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How-to Tuesday: Speedpainting

How-to Tuesday: Speedpainting

I thought I’d covered this topic before, but when it was suggested and I couldn’t find the article, I realized I hadn’t covered it.  So, I’m here to change that!

Managing Expectations

If you’re speedpainting, you need to take a hard look at your expectations for the results of your time spent.  Since you’re moving fast, and you’re primary goal is painted models on the field, you’re going to have to overlook the lack of small, tedious details, like belt buckles, eyes, or weathering effects.

I’m not saying you should expect your models to look like shit – but you should not expect a model you take 3-4 hours to paint to stand up to your 20+ hour warcaster.  This is just something you have to accept.

By speedpainting, you’re sacrificing quality of the paint job in favor of playing with painted models, and achieving that quickly.

Remember, once you have a few list’s worth of models painted, you can always go back and strip a unit and take your time.  Over time, you’ll eventually re-paint your models to the standard you want, and you’ll still be able to play fully painted (just without the unit on your painting table).

Brush Control

The essence of speedpainting is reduction of wasted time.  You aren’t actually painting faster, you’re painting smarter.  This means you have to really control yourself, and sometimes, it actually means that you slow down a bit.

Counterintuitive, but consider the following.  You’re painting a model, and there’s a panel of white next to a panel of black.  You’ve painted your 4-5 layers of white to get the brilliant color you want, and now you have to go back over the black to clean up the edges.  If you mess up, and get black on the white, you’ll have to stop, clean the brush, and re-paint 4+ layers of white to restore that panel.  Instead, if you slow down and take a few extra seconds to control your breathing, adjust the model into a natural position, and use the right brush, then you’ve saved 5-10 minutes you would have had to spend repairing the white.  On a unit of 6 models, that’s an hour of time saved, assuming you mess up once per model, which is a good day for me.

Being careful is the primary thing here.  Brush control.  Don’t be afraid to hold the model in the most weird upside-down, contorted position if it’s natural for your brush hand.  Sacrifice looking cool or talking or watching TV for that brush hand.  The more comfortable and natural the motion, the more control you’ll have.

I do this thing where I move the tip of a pencil or pen above a piece of paper before I write.  My wife giggles every time I do it, but it’s from several years of drafting and handwriting classes.  It’s worth a few seconds of “Is the paper positioned for this line”, and “How does my hand want to draw this shape, and how do I need to position the paper to allow that natural movement to do the work for me?” in order to get it right the first time.

Brush control is only part of it though, the rest of it is holding back your instincts to keep working on the same model.

Brush Efficiency

So, the previous section talked about control of the brush on the model, but there’s a lot you can do with the entire brush as well.  How often do you go to basecoat with a nice big brush, only to switch part-way through to a smaller one for details, or smaller bits that need to be the same color?

If your answer is greater than once, you’re wasting time.  You want to do everything you can on one model with the current brush before switching.  You can start big, and stay away from edges and small bits, and then go back for that more delicate work with a smaller brush, or you can do the opposite and do all the borders and small bits first, and then come back and stab away at the big panels with the big brush.

It’s much like mowing a lawn.  You can only get so close to the house with the riding lawnmower, but you aren’t going to hop off the mower to get the weedwhacker every 10 feet, it’s just not practical.  Same ideology here.

If you’re going to do one…

… you might as well do two.  I really enjoy Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, and in them, whenever Harry Dresden, Wizard, needs to make potions, his aide, Bob always insists on making two.  After all, if you’re going to get out the bunson burners, pots and stirring rods for one, you might as well make two since it’s not much more effort.

The same applies to models.  Do everything you can with the same brush on all the models you’re doing before washing the brush and changing.  Do all the big panels, then go back for all the detail work.  Do the same armor wash on all the guns before switching to brown for the brass / golds.

I’ve implied it, but I’ll flat out say it: do everything with the color before moving on.  No sense in wasting time opening and closing bottled of paint in between models, do everything with one and then put it away.

Put It All Together

Work on several models at once.

Don’t change brushes until you are done with all the parts on all the models you’re comfortable with getting with your current brush.  Then clean it and get out the next size brush.

Don’t change colors until you are 100% done with all the panels on all the models.

Don’t repair mistakes when they happen.  Often, you can manage to hide mistakes with shadows or highlights, or those colors mask it enough that you can’t see it when the model is on the tabletop.

Remember, tabletop quality is the goal, you’re not after the Golden Demon.

I’ll be testing out these methods during the next two weeks.  I’m aiming to have 5 models painted in that time:  Kreoss1, a Revenger, a Repenter, a Crusader and a Vanquisher.  They’re currently primed black, and await paint.  I’ll be posting updates as often as I can.  I suggest trying out these ideas yourself – you may notice an increase in your painting speed, and I’m very interested to hear how they work for you.

Primered and ready to go!
View Comment (1)
  • As I’m going to be going for solid tabletop quality, I’ll be doing many of the things you describe above. I’m trying to get models painted and done and then go back and strip/repaint as necesary.


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