Getting Started: Picking the Right Painting Set Up


So, after a recent conversation at the game store this week with a couple of people I had just run through a demo of Star Wars: Legion by Fantasy Flight Games I realized it might be useful for people just getting into the hobby an idea of what it takes to get started with painting models.

Painting for new wargamers is one of the most intimidating things about miniature wargaming. When I started the game and you would go to the game store where you bought your products there was only one brand of miniature paints that had different colors of paint and hobby inks. Products like washes, mediums, glazes, base colors, highlight colors, air brush paint lines, and all of the other odds and ends just didn’t exist (least not as a something that the average wargamer talked about). Bases were painted Goblin Green and you would put a little model railroad flock on the base after painting your figure (if you even did that) and go on playing with your little toy soldiers.

Now days though, the market has surged with multiple paint lines, hobby products, paint brush manufacturers, and all sorts of things that can make the jump into painting intimidating. In this article, I am going to focus on talking about the accessories to painting like brushes, palettes, and cleaning supplies. In future articles I will talk about what paints and other hobby supplies you might want to pick up.

Paint Brushes

There are a number of brushes out there, but I recommend not going fancy here to start with. While there are a lot of paint brushes on the market and usually available at the game store, there are three sizes of brushes that I recommend you start with. Of course, these sizes are pretty traditional and standardized by artists who have been painting things far longer then we have been painting toy soldiers!

  • A size 2 brush
  • A size 1 brush
  • A size 0 brush

There are a number of other sizes I use or have including an 18/0 and a size 6. All brushes I typically use are round brushes.

Also as a recommendation regarding brushes, don’t go out and buy ridiculously expensive brushes for your first brushes. There’s a lot that goes into brush maintenance and you likely are going to do things that will beat up brushes quickly. On my paint desk are a number of brushes by Artist’s Loft which you can likely find on Amazon or at Michael’s (hobby and craft’s store).

Cleaning Brushes

To start with a simple old heavy cup, like a coffee cup and tap water should be good enough. After working with the paint you are working with just jiggle the brush in the water until the brush seems clean and wipe off with a paper towel. That’s pretty much what I do today and it works fine enough. No need to go any further.

Paint Palette

I strongly recommend you look at getting a paint pallet. Painting directly from the pot or if you go with a paint line that uses dropper bottles. For this, I am going to recommend that you start with a wet palette.

I started out with paint pots and sticking my brush straight into the pots and going to the model. This ends up with a heavy coat of paint that makes it hard to do fine detail painting. Next, I started using glass mirrors (small round ones) or old used CD and DVD ROM disks. These let me do a lot more with mixing different colors up and improved my blends, but the paints dried out so quickly on those that I would often have to remix a color or blend to get the color right. It wasn’t until I went to a wet palette that I really was happy with the palette.

While they aren’t complicated and you can hack one together out of a blister pack, a piece of foam and some wax paper, for about $10 US I picked up a Masterson’s Sta-Wet Handy Palette that’s about 8×6 inches in size. It’s great and I can easily get replacement sponges and paper that are sized and cut for it when I need them. It’s a little extra money here and there for my painting hobby, but the convenience factor for me was worth the few extra dollars a year.

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