7 Painting Steps for New Hobbyists

Want to get the most from every model purchase? Want your models to start looking more like those on the companies website? You can! It’s easy to get excited and slap your models together quickly, throw some paint on them and get gaming; and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but for those of us who were drawn to these games for the models, be sure to follow these simple steps. I’ll list off the steps in order of model construction, from start to finish, and you can follow along; I can promise by the end of this post you’ll see a strong difference in the quality and presentation of your models. This guide assumes you have little to no experience in painting models, but by the end you’ll be able to assemble and paint to a great table-top standard! Today I’ll be demonstrating these steps on a Crusader Warjack by Privateer Press, from the game Warmachine.

I am not a professional painter; However I do paint on commission to get armies up to a table to standard. Learning to paint does not happen over night and will take a lot of practice. My first models was a Charger model from Warmachine that I absolutely butchered! I wish I had saved it to be a testament to what practice and research can do. Your first model won’t be breathtaking, but the key is to get better with each and every one. Be critical, but don’t be negative; look for ways to improve and make that a priority on the next model.


When a model is made, plastic or metal, it is actually liquid plastic injected into a mold. What stops the model from sticking to the mold? Mold release agent; which is still on the model. That same mold release can interfere
with the bonding of glue and the adherence of paint. Get a bowl and some water, add just a drop or two of dish soap (it can handle the release agent) and lightly wash the models. Once dry, you’ll have a model that’s much easier to assemble and will bond stronger. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but having your model bond better and paint adhere more easily really opens up the painting potential!


This step is more about saving you from frustration. Glueing bits together onto the main chassis of a model can be frustrating and tedious to say the least. Glue the parts that you can separately, then glue those larger chunks together once dry.

LBAA Primed copy
Priming is a critical step for model painting and is often overlooked by new hobbyists. The purpose of priming is to give your model paints something more solid to adhere to then bare plastic. Colors will adhere better, have more depth and chip off less when laid over a good primer. Which primer brand to use? I don’t have a firm opinion on the matter, I just chose a common spray based, flat primer works for me. Click here for a full, in-depth discussion on primer types and colors 

LMAA Basecoat copy
Without question this is the biggest mistake I see in new painters. It is true that different paint manufacturers have different thicknesses to their paints, but on the whole you will need to thin your paints. Without thinning, paints tend to clump up and clog detail. A beautifully detailed model can become mis-shaped by thick paint clogging up the crevasses. When a new player expresses dissatisfaction towards their models, I always ask if they have been thinning their paints; typically the answer in “No”. I always suggest thinning your paints with this formula: Two parts paint to one part water. Dip the tip of your brush into the pot twice (being careful not to get paint too far up the bristles) and once into water, then mix. That method takes almost no time and alone will drastically improve the quality o your models. The only exception in metallic paints, which I suggest the same mix ration, but instead of water, try this thinning medium.


Here is a wonderful introduction to the world of washes. Simply, a wash is a hyper thinned down paint that flows into the cracks of a model, creating a sense of shadow and depth. Washes are often called “Liquid Talent” because they can take a model from boring to amazing. I highly recommend Games Workshop’s series of washes. They come pre-thinned, in a variety of colors and are ready for immediate use. I suggest you buy the black and brown washes from GW; with those two alone you can add epic details to your new army.


Returned Color logo You will have noticed that in addiction to adding depth to the shadows on the model, the wash also darkened the overall color of the whole model. Since we brought the colors so low (dark) we now want to bring them back up (brighter). Thinning your paints, repaint the the model (avoiding the shadows you just created) and focusing on the parts of the model where light would naturally hit. The point is to restore the non-shadowed areas color back to what it was before the wash, thereby adding vibrance of color and helping your shadow detail stand out more.

Highlights Added Logo Alright, so we have so far created depth (Washes made shadow), established a baseline (Restored Color) and now we want to add highlights. Think of it like geograpphy: Sea level is the baseline, valleys are the depth and mountains add height; all of those elements add to a vibrant and exciting planet, and it’s the same way with models. By adding highlights we can create the illusion of depth and detail by adding a variety of colors and effects.

So how do you highlight? Highlights are typically just a lighter shade of your base color. Here is an awesome highlighting tutorial. There are several ways to do highlights, but my suggested method for new painters is Edge-Highlighting. That is, trim the outside edges of each section of the model with a lighter shade of your primary color; not a thick trim, just one to add color. After that, go back over and give your trim another highlight, of an even brighter shade. That’s 3 colors to highlight any given area in ever decreasing amounts. GW has detailed painting systems designed Edge-Highlighting that I highly recommend. You can also read more about it here.


Of course this is not the end of the road for this guy; there is still basing, sealing and decals to do. All of those concepts are far too big for one guide, but this gives you some crucial tips to getting the most from every model. Click here to check out more painting, highlighting and washing techniques, and be sure to subscribe to get this content as it’s released!

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