Monday, August 05, 2019

On painting Set-ups


So first things first, I have been bingeing on online paint tutorials of late.  This is not because I consider myself a beginner painter.  But I am a learner still, and if you stop learning, you can't improve!  There are always things to pick up; but this is for another subsequent post, this is more about the aspirational luxury of hobby set ups.

Wander around the internet long on the subject of miniature painting, and you'll come across no end of vast arrangements, usually pristinely set up for the painting of apparently one or two models at a time:

Just some typical desks from the interwebs...
Those rare arrangements to pop up in books and magazines are not so different.  There are elements that seem ever present:  permanent work space, no end of handy shelves or tool boxes, bright lighting, and of course, hundreds of paints.

It may in fact seem rather intimidating.  What if your partner doesn't accede to the spare bedroom becoming a subsidiary of the local craft store?  What if you live in a rented chicken coop with barely room to swing a cat?  What if your funds won't stretch to owning the entire range of [insert name here] paints?

I have at various stages in my involvement in the hobby, ticked off all of the above, and still do; the last time I had a hobby desk was 12 years ago, and, well.  It looked like this:

GAAAH! My eyes!!
Oh sure I'd love the space for a set up like the ones in the first picture, that much space and equipment is theoretically great.  But what I'd contend is; you don't need it.  (I'm sure a few of my readers relate more to my old desk up there, than any of the ones' above.)

I am no master painter, hence the still learning consideration.  But I think I can do alright when I pull out the stops, I've painted the odd model I'd say was pretty damn good, and moreover, I've never fielded unpainted troops, as a point of honour if nothing else.

I manage to do so with a palette of about 40 paints - including craft colours - a few inks and underused washes and a range of haphazardly gathered tools.

Imagine your author sat neath the paint tray 
Yes, I'm a sloucher, and that is a major difference if nothing else, I dont really get on with the desk and office chair set up.

All the basics

 The core of my set up lives in one box, and 90% of my painting and modelling can be done from the contents of this drawer.  Sure it is a bit untidy, but it is compact, note the sheer lack of paints.  I blend most everything so I only need a relatively small number of paints.  I am however a brush hoarder, as will become apparent.

The lap tray and palette 
Okay, so this is even more of a compromise, but it has worked well for me over the last five years, with the purple cloth serving to keep me clean, clean brushes and save on paper towels....
The rest of the paint corner

Everything else lives in an IKEA box that was designed to fit inside a Kallax shelf unit.  The paint tray going on the shelf above when out of use.  The middle drawer is spare paints - copies mainly of shades I use a lot, spare brushes I've accumulated, weathering washes and an extra large palette.  The top drawer is full of basing materials and weathering powders.

My painting setup is not ideal, absolutely, but I can make the most of it, and that is the real point.

Part of it is down to style, and not being a martyr to one proscribed way of working.  The reason I can get away with so few paints is that I learnt mixing and blending from the outset, refining simple dry-brushing into more complex styles as I learnt.  But again I diverge, the point being, that if you only know how to paint something by following somebody else's recipe you can end up with a large collection of equipment silo'ed to very niche jobs.  There's an undoubted ease to learning that way, but it can come with a long term penalty of becoming dependent on specifics for process.

Maybe the real point is that a relative beginner should not feel intimidated by the commitment some people put into producing top quality work.  That we all start somewhere.

But anyway, for me space has always been a premium, I don't like to waste it!  But moreover, as one of natures slouchers, and as someone stuck at a desk all day already, I don't respond well to sitting at another desk to paint of an evening again, the sofa offers me a far more conducive spot to curl up and put a couple of hours in.

As to techniques, well the more you learn about, the better for your modelling.  If you are fixed on one system, you'll miss out on the smart approaches of others.  Hence, a lot of painting tutorials, even if I end up thinking "I'll never use that".

But finally I write all this at a point where I really am in the process of changing my set up.  Presently painting more than playing, I have gone into a try-hard mode with my painting, and have begun trying a few new approaches.  More on which in coming weeks.  But none of them are really essential, and getting painted models to the table is simply a case on flat colours as a start, and anything else is a bonus.

But more on that shortly...



  1. Thanks for sharing! My setup is equally impressive. I paint on the the kitchen table and all of my kit is portable to go back in the laundry room when the table is needed for other things. Thankfully, my bride lets me leave my stuff out for a week at a go. Those well-appointed rooms that you show early on are so unrealistic!

  2. I have a desk set at worktop height to stop back strain. Three daylight lamps and a fairly eclectic mix of paint ranges (still wonder why I bought some shades that have never been used - must have been a bargin buy). Ultimately it's all about what works for the user - there is no right or wrong.

  3. Bravo to your setup and to your painting. My painting space is shared with an office. But since I'm the only one who uses the office I guess it's all mine. But, as said above, it's all about what you're comfortable with. I sometimes feel that having limited color selection boosts your painting potential since you have to mix to get a color you want. You will be a better artist for it. Yes, you are an artist. Don't let anyone tell you different.

  4. Small portable table, good lamp, trusty tile, comfortable sofa, and Netflix to binge Star Trek for background noise and I am good to go.

    I once had a desk to paint at, and I got bigger all done. Now I have painted several armies since switching over.

    One thing that I have recently bought was a model holder. Absolutely amazing thing, really helps speed up the process, I'd strongly recommend everyone try one at least once.