I ran a seminar about speed painting at Gen Con So Cal 2004; the purpose was to teach how to paint miniatures quickly so they'd look decent on the tabletop without having to spend hours preparing for a game, particularly those with large battles. At the seminar I showed these step-by-step photos of speed painting, with similar commentary to what I'm saying below.
|After prepping and cleaning the mini (Reaper #2874, Talbot the Thief), I inspected it to get a sense of its details what sort of colors it might need. On the front, I notice that he has a hooded cloak, a long shirt, pants, boots, belt, shoulder strap with a pouch, sword, hand, and face.|
| On the back side, he's almost entirely cloak, with a little bit of his shoes and shirt showing and the entirety of his sword. There's not a lot of complexity to this miniature, which is good ... a low-complexity miniature is better for speed painting because every additional detail you need to paint means more time spent on each mini and therefore more time spent painting, and the whole point is to be speedy. (For example, this would be an awful mini to try to speed-paint because it has so many tiny details.)|
I'm thinking this is some kind of ranger mini, so earth- and forest-tones are his primary colors, specifically brown and green.
| So what's going to be brown, and what's going to be green? You can save time painting by being smart when you choose your primer color. Instead of spray-priming a mini white or black and then painting it brown with a brush, why not prime it brown and save a step? I have a can of brown primer, so I'll make his main color brown and his secondary color green. A quick spray of brown primer gets me what's pictured (I was actually in a rush priming this mini, as I had to get it done on very short notice before Gen Con So Cal, so you can see where I missed the left side of his stomach).|
(Handy Little Tip #1: Get two different but similar brown primer colors. Prime some minis in the first brown, some in the second brown, and finish the painting as described here. They'll look like two units from the same regiment that have teamed up.)
| Here's the back side of the brown-primed mini. I went for one heavy coat rather than two medium or two light coats because I was in a hurry, but this miniature doesn't have a lot of fine details that would be obscured by a heavier layer of primer, so that's OK. You can also notice the incomplete coverage on the textured base; again, not something I'm worrying about if I'm trying to get 20 minis painted for tomorrow's battle.|
(Handy Little Tip #2: If you can't find actual brown primer in your area, prime the minis with black or white primer and then spray them with a coat of regular spraypaint. The quality won't be great but it'll get the job done. Or just use regular spraypaint as primer, with the same results.)
|The next step is to use the first of the two greatest painting tricks: drybrushing. Grab a bottle of brown paint that's a lighter shade than your primer. It doesn't have to be a really close color match; you want the drybrush color to be light enough to stand out compared to the base color. Use a big brush and drybrush all over the figure, against the grain of the cloak folds. It's OK if you get it on the mini's face, weapon, or other clothing, as you're going to paint over that anyway.|
|The back side of the miniature after the first drybrushing. Notice how the big cloak folds stand out nicely from the deeper parts.|
|You could stop with just one drybrushing, but I decided to do a second drybrushing with an even lighter color, still using the big brush. It's a heavier drybrushing (more paint in the brush) and greater contrast (a significantly lighter color than the base color or previous color) than I'd normally do for a slower paint job, but the end result is a distinct difference between the light brown of the outer cloak surface and the dark brown of the inner cloak surface.|
|The back side of the mini after drybrush #2. Apologies for the blurry photo.|
|Here I used the medium brush to quickly paint the shirt green. Notice that I painted right over the belt and the diagonal strap; painting around small details like that slows you down when you're trying to work fast, and you'd barely notice those things on the tabletop if you bothered to paint them slowly and carefully, so just be reckless. In painting the shirt, I made sure to get the part of the sleeve visible only from the back (not pictured here).|
|Using the fine brush, I painted the front and back of the sword with metallic paint. On a solo paint job I'd highlight the sword with a lighter metallic color, but for speed painting I won't do that.|
|Using the fine brush, I painted the visible part of the face and the right hand. The hand was almost a drybrush, just running the paint across the outer surface of the fingers.|
|Now it's time to use the second great painting trick of the miniatures painter: inking. For this step I took some ink (Flesh Shade Ink in this case), diluted it to about 2 parts water to one part ink, and used the medium brush to paint the ink onto the mini's face, shirt, and hand. This brings out the texture of the miniature and also quickly takes care of the eyes (which would normally take several minutes to do well).|
|The mini is essentially done, all I need to do is seal it so the paint doesn't flake or chip. But spray primer takes a while to dry, so I used a batch of clear "magic wash" or "dip" as it's known: Future brand floor wax finish (a clear acrylic sealant used to seal linoleum, not actually a wax) mixed with water. Dip the mini, set aside, it dries in about 10 minutes, tops (like miniature paint, it's an acrylic and dries fast, though when diluted to this extent it takes longer, thus the 10 minutes). Make sure the ink from the previous step is dry before you dip, otherwise it'll run everywhere!|
| Dipping gives it a nice strong coat of sealant, dries faster than spray varnish, and doesn't have the dizzying smell; the only drawback is that it leaves a glossy finish, but if that bothers you just spray it with Testor's DullCote.|
This is the finished mini. You may not be impressed (it is a very simple paint job, and isn't going to win any awards), but....
|... you have to realize that I wasn't painting one of these guys, I was painting four of them (plus two other minis as other examples of speed painting), doing each step together on all four (drybrush 1 on all four, drybrush 2 on all four, green on all four, etc.) before proceeding to the next step. This "assembly-line" process is more efficient than trying to paint them from start to finish individually. Case in point, I painted these four (six, actually) minis in about an hour while watching TV after working all day at Gen Con So Cal. Four minis in an hour isn't bad at all. If you don't believe me, the guys at the seminar wanted proof, so I sat there and painted four more of them in fifteen minutes and they looked exactly like these four.|
|"But they don't look that good!" Sure, they're not great, but you're looking at a close-up photo. When in play on the tabletop, they'll be at an arm's length or even farther away, and from that distance (as represented by this zoomed-out photo) they look pretty good for something that only took an hour!|