How to Paint Miniatures – Paint Brushes

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What up, playah!

Welcome to my How to Paint Miniatures series!

Let’s talk brushes!

NOTE: I’ve built my entire skill set around using paintbrushes. Airbrushing is a skill I have only recently begun dabbling in, so I will keep those thoughts separate, possibly for another post.

Fun fact: when it comes to paint brushes, everyone has their preferences and I can’t tell you which brush you should use. What I can do is share which brushes I use, and which I’ve found success with.

Therefore, experiment! If you have some extra cash, try investing in a few different brushes from separate companies that use different materials.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

Ideally, you’ll want brushes in a variety of different sizes and shapes. Each brush should only be used for one task, but some brushes are versatile enough to be useful for different jobs, as long as you use them correctly and maintain them.

Always choose the right brush for the job!

Your painter’s toolkit should always include:

  • One workhorse brush
  • One detail brush
  • One drybrush

That is absolute minimum you need to get by! In addition, though, your life as a painter will be considerably easier if you also have the following:

  • An additional workhorse brush
  • One small drybrush
  • One basecoat brush

If you want to play it safe, why not buy a set of brushes tailored specifically for painting miniatures?


This is a great way to save some cash and make sure you have a nice, well-rounded set of brushes in your toolkit.

But maybe you’re the kind of painter who wants total control over your selection of brushes! Why do you need each type of brush? Let’s see!

THE WORKHORSE

The workhorse brush is your all-purpose, one-size-fits-most, jack-of-all-trades brush. In the Army Painter range, it’s known as the Regiment brush. In most other ranges it’s known as the “basic” or “regular” brush, because it has a tip fine enough for layering and detailing, but is large enough for applying paint on larger areas.

Pros:

  • Terrific at laying down base colors
  • Can be used for applying shades and glazes, as well as the highlight layers
  • Can also be used for detailing small areas (eyes, scriptwork, etc.) with only minimal difficulty.

Cons:

  • Will never be as good at fine details as a smaller brush.
  • Cannot be used to drybrush without damaging the brush.
  • Should never be used for big jobs (basecoating an entire mini in one color, for example)

THE DETAILER


Choosing a fine detail brush is a lot like choosing a first car: everyone is going to have their own preferences, so you really should just go with your gut! The important thing to remember is that your fine detail brush will be getting in there and painting things that larger brushes will not be able to.

  • Eyeballs
  • Individual strands of hair
  • Scales
  • Cloth highlights

You’ll also be responsible for taking care of your fine detail brush to ensure that it keeps its point for as long as possible. Don’t be using it to drybrush chainmail or slap texture paint on bases or you’ll ruin the brush in no time.

THE DRYBRUSH


The drybrush is a great tool to have because it allows you to save time by cutting corners in highlighting many (most) miniatures quickly.

Drybrushing is especially great for highlighting:

  • Fur
  • Chainmail
  • Hair
  • Wood
  • Rocks

Even though you can drybrush with your workhorse brush, having a dedicated drybrush to do the job will save you a lot of trouble and not risk your precious workhorse being worn down or damaged from the constant abuse of drybrushing.

THE BASECOAT BRUSH

Also known as a Wash brush, this is a larger brush that will give you a lot of coverage to basecoat your miniatures in one color (Space Marines, for example) or let you wash or glaze an entire model in a single tone of shading.

Most of the time, you won’t need to paint an entire miniature in one color or a single wash or glaze color, so this brush isn’t a necessity. But it is great to have in your toolkit.

BRUSH BASICS

Here are some additional facts that may help you decide which brush to use!

  • You’ll mainly be working with acrylic paints, so when you’re shopping for brushes, make sure you’re looking for brushes that will work best with acrylic paints. On the rare occasion when you will be using enamels or oils, you should have a different, dedicated brush. Don’t mix your mediums, son!
  • The thicker and stiffer the brush’s bristles, the brighter the colors will look with less applications.
  • The thinner and softer the bristles, the easier it will be to control the flow of color and use thinner layers.
  • Bristles will either be natural or synthetic. There is great debate as to which is best, and personally, I’ve always liked the feel of natural bristles, but again, it’s a matter of preference, and there is no wrong answer.

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