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Written by: Mini Geek Boutique

A fool-proof guide to painting your first tabletop miniature, following the steps of painting an owl-bear!

Having your very own mini is a great way to make your game feel more immersive - whether that's roleplaying or tabletop strategy, but what do you do to make it truly your own? You have that little grey bit of plastic in your hand but you want to add some colour? This guide will help you get started with the basics of miniature figure painting.

So what do you need to get started?

You don’t actually need a lot to get started: a set of brushes and some basic colours will do. There are lots of different types of paints and brushes and specialist equipment you could get but right now; let's get you started with the basics.

image of model paints and small brushes

The technique I’m going to show you is the following process:

Prime, base coat, layer, wash, and dry brush.

This is enough to create a nice little model with little to no experience.

Priming your model

You need to prime your model. If you didn’t, the paint won't adhere to the model itself and you would get a very weird finish. Spray or brush a thin coat of primer over your mini and let it dry before you apply any colour. There are different colours you could use, but the standard is grey.

Image of primed owlbear miniature

The owl bear I’m going to be painting was already primed, which is lovely. If you do need to prime your model, follow the instructions on the can/paint pot and allow it to dry thoroughly. If you are spraying, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area/outside and take safety precautions where necessary.

Applying the base colours.

I decided to go traditional with my owlbear colours, so applied a light brown around the head to a darker brown on the main body. His claws were a light sand colour.

An owlbear miniature with the base layer painted on

Allow the paint to dry fully before moving onto the next step

Dry Brushing

The quickest way to add highlights and pick out detail on your mini is to use the dry brush technique. Using an old brush (dry brushing wrecks brushes) pick up some paint and then using a cloth or kitchen towel rub off the paint until there is barely any left on the brush.

an owlbear miniature being dry brushed

Then light dust over your mini with your brush, do this carefully and you’ll notice the more you do this the more paint is applied and the colour builds up - you want barely anything on the brush so small amounts highlight as you brush!

Applying shade/wash

Using a wash helps to build contrast in shadows and can create a deeper, more saturated colour. These are specialist paints, but are worth the investment to create some fantastic results. For a cheaper option, it's less effective but you can create your own wash using a small amount of acrylic paint and water. These are usually brown tones, but you can use any colour you want to create shade with.

and owlbear miniature after shade/wash has been applied

Apply the wash liberally over your mini and should run into the recesses, if you apply too much, then remove it with a clean brush. Allow this to dry thoroughly.

Dry brush again(!)

If you think that the wash has toned down your dry brushing too much then use the dry brush technique again on any bits you think need it.


Layering is using your finer brush to pick up any detail or highlights that the dry brushing missed. Use the smallest brush to apply paint to the mini to add detail such as eyes or belt buckles, or to pick out and shade hair.

owlbear miniature having details painted in

Make sure that you are happy with the colours and check if you’ve missed anything - then you should be done!

One of the hardest things to do with mini-figure painting is knowing when you are done. It can be really easy to just keep going, adding more detail here, and a little bit of highlighting there, but one of the best tips I can give is to not do that. Step away from it for a while and come back to it. Looking at it with renewed freshness can help to decide whether the painting is complete or not.

the finished owlbear miniature!

Please note I am by no means an expert, and there are lots of different techniques you can use but this was the first I learned that helped me to discover a passion for painting. There are lots of Youtube videos that cover lots of different techniques such as contrast paints, painting eyes and how to make your bases look amazing. Make sure to share your minis and tag us on socials if you use this guide!

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