In defence of table-top grade painting

Every year I sit and look at the pictures from events such as Games Workshop’s Golden Demon awards or Mantic’s Brush with Death and I am always suitably impressed with the quality of the work. The fine details that some painters are able to achieve astound me even after 25+ years of gaming. Across the internet, we as gamers are bombarded with pictures of other people’s models, even some from the august members of this very blog. Just in the last few weeks we have seen the impressive work on the real scale Space Marines of atbzimark.

And then I look at my own painting and modelling “expertise”and I feel a little sense of guilt and inferiority. I feel it every time I look at a GW painting guide which shows the twenty simple steps you need to follow to paint your latest unit. I feel it when I watch airbrushing demonstrations on YouTube.


A pair of my basic marines


But no longer, and nor should you.

See, here’s the thing. I am a gamer, not a hobbyist or a painter. I work a full time job, have a few other hobbies, and when you get right down to it, I don’t actually enjoy painting. I lack the patience to drybrush. I lack the eye sight and steady hand to paint fine details. I look with dread at any army where I’m going to have to paint dozen upon dozen of near identical troopers. I’m not ashamed to admit that the main reason I chose to play a Marine army, even 20+ years ago, was my inability to paint faces so they looked even vaguely human. Helmets all the way!

That being said, I HATE having unpainted or part painted models on the table and I hate having units that look like I’ve just dunked them in a tin of paint and shaken off the excess. But I have long since realised you can get a uniform and coherent paint scheme that looks ok from a distance with just a spray base / prime, a colour coat, a few spots of colour and a wash. Basing for me is PVA or green paint on the base and then dunk it in some green flock.

I’m not saying you should never strive for more. I have a couple of models that I have spent a bit more time on and been proud of at the end of it.

My slightly better Dreadnought, Librarian and Marine Sergeant

And if your goal is to be a pro-grade painter then I strongly, strongly support your goal and desire to practice every day to get to that level… But!

A few weeks ago a person in my local gaming group showed one of his models to a “pro painter” who looked at the miniature, smiled and said something along the lines of “That’s how I used to paint when I was 12.”

It is never ok to knock someone down who cannot paint as well as you. You should always be praising the good and offering constructive criticism on how they can improve. I’ve seen gaming events where they have set minimum standards of painting for armies to be fielded. In some cases that has been a sensible goal such as “All models should have at least 3 colours and be based” which is easily achievable even to a basic painter such as myself. In others the rules were a bit more restrictive though it has been a few years since I saw once such as that.

Young gamers especially need encouragement, not ridicule, as this hobby has a small enough player base as it is and anything we can do to bring new blood into the hobby and keep them there is a small price to pay.

So here’s to the players with simple colour schemes, a few minor bits of detailing, a dip shade and some decals for effect.

Table (but not display) ready GZG Dreadnought and random Space Station

Place your army on the table happy in the knowledge that, however well painted the opposition is, if his tactics suck you’ll still table them!

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