Tips and tricks for batch painting your minis

Simple Base Tutorial
Simple Base Tutorial

Are you sick of showing up to games with your primed or bare plastic models? I remember showing up to my first ever tournament with bare metal minis. While I wasn’t the only one there, I was really envious of the players that had fully painted armies. They just looked a lot more cohesive and fun to use.

Making the decision to paint your army can be overwhelming, especially if you are looking at a huge backlog of models. This article is full of tips that will help you conquer this particular challenge.

Plan Your Paint Scheme / Write it Down

Manage your expectations

One thing that I am told often is that I tend to take on more than I can realistically handle. This is often the case when people start batch painting. When we decide to paint our armies we just want to get it done so that it is on the table.

Keep Batches to a Reasonable Size

You may be tempted to take on painting your entire army at once, but that is a recipe for disaster. It is better to batch them into smaller groups of 10 – 15 models. Many units are naturally broken into groups like this. You might have 10 units with 10 models each. but take it one small group at a time.

Use This Free Paint Tracker

writing down the steps that you take while coming up with your paint scheme will help you to remember how you painted a particular batch of minis. One of the things that really help your army to look it’s best is if you have consistent colors.

I made this paint recipe tracker that I use when I plan a paint scheme, or to track what I have done so that I can replicate it over multiple batches. Feel free to download it absolutely free.

Download “Paint Recipe Tracker” Paint-Recipe-Sheet.pdf – Downloaded 277 times – 147 KB

Paint up a test model

If you are using a paint scheme that is not the studio paint scheme, and if you have not seen it on actual models before do a test model.

Sometimes when I picture something in my mind it looks absolutely awesome, but when I see it on my models I want to strip the paint off and try again. It is better to do that with just one model than an entire unit or army. This will give you a baseline to apply to the rest of the models in your army.

Even if you are going with a tried and true studio paint scheme, it can help to work out the kinks with a test model.

Keep it Simple

When I say keep it simple, I don’t mean that you can’t make good looking models while batch painting. I just mean that when you have a lot of models to paint, there is usually a trade-off between speed and style. You will need to decide which aspect is more important to you and to your workflow.

Breaking your painting process into small repeatable sections you will be able to take on these large projects more easily. Taking the time to plan out your paint scheme in advance will allow you to do the power swords for all of your models at the same time.

Having a plan will really help to speed up the process of laying down those blends to create that sweet non-metallic metal look on your swords a lot faster than if you did them all at different times.

Organize Your Hobby Area

Chefs the world over will attest to the concept of mise en place. This is the concept that when your hobby area is well organized you can create wonderful paint jobs in much less time than if your hobby area is a mess.

A place for everything

I have broken my hobby area into two distinct parts. I have the part where I store all of my paint and models, and I have the work area where I have all of my tools at my fingertips.

When I start a new unit of models, I make sure that I have properly stored all of the extra bits from the previous project. Then I get out the model kit and the tools that I will need for assembly.

After I have assembled the models I put those tools away and get the paints and palette that I will be using and organize them so that I can easily reach and see them before I start to paint.

By keeping my hobby area organized like this, I have been able to maximize my efficiency so that I can get more done. If I had to look for every tool only when I need it, or look through all of my paint to find the correct shade of green in the middle of painting, I would probably get pretty frustrated.

Handles for your minis

Many of us like to have handles that are more comfortable than pinching the base of our mini. Some of these use clamps to secure your mini and others use an adhesive like poster tack to secure your model to the handle.

The best kind of handle for batch painting is the kind that has cheap interchangeable parts. I like to use the holder from redgrass games. It has an interchangeable cap system that lets you quickly change the model that you are painting.

Make your own handles

My friend Mike has a simpler system, he has cut a wooden dowel into about a dozen 6-inch lengths. He drilled holes into a 2×4 that the dowels fit into and they hold the dowels with the models on them. This is an incredibly inexpensive way to have multiple handles for batch painting your miniatures.

Complete your models in stages


Getting all of your models assembled is a time-consuming process. Most model kits have some really fiddly bits in them. You can do this at your hobby desk, but some people like to do this on a TV tray in their living room while watching their favorite Netflix show with their family.

No matter where you decide to assemble your minis, take your time to dry-fit the pieces, and chose your poses for each model. Watch out when gluing your tiny bits on to avoid gluing the bits to your fingers instead of your models, or getting super glue fingerprints on your models. Don’t lie, you know you’ve done it.

Prime the Models

To batch prime a lot of models at once, go to your local builder supply store and get some paint stirring sticks. These are around 12 inches long pieces of wood intended for stirring paint cans. My store gave me a few of them for free, but you may have to pay a little bit if you get a lot of them.

Use a little bit of poster tack to adhere the models to the paint stick in a row. Space them a few inches between each model. When you go outside to prime your minis you just need to pick up a paint stick and you will have access to prime several minis at once.

You can also save time by using colored primers like those from Army Painter. If you can find one that matches the main color of your army, such as red, for Blood Angel Space Marines you can really jump start your painting process.

Paint the Main Color

If you have gone with a neutral paint primer such as black, gray, or white, then now is the time to start painting the main color of your army. This is the color that will cover the most area, time to break out that green or purple.

when applying this main color, make sure to get good coverage, and don’t worry about being super neat. You are going to paint over the smaller areas with different colors.

Break down and batch the remaining colors

I generally will paint the area that requires the next most paint, and then after that, I will decide what paint color will be used the next most etc.

Sometimes you have to go in a different order because of the particular paint scheme that you have decided to do, but generally, this is the most efficient method.

Set up a good environment for yourself

Have some sort of entertainment

Personally, I like to listen to some good music, a podcast, or an audiobook while I work. I personally can’t watch things because I end up watching the show instead of painting, but everyone has their preferences.

Lately, the music that I have been listening too is old school punk or early alternative. The Ramones and Oingo Boingo have been on a lot while I hobby.

If you are looking for a good podcast on the hobby to listen to, I recommend paint bravely, paint all the minis, and trapped under plastic. All three are really entertaining shows. In case there is anyone who is sensitive to foul language, you might want to shy away from trapped under plastic, Jon and Scott don’t filter themselves.

The books that I listen to on audible are usually fantast or sc-fi. I really like the new Thrawn series and Larry Correia has written some awesome Monster Hunter books.

Get a comfortable chair

The chair that you use should put your work area at a comfortable height, I have one that leans back and is height adjustable. It has some padding so it is more comfortable than a folding chair. Comfort will help you to come back for more painting. If your chair is the wrong height it can cause your back or neck to hurt after a long paint session.

Make sure that you have plenty of light

Even though I have a nice light in the room, it seems like you can never have enough light when painting small details. I have two adjustable LED lights on my painting table. They sit on either side of me and I can swing them in so that I can see what I am doing really well. This lamp is very similar to the one that I use.

The lights don’t have to be anything special, I think I picked mine up from Walmart for about $15 each.

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