How to Fix Painting Mistakes on Miniatures: Tips for Beginners

Warhammer 40k Space Marine Paints

How to Fix Painting Mistakes on Miniatures: Tips for Beginners

As a warhammer fanatic with over 20 years of miniature painting experience, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. From thick layers of paint obscuring detail to accidentally knocking over an open pot of Null Oil wash and ruining an afternoon’s work – every miniature painter has been there.

But as the saying goes, every master has failed more times than the novice has tried. Through trial and error, missteps and misery, we learn. I’m writing this guide on fixing common miniature painting mistakes not only from my own blunders, but by learning from many talented painters in the community.

So whether you just started this addicting plastic crack hobby or have been slinging paint for decades like myself, read on for tips on salvaging mistakes and creating mini works of art.

Looking for Paint Sets? Check out our guide for The Best Paint Sets for Warhammer Miniatures

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Ensuring Good Paint Adhesion by Properly Preparing Your Miniatures

I liken properly preparing miniatures before painting to laying the foundation before building a house. Skip this step, and no amount of intricate detail work can prevent your paint job from eventually peeling and chipping off.

After years of impatience leading to rushed prep work and bubbled paint, I now devote the time to thoroughly prepare each miniature before touching it with color. Here is my detailed process:

  1. Clean Grease and Mold Lines

Use mild dish soap and an old toothbrush to scrub off any residue from the manufacturing process. Pay special attention to removing any visible mold lines – nothing ruins an amazing paint scheme like the eye catching a big line across a model’s cloak or armor!

  1. Mount on Painting Handle

Being able to fully rotate and position a miniature makes painting way easier. I use double-sided poster putty to temporality adhere minis to old pill bottles and corks. Blue tack also works well.

  1. Apply Primer

A good primer coat is absolutely vital for acrylic paint to properly bond with the miniature. I’ve moved away from spray primer to brush-on after too many models felt like playing catch with texture. My current favorite primer for brush painting is Vallejo Surface Primer – it sprays nicely for batches and brushes on smooth. Apply two thin coats and allow to fully cure before painting.

By properly preparing miniatures before painting, you ensure any mistakes can be fixed without worrying about paint rubbing off or peeling.

Read our full overview on How to Layer Paints for Miniatures



Thinning Your Paints Properly

Applying acrylic paint too thick is one of the most common beginner errors in miniature painting. Thick paint obscures detail, loses its bonding strength by forming a film on the surface, and simply looks bad – like cake frosting on your models.

I used to avoid properly thinning paints because I figured it wasted too much time. Boy was I wrong! Properly thinned paint not only appears smoother on miniatures, but actually works better by flowing into recesses while leaving raised surfaces mostly bare. This shading makes details pop even before applying washes.

Here is how I quickly and easily thin my citadel, vallejo, and army painter paints to perfection:

  • Place a dollop of paint on palette
  • Dip brush bristles in palette water pot
  • Mix brush into paint dollop, smoothing and pulling paint upwards
  • Test paint consistency on thumbnail – it should glide on smoothly with no texture

Repeat as needed. Over several years I’ve developed a good muscle memory for paint viscosity. But when in doubt, keep thinning down more. You can always carefully apply another thin coat to reach full opacity. Too thick and you’re asking for obscuring details and bumpy texture!

A full guide here can be seen for How To Thin Your Paints for Miniatures

By properly thinning acrylic paints, your brush strokes will glide smoothly across miniatures, helping prevent common mistakes like losing detail under thick paint.

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Leveraging Washes to Tint and Shade Recessed Areas

Washes and shades remain one of the best friends of miniature painters for good reason – they flow into crevices by capillary action while tinting raised areas with uniform color. Mastering washes allows relatively fast tabletop quality while also featuring in breath-taking pro paint jobs.

Like anything worth doing, don’t treat washes as a silver bullet to cover up mistakes or rushed performance. Take your time applying them smoothly and cleaning up any errant staining on flat areas. My personal process looks like:

  • Apply wash generously overall to let capillary action work its magic
  • Use brush side to wick up excess sitting on flat surfaces
  • Use brush tip soaked in clean water to gently lift wash pooling in corners/joints

My favorite wash by far is Citadel’s Nuln Oil for shading neutrals and knocking brighter colors down a notch. For vivid color shading, you can’t beat Citadel’s range – pick the shade closest to your base color for natural depth and definition.

Leverage tinted washes to effortlessly introduce depth, contrast and character in your miniatures. But give them their due respect through proper application and cleanup!

Full overview here on the Best Way to Unglue and Strip Paints from Miniatures

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Repairing Paint Mistakes While Still Wet

We’ve all felt that sinking feeling of catching a mistake just moments after putting brush to model. Paint bleeding under masking tape, detailing slipping outside lines, errant bristles scraping perfectly smoothed blends – I’ve been there countless times over the years.

Thankfully as long as the errant paint still shines with moisture, the mistake remains salvageable! Here are my best practices for rescuing wet paint boo boos:

  • Carefully scrape paint away with a toothpick
  • Use a clean damp brush to lift and absorb paint
  • Lightly roll a piece of blue tack over the area
  • Once paint removed, wait until fully dry to repaint

The key is gently removing the wet paint without damaging the underlying properly dried coat. Take your time and carefully work at mistakes with some combination of the above methods until resolved.

You’d be amazed how a steady hand and some blue tack can make it look like a mistake never happened – as long as you catch it before the paint dries of course!

Mistakes are common, natural and all part of learning. Read a small guide here on Common Mistakes when Base Coating Miniatures

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Recovering from Dry Painting Mistakes

We all wish we could be perfect miniature painters, but mistakes happen – even once paint dries. Maybe you notice nasty brush strokes, realize masking tape bled under, or just plain don’t like how a section turned out. Fear not! With some patience and a pot of titanium white, you can undo almost any painting mistake on fully dried acrylic.

Here is my proven process for fixing dried paint errors, recovering lost detail, and starting fresh:

  1. Assess Damage Control Needs

Determine how extensive the mistake is and areas needing rescue. Outline limits with pencil if needed.

  1. Gently Remove Errant Paint

Carefully scrape away any texture or ridges with a hobby knife. Smooth out area as much as possible without damaging underlying paint.

  1. Apply Titanium White (Bob Ross Intensifies)

After thorough drying, brush on two thin coats of heavy body titanium white, allowing to dry between coats. This obscures the mistake and provides a blank slate.

  1. Continue Painting!

With the mistake now invisible under a fresh coat of white, simply continue painting as if new. Just be cognizant of built up paint thickness and texture differences with surrounding area.

A steady hand, some titanium white, and lots of patience can make dried paint errors disappear! But be mindful of how much paint builds up in corrected areas compared to surrounding surfaces.

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Avoiding Messy Overspray When Airbrushing Primer and Varnish

While airbrushes unlock stunning effects like smooth basecoats and flawless blended highlights, a spraying mistake can mean disaster! I can’t count how many times errant overspray of varnish or primer coated nearby models, the table, and sometimes myself with a speckling of white dots.

Thankfully this is an easy mistake to prevent:

  1. Always Point Away From Other Models

Keep the airbrush aimed at a downward angle into open space, being mindful of airflow direction. Never spray horizontally across your workspace.

  1. Use Cardboard Barriers

Position tall cardboard sheets as blocking walls around your workspace to catch most overspray.

  1. Wear an Airbrush Mask

Better safe than sorry when it comes to accidentally inhaling fine particulate. Mask up!

Follow these simple guidelines for carefree, stressless airbrushing sessions. The last thing you want after hours of careful painting is a grainy fog of overspray covering your models.

Looking to put more life into your Miniatures? Read here for How To use Washes and Glazes on Warhammer Miniatures

Brush Sizes

Learning Retouch Varnishing to Fix Mistakes on Sealed Models

Nothing breaks a painter’s heart like noticing a mistake on a model they already sealed with varnish. Brush slipped masking tape, errant flecks of overspray, color variations between batches – sealed errors seem unfixable.

Thankfully the retouch varnishing technique saves the day! By following a careful process, mistakes on varnished models can be corrected:

  1. Outline Mistake Area

Lightly outline the vicinity of the fix needed with pencil. This will be your retouch zone.

  1. Prepare Brush and Q-tip

Have a small detail brush wet with thinner ready, along with cotton swabs.

  1. Apply Solvent and Gently Rub

Dip brush in solvent like lighter fluid and dab onto mistake, then gently rub with cotton swab to remove varnish. Slowly increase pressure while checking swab for paint removal. Stop immediately once paint shows signs of lifting.

  1. Touch Up Paint

With the varnish selectively removed only in affected area, carefully repaint to fix mistake. Allow to dry fully.

  1. Re-seal Model

Seal entire model again with varnish once retouch paint dries. The resprayed varnish helps blend repaired area with surrounding model.

While intimidating, retouch varnishing is perfectly doable with some basic supplies, steady hands, and patience. Just take it slow – you can always remove more varnish but you can’t undo lifting original paint!

Not sure what a wash or glaze is? No worries we have you covered! Read here for What Are Washes and Glazes For Miniatures

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Learning from Mistakes on the Journey to Painting Excellence

Painting miniatures offers infinite opportunities for creativity paired with frustration when mistakes happen. But rather than rage quitting the hobby forever, take a deep breath and use errors as stepping stones for improving skills.

Follow the tips outlined here for preparing miniatures, fixing wet and dry paints problems, avoiding airbrushing mishaps, and even rescuing varnished models. Share your slipped brush sob stories and salvation wins with fellow painters over on the Warhammer Universe YouTube channel for commiseration and advice!

Most importantly, remember that every master painter still makes mistakes on their path to excellence. Keep a growth mindset, embrace errors as teachers, and most importantly – enjoy the hobby! Your next breakout paint job begins with the very next brush stroke.

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