How to Organize Your Paints

Patreon supporters receive a PDF copy with high res photos and better formatting! The PDF for this article includes bonus workspace pictures, including pics of cats invading my painting area.

Occasionally I am asked what is the best way to organize paints, and I’ve seen it as a topic of online discussion fairly frequently, as well. In this article I’m going to go over some suggestions for organizing your miniature paints, and then in a followup article I’ll share some racks/shelves/bins you can use to store your well-organized paints. (If you know of a storage system that you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments so I can include it in the next article!)

I don’t think there is one best way to organize paint colours. I recently revamped my organization system because what I had wasn’t working for me. Each of us categorizes and uses colours slightly differently, so the right answer is whatever works for you, and even your best guess at that may not be ideal in every circumstance. However, there are some factors you can consider in deciding what is right for you.

IMG 8561I can, however, confirm that this is a terribly unhelpful organization system.

Your organization system may need to fulfill different functions, and there isn’t a single system that is going to excel at all of them. The organizational needs I think you need to consider include:

* The nature of your storage units/containers and the amount of storage space you have.
* Ease of finding a specific paint colour.
* Ease of putting away your paints after use.
* Ability to look at your colours to make choices or get inspired.

Since there are alternative ways to review your colours for inspiration, I would concentrate on developing a system that handles finding and putting away paints easily within the constraints of your available space/storage container.

Another challenge in organizing colours is that every colour has multiple characteristics, and how you think of these characteristics will affect what makes it easier for you to find and put away paint colours. I think colour family, saturation level, value, and finish are the big ones to consider in your organization system.

Finish

Finish is probably the easiest and most obvious characteristic for organization. We all know how annoying it is to end up with a silver when you wanted a grey! It makes sense to split your metallic/interference colours apart from your standard paints. It’s possible to refine this category even more if you have some shiny finish paints and some matte finish paints, but you can also consider your non-metallic colours one big group and add matting agent to the shiny paints or use gloss varnish over the matte paints when you want to change the finish of a paint.

Colour

Organizing based on colour families also seems pretty obvious – reds together, blues together, etc. You will run into a lot of edge cases, though, and you’ll need to think about which categorization best fits how you think about your colours.

For example, do you decide whether each of the colours in the centre is more green or more blue, or do you make a separate teal category?

IMG 2471

For a long time I grouped my ‘near white’ colours together with my grey paints. Sometimes I might want to use a very light green to highlight a skin tone or a light pink to highlight blue. When reorganizing my paints recently I realized that I rarely looked at the shelf of near whites. Either I already knew what I wanted and just grabbed that one, or I didn’t even think about them. So when I reorganized I shifted all my near whites into their appropriate colour family.

IMG 2472

Saturation

You’ll likely run into challenging decisions related to saturation when you’re trying to organize paints by colour family. Saturation measures how intense a colour is – a cherry red is clearly a red, but is a brick red part of the red family, or is it more of a brown?

For example, in the centre group are some yellow ochre and rust orange/red paints that I have. Do I group them with the pure saturated yellows, oranges, and reds? Or do they fit better into the brown category? For me the answer is that I have an ‘earth tones’ category that encompasses the less saturated yellow ochres and orange/red browns. I pretty much always know whether I want a bright sunny yellow or more of a muted ochre yellow. I generally prefer to shade an ochre yellow or rust orange with some kind of darker brown. So it makes sense in my brain to lump those colours in with brown. But you might look at your colours differently and have a different answer to that question!

IMG 2473While choosing paints for the photo I ended up second guessing the categories for a few of my orange paints. There’s no perfect system!

The paints in the centre below are some colours that look pretty pink or orange when organized with skin colours (and most of those are named as such), but very desaturated and dull if placed next to true pinks and oranges. For a long time I sorted the orangey paints named as skin tones with other skin tones, and the pinks with the more saturated pinks. Now I’ve shifted everything that might be used for a skin tone together. But really when you think about it, a lot of skin tones are just versions of browns and earth tones, so it would make just as much sense to lump all of those together. (Also you should never feel like you need to let the name of the paint colour dictate how you perceive and use that colour!)

IMG 2474

Even grey can be challenging! How much blue or green does a colour need to have in it before you consider it more of a blue or a green or a brown or a purple than a grey? Different people will have different answers to that question. I used the criteria of whether I’d be more likely to use a paint as a desaturated version of its colour family or for what I think of as ‘grey purposes’ (stone, non-metallic steel/silver, fur). To the left are three true neutral greys, and on the right is a selection of greys with some colour in them.

IMG 2475I ended up filing two of the greys on the right under ‘grey’, one under ‘blue’, and one under ‘green’, but other choices might make more sense to you.

Value

Value is a measure of how dark or light a colour is. It’s fairly easy to judge the value of more desaturated colours like greys or skin tones, but it can be trickier to determine the value of more intense colours. Most of us perceive bright reds and greens as lighter in value than they are. 

Awareness of the value of our paints is pretty crucial. We use contrast in value to create compositions over the surface of our figures. It’s a valuable tool to use to create areas of focus. And it’s crucial to creating contrast between shadows and highlights on a surface. You can have successful outcomes when you mix up the colours but maintain the values, because value is that important to how the viewer perceives your figure. (Mixing saturation levels within those values is admittedly a little trickier.)

IMG 2478 editThese highlight-midtone-shadow choices might not be typical or exactly the colour you’re looking for, but they would work fine to create volume and depth on a figure.

I definitely recommend factoring value into your organization system! When I reorganized my paints recently I started with colour family groups, and then sorted the paints from lightest to darkest within those groups.

Function

You may have products that you use for particular functions that you might want to organize in a different way than the rest of your paints. For example, most people use inks and pre-mixed washes for specific functions, so it makes more sense to store them together in groups than to mix them into their colour families. I ran out of space when I did my recent paint reorganization, since I wanted to add my P3 and N-Paints to the shelves. They are both standard acrylic colours that I would use in a typical way. I decided to instead separate my pre-mixed washes to a separate container. Since they’re used in a particular way, they don’t need to be on the shelves for me to find and use them when I do want to. (And I have ended up not using them much, so they make the most sense to separate out from that criteria as well.)

I keep all my brush-on primers, sealers, paint additives, and special effects paints on a shelf together so I can find them easily and I don’t mix up a white paint and white primer.

IMG 2485 editMy shelf of stuff that goes under, in, or on top of paint.

The formula or intended use of the product is less important than how you personally use it. Reaper’s clear paints are the same formula as their regular paints. They’re similar to pure pigment paints in being intense colours that don’t have white/grey/black or similar mixed in to make them more opaque. (Anne Foerster decided to call them Clear so people would understand that they’re more transparent than the typical paint.) I keep these and similar paints from other companies on my desk so they’re easy to hand for glazes or fine-tuning colours, but another painter might prefer to organize them in in with their colour families.

IMG 2484This is the paint area of my current paint desk. It includes a few inks, and pure pigment paints. I also keep brush-on primers and my preferred medium mixes here, as well as black, white, and my other favourite paints to mix darkest shadows and lightest highlights or that I use in common tasks like painting base rims.

You may also have a product or line that you use in multiple ways. You’ll have to decide which way to organize it makes most sense to you. The Reaper Liner paints are formulated to work well for lining, and I do use them for that purpose. I often also use them to mix shadows. I decided it would be easier to find them if I kept them grouped together rather than separating them out into their colour families.

IMG 2486 editMy liner paints. Apart from Blue Liner which lives in my use it all the time desk collection. Sadly a number of these are discontinued.

Product Name, Number, or Similar

Some people might find they’d prefer to organize based on what’s on the bottle rather than what’s in the bottle. If you have swatched out your colours in a notebook or something similar, it is easy to select and return paints based on alphabetical order or product SKU number.

If you use something like the Reaper or Foundry triad systems, you might prefer to keep triad sets of paint grouped together because you prefer to use them that way. 

IMG 2477Example of three triad sets from Reaper Miniatures. Note that not all of their paints are organized into shadow-midtone-highlight triads.

If you have a smaller number of paints from a single company, it is likely that the colour of the paints is organized in some fashion by product number, so you might find it easy to just go with that. The Pathfinder paint set from Reaper is an example. The product numbering starts with pinks and reds, then yellows, then greens, then blues, and so on, ending with the metallic colours. However, if a company later releases additional colours for the line, or if it makes another line that you wish to add to your collection, the colour and numbering sequences may no longer match. For example, if you have both the Scalecolor and the Fantasy & Games paint sets from Scale75, the reds and blues and so on are split between two different product numbering systems.

My Paint Organization Experiences

I’m going to share some of my personal experiences in case they are helpful to anyone. Also I know we all love seeing pictures of people’s workspaces!

My enthusiasm for collecting paints as well as miniatures manifested pretty quickly after I took up the hobby. My initial work area was an old metal desk. The desktop was pretty large, so I chose desk rack options. (I’ll have links to these in the next article.) I started with three Paintier spinning racks. I organized the paints roughly by colour family, but also grouped Reaper triads together. I put colours I used less often (blue and metallics) on the spinner that was hardest to see and reach. There was a system, but it was definitely arbitrary – browns and many skin tones are pretty much interchangeable, but I stored them as two separate categories on two separate spinners.

DSCN2723I took this picture to enter into a local radio contest for worst chair. I did not win. After taking the picture I took the back off the chair and used it as more of a stool for a few years. I recommend having a good comfortable chair you can lean back in. Don’t be me. ;-> You can see the bottom of the Paintier racks to the right of the desk. 

Eventually my paint collection grew to the point where three spinners weren’t enough. I added a tiered shelf, and reorganized my paints. At first I stored a different line of paint on the tiered shelf. Later I mixed brands and lines together, and moved red, yellow, orange, and purple paints to the tiers, grouping them by colour and then value (lightness/darkenss). So none of those colour families were organized by triad anymore. I still organized some of the paints on the spinners by triads, though.

Desk1I also had a functional chair by this point, yay! And a lot more non-paint storage area Oh, and obviously this picture was taken right after a massive cleanup occurred. 

The most notable thing about these crazy mixed up systems is… they worked. I knew where every paint was supposed to be stored. if I put one back incorrectly it messed me up and there was at least one occasion where I bought a replacement before stumbling across the misfiled miscreant.

As the years go by I acquired more paint than it was possible to store on my desktop. I kept my P3 paint set in a box in a drawer. I shifted metallics and inks and other paints I rarely use to an organizer box stored under the desk drawers. When I got the Pathfinder Paint sets, I just kept them in their cases. 

I still knew where paints were, but the collection had clearly outgrown sensible storage options. I needed to either prune down to a number of paints I could store in a reasonable way, or figure out another storage solution. Unless I really pushed myself to pick out other colours, I tended to just use paints I already knew since I couldn’t get a good look at ones I didn’t use as much, which kind of defeated the purpose of having all the colours.

We made some house renovations not long after this time, so I had to pack everything up. I organized the paints by colour families and put them in gallon size plastic bags stored in a big plastic tub. I can confirm that this is a terrible organization system! I would have to dump the bags out onto a table and rifle through them to find colours I might need for a project.

Desk2My paints, brushes, and a few other daily use tools were the last things I packed up before the renovations. In this picture all the shelves and drawers and wall decorations have been packed away and just the daily use desk stuff remains. This old metal desk had been a faithful companion for years, but some months prior to this the small drawer on the left broke and fell out when I tried to open it, and both of the big drawers had issues too. This desk got put out to pasture during the renovations.

After the renovations I moved my studio to another area. My new desk was smaller, so storing paint on the desk wasn’t really feasible. I decided to get a bunch of wall racks instead. I carefully organized the paints by what I felt was a logical system. I broke them up into broad colour families. Within those families I had further divisions – overall purples, violet-reds, and violet blues; saturated greens, natural greens, and olive greens.

IMG 9418 edit

The wall mounted racks made it easier to see different colours I might want to experiment with, but my system wasn’t quite working. I occasionally had trouble finding a specific colour, and often had trouble figuring out where to put paint colours back. My organization system seemed like it should work, but it didn’t.

Recently I decided to try a different tack, as well as adding in some additional paints that I have acquired. I went with broader colour families, and then sorted the paints by value in those categories. Saturation is pretty easy to see, so I could pick out olive greens from rich greens without too much trouble when I wanted one or the other. I haven’t had this system in use for too long, but I think it’s working better. It’s pretty easy to sort by value, so it should be easy to clean up now and then if necessary. I just take a picture on my phone and turn it into greyscale to check the values.

IMG 2404

Below is a picture of the newly organized shelves. And yeah, I’ve run out of space again! I had my P3 and N-Paints stored in separate containers and I wanted to mix them into the colour families. I had to pull some washes I hardly ever use off the shelf and store them separately to make space. But since they are a different type of paint I’d use in a different way, that seemed a more sensible division than by line. I also have some inks and single pigment colours like the Reaper Clears and the Kimera paints in a tiered shelf on my desk. I tend to use those for glazes, or to use just those kinds of paints for a project, so it’s logical (to me) to have them separated out and closer to hand.

One other change I made was based on how easy it is to see the colours across the area of the shelves. The column on the far left is furthest from the light and harder to see. I shifted paints that I don’t need to see as precisely to decide to use to that section – inks, metallics, and neutral greys. Now I can see my yellows, reds, purples, and blues much more clearly

IMG 2427 edit

In case anyone is feeling bad about their workspace being messier than mine, here’s a shot of the larger room area in my old studio space. This is from a while ago, my Sta-Wet palette looks so new! My area wasn’t always this messy, but it was rarely neat and tidy!

Paint room 003

RVE Paint Swatches and Swag Boxes

Reaper Virtual Expo has started! Events continue March 6 and 7, 2021. If you aren’t sure what RVE is or why you might be interested, skip down below for more information. (And more information on free paint classes I’m teaching during the event!)

I received the Mega Bundle swag box, and I filmed a video unboxing each of the three RVE swag boxes within it. Some of the items require assembly, I put those together and showed how they work in the video as well.

IMG 0602The Mega Bundle includes three swag boxes, an extra, and bonus with purchase items for purchasing from the Reaper webstore. Soda can for scale.

You can purchase the swag boxes or Mega Bundle currently. Most individual items will go up for sale at some point, but quantities may be limited, particularly for the items that Reaper does not produce in-house (anything other than paint and figures.) Two of the paint sets are packaged in Fast Palette boxes, which are also outside production. Sadie the paint wizard recently said that theFast Palette Cyber boxes may run out. If they do, it is likely the sets would go up for sale again at some future point when they get more packages.

Paint Colour Swatches

I put together a video swatching out all 27 of the RVE paint colours, plus some of the February promo colours. Half of the video was filmed during a live Twitch stream, where I answered questions, and I share some general paint information throughout the process of making the swatches.  

I’m including scans of my paint swatches here for the reference of anyone interested. My scanner is pretty true to colour, although of course slight differences may occur due to differences in our screens and so on.

The first is a scan of the 12 colours included in the Reaper Virtual Expo Commemorative set, currently available in the Hobby Box.

Rve paint commemorative

These six colours are from the Cyber Gangs box. Each is associated with one of the factions of Reaper Virtual Expo. This set of paints is currently available in the Punk Box.

Rve paint gang

The next six colours are from the Cyber Metal box. These are metallic paints. The still scan does not capture their shimmer. You would need to check out the video for a more complete look at these. This set is currently available in the Punk set.

Rve paint metal

The Plasma triad is currently available in the Expo Box, and is a great triad of vivid colours.

Rve paint plastma

Last up are swatches of some of the February sample colours. You cannot order sample colours, they are occasional gifts bestowed on orders made on the Reaper webstore. Usually they are colours from an error in paint mixing, but I suspect these were mixed up special for February. There is a fifth pink colour, and I received a bottle of it, but it was the one casualty of my packages getting stuck in the cold snap the hit the US. You can look at a picture of what a cold-damaged paint looks like to get an idea of the colour. I only lost one out of 58 paints, so exposure to cold isn’t an automatic death sentence for all paint!

Rve paint vday sampleNOTE: VDAY 3 is a metallic/shimmer paint also best appreciated in video.

Reaper Virtual Expo

Reaper Virtual Expo is an online event on March 5-7 202 that includes miniature hobby classes, games, panels, painting challenges, and more. The classes include painting, basing, sculpting topics, and others. Even if you’re not a Reaper product fan, you’re likely to find something of interest. I’m going to highlight my classes and the other events I’m participating in, but for check out the Reaper Virtual Expo page for all the information. 

All of these events are free and take place online. I hope I’ll see some of you there!

Crow’s Nest Painters’ Panel
When: Saturday, March 6 at 12:30pm to 2:20pm Central time
Where: Reaper Twitch channel

A panel discussion with a number of miniature painters, including Michael Proctor, Aaron Lovejoy, Derek Schubert, Jen Greenwald, and myself. There’s a section to suggest questions in the Reaper Virtual Expo Discord. 

The Crow’s Nest sculptors’ panel took place today. Go to minute 3:06:00 in this video to watch that. It will also be uploaded to YouTube at some point. 10 different sculptors participated and answered questions!

Snake rust rve

Painting Scales
When: Saturday, March 6 from 8pm to 10pm Central
Where: Register to receive the Zoom link

I’ll be running this as a paint along class, though you’re also welcome to just watch and try out the techniques later. I’ll cover methods for painting smaller scales and large plate scales. The figure shown above is the colour scheme I’ll be using in class, but I’ll be using a different snakeman figure with a more open pose so you can see the painting more easily onscreen. My class PDF includes suggestions for alternate figures and paints. 

IMG 6146Some of the products I’ll be discussing in my class.

Additives, Mediums, and Texture Pastes – Oh My!
When: Sunday, March 7 from 2pm to 3:30pm Central
Where: Register to receive the Zoom link

In the first half of the class I’ll talk about what additives and mediums are, and why you would add them to your paint. In the second half, I’ll cover products you can use for basing and effects. I’ll be demonstrating and discussing products from Reaper, other miniatures companies, and the art store. You do not need to buy any of these products to participate. Part of the point of the class is to help you figure out what you might want to buy later, if anything. The class PDF includes general information and information on specific products.

There are a ton of other hobby classes being given by fantastic instructors. Topics include painting techniques/colours, weathering, special effects, basing, using an airbrush, and more. You can get the schedule and details on each class over on the class schedule page. The classes take place on Zoom, so you’ll need to register to receive the login details for a class. Also if you check the class Details button, you’ll see if a class has a handout with more information on supplies and so on.

Reaper is recording the classes and will be putting them up on their YouTube channel, though that make take a month or so to happen.  If you’re really excited about a particular class I recommend trying to attend live so you can ask questions, and in the very rare event of technical difficulties. 

Coming Soon

My apologies to those who aren’t interested in Reaper Virtual Expo or associated items. This should be my last post on the topic for a while! I’m putting the finishing touches on a post about painting Finn Greenwell, and working on some other content for this coming month as well. Thank you for your patience!

Lep bl faceFinn Greenwell, adorable leprechaun

Cold Temperatures versus Miniature Paints

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Miniature paint doesn’t require a lot of special care and maintenance, but it can be damaged if exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period of time. If you have paints in transit during a cold snap, or you’ve realized you had your paint stored in an unheated area like a garage, how can you tell if your paint is okay?

A little while ago I swatched out some of the colours from the Reaper Virtual Expo swag boxes. People were disappointed I didn’t have all the paints to swatch, so Sadie, the Reaper paints mixologist, packed up the rest to send them to me. She did that just before severe winter weather hit large areas of the United States. My package made it out of Reaper in time, but was trapped in UPS storage facilities and vehicles for days. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for scans of the first set of swatches.)

When my package  finally arrived, I thought I had better check the condition of all the paints. I let them sit and warm up for a few hours, and then tested all of them. I made a video of the testing process, so you can see how I checked and what a cold damaged paint looks like. I’m also including some pictures here in this post.

There were 14 paints total in my package. Two sets of six were packed in Reaper’s FastPalette packaging. This is a thin plastic tray inside of a thin card box. Then there were two sample paints that were loose in the box. (Everything was secured with air bubbles, I mean loose in the sense of not being in a blister or other packaging.)

IMG 0569Example of FastPalette packaging.

Out of those 14 paints, one of the loose sample paints is damaged and unusable, and the other 13 are fine. Pigments vary considerably, and there are some differences in the acrylic formulas used for various colours. So perhaps pigment or base made the difference, or perhaps the packaging of the boxed sets help insulate them. Whatever the cause, some paints are more sensitive than others. Having been exposed to weather cold enough to damage paint doesn’t mean that all exposed paints are automatically ruined.

In the video I open up the bottles of the two loose sample paints and dispense some paint onto an index card to examine. One of the paints acts as I would expect. You can see in the picture below that the other paint has been damaged. The pigment and some of the binder has curdled to a lumpy cottage cheese texture, which has completely separated from a runny fluid component. The problem bottle was shaken on a vortex mixer for some time prior to testing.

Frozen paint1 cr

I have had a previous experience with this. In one of the first learn to paint kits I bought, the tub of yellow paint was grainy and slightly curdled. It was not as extreme as the condition of the paint above, so there is some variation with this. I later learned that other people who bought that same set also had problems with the yellow paint. Likely it had gotten cold while in storage at the distributor warehouse that supplied my local game store. 

Frozen paint2 cr

So if you do have a damaged paint the issue might not be quite as obvious as this, but you should be able to see a notable difference in the texture and consistency of a damaged paint compared to a normal one.

EDIT TO ADD: To my knowledge there is no way to restore a paint damaged by freezing. You can’t add water or medium and stir everything back into suspension the way you usually can with a paint where the liquids and solids have separated after a long period of not being stirred. When paint freezes some of the components coagulate or congeal in a way that is a permanent structural or chemical change. If you experience this with a newly bought product, you can contact the retailer or the manufacturer and request a replacement.

In the video I just did a simple shake test on the other 12 bottles, but later I swatched them out. Six of the paints were metallics, and I was particularly concerned about those. In my years of doing paint maintenance (and not always being perfect about doing paint maintenance), I have found that metallic colours dry out and get ruined a lot more quickly than standard matte colours. So I was concerned they might be more easily damaged by cold, as well. All of the metallics in my shipment were fine.

Rve paints wet crSwatches straight from the bottle, still a little wet. The top six colours (one swatched twice) are the Reaper Virtual Expo Punk colours. The bottom six are the Cyber Metal colours.) These are photographs not the scans I did of swatches in my other post, so may not be as true to colour.

Rve paints dry crSwatches after drying for a few hours. Paint still looks normal and fine.

Frozen paint3 crUnaffected vs cold damaged paint after drying for a few hours. The ring on the paper shows how separated out the liquids were from the solids in the paint mix. 

I hope that helps give you a little more of an idea of what to look for if you’re concerned that you have paints that have been exposed to cold temperatures.

 

Snowflake photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Paint Along Video Learn to Paint Kit Classes!

Dear mini painting friends – I need you! I need you to help us discover new mini painting friends!

ReaperCon Online is a fun event for miniature enthusiasts. It’s also a unique opportunity to reach out to future miniature enthusiasts – people I couldn’t easily connect with at a traditional convention. To take advantage of that opportunity, I will be teaching free live paint along classes for both of the Reaper learn to paint kits – Core Skills and Layer Up. This is a great opportunity to get started with miniature painting for those who might prefer video instruction, or who are nervous to paint for the first time on their own.

Cover combo

The problem is, how do I reach these new potential miniature painters when my audience is established miniature painters? My answer is to ask all of you for help! I’ve noticed a lot of people mentioning giving the learn to paint kits to others as gifts. If you gifted someone a kit or know someone who purchased one for themselves but hasn’t started painting yet, please send them the link to this page in case they’re interested in attending an event.

If you’d prefer to share on Facebook, here’s a Facebook event for Core Skills, and another for Layer Up.

If you or your friend have already used the kit, you are still very welcome to attend! You can just watch to get extra tips,  work along with us to touch up your original figure, or get a second copy from Reaper to paint along using your other kit supplies. Link to buy a Skeleton Archer (or a Warrior Skeleton Archer), link to buy Anirion the Wizard.

If you or your friend haven’t bought a kit because you already own all or most of the contents, you are still welcome to join us to paint along! A contents list for each kit is available, so you can check if you’re missing anything. The only item you cannot purchase separately is the instruction booklet. (Reaper has said they will not make that available for separate purchase, sorry.) Check the class descriptions below for a short list of common household items you also need to paint along in the class.

NOTE: The Skeleton Archer that is normally included in the Core Skills kit is temporarily out of stock. When this happens Reaper fulfills the kits with this Skeleton Warrior Archer. I will demonstrate with copies of both figures in the online class.

NOTE: The synthetic brushes included in both of the kits are also temporarily out of stock. Feel free to use your preferred brushes. For Core Skills you’d need a general painting brush and a smaller flat for drybrushing. For Layer Up you’d need a general painting brush and any brush you like to use for more detailed painting.

Which Kit First? 

The two kits are designed to work individually, but also work together as one large master kit with no duplication of tools, colours, or figures. You do not need to finish the Core Skills kit or class to attend the Layer Up class (or use that kit), but if you are completely new to painting and can choose only one, I recommend Core Skills first.

Kid Friendly?

The classes are probably a little too structured for younger or more energetic children to really enjoy, and even some older ones might find it a bit dull. I will be doing my best to make the paint along classes as easy to follow as possible, but I’m not a parent or particularly practiced at working with children, and most of the audience that I’ll be working with will be teens and adults. If you do want to try one of the classes with your your child, I recommend Core Skills. I also recommend that you sit with your child and be available to help them if they have trouble with any of the steps during the class.

Tish Wolter is a parent and has had experience teaching children. She is teaching two classes for younger painters during ReaperCon Online, one for beginners and one for kids who’ve had some experience painting. Go to the registration page and select the name Tish Wolter in the drop down menu on the right to easily find these classes. They’re also free!

Skeleton combo

Core Skills Learn to Paint Kit Paint Along

Saturday, September 5, 2020
14:00 – 16:00 Central time

Registration link – it’s free!
(Use the drop down menus on the right and select the name Rhonda Bender to find the class more quickly.)

Link to buy a kit or check the contents list.

If you’ve got a copy of the Core Skills learn to paint kit but you’ve never gotten around to using it because you’d prefer video rather than text instructions, now’s your chance! Rhonda Bender, the author of the kit, is hosting a paint along class. She will take you through the process of painting the skeleton figure, and demonstrate the techniques of painting base coats, washes, and drybrushing.

If you want to paint along during the class, you will need the paints and brushes provided with your kit, and the skeleton miniature. (If you already painted that one you can swap in another skeleton figure you might have lying around or order another copy of 77018 Skeleton Archer.) If you can, prior to the class scrub your skeleton with some dish soap and rinse well, or dip it in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean it off and help the paint adhere better.

You also need:
* An old mug or plastic cup filled with water to rinse out your brushes.
* Some paper towels.
* A plastic or foam plate, clean plastic lid, or piece of sturdy parchment/baking paper to use as a palette.

These items are not required but you’ll find them helpful:
* An empty paint bottle (item 8702 Master Series Squeeze Bottles on the store.)
* A holder for your figure. (See page 6 of the booklet for ideas.)
* A hairdryer in case your paint is drying too slowly to keep up with the class.
* If you can, an extra lamp or two to make sure you can see well.
* A piece of printer paper with text on it, or paper junk mail. (Plain not shiny paper.)

Wizard combo

Layer Up Learn to Paint Kit Paint Along

Sunday, September 6, 2020
18:00 – 20:00 Central time

Registration link – it’s free!
(Use the drop down menus on the right and select the name Rhonda Bender to find the class more quickly.)

Link to buy a kit or check the contents list.

If you’ve got a copy of the Layer Up! learn to paint kit but you’ve never gotten around to using it because you’d prefer video rather than text instructions, now’s your chance! Rhonda Bender, the author of the kit, is hosting a Layer Up! paint along class. She will take you through the process of painting the wizard figure, and demonstrate the techniques of painting base coats, layering, lining, and glazes.

If you want to paint along during the class, you will need the paints and brushes provided with your kit, and the wizard miniature. (If you already painted that one you can swap in another figure you might have lying around that is wearing a cloth robe or cloak with rounded folds like in the picture above, or order another copy of 77068 Anirion the Elf Wizard.) If you can, prior to the class scrub your wizard with some dish soap and rinse well, or dip it in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean it off and help the paint adhere better.

You also need:
* An old mug or plastic cup filled with water to rinse out your brushes.
* Some paper towels.
* A plastic or foam plate or clean plastic lid to use as a palette.

These items are not required but you’ll find them helpful:
* A holder for your figure. (See page 6 of the booklet for ideas.)
* A hairdryer in case your paint is drying too slowly to keep up with the class.
* If you can, an extra lamp or two to make sure you can see well.
* A piece of printer paper with text on it, or paper junk mail. (Plain not shiny paper.)

Miniature Paint Care and Maintenance

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It’s paint maintenance time for me, and that is a good opportunity for me to share some pictures and tips to help you maintain your own stash of miniature paints.

The most important tip is: Never let your paint freeze! Miniature paint will ‘curdle’ if it freezes. There is no way to restore paint that has been frozen to a correct and useable consistency.

Helpful tip: If you have hard water or any other water issues, use distilled water rather than tap water to add to paint bottles.

Helpful tip: This is the messiest job in miniature painting! Wear old clothes and protect surfaces with table cloths and drop cloths. Trust me on this! You will need much more paper towel or cloth than usual to clean brushes and wipe up spills.

Paint maintenance day setup

Two common issues that paint experiences over time are thickening up as water evaporates from inside the bottle, and paint separating into thick gloppy pigment at the bottom of the bottle, with watery components of the mix floating on top. Both of these issues can be remedied if caught quickly enough. Note that metallic, satin, and other texture effect paints are more likely to experience these issues, and to experience them after shorter periods of disuse.

To best preserve the quality of your miniature paints, do a maintenance check every 1-2 years. Shake the paint as you would for normal use. Dispense a drop of the paint and check its consistency. I use index cards for my paint drop tests. After dispensing the drop, I run an old paint brush through the drop to check consistency. Remove dropper bottle nipples to observe the paint within the container if you have any doubts. Add distilled water to paint that is thickening and shake. You will have to STIR, and then shake paint that is separating or is very thick in consistency. I’ll go over the method and possible issues in more detail below.

Examples of separated paint

Paint stored in containers that are not moved or shaken for long periods of time can start to separate. The heavier pigments and binder elements sink to the bottom and lighter elements of the binder float to the top. You can see an extreme example of the issue very clearly above in a screw top paint bottle that doesn’t have a label on the side. It can be much harder to spot in containers made of more opaque plastic or which have large obscuring labels.

Example of binder separated from paint

One reason I suggest dispensing a sample drop of paint for dropper bottle maintenance is to detect paint separation issues. You will see something like the above – a very watery mix of paint. Usually the colour looks quite pale or faint as well. If I see this, I pop off the nipple of the dropper bottle. I try to pick up this watery mix with a brush and add it back to the bottle, but it’s not a big issue if you lose a drop or two. 

Clumpy paint

If paint has separated to this degree, you will need to STIR it to repair the issue. You cannot guarantee redistributing the watery binder elements and chunkier pigment bits with any amount of shaking alone. Not even with a vortex mixer, not even with agitators in the bottle. I took the picture above AFTER agitating the paint pot (which contains a pewter agitator) on a vortex mixer. The paint looked mixed, but when I checked it with a toothpick, there was sludge stuck to the bottom and sides of the container. Also note the number of bubbles, which is another sign that the fluid portion is still more binder than pigment.

Click to see the vortex mixer in action on a couple of paints. Note that paint in the second half of the video is the same one in the previous picture. I had to stir well and then mix to return it to useable condition.

You will need to use a tool long enough to reach the bottom and sides of the container to get the sludge moving. With squat jars a toothpick works. You’ll need a plastic swizzle stick or old paint brush for taller dropper bottles. Once you’ve got the sludge moving, shaking should work to finish mixing everything back together. Then check the consistency again and add some additional water if needed. Eventually you should reach a consistency like the picture below. Note that there are far fewer bubbles now.

Mixed paint

Paint can thicken up over time due to water evaporation, without experiencing separation issues. Few containers are completely air tight. It can take years, but water does evaporate through plastic bottles and jars. Sometimes this happens more quickly than you would expect. You can have a set of paints that you purchased at the same time where some bottles are fine and some have experienced more evaporation, so you need to check each paint individually. Below you can see an example of what paint that has thickened up but not separated looks like. Kind of like frosting. (Don’t eat the paint-frosting!)

Thickened paint example

This can happen with dropper bottles, as well. Dropper bottles also often exhibit a similar but slightly different problem. When you dispense a drop of paint and find that it is very thick, you need to pull out the dropper nipple to check on the paint. You will often find thickening paint clogged up in the nipple tip and/or neck of the bottle, as in the examples below.

Paint thickening in bottle necks

Usually there is a separate pool of paint at the bottom of the bottle that may or may not be experiencing thickening as well. Use a toothpick or paint brush to poke the paint down into the bottle, moving it from the nipple to the main area of the bottle. I recommend stirring this bottle neck paint into the paint in the body of the bottle. Shaking may not be enough to intermix the thicker paint into the rest of the paint. Add a few drops of water, and mix thoroughly. Then check the consistency again. If it is still a bit on the thick side, add more water and shake again.

I have been experimenting with something I think helps reduce the incidence of paint getting trapped in the neck of the bottles. Before I recap a paint, I check to make sure that the dropper hole is clear of paint. Paint bubbling or oozing up through the dropper hole when a bottle is opened or after you poke the dropper hole open is another sign that some paint may be stuck in the nipple or neck of the bottle. I use a pokey tool to open up the dropper hole until it stays clear. Other options to open clogged dropper holes are a T-pin, hat pin, or unfolded paper clip. 

Dropper tip

The paints in the following picture were all discontinued in 2010, so I can verify that they’re old paints. Because I’ve taken the trouble to maintain them every few years, they’re all still in useable condition so I can continue enjoying these no-longer-made colours.

Old paints

Metallic and Silk/Satin Paints

Paints with metallic flake and similar agents seem more prone to experiencing issues with separation and thickening more quickly than standard paints. They also seem to reach the point of no return more quickly. I recommend doing maintenance on those kinds of paints at least yearly. If you do not maintain these well, accept that they will become unusable more quickly than standard paints.

Container Maintenance

Dropper bottles rarely experience issues other than paint drying in the dropper hole. Occasionally you will get some paint gumming up the lid that you might need to wipe or chip out. With pot style containers, you need to check the threads of both the cap and pot. Over time these often fill up with paint. As this paint dries it can break into chunks that fall into the wet paint. It can also make it more difficult to close the container or affect the seal and allow air into the pot. You can see an example of paint dried up on the inside of a cap below. As I did maintenance on these paints, I chipped paint out of the caps with the metal tool.

IMG 1366

Mixing Machines and Agitators

Some paints are harder to mix than others. The more viscous a paint, the more it will need an agitator and heavy shaking or even stirring to mix well. Different binder mixes may also affect how much mixing a brand or colour of paint needs. Some paint brands ship with an agitator in the bottle. All paints produced by Reaper Miniatures do. If you wish to add agitators to your paints, keep in mind that you need to use a non-reactive material. Many materials can rust or oxidize when stored in a liquid paint for long periods of time, even if they would not in other circumstances. Safe materials include pewter and glass beads. Although you will often see them recommended in online chats/forums, I do not recommend adding lead or stainless steel agitators to paint pots.

There are a few paint mixer gadgets on the market, and you may also come across ideas for homemade versions on various social media platforms and forums. I’ve seen electric stirrers, and single bottle shakers. Some people have adapted nail polish shakers to this purpose. Many people purchase second-hand laboratory vortex mixers on eBay and other sites to use for mixing paint. (Do a search for ‘vortex mixer’.) Artis Opus has developed a similar product specifically for miniature painters. (It’s more aesthetically pleasing and new, but I think the concept is pretty much the same.)

If you have a small collection of paint that hand-mixes fairly easily, like Reaper paints, you may not need any such tools. I purchased a used Vortex Genie 2 lab mixer on eBay a few years ago. Although it was a fairly expensive purchase, I have never regretted it, and it gets more use than many of my other bespoke hobby tools do. I have hand and wrist issues, and a pretty sizeable collection of paint. Paint maintenance was very tough on my hands, even spread over several days. Paint maintenance and day-to-day mixing are much less annoying for me with the mixer.