Sunday, April 22, 2012

Joy of Painting (Minatures) --- Organization

The 5 Ps rule rocks --- Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

While not the most fun aspect of painting, proper planning can make the entire process much more enjoyable...faster...and produce a kick butt paint job.

What am I talking about here...well I break down proper planning into 6 "pretty" much sequential steps:

1. Research
2. Resource Planning
3. Painting Plan Sheet
4. Test Model
5.  How to Eat an Elephant (or Carrot & Stick Management)
6. Workspace organization

1.  Research.  What unit are you trying replicate?  Did they have a unique paint scheme?  What type of terrain did the fight in?  Research can be so detailed that you are figuring out exact unit markings and insignia or very general...that is up to you.  If you know before what you want the model to look like the whole painting process will go much smoother.  You basically establishing the map you want to follow to your destination.

2.  Resource Planning.  This step centers on determining what you will need to complete your models. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a painting session and discovering that you don't have the color you need to get the job done. So, based on the research you did in step one, you figure out the colors you need to do the models, the weathering effects you will do and the materials needed for that and any markings you will apply.  Next, you compare your wish list to what you have on hand and make a substitute or buy decision... "is Dark Green what I need or can I use German camo Dark Green and get the same effect?"

The key is to get what you need and have it on hand before you start...or at least have it on hand before you need it.  Do this for each step of the SonBae's Joy of Painting (Miniatures)  Painting Process...Priming...Basecoat...Shading...Hi-liting...Sealing...Detailing...Weathering...Re-Sealing...Basing.)

3. Plan Sheet.  Now that you have figured what you will paint, the scheme and theme....and the materials you will need, you need to put all that into some sort of order of how you will conduct each step.  The idea is to get into a rhythm and a pattern.  This way you wont forget something and avoid the  "What color was I going to paint that <INSERT ITEM HERE>?" question.

I focus my Plan Sheets on the Basecoat...Shading...Hi-liting steps of the overall process.  The other steps of the process are general only a few steps deep and after a while become second nature.  The Basecoat...Shading...Hi-liting steps however can get pretty deep and you need to have a map/guide to help you along.

Now, what am I talking here?.... here is a guide I am using now my Brit Paras

The intent of the guide is to layout the colors you will need and only use that color one time if possible.  This helps you conserve time and your only have to put out just enough paint to get that step done.  Without a guide you could very easily put out 2-3 times more than you need and that wasted paint adds up quickly when you paint a lot of figures.

4. Test Model.  Now take an extra figure if you have one (or an index card if you don't) and go through your Plan Sheet.  This step does 2 things...first it lets you get you used to the techniques you will use when you paint "for real."  Second it lets you tweak your plan sheet for efficiency...moving steps around to get a smoother work flow.  For more complicated models you REALLY need to do this.  I practiced the SS camo schemes on 2 test figures and several index cards before I was comfortable with it.  If you are lucky, that test figure could turn out perfect and you could use it in your force..that is secondary though.  The intent is to experiment and get used to what you will be doing when you paint for real.

5. How to Eat an Elephant (or Carrot & Stick Management).  How DO you eat an elephant?  Answer......One bite at a time.

For me I can not base an entire army up and start to paint.  I lose my motivation about half way through.  What I do is take small bites out of the project.  I tend to do a platoon at a time all the way from priming to painting to basing.  This allows me to stay consistent with the unit and have all the teams in the unit completed at the same time.  The reward is seeing the unit D-O-N-E...done.

I said I do a platoon at a time.  I do this in one of two ways.  If the unit has a lot of Brit Paras or SS with camo...I will stick each figure on a 10 penny nail with a piece of Blue-Tac. I then group these by teams and paint 2 teams at a time....roughly 8-10 figures as a batch.  When I have finished painting those I glue them to their base as a team and set them aside until the entire platoon is done and then I complete the basing for the platoon.

If the platoon doesn't require a lot of detail...Italians or Polish Infantry...I will base the figures as a unit, do my ground basing (apply pumice/Spackle to all the stands, and paint the ground on all the stands) and then paint the figures in a batch of 2 stands at a time...keeping at 8-10 figures at a time.  This method also allows you to still play games with the unit while they are being painted.

Your mileage may vary for how many figures you can do as a batch, the key is finding that and sticking to it.

Now, if you paint figures on the nails to paint them individually how do you play games while the unit is being painted you might ask...I have 2 answers...first is you don't play games with them until the unit is painted.  Now, if you cant wait till the unit is done, you still have the bases and you can either write down on the top of the base what the unit is or you could stick a representative figure on the base to show what it is.  Neither would be be good for a tournament, but for practice games either way works fine.
6. Workspace organization.  Lastly...if your work area is organized to support you Paint Plan Sheet everything flows smoothly.  Here I set the paints I will use the order I will use the center of my table.  This way I don't have to scramble around searching through all my paints to find that one shade of green I need.  It is all right there.  If you were successful in your Plan Sheet and only have to use each color one time, you just go right down the row of colors.  Even if you have to revisit a color; you know right where it is.

Here I have the colors I will need right, my mixing palette and water and paper towel all  in front of me
Sean Morris (TheTerrainGuy) recently had a post (TheTerrainGuy) taking about some Commercial Organizers.  These are some high speed pieces of kit.  

I hope this helps...not so much on ACTUAL painting, but this can go a long to making that painting easier and more enjoyable.  Future installments will get into actual techniques.

Also, I am ALWAYS learning and look forward to hearing your let me know if you do something different. 

Have fun and Happy Painting.


  1. Great start to the series. The Plan Sheets are something I had not heard of before.

  2. Thanks! Came up with the Plan Sheet idea mainly as a way to conserve paint and then I saw how it could be used to produce consistent repeatable paint jobs. The Brit Para sheet has been refined several times now and I actually knocked off a few steps. :-)

  3. Are they available for download? :)

  4. Hmmmmm HAdnt thought of that. Let me see what I can pull together. The ones I have built so far are for Brit Para, LW SS Panzer Grens, EW Polish, US Airborne (Normandy) and US Glider Infantry (Normandy).