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  • Writer's picturezoe birrell

Preparing Miniatures for Painting

Preparing miniatures for painting is a process that all miniatures go through before a brush is taken to them.

Why preparing miniatures for painting is important?

Taking care when preparing miniatures for painting is important because it is a crucial step in providing a good starting point from which I can provide the a quality of painting service I always aim for. Preparing Miniatures for painting has a high impact on the final painting results and can affect paint adhesion, the existence of imperfections in sculpts mould lines from casting all which can ruin the final painting results. All miniatures need to be prepared for painting in some form or another.

There is nothing worse than putting a lot of time and effort into painting a mini to then realize you missed a mould line somewhere glaring.

Preparing miniatures for painting takes time and this time can vary depending on the size and how much assembly there is and also the build quality.

Metal minis take longer than plastic minis. Plastic one-piece minis take less time than plastic minis on a sprues. Minis with twenty tentacles take longer than minis with two arms, and so on.

You may want to prepare your own miniatures for painting to cut down on the cost of a commission which is fine provided you follow all the steps required to do so properly. (I offer build only commissions if you don’t have time for this stage more on that in later.)

I hope this break down contains some interesting information and if you decide to prepare miniatures for painting yourself may be a useful guide for you to follow, but there are also many useful videos on you tube to help you with this these days.

When working on commissions, preparing miniatures for painting is a step I will never compromise on.

Sometimes when miniatures are provided ‘prepped and ready to paint’ I will need to go back to clients and

discuss adding more time to commission if the painting surfaces are not adequately prepared. (The last two images illustrate an example of this and how I fixed it.)

This is part and parcel of providing a premium painting service.

The process of preparing miniatures for painting:

Mould Line Removal

Most miniatures are cast in a mould (excluding 3D printed minis), as a result they will have mould lines or flash which is residues of plastic, resin or metal left in the seams where the mould joins, and the air vents of the mould. Removing these is one of the primary steps in preparing miniatures for painting as not doing so will leave extra lines and undesired details on the miniature.

This is important to me even on my lowest painting level as these mould lines totally break the illusion for me.

I have an selection of different tools for this depending on material but my main go to tools are a nice sharp hobby knife and a soft file.

Washing Miniatures

Washing miniatures is another important step in the process of preparing a miniature for painting as when casting miniatures mould release agents are used to help them come out of the mould post casting. If these are not cleaned off the miniature we can run into issues with paint adhesion to the surface of the miniatures.

Even with 3D minis I like to account for oils from the skin of whoever has handled the minis before they have got to my desk as well as other residues may be on the surfaces of minis from the packaging and handling process.

This is a simple process of washing them in warm water with a tiny bit of soap. I have a few soft toothbrushes I use for this step to get into all the nooks and crannies.

Building and customizing Miniatures

Building and assembly is required, for obvious reasons, even if that just means adding some fun stuff to the bases of the miniatures. Any customizations of or modifications of sculpts tend to happen at this stage.

Basing Miniatures

Which leads me nicely onto basing which is something I do as part of preparing miniatures for painting as this provides a setting or environment for the miniature to sit in.

I normally do this step before priming.

Priming Miniatures

Priming the miniatures is the final step providing a blank canvas for all the painting work to sit on. A different type of paint is used for priming that has better adhesion to metal and plastics.


Once all of this is done finally its time to get out the wet pallet, dig out some paintbrushes, and flex my painting fingers.

Any and all of the previous steps can have a massive impact on the final results when painting miniatures, and will never be skipped as part of the painting services I offer. Sometimes I include the prep in the painting time estimate sometimes I invoice it separately if it is something that is going to take longer.

If you are a painter and can’t be bothered with all these time consuming steps did you know that I offer build only commissions in which I will happily do most of the heavy lifting of this prep work including priming your miniatures for you so you can skip straight to the fun part of painting your miniatures. If this is something you might be interested in please get in touch and we can go over the details.

Hopefully you found some of the information above useful thank you for reading this post to the end and happy gamming.

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