The Basics

I’ve been painting models for over 20 years, and I constantly get asked “How do I start painting?” and “What should I learn first?” I have spent quite a while considering how best to tackle these questions, and I realized there are three recurring themes that I always bring up to people when they are just getting started.


1. Layers

First: layers, layers, layers. After you have put on a good primer, layer on the paint. The best way to overcome errors is to add more layers. Trust me, you will over or under brush stuff all the time. After 20 years of painting I still do. It’s overcome by adding more layers to the model. Start with the darker colors and work your way through to the lighter ones. For example, when I want to do a fire effect, I start with a dark brown, then brush lightly through some of the darker reds, until I eventually reach the lighter ones. Then I add two layers of orange, a hint of yellow and even some white paints if I am feeling creative. After 8-10 layers, no one will notice if you missed a spot.


2. Washes

Washes are beautiful. They soak into the recesses of your models and give them the three dimensional look you want. They really do a lot of the hard work for you. As with step one, do not be afraid to add multiple layers of the same wash to the model. Games Workshop has broken them down into two groups: Glazes for brighter washes and Shades for darker ones. Each can have a great effect on your paints. You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with them, either. Try a wash or two as your first layer after a primer and see what you get. It can really improve your model–and if not, refer back to step one!

3. Brushes

Lastly are the brushes. Make sure you get decent brushes. It’s worth a few extra bucks to get something that will last you for a while. The main reason we stopped carrying certain brands of painting products is that they were not consistent. I remember a specific line I decided to try out that had no product guarantee from the manufacturer, and when they fell to pieces I was deeply unsatisfied. Plus, I to spend more money on new ones! I would rather you pick up a $8 brush that will last for 50-100 models versus a $4 one that will fall apart after 10.



Painting models has been a very fulfilling hobby for me over the years. Every model brings out something new in the creative process. Sometimes I want to give each a unique feel; others I aim to make my armies as uniform as possible. There are many more complex aspects to painting that you will discover as you paint more models, but don’t worry! There will be time to work out the kinks as you adjust to the tricks of the trade.

~ Kevin Gaffuri