Tips for Contest Entries – Part 2

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This article focuses specifically on common painting-related issues that we see with contest entries. I also recommend reading Part 1 of this article, which focuses on general tips and some common issues related to assembly and workmanship.  Even if you’re not interested in contests, many of the tips in both articles are relevant to anyone looking to improve their work.

Erin hartwellErin Hartwell’s entries at World Expo in Chicago.

I’ve been entering figures into online and offline contests and shows for years, and have also acted as a judge at several. These tips are based on the issues I see most commonly when I give entrants feedback on their work. These suggestions are primarily aimed at beginner and intermediate painters (Certificate, Bronze, and Silver level at the MSP Open), but to be honest, I still struggle with elements related to everything I talk about below to one degree or another (apart from lining), and I suspect I always will.

I also have an article that explains the different formats and terminology used in miniature contests, with links to upcoming events that include miniature contests and shows.

7. Arm’s Length AND Close Up

Most of us paint with the figure held close to our eyes, in bright light, and often with magnification. We are used to assessing our paint jobs from that perspective, and it is easy to forget that this is not how viewers first encounter our figures. People’s first view of your miniature will be at a distance – arm’s length on the game table or contest shelf, or thumbnail on a webstore or social media page. You need to attract the viewer’s attention at that arm’s length view to make them want to look closer so they can appreciate all your effort on detail, smooth blends, weathering, etc.

Most painters understand that the arm’s length view is very important for gaming miniatures, but many people discount its importance in display level painting. Many display painters put all of their emphasis on detail and precision for the close-up view, and fail to consider whether the paint choices come together to work well in the big picture view. This has certainly been an ongoing issue that I battle with in my own painting!

IMG 1081This photo from the Atlanta Model Figure Show is an example of the bustle and visual clutter that happens at a show style contest. At a show, painters have a decent amount of space and some input into how their figures are displayed. Painters have no control over the location of their miniature in a contest with display cases. Figures displayed on shelves in cases are crammed together and competing with their neighbours for viewer attention.

Depending on the character type, the story you want to tell, and the colours you want to use, painting a figure to look good at arm’s length and close up can be pretty challenging. That is precisely why it’s important to think about trying to do it if you’re working on painting a contest entry. Judges know it’s difficult to do. We are considering that challenge factor when we assess entries. In a top three style contest the judges have to make difficult choices. A figure that is competently painted to be appreciated at both arm’s length and close-up may win out over one that excels in only one viewing distance. In medal style judging a figure that excels at detail and blending may place at silver rather than gold level if it is especially weak at the distance view.

Making your miniature stand out at arm’s length is particularly important for in person contests. Miniature painters do not have all the tools available to us that other artists do. We can’t make the background plain or artfully blur it out. Usually there is a lot of visual clutter surrounding our piece that it has to compete with. We also can’t crop our figures down to the important part to force viewers to focus on that the way photographers can. (Though sculptors can, and this is kind of what busts are!) The only tools we have are the colours we apply to the miniature and the way we apply them.

Below are a couple of shelf shots I took of miniatures I’ve painted. Some used tabletop techniques and a small time investment, some are painted to a high quality level with a larger time investment, and some are somewhere in between. The ones that first grab your attention are not necessarily the ones I put the most effort and time into. You can read more about this and discover which figures are from which level of paint job in Constraints and Conudrums Part II

Shelf shot1

Shelf shot2

The above picture simulates some of the visual clutter and indifferent lighting that would be present on a convention contest shelf or game table. Compare it to the picture below with figures posed against a clean background with good lighting. Enticing viewer attention at arm’s length is especially important if the figure will be viewed in a cluttered environment and/or under suboptimal lighting.

So what makes for a good arm’s length figure? I’m going to outline some of the tools you can use in points below. I hope to expand on this and the other topics outlined in this overview in future articles. 

8. Definition and Clarity

One thing to aim for in the arm’s length view is to make colour and paint technique choices that help the viewer identify the key elements of the figure as quickly as possible – who/what is this, and what are they doing. At its most basic level think of this as breaking up the main areas of the figure so the viewer can tell if it’s a human(oid) or a monster, and whether areas are skin, hair, equipment, etc.

How can you use colour to do that? One way is to choose colours for adjacent areas of the miniature that are significantly different from one another in at least one characteristic. Choosing colours that differ in more than one characteristic draws the eye even more, and is an effective way to create focus areas.

Value: place a darker colour next to a lighter colour.

Hue: use a colour that contrasts in hue/temperature next to another, like blue next to orange.

Saturation: use a vivid colour adjacent to a neutral colour, like red next to grey. 

Texture: smooth areas next to textured, detailed, or freehanded areas; or metallic/glossy paint areas next to matte paint areas.

To put it another way, it is helpful to use contrast in adjacent areas. Miniature painters tend to focus on contrast within an area – darker shadows and lighter highlights. This kind of contrast can help viewers more easily ‘read’ your figure, and it’s definitely helpful to improving your miniature painting. However, for the best big picture view, you need to create contrast between sections of the figure. See the Anatomy of Colour for visual examples of different colour properties, and the Catalog of Contrast for visual examples of the different types of contrast you can use to define and clarify your figure to the viewer.

Hue tint toneThis chart from the Anatomy of Colour article demonstrates some of the ways that hue, saturation, and value interact with one another. 

Consider the following figures. Try to view them at the same size as a gaming scale miniature would look from 2-3 feet away. These are some of the example figures from a Kickstarter Learn to Paint kit that I wrote for Reaper Miniatures. They are all painted with the techniques of drybrushing and washing, have roughly the same level of shadow-highlight contrast, and minimal lining. Some of them grab your attention more than others. This is largely due to their levels of contrast between adjacent areas. Those that have bigger differences in value, saturation, and/or hue are the ones that stand out more.

Using more refined techniques of blending, and/or stronger highlight-shadow contrast, and/or lining, and/or increased detailing would add to the visual impact of the figures that don’t stand out as much, but this is a good example of how the basic colour choices for your figure can give you a more solid foundation to build detail and blending and other techniques on top of.

Ltpk combo

Below is the same image converted to black and white, so you can see how strong the effect of the values and hues can be. The orc with the staff and the woman with the dragon stand out well in both colour and grayscale because the colours of the different areas on those figures are significantly different in value. For example, light skin and hair next to dark bodice next to medium value skirt on the woman with the dragon. The archer on the bottom left is more attention grabbing in the colour photo due to the hue contrast between the reddish armour and blue cloak, even though the greyscale photo reveals that there isn’t a strong value difference between her armour and her cloak. The figure on the top row in yellow and grey also stands out better in colour. The value between the grey and yellow is exactly the same in greyscale, but the saturation difference between the bright yellow and neutral grey really stands out when it is viewed in colour.

Ltpk combo bw

You can see some additional examples and expanded discussion of this topic in the  Constraints of Miniature Painting Part I, and a comparison between two figures that are similar in sculpting style and colour scheme, but have differing levels of definition, in Understanding Critique.

9. Lining

The most common piece of feedback I end up giving to Certificate and Bronze medal figure painters after the MSP Open is to use lining on their miniatures. I know that other judges and instructors emphasize the same point, as well. Michael Proctor has said lining is the one thing you can do that has the most visual impact. Although all of these judges and skilled painters I know suggest lining enthusiastically, many of the people who hear that advice are very resistant to the suggestion. 

So what is lining, why are we suggesting you should do it, and why might you feel uncomfortable with that suggestion? The technique of lining involves painting a line of black or a dark colour where two different areas of the miniature meet or overlap. For example, a line where the edge of a sleeve and the skin of the arm meet, or a line between overlapping armour plates. Applying a wash does not substitute for lining. Wash paint is thinned down enough to be somewhat transparent. While it adds definition to sculpted texture and shadow areas, it does not create the same level of clean definition between areas that lining does.

Blibby lining examples crThe figure on the left has almost no lining. The centre figure has been digitally edited to add subtle lining, the figure on the right has digitally added strong lining. In the versions with lining, you can more clearly see which parts of the figure are swimsuit and which are skin even when the photos are scaled down in size as if seen from a distance.

Judges suggest lining for several reasons. The primary one is that it adds definition and clarity to the figure and helps the viewer ‘read’ it more quickly. It’s particularly helpful in situations where the two adjacent areas are similar in value and/or hue. For example, you want to paint a white beard flowing over a pale blue robe. From a distance, the two areas are likely to blur together. Painting a line between them helps visually separate them so the viewer can identify what is what. Lining also helps your paint job look cleaner. The edges where different paint colours meet often look wobbly and messy even if you’re a fairly neat painter. Lining cleans up the edges between areas.

People who resist the idea of lining often say it’s because they think it’s cartoony and they prefer a more realistic and natural style. Certainly a thick black line separating every area of a figure might inspire a cartoon feel, but that’s not the only way to use lining. You don’t have to use a uniform colour for all the lines. You can customize it to the area(s). So in the example with the white bard and pale blue robe, I would use a dark blue or dark grey to paint the line between them. If you customize lining colours to the various areas of your figure, you need to choose a lining colour that is dark in relation to the darkest area where it will be applied. If I had a white beard sitting on a navy shirt, then I would use black, since navy is a dark colour.

I would also argue that lining is more realistic than you think. Objects that overhang another object block the light and create the appearance of a dark line of shadow. Consider the following examples. You can see a dark line of shadow between the mug and the table. You can see lines under the man’s shirt collar flaps, beside the button placket, where the arms meet the body, and where the shirt touches the arms. Yes, those lines are a little more subtle than what you would paint on a miniature, but they are there. We have to exaggerate the lines we use a little just as we have to exaggerate everything else we do on our tiny figures.

Lines inrlxcfPhotos from Unsplash. Left by Mediamodifier, right by Gordon Cowie.

If I remove the shadow lines from the photo above, things don’t look as crisp and clear to read (especially if you scale down the size of the pictures like a miniature is scaled down), and they don’t look as real. This is not solely a result of my meagre skills at photo editing. The shadow lines happen in real life, and our visual processing system uses that information to interpret what we’re seeing.

IMG 1074Photos from Unsplash. Left by Mediamodifier, right by Gordon Cowie. Digitally edited for educational purposes.

Another reason people avoid lining is because it is difficult to do. It is definitely challenging to paint thin clean lining on a completed figure! However, that is not the only way to do lining. I like to paint my lining right after I paint a basecoat colour. For example, if I were painting the face, I would paint the initial skin colour and then the dark line where the face meets the hair. I can easily clean up mistakes if I got some liner paint on the nose by accident, or if I need to make a line a little thinner. Then I do my shading and highlighting (or washes and drybrushing). Once I’m finished there will probably be a few spots where I painted over the lining, but I find it’s easier (and less stressful) to clean up a little spot of lining here and there than paint the all of the lining on top of fully finished shading and highlighting. 

A tip for painting lining around small details like rivets or an armband is to first paint the dark colour over the entire area and then use the side of the tip of your brush to apply the intended colour to the top of the sculpted detail surface. 

Orc lining example crLeft: Figure with moderate level of contrast but no lining.
Center: Lining has been added digitally.
Right: Figure with painted lining and additional painted shadow contrast.
Try to view the above pictures at the same size a humanoid miniature would appear to you from 2-3 feet away. The difference between the left and centre photos may not be immediately apparently, but try comparing specific areas of the miniature. For example, compare the straps on the forearm and the fingers on the hands. The lining helps you see those details more clearly from further away/at smaller size.

Orc lining example 2 crThis is a slightly larger version of the photos, with the moderate contrast but no lining figure on the left, and the example where lining has been added digitally on the right. The lined version looks cleaner and it’s easier to see where different items start and end.

You can see another lining example in the Understanding Critique article. This article about how I painted a hydra has examples of the power of lining and more information about how I did it.

It is possible to paint figures without using lining, but it requires the ability and willingness to use very strong shadow contrast. Most painters will find it easier and quicker to implement the lining technique and work up to more highly contrasted painting styles.

10. Focal Point(s)

While the figure/scene exists as a whole, there are parts of it that convey more story and character, and there are parts that are less interesting or less important to look at. A lot of this is established in the sculpt (and/or the composition you choose for the diorama/scene), but the way we paint figures can emphasize, shift, or distract from what’s inherent in the sculpt. When story/character elements and paint elements come together in a way that draws the viewer’s eye, that is the ideal focal point. (It is possible to have one or more secondary focal points, as well.)

Ideally we want to make choices that help direct the viewer quickly identify the main focal point(s) and make it interesting and enjoyable to look at. Painters have several tools at their disposal to try to direct the viewer’s eye to certain places. Most of them involve our colour choices. Lighter and brighter colours draw our eyes. High contrast draws our eyes. (This can be between elements, not just shadow/highlight contrast.) A higher level of detail draws our eyes. 

For a simple example, consider the classic vampire trope – super pale skin, with blood red lips (and/or literal drip of blood), black hair, black clothes. The contrast of that pale skin surrounded by black immediately draws the eye to the face. The contrast of the vivid red of blood/lipstick against desaturated pale skin and black hair/cloth also attracts attention. The Marvel character Storm and the classic interpretation of Drow elves use the same principles with the colours and values in different locations – dark skin surrounded by white hair. 

Focus example2Left: Marvel Comics Storm by Julie Bell Right: Morticia Addams played by Angelica Houston in The Addams Family by Paramount.

Creating focus is often a lot more difficult than that. We’re already juggling choices of value, colour, texture, etc. to simulate real world items and create definition. If the idea of also having to think about creating focus points seems too daunting at this stage in your hobby journey, that’s understandable. I am still wrestling with how to do this well myself! Instead, try to think of it from the other direction – avoid choices that steal focus from the important areas and divert it to less important areas. Try to avoid using strong contrast, bright colours, or fancy freehand on areas that are distant from the face or main action. Remember that the materials you use in your basing can also cause problems. For example, if you paint a gritty marine in a khaki uniform and position her on a base covered with bright spring green static grass, people are going to spend too much time looking at the grass, and not enough time looking at your figure. You need to get a different colour of grass, or use washes and drybrushing to dull down your bright green grass.

In the example below, I have digitally edited Storm and Morticia to remove the bright red near their faces, and I’ve added bright colours elsewhere on the figure. Storm’s boots and Morticia’s belt may not be the first place you look at each image, but you’re going to notice those areas more and spend more time looking at them than you did when viewing the original versions above. The bright colours fight with the faces for your attention.

IMG 1079Left: Marvel Comics Storm by Julie Bell Right: Morticia Addams played by Angelica Houston in The Addams Family by Paramount. Digitally edited for educational purposes.

The Catalog of Contrast and the Anatomy of Colour outline the tools you can use to create focus and/or avoid stealing focus. If you’re painting something like an assassin and you’re wondering how to balance the competing demands of painting a character that thematically blends into the scenery while still standing out to the viewer, I discuss that issue in Constraint #8 in the Constraints and Conundrums article.

11. Don’t Be Too Subtle (GO BIG!)

Special effects like source lighting or textures, as well as just general contrast and lighting that you apply to your miniature, are often not nearly as obvious to the viewer as you the painter feel like they are. When you paint something you stare at your miniature for long periods under bright lighting, with it held close to your eyes. It’s easy to feel as if high contrast or textures or whatever effect looks garish or unrealistic while you’re painting it. 

You are particularly likely to feel like something is over-the-top when you’re trying something new. Maybe you’re trying to push your contrast. Maybe you’re testing out a new technique for doing blending, or trying some underpainting. Maybe you’re taking a stab at non-metallic metal or weathering. Whatever it is, as you sit there working on it your brain is screaming at you that what you are doing is too much and it looks ridiculous. The problem is that your brain doesn’t know what something new is supposed to look like yet. It just knows that what you’re doing doesn’t look like what you usually do. So it nags at you to make changes so it look like more what you usually do. That is not at all helpful if your aim is to  try to learn how to do something new that doesn’t look like what you usually do! The fact that a lot of more advanced techniques like non-metallic metal don’t really look ‘right’ until you’re pretty much done painting only adds to the problem.

Osl evolution back full cr
These are figures that I painted as examples for classes on source lighting. I painted the leftmost years ago. The centre one was painted in 2015. The one on the right was painted in 2020. Compare the differences in the level of shadow on the left side of the cloak and the left side of the hat. You can get there a lot faster than I did if you embrace the idea of pushing to extremes. (When comparing these remember that the point is not which variation of brown you like better or something like that. The goal of my paint choices is to make that globe that he’s holding look like it is emitting light, and I think it’s clear that the rightmost figure does that most convincingly.)

If I had to pick a theme of the feedback I give most often as a judge, it would probably be that something isn’t enough. There isn’t enough contrast. There isn’t enough lining. The source lighting is too subtle for the viewer to understand that it’s supposed to be source lighting. It isn’t clear on a first glance that this item is supposed to look translucent. The story of this scene or the nature of this character isn’t readily apparent to the viewer. (One exception to this is gore. It’s really easy to overdo blood and gore to the point where it obscures other important information on the figure.)

People take that information home, and they do try to nudge up their contrast a little, or push the source lighting or whatever. And most of them probably do improve, but just a little. They’re very likely to get similar scores and similar feedback on next year’s entries. They’re also likely to feel frustrated and demoralized.

I have two pieces of advice for this issue. One is to just see it through when you’re painting something new. Finish the whole section of NMM or texture or whatever. Better yet, finish the whole figure. You can’t really judge the success of adding more contrast until the figure is pretty much done. If your brain starts screaming at you to tone something down while you’re painting. STOP PAINTING. Do not paint over that section, or dull it down with a glaze. Put the figure down, and get a good night’s sleep, or at the very least work on something else. Come back to it with fresh eyes tomorrow and see if you still think it looks badly done or over-the-top. Remember to look at it in normal lighting and from arm’s length when you are making that assessment! I discussed one of the many occasions where I’ve had to resist the urge to alter something in a previous article, even though it was a technique I’m fairly practiced at painting! I have also made the late night bad decision of toning something down and waking up the next day to realize I’m going to have to redo a lot of work because what I have now is not enough.

Smith ba front crThis photo is a before and after example of what it might look like to go back to something you’ve painted and address the kinds of issues I’ve outlined here. You can read an article with a full critique of this figure and discussion of what I changed, and it also links to a video version where you can watch me give the critique and then touchup the paint live.

My other suggestion is to take a figure or three and try pushing it to the extreme rather than aiming for incremental improvements. Go big. Go RIDICULOUS! Paint OSL so bright your viewers will need to wear shades. Paint contrast so extreme that no one could possibly accuse you of too little. Exaggerate the story of your diorama so it’s immediately apparent even to the briefest of looks. Use bold strokes and colours for textures and effects. Chances are your end result will be nowhere near ridiculous, but it’s likely to be a lot closer to where you’re trying to go than where you’re getting with the incremental baby-step approach.

If you’re working on contest figures for an open style show like the ReaperCon MSP Open, the nice thing is that you don’t have to choose just one figure to enter. Bring a couple of figures painted in your usual manner, and bring one or two GO BIG figures. Find out which one is picked for judging. Show both styles to friends and instructors and see how others perceive them. See which looks more effective in the photographs taken of all the contest entries, or which gets more response when you post your own photographs on social media. 

If you have been painting for years and repeatedly gotten feedback about needing more contrast, or more vivid colour use, or more whatever else, what would it hurt to try at least one figure going to the other extreme? Maybe you’ll find out you need to dial it back just a little. Yeah, maybe your blending or fine detail painting will suffer a bit. But even if that is the case, you’ll probably be closer to where you need to be than you’re getting by slowing inching forward year by year.

12. Contrast

You knew it was going to be on this list! The good news? This entry is going to be really short! The bad news? It’s short because I’ve already written about contrast so much that I have a table of contents to my contrast articles. Maybe more good news? The articles include discussions of why it’s hard to push yourself to paint with more contrast, concrete strategies to use to do it, and more before and after examples of what more contrast looks like in practice.

Vic1 combo face crAn example of a figure painted with less and more contrast. The right might be too much contrast for your personal taste, but the left is definitely too little.

Patron Spotlight: Matt Davies

This blog is made possible thanks to the generous support of my patrons. The Patron Spotlight is an opportunity for me to share their work and philosophy with the world! 

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Matt is a professional photographer, videographer, and instructor. He’s noticed that there is a lot of interest in the challenging art of photographing miniatures, and he’s actively building a live class on how to do that. 

Figures in this Post

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Tips for Contest Entries – Part 1

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In person conventions are back on the calendar, and with them many opportunities to enter painted figures in contests and shows. Online contest opportunities will continue for those unable to attend an event in person. I’ve been entering figures into online and offline contests and shows for years, and have also acted as a judge at several. I want to share some suggestions to help you show off your work to best advantage. Even if you’re not interested in contests, many of these tips are relevant to anyone looking to improve their work.

I also have an article that explains the different formats and terminology used in miniature contests. It includes links to upcoming events with miniature contests.

Beckley displayElizabeth Beckley’s contest entries at the Atlanta Model Figure Show.

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1. Build a Solid Foundation

Judges assess entries not just for painting quality, but also overall craftsmanship. Minor issues can make or break your chances in a top three contest. Imagine that the judges are considering two figures for third place. The pieces are fairly equal in painting skill, effectiveness of colour scheme, etc. The judges have to look for small things done better or worse. If they spot noticeable mould lines, a gap in a join, or some other kind of workmanship issue, that makes the choice for them. If the situation were choosing between a piece that was slightly better painted but has construction problems versus one that is well constructed but slightly less inspired in paint, the latter might win.

The importance of this varies some with category as well as with each contest, but the point I want to make is that if you’re looking to be competitive in contests, you need to practice your hobby skills as well as your pure paint skills. In an open show like the MSP Open this aspect is a smaller part of what is considered in the Painter category, but basic or egregious issues could still affect your top medal placement potential. It is a larger part of what is considered in the Open category, and is important for placing in the top three in the manufacturer categories.

Areas to consider:

Mould Lines
We all hate ‘em. They’re a pain to deal with in every material. At a minimum you should remove pronounced mould lines or those that travel over prominent areas viewers will easily see. This would include on the face and areas of skin in general, and large smooth expanses like a cloak or robe. For the MSP Open, mould lines would not affect your ability to place Bronze, but start to be more of an issue for being awarded Silver or Gold.

MouldlinesMould lines on a plastic figure coated with a layer of paint (left) and bare metal figure (right).

Assembly Gaps
When you glue an arm or a head on a multipart figure, sometimes there is a gap at the join. So instead of the appearance of smooth flesh, you have a crevice at the shoulder or the elbow. These are best addressed prior to painting. Modelling paste works well for small gaps. You may need to use a two part putty like Greenstuff or Milliput to fill large gaps. Putties also add to the structural integrity of joins. You can use these same materials to fill gaps on pre-assembled figures. If you have a pre-assembled figure that has excess glue in the join areas, you can carefully chip it off with a hobby knife.

GapAn assembly gap on a plastic figure. Metal figures can be even more problematic since different pieces may experience different levels of mould compression in casting.

I recommend using pins when you glue parts together, particularly on metal miniatures, and particularly for gaming miniatures. This increases the strength of the join and reduces the chances that the join will break during transit or handling. This is less of an issue for lighter weight plastic or resin miniatures. 

It’s easiest and most efficient to complete all gap filling and assembly prior to beginning to paint, but sometimes that is not possible. When it is not, try to dry fit all the pieces to check that they go together as well as possible. Paint what you need to paint to be able to assemble. Be prepared to have to do a little gap filling and paint touchup after assembly.

Floating Feet
It’s fairly common to attach a figure to a base via a pin in one or both feet (or its cloak or whatever part is touching the ground.) It’s also fairly common for this attachment to not be 100% flush, even if it looked like a tight fit when you did your dry fit test. This is another gap that needs to be addressed. If the feet or clothes that are supposed to be touching the floor appear to be floating above the earth, it breaks the illusion of the scene, as well as being a craftsmanship issue. You can use the same gap fillers as with figure assembly. It is worth filling the gap and doing a little repainting even if this occurs when gluing a fully painted figure to a fully painted base in the end stages.

Floating feet crI learned to plant the figure on solid ground early on, so I don’t have a lot of examples at hand. The figure in the above photo is pinned via the opposite foot. This foot was glued down, but has broken free of the glue and is floating. A photo of the solid footing version is included in the Category Divisions section below so you can compare.

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2. Paint the Base!

Most basing materials need to be painted. Even if the sand or gravel you used on your base is a suitable colour of dirt or rock for your scene, you should paint it. The reason we add washes/shadows and drybrushing/highlights to figures is because they don’t really look three dimensional under standard lighting. We are simulating the effect that in-scale lighting would have on the figure. We need to paint the basing material for the same reason – so it looks in scale with the figure. Painting both the figure and the base also helps join them together as being a part of the same world. It gives you the opportunity to use some of the same colours and unify your colour scheme. Like if you used a dark blue or brown on your figure’s cloak, you could use the same colour as a wash on your stones or earth. I often use lighter colours I used in painting the flesh or leather for the lightest highlights when drybrushing stone or dirt.

(I learned this tip soon after I started painting so I don’t have a convenient example, but will try to add one as time permits.)

Materials like static grass, undergrowth, and leaves may not need to be completely painted, but they often still benefit from a little paintwork. For example, applying a wash on the grass with a shadow colour from your figure can help unify the scene or dull down bright grass that might compete for attention with your figure’s gritty colour scheme. Drybrushing the tips of the grass/vegetation can also contribute to your scene. You can use a light greenish-yellow if you want the grass to look healthy, or a brown or tan if you want it to look like it’s dying. Adding some paint to your basing materials helps you tell more of a story as well as looking more realistic. I recommend doing some tests on adding paint to your materials prior to assembling your contest entries. I’ve had some grasses and vegetation that resisted the paint a little and caused spatters. With these I paint them off of the piece and then glue them on once the paint has dried.

At the MSP Open, unpainted basing materials are a very common issue that we see with first-time entries. It’s not a deal breaker for placement at Certificate or Bronze, but it does affect consideration for Silver and Gold.

3. Clean up Your Act

Quick and even slapdash may be the order of the day in getting a figure to the game table quickly, but entries with a high degree of finish tend to place better in contests. This is particularly important in top three style contests where the discovery of an unpainted area or unplanned paint spatter or streaks can make the decision for a judge who is torn between two figures for a placement.

During the construction phase, check for excess glue, basing gravel drifting onto the base rim, and similar types of things that might look a little sloppy, and tidy these up as best you can. After the painting phase, carefully check the figure for stray streaks of the wrong colour paint, bits of primer showing through, or a small item you completely forgot to paint. (It happens. A lot!) Taking a photo of your figure from a few different angles can be very helpful to spotting those things.

Paint streak

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4. Consistency Counts

People often think that use of a ‘flashy’ technique is required to do well in a miniature painting contest – something like freehand, source lighting, texturing, weathering, non-metallic metal (NMM). Those techniques can be good ways to demonstrate brush skills, creativity, and an understanding of light. And since so many people think of those as difficult or advanced techniques, they can certainly attract votes in popular vote contests. 

In contests and shows judged by experienced painters, however, it isn’t always the case that you ‘need’ to use a technique like that. If you do try a flashy technique, the judges will assess how well you executed that technique/effect in addition to considering the overall painting skill you demonstrate on the piece. It’s also important to remember that the judges are looking at the figure as a whole. If you painted some jaw-dropping NMM on the metals but just a basecoat and a wash on the leather, both are factored into the judges’ assessment. Many competition painters have been in a situation of having spent hours and hours on the main parts of their piece only to run out of time and have to phone in a few areas, and it has made the difference in where they placed, or if they placed at all.

Another way to think of it is this – your figure isn’t being judged only on the single best part of it, or the single worst part of it. The judges are looking at it as a whole, both in terms of how well you convey the story and character of the figure(s), and kind of calculating an ‘average’ of your hobby and painting skills.

Brefore after new frontI entered the version on the left in a contest. I ran out of time before I could add wood grain texture to the staff. When I went back later to paint that in, I also realized that some areas did not have enough contrast, and I adjusted those, too. These were some sections of the non-metallic metal, and increasing the texture on the leather parts, which is most noticeable on the staff. The level of detail and finish on the staff does not match the rest of the figure. There is a close-up below. (Any differences in colour, as on the hair, is due to the photographs.)

Before after staff cu crIn this close up of the staff you can see that I added both texture and also more contrast. Compare the shadows in the crevices and under downward facing curves in the before and after versions. The after fits better with the levels of contrast and detail on the rest of the figure. In MSP terms, the original version of this figure would probably have been awarded Gold level, but it’s possible that one or more of the judges might have judged it Silver quality based on the weaker areas.

In the MSP Open (and other show style contests), people are often surprised at which figure from their display that we choose to judge. Usually they expect us to judge a piece where they used a difficult technique that they struggled over. Sometimes we chose another figure than expected because we feel it comes together as a whole better, or that it displays your overall skills to better advantage. The fact that something felt simpler to paint doesn’t necessarily make of lower quality than something that felt really challenging. It may have felt simpler because you were using skills that you have more mastery over.

Note that painting a figure to completion or consistently throughout doesn’t mean that you should paint every area with the same amount of contrast, the same number of layers, etc. If you read the Focus section in my Mistletoe Goblin post, it gives some examples of making decisions to emphasize some sections of the figure and deemphasize others to create areas of focus. The basic idea is that you need to paint the boots or the belt pouches so they look finished and like real items that are part of the scene, but you only need to paint them enough for that. Then focus the bulk of effort and bright colours/contrast/interesting effects and so on in the key areas of attention, like the face.

Bugbear before crNote that consistency is relevant to all levels of entries. The skin, pouches, and shield of this bugbear are painted with good contrast. Some other areas are painted decently but not quite to the same standard. The face isn’t all defined or interesting to look at, and there are a few other sections that are just flat basecoats. In MSP Open terms, the pouch and shield might be Silver level painting, but the face is Certificate level, and other areas are Bronze level. This would be awarded Bronze at best. (Award levels cited are for example purposes only.)

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5. Read the Rules!

I know it sounds obvious. But ask just about anyone who’s entered contests for a while and they’ll have a story of how they or someone they know was disqualified from consideration for rules-related reasons. Misreading the rules can also result in entries being shifted into a different category than you expected. Read the rules before you begin working, and then read them again while you’re working. I’d go ahead and read them again just before the event, as well. It’s easy to misread something or confuse it with how the rules work in another contest.

Many contests tweak their rules from year to year, so even if you’ve entered that contest previously, it’s best to read this year’s rules to be certain you’re familiar with them. Unfortunately It is not uncommon for contests to take a while to upload the rules each year. All of these efforts are organized by volunteers and can take much more coordination with other entities than you might imagine, so delays are often unavoidable. If you need to make an early start on an entry, you may need to proceed as if the rules will be similar to the preceding year, and hope you can shift gears a little if something does change.

I’ve made rules-related goofs myself. Long ago Reaper ran a monthly contest on their forum. The rule at the time was that you could show multiple views of the figure, but each photo had to be uploaded individually; you should not combine them into one large picture. I combined, and I was disqualified. On another occasion, I entered a unit into the contest at Gen Con. I assumed the rules were the same as the previous year. When I arrived at the event I discovered the rules had been updated to require that units be submitted on a movement tray, and I found myself scrambling to buy something from the vender hall and paint it flat black with paper towels in order to be able to submit my entry.

Crew frontPaper towel and black paint to the rescue!

Areas to look out for particularly in the rules are:

Size
There may be a size limit for entries based on the available display space. Sometimes people with larger entries are asked to contact contest management in advance to check if there is room or reserve space for their entry. Remember that the size applies to all three dimensions. Sometimes the limitation is in place because of the height or width of display case shelves.

Category Divisions
Many contests divide entries into different categories. These may be based on subject, size, number of figures, or other criteria. Make sure you understand the guidelines for a category you plan to enter as well as possible. One contest might consider a piece that depicts a victor with a subjugated victim at their feet a single figure and the victim is just scenery. Another contest might rule that the piece is composed of two figures so it can’t be entered in single figure. Be aware that most contests reserve the right to shift entries to more suitable categories or combine categories if   fewer people enter a category.

Minx front closeAre the skeletons on the base scenery or characters? One contest might allow this in single figure, another might require it to be entered in diorama.

People are sometimes confused about which category to enter in the MSP Open at ReaperCon. The following includes some guidelines to consider when choosing your category. If the team judging your piece feels it is likely that would receive a higher level award if your entry is shifted to another category, they will shift it. (If you already have entries in the other category, they will not shift it.) You can see the entries from previous years by category and how they placed by looking through the galleries in the Painting Contest dropdown menu on the ReaperCon site.

There is an index of MSP Open questions, including specifics on categories and expanded information on the judging process, thoughts from judges, etc. on the Reaper forums.

Painter: The majority of the consideration is paint based – colour choices, success of paint application techniques, success of paint related effects, etc. Basing, conversion, and sculpting are considered in terms of presentation, workmanship, and creativity. 70% of the consideration is paint alone. However, it is certainly the case that adding some scenic elements to your piece gives you additional opportunities to show us your paint skill and make your piece much more creative! Creative and well-done basing and scenic efforts can also improve your chances to be considered for the manufacturer awards and special prizes. 

Open: This category is for pieces that have been heavily converted and/or scratch sculpted. The gold plus standard here is a figure sculpted completely from scratch that is also expertly painted. A figure with a simple weapon or head swap on a basic base is not likely to place higher than bronze, regardless of how well painted. An elaborately constructed base is also unlikely to achieve high placement if the figure(s) on it are stock or only lightly converted. In Open, paint related elements are only 30% of the consideration. Workmanship, difficulty, and presentation are highly valued here.

Diorama: The focus here is on story. A simple piece with two figures telling a clear and evocative story may place higher than a complex scene with multiple figures if the interaction and story between them isn’t very clear. Basing, conversion, and overall workmanship are valued here, but if you can tell a great story with stock figures and scenic elements, that is great too!

Ordinance: Workmanship and painting skill are weighted fairly equally here. Weathering and evoking the appropriate environment for the vehicle are helpful to demonstrate these. Any figures that may be present are considered in the same way that as scenic items would be on a figure’s base in another category. The focus is on the painting, staging, and presentation of the vehicle itself.

Basing Guidelines
Some contests have rules related to basing. Contests by gaming miniature companies may require bases of a particular size and shape for certain figures. Units may need to be entered on a movement tray. Plinths may or may not be allowed. In all cases there may also be guidelines of whether or not additional basing like trays and plinths is or is not considered in judging. 

There was at least one year at Gen Con where several units were entered on paper plates. The contest required a movement tray so judges could safely transport the figures to and from the case for judging, but the tray itself was not considered in the judging. I heard about another contest where painters who customized their plinths who were disappointed to find that the plinth was not photographed or considered in the judging of the entry.

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6. Don’t Forget Manufacturer and Special Awards!

Many convention contests and shows have a central structure for awards, but also have one or more supplemental awards. The supplemental awards are often sponsored by manufacturers, but some may be awarded for particular subjects or other factors. It’s always worth looking out for a manufacturer whose products you like. You’ll help them by showing off their figures, and you’ll have a chance at winning some prizes and recognition. I’ve been at many a competition where manufacturer contests were lightly entered, even when the manufacturers were offering generous prize support and/or cool trophies! That said, it is generally the case that higher value cash prizes attract more entries, particularly if it’s from a company that’s already established and many people may own some of their figures.

Msp prizes 2019 2The medals at the front are the general awards for the MSP Open in 2019. All of the other trophies and items are special awards and prizes!

At ReaperCon, the main MSP Open is a show that is open to figures from all manufacturers. Reaper also sponsors top three trophies in several categories, including special awards for entries of Mouslings and awards for giant sized monsters, and there are additional manufacturer awards as well. The Atlanta figure show includes awards for best flat, best Napoleonic era, and best fantasy, among several others. Gen Con’s contest usually includes several manufacturer awards. 

AwardsThe special awards table at the Atlanta Model Figure Show.

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Figures in this Post

Savage Beauty by Black Sun Miniatures
Beorogg Black Rime Frost Giant Jarl is available in plastic or metal.
I don’t know the dwarf and chibi figures
Torlan the alligator man
Blacksmith is available in plastic or metal.
Frost Giant Queen
The Bugbear is available in plastic or metal.
The Heresy Inspectors
The sorceress is out of production.

How to Transport Miniatures

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Whether you’re going to a local game store to play or traveling hundreds of miles to enter a handful of display figures into a contest, the best way to transport the miniatures you want to use is an issue that can take some thought, effort, and money to resolve. I’m going to share my ideas and experiences, and also ideas that other people have shared with me. I’ll include links to some commercially available options at the end of this article. Many thanks to the people who shared their experiences and suggestions!

Video of a stream I did about transporting miniatures is also available.

Foam compA foam compartment tray is one travel option.

What Types of Miniatures, and How Many?

Before you begin buying or making transport containers, it is helpful to have as thorough an understanding as you can of what you need. It is also helpful to think about this well in advance of a trip, so that you have time to work out the best solutions. I have more than once put a lot of effort into creating and painting an ambitious contest entry and only a day or two before the trip realized I also had to figure out how to safely transport it! If you decide you want to order a commercially available option, remember it will take some time to ship to you.

Once you have purchased/created a transportation container, you may want to keep its parameters in mind when in the design phase for new pieces. For example, you will need to be able to put the piece on its side or use another container if you design a piece taller than your transportation container.

Too tallThis figure is too tall for lowest shelf position in my carrying case, and the base protruded over the plinth on all sides so I couldn’t put it on its side. I had to affix it (and any other figures I wanted to transport at the same time) to the bottom of my case, which has damaged the material coating the interior.

Some questions to consider:

Number
How many miniatures are you likely to want to transport? Is it a handful or an army of hundreds? This will heavily influence the size and nature of the storage solution you need.

Nature of the Miniatures
What size(s) are the figures? Are they sturdy metal or plastic, or fragile resin or 3D prints? Remember to consider everything that is part of the figure, not just the figure itself. A lot of basing material used on display figures is pretty fragile. Your transport system needs to accommodate not only the size of the figure, but also the base or plinth you attach it to.

Method of Transport
How will you be traveling? You can consider a much wider array of options if you’re traveling in your own car than if you’re traveling via plane, train, or bus. Flying introduces a number of constraints to the size and other requirements of your transport system. If you choose a stand-alone case, remember that it will count as one of the two items you’re allowed to carry with you on the plane.

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Secure and Protect

As I was putting this information together, I realized that transport and shipping is made up of two components. One is the inner method used to secure and/or protect the figures. The other is the outer container. These work in tandem, and the choice you make for one may limit or dictate the choices for the other.

The inner methods break down into two main options. One method is to cushion the miniatures in a protective layer like foam or bubblewrap. The other is to securely attach the base of the miniature to a flat surface. The figure is freestanding, with nothing touching it on the sides.

ShelfAnother option is to attach the figures to a shelf via magnetization, poster tack, or mounting tape, or a combination of those.

Each of the inner methods has advantages and drawbacks. Foam pockets and magnetization are probably the best options for gaming scenarios where you want to be able to quickly and easily pack and unpack numbers of figures. Bubblewrap, poster tack, and mounting tape are more cumbersome to pack and unpack, but can allow for more customization or transport security. 

Bubblewrap and some foam options are designed to keep figures secure regardless of the orientation or impact to the outer case. Poster tack, mounting tape, and magnetization may work best when when the outer carrying case will be kept largely in an upright position, just tilting somewhat or being bumped or jostled.

Foam

Foam is a common method for cushioning fragile objects, and comes in a variety of forms. All of them mostly or completely enclose the figure. Some kinds of foam are a little abrasive and could damage paint. Sharp pieces like swords or spikes tend to stick into foam. You can use a barrier like sheet plastic (plastic wrap, cut up plastic bags), bubblewrap, or tissue between the miniature and the foam to reduce these issues. You can wrap this around the miniature or fold it into the foam compartment. Contact with foam (or any surface) can be be damaging to fragile base work like dried or paper plants. 

Waffle: Miniatures are secured between foam sheets that are shaped into peaks and depressions. It can accommodate a variety of figures and be fitted into a variety of cases. If miniatures of different widths are stored in the same case/layer, it can cause the foam to not clamp tightly enough to secure the smaller figures. Waffle foam is easy to use, but not the most secure option.

Compartments: Shapes (usually rectangles) are cut into the foam or created by gluing sheets of foam together. One miniature is stored in each compartment. Pre-made commercial compartment foam may not accommodate the exact number or dimension of figures you have to transport. Some cases can store multiple layers of foam sheets so you can purchase sheets with different sizes of compartments. You will need to find foam sheets that match the dimensions of your case (or vice versa). Some companies may offer options for customizing the compartments on foam sheets.

Foam comp comboLeft: Elements of the figure or paint job can be damaged if portions protrude from the compartment, even on plastic figures.
Right: You can add a pocket of bubblewrap for cushioning if the compartment is too big, or to protect the paint from damage caused by rubbing against the foam.

Pluck: Pluck foam is produced as a sheet/layer, but the foam is cut into a grid pattern, and is secured only to the bottom of the sheet. The squares are usually 5mm to a half inch or so in size. You can create exactly the size of compartments you need for the miniatures you will be transporting by pulling out pieces of the foam. This is helpful if you have a war band or similar set of figures that you are transporting to multiple events. You may need to get additional foam sheets if you transport varying sizes and shapes of figures to different events. As with compartment foam, you will need to be able to buy foam layers in the same size as your case, or vice versa.

Solid: The ultimate in customization. This is a block of solid foam of whatever measurement you acquire. You carve into it to create the perfect shape to cradle your figure(s). This is a good method for shipping large figures with protruding parts, like a dragon. 

Foam bwrapOne option to secure miniatures is to individually wrap them in bubblewrap or use various types of foam. 

Bubblewrap

Just as when you pack china, you can wrap bubblewrap around a figure to protect it. Bubblewrap works best on single figures. As the bubblewrap is wrapped around the figure, it may bend thin parts like a staff or sword which are held away from the main body of the miniature. Most metal miniatures can withstand a trip or two with some bending or compression, but you may risk stress fractures if you travel with them often. The pressure of the bubblewrap cocoon may be too much for small fragile resin pieces and similar. 

To use bubblewrap, you also need to use tape, and you should plan to have some available to you at both ends of the trip. I find that shiny style tape sticks to the bubblewrap, which bursts the bubbles so you only get one or two trips out of the bubble wrap. I instead use a medical tape that has a different glue. Magic tape also works, though not quite as well. I can reuse tape and bubblewrap for multiple trips. I can also cut out strips of medical tape and put them on the inside of my carrier so I don’t have to bring a whole roll or scissors. Whichever kind of tape I use, if I’m carrying multiple figures I often write an identifier on the tape so I can find the figure I’m looking for without having to unwrap all of them.

3M Durapore Surgical Cloth Tape 2x10 yds 72849 1604007132This is the kind of medical tape I use with bubblewrap.

Bubblewrap is also a feasible option to transport numbers of plastic figures. All you need to do to preserve paint jobs on light weight plastic figures is keep them from rubbing against one another. You can lay down a layer of bubble wrap, space figures out on it, then add another layer, and so on. You can do this in any size container, from a smaller food storage container to a small bin. It’s more cumbersome to pack and unpack than foam or magnets, but probably the least expensive option.

Poster Tack

Poster tack is a malleable putty. Its original use was to attach posters to walls without damaging the paint. You knead the tack with your fingers to warm it up and get it a little more sticky, and then apply it. When you remove it, it peels easily away from solid materials. If some sticks on the surface, you can usually pull it up by dabbing the remainder with a ball of the tack. Blu Tack is a very popular brand, but there are lots of options. I recommend testing the one you try before travel, as some work much better than others. You can test it by attaching an unpainted heavy miniature to a surface, turning it upside down, and shaking it. You could also knock your hand lightly against the figure. If the figure falls off, try another brand.

People use poster tack to attach figures to a flat shelf that slides into a carrying case, or to the bottom of a bin or similar. Poster tack is not strong or sticky enough to attach a miniature with a bottom that is flat to a flat surface. However, you can instead pile it up along the edges of the base/plinth to hold a piece in place. It will generally attach something like a slotta base to a flat surface well, but I would still recommend using additional tack on the base edges. I tend to like to be extra secure and use mounting tape or magnets to secure the base to the shelf surface, and then also put tack around the edges of the base.

JarsI’ve also used poster tack and mounting tape to secure single fragile figures into ad hoc transport systems like the above.

Mounting Tape

Mounting tape is a strong double-sided tape with a thin layer of foam in the middle. My experience is with the 3M brand, which I have found widely available in anything from pharmacies to hardware stores. It comes in a few different widths. It is intended for attaching pictures to walls and similar. It adheres much more firmly than poster tack. In fact, it adheres so firmly that I usually pack a dull blade tool when I use it so I can pry the miniature up off of the surface. It is much more likely to damage a surface than poster tack, so should only be applied to unpainted areas like the bottoms of figure bases. It works best when adhering a flat surface to a flat surface, so it’s not a great option for slotta bases. When I transport particularly fragile or heavy pieces I use a combination of mounting tape and poster tack. Mounting tape is single use so you will need to bring some along, and scissors or a hobby knife to cut new pieces for the return trip.

A00e35e4 7085 4d97 9d00 4553d97dc86c 8074cfc3e670a4e34319cd2cf51f0cf8The mounting tape I use.

Magnetization

Magnetization is an increasingly popular option. People use a metal sheet in their case and attach a tiny rare earth magnet to the bottom of the base of each figure. The magnets are generally small enough to fit in the open areas of a slotta base. If you have a plinth or flat base you’ll need to drill or carve out space to glue the magnet. Options vary from commercially available carrying cases to homemade solutions that use storage bins and cookie sheets. The magnet system is very handy for armies as you can just pull off figures as you need them and then drop them back on. Many people transporting display miniatures also use magnets, but usually reinforce them by securing poster tack around the edges of bases. I’m told by some who use the system that the small powerful magnets are strong enough to work even if the shelf is turned upside down. I would very thoroughly test that for myself with unpainted figures over a cushion before I felt comfortable to do it with painted figures, however.

Hardware

If you’re handy and willing to take a little time, using hardware is a very secure option. With this method you put a screw through your shelf. You have a wing nut or stop nut in the bottom of the base or plinth, and then screw the base of the miniature onto the screw in your shelf. 

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Outer Case Options

There are a myriad of options for the outer case, from homemade to commercially available. Often your choice of outer case commits you to using a particular inner method for securing the miniatures. You may not be able to easily switch between foam compartment sheets and metal trays with magnets, for example.

Small Plastic Box
This is a great option for transporting small numbers of miniatures secured in plastic wrap. I like to use hard plastic pencil boxes. I place these at the bottom of my carryon knapsack. Plastic containers are light weight and available in an array of sizes.

Larger Plastic Box – Stackable
Larger plastic containers are a good option for game players transporting locally or by car. You can attach a metal sheet to the bottom of a bin and use magnets on your figures. Stackable style boxes allow you to bring only the figures you need to each event.

Small Briefcase or Portable Tool Case
Hard sided cases are an option to transport a moderate amount of figures. You can fill them with bubble wrapped figures, or customize them with foam. If you’re handy, you can build in compartments.

Briefcase comboExample of a small metal case customized with compartments.

Jar
On a few occasions where I have been transporting one fragile miniature by car, I’ve secured it to the top of a jar lid and then screwed the jar shut. I pack it into the car in such a way that it can’t get tipped over. If a miniature is well secured it’s possible this method could work in carry-on luggage, but you’d need to feel confident that the miniature would stay secured if tipped over or turned upside down.

Dedicated Miniature Case
There are a lot of options available, including quite a few that on Amazon. The most common seem to use foam trays or metal shelves, but there are also cases that use waffle or pluck foam. These cases come in a variety of sizes, to suit the needs of game players and display painters alike. If you are purchasing one to use in plane flight, ensure that the measurements do not exceed those permitted on planes. In particular, if you are at all likely to travel in a regional jet, the Tablewar small size is about the largest case that will fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment. You would be required to plane-side check anything larger and it would get literally tossed into the luggage compartment. At the bottom of this article you will find links to some of the commercially available options. The biggest downside to these is that they can be pretty expensive. I have found the clear front window of the Tablewar case I use to be very helpful at the airport. A surprising number of security agents know what miniatures are or at least recognize that these are fragile works of art. 

Tablewar closedThe clear door allows airport security to see what is inside, and allows you to check up on your figures.

Homemade Wooden Miniature Case
Some of the modern cases like the Tablewar are likely inspired by wooden custom crafted cases that were popular some years back. These were usually made with a front door panel that swung open on hinges, and accommodated one or possibly two removable shelves. Sometimes the shelves were fitted with rare earth magnets so you could attach washers or similar to the bottom of the figures. Similar to the metal sheet shelf system, but the opposite for which object was metal and which was magnetized. I found a few cases of this type in a search, but none were in stock, so I’m not including them in my links below. I mention the option for those who are handy and would like to explore making their own case.

Wood boxIf you’re handy, you could build your own case. The sliding shelf on this is fitted with magnets. It is more common now to use a metal shelf and attach the magnets to the figure. (Apologies for the lower quality photos, we still haven’t unpacked everything after renovations I couldn’t find this case to take new photos.)

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Personal Recommendations and Reviews

Before I list specific products, I want to be very clear. Seeing a product listed here is neither a review nor a recommendation. I have only used a few of these products. It’s also important to note that I only travel with small numbers of display figures, I have not use any army transport method. I strongly encourage you to do additional research before you spend a lot of money on a transport case. There are some review articles online, and probably some YouTube videos, but I would recommend crowd sourcing opinions if you can. Go on a large miniature discussion group related to miniatures or the specific games you play and ask for opinions. You can find these on Facebook, Discord, or sometimes official or fan forums for the games you play. A number of these cases are sold on Amazon, so you can read reviews there, as well.

I do have one piece of advice about reviews and recommendations, however. Don’t just look for a yay/nay or number rating. Actually read reasons why people love or hate something. I have more than once bought something based on negative reviews where the reviewer has detailed their opinions. They might hate X, Y, and Z. I think about their opinions and consider that I won’t be using the product in X fashion, I actually like Y, and maybe Z is just a question of personal taste, like what colour something is. When I read reviews I care less about a rating number than the details of what people do and don’t like about something.

My preferred method to transport figures is to wrap them in bubblewrap and put them into hard plastic pencil boxes. I stash these at the bottom of my carry-on backpack. Since that has many important items in it, I am far less likely to forget it somewhere. I have the smallest size Tablewar case and the wooden case pictured above. These are heavier, and a second item to keep track of. I have a few times left them at a restaurant or similar in the airport only to realize a few minutes later and go rushing back. The Tablewar case has a lot of great features and flexibility and I like the clear plastic window. I can check on the figures more easily and most of the time I find that airport security recognizes the items are fragile. They have wanted to swab the interior of my cases on multiple occasions, but have not touched the actual figures.

Tablewar also makes larger cases for transporting armies. The small case I have is the largest one that will fit in the overhead of a regional jet. The small size case comes with two shelves, so you could use it for units of gaming scale figures.

Foam bwrapI’m including this photo again since I’m discussing my opinion of these specific transport solutions.

I have not used either of my foam container options for travel, I’ve just used them for around the house storage. The compartment style works pretty well, but I have found that I’ve had damage to the paint from contact with the foam. I can also hear some of the figures rattling around when I move the case. If I added bubblewrap pockets it would likely take care of both issues without impacting the ability to access the figures quickly in game play. I’ve been using the bubblewrap pockets for metal figures kept in that case and they’ve been held in place pretty well.

I keep the figures I painted when I wrote the Learn to Paint kits in the waffle foam case. Every time I open it up the smaller and thinner figures have shifted around. It’s not a big deal with these Bones plastic miniatures that are just stored in my home, but I would have qualms about using it for travel.

I encourage people to share their experiences and recommendations in the comments!

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Commercial Transport Options

Below are links to commercially available miniature carrying case options. If you have a recommendation for a site to add to the list, please let me know!

Some of these or other options may be available on Amazon if you prefer to purchase through that. I found plenty of hits on US Amazon with the search term ‘miniature case’.

Tablewar

Felderr

Sabol Designs

A-Case (or Army Case)

The Combat Company

Battle Foam

Casematix

KR Cases

These are some review/suggestion articles related to carrying cases:

Tangible Day – Top 10 Great Miniature Transport Bags and Cases

Miniature Storage – Complete List of Miniature Storage Cases for Every Gamer

Nerd Bear – top 10 Best Miniature Carrying Cases (2021)

Tabletop Bellhop – The Best Ways to Sort, Store, and Protect Gaming Miniatures
– Includes a suggestion of egg crates for cheap and easy local transportation.

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Figures Shown in this Post

There are a lot of figures in the pictures in this post, so it would take me forever to add purchase links for each one as I usually do. If there’s a particular figure you need more information on let me know in the comments and I’ll find you a link.

Miniature Contests at Conventions and Shows

If you like the work I do on this blog, please consider supporting it via my Patreon.

This article provides some general information about miniature painting (and sculpting) contests at conventions and shows. I occasionally write articles with tips for people entering contests, and rather than overstuff every contest-related article with general information and definitions, I’ve put it here for easy reference. I also have an article with some general information on why it’s worth attending a convention or showing up to a show.

Msp prizes 2019 2Prizes and awards at the MSP Open in 2019.

At the bottom of this article is a list of all of the conventions and shows with miniature contests that I’m aware of, with dates and links to further information. If you know of a contest that isn’t listed here, please let me know about it so I can include it!

First up is a glossary of common terms related to contests.

Podium or Top Three Contest
Many gaming convention contests and online contests are organized podium style, like the Olympics. Within each category, there are a set number of winners. First, second, and third is pretty common, but some contests award first through fifth place, and a small contest may only award first place. In these contests the entries are ranked by judges or popular vote, and the best three (or designated number) are awarded trophies/prizes. Some contests allow ties. There are usually limits to how many figures you can enter in each category and/or overall. There may also be additional prizes offered by specific manufacturers for the best first through third (more or less) figures painted from their company.

Depending on the size of the contest and the way it is organized, judging may be conducted by a single person or a team. Judges may be miniature painters, guest artists, or representatives of a sponsoring company.

Msp prizes 2019Left: Sophie trophies for the top three Reaper figures in each category at the MSP Open 2019.
Right: Large Monster trophies.

The Reaper MSP Open includes a podium contest element in the manufacturer awards. All entries that include Reaper figures are considered for top three placement in their categories. The winners earn bronze, silver, or gold Sophie trophies. Other manufacturers also sponsor awards at the MSP Open.

Another podium contest many miniature painters are unaware of are the IMPS shows. While awards are first through third place, IMPS shows have some elements in common with shows. Entries are displayed on tables rather than cases. They are judged by teams following established guidelines for standards. Although the focus of these shows is on models, they have categories and prizes for miniature figures, and attending one of their meetings or shows could be a great way to meet local miniature enthusiasts. I really enjoyed attending my local IMPS show, both as an entrant and a viewer. There are IMPS clubs and shows around the world. The USA site has a map and listing of clubs so you can find one near you.

Open Show Contest
The open format began in the military miniature figure community, but in recent years has been adopted by some convention and manufacturer contests. In this format, entrants can enter a number of figures into each category, and even arrange them together in an attractive display that might include risers and a cloth backdrop. Entrants can also include information about the piece with their entry. This might be a description of the inspiration or historical background, and/or work in progress pictures that document steps of sculpting, conversion, and/or painting.

World expo 2017 2The medals at the World Expo in 2017 filled several tables!

Figures are assessed in given criteria against a standard of achievement, and are awarded a placement based on the standard. If 40 people enter gold quality work, 40 golds are awarded. If no one enters gold quality work, no golds are awarded. There are often additional special awards that might be sponsored by the host organization or individual members. The Atlanta awards show includes special awards for best Western themed piece and best Monster, among several others.

In the military shows and those that adopt the same format, there are guidelines for the overall process, category judging, and training of judges –  the International Judging Criteria. The Reaper MSP Open is one of those shows. Open shows at gaming conventions or organized by miniature manufacturers may be conducted in a different fashion. Under the International Judging Criteria, entries are judged by a team to make judging as equitable as possible. Alternate judges are on hand to step in if a judge has a bias for or against an entrant, and judges do not assess their own pieces. The process is overseen by an overall director who is available to review discrepancies in judging and help resolve any technical issues or confusion.

IMG 5822Example of a display area at the Atlanta show in 2019.

Note that there can be a difference in the standard for each medal level between shows. The MSP Open at ReaperCon is a very encouraging show. The World Expo Open is a very stringent show. Many figures awarded gold at an encouraging show might instead earn silver at a tough show, with only the best of the best earning gold. But the idea of judging to a standard and maintaining consistency is the same among all of the shows who use the International Judging Criteria. 

Volunteers Make it Happen
Convention or show, all of these events depend on volunteers. Contest volunteers often work a full workday or more of hours each day of the convention. They provide fun content to attendees at the cost of limiting their own time available to attend events, take classes, shop, or even just socialize. They are not paid for this, at most receiving a free entry badge and hotel accommodation. Respect their efforts by being polite, making yourself aware of the contest rules and schedule, and following them. Events have been reduced in scale or disappeared completely for lack of volunteer interest because volunteers burn out.

Reapercon entering 2019The volunteers in any contest area work hard to help you enter and retrieve your entries, organize the judging, and answer a lot of questions.
Volunteers Alison Liu and Debby Lewis (seated) assist entrant David Cecil, while award sponsor Michelle Farnsworth looks on.

Judges
Most contests select experienced painters as judges. Contests with a small judging team may not permit judges to also enter the contest. When judges are permitted to enter, they do not assess their own work or make podium decisions in categories that include their own work. Judging a larger contest takes hours, and is often conducted late at night to minimize disruption to viewers of the contest entries. It is a lot of fun to be able to see all the entries up close and from different angles, but it is also a gruelling process filled with difficult decisions. Judges know how much work goes into an entry, and it is tough to know that you will be disappointing some people. Note that many judges also work as contest volunteers and/or hobby class instructors, which is a lot of additional work that limits their time to enjoy the event as a whole.

Dark sword judging rc 2018Dark Sword has generously supported convention contests for years. Here owner Jim Ludwig is assisted by Mengu Gregor in choosing the Dark Sword winners at the MSP Open in 2018

Contest Rules
Every contest has rules. While there are commonalities, the rules of each contest are unique, and may change from year to year. The onus is on you to be aware of the rules. Entries that don’t conform to the rules may be placed in a different category than you intended, or completely disqualified from consideration. If it is later discovered that someone did not follow the rules, they might be stripped of their award.

Contest rules include guidelines for each category, and maximum size of piece accepted. There may be rules related to the kinds of bases required or permitted. Most contests require you to be attending the event to enter. Many require that only the entrant have worked on the piece (apart from the use of commercially available figures and components). Others may not have rules forbidding multiple artists to work on an entry, but may only allow one entrant to be named as the creator.

I’ve linked to contest rule information for each convention at the bottom of this page, where I could find it.

Submission and Pick Up
It is very important that you familiarize yourself with the schedule for entering and retrieving entries. Fill out forms in advance if possible. Remember that lots of people try to enter at the last minute. Contest staff reserve the right to stop accepting entries after a certain time even if a line of people remains. Be kind to contest volunteers and make your life easier by entering well before the deadline!

You will not be able to pick up your entry prior to a certain time, and you must retrieve your entry by a certain time. Be familiar with these times and make your event and travel plans accordingly. Venues give the convention or show a strict deadline by which they must be packed up and out of the venue. You may forfeit ownership of your entry if you do not pick it up by the deadline. Events are not under any obligation to mail unclaimed entries or prizes. At conventions, you will be given a receipt during submission that you will need to present when you come to pick up your entries. This ensures that only the owner can pick up miniatures. If you are unable to pick up your entries, you can give your receipt to a friend to retrieve them for you. If you earned an award or prize but were not present to pick it up (or the contest doesn’t have an awards ceremony), you can usually pick it up at the same time as you retrieve your figures.

Award winnersAward ceremonies move fast and can be hard to photograph. It’s often easier to get pictures of award winners with their trophies afterwards.
Left: David Diamondstone accepts a gold Sophie trophy from award presenter (and painter) Michelle Farnsworth.
Right: Michael Proctor poses with his Crystal Brush trophy following the awards ceremony.

Award Ceremonies
Many contests announce winners and award trophies and prizes at a scheduled awards ceremony. Since they know people may be involved in other events, it is generally not required to be present to accept your award. You will be able to pick it up later. (But of course check the rules, some may require you to be present to win!) Whether a contest is larger or modest, it is a lot of fun to be present to receive an award and to see friends be recognized for their work.

First Cut
In podium style contests it’s common for judges to do a first cut. They separate out the most competitive entries, and then rank these to select the final winners. Some contests have a shelf set aside for first cut miniatures so entrants can at least get the feedback of whether they were in the running. Some contests may not have an official first cut area, but you can sometimes get an idea by how figures have been moved around in the display area.

Honourable Mention
Occasionally when there is a very tight race for placement, the piece that didn’t get awarded will be called out as an Honourable Mention. This lets the entrant know that their work was of very high quality and competitive for an award, but they do not receive a trophy or prize.

JudgesA judging team confers at Smoky Mountain Model Convention in 2019.

Judges’ Selection/Mention
Some contests award this regularly, some occasionally, some not at all. This is a piece that the judges loved, but which did not win another award.

Best in Show
Some contests award a Best in Show prize to a single piece or the top three pieces. For some, this might be a judged award. The judges usually consider all of the pieces awarded first place in their category and then select the Best in Show winner(s) from these. In other contests, this might be a popular vote. The Best in Show at the Reaper MSP Open is a modified popular vote contest. Everyone who has entered a piece in the MSP Open can vote for their favourite to win Best in Show. Three total prizes are awarded – overall Best in Show, runner up Reaper, and runner up non-Reaper.

Popular Vote
Some contests or some prizes within a contest are awarded by popular vote. Popular vote via likes is common for online contests conducted on social media platforms like Facebook. In a popular vote contest, viewers or a subset of viewers chose their favourite piece, and the one with the most votes wins. Viewers tend to be drawn to the same kinds of quality as judges, but they are also heavily influenced by other factors. Viewers are more likely than judges to factor in their personal feelings about the sculpt rather than considering only the merits of the workmanship and presentation. Viewers are as strongly drawn to story and character as they are to technical prowess. When considering technique, viewers tend to put a lot of value on techniques that are considered challenging, like freehand or source lighting, but they may not assess these as critically as judges would. They may not recognize the challenge level of more subtle techniques like smooth blending or complex colour use. 

Rc bis ballot box 2018Voting can be serious and thematic!

Manufacturer Awards
Many manufacturers offer awards within the context of a larger contest. For example, Dark Sword Miniatures has offered awards at Gen Con and the MSP Open. The manufacturer decides the number of awards and the prizes, which might range from ribbons, to trophies, to free product, to cash. The manufacturer also determines how their awards are judged. Often it is someone from the company itself, but they may designate or be assisted by one or more seasoned miniature painters.

Manufacturer awards, especially for smaller or newer manufacturers, are often much more lightly entered than the main categories. They are a great opportunity for an up-and-coming painter to get some recognition and win some prizes. It is not uncommon for information on manufacturer awards to be announced some time after the main information for a contest is posted. Keep an eye on the contest information page and follow your favourite companies to keep an ear out for late additions to the awards lineup.

Category Divisions
Many contests divide entries into different categories. These may be based on subject, size, number of figures, or other criteria. Make sure you understand the guidelines for a category you plan to enter as well as possible. Podium contests often divide categories by size and broad type. Examples might include gaming scale Sci-Fi/Modern Single, Monster, Bust, Large, Unit. Open shows group figures regardless of size into Painter (the focus is primarily on painting), Open (the focus includes both sculpting and painting), and Ordinance (vehicles). The military shows separate Painter and Open by subject – Fantasy Painter/Open includes fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Historical Painter/Open includes figures from any period of history, including modern day. Some open shows may have additional categories, such as diorama/vignette.

Entrance Fees
The cost to enter a contest or show varies considerably. Remember that there is a cost to the event to run a show or contest. They have to rent space from the venue and equipment like display cases or tables, and the cost of these can be considerable. Purchasing awards like trophies, ribbons, and medals is another additional cost. Fee options include:

* There is no fee or the fee is included with your event pass.
* There is a separate fee for exhibitors (entrants), but it covers as many entries as you are permitted under the contest rules.
* There is a fee per piece entered into the contest.

Hatchlings gc 2011Awards and winners in the junior division at Gen Con 2011.

Skill Level Divisions
Many contests have a Youth or Junior division or award system to help encourage young people to try out the hobby and participate in contests. It is rarer, but some contests have a Master category. Entrants who have won in the past or sell painted figures may be confined to this division. While this can seem like an equitable way to spread awards a little further, in practice there are painters who make a living selling miniatures who do not paint at the highest levels, and hobbyists who do, so it doesn’t always work as expected/desired.

Some shows have a grand master or similar system, to which one or two new members are added each year. The criteria for being voted into grand master generally includes not only entering consistently high level work over several years, but also having made contributions to the club or hobby as a whole. The MSP Open has the MSP Medallists. The existing members vote in one new member per year. While this is a great honour, it comes with a penalty. If the work they enter into the MSP Open does not merit gold medal level, they do not receive any award. 

Viewing Entries
Contests that are held as part of a gaming convention are usually located in a high traffic area. Entries are placed into glass fronted display cases with shelves from the floor to five or six feet up. Viewing entries can be a crowd jostling experience at busy conventions, and you may have to bend down or stand on tiptoe to see all the pieces. It is common for the largest pieces to be located on the bottom shelves. Others are usually grouped by category. The display cases are locked when the contest staff is not available, and if they are located in a room like a dealer hall, the room is locked as well. At Gen Con the display cases of the main contest are in a busy hall, so they’re still accessible for viewing at odd hours. (And there’s enough traffic to deter thoughts of funny business.)

Adepticon cases 2018The display cases at Crystal Brush 2018 at Adepticon. Display case viewing isn’t always this busy, but it’s not uncommon.

One of the fun features of open style shows is that entries are displayed on tables. Entrants arrange their displays in each category as they wish, which may include risers, backdrops, or other elements. They must do this with the constraints of the room available and the needs of other entrants, however. The display tables are usually raised to approximately chest height. This is convenient for viewing by average height viewers, but may present difficulties to those in wheelchairs or of smaller stature. The tables are typically spread out around an entire room, so viewing tends to be less crowded than around display cases. There is no separation between viewer and entries, which allows you to examine the entries from different angles and without light glare, etc. Volunteer staff are usually on hand to remind viewers not to touch the figures or to ask parents to remove rowdy children who might jostle the tables. Display rooms are open for set hours and locked when closed.

World expo 2017All of those tables are filled with fantastic entries. And that wasn’t even the whole room! World Expo 2017 in Chicago.

The Safety of Your Miniatures
Entrants assume all risk when they enter pieces into a contest. Contest staff make every effort to treat figures with great care, but accidents do happen. Even at a show where you yourself set up the display of your figure(s), you should assume that your piece may be handled by the contest staff. Judges often pick pieces up to look at them from different angles. Figures may be transferred to a side table to be photographed, or judged for a special category or manufacturer award. If more figures are entered than expected, contest volunteers may rearrange the tables to try to make more room. Assemble your figures sturdily and completely, and attach them securely to whatever base or plinth you use. Judges are trained to pick pieces up by the base or plinth to minimize touching the figure itself. In an open show, you can include a sign with your display that a particular piece is fragile or not well attached and that will generally be respected, but bear in mind that you are still taking a bit of a risk with that. This is not feasible for a contest entry in a traditional display case contest.

Tray gc 2013Many contests use padded trays to transport miniatures to the contest case or photograph booth. These were entries at Gen Con 2013.

All of that said, it is rare for a figure to be damaged in a contest in my experience. It happens, but it’s rare. Transporting your figures to and from the event presents more dangers. You need to secure them against the rigours of travel, and also bear in mind dangers like a suitcase falling on your figure case or airport security opening your case without warning. Secure figures in position with bubblewrap, poster tack, double-sided tape or other means. Try to stay close to your case as it is examined at the airport so you can advise about the best way to open it if they want to test the interior.  Be leery of packing fragile pieces that need careful wrapping in your checked luggage, as security staff may open your suitcase and any container within it during the screening process.

List of Conventions with Miniature Contests

ReaperCon, Dallas TX: September 2-5 2021
MSP Open contest rules. You can also view past entries and awards by clicking the dropdown menu for each year.
There are numerous hobby class events.

Gen Con, Indianapolis, IN: September 16-19, 2021 (normally summer)
There will not be a miniature contest in 2021, per the Facebook group.
There are hobby class events in 2021.

Origins, Columbus, OH: September 30 – October 3 2021 (normally June)
Event information is incomplete as of writing, but there does not appear to be a contest planned for 2021. Check this page for more information.

Warfaire Weekend, St. Louis, MO: November 5-7, 2021
Information on the painting contest.
Information about hobby events.

Historicon, Lancaster, PA: November 10-14, 2021
Information page for the painting contest.
Information on events, including Hobby University classes.

Las Vegas Open, Las Vegas, NV: January 28-30, 2022
Information on the miniature contests and hobby class and workshop events is available here.

Adepticon, Schaumburg, IL: March 23-27, 2022
Adepticon 2022 is hosting the first US Games Workshop Golden Demons in years. There will likely also be several other manufacturer contests.
Information, rules, and entry forms for Golden Demon are available.
Hobby events have not yet been finalized and posted.

Nova Open, Arlington VA: 2022 date pending

KublaCon, San Francisco, CA: 2022 date pending

List of Shows

Military Miniature Society of Illinois, Chicago, IL: October 22-23, 2021

Miniature Figure Collectors of America Show, ?: 2022 date pending

Atlanta Military Figure Society Show, Atlanta, GA: February 2022 (usually around Valentine’s Day)

Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK: 2022 date pending
The webpage does not seem to be updated. Check their Facebook page for more current info.

Euro Miniature Expo (Euro Militaire), Folkstone, United Kingdom: 2022 date pending
Additional information available on their Facebook page.

World Model Expo 2022, Veldhoven, The Netherlands: 2022 date pending

If you know of other contests or shows than these, please let me know so I can update this page and encourage others to attend!

Many thanks to Jen Greenwald and Michael Proctor for fact checking and suggestions for additions.

Let’s Get Together… Separately

I’m a little later than I planned making my next blog post. I’ve got a few topics that I’m working on, but I keep having to put them aside to work on projects for ReaperCon, which is fast approaching! But wait, I hear you think, ReaperCon was cancelled. Gen Con was cancelled. This is 2020, everything is cancelled.*

They were, and it sucks that we can’t get together in person. But the people who work so hard to bring us that in-person fun have switched gears to working on ways for use to get together via technology so we can still game, shop, and share cool hobby tips and tricks.**

Here are some great upcoming events that I’m aware of to help you get back to having some good geek fun, and some of them are happening right now or in the next few months.

Cyberwarsgraphic croppedTechnology gives me ulcers too, sometimes, but Napolean and I still both recommend it over the alternatives. 

You can enjoy a virtual convention this weekend (July 25 to July 26) even! HMGS, which puts on the conventions Cold Wars, Historicon, and Fall In, had to cancel their July in person gathering, but instead offers us the fun of CYBËR WÅRS! It features panel discussions, virtual gaming, and paint class videos. And a paint contest!

Main information page: https://www.hmgs.org/page/CyberWarsSTD01
Links to the round table panels and the virtual gaming events are near the top of that page.

But also check out the Virtual Hobby Room on Facebook! Already posted are links to videos on weathering, painting black, and painting white. 

Or enter something you’ve painted in the Virtual Painting Competition. (Click the discussion tab and look for the pinned post for rules. There are SF/Fantasy categories, never fear!)

Aces 2020Atomic Mass Games has generous donated the figure for the Aces contest.

No need to be sad once Monday rolls around. You can start planning for Gen Con Online, occurring from July 30 to August 2. There are all kinds of events, including games, and even miniature painting, sculpting, and terrain classes!

And put a note on your calendar for July 31 to attend the Ace of Aces Painting event. This event pits a number of pro painters head to head in a speed painting competition. Once the winners are declared, the complete set of figures will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity. (Usually Gen Con’s chosen charity of the year, and I assume that will still be the case this year.) There is a lot of heckling and joking between the competitors and from the emcee and audience. I suspect this will be a very unique version of this event since the fact that the painters will be painting individually via camera streams likely means you’ll get a much better view of how they work their magic than if you were viewing in person at Gen Con. I have enjoyed this event tremendously as both an audience member and a competitor, I highly recommend it.

RC2020Events will occur on Twitch, Zoom, and Discord, and probably other online places too!

The virtual fun doesn’t end there. ReaperCon Online takes place September 3 to September 7. Classes, games, and other activities are not yet open for registration, but expect that soon. 

Preorder for a selection of swag boxes is up already. These boxes and the individual contents will also go up for sale on the main Reaper store during ReaperCon. Some items are pre-printed by third party vendors so are only available while supplies last. (So pre-order folks guarantee getting all contents of the box they order and will receive them sooner in the mail.) Note that you do not need any of the contents of the swag boxes to participate in and enjoy activities at ReaperCon live. Any classes with required materials will note that in their descriptions or via another avenue.

I can tell you that the 36 page guide to the pirate city of Brinewind is pretty darn cool, because one of the things that’s been keeping me too busy for blog posts has been working as the editor for that. So I’ve read it and I know. I’ve read it over and over and over again, and I still think it’s pretty darn cool! (Unrelated side note: it was pretty weird to actually use my college degree and do some editing! ;->)

Brinewind bookCover art by the immensely talented Izzy “Talin” Collier, written by the imaginative Joseph Wolf.

*If you are reading this some years from now – Hello visitor from the future! I hope we have once again returned to a life where people safely mix and mingle and attend fun activities like conventions again and this all seems like a bad dream we barely remember. 

**I know people interested in ReaperCon online are frustrated about how long it’s taking for event information to go up, and I’d guess that there are hitches and glitches with all the other online events, too. Please be kind and have some patience with the people working on these. Even the most experienced coordinator of an in-person convention is having to put aside years and decades of established procedure and systems to figure out how to do something new and create an online event instead. There’s no precedent for these things and a lot to figure out. My husband and I run sections of a local convention and our own tiny private convention, and none of us had clue one for how to replace planned in person events with virtual ones, so we just had to cancel those. 

Title image by Lucrezia Carnelos from Unsplash.