The Art of Fine Brush Control

Here’s a little technique I picked up when I used to paint big blocks of troops. When I paint armies I like to mount multiple miniatures on a craft stick and then stick that on my painting grip. This way I would work through my units like an assembly line, one colour at a time, one section at a time.

WWII Canadian Miniatures

It always feel good to finish a bunch of figures at the same time.

This accomplished a lot of different things all aimed at increasing my speed.

  • The less time you spend putting down and picking up a miniature, the more time you can concentrate on painting them. I’ve mounted up to 4 miniatures per craft stick to get as much speed as possible.
  • Painting similar shapes helped me refine my process and shave off brushstrokes.
  • Painting the same thing over and over prevents me from missing some detail and having to return to it later
  • I could mix a batch of my chosen colour in a paint-well palette. This doesn’t drive out as quickly as paint on a flat palette so I spend less time worrying about the consistency of my paint.
  • Grouping like-sized objects together helped me dial in my brush control.

This last item is the subject of this tip. When you paint large areas you want to work fast and a little loose. You always want to reduce brush strokes in all styles of painting and you want to avoid moving half-dried paint around on your miniatures.

However, if you move from fast and loose to tight and controlled, painting strapping or edge-highlights for example, your brush wants to keep moving fast and loose. It can often takes several brush strokes before you dial back into your tight, controlled brush motions again. Switching between the two is a sure way to mess up fine detail.

This is why you often see painters made a number of “air strokes” when painting fine detail. Even pushing the brush around on the palette to pick up paint, whapping it into your rag a few times to unload it and then swooshing it back up to the miniature can get your brush into fast and loose mode.

The more you maintain your slow and steady brush control the easier you will find it. Gently load your brush, gently unload it into your rags by drawing neat lines, gently bring the brush back to the miniature. Make a few test lines on your thumbnail. Make sure your paint consistency and brush load is where you want it. Make sure your brush is moving how you want it. Then paint your detail.

You can be swift and sure at this point because your hand and brain are in sync for the range of motion you wish to perform.

Whenever I forget this lesson, when I’m near the end of a paint session and just want to get the detail in before I finish, or I just finished shaking up a colour, I really struggle to control my brush strokes. When I remember and follow this tip my lines flow beautifully.

Hope this helps you in your painting. I’m not sure if I’m going to collect these tips into a static page or let them float in the blog. Let me know in the comments. Also, please share any tips you have for controlling your brush to paint fine detail.

Tyler Provick

Tyler Provick is a writer and a gamer that likes to combine his two interests and share them with the community.

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