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The Five-minute Base-coat

A lot of people thinking about picking up the hobby (or picking it up after a long break) are discouraged by the proliferation of pro-painted figures on Reddit, Twitter, etc. and/or the perception that figures need hours of work to look merely OK.

Hit the jump for a short how-to post on what I call "the five-minute base-coat": it's the easiest and fastest way to get table-top quality figures and my go-to recommendation for folks interested in getting (back) into the hobby!

Most figures have a large area with a single color or texture.

Sometimes they're a dragon and it's their skin. Sometimes they're a beast and its their fur. Other times the figure is a tank, machine or building and there are large sections of metal or wood.

In the example above, we've got Silver Knights from Dark Souls the Board Game, whose majority surface texture/material is plate metal armor.

Once you've identified the surface/texture effect that takes up most of the figure's surface area, pick out a single color or paint for this section.

In the above example, I chose Army Painter Gunmetal. Not only is that particular paint cheap, they bundle it with a bunch of sets and you can get it as a spray primer (though I do not personally recommend spray cans).

At any rate, once you've got your base-coat paint picked out, you need to figure out how dark you want your shadows or details to be. Based on that, you pick an ink.

In the example, I watered down some Vallejo Black Wash, but you could just as easily go with a pre-fab ink (Army Painter Soft Tone is a good, budget-friendly option, if you're in a hurry or not trying to overthink it).

And that's all the planning that has to go into it. From there, you basically replicate what I've got in the picture at the top of the article: you base-coat the figure, you brush the whole figure evenly in your ink (never dip your figures) and then you dry-brush your base-coat color on top of the ink.

(If you need it (or even if you don't), here is a link to my favorite YouTube dry-brush tutorial by Dr Faustus. There's a lot of dry-brush tutorials out there, but this is the one that really cracked it open for me.)

At any rate, here's the whole five minute base-coat method in summary steps:

  1. Identify the texture or surface that has the most surface area on the figure
  2. Pick a color for your base-coat and an ink to shade that color down to the darkness you want for the detail/shadow
  3. Base-coat the figure normally
  4. Ink the figure completely with a brush (never dip-and-shake)
  5. Dry-brush the figure with the base-coat color
After that, repeat the process as necessary for other large texture/surface regions, or dive into whatever detail work you can commit to.

Excluding the time it takes for paint and ink to dry, this method honestly takes about five minutes of work and I use this technique to start pretty much any figure I paint these days.
Thanks for reading!