5 Tips For A Better Hobbying & Miniature Painting Life!

October 14, 2023 by brennon

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There are lots of articles and videos on the internet that aim to give you a guide to getting better with your painting and hobbying. Don't get me wrong, there are some awesome ideas out there to help you be a better painter or a better model maker but sometimes actually getting to the tabletop and working on your projects, big or small, can just be too daunting. With that in mind, I thought I'd put together some tips and ideas that I thought might make you feel a bit better about sitting down to paint some miniatures.

5 tips happy hobbyist coverimage

This is by no means an exhaustive list and it won't cover everything. You might even disagree with some of the ideas that I talk about here. If you have other ideas that help you when you're hobbying or thoughts on what I mention here, don't hesitate to drop them in the comments below.

Remember - Hobbying Is Meant To Be Fun

I think the first point that I want to talk about is probably the most important one. What we do, be it painting miniatures or making terrain, is meant to be a hobby and a fun one at that. If you ever get to the point where working on your hobby feels like a chore then maybe something has gone wrong in the way you approach it. We've all had that feeling of "I need to get this done" and I don't think that anyone is ever going to avoid accidentally slipping back into this way of working but I think it's important to remember that key rule once again. This is meant to be fun.

space wolves and more

For example, I was working on painting up a bunch of Space Wolves recently for a Combat Patrol I'm making to play Warhammer 40,000. I know that I need to get them done but actually sitting down to paint them felt like more of a chore than fun. So, I looked at my painting desk, picked up some gunslingers that I wanted to finish off and did that instead. I could have sat there and powered through working on those Space Wolves but as I wasn't feeling it, why put myself through the stress?

Many of us go through highs and lows when it comes to painting so if your current project isn't feeling particularly "fun" then just paint something else. I have maybe three of four little projects sitting on my desk that range from small to large. This means that when I sit down to paint, I have a think about what I'm in the mood for and just run with that. Sometimes, I've even been inspired by something entirely different and dug around in a box for one solitary miniature! It might not have anything to do with what I'm wargaming in a week or two but it's fun to just run with your inspiration. My latest example of that was a Necron. I really wanted to paint one so I just picked up a random Necron lord and painted it up!

This also extends in part to doing what you can when you can. Any progress is progress and I mean that. If you spend thirty minutes painting the boots on a handful of infantry that's where you stop. Great. Even if you find yourself sitting down to paint and you literally only paint one hand on a miniature, that's also fine.

The major takeaway is that it should be a fun moment, sitting down at the painting table to get stuck into your miniatures. Do whatever fires those synapses in your brain, be it something to do with your most recent project or something massively different!

Make Yourself Comfortable

Another thing that properly gets in the way of a happy hobby life is actually having somewhere to do your hobby. If you can, make sure that you give yourself some space which is dedicated to your hobby. It could be a desk somewhere in a bedroom or part of a larger space like a shed (there are some glorious hobby sheds out there!). If you have a space where your paints, brushes and miniatures are already ready to go at a moment's notice then you're much more likely to avoid the fuss and actually sit down to work on your hobby.

hobby space

Now, this isn't going to be achievable for everyone. Some folks don't have the space to dedicate to their hobby because they might live in flats, with friends and family or have rampaging children storming around looking to knock over everything that looks remotely fragile. I get that so maybe it's a good idea to make yourself a little hobby kit!

Your hobby kit could be something as simple as a Really Useful box with your current set of miniatures you're painting, a couple of brushes, a wet palette and the appropriate paints that you require to bring them to life. If that's all in one place, you won't be hunting around for your stuff in the back of a cupboard and can set it up on a coffee table or in the dining room (or even in front of your computer) and just start working away.

You could even be a bit more plush and make yourself super comfortable. Make sure you've got a nice chair to sit in that isn't going to screw your back over and if you're sitting on the sofa painting in front of the television, maybe invest in one of those lovely trays with the cushion on the bottom so you've got something nice to lean on whilst you're painting. All of this could be stuffed behind the sofa or under a table somewhere so it's not going to get in the way and, it all helps when it comes to making yourself comfortable as you get stuck into your painting.

If you are lucky enough to have a space where you can sit and hobby at your leisure then make sure that it's one that does the job. Have ready access to paints and other accessories like glue, clippers, paints and basing materials. If you can manage to make it so that everything is within arms reach then you'll feel a lot more comfortable sitting down for a few hours without having to rush off to find where you put x or y.

I also find it helps to have some space nearby to have a tablet or a laptop. Not everyone likes listening or watching things as they paint but for me, having a screen nearby to stick an audiobook on or an episode of a TV show I've watched a million times before can be great. It helps me zone in and get in the zone. Some recent excursions have been into watching roleplaying actual plays and listening to the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell.

Don't Stress About Your Tools

One of the things that completely stressed me out when I got seriously into the hobby was having the right tools. I started out like a lot of other folks with whatever brushes I had to hand and the paints that I found in an old Airfix kit. A few years down the line I had to have the right named Citadel brush, the official clippers and everything else in order to do what I was doing. If I didn't have that then I'd never be able to get my miniatures looking great!

core tools

Pish. There are some stunning ranges out there that produce amazing tools for you to use with your painting. Loads of companies make brushes, paints, tools and more that could be great but you don't need to be running around to pick all of those up. Getting the best brushes and such might help a little bit but they're not going to be this magical cure.

If you've got a bunch of Amazon Basic brushes and a bunch of tools from Hobby Craft, that will do the trick! I've been using a bunch of kits from Hobby Crafts for the last few months and it just works. Are they going to last forever? No. Did they cost me the world? NO! I got about ten brushes for the cost of one Citadel one and they have done the job just as well without making me feel like I'm burning money with every brush stroke. Don't get me wrong, if you've got a bunch of stunning hobby brushes and they work for you, fantastic. But (especially if you're starting out) don't feel like you have to get those high-end tools in order to get stuck into your hobby.

I would say that there are some good tools that you'll want to pick up, perhaps from a local store if you can. It would be good to have a decent pair of clippers which you can use to get your miniatures off sprues and a good craft knife which can remove mould lines and allow you to clean up your miniatures (even if we don't do it all the time!). From there, it's very much up to you. Get the glue that works for you and use the paints that you're comfortable with. If you like the Citadel range, use that. Don't feel pressured into having to go for something like The Army Painter or Vallejo because someone said they're "the best". Equally, if you do like using Vallejo then don't feel like you have to be pressured to go the other way!

Find Inspiration & Support

Another element of enjoying your hobby that I think is quite key is exploring the inspirational people out there who drive your hobby. This could be looking at painting tutorials from the official channels for your favourite game but I think it's worth going beyond that and finding people that properly get you excited about what you're working on.

52 miniatures

For a lot of people, that's your friends. I am very lucky in that I have two great friends who I sit down with every Thursday and paint miniatures with. I get inspired to dive in and get miniatures painted whilst theorising where we go next when it comes to games and systems that we want to try out. Hopefully, you have people like that too that you can either talk to online or meet up with at a local club or store. If you don't, that's where communities like this one here OnTableTop and beyond can help!

We have a Discord where you can post images of your miniatures and get tips and tricks at a moment's notice. If you're stuck or lacking inspiration, I reckon that a lot of the lovely people who are part of the Cult Of Games would end up being able to point you in the right direction.

Beyond our lovely community, there are also some great YouTube channels out there that take a very relaxed and fun approach to the hobby. There are some stunning painters out there of course and lots of guides you could follow but sometimes you just want enthusiasm and passion. For me, I've recently been watching a lot of The Painting Phase with Geoff, Peachy and Pat. They have fun discussions which are great to have on in the background whilst painting and their tutorials are great for those hobbyists (like me!) who want to make miniatures look great but quickly!

the painting phase

Equally, I also get a lot of inspiration from 52 Miniatures, 7th Son, Rogue Hobbies, Dana Howl, MS Paints, Miscast, Battle Streams In Middle-earth and J Macc's Armies Of Middle-earth. There WILL be people out there who share the same hobby values as you and help back you up when you're feeling like you might be taking backward steps. Seek them out and do some search on YouTube!

Your inspiration doesn't have to come from people though! If you're excited about a project, you can watch all of the tutorials in the world but sometimes the best push to get you hobbying will come from watching a relevant TV show or documentary. I have been painting Napoleonic miniatures recently and so I've had Sharpe on in the background. I've also been painting Space Wolves and so I have been sticking battle reports and lore videos that get me fired up to keep going. Again, there will be something that works for you be it a World War II movie or a Wild West epic.

Set A Goal Or Attempt A Challenge

Whilst I said at the start of this piece that not stressing yourself out is a great way to enjoy your hobby, there can be something said about setting yourself a challenge and working towards a particular goal. I know folks in the Project System here OnTableTop have done challenges where they have a game at the end of the week and so they start off on a Monday evening trying to get their army done for Saturday.


That might sound like a massive u-turn on my part but stick with me. As long as you do these kinds of challenges in a fun manner, it can be really good for getting you energised and provide you with a great sense of satisfaction at the end. A more relaxed take on this might be events like TerrainFest which is going on right now or the Spring Clean Challenge which we run every year. We always see some amazing hobby projects coming out of those months-long projects.

One of the challenges I'd love to do is one based around The Lord Of The Rings (who would have guessed?). I want to stick on all of the Extended Edition movies and paint one character or a handful of miniatures that are relevant to those movies. Diving into Fellowship? Paint some Moria Goblins or work on some terrain from Balin's Tomb! The Two Towers? Get some Uruk-Hai done! I think it could be great fun and help me get through my backlog of miniatures.

You could be a lot more loose with this too. For example, I have set myself the goal of painting up the Space Wolves Combat Patrol for Warhammer 40,000 10th Edition for my next gaming day. I have no date in mind but I know I need to get it done in the next month or so so I'll keep chipping away at it.  Taking some previous points into account, I'm also doing this in achievable chunks. I've not glued everything together so I have a sea of plastic in front of me. Instead, I'm painting the miniatures in small chunks with four or five miniatures at a time going into the production line. That way I complete little goals all the time and feel like I'm making good progress!

Phew, quite a bit to get through there! I hope this has been helpful and maybe some of these tips will aid you when it comes to diving into your next session.

Do you have any tips and tricks that can aid in making your hobby life a little bit easier?

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