Owning Prepainted Miniatures
by Gisby

I was never crazy about prepainted miniatures, because the paint jobs are always crappy. I was wrong. Like anything else, some are better than others.

I was pleasantly surprised by eM-4's prepainted miniatures. The paint was good, far better than most figures I see in use, and the level of detail was (in some cases) better than I'd have done myself.Set Elfsera 4 - High Elves

But they just didn't fit in with the figures I already have: I didn't really own them.

Then I thought of the words of wisdom I received from the Legendary Chick Lewis: He would use a painting service to paint units to a certain level, and he would then touch them up with the details that would mark them as 'his.'

In other words, he let others do the boring stuff, and he'd do the fun stuff. Wise words indeed.

I first looked at the set Elfsera 4 - High Elves.

The paint is fine, but my Fantasy Campaign is set in a bronze-age culture. Iron is rare and expensive. I therefore repainted any metal as bronze.

Set Elfsera 4 - High Elves

A quick brown wash on the armour brought out the details. I also added a touch of wash here and there if I thought some detail needed it.

The warmer colour looks good with the colours already on the figures, and looks far better to my eye, with the greek-styled greaves.

Set Elfsera 4 - High Elves Set Elfsera 4 - High Elves

I added a few runes to the wizard figure, as they feature prominently in the campaign culture.

The Old West Heroes (Sets 1 & 2) were quite different.

Gunslinger in serape
Old West Heroes Set 1First of all, their skin tones didn't match the tones I use. While they were fine, they were a bit... mainstream.

My tones are somewhat brighter than most, with ruddy cheeks: A rather 'toy soldier' style perhaps, but it is mine own, and I am quite fond of it.

Other more 'realistic' tones actually look sort of cold & dead to me. So I needed to touch up the faces and hands to match my own chosen colours.

Running CowboyOld West Heroes Set 2On the other hand, the clothing seemed rather drab to my eye. Realistic perhaps, but after working with the warmer Elfsea characters I wanted a bit more colour. (They seem to have used a very cool palette: I prefer warmer colours)

I didn't want to change too much, or I'd lose the benefit of having them prepainted in the first place. So I pretty much went with small details here & there.

	Old West Heroes Set 1On the 'Gunslinger in serape' I added further detail to the serape trim, front & back. I also gave his hair a touch of warmer brown.

Remembering the various Marvel Old West comics from my youth (I did like them) I gave the 'Running cowboy' a calfskin vest.

Vests were often gaudily-coloured, and the 'Lawman' had a drab, drab vest. I attempted to give him a paisley vest, with perhaps less-than-perfect results.

Soiled Dove
	Old West Heroes Set 2I also aged him a little, with a drybrush of grey on his hair.

The 'Soiled Dove' doesn't really look all that soiled to me: Her dress is respectable, and is in a fairly respectable colour. I am tempted to give her a hat and a closed parasol in her off-hand, and just call her 'Lady with a gun.' But that's beside the point...

Of course her skin tones were changed, and she was given red lipstick. Thinking of Maureen O'Hara in 'McClintock' I decided to make her a redhead, and changed the colour of the trim on her dress for no real reason.

	Old West Heroes Set 1

The 'Bandido' has great potential as a character. He's large, and fat, and bald, and stands out on the table.

Being dressed in Mexican peon clothing, he's pretty much limited to white on white. I added patches to his clothing both for the colour, and to show that he's not a particularly successful bandido. (Although he seems to be eating well)

The 'Indian' is fairly generic: He doesn't stand out as Sioux, Cheyenne, Apache, etc. Since I happen to have a lot of Apache, I decided he would join them.

I drybrushed his skin with the skin tone I use for Indians, and painted a white stripe across his face, marking him as a Chiricahua Apache. I also added some detail to his loincloth and moccasins.

SF04 Mercenaries

SF04 MercenariesThe Mercenaries set was a very pleasant surprise. They were both well detailed and well painted.

They just weren't painted exactly as I would have done it. (Maybe better than I would have painted them!)

Unlike the Old West Heroes, the colours were just too bright in places, or what I felt was an inappropriate choice.

As usual, I brightened the skin to match my painting style. I also changed hair colours slightly, just because I could.

SF04 MercenariesFor the Grenadier, Walkie-Talkie, & Greatcoat figures, that was about it: I also washed their clothing with black to bring out details, and to darken them a bit. (And to match my style: I use a lot of washes)

The Merc with pistol had a white helmet with a red stripe along the crest. Pretty snappy, but also a great target.

I repainted the helmet in more neutral tones, leaving the red stripe: They have to have some personality after all...

SF04 MercenariesThe 'Heavy Weapon' merc had white shoulder pads (?) and a rather bright blue shirt.

I repainted the shoulder pads, and darkened the shirt. I left it blue, I just chose a darker shade.

Both figures received a black wash to further bring out details and to tone things down a bit..

There wasn't a lot to do with the Recce Squad. They already sport camoflage that's far more convincing than any that I would paint.

SF05 Recce Squad SF05 Recce Squad

I just brightened their skin, and gave their clothing a black wash to tie things together.

SF06 Chequer GangIt was much the same with the Chequer Gang

Their paint was fine, and the detail good.

I just brightened their skin, and gave their clothing a black wash to tie things together.

I changed some hair & shirt colours, but nothing dramatic.

The value of a good wash cannot be overstated: It can take a mediocre paint job up a level or two with very little effort or skill required.

First of all, it brings out detail: It adds shading and enhances the separation between layers on the figure.

Secondly, it ties everything together, by giving everything a similar cast. Often a figure will look... ...OK... ...but the colours will jar slightly. They just seem off somehow.

One may seem too bright, or may clash with another. The overall effect is that the figure is made up of separate, disassociated parts.

A wash will give everything a common shade, making colours look like they are all being seen in the same light. They will work with each other.

The same figure with different washes will look very different. A brown wash will warm & mellow a figure, a black wash will cool it. A stronger wash will also look very different than a weaker wash.

Inks & Wash Products on their own are not great. Rather than snugging into the creases & folds, they will often do the opposite, darkening the highlights & avoiding the depths.

Use these diluted with a 'Magic Wash' formula of 1 part 'Future' acrylic floor polish and 2 parts water for better success. Everybody has their own recipe, some folk use the 'Future' undiluted giving a glossy, 'glazed' appearance unless the figures get a dull coat. You can also use acrylic paints to tint the wash, so you have pretty much unlimited options.

Recently various commercial products have been marketed, with the intention that figures be 'dipped' in the product. (the excess being shaken back into the jar)

They give a similar effect, withe the added advantage that the strength of tone will remain constant throughout a larger force. This will enhance the look of an 'army'.

But I digress....

With very little work, I now 'own' these prepainteds: They look like they are mine, and they don't 'stick out' on the table. And of course, since they are mine, I care enough to keep them alive during games.Indian
	Old West Heroes Set 1

Don't forget: These techniques can be used to own any prepainted miniatures, metal or plastic: You don't have to be limited by the quality of their paint.

Even a simple wash can improve them, and just a few touches of paint can make them 'yours'. And someone else did the boring part!

So don't disparage the prepainted miniature: Like anything else, they are what you make of them! A bit of effort and they are YOURS.