The other day I posted some pics of my workspace on the Alien Dungeon forum. Looking at the pics, I realized that they are a good example of the kinds of things I want to write about in terms of minatures painting advice and tips.
|My painting area (with lots of great light from the windows)|
I have a pretty large space dedicated to painting, and I'm averaging using it about two hours or so a day right now. I made the desk from an uncut interior door laid on top of a folding craft table. The top of the door is covered with a piece of plexiglass that was cut to size and screwed in place with wood screws. That lets me slide notes and pictures under the plexiglass and protect them from paint, ink, and water. I also keep a protractor and a long plastic ruler tucked under the plexiglass so they are available but otherwise out of the way.
If you look closely in this next pic, you can see the ruler and protractor tucked under the plexiglass under my paint boxes. My paint is all sorted into boxes on the right end of the paint table. I used to keep them on stacking "lazy-susan" style organizers. Ultimately, I realized it took about the same amount of room and was easier just using boxes to organize them.
|My paints, my old radio, and some tools|
I keep a roll of paper towels tucked behind the paint out of the way. Normally I pull off a sheet or two when I start a project (you can see the sheet I'm currently using between the paint and the paint table) and replace them as I use them, but it's helpful to have the roll handy in case of spills.
I also have my trusty radio that has kept me company at the painting table for the last twenty years or so. You can tell how old it is by the cassette player in the front! I always like to have some music going when I paint, and I hate to risk the laptop. I also hate trying to paint with earphones in, so the iPod is definitely not an option.
|My paint desk and a lot of tools and materials|
In the first pic, you could see the three lamps that I use. Here you can only see the bases, but you can see how I have them positioned. The two on the sides are long-arm positionable desk lamps I picked up at Ikea several years ago. They have heavy steel bases and spring-loaded arms that keep them in place wherever you position them. I normally pull them forward and shoot them straight down at the paint desk from the sides. The center lamp is a cheap adjustable desk lamp with an organizer built into the base. It has a shorter reach, so I usually use it to shoot light from the back of the paint desk down in the center. That helps balance the shadows I get from the room lighting behind me.
The center light is also helpful for drying green stuff, paint and ink. I can do some work on a model and put it on the shelf of the paint desk in the light and it speeds the drying process. If you do this with some plastic models, though, you need to be careful. Some of them can melt under the heat of the lamp if you leave them for too long.
All of my lamps have full-spectrum bulbs so that I get the best representation of the colors as I paint.
On and around the lamp bases are a collection of materials and tools: a paper weight, a couple measuring tapes, a stress ball shaped like a brain (useful for working out hand cramps), white glue, crayons (for sketching, terrain, and coloring), brushes, my sand and gravel mix, a couple of empty plastic containers, a knife sharpener and pencil eraser, straight pins, plastic cups and paint can lids, and some minis and basing materials.
To the left of the paint desk is a piece of an old cutting mat with my regular tool set on top of it. The tool set has a set of clippers, a razor knife, tweezers, and several files in it - pretty much everything I need to put minis together except glue and putty.
The paint desk is the one that Games Workshop put out several years ago. I glued a large piece of an old cutting mat into the bottom of it. I keep an old spice jar full of brushes in one of the large cutouts in the shelf and a cup for water in the other.
The top shelf holds a roll of tape, some rubber bands, a couple of minis in progress, a champagne cork with some poster putty on it, a couple extra balls of poster putty for sticking things in place, extra #11 razor knife blades, a razor saw, a straight pin for clearing dropper bottles, and my corner cutter for wargame counters. Normally I keep my super glue and some plastic model glue here as well. The small holes have a razor knife with a chisel blade, a couple of eye droppers, a pencil, and a brush I use for mixing paint on the left. On the right I have some twisties and a small plastic bag for storing bits. I normally keep a razor knife with a #11 blade on the left as well.
In the slot at the front of the shelf is a chopstick I use for mixing paint. I started using chop sticks for this a few years ago because they're cheap and easy to get. When they get dirty, I sharpen the end with a pencil sharpener until it's clean.
In the main part of the desk, you can see a few projects in progress. I also have another cork with poster putty and a couple of pipe cleaners on the left. On the right are my steel ruler, a pair of wire clippers, and a heavy duty razor knife with a 45-degree cutting blade. When I need to, I can swap out the cutting blade for the saw blade on the top shelf. Under the paint desk is a clean sheet of paper I use when I'm taking pics of my minis. When I am painting, I normally have my palette on the paint desk. I must have had it drying when I took the pic.
|My tool boxes and some projects to finish|
When you're putting together your space for painting, it doesn't have to be this large and elaborate but there are a few important things to keep in mind.
1. The most important thing about setting up your hobby area is to make sure that you are being safe when you are doing hobby work. If you have pets or children, make sure that you set things up and store tools and materials safely. If you have a dedicated area, make sure that you can secure it from intrusion. If the pets and kids are about when you're working, make sure that everything dangerous is out of reach and secure. Tape the tops onto your knives, keep the pets (and kids) from drinking the dirty paint water, and so on. Make sure to follow all the safety instructions of the equipment and materials you use. Modeling and painting involve lots of sharp tools, chemicals, and other dangerous things. Make sure you're protecting your and others' safety as much as possible.
2. Try to get the best light you can. My table is in front of two large windows, and I have three daylight lamps for when I paint at night. That means I always have plenty of light from multiple directions. The brighter the light and the more directions it comes from, the better you will be able to see as you're working. Light eliminates shadows and makes your colors look more natural as you're painting. It also helps you see mold lines and details as you're cleaning and assembling models.
3. Make sure you have a good chair that you can sit in comfortably for however long you normally work. Nothing can kill your enjoyment of painting as quickly as a bad chair! I use an old straight-backed wooden chair. I can normally sit in it comfortably for at least a couple hours at a stretch. When I find myself getting a little stiff, I get up, do some stretches and walk around a bit.
4. Make sure you have enough room to paint. It is much easier to paint if you have enough room to set out your models, brushes, paints, palette, paper towel, and water in a comfortable area. The minimum space I need to comfortably paint is about one and a half square feet. Ideally, I prefer to have a little over two sqaure feet, which is about the size of my paint desk. If I need more space for a larger model, though, I can spread onto the left end of the desk and get about nine square feet (3 x 3 feet) to work. The only time I would need a space like that is for large terrain projects, really large models, or big resin kits.
5. Make sure that you keep the paints and brushes you need handy. I swap out the brushes in the container on the paint desk and the jar behind it to suit the project I am working on. The ones that I will be using go in the desk, and the rest get out of the way. That saves me time searching for the right brush. If I need another one, I can always get it from the back jar, but the ones I'm not using aren't getting in the way of the ones I am. The same goes for paint - I pull the colors I am going to use and set them up on the back shelf of the paint desk. When I'm done with a color, I push it to the back of the shelf (just in case I need it later for some touch-up work). When the project is done, the paint goes back to the boxes.
6. Always have fresh water. I have easy access to the kitchen and the bathroom from my paint table, so I can swap out water easily as I need. If you don't have easy access to a sink and water, keep a couple of bottles of water handy - one for clean water and one for waste water.
7. Do as much as possible to eliminate spills before they happen. Use a water cup that has a low center of gravity (spray paint caps work well) and make sure not to fill it too full. Having a paint desk like mine is the best way to eliminate water spills, because it suspends the water cup so you can't knock it over. When you open a bottle of paint or ink, pull some out of the pot onto your palette and cap the bottle.
8. If you don't have a dedicated paint desk (or you're worried about getting paint on your paint desk, put down some paper. I don't recommend using newspaper, because it is too easy to transfer ink to your hands and smudge it on your models. The best paper is brown wrapping paper or paper shopping bags. You can easily cut the paper to size with a razor knife or scissors, and it's cheap and easy to get. The thicker paper also gives you a couple extra seconds after a spill before the paint or ink bleeds to the table underneath. If you're painting on a nice dining room table, spread out a plastic tablecloth or a trash bag and hold it in place with some poster putty on the underside of the table. Believe me, the first time you spill glue or ink on the plastic, you'll thank me.
9. Try to put your painting area somewhere you enjoy being. This sounds like common sense, but the more you like being in the area of your painting setup, the more likely you are to paint. If you tuck the paint table under the stairs in a dark, musty basement, you're not likely to get a lot of painting done.
10. Ignore everything that doesn't work for you, except the first rule. If you find a better way to set up or something doesn't work for you, go with what works. I don't have all the answers. Experiment and see what you like best and go from there.