plastic miniature painting tips

For most hobby dioramas and war games, one of the fun parts is setting up the pieces to be ready for action. This includes painting plastic miniatures. While the process is engaging, it also requires a lot of time, patience, and diligence. Not everyone uses these figures for gaming, some like to paint decorative figures for presentation. Regardless of the reason, many miniature figures come better with the perfect paint job done on it. Even colored miniatures can be re-painted for specific preference or to distinguish them from similar pieces on the game board.

The supplies you will most likely need include the following:


  • Paper plates or cups to use as a palette
  • Dishwashing liquid and water
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Acrylic Gesso
  • Flat clear acrylic


The first part of the process is to wash the miniature(s) using a mild rinsing liquid or plain water. Dish washing soap works best because they are soft on the hands, but can help eliminate grease. After you rinse, allow for 10-15 minutes of air drying before continuing. While you are waiting, choose a good spot to start your work. Generally, a spacious area that you don’t mind cleaning up afterwards is a good choice. Once you have your spot, gather your supplies and start on the next process.

Choosing Your Colors

The right selection and combination of colors can make a difference in how your painted miniature turns out. The video below from ‘Quick Kits’ explains the various paint types used in miniature or scale model painting:


Begin by priming. You can use a spray primer or simple glue and water. There are different recommendations from various sources in the community. Go with your preference of what works best for your specific miniature. You can mix your own primer using Acrylic Gesso, water, and a small drop of black acrylic paint. Continue mixing until you can add additional drops of black acrylic. Once you have a solid medium gray shade, you can brush it onto your miniature. If you are working on multiple miniatures, base all of them at the same time. Before moving on the next process, allow the miniature(s) to dry for 25 minutes. You can add an additional coat to cover any missed spots.

The next part is the painting itself. If you are less experienced with painting details, consider practicing on throwaway objects until you believe you are ready. Paint the base of the miniature, using 2-3 coats to achieve a smooth finish. It is up to you whether you want to paint the bottom since it is not a very visible part of the figure. After painting the top and edges, allow for additional to dry. Once the base coat dries, consider painting from inside-out. This means starting with skin, then clothes, then accessories and so on. Once you are satisfied with the results, allow for an additional sequence of drying.

Color Mixing

Once you reach this stage, there is an additional step to perform. Choose a color from your miniature and mix it with a dab of black and dilute it into a watery solution. Wash the solution over the painted miniature and allow it to dry completely. This creates a shadow effect to your work, giving it as much of a realistic appearance as possible.

To add additional layers of protection to your figure, apply two coats of flat clear Model Masters Acrylic. Allow a half-hour drying between each coat, then allow the whole project to dry for a couple of hours. This will provide excellent durability to your figure and ensure the colors last for a long time.

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