Painting your War Gaming Miniatures

Step 1: Cleaning and Priming

As a new wargamer, it is often easy to become intimidated by the huge tables filled with expertly painted miniatures, resplendent in their crimson uniforms or bright heraldry. But, as a professional miniatures painter with some twenty years experience, I can honestly say that even a beginner can paint miniatures to a standard that will look great on the tabletop. All they have to do is follow a few simple steps.

The first thing you need to do when taken a new miniature out of the package is “clean it”. I don’t mean wash it is soapy water, thought that will come later. To start you should carefully examine your miniature looking for imperfections in the casting process. Although the quality of miniature casting has grown by leaps and bounds in the last thirty years, it is still an imperfect process. The two main imperfections to look for are “flash” and “mould lines”

Flash are little bits of excess metal sticking off the miniatures. These can normally be easily trimmed away using a sharp hobby knife. “Mould lines” are a little trickier. Created by an imperfect fit between the two halves of the mould during the casting process, mould lines are slightly raised ridges that can run as a line along the whole miniature. With most modern miniatures these are generally slight and can be easily filed away using a small metal file.

After you have taken care of the flash and mould lines it is time to dunk the figure in soapy water just to make sure you remove all of he little bits and metal filings. Make sure the figure is completely dry before you prime the miniature.

Unless you are using oil based paints (which is very uncommon these days), it is important to prime your miniature before you start painting. Acrylic paints do no adhere well to metal, and without priming you may find that your beautiful paint job starts chipping and rubbing off in your hands.

The easiest way to prime a miniature is to purchase a commercial primer. Any games or hobby shop will sell this. To all external appearances, miniature primer looks like a can of spray paint, and that is essentially what it is. It just so happens this paint is designed to painted over. Primer is available in a variety of colours, black and white being the most common.

To prime your miniature take it outside, hold your can of primer about a foot away, and coat the miniature using quick, gentle spurts. If you prime to heavily, the primer will clump and figure detail will be lost.

Likely the primer will not cover every little nook and cranny of the figure, don’t worry about it. This can be corrected in the painting stage.

With your figure cleaned and primed, you are ready to move onto painting!