Beginners guide to miniature hobby

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Rough beginings - Beginners guide to miniature hobby

New in the miniatures hobby? I believe you have got a lot of questions that you may afraid to ask those pro guys :) or you just simple shy. You may not even be aware of the things you don’t know or how to properly address the question.

Lets gather some questions in this article and try to answer them.

Some of the subjects will be explained better in another articles because they will need more space to breath :)

Q: Why miniatures are in parts?

A: The reason is simple. To produce miniatures you have to cast them. To do this successfully you must simplify casting moulds as much as you can. The simpler it is the less rejects you will get from the casting process. Yes, some casts (sometimes even 40%) will not make it to the sales because of the flaws. The more detailed and complicated models the harder to cast. Believe us, look at our models, we know this hell very well :)

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There is also another reason. Some models are designed to be modular. It means that you can swap hands and feets, rotate the torso or legs. It sounds good but it has got some limitations in terms of the design, pose and overall feeling of the miniature. They look a little like plastic dolls with rotated limbs. There is nothing wrong with this and it’s handy for games manufacturers. It is what is, some people like it...

Q: But some models are in one part!

A: That is true! But they are technically designed from the beginning to be in one piece. Unfortunately miniatures designed this way can often look flat, two dimensional. Most of the time they have all parts sticked to the body and no parts(hands, legs, weapons, clothes) sticking to the front or back, no dynamic materials/clothes ect. Models in one piece are perfect for board games because you do not have to assemble it. You just need to open the box and play the game. As you see everything comes with a price :)

Q: OK, so what are those plastic sticks and spurs? Do I need them ?

A: This things are necessary to pour the material(resin, metal or plastic) into the mould(body of the miniature). Sometimes companies have to sacrifice some details and attach additional canal/spur to the mini to be able to produce certain miniature/part. You do not need them and you can cut it off.

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Q: What miniatures are made of and does it do difference in the details?

A: There are three main materials: resin, metal and plastic. Of course each of them has got many different subtypes, mixtures, brands ect. But lets keep it simple(resin, metal, plastic). Yes there is difference in details. It all depends on the caster and equipment, but in perfect world: resin gives the best details, metal gives about 5-10% less but also very good and there is plastic with it’s limitations. Plastic has its limitation because of the technology but it’s more complicated subject so let's leave it it there :).

Q: If resin gives the best details so why companies produces in plastic and metal?

A: The answer is pretty simple - money and time, which is money :) We could just leave it there but lets explore this subject a little more. Resin is like “hand made”. One good mould can handle 20-30 copies of a miniature. Materials and equipments are fairly cheap, but “know how” is essential and it requires constant supervision and human work. It also means that casting in resin is slow. Entry point to the production in resin is fairly low but in the long run it is higher than in metal or plastic. Production in metal requires different, more complicated moulds and different more expensive equipment. But then production is much faster, simpler and overall costs can be lower. It all depends of the sale. Plastic is whole different story. Moulds are extremely expensive but production is really cheap so if you sale a lot of models and you can sacrifice/simplify details then this is your choice. Important thing is that models for plastic are designed differently than those for resin and metal.

Q: Why color/value tone of the resin differs between miniatures from the same producer?

A: Resin as a material is translucent, to make it look opaque and pleasing to the eye casters add pigment in the process of mixing. A little difference in the mixture/proportions and models may look brighter or darker. This does not affect the quality! It’s just an effect of a hand-made process.

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Q: Why most of the miniatures are sold unpainted?

A: That’s the whole fun, to paint them by yourself :) There are some companies that produce prepainted miniatures but most of them are designed to be simpler and they are dedicated to certain games. There is also a wide market of action figures from comics, books, films, anime and manga. Usually those are much larger.

Q: Speaking about large - what are the most popular scales?

A: Popularity in the scales is strictly connected to the tabletop games. The most popular scales in wargaming are: 28mm, 32mm heroic and 15 mm. The models from the first two sometimes can be swapped between different games. Just pretend this dude is taller :) The 15 mm scale is really tiny and it is used to play big battles with many troops. Details on such a small scale are really symbolic.

Q: And those bigger ones?

A: Bigger ones are for hobbyist and painters. There is 54mm scale and 70-75mm scale and many others for large action figures. The bigger scale gives more space and opportunities for professional painters. There are almost no games in this scales. Production of this models is expensive so models are rather expensive which reduce the audience and interest in them. People just prefer to lead at least a few smaller minis or even the whole army of minis than one or several big ones.

Q: Does scale means that every miniature is the same high?

A: No! It means that normal human being high is for example 32 mm from toes to the eyes(or tip of the head). It also means that in the same scale we can have monsters, animals and taller humanoids but level and size of details refer to 32 mm scale.

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Q: I’ve heard term skirmish game - what is it and what scale does it uses?

A: It is a game where players controls few models most of the time about 4-10 on each side. Often those models has got many rules per models and often they are character driven. Long story short - there is more attention to every model on the battlefield. This games uses 28 and 32 mm scales.

Q: What is full scale/squad based game?

A: This games focuses on commanding large armies rather than separated units/characters. Rules for this squads are often simplified. These games may use 28, 32 or 15mm scale. The last one is often used in historical games where players commands large armies and fight large battles.

Q: Are these games any fun? They look a little boring…

A: Yes, we get you. We get what you try to say. Looking at two people playing the miniature game without knowing the rules and what is going on on the battlefield is kind of boring….even for other players. But there is something in those guys who plays that makes them tense, excited and focused. They are planning and playing in their heads and on the table, they know the rules, know what opponent is trying to do and what he is capable of. They lead their armies/bands and plan strategy, to defeat him. Each game is different, some are more accessible others more complicated, but you have to actually play the tabletop game(few times with understanding what you’re doing) to catch the fun factor. And believe us, it is fun!

Q: How to get into wargaming and tabletop games?

A: Find somebody who will explain you the rules and show you what game is about. Reading rules and understanding mechanic if you haven't played those games before may be difficult. Sometimes even board games are difficult for newcomers.

Q: How to assemble miniature?

A: Fast answer - Cut out the sprues, celan the mini and glue the pieces together with fast drying glue(super glue ect). This is basic subject but we will write another article dedicated to preparation of the model.

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Q: What paint do i need and where to get them ?

A: For minis we recommend acrylic paints. You can get them in miniature hobby shop. Just buy those dedicated for the miniatures(Vallejo, GW paints, Scale 75, Andrea, Reeper ect.).

Acrylic paints dries quickly and you can dilute them with water which means you can clean your brush pretty quickly. They are also odorless and non toxic(at least they say so:)).

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Q: What brush do i need and does it have to be the smallest?

A: If you are a beginner you will probably destroy your brush fairly quickly and you would not see the difference between brands and types...this is your training ground. Go to your miniature(or scale model) hobby store and buy yourself round brush from a natural hair and about 1 sieze. Sizes depends from the manufacturers so it can be 0 or 2 in different brands. We suggest to not start with the tiniest.

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Q: Why tiny brushes aren’t the best?

A: Tiny brush absorb less paint and has less hairs to paint the miniature surface. It means two things - your paint will dry quickly on the brush and you will have to constantly dip it into your paint jar/pallet because the brush can not hold enough of it. The most important is the tip of the brush so you will learn quickly that those 1 size brushes are perfect and can do 99% of the job. Tiny brushes are handy for super fine “freehands”. Checkout free Painting Buddha videos on Youtube and you will learn.

Q: Free.. what? Freehands? What are those?

A: Freehand is a term for all patterns and “pictures“ painted on miniature surface by hand. It means that those are not part of the sculpture, they were manually painted by the painter. Check out our Greid model and look at his mask - this black pattern around his eye is “freehand”.

Q: Do i have to have talent/natural gift to paint miniatures?

A: This is controversial question and many people may not like my answer. NO! You do not have to have talent. The same things goes to drawing and painting. It only depends on your patience and determination. It’s not like i don’t believe in talent… some people learn faster than others and some have that natural sens which at the end will make them 10% better than the rest :) But do not believe that this is for choosen. This opinion is from perspective of people that give up on the first obstacles. The only thing that is between you and semi pro painted model is time and patience. My advice is - Don’t be afraid to try and don’t be afraid to fail! Failure is inevitable and it is part of the process. This thing should be fun so don’t compare yourself to those pro guys that do this for the last 5-10 years. Baby steps and you will be fine!

Q: Why are those guys at the videos and tuts lick bushes?

A: Don’t do it! :) They do this because they want a perfect tip of the brush. Acrylic paints in theory are non toxic but i would not risk. And this is also a bad habit if you want to use some oil paints/chemistry for certain effect :) Stay sharp, stay clean! If you do it once there is no coming back :)

Q: How much hours it takes to paint one model?

A: It all depends. This question is also common in illustration and drawing. The first thing is - do you plan to play this model and how much time can you spend painting one mini? Miniature for games has got simpler paintjob because people have to paint the whole army or squad. They are also carried in bags to clubs or tournaments so you do not want to spend 30-50 hours on a model only to know that the paint chipped away from the miniature. Time for painting model on your shelf or for contest is limitless and it only depends on your skills, expectations, project goals and experience. Other factors are rather technical - how big the mini is, how complex, how many parts ect. OK i am not leaving you without the answers. I am really slow painter and semi pro 32mm mini detailed like ours would take me about 30-50 hours. But it’s me and i know that there are guys that can squiz super cool stuff from 10h.

Q: OK i want to know and learn more, but where do i find informations?

A: In our opinion - we do not recommend social media. They were not designed to support hobbies, and manage/segregate informations. They were design to spam messages and will only confuse or distract. Yes, you can find support groups(gaming, painting, sculpting, modeling) there but you won’t find valuable learning materials. You will also have problem to reach to the information that you need. You can search through our www. and see what we can offer(we will add new articles on the way) we recommend to search forums and dedicated blogs. Search the fraze “forum” and name of your favorite game. We can tell you that:

  • Dakkadakka is one of the larges gaming forum on the net

  • Guys from MassiveVoodo do excellent job in the subject of painting and modeling

  • Painting Buddha is no brainer - search them on YT and support them on Patreon You will learn a lot from this sites!

  • ….

Social media are good for following and knowing that something valuable appear here and there but good source material is always somewhere else. You can follow us on FB, we will inform you about posting new articles.

Q: Can i protect my painted minis?

A: Yes, you can but...If you plan to use minis in games it is a good idea to cover them with varnish. It will apply protecting cover, however this will also give some effect on your painting. It may be satin shining it may also affect blending(color/tone transition). To avoid damage to your paintjob i recommend to use varnishes in spray or applied from airbrush. If you paint the models for yourself or on some contest, do not use varnish! None of pro painter use it(for protection). They use it only to achieve certain effect like shininess ect. and most of the times they mix it with other paints in the process of painting.

Q: Does size and shape of the base matters?

A: Yes, but only if you plan to use the model in certain game. Most games has got rules connected to the size of the bases and they use certain shapes - usually squares or circles. For example miniature on standard 30mm base is normal size but every miniature on 50mm base is considered as large so shooting to this model will be easier. If you do not plan to use the mini in certain game then it doesn’t matter. On painting contest people do not use plastic bases they usually build little vignettes(piece of scenery) and attach models straight to this scenery to give more depth, feeling and integrity between model and surrounding.

Some companies like ours like to use different bases for model because of the pose. It simply gives more artistic freedom to give the model proper cool look :)

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Q: I want the mini but base is in different size/shape than in my game, what do i do?

A: Don’t worry :) You can buy almost all bases separately in hobby stores.

Q: I like the wide miniature pose but i need it on a smaller base, what to do?

A: Cheat! :) What we mean is - use small base and glue some large piece of rock to it. Then glue the miniature to the base.

OK, enough for now. We will expand this article systematically.

We also plan to write separately articles about assembly models, paints and materials.

Do you think there is need for such a basic knowledge? Maybe you have heard or have some other basic questions? Let us know at: contact@sirenminiatures.com, daniel.kalaska@sirenminiatures.com

 

Cheers

Daniel Kałaska