Tips, Tricks, and Rants
What I wish I knew before I started.
Larger scale models are much easier to paint. It makes so much sense now, but I never tried any larger model for quite some time.
If you are a beginner, I would highly suggest starting with larger models, you can focus more on the things that matter like shadows and highlights, rather than fighting your lack of brush technique. You can concentrate on creating art and having fun instead of worrying about tiny details on a small model.
Larger models are more forgiving, while still having plenty of space to play in. Often times, they are more detailed, which lets you focus on having fun over fighting scale.
Often times people are scared of bigger models, they think they need to first have perfect technique and an airbrush to boot. I call bullshit. While that may be true to some extent with acrylic paint, that is not the case with oils. Large surfaces are a nightmare for acrylics, because they dry so fast, it is hard to get large, uniform areas without brush strokes and drying lines showing up. Use oil paint and you don't even have to worry about that at all.
Paint the whole model at once. Painting individual bits, then assembling the model, is a nightmare and a huge waste of time. Working with the whole model at once is so much faster, and better. You can get the shadows and highlights right, you can get the same uniform tones across all the parts. And most importantly, you won't waste any time or paint on areas you can't see or are covered up.
You do not need fancy brushes. If you like them, go ahead. But you don't need them. Not for oil painting. In fact, I've found that as I get more comfortable with oils, I tend to just grab and use whatever brush is in reach. I favor my shitty synthetic brushes over my Kolinsky sabels for the most part. I haven't honestly noticed much of a difference. You can get fantastic results with cheap brushes.
In fact, save all your "ruined" frayed brushed because they will make for great blending brushes. Oil washes are so much better than their water-based counterpart, I'm actually anxiously awaiting my brushes to wear down to just a few hairs because they will be even better.
Oil paints are not scary. They are not some high level technique reserved for advanced painters. Considering acrylic paint was invented in 1953, pretty much every painting ever done from the dawn of time to now has been some form of oil based paint. All the great masters rocked oils. Every technique used in the mini hobby with acrylic paint can be done, and done correctly, with oils. Oils paints are made to blend together on a canvas, which is exactly what a miniature is: a 3D canvas.
People say you can't freehand in oils. Or you need to at least let the oils dry before attempting it. That is some ignorant bullshit. Look at any landscape or portrait painting, that was all "freehand". Go watch Bob Ross. He has absolutely zero issues painting right over wet oil paint with happy little trees, clouds, streams, flowers, leaves, etc. Thin paint sticks to thick paint, and thick paint sticks to thin paint.
If anything, I would suggest that people start with oil paints. They are so much more forgiving than acrylics. It will let you focus on having fun and creating art instead of constantly fighting your drying paint. "Advanced level" techniques in acrylics are a non-issue with oils. Wet blending? That is all oils are. Creamy color blends? Please, that takes a few brush strokes with oils. Non-metallic metal effects? Oils can do in 30 seconds what would take hours with acrylics. Creating a palette full of tones? With oils you just mix your colors ON the mini, creating natural tones between everything without having to consult a color wheel.
No matter what you want to do, it just works with oils better than acrylics.
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Oils are better than acrylics in (nearly) every way.
When it comes to paint, the strengths and weakness are the same thing. Acryclics' biggest strength is also their biggest weakness, namely, drying time. Oils are the in the same boat, but opposite.
And when it comes to the pros out-weighing the cons, oils win hands down.
Cost: Oils win. You do not need many colors, and oil paint lasts FOREVER. You can pick up tubes of oil paint for pretty cheap. Art supply stores are always having sales, too, so keep an eye out.
But even if you pay full price they are still cheaper than acrylics. A small $10 tube of oil paint will most likely last the rest of your life. This is not hyperbole. Unless you are a professional painter that spends 8+ hours a day painting, you will probably die before you use up a tube of most oil paints. You'll need to put these in your will.
Additionally, oils are very gentle on brushes. The oil acts almost like conditioner. You won't be getting dried paint up in the ferrule, so your brushes last much longer than acrylics.
Painting speed: Oils win. You can definitely paint quickly with acrylics for basic things, but if you want to do anything "fancy", then you are going to have a bad time. Dozen or hundreds of layers of super thin paint to achieve anything is a nightmare.
Painting metal with acrylics? That is going to be hours of your life down the drain. With oils it takes mere seconds.
Color transitions with acrylics? I hope you like boredom. Oils can do it in seconds.
Want more proof? Take a look at an acrylic palette after a painting session. The thing is a mess, because you have to blend all your colors on the palette.
About half of your "painting" time is spent mixing color tones. With oils, you literally just mix the colors ON the mini itself. All that wasted palette painting time is spent actually painting instead. Oils win again.
Ease of Use: Oils win. While you can do amazing things with acrylics, you end up fighting against the medium the entire time. Why not use a medium that you can work with, instead?
Washes: Oils win. Once you use an oil wash, you'll never go back. The reason oil washes are so awesome, is because the surface tension of paint thinner is much lower than water. This means it flows into every little crack and crevice of its own accord.
The capillary action is real, allowing you to pick out details you just couldn't do with water-based washes without a lot of extra work and time.
Blending: Oils win. They are made to blend, and their long drying time makes doing so an absolute treat, instead of a tedious chore. You will get so many more shades and tones of color with oils than if you used acrylics.
Color: Oils win. Wet oil paint looks exactly like dry oil paint. Acrylics, on the other hand, can look very different dry versus wet. Which is a huge problem, and leads to just another time sink of trying to guess how to get your colors the way you want them.
Cleanup: About the same. A couple drops of soap and oil paint is easily cleaned from brushes and hands. Honestly easier than cleaning off dried acrylic paint. But acrylics are water-based, so they are pretty simple, too. I think it is easier to clean your brushes used with oil paint, but not significanly so.
Storage: This is very painter-dependent. I see people that post pics of their hundreds of rows of acrylic paint pots and I cannot fathom why you would need that many. I'm sure there are oil painters that do the same, so this isn't really a medium-specific question, more a personality test.
Drying time: Acrylics win. If you need a mini painted for use because your D&D group is coming over in a few hours and you need a big bad guy, then acrylics are the only game in town. There are ways to get oils to dry fast, but honestly, just pick a medium that does what you want it to do in the first place.
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Getting started with oils.
A very common question is "How do I get started with oils?" What paints to use? What about brushes? Do you have to thin the paint? I will endeavor to enlighten the masses.
What paints to use?