To Paint or Not to Paint?

“To paint or not paint! That is the question? Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of painting masters, or to throw down your brushes against a sea of paints, and, by opposing, have a wall of grey and metal?” – Shakespeare (paraphrased)

Gloriously painted armies have been the holy grail of miniature gaming since the beginning of the hobby. It’s likely H.G. Wells and company used to rag on each other for the quality and/or lack of paint on each others tin soldiers. This will likely never change. Some people paint exceptionally, some poorly… some not at all (That’s me).

Probably a full blown painting gangsta!

But is it important? Well that is a pretty subjective question. The import of something is really only relevant to the individual. I happen to find oxygen important, but anaerobic bacteria are not so fussy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes, yes it is important.

Why is painted so paramount?

The sight of a fully painted army on the tabletop is probably one of the most exciting parts of Wargaming. We buy these things because of the exquisite paint jobs manufacturers display them with. Looking over the battlefield and every model is painted, based and ready to fight, warms the heart. It’s always a spectacle to see both players with masterfully painted armies and then the table of terrain matches that level of class. I’ve never managed to do it… but I have seen it. Wow!


This hobby is all about immersion. You are trying to simulate an epic battle be it historical, fantasy or science fiction. If you are pushing along a uniform mass of unpainted grey blobs, it can pull you out of that immersion. The same could be said of terrain that consists of unpainted random shapes, books and fish tank ornaments.

Can I do it? Can you?

I’m not much of a painter myself. I can paint, but I just don’t find it exciting. I enjoy the collecting and playing part of the hobby the most. Over the years my collection has become quite massive and I was asked a little while ago how long it would take for me to finish painting all of it. Conservatively, if I painted 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, allowing 4 hours per model and 1 hour for assembly for the unopened kits… I’d be done in 2027.

Ooof! That sounds bad doesn’t it. A lot of work for someone who finds painting tedious. A lot of work for someone who loves painting.

Comedy Legend? No. Brilliant motivator?… No

So these days as I near my personal collecting goals and can say my collection is done, I wonder… How will I motivate myself to paint all of these models. So here are some tips I have been learning over he last few months as I gear up for the next stage of my hobby adventure.

Draw a line in the sand!

One way to ensure there is a way to get a fully painted army is to draw a line in the sand, to say “This army is not getting any more models, and neither am I until this is done.”

This is the hardest methodology of all. I have never been able to do this because all my favourite manufacturers keeping dropping more and more new shiny goodies.

But I have met people who it works for. Dedicate yourself to the project and get it painted, put your love and effort into, and be rewarded.

Then buy new toys… muhahahaha. Repeat.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Don’t expect to be a master painter from the start. I’m not even close. Games look great when you have a masterclass army. They also look great when everything is painted to a solid tabletop standard. Aim for that. You will be doing better than me.

Another good way to ensure your learning work isn’t front and centre is to paint the grunts first. Pick the small stuff that is not important to your army and start with that. Work your way up to those awesome display peice characters. Your work will improve across even a single squad, so starting low key will help improve your skills.

Invest in quality tools!

This is such an important aspect for painting. You don’t need an expensive airbrush or the finest sable painting sticks (Ed: Paintbrushes Tim, Paintbrushes). However, you won’t improve and get good results with a handful of cheap brushes from your local $2 shop.

Painting stick delivery drone.

There are tonnes of manufacturers produce good quality easy to use paint. Some of them even avoid Quick Dry Pots™. Most of the good ones offer painting method advice and have complimentary ranges of washes and inks. Do some research.

Do some research!

There are hundreds of painting tutorials on Youtube and other place. People do live podcasts offering to teach you how to paint.

Come on Devlan Mud… Come on !

Many manufacturers of miniatures now have their own painting videos. Watch them and pick up some tips.

Set a goal!

This one can be difficult. It is easy to put off your hobby for millions of reasons. So set an objective. Lately the call of the painting and hobby desk has been strong for me. I just started a Necromunda campaign.

Starting a campaign is a great way to do it. Join a slow grow tournament series. Local hobby stores often foster these events and its a great way to paint and hobby with other people. Pick up their tips while you chat about hobby.

There is no greater motivator than trying to keep up with your friends in a campaign.

Have fun!!!

This started off as a 500pt Ultramarines Kill Team

Painting your models is meant to be a rewarding exercise. So enjoy it. Have fun with the palette. Have pride in your work. You may only have 3 colours and a wash, but then you can look down on me cause I haven’t even glued all the arms on my skeletons.

If you follow a few of these tips you will gain just a little more enjoyment out of the hobby, a little more interest from your fellow gamers and a little more sense of self satisfaction.

Remember, the dice gods look favourably upon painted armies… they are luckier.

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