What would a painter be without paint brushes? A mongrel? A scallywag? A rapscallion? Whoa… whoa… whoa! Let’s not get carried away there. No, probably not any of those, but you likely wouldn't be a very good painter, at least not when it comes to painting miniatures without paint brushes. Paint brushes are the most important tools a painter has in their toolbox, so it’s important to know which ones you will need, and how to properly care for them.
First let’s discuss what brushes you will need for painting your miniatures. If you walk into your local hobby or gaming store you will soon realize you could spend hours, with glossy eyes, pouring over the near limitless selection of different brushes available to you. Believe it or not, as with any tool type, each serves a specific task in the realm of painting. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss three basic types of brushes you will need in your toolbox that will serve you well. As you become more experienced, or as the need arises, you can add more variety of paint brushes to your toolbox. Until then, these three paint brushes will be sufficient enough to cover most of your needs when painting your miniatures.
MEDIUM POINT: To start, you will want a medium sized point, or also called – round tip, brush. (typical art brush size chart) A size 4 or 6 will do nicely. The medium point brush is your workhorse, and will be used to apply paint (after the miniature has been primed) to the vast majority of your miniature. For small areas, after paint has been applied to the brush, bring it to a point to do small areas. For larger areas, you can use the whole base and width of the brush. Varying between the two techniques will give you the coverage you need to apply paint to the vast majority of your model without much fuss.
(Necron Lord close-up: Fine point brush used for the eyes and detailed work on the skull and chest.)
FINE POINT: For fine detailed work, and to get to those hard to reach areas, you will want to have a fine point brush handy. A 0 (zero), or ‘aught’ brush should do the trick. Generally with a fine point brush you will primarily be using the very tip of the brush to apply paint, but don’t be afraid to use the whole base of the brush as well. This can be particularly useful when apply detailed designs or even tattoos to your miniatures. A good technique for painting eyes is to dip the very tip of the fine point brush into your paint source; this should leave a nice tiny blob of paint on the tip. Then lightly touch the tip to the eye of the miniature and then pull the brush away. Be careful not to leave the brush on the model too long, or the excess paint can bleed onto the model.
(Necron Lord back: Dry brush and wash techniques applied to the robe)
MEDIUM FLAT: Often times you will want to add a wash or dry brush a portion of your model (we’ll discuss these techniques in future articles) to add more detail. These techniques can be accomplished with your medium point, but its good practice to use a different brush when applying a dry brush technique. The technique itself can sometimes lend to leaving your brush tips a little frayed. A good brush to use for this is a medium sized flat brush. A size 6 or 8 will be good to start out with. The flat brush will allow you to cover more area with less brush strokes, and give you a more consistence paint coverage when applying the technique.
We've already established that paint brushes are the most important tool a painter can have, but only if they are properly maintained and cared for. If you take care of your brushes, they will take care of you and your miniatures. There are two basic categories to consider when caring for your paint brush tools; cleaning and storage.
CLEANING: If you don’t clean your brushes, and clean them properly, how can you possibly ensure that your color pallets remain pure and your paint brushes maintain in tip top shape? Simply, you can’t. Whatever you do, please PLEASE don’t ever leave your paint brushes to soak in water. While this seems like a reasonable and carefree way to clean your dishes, it will do nothing but ruin your brushes. Leaving your brushes in water, even face-up, will cause the brushes to fray and fan apart.
Over time paint can build up at the base, where the hairs of the brush meet the ferule (usually a metal or plastic clip that holds the brush hairs together). To help eliminate this problem, gently agitate the bristles of the brush with an up and down motion in the water (or preferred cleaning solution), then with slight pressure, slide the brush against the side of your water glass with a twisting motion. Repeat this as needed until the brush is thoroughly cleaned. Then with a clean, dry paper towel (or cloth), dab the flat of the brush until reasonably dry. Never dab the brush with the tip down, this could cause permanent damage to your brushes. Finally, gently twist the brush out of the towel while squeezing the brush with your finger tips. This will bring the brush tip to a nice fine point, helping to ensure the brush keeps its shape over time. If you are cleaning or drying a flat tipped brush, follow the same instructions as above without the twisting motion.
STORAGE: Proper storage is equally as important as proper cleaning when it comes to your brushes. Store your brushes indoors in a reasonably dry place, either vertically (brush tip up) in a jar or can, or horizontally in a tray or brush holder. For the same reasons as cleaning, never store your brushes tip down. It’s a good idea to also keep location in mind. Keeping your brushes loose in a drawer that sees lots of activity, or vertically in a high traffic area can lead to accidental damage to your brushes as well.
If you are new to painting miniatures, hopefully this will give you a good base to start from. For you veterans, let this be a friendly reminder. We would love to hear your comments, and as always, graciously welcome your tips as well.
Miniature painting by: Alisha K. Ard
Article by: Michael A. Walker