Beginner Brush Tips for Miniatures

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Beginner Brush Tips for Miniatures

As an avid hobbyist who’s been painting miniatures for over 20 years, I often get asked, “What are the best brushes to use just starting out?” Like any craft, having quality tools that suit your needs is important. But when you’re just dipping your toes in, going top-shelf right away isn’t always practical or necessary.

Warhammer 40k paints


Start With Affordable High-Volume Brushes

Read up on our post for the: Best Brushes for painting Warhammer

When buying your first brushes, go for something cheap and readily available. You’ll likely ruin your first set, so best not spend a fortune. Aim for synthetic brushes rather than sable hair at this stage – they’re more resistant to damage from acrylic paint. I recommend Citadel’s range as a starting point.

Once you’ve got some experience under your belt – I’d say around 20 miniatures or so – you’ll have a better sense of what really works for you. Then you can start exploring more premium options and specialty brushes that align to your painting style and budget. Remember, expensive brushes alone won’t automatically make you a better painter. Build skill first, quality tools come later!

Army Painter Brushes

Pay Attention to Ferrule, Bristle and Handle

Before getting into specific recommendations, it’s important to understand the key components that make up a brush. Pay attention to:

The Ferrule – This metal piece connects the bristles to the handle. Avoid brushes where the ferrule is crimped too tightly to the bristles or handle, as excess pressure can damage bristles.

The Bristles/Tuft – The working end! This is where brush shape, material, thickness, length and overall responsiveness really matter. More on finding your ideal configuration shortly.

The Handle -Handles are generally wood or a synthetic alternative. Focus less on material and more on finding a size and shape that feels comfortable for extended painting sessions.

**Why Sable and Synthetic Bristle Brushes Are Both Useful **

For the tuft itself, you’ll encounter natural sable hair brushes or synthetic alternatives. Each have pros and cons:

Sable Hair\

Read our guide here for a breakdown on Sable Hair brushes for Miniature painting

  • Holds paint better with longer working time between refills
  • More durable if cared for properly, retains sharp tip for years
  • Softest feel, excellent paint control
  • Costly, especially red kolinsky sable hair
  • More prone to damage if neglected or abused

Synthetic Bristles

  • Cheaper and easier to find
  • Easier to clean, more resistant to damage
  • Bristles may fray but can be reshaped
  • Less paint capacity
  • Tend to form “hooks” at tips over time

To start, using affordable synthetic brushes as daily drivers makes good sense. Then bring in specialized sable brushes for finesse work as your experience develops.

40k Brush Painting

Learn Your Way Around a Brush

Look here for tips on Painting Techniques for Warhammer

Understanding how the size, shape and overall responsiveness of your bristle tuft impacts painting is key to finding your dream brush. Let’s break down what really matters when it comes to brush performance.

Capacity Capacity determines how much fluid your brush can hold at once before needing a refill. Bigger capacity means less downtime reloading paint. Useful for basecoating large areas efficiently.

Point The fineness of the brush tip. A sharp precise point is essential for controlled detail work like painting eyes or edge highlighting. Make sure to assess point sharpness both wet and dry.

 Snap determines how well the bristles return to their vertical position after bending. Good snap gives you stability and control. A tip should spring back to sharpness instantly.

Spring How much flex or “squish” the bristles have before losing their form. Spring allows more variability in stroke pressure. Helpful for smoother blending and gradations.

The control you have in paint application. Ideal brushes should deliver paint smoothly and reliably. You’ll learn to anticipate paint flow from experience.

Now that you know what to evaluate, let’s explore some top brush recommendations for painting miniatures as a beginner.

Rosemary Brushes

Round Out Your Starting Set with Size 0, 1 and 2

Read here: Best Brush Sizes for Miniatures

For versatility across basecoating, layering, blending and detail work, having a range of brush sizes is useful. The most common sizes are:

  • #000 – Ultra Fine Tip
  • #00 – Precise Detailing
  • #0 – All-Purpose Point
  • #1 – Best All-Rounder
  • #2 – Basecoating, Blending
  • #3 – Broad Strokes

As a beginner, having a #0, #1 and #2 from a given brand will handle ~90% of painting needs. A #1 is the ideal workhorse for most tasks. Size 0 allows for finer detail at the cost of some paint capacity. Size 2 excels at broader strokes for basecoats and blending.

An important caveat – brush sizes are not universal across brands. A #1 will differ in thickness, length and feel across ranges. Once you settle on a manufacturer, knowing how to identify lengths and diameters can help fine tune selections.

For painting minis, look for tuft lengths around 8-12mm and diameter of 1.5-2mm at the bristle base regardless of size number. This shape holds enough paint while allowing detail work.


Discover Brushes that Align to Your Style

The best brushes come down to personal preference and painting style. For quick, efficient coverage over lots of rank-and-file, a regiment brush with thick bristles may suit speed demon painters. Sculpting immaculate showcase pieces demands more delicate precision tools.

Rather than an instant fix, finding your dream brush is an iterative process of trying different shapes, sizes and brands until you land on what clicks. As long as you understand what factors impact performance – capacity, tip, snap, spring and flow – you can methodically experiment to dial in your perfect match.

Warhammer 40k Mini

Caring For Your Brushes Properly

No matter what brushes you pick, properly cleaning and storing them is essential to longevity. Some key maintenance tips:

  • Rinse brushes thoroughly after each session
  • Avoid letting paint dry too far up bristles
  • Store brushes flat or with tips facing down
  • Clean with brush shampoo and conditioner regularly

Read here: How to keep your Miniature Brushes clean

Key Sable Hair Brush Options

For intermediate and advanced painters, natural sable hair brushes are prized for their sharp responsive tips, excellent paint control and buttery feel. Let’s explore two common high-end varieties:

Red Sable

An affordable sable option, providing great blend of quality and value. Tend to be softer tufts with lots of flex. Watch out for inconsistency across manufacturers.

Kolinsky Sable

The crème de la crème for those seeking ultimate precision! Kolinsky hair offers sharp rigid tips, effortless snap back and incredible touch. Prices run higher but lifespan easily exceeds cheaper alternatives with proper care.

Winsor & Newton’s Series 7 brushes are the hobby gold standard, purportedly even used by Games Workshop’s ‘Eavy Metal studio team. Their bright red handles have graced many a miniature across decades of dominance. But respectable alternatives like Raphael’s 8404 series provide similar quality often at better prices.

When investing in sable brushes, give them a test drive first whenever possible. Dip the tips in water and flick excess liquid against your wrist. Quality tufts should snap back to a precise point instantly. If not, you may have a dud!

Mini Brush painting

Recommended Synthetic Starter Sets

For hobbyists on a budget, quality synthetic brushes offer an affordable way to equip your starter toolkit while developing core skills. Modern synthetics can mimic the performance of natural hair in many ways.

Sets I recommend checking out first:

Army Painter Wargamer – Excellent range built for painting models and minis specifically. Decent quality with triangular handles provide nice control.

Citadel Base – A familiar starting point for many Warhammer painters. Reliable daily drivers perfect for trying techniques seen on YouTube guides.

When synthetics do show their limits is longevity. They tend to form “hook” shapes at the tips permanently over time. But a little TLC goes a long way. Rinse thoroughly after each session and store properly to maximize useful life. Remember, you can always upsize later as your painting prowess grows!

Dark Angels Symbol


Equipping yourself with quality brushes suited to your skill level and painting style is essential for nurturing success in the miniatures hobby. Start easy and affordable while getting comfortable. As your expertise develops, bring in specialized tools to give your next show-stopper piece that little extra finesse.

And be sure to swing by warhammeruniverse on YouTube for more tips and tricks as you venture deeper into the craft of miniature painting! Game on my friends.

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