Miniature Painting Techniques: Discover the 5 Secrets to Stunning Warhammer Miniatures for Novice Painters

Mechanicus Warhammer 40k

Miniature Painting Techniques: The Beginners Guide to Painting Warhammer

As an avid miniature painter with over 20 years of experience, I want to provide the most comprehensive guide possible to help both beginners and seasoned hobbyists take their skills to the next level. Miniature painting may seem intimidating at first, but with patience and practice, anyone can progress from priming their first model to executing advanced techniques that bring miniatures to life.

In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know, from choosing brushes and paints, to essential methods like layering, washing, dry brushing, stippling and blending, to more complex skills like edge highlighting, weathering, OSL effects and non-metallic metals. My goal is for this to serve as a trusty reference you can return to time and again as you explore this wonderful hobby that combines art, craftsmanship and imagination.

So let’s get started! The first steps involve carefully preparing our workspace and miniatures for the painting journey ahead.


Choosing the Right Brushes

The quality of your brushes plays a major role in the quality of your paint application. Cheap brushes won’t hold their shape well leading to smudging and lack of precision. For sharp lines and avoiding unwanted textures, look for synthetic or sable brushes sized 0 for fine details, 1 or 2 for general painting, and 3 or 4 for large areas. Maintain brushes by cleaning after each session so paint doesn’t dry and ruin the bristles. Read our full guide on brushes here: The Best Brushes for Painting Warhammer Miniatures


Miniature Painting Techniques: Preparing the Miniatures

Plastic miniatures often have mold lines leftover from the casting process that can interrupt paint adhesion and smoothness. Use a hobby knife or file to gently scrape and remove them. For resin miniatures that may have releasing agents, give them a warm, soapy bath then scrub with a soft brush before priming. Attaching miniatures to holders using putty allows you to handling them without smudging delicate paint once application begins.

Warhammer 40k Mini

Priming Primers

Create a textured surface for paints to stick to, preventing rubbing off down the line. Options include spray cans, airbrushing and brush-on, with black, white or gray being common. Use spray primers in a well-ventilated area, avoiding high humidity or cold conditions that can negatively impact results. Brush-on priming requires patient, numerous thin layers to build opacity without losing detail.

Priming your brushes is often a critical overlooked step, read a full overview here: How to Prime brushes for Painting Miniatures



With priming complete, basecoating involves laying down the predominant color that other paints will build on. Darker shades usually work best as a rich foundation enhancing lighter highlights down the road. Similar to priming, numerous thin layers are key to smoothness and avoiding obscured detail.

Now we’re ready to bring some dimension to our models with a variety of fundamental techniques!

Read our guide on How to base coat Miniatures


Miniature Painting Techniques: Washing and Shading

Washes involve thin, translucent paints flowing into crevices and recessed spots to create shadows and definition. Beginners can safely wash an entire miniature at once using a large brush. Intermediate hobbyists can try carefully pinpointing wash to only recesses. Oils washes featuring capillary action are more forgiving but mixing can be trickier. Airbrushing wash from underneath is another option. Remember not to let washes pool too much or they’ll leave staining once dry.

Got Brushstrokes affecting your Miniatures? A guide here will show you How to Paint Miniatures Without Brush Strokes

Dry Brushing

Dry Brushing

In contrast to washing, dry brushing highlights raised edges and textures with targeted paint application. Use a stiff, dry brush with barely any paint, wipe excess off on a paper towel, then lightly dust over surfaces allowing paint to catch on highlights. Softer brushes can catch on crevices so be mindful of angles. Dry brushing works well for quick metallic textures, weathered edges, grime effects and more before sealing the miniature.

Read a full overview on Dry Brushing here: How to Dry Brush Warhammer Miniatures

Stippling Dry Brushing Control

Here, a sponge or stiff-bristled brush is used to dab on small amounts of paint rather than long brush strokes. Torn pieces of cheap kitchen sponge make great tools for adding chipped paint and battle damage. For finer highlights, use the tip of a small brush to precisely place hundreds of tiny dots. Stippling takes patience but offers both precision and creative flexibility.



This fundamental technique is all about slowly building up colors for blending, highlights and shadows via successive, thin paint layers. Allow each layer to fully dry before adding the next for smoothness. Be patient and let the depth develop across many layers. Glazing (discussed later) can help smooth any unwanted texture if necessary. For shading, start with midtones then add darker lowlights and shadows before finishing with brighter highlights.


Miniature Painting Techniques: Blending and Wet Blending

For seamless gradients, blend colors together while still wet on the miniature by quickly smoothing the transition lines before drying. Wet blending works best on mixing two colors but more advanced painters can incorporate multiple hues at once. Lightly cleaning the brush between colors maintains gradients. Blend in small sections matching the contour of the miniature’s shape so gradients remain accurate to a consistent light source. Allow layers to dry between sections for best results with wet blending.

Now let’s move onto some more complex techniques to truly take our miniatures to the next level!

Miniature Painting Techniques


Miniature Painting Techniques: Edge Highlighting

Edge highlighting provides dimension and contrast by picking out sharp edges and sections that would naturally catch glancing light. Rather than traditional brush strokes, use the brushed edge with a slight rotation along borders allow the length of the hairs to connect rather than risking splits from point pressure. Steady hands, a fine tipped brush, being conservative with application and having the underlying basecoat tidy are key for precision highlights. Quick dabs rather than dragging works better for beginners.

Hankering for more details on your miniatures? Read our guide on: Best Brushes for Painting details on Miniatures 

Freehand Designs, Symbols and Signs

Elevate basic colors with unique freehand embellishments like chapter symbols, names, icons, glyphs, squad markings, flames, battle honors and more using the edge and tip of fine detail brushes. Plan designs beforehand and outline shapes lightly before going over lines in greater opacity. Glazing provides greater control in building transparent layers and allows fixing mistakes. Start simple, use photo reference for accuracy, then incorporate personal flair and additional intricate elements with practice.

Realistic Weathering and Battle Damage

Metal surfaces dent, wood splinters and armor scars from heavy combat. Replicate the look of battle-tested miniatures through careful observation of real damage on reference images. Paint chips, scratches, bullet holes, scorch marks, mud splatter and more tell a story and create visual interest. Use stippling dabs, small lines in lieu of single brush strokes and layered blending to weather rather than heavy dry brushing which loses realism. Apply subtly as less is often more when it comes to selling authentic aging without disproportionate exaggeration that skews scale.

Looking for more advice? View our overview of: The Best Painting Techniques for Warhammer Miniatures

Ork Warhammer 40k

Miniature Painting Techniques: Object Source Lighting (OSL) Effects

OSL simulates illuminated surfaces realistically reflecting colored light sources in the environment like warp stone, lava, LED indicators, glow effects, machine spirits and more. Plan glow directionality and intensity then glaze layers graduating outward from the hotspot with highlights, midtones and shadows. Glazing maintains glow color saturation and transparency while modular application means layers can be adjusted until satisfied with the spread of light. Don’t forget to add warmer underglow for realism!

Daylight Bulbs

Proper lighting ensures you paint colors accurately rather than interpretations cast under non-daylight temperatures. Look for 5,000-6,500K color temperature bulbs or lamps to replicate natural light. Use magnification attachments for detail work.

Non-Metallic Metals (NMM)

NMM creates convincingly reflective metallic textures using only non-metallic paints by paying close attention to how light plays across real-world references. Polished finishes require high contrast transitions from brightest highlights to darkest shadows. Battle-worn NMM allows for more artist interpretation with stippling, sharp reflections and texture suggesting pitting and wear rather than mirror smoothness. Regardless if going for chrome or corroded iron, plan multiple sublayers, glaze gradients smoothly and incorporate adjacent colors reflecting onto metal where appropriate.


Miniature Painting Techniques: Storage and Transport

Protect fragile painted miniatures in layered foam-lined cases with customizable compartments. Magnetic interior sheets help secure metal and magnetized miniatures. Transport paints safely using pre-cut foam or custom inserts tailored to your collection.


Airbrushes enable seamless blending, accurate zenithal shading, smooth basecoating and more control than possible with manual brushes. Models with moisture traps and adjustable PSI prevent spurting. Use disposable pipette droppers when transferring paints to avoid cross-contamination and paint splatters in undwanted areas


Tabletop Terraij

Miniature Painting Techniques: Environment painting

Elevate Immersion with Decorative Basing The base beneath your miniatures provides ample opportunity for stirring creativity. Use basing to complement figures with personality or unite armies under environmental themes.

Affixing Rocks, Debris and Flora: Ground models in realistic environments by gluing down beads, gravel, sand, kitty litter, lichen or turf for texture. Affix twigs, cork bark, aquarium décor and shredded foam for stone formations. Add bushes using steel wool, designer mosses or lichen clumps.

Splash Puddles, Wet Mud and Water Effects: Wet surfaces diversify basing beyond ordinary grass and dirt. Use gloss varnishes, polyurethanes like Woodland Scenics Water Effects or silicone to create convincing water movement. Layer acrylic mediums and shades for muddy texture. Seal applications to prevent any wet damage

Incorporate Detailed Terrain and Architecture: Elevate dioramas beyond isolated figures with intricate backdrops. Laser cut MDF kits form structural ruins, Gothic embellishments and crumbled cities in scalable dimensions to known gaming ranges. Cast plaster bricks in silicone molds for structural variance. Use insulation foam sheets as custom carvable terrain for cliffs

Painting and Weathering Basing’s:  Treat the base as an extension of your miniature using same painting techniques to weather, erode and blend naturalistic affects. Dry brush layered grit and sand first with earthen hues then shade recesses. Use site elements like grass tufts and snow effects to motivate environmental bases and pull entire displays together.

Special Effects: Fire, Smoke, Water, Snow Sell intensity using viscous products like polyester resins and fibers for splashing ooze and spell effects or microbead film for magical auras. Use cotton, fabrics and polymers to suggest seasonal snow. Mix baking soda and superglue before sprinkling over hot glue drips and shapes to instantly cure icy frosted shapes. Achieve flickering flames via layered translucent papers and dangling wire.

Read a long guide here discussing How to Make Terrain for Warhammer 40k Tabletop

Construct Immersive Dioramas

Now that we have honed essential techniques and skills, try deploying them across sprawling dioramas or standalone model displays transporting viewers into fully imagined scenes for your Warhammer.


Miniature Painting Techniques: The Journey to Miniature Mastery

I hope this guide gives you a comprehensive yet digestible overview of essential miniature painting techniques. With so many intricate methods, patience and persistence are key. It’s helpful to learn fundamentals like layering and edge highlights before moving onto advanced blending and freehand work. Throughout your progression, continually challenge yourself to grow your skills.

Looking to work on Miniature faces? Read here for How to Paint miniature faces

And as with any complex craft, remember to enjoy the process! Experiment with new methods and artistic choices discovering what works for your style rather than rigidly following instructions. Every master painter took a completely different journey in developing their skills over many years and thousands of hours. Your path will have its own twists, turns and moments of inspiration. Most importantly, have fun bringing these models to life with every colorful brushstroke. Miniature painting is a wonderfully rewarding hobby when you put in the time and keep striving to improve. I wish you the best as you undertake this creative adventure!

Looking for some more advice on techniques? We recommend heading to Daisie’s blog for her painting techniques!

Related Article