Painting Tips & Videos
Hero Forge® custom miniatures provide a rewarding painting experience for professional painters, hobbyists, and amateurs alike. We offer several 3D printed materials to choose from, each with unique properties and characteristics which may inform your approach to painting. Read on for more information about each material, and other recommended painting practices. Additional information about our material options and their properties can also be found on our materials page here.
For those of you who want to level up your miniature painting skills, check out our ever-growing gallery of Hero Forge® Painting Academy videos below. Featuring renowned painter Doctor Faust, these tutorials offer useful tips for painting a wide range of textures, color pallets, and effects. We add new tutorials from time to time, so don’t hesitate to suggest topics through our user request form.
Priming Your Miniatures
It is generally advisable to apply an undercoat of primer before painting a figure. A layer of primer offers a number of benefits; most importantly, it serves as a neutral base upon which additional layers can be added and allows them to adhere better. Properly applied, primer can extend the lifespan of your paint job by minimizing chipping or other wear. Primer can be applied a number of ways, like using a spray can, an airbrush, or a traditional brush. Using spray cans is extremely common for hobbyist mini painters who may not own an airbrush.
Some painters may prefer a dark undercoat if their color scheme will be predominantly dark, or a light undercoat if your color scheme includes large, brightly colored areas. Since thin layers of paint tend to be semi-transparent, this lets you achieve your desired level of brightness or darkness with fewer coats. A neutral gray primer is a versatile option that should serve well in both cases.
Note that it is rarely necessary to achieve an entirely opaque, consistent base coat for primer. Especially in the case of ‘rattle-can’ spray primers, a light dusting from multiple angles will result in a slightly speckled appearance, and should provide a sufficient base upon which to build. This is preferable to a thick layer, which may obscure some amount of fine detail before you even begin adding additional layers.
While most of our materials arrive unprimed, our basic Plastic miniatures come pre-primed in a flat, neutral gray, and are ready to paint right out of the box without any additional preparation.
What Paints to Use
Acrylic-based miniature paints are the most popular type of paint to use for tabletop miniatures. Acrylic paints tend to be fast drying and do not appreciably shift in color as the paint dries. Examples of popular brands include Vallejo and Army Painter acrylic paints. Acrylic paints designed for miniatures tend to be somewhat thinner than the acrylic paints one would use on a canvas. Note that it is often recommended to further thin your paints with water in order to have more control while layering coats of paint.
Thin Your Paints
Scale models typically have extremely fine detail. Even paints designed specifically for use on scale miniatures can be thick enough to obscure detail when applied in heavy coats. Consider thinning your paints with water before you begin painting. Thinned paints will typically require more layers to achieve an opaque coat, but will better preserve the underlying physical detail. Thinner paints also offer some benefit when blending colors, allowing you to apply multiple semi-transparent layers in the same area with minimal visible brush strokes.
If you do not have experience with layering or thinning paints, we recommend reviewing episode 2 of the Hero Forge® Painting Academy, which recommends a 1:3 or even 1:5 paint-to-water ratio. Different techniques will require different levels of dilution however, so be sure to experiment to find what suits your style.
Paint is designed to stick to the surface it is applied to and is not easily removed; however, under some circumstances a painter may wish to remove some or all previous coats of paint in order to begin fresh, try a different color scheme, or correct a mistake.
Unfortunately, many of the harsh chemicals that can be used to effectively strip paint from a miniature can also degrade the underlying plastic material that makes up your model. For this reason, we recommend stripping paint only as a last resort. Instead, consider thinning your paints and working in thin, layered coats from the beginning. Not only does this provide significantly more control and make blending easier, it also helps preserve the underlying physical detail so you can simply paint over previous coats.
While painting over previous layers is the most foolproof way to correct errors, it is not always an option. In these cases, you can try soaking your miniature in isopropyl alcohol, and then carefully scrubbing the surface with an old toothbrush. Only soak your miniature in alcohol for brief periods. Try starting with 10 minutes prior to your first scrub, and slowly raise the duration of the soak from there, alternating with a gentle brushing to remove previous paint layers. It is often the case that not all of the paint can be removed. In these cases, the goal should be to remove only enough that you can return to painting additional opaque layers on top of the old. Note that isopropyl alcohol is extremely flammable, and that fumes or contact can be toxic to humans. Always wear protective gear and take every precaution when handling chemicals.
Plastic Material Painting
Our plastic material offers excellent value for painters. These miniatures are produced using an SLA printing process at 100micron layer thickness. This is fine enough to capture fine physical detail like facial expressions, but may display some visible “layer line” stepping textures as a result of the 3D printing manufacturing method. If you prefer an extra-smooth surface with minimal “layer lines,” consider trying our Premium Plastic material.
Plastic miniatures come pre-primed in a matte gray primer; a suitable base coat for both light and dark color schemes, and is paintable right out of the box. Note that techniques like ink washes, as described in Episode 1 of Hero Forge® Panting Academy, work very well, though this may slightly accentuate any layer line stepping texture present on the surface.
Premium Plastic Material Painting
Our Premium Plastic material offers the highest physical detail and fidelity to your original design. These miniatures are produced using an SLA printing process at 50micron layer thickness--double the “z-axis” resolution of our basic Plastic option. While some “layer line” texture may be visible on the surface of the model, this is typically very subtle, and nearly indistinguishable under a layer of paint or primer.
Premium Plastic is designed to be our most paint-friendly material. It does not come primed, allowing the painter to choose a suitable color undercoat for their intended color scheme. No special considerations are required for painting this material. Our Premium Plastic models are used for all of our Hero Forge® Painting Academy videos.
Bronze Material Painting
Our Bronze material is produced using a 3D printed master which is then cast using a “lost wax method.” The resulting model is then polished to a jewelry-shine. The 3D printed master from which a model is cast is produced with 50 micron layer thickness, equivalent to our Premium Plastic material. This allows the resulting bronze model to include extremely fine detail. Note that a small amount of material is buffed off during the polishing process. This can very slightly soften some small details. Some deeply recessed surfaces are inaccessible for polishing, and may be slightly rougher than neighboring raised surfaces.
The smooth surface and high detail of these Bronze figures makes for an appealing painting subject, but keep in mind that paint adheres differently to smooth metal than it does to slightly textured plastics. Paint is much more likely to chip or rub off of a smooth metal surface than it is on a textured plastic. This can decrease the lifespan of your paint job, especially if the model is subject to rubbing against other surfaces, either through handling, or while stored in a way that allows it to tumble or rub against container walls. The best way to minimize this wear is to apply a base coat of primer. We strongly recommend cleaning your bronze model prior to applying a layer of primer. This can be done easily with dish soap, water, and a quick scrub. This will remove any oils or dusts that may be present from the manufacturing process, and allow your primer to adhere better. For the maximum longevity of your paint job, we also advise minimal handling of painted bronze figures. This will allow you to go longer between “touch ups.”
Color Plastic Material Painting
Our Color Plastic miniatures are printed using a UV-cured acrylic resin. The model is then sprayed with a light coat of sealants designed to protect your mini and prevent additional UV light (like sunlight through a window) from altering your models’ mechanical properties over time. Our Color Plastic material offers a great way to receive a tabletop-ready miniature in full color without picking up a paint brush. However, some users may enjoy personalizing their color miniature with additional paint touch-ups or ink washes.
Note that the sealant used on your Color Plastic miniature is not designed to serve as a primer or base-coat. As a result, additional layers of paint applied directly to our Color Plastic models may require additional coats to achieve the desired effects. Applying a simple ink wash to your model can also accentuate detail. We recommend experimenting with a small area of your model first in order to consider the effect of these washes.
Want to level up your painting skills? Check out our Hero Forge® Painting Academy videos below. Each video covers a specific technique, color palette, or painting subject. Videos are jam packed with tips from renowned painter Doctor Faust. We recommend that new painters review video #1 and #2 first to cover the basics. Otherwise, videos may be viewed in any order.