In brief, I had a four step process: prime, paint, blackwash, drybrush. There are tons better web sites for painting like a pro, or an artist, and they are all much better than what can be found in this guide, with one exception: this method works no matter how lazy, busy, or lacking in skill or ability one might be. In other words, any fool can achieve passable results on the gaming table, as can be observed by the multitude of enclosed pics. This is intentional, because these cheap blobs of plastic deserve little in the way of respect or attention. There are exceptions to this rule, because many of the best plastic minis Wizards of the Coast produced in its 8 year run rival any miniature I ever owned in metal, but the ones we are painting today, mostly commons, are not generally the highly detailed molds of the best. Some of the Ravenloft minis are actually of the rare or coveted very rare variety, and my painting skills break down a bit on those, but with a little more effort I think I can improve those with a few extra steps, perhaps in Part 2: junky paint jobs get touched up.
One mistake I made was to not prime the pre-painted minis, which resulted in the paint not going on as even. I think think this was due to the difference between the paint on the pre-painted, and the type of paint I was using. One might even find a way to strip the paint from the pre-painted minis, but then we are veering into non-lazy territory, and nobody wants that. For the unpainted minis, a mixed gray was the standard primer coat I applied, unless it was going to be dominated by a specific color, like green for the hag or white for the skeletons, then I would use that color for the primer coat. Saves time!
The paints I used came in 6 ounce plastic tubes and were generally under one dollar apiece. These are general acrylic crafting paints that come in a million colors, and I chose them on advice from a friend – especially after seeing how expensive were the tiny half ounce acrylic bottles in the plastic model section, four or five times the cost. The brushes came in a pack of five, and the little mixing pallet was under two dollars. I did splurge and buy the slightly more expensive silver and bronze metallic colors, and was disappointed not to see a steel or any darker metal, but no matter. For colors there was a rainbows breadth of choice, but I was going simple and economical so I got the five most basic: red, yellow, blue, green and brown. Also black and white are critical.
One thing I might do change in the future is to add to the variety of basic colors. It is much easier to mix a color when you are starting with something closer to the desired result. Also, it may have been my choice of reds, but it did a poor job of mixing, turning either to light or dark pink and muddying up any blue or yellow I added. The green and brown, while not primary colors were some of the most used, and mixed well, as did the cobalt blue. The yellow was better than the red, but not a good mixer. Having some oranges, some darker earth tones, and some more shades of the basics would help achieve better coloration.
The original might look better, but they all have their own unique look. This will be helpful when using multiple minis in the same encounter, or alternatively could be painted to add distinction to an npc or monster. After the main coat has dried, or after a few hours, the mini should be painted, using as many colors as needed. Some monsters can be done in just a few different colors, like the wolves who were black, white, and gray. Others could use more varied color, usually determined by the subject.
After the first coat, I waited until the next day to apply the blackwash. Essentially, this step involves getting some black and diluting it, and then really diluting it, then dunking your brush in the water before lightly applying it over the mini. Start in a place that is less visible, as it is easy to get some splotches of black if its not well diluted. The black can then be brushed into the corners and details, picking them out like outlining. If an area is too black, water and brushing can help spread it around, but even after a full day, the water was in danger of washing off yesterdays paint if applied too liberally.
Another amount of hours later, it was time for the final step, dry brushing. Basically what I understand this to mean is that I take paint on the tip of a very fine brush and highlight with bright or light paint, certain details and lines and edges, cuffs, claws, teeth and blades. This to me, is the opposite of the blackwash. Where a wash creates shadows in all the grooves and corners, the brushing brings out crisp edges and flashing details.
One thing I have noticed is they look a little chalky, and I think I will need to add a final step of some kind of permanent sealant. See Part 2: Ive got paintflakes on my fingers.
The vampire could use a little more work. What I think would help it would be to pick out some highlights with paint, but then sometimes it means another blackwash, or it looks too garish.
So thats it. My next batch will be done in six steps: prime, paint, blackwash, drybrush, light blackwash, sealant – either matte, or semi-gloss, probably of the brush on variety, rather than spry, due to the tiny size of the minis.