Beginners Guide to Miniatures: What You Need

For anyone wishing to get into miniatures model making and painting, you may be wondering what exactly you will need in order to get started in your new hobby. Hopefully this will serve as a handy starting point for those looking to begin the hobby.


Many beginners to miniatures are looking to get into the hobby in order to customise the minis they have from different board games. From Zombicide to Mansions of Madness, minis in board gaming have become much more common in recent years, and customising these is a great way to make the game your own. For this, there are several things you will be looking for, notably:

  • Primer
  • Paints
  • Brushes
  • Palettes
  • Optional: Washes

Primer: Primer is your first step in miniature painting. This paint is designed to give you a solid base to apply your paints onto. Most recommendations for primers tend to advocate for spray primers, but paint on primers are available as well, and generally more favourable to anyone who does not have a suitably well ventilated space to use spray primer. They are also available in a variety of colours, but for beginners I would recommend either black, white or grey as your go to colours. Black is great if you are looking for gritty, dark tones. White is better for bright, clean colours. Grey is my personal preference, because it sits somewhere in the middle, and can be used for either tone type, allowing you more versatility. If model stores are not available to you, spray primer for vehicles can be a helpful alternative if needed.

Paints: Obviously, if you are planning to paint miniatures, you need to get your hands on some paints. Many different brands and types are available, and most painters end up using a variety of different brands in order to achieve the looks they want for their models. Water-based acrylics are what you are ideally after, this allows you the ability to mix paints to achieve colours you want, as well as preventing any issues from mixing different brands. Additionally, this allows you to thin your paints down and create glazes without needing any specialist materials. My personal experience is with Citadel, Army Painter, and Vallejo paints, but these are not always available to everyone. Mix and match, and work with what you can find.

Brushes: Again, brushes seems like an obvious thing to discuss, but they are a must have for painters. Again, you can research these online to your hearts content, but what is available to you will somewhat restrict your options. The two sets above are ones I purchased when starting miniature painting again last year. The right hand set are Army Painter brushes, and as a set only cost me about £15, and covered almost all basics I would need. I later purchased the left-hand set from Citadel, but this was mainly due to the smaller size of the Army Painter brushes. For some models, small brushes work wonders, but when covering larger pieces, they can be more of a hindrance than a help. Make sure you pick brushes that will be appropriate to the size and scale of the models you are planning on painting.

Palettes: Palettes are something you can invest a lot of money into. For instance, on the right in the above image is a wet palette I have been using for the past few months. However, the main purpose of a palette is two-fold. First, it allows you to water down your paints easy. Generally I wouldn’t advise using paints directly from the pot as they can often come out thick, and cause very patchy painting. Watering down your paints allows you to thin them to ensure even coverage. Additionally, palettes allow you to mix your paints easily and effectively. Wet palettes work better for this, as they keep the paint liquid for longer, meaning you can keep your custom mixed colours more readily available. That being said, you can use anything without a heavily absorbent surface. Old plates or spare ceramic tiles work wonders for cheap palettes, and the glaze on these allows for easy cleaning for reuse.

Washes: Washes are an handy tool for painting, but not essential. However, they allow for easy, hassle-free shading of your models without spending hours working on them, which makes them a great bonus for beginners. You definitely want a palette for these as it is easy to overload a brush with a wash, which can lead to errors in shading if applied directly. Generally you want to use a colour that will blend well with your base colour. Blacks, browns, and flesh tones are must haves if you plan to get washes, and will cover you for most situations. Other colours are available and great for easy shading, but generally the three basics will see you through.


If you are making your models from scratch, you will also want some extra tools.

Firstly, a pair of cutters. Many companies make some excellent tools for this, with very precise cutters being excellent for helping to clip pieces off of sprues or trim casting marks without causing damage to the model itself. Again, while modelling tools are excellent for this, you can find similar tools in any general hardware store that will work just as well and are often slightly more affordable.

Secondly, a cutting tool. The most common of these will be a scalpel, which is good again for fine trimming of any mold marks or sprues, however these can be dangerous. My preferred method is to use the tool on the right in the above image, known as a moldline remover. This is a very fine file with many different angles making it suitable for almost any shape of mini. While a standard file can be used for this as well, finding one with exactly the right angle for the mini you are making is often a tricky task, and this tool has been invaluable to my own modelling. This is also a great tool even if working on pre-made minis, as many of them still have marks on them from when they were cast.

Finally, some glue. Again, the exact type of glue you use is up to you. Super glue and other cyanoacrylates are perfect for modelling in almost any material, be it resin, plastic or metal. My only other personal experience has been using Revell’s Contacta adhesive. While this is great, it is only suitable for plastic, as it works by essentially melting the plastic together into one part. This makes for a great fixture, but prevents it working well on other materials.

Hopefully this guide has been helpful to you, and allowed you to gain some ideas for what you should be looking to get in beginning your journey into painting miniatures. Keep an eye out for some of our painting guides, coming to Youtube in the near future, and stay tuned to the blog for other articles on miniature painting and board game reviews.


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