How to Paint Railway People Miniatures

This is a simple step by step guide to painting miniature figures, for more detailed information please consult the free downloadable pdf guide here: Painting and Modelling Guide

1. Undercoating. The first stage of any good paint job is to undercoat the model well. The easiest way to achieve this with miniatures is to give them an even coat of a thinned down black. Out of preference I use acrylic model paints, other paints, such as enamels, or oils, for example, are also good, but acrylics have the advantage of being water based and thus can be diluted and washed out of brushes (and clothing if you react quickly!) with tap water. The black acrylic I have is a little too thick as it comes out the pot, so I've mixed it with water to create a milk like consistency, if the paint used for the undercoat is too thick it will fill in details and you will lose them, too thin and it will simply run off the model. Using a relatively large brush with stiff bristles I paint the miniatures all over with the undercoat, using the bristles to poke it into every knook and cranny, no white should be left showing at all. The undercoat is important as it is going to seal the resin, provide a good base for later coats of paint to adhere to, and serve as the deepest shadows on the finished miniature.

Make sure the undercoat is completely dry before proceeding to step 2.

2. Dry Brushing. For me speed is important when painting, so I use a production line method and paint a number of miniatures at a time, dry brushing is a technique for quickly building up layers of colour, it is good for achieving a three dimensional look, especially on areas with a lot of texture such as clothes, flesh and hair. The trick is to use an old, relatively large brush applied side on (rather than point on), and to only apply a little paint at a time. The brush is dragged across the surface quickly and only hits the higher points, leaving previous coats in the depressions, by using a succession of increasingly lighter colour with less and less pressure you can quickly build up a realistic look with shadows and highlights. If you get too much paint on the brush the effect will be ruined, so it is often best to wipe some of the paint off before painting. Be warned dry brushing quickly ruins brushes, however old worn out brushes are fine for this task! Don't worry about being too neat, you can tidy up at the end.

The following photos show dry brushing being used to paint: skin tones, shirts, overalls and finally black (coats, hats, shoes). This follows the old maxim of painting from inside to out, which is very sensible.


3. Adding Detail. This is where the finer sized brushes can be useful, and it's worth having at least one which has a good point on it. There is no particular order to adding detail and you can spend as long on it as you want, I find this stage can go on and on if you're not up against a time limit. How much detail to add is a question of: taste, time and, to an extent, ability, however there is definitely a point of decreasing returns. Eyes are a classic example, a great deal of time (and frustration) can be expended in trying to get the eyes 'right', when in practice they aren't actually that important - if you look at a person some distance away you'll see that the colour, and whites, of their eyes are no longer visible, so in reality they would not be visible on a miniature either.

Finish off with a final check over and tidy up, a little watered down black, or black ink, is often useful for defining edges and details at this stage, and once all the paint is completely dry don't forget to give your miniatures a few coats of varnish (matt is best) to protect them against wear and tear.

Finished miniatures with a couple of fine brushes to give an idea of scale.