Beginner's Guide to Painting a Metal Miniature

  • 01 of 06

    Choosing a Metal Miniature to Paint

    Painted Lord of the Rings miniatures
    Lesley Shepherd

    You see them in the shops, the tiny packages with white metal figures which can barely be identified with the naked eye. There’s lots of information on detailing and painting them, but how easy is it for a beginner? Follow our steps to find out.

    First, it's important to choose metals which are safe to handle. Make sure your miniature is not cast from lead. You want miniatures cast from white metal, pewter or other safe-to-handle metals. If your miniature is made ​of an alloy, read the article...MORE on safe handling of metal miniatures.

    Look for metal castings with crisp, clear detail lines, and look for clean mold lines. Examine castings for excess metal mold lines and flash, the extra metal which will need to be cleaned off before you can finish the miniature. And finally, make sure the miniature is the correct scale and matches the range of other figures or display pieces you intend to use it with.

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  • 02 of 06

    Clean and Fill the Base Casts

    unpainted metal miniature figures
    Lesley Shepherd

    Remove any extra metal, using fine grit sandpaper, fine files plus a craft knife or a dentist’s tool. File and sand off any irregularities in the finish, and use a magnifying glass to see small details.

    Fill any imperfections in the figures with Milliput or another metal filling epoxy. Use fine sandpaper to sand any filled areas down in order to blend the filler into the surrounding metal as much as possible.

    Use a dentist’s tool to recreate lines if any end in the middle of a filled patch.

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  • 03 of 06

    Clean and Apply a Base Coat of Paint

    base coated metal miniatures
    Lesley Shepherd

    When the finish is correct with all extra metal removed, clean the miniature figures carefully with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. You don’t want any traces of oil from your fingers adhering to the miniatures.

    Once the figures are clean and dry, apply a thin base coating of an appropriate undercoat, one which will adhere to metal and allow you to paint on top with acrylic paints.

    You will usually get a better finish using spray undercoats. Choose the undercoat color based on your intended...MORE paint scheme. 

    Allow the miniature to dry in a dust-free environment.

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  • 04 of 06

    Apply the Base Paint Colors

    metal miniature with first color coat
    Lesley Shepherd

    To choose your color scheme, lay out small amounts of acrylic paints on your paint palette. Choose paints which contrast well with each other. 

    Using small brushes, fill in the general color areas as evenly as you can using an appropriately sized brush.

    Avoid painting adjacent colors until the first color is dry, then go back and fill in the areas in between the colors you were able to paint the first time. Detail comes later, so just try to concentrate on getting one or two thin even coats...MORE applied.

    Set aside to dry in a dust-free environment.

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  • 05 of 06

    Apply Details to Your Metal Miniatures

    Applying details to a metal miniature
    Lesley Shepherd

    Make sure you have a steady hand and good light for these steps. Magnifying eyewear is very useful.

    Go over your miniature figures adding in fine detail, pupils for the eyes, lines in the deep creases of clothing, teeth in open mouths, details of costumes, etc.

    When you have finished the fine detail, you may want to add a very thin wash of a color like burnt umber to add a bit of depth to the deeper details.

    Another technique which brings out highlights is dry brushing. To do this load the brush...MORE with a lighter color and then blot the brush on a paper towel to remove most of the paint. With the brush now mostly free of paint, drag it lightly over the figure and the detail will pop out.

    Try it on the darker areas of clothing, then use it on lighter areas if you like the effect.

    When the figure details are painted to your satisfaction, set the figures away in a dust free environment to dry. 

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  • 06 of 06

    Overcoating Painted Metal Miniatures

    Painted Lord of the Rings Figures
    Lesley Shepherd

    Apply a fine overcoat finish (matte or gloss depending on your preference) to your miniature figures to protect the acrylic finish. A spray coat is advisable, but you can use brush-on coatings if you prefer them.

    Apply any finishing details you want to the bases of your figures.