantly, can reasonably accomplish.
One of the most important factors for speeding up painting is the "assembly line" process. That is taking a group of figures and painting them at the same time. Each step in the process involves paining the same part on multiple figures, before moving on to the next step. The quantities involved may vary by painter & type of figures. I personally paint anywhere from 8 to 30 figures at once.
Related to the Assembly Line process is the idea of painting like colors in one group of figures. With uniformed troops, this is no problem. You can paint a big group of ancient Romans or Seven Years War French at one time, and they will all look the same, so the Assembly Line process is simple.
But what about something like ancient Germans or Celts? Or multi-colored Landsknechts? Or figures in civilian clothes?
The trick I use is to ignore the game (army) organization and pick figures from various units, regements, etc. that will be painted in similar colors, and paint them at one time.
So, for example, for a group of Landsknechts (or WFB Empire state troops) I may take 8 pikemen, 3 handgunners, 3 halberdiers and 2 artillery crew and paint them all in the same scheme of red, green and white. Then I will pick a second batch of similar figures and paint them in blue and yellow, and so on. Although it will delay completion of each individual unit/group/regiment, when I've finished them all it will have taken less time than doing them separately.
The reason is because there is less switching of paints and all the accompanying tasks (thinning paint, washing brushes, etc.) You also don't have to think about how to paint each figure. You know that the given group will all be red and white, so you just paint them that way without delay.
3. Specific Painting Techniques